Posts Tagged ‘regency’
Congratulations to Duchesses Kathleen Bittner Roth and Diana Quincy on today’s release of The Seduction of Sarah Marks and Engaging the Earl! And take note dear readers: To celebrate, both books are on sale for just $.99 the first week of their release. Their Graces are here to tell us a little something about their wonderful stories.
Duchess Kathleen: Thanks for inviting us into your drawing room, Duchess Ashlyn, I can’t wait to chat.
Duchess Diana: Thanks for hosting us today, Duchess Ashlyn.
What is the era and setting of each of your stories, and can you tell us a bit about them?
Duchess Diana: Engaging the Earl is set in Regency England. The hero returns from fighting Napoleon on the day the woman he left behind becomes engaged to another man. Here’s a little teaser:
Vivacious Lady Katherine Granville is the toast of the ton, but society’s most eligible miss secretly yearns for her childhood love, an untitled loner who vanished long ago after her father forbade their marriage.
After years abroad, the dark and brooding Edward Stanhope returns to England a changed man. No longer a second son with no prospects, his battlefield strategies have won him an earldom. His return should be a victorious one, but the new Earl of Randolph is battling secret demons that no one can discover. Least of all, Kat.
When the man she can’t forget reappears at her betrothal ball, Kat’s perfectly arranged future is thrown into tumult. Edward remains cold and distant, hoping she’ll marry a man worthy of her. But nothing is settled when Kat sets out to win back her first love. Can the new Earl of Randolph resist the woman he’s loved for so many years?
Duchess Kathleen: The Seduction of Sarah Marks is set largely in the Kent District of England in 1857. The story involves a prim and proper country miss who finds herself stranded in a strange inn with no memory other than her name. Viscount Eastleigh’s well-laid plans to find a proper wife—far removed from his eccentric, meddling family—run afoul when an accident forces him to return home with this straitlaced miss in desperate need of shelter. Here’s a little teaser:
Are each of your stories of a serious nature or can we look forward to a bit of humor as well?
Duchess Kathleen: Although the themes of amnesia and war wounds are very serious ones, I can’t seem to write any story without including a few laughs.
Lord Eastleigh hails from a large and unconventional family. Even though they are close-knit, he refers to them as a swarm of locusts. There’s a sexy-as-sin reclusive cousin with a mysterious past who is hell-bent on irritating everyone but Sarah; a sister named Will who prefers wearing men’s clothing, and three younger sisters who think nothing of riding their horses straight through the main corridor of the house. I mustn’t forget Eastleigh’s three roguish brothers who encouraged the girls to run rampant with their steeds.
Eastleigh’s eccentric grandmother lives with him (think Betty White the actress). She “tipples” all the gin, ciders and cordials she concocts, steals apples and cherries on the sly from the cook to concoct her illicit brews, and pretty much does as she darn well pleases. She is called Mum because she thinks she’s the Queen Mother and Eastleigh’s mother the Queen. Or is it all an act?
Duchess Diana: Edward, my hero suffers from nostalgia, which we know today as Post Traumatic Stress, so he can be somewhat dark. (By the way, the US military has dropped the term “Disorder” when referring to PTS, hoping to reduce the stigma associated with it). However, at times his humor shines through, as does that of the heroine, as we see in this scene when he finds her dog running loose in the park.
“This messy-looking creature can’t possibly belong to you. I’d expect an incomparable such as Lady Kat to own the best-groomed canine in town.” He smiled down at the dog. “Not a hopelessly mangy whelp like this fellow.”
“Now you’ve gone and insulted a lady.”
He looked up quickly. “I meant no insult to you.”
“Not me,” she said, amusement in her voice. “That messy fellow is called Vera and is female.”
He grinned at her and light came into his eyes. For a moment they fell back six years—to when they had talked easily and enjoyed each other’s humor. “Ah, then I must offer my apologies.” He favored Vera with a doubtful look. “Although, while she may be female, she does not appear to be a lady. What breed is she?”
“No one really knows. We’re not certain how my father’s Pomeranian came to be enceinte at the country estate.” Her face warmed to be discussing breeding with him.
Turning his attention back to Vera, he didn’t appear to notice her discomfort. “She has the look of a pointer to her. Perhaps her mother had a clandestine meeting with a neighbor’s hunting dog.”
“A female of easy virtue.” She arched a brow after the canine, who wandered away, distracted by a fluttering butterfly. “Thereby proving your point that Vera is no lady.”
Duchess Kathleen, can you give us a hint of the more passionate side of your main characters?
Duchess Kathleen: Seduction can take many forms when a certain chemistry exists between two people, even if it’s not done with purpose. Here’s a scene where Eastleigh rescues Sarah from a downpour:
The horse took a step forward. Sarah gripped the saddle and let out a pitiful squeak. No, she definitely did not ride by habit.
“I’ve got hold of you,” Eastleigh said from behind her. “Grab a handful of the horse’s mane to maintain your balance.”
His words of encouragement were warm and husky in her ear, his hand splayed across her stomach comforting, yet sending shockwaves of…of sinful pleasure through her. A squeeze of his legs against the horse, and the beast eased into a walk, then a trot. Sarah bumped about in the saddle.
“Let your hips relax, and you won’t bounce so.” Eastleigh gripped the side of her waist, and with strong fingers, urged her hips into a back and forth motion that matched the horse’s movements—along with Eastleigh’s. Not only was the difference in the ride immediate, but oh, dear, the cadence of the horse set her and Eastleigh’s hips moving together in a manner that was wickedly provocative.
Could he be aware of what she was thinking? Or feeling? Or was this rhythmic movement so common while astride a horse that she would be considered a prig to make note of it?
Duchess Diana, dog lovers might especially enjoy your story. Vera, the heroine’s pet, plays a key role in the book.
Duchess Diana: I really enjoyed writing Vera. I decided to bring a dog into the story after being moved by an article about an Iraq war veteran whose trained service dog helped him manage his PTS. These service dogs assist their owners through panic attacks and nightmares as Vera does for Edward. They are trained to stand in front of their masters to maintain a safe distance from anyone who might approach. They also learn to sit behind their owners to provide enough space when they wait in line. I made some of these behaviors instinctive in Vera, since no one was training service dogs back in the early 1800s.
Your books are on sale at $.99 during the first week of the release, which is practically a giveaway, but do you have anything else you are offering to celebrate?
Duchess Kathleen: Yes, of course. Anyone leaving a comment will be automatically included in a drawing for a free digital copy of The Seduction of Sarah Marks and a $10 gift certificate from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Starbucks.
Duchess Diana: Since no duchess likes to be outdone, I’ll match Duchess Kathleen’s giveaway. A second commenter on the blog will receive a digital copy of Engaging the Earl and a $10 gift certificate from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
To celebrate the release of their books, Duchesses Kathleen and Diana are having a Facebook party, tonight at 7p.m. (EST). Numerous guest authors (including yours truly) are stopping by and giving away great prizes. Click here now to join the fun later!
But now I’m allowed to, and I hope my fellow duchesses will indulge me.
It’s finally official. I can announce my new series. Starting later this year (release dates to be confirmed, but I’ve been hearing August), you can read the first installment in a steamy three-book series revolving around three former friends who attended Eton together, but who circumstances have torn apart.
What came between them? Well, that’s a secret.
In WHAT A LADY CRAVES, the first in the series, irreverent bluestocking Henrietta Upperton has determined to move past her scandalous broken engagement by striking out on her own. Unfortunately, she’s taken a position as a paid companion to the cantankerous Lady Epperley, who just happens to be a relative of Henrietta’s former betrothed. But since her intended went away to India, the last thing Henrietta expects is for the man to turn up on his great-aunt’s doorstep having lost nearly everything in a shipwreck.
The one thing Alexander Sanford hasn’t lost is his sense of honor. When he washes ashore close to his aunt’s manor, he’s shocked to find Henrietta in residence, but welcomes the chance to set the past aright by renewing his pursuit of his former betrothed. But he’s brought back more from India than his feelings… something that could put all of his loved ones in danger.
Sound interesting? How about a little teaser:
“Stand aside.” Damn that lock of hair. How it must make her look youthful and wayward; it must rob her of any kind of authority.
She stuck out her lower lip and blew upward. The lock swayed tauntingly before settling back in the middle of her nose. “I shall scream.”
He ignored this in favor of reaching for the tress. He took it between his thumb and forefinger, rubbing, concentrating on what he was doing as if it were of the utmost importance that he learn the exact texture of her hair. Dumbfounded, she allowed him.
Somehow, he pushed closer until his breath blew across her face, warm and sweet. “Do you remember this?”
“Remember what?” She had to force the words through her lips. Drawing in air had suddenly become a difficult prospect.
“This. How it was between us.”
“No.” A blatant lie. That particular hint of gravel in his voice pulled her straight into the past.
“I don’t believe you. I recall that expression.”
“What expression?” She had to work to get that much out, and blast it, the words emerged on a breathy note.
“Your eyes dark, cheeks pink, lips parted. Like you’re ready for a kiss.” Somehow he edged even nearer. The wall was solid at her back, possibly the only reason she was still upright. “Like you expect one. Demand it, even.”
Feel free to party in the comments!
Seriously, this deal redefines the whole concept of cheap-ass. Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review and called it “a gem to be savored.” How often do you get a gem for $0.99?
Still not convinced? Watch the trailer:
Years ago, when Isabelle Mears was still a young miss too infatuated to know better, she surrendered her innocence to a dishonorable man. Though ruined and cast out from society, she has worked hard to shelter her illegitimate son, Jack. Having sworn off men in her quiet but dignified life, Isabelle is unprepared for the deep longing that rips through her when a handsome stranger rescues her rambunctious six-year-old from the pounding ocean surf.
George Upperton is a man in trouble with debts, women, and a meddling family. He is, by all accounts, the last gentleman on earth Isabelle should be drawn to. But loneliness is a hard mistress, and caution gives way to desire . . . even though Isabelle is convinced that happiness can’t be found in the arms of such a devilish rogue. Only when Jack is kidnapped does Isabelle discover the true depth of George’s devotion—and how far a good man will go to fight for the woman whose love is all that matters.
What do you think? Should I get a job writing ad copy or stick with historical romance? If you opt for the latter, you may just want to keep an eye on me Thursday. Is that cryptic enough for everyone?
In any number of romance novels you’ll find a titled hero meeting with his steward to ‘go over the accounts’ or some other task related to land management. In some books you’ll find the steward may be the love interest—Simply Love by Mary Balogh and The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt come to mind. And I do love an unexpected hero!
But what is a steward? What does he actually do? I only had a vague idea until I started researching for my current work in progress. And that is when I discovered The Modern Land Steward by John Lawrence. The version I read was the second edition and published in 1806. Mr. Lawrence was not the first gentleman to publish a book on stewardship, as he was quick to point out in his introduction. Apparently there were at least two others who had published books on the subject, and many more who put out essays on various aspects such as timber and cattle and agriculture.
What both fascinated and repelled me, however, was that Mr. Lawrence took quite some time in the introduction to share how to slaughter oxen and kill eels. For this city girl, I was vaguely uneasy about getting into the rest of the book. I mean, ew.
But then we got to the goods. “A category of the duties, general and particular, of the steward.” There we go. That’s what I was after. What does a steward actually do?
(Apparently, a steward cross-breeds turnips, according to page 470.)
It turns out there are actually three different types of stewards: first, a house-steward “(manciple, caterer, purveyor, etc.)”, and the second is an agent who accepts rents and works with the tenants. There may be multiple of these stewards/agents if the titled gentleman has multiple estates, with each steward working in a different geographic area. However, all of these lower stewards would report to the chief or principal agent, who may be steward to the family’s main seat. The chief agent looks over the accounts of the lower stewards and puts together a summary for his lordship.
It seems that depending on the size of the overall fortune, the number and duties of the stewards will vary. In my feverish, author-ly imagination, I’m already using that as a plot point. I can imagine a responsible hero wanting all of the stewards to report directly to him, while a tragically wounded hero hiding from his past and his title might rely on the chief steward to oversee all the stewards—it’s all about motivation, isn’t it?
Well, moving on and leaving out my imagination for the moment, here’s a list of topics stewards ought to know about: agriculture, livestock and husbandry, horses, “physic and the healing art, as applicable to beasts; and of the just and natural method of shoeing,” architecture, mechanics, bookkeeping, and law related to landlords/tenants, highways and forests.
Jack of all trades, no?
And then comes my favorite part:
Our author Mr. Lawrence then proceeds to write 529 pages of duties for a steward. Everything from the turnips above, to brick-making, to planting trees—and then felling them—controlled burning, grafting plants, a study of the different types of soils, dry rot in timber and running mills for grinding corn and wheat.
Honestly. If the steward keeps track of all of these parts of country manor life for his lordship, what, exactly, does his lordship do? Ah. I know. Woos duchesses with his roguish ways. Well, there goes my imagination again! Thank you to the land steward for freeing up our rogues! *wink*
Alyssa Alexander is the debut author of THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK, which features a smuggler and a spy, but not a land steward. However, stewards do crop up in her future books. She knows nothing about dry rot or husbandry (is that the same thing has training a husband??) and leaves all agricultural aspects to Mr. Alexander, so as not to kill the plants with her black thumb. Watch for IN BED WITH A SPY, the second book in her A Spy In The Ton series later this year!
Greetings, your graces. Today I’m pleased to host guest duchess Shana Galen.
Shana is the bestselling author of fast-paced adventurous Regency historicals, including the RT Reviewers’ Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Booklist says, “Galen expertly entwines espionage-flavored intrigue with sizzling passion,” and RT Bookreviews calls her “a grand mistress of the action/adventure subgenre.” She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston’s inner city. Now she writes full time. She’s happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making. Shana loves to hear from readers, so send her an email or see what she’s up to daily on Facebook and Twitter.
And now, without further ado, I turn this post over to Shana.
Is anyone a younger sister? I am. In the interest of full disclosure, I will also say that I have a younger sister, so I’m actually a middle child. But I do have an older brother, and here’s the thing about older brothers (and probably sisters). Younger siblings look up to them, love hanging out with them, want to be just like them. Depending on the age difference, the older sibling thinks this is cute or seriously annoying. My brother thought I was cute. He’s 8 years older than me. I’m only 2 years older than my younger sister, and I didn’t think she was cute at all. I remember a lot of “Don’t copy me!” and “Leave me alone” and “Get out of my room!”
I also remember the freedom of getting away from her. I was the first to go to school, have a sleepover, go to a movie by myself, drive a car. I could get away, while she had to stay home and watch me go. I know how she felt because I watched my brother go and longed for that same freedom before I had it.
In Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend, I write about an older brother. Andrew is the heir to a dukedom, the only son. He has an older sister, who is not really in the story, and he also has a younger sister, Emma. When Andrew returns home after the death of his mother, he’s shocked by his father’s behavior. The duke is not exactly mourning when he throws a house party and invites quite a few courtesans and opera singers to the affair. It’s no place for his younger sister. Andrew just wants Emma safely away, but before she goes, she teaches her older brother a thing or two.
The fun thing about writing Emma was that I got to put away my older sister persona for a little while and remember how it felt to be a younger sister. Emma looks up to her older brother. She idolizes him, but she’s also smart and observant. She can tell him things about his parents he never knew, simply because she was home and he was away. Later in the book, these observations prove crucial. Here’s a scene between Emma and Andrew.
Andrew turned back and found her standing at the window, looking out on the darkening sky. He should say… something. He was much better at teasing and making his sisters laugh than at anything of a serious nature. “Emma?”
She turned, looking surprised to see him still there. “Yes, my lord?”
Now it was his turn to laugh from surprise. “When did I become my lord? You used to call me Drew.”
Her nose scrunched up. “That was when I was a baby.”
She still seemed like a baby to him. “I think I’d prefer it if you called me Andrew. It occurred to me”—he stepped back in the room, committed now, and closed the door behind him—“I have not asked how you fare since Katherine returned home.”
A look of sadness crossed her features. She was young to look so forlorn. “I am well. I miss her.”
He missed her too—their beautiful mother. She had loved him, never made him feel inadequate, and always saw through his attempts to pretend his father’s indifference did not matter.
“She is in a better place now,” Emma said, her gaze on his face. He still grieved her. He had always thought she would be his advisor when he became duke. How would he carry on without her?
“Yes.” He should say something more comforting, but he did not know what.
“My lord—Andrew, I know you are vexed with our father because of his recent behavior.”
Andrew raised his brows. It had not been a secret, but he did not know how much of his father’s recent behavior she had read about. He did not want to enlighten her.
“But you know that mother and father never loved each other. They married for duty, as I suppose you will. So if he seeks someone to love now, in his declining years, we can hardly judge him.”
Andrew stared at her. He could judge very well, thank you. But he was not so bitter he did not see logic. When had Emma become so wise? And how did she know so much about their parents’ relationship. They had not loved each other? He had never even imagined their courtship or their wedding. Had they married for duty? He supposed that was what dukes did. Was that what he would do? He would have to marry—there was no question of that. He had always thought he would marry for love. He’d chided his friend Pelham for his pronouncements that dukes did not fall in love. But perhaps Pelham had the right of it after all. Perhaps duty was all there was.
“How do you know?” he heard himself asking. “How can you be certain they didn’t love each other?”
“Because I saw them together every day. They didn’t even like each other. He was civil to her, but not kind or solicitous. He trod lightly when she was near, as though he feared something.”
“Feared her? Emma, your imagination has the better of you.”
“Perhaps, but she doted on you, Andrew. Katherine and I…” She shuddered.
Now that I’m all grown up, my sister is one of my best friends. I can always count on her. I don’t remember when I stopped being annoyed by her and started seeking her out for advice. Our friendship probably happened a little like it happens for Andrew and Emma.
I actually enjoyed writing about Emma so much, I’ve been working on a novella featuring her. Of course, Andrew makes an appearance too. And how fun to see the relationship between the two of them grow.
Do you have a brother or sister? Are you great friends or sworn enemies?
I have a great prize to give away! Win the first two books in the Jewels of the Ton series, When You Give a Duke a Diamond and If You Give a Rake a Ruby, plus a fabulous blue topaz necklace (US and Canada only).
And don’t forget to pre-order the book. Everyone who send proof of pre-order before February 28 will receive a free gift the exclusive, not-in-the-book epilogue. Send proof to Casablanca@sourcebooks.com
For this second installment of Historical Romance for Dummies, we are going to focus on those things you might commonly read about in a historical romance set in the Regency-Victorian eras in Britain (our apologies to those authors and readers who long for something less constricting – we understand dears, truly we do).
Any new historical romance reader picking up a Regency or Victorian-based book should start with a minimum understanding of the following terms, as they are scarcely ever defined in the books themselves.
Regency and Victorian Terms, A-Z
abigail: another name for a ladies’ personal maid.
Almacks: A rather stuffy dance venue to match up young men and women, that was nonetheless wildly popular. One could not be admitted without a “voucher” and these were tightly controlled by some very judgmental matrons. Interestingly, obtaining a voucher often depended more on what these matrons thoughts of your propriety and morals than simply social standing. Think: a VIP club pass in historical times, where only the good girls get past the velvet rope.
bluestocking: the name applied to a young woman with decidedly too-modern ideas for her time. A woman who supported suffrage (women’s voting rights) in the Victorian era would have been a decided bluestocking, as but one example.
cattle: A common term applied by boisterous young men about their horses.
chaperones: In both eras, young unmarried women were generally not permitted to move freely about without adequate supervision, although the requirement could vary based on a woman’s social standing, whether she was in London or in the country, and her family’s financial circumstances. The appointed chaperone was usually an older female companion of good character who could ensure said young heroine didn’t sneak off for a forbidden kiss… or worse. It was considered improper for a young unmarried woman to be in the company of any non-relative male without a chaperone. To be caught in a compromising position lacking a chaperone could spell social ruin for a woman of good breeding, and in many cases an absolute requirement for the man in question to “come up to scratch” and marry the young lady whose reputation has just been shredded.
chit: a young woman who might be a bit silly
coming of age: Twenty-one years of age. If a woman had inherited money, she did not come under control over it until this magical age. This was the age of consent, meaning a woman could then choose to marry without her parent’s or guardian’s permission.
courtesan: a high-class prostitute or mistress, one who was usually elevated in social status and entertained men of power
gaming hell: a place where men placed wagers and played cards, roulette, etc.
gel: a shortened form of “girl”, often delivered down the nose of a stuffy dowager duchess
Gretna Green: The first stop across the border into Scotland, where a marriage could take place without any of the time and waiting requirements of English law. A popular place for young couples in love to elope.
Mayfair: The fashionable district to live in near London during this time period.
mews: The set of stables in the back of a London home housing horses, and carriages, etc.
musicale: a social event featuring music and often some poor chit who couldn’t really sing
on-dit: a snarky or gossipy tidbit
peer: A peer was someone who held one of the hierarchical titles that defines British upper class society. These were hereditary titles, passed to the oldest son or otherwise closest male heir. Men, therefore, had to deal with the issues of estate management and political expectations that accompanied inheritance of one of these titles. Peers in the Regency and Victorian eras also carried some political weight: they sat in the House of Lords, and often operated by their own set of ethical and legal mores that were quite different from those of the lower and middle classes. **Note to the new reader: A man in possession of a title instantly elevated him as “marriageable material” in the Regency and Victorian eras, meaning women might be more inclined to pursue him with an eye toward marriage. Many books portray these men as trying to avoid the dreaded “marriage noose”, despite the fact that most would eventually need to marry to produce an heir (the point seems to be not to succumb too soon). Because understanding hierarchy is important to understanding British social structure, suffice it to say that those of higher order wield more power and respect (as well as get to sit at the head of the dinner table). So, in order, best to not-best, you have: Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron, Baronet.
posting of the banns and special license: In England at the time, one could not marry without some prep work. A regular marriage required a posting of the banns in the church parish for three consecutive Sundays, which meant (at a minimum) a 3 week wait. If one was desperate, one could procure a special license signed by a bishop, which would let one marry immediately. Special licenses usually were only available for the wealthy, as you had to pay for them. A Special license also carried an air of “desperation”, and might promote gossip (see “ruin” below).
rake/rakehell: a young man bent on mischief and seduction
reticule: a ladies’ small bag or purse, often on a loop that hung from the wrist
ruin: Oh, the horror – the thing all young ladies feared (but secretly dreamed of). Quite simply put, this was the destruction of a young lady’s reputation and an alteration in her future ability to marry well. Ruin could happen in a myriad of ways: promiscuity, pregnancy, rumors of promiscuity or pregnancy (barring an actual event), being caught alone with an unmarried man, being a little different for the time… and oddly enough, most historical romance heroines are constantly courting this mythical “ruin”.
Season: This was an annual series of social events that coincided with the sitting of Parliament and necessity of the peerage to be in residence in London. It was characterized by parties, balls, and other opportunities to “see and be seen.” A Season was a woman’s time to be presented as “marriage-eligible”, and the social events were designed to ensure maximum exposure to men who might be a good match. A woman’s first Season was called “coming out”, usually around the time she turned 18. A woman might have several Seasons before she found a good match, but it was very expensive (think: new gowns, shoes, etc), and so women of more limited means were often desperate to maximize their chances with one Season. The timing of the Season usually spanned Easter-late summer, but the peak was May-July.
the ton: (also: bon ton, beau monde, Society, the upper ten thousand): The upper classes and peerage of Britain
waltz: A new (and at the time, scandalous) dance that was introduced in the Regency era. It required people to dance so close their bodies were almost touching (gasp!) At Almacks, a young unmarried woman could not waltz without permission being first granted by one of those stuffy matrons.
Whites: A famous gentleman’s club in London, frequented by peers and members of the upper crust of Society. A place for cards, wagers, male camaraderie. Women were not admitted. There was a famous betting book in Whites, with wagers placed from anything from “which horse would win which race” to “who would be married before the year was out.”
valet: a male servant whose job it was to dress a peer and care for his clothing.
The Duchesses hope you find this informative. Please feel free to share it with those poor, misguided souls who have not yet discovered the beauty of Regency and Victorian-set historical romance.
Disclaimer: We don’t really think any of our readers are dummies. In fact, we consider you quite intelligent for choosing to follow our blog!
Most authors struggle with some degree of unexpected interest from friends and work colleagues who—sad though it may be—have never read a historical romance in their life. Sometimes, we even feel as though we should offer something of a disclaimer to them.
“Keep in mind it’s a Romance,” we say to their enthusiastic claims of having pre-ordered it. “A historical romance.”
More often than not, they blink at us in happy confusion. “Great,” they say. “I like history.”
Errrm…. Yes. That will indubitably help.
But as most Duchesses can tell you, enjoying one’s high school lecture on Alexander the Great is not enough to ensure instant appreciation and understanding of historical romance. Don’t mistake us—we are thrilled to welcome some readers who might have only ever read, say, the odd Nicholas Sparks book, or 50 Shades of Grey. But such books are a far cry from historical romance, and because we eagerly embrace our role as ambassadors bringing the stories of by-gone eras to life, we wanted to assure you that there is more to discover, if given half the chance.
It occurs to us, however, that newcomers to the world of historical romance might be confused by one or two things in our books that we originally felt no need to explain. And that perhaps they would be more inclined to think favorably upon the book—and the genre—if they had a primer on some basic background information. So the Duchesses have planned a series of posts on the topic, which are intended to help ease the way for those new readers and hopefully keep them focused enough to appreciate all the amazing things historical romance has to offer.
Today, we shall start with the basics. After all, one must walk before one waltzes, and we don’t want skinned knees and tears right off the bat.
Romance: a genre of fiction whose central plotline is centered on the development of a romantic relationship. The standard story arc leads to a HAPPY ENDING. That doesn’t mean the author can’t put those characters through an emotional tailspin, just that those bits should be resolved by the time you reach “THE END.” If we are going to get specific, the most common and widely sold romance is m/f (male/female), but there is also a lively market for m/m and f/f romance should you care to investigate.
Historical Romance: a type of romance novel that is based on characters in the past. Most folks consider a historical anything up to about WWII. Many Duchesses would like to challenge this notion, especially as the WWII standard has been in place for something like 50 years… surely we can count the Korean War, Vietnam, and even the Cold War as historical eras worth writing about by now.
Bodice Ripper: a derogatory name sometimes applied to historical romances, based on an outdated perception of the overbearing heroes and meek females that were sometimes portrayed in older historicals. These days, the heroines tend to be much stronger, and more assertive of their individuality, and if a bodice is going to get ripped they are as likely to do it themselves, so some Duchesses don’t personally mind the term. But be warned–some authors will be all too willing to whack you over the head with their reticule (for those of you newbies in our audience, a form of purse or handbag) if you say this in their presence.
The Eras: These are important, because the social mores differed for each major period of history, and also differed based on the setting (i.e. British-set historicals vs. American or exotic settings). A good deal of conflict in historical romances is based on the societal expectations of the time and the main characters rubbing up against those constraints, so the political backdrop, views toward women, and views toward sexuality of a given time all heavily influence the tone of books.
Briefly (and bear in mind, these are largely convenience groupings, rather than an intentional history lesson):
Medieval Romance: These romances tend to be set in the 5th through the 14th century. BBC’s Merlin is a great example of the period. Think: Knights. Plague. The Crusades.
Renaissance: This is roughly the period from the 14th to 17th century. Think: Henry VIII, the Tudors, and everyone’s head getting chopped off.
Scottish Romance: There is a tremendously popular market for Scottish romance spanning both the Medieval and Renaissance areas. Think: Men in Kilts. Braveheart (before Mel Gibson got weird).
Georgian: Technically defined as the time under the rule of the Georges I-IV, this era stretches from 1714 to about 1811, and often is just broadly defined as “the 18th century”. This was a turbulent time in British society, with parties and debauchery a bit more accepted among both men and women. Think: Powdered wigs, breasts bulging over plunging necklines, and those funny wide hoops that made women turn sideways to get through doors. Remember that video Walking on Broken Glass? That is tres Georgian!
Regency: This is one of the most popular historical eras for historical novels. It was technically the time the Prince Regent was at the helm of Britain, 1811 to 1820, but is often extended to 1837, when Queen Victoria took the throne. The era saw the introduction of greater simplicity of fashion, but also, we think, more elegant social graces. There was a stiff set of expectations placed on upper class females: they were expected to marry, and to marry as well as they could for social power and financial security. Think: Country house parties, high-waisted gowns, Jane Austen, and those scintillating dances that involved standing across from one’s partner and bowing. Duchess Valerie has written at greater length on the topic here.
Victorian: A very long period in British history (1837 to 1901), mainly because the monarch, Queen Victoria, lived so long. Queen Victoria had firm views on propriety and the role of women, and this period of time was a bit more uptight than either the Georgian or Regency eras. Charlotte and Emily Bronte wrote during this period, and unlike Austen, their words tended to be darker, more dramatic. The movie The Piano is a hauntingly beautiful portrayal of both the period’s dress and expectations for women. Think: sexual repression, whalebone corsets, séances and an obsession with death and mourning.
Edwardian: The period when Edward, Victoria’s son, sat as king. Although he died in 1910, this period is often extended up until 1919, the end of World War I. Fashion lines became simpler, cleaner, with lots of ornate beading. Women began to emerge with greater independence, and access to education/learning, and also began to challenge traditional stereotypes. Think: Titanic, Downton Abbey, World War I.
Roaring twenties to WWII: The 1920 to about 1945. Think: the movie Chicago. Flappers. Prohibition. The Great Depression. World War II. This was definitely a time period where women broke out of older, traditional roles and their independence became more commonplace and accepted.
For the new reader, understanding which era their book is set in is the first step. Once they have that in-hand, they can begin the process of understanding more advanced details.
Be on the lookout for our next post on Historical Romance for Dummies, which will focus on terms for the new historical reader of Regency and Victorian fiction.
The Duchesses must offer this disclaimer: we are not history professors, nor do we pretend to be. We are first and foremost spinners of stories. If you notice any errors, or have new ideas that might be useful to share, please do contact us and let us know! We do believe, with these basics, most of the uninformed can safely tackle the wonderful world of historical romance.
It’s Duchess Jennifer McQuiston here, and I am wiggling in my seat (I know, Duchess’s aren’t supposed to do that, but I am very excited!) You see, tomorrow is fellow Duchess Alyssa Alexander’s debut for her very first book, The Smuggler Wore Silk, and she has graciously agreed to let me interview her for the Dashing Duchesses.
This is a gutsy decision, because Alyssa and I are close friends. This means that she knows from past history (and umpteen examples) that sometimes my interview questions can make even the staunchest of heroines blush. I’ve promised her I will be gentle (I lied, of course).
I’m also removing my gloves, one finger at a time, and am now briskly warming them in her hero’s lap in anticipation of such a delicious opportunity.
But first, here’s a bit about Alyssa.
Dibs on my hero’s lap, Jennifer!! I didn’t write Julian for you. I wrote him for me. Er…wait. No, I wrote him for all woman-kind. Sigh….
But, if one can even focus on a Duchess when there is a wounded gentleman hero spy around, here’s a little about me: I live in Michigan, but should have been born someplace hot and sunny where drinks are served with paper umbrellas. I work a full time job outside the home, am a full time mother and wife, and am a debut romance writer. My life is a whirlwind every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, as long as I get to take those occasional breaks someplace warm and sunny.
Alyssa’s debut, the Smuggler Wore Silk, is already generating much well-deserved buzz in the historical romance world and has garnered the highest possible rating (4.5 stars and a “Top Pick”) from RT Book Reviews, which said: “Alexander makes her debut with a thrilling, wild ride of a spy thriller that sizzles with passion. Readers will follow her three-dimensional characters through a maze of plot twists and turns. Like an intricate puzzle, Alexander has all the pieces of the ideal romance and arranges them in the perfect picture. She is a rising star you won’t want to miss.”
Isn’t that the most amazing review? I couldn’t be more grateful! And, for a little insight into a debut author’s world, I was so terrified I couldn’t open the email to read it at first. I had to let it sit in my inbox for about 10 minutes before I worked up the nerve check it! And when it was wonderful, I was thrilled. Here is a little blurb about the book:
After he is betrayed by one of his own, British spy Julian Travers, Earl of Langford, refuses to retire without a fight, vowing to find the traitor. But when the trail leads to his childhood home, Julian is forced to return to a place he swore he’d never see again, and meet a woman who may be his quarry—in more ways than one.
Though she may appear a poor young woman dependent on charity, Grace Hannah’s private life is far more interesting. By night, she finds friendship and freedom as a member of a smuggling ring. But when the handsome Julian arrives, she finds her façade slipping, and she is soon compromised, as well as intrigued.
As she and Julian continue the hunt, Grace finds herself falling in love with the man behind the spy. Yet Julian’s past holds a dark secret. And when he must make a choice between love and espionage, that secret may tear them apart.
I’ll start with a low-ball question first, because I don’t want to frighten our blushing debut author. Every author worth her salt owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the authors who inspire them to dig deeper and reach higher in their own writing. Who would you like to send a shout-out of thanks to in the writing world for being so darn amazing? (*cough-Joanna Bourne-cough*)
Ah, you know me too well. Yes, I love the incomparable Joanna Bourne, and also the brilliant Cecelia Grant, for their skill with characterization. Mary Balogh for her internal dialogue. And Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt for instilling a love of the mysterious side of romance in my youth.
The Smuggler Wore Silk is a lush, suspenseful Regency-set historical, and is the first book in your “A Spy in the Ton” series. Why did you choose to write Regency-set historicals, Ms. Alexander, instead of, say, dino-erotic-steampunk? And more importantly, why spies?
Hm. Dino-erotic-steampunk. Most interesting…Perhaps I should reconsider my genre? But no, I’m too in love with the Regency! I never thought about writing anything but historical, primarily because I have a fantasy involving a handsome lord in black evening wear and a crisp white cravat whirling me across a ball room gilded with candlelight. I’d be wearing a lavish satin gown with my hair curled and piled high. And as candlelight is flattering to everyone, I’d be stunningly beautiful. But alas, it truly is a fantasy. I could never be a proper Regency miss. I’m terrified of horses, would likely trip over the hem of a Regency gown, prefer running water and toilets to a hip bath and chamber pot, and wouldn’t remember how to address the second son of a marquess without a cheat sheet tucked into my reticule. But a modern girl can always dream…As for why espionage, I love adventure, action, and characters with secrets. Given the war with France during the Regency, espionage is a natural fit. Plus, putting characters in harm’s way brings emotion to the surface. When everything a person loves is in danger they will go to extraordinary lengths to protect it.
Your cover is gorgeous, and very unique. (She’s got a gun behind her back, people, and a curious little smirk on her face!) I am not aware of any other historical covers that feature a pistol-wielding heroine. How did you conceive of the idea? And does it accurately portray the character of your heroine, Grace Hannah?
Well on this one, I have to give the shout out to YOU, Ms. McQuiston! For which I am entirely grateful! As I recall, it was your idea. Women with weapons are a common cover concept in contemporary romantic suspense, and you suggested using that concept for historical. Once the idea was planted in my brain, I couldn’t get it out. Since Grace uses a pistol to great effect in THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK, and in the next book, IN BED WITH THE SPY, the heroine Lilias uses a cavalry sabre, it naturally flowed that each heroine would have a different weapon. As to the smile, that was the wonderful cover artist!
And, yes, the cover is perfect for Grace! Not only does she carry a pocket pistol on her smuggling travels, but, she’s a gently bred lady living in her uncle’s home. She appears to be every inch a lady. But at night, she meets with smugglers in pubs and travels across the countryside. So the idea of her hiding the pistol behind her back fits the smuggler hiding behind the lady.
OK, fine, you’ve called me out. I wanted some credit for that gorgeous cover! Although, I didn’t imagine anything half so beautiful. Now, please tell us a bit about your hero, Julian Travers. He’s a gentleman, he’s a spy, he’s a hell of a complicated new husband for our heroine to try to sort out. Why did a gentleman like Julian turn to spying in the first place? And why does he marry a woman he has begun to suspect of treason?
Ah, Julian. *sigh* My favorite type of hero. He’s strong, intelligent, charming and little bit wounded. As for why he turned to spying, that would be a spoiler! So, in my best Duchess-y manner, I shall simply say ‘atonement, my dears!’ Which is also why he offers to marry Grace. He is, at his very core, honorable, so when he compromises Grace, he has no choice but to propose. Yes, he believes she may be a traitor, but in the moment they’re discovered he follows his gentlemanly instincts. The espionage bit he works out later.
There was a very interesting article in the Washington Post in December 2013 (see it here). The article discussed the increasing use of the word “co$k” (think: barnyard fowl) in historical romances. Given that the Washington Post has left this particular barn door wide open for romance authors and readers everywhere, I’m officially pulling out the “hard”-ball question I warned you about:
Does Julian call his a “barnyard fowl” or something more civilized?
He does not, in fact, use anything related to “barnyard fowl” in the book. As near as I can tell, he never really calls it anything, oddly enough (though I offer a disclaimer here: this was a quick perusal of those parts of the book, so I may have missed a mention or two.)
Wow. That’s almost TOO civilized! What does GRACE call it?
Arousal. But here’s a question, if I ever get to do a rewrite, what do YOU think Grace should call it?
Erm… aren’t I supposed to be asking the hard questions here?? Luckily, I know a place to send you as reference. In my first book, What Happens in Scotland, my shocked heroine wakes up in bed with a naked stranger and calls it an “erection.” On page 1, no less. So if you aren’t going to play hardball with me, maybe you could just indulge our readers by letting them know the first page where the idea of Julian’s “co$k” shows up… you know. In case we want to flip straight there.
Well… it could have been used around pages 143, 169, and 196. Just in case you want to evaluate whether the scenes are lacking without said word usage. In a purely intellectual sense, of course.
Please give me a second to peek at these pages, and then join me in cheering Alyssa on in her fabulous debut!
Thank you for interviewing me, Jennifer, during the week of all weeks! There’s nothing quite like the first release day of your first novel, I’m told, and I’m thrilled to share it with the Duchesses!
To celebrate Alyssa’s release, she has graciously agreed to give away a copy of The Smuggler Wore Silk . Just tell us your favorite… er… barnyard animal to enter! Winner chosen from all commenters on Friday, January 10th.
Jennifer and Alyssa first met when a meteor descended upon them and cracked them upside the head (that meteor was actually author Kimberly Kincaid, who introduced them and got them started as critique partners, along with the fabulous Tracy Brogan). Together, they make up the Three Cheekas. (Yes, they know there are four of them. Use some imagination, folks!)
Alyssa Alexander writes Love with a Little Danger from the decidedly NOT warm and sunny upper Midwest. When she’s not torturing her critique partners with hard-ball questions, Jennifer McQuiston writes Different. Historical. Romance. She thinks Alyssa’s new book is pretty amazing, and gave her a cover blurb to prove it!
You might think meeting up with a friend at Starbucks for a cup of coffee is a fairly modern idea, but it’s really a 300-year-old tradition.
In England, the first coffee house was established in Oxford back in 1651 and the atmosphere at these gathering places hasn’t changed all that much in the centuries that followed.
In his Dictionary of the English Language published in 1755, Samuel Johnson described a coffee house as “a house of entertainment where coffee is sold, and the guests are supplied with newspapers.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
These coffee houses soon became centers of artistic and intellectual life in London. However, the drink didn’t go down smoothly in the beginning.
When the hot beverage first appeared in England at around 1650, it was viewed with some mistrust, which led coffee sellers to tout the new drink’s supposed healthful qualities:
It does the orifices of the stomach good, it fortifies the heart within, helpeth digestion, quickens the spirits…is good against eyesores, coughs and colds, rhumes, consumption, head aches, dropsy, gout, scurvy, King’s evil and many others.
The steamy brew quickly came to be viewed as social beverage because the stimulant encouraged conversation.
The quality, company and cleanliness of coffee houses varied, according to César de Saussure’s Letters from London (1725-1729):
In London there are innumerable badly appointed coffee-houses, their furniture spoiled on account of the number of people who frequent them for most of the time, and above all because of the smokers, who quickly ruin the furniture, for you must understand that the English smoke a great deal. In these establishments, you can have chocolate, tea, coffee, all sorts of hot drinks, and, in some, even wine, punch and ale. But it is useless to ask for fresh drinks like orgeat, lemonade, capillaire and the like. They are hardly known in this country.
César de Saussure’s Letters also noted that not all coffee houses were for sipping java and catching up on the news, if you get my meaning…
There are coffee-houses which are the meeting places of scholars and wits; others which are frequented by beaux; others which are only frequented by Politicians and News-Mongers; and several which are Temples of Venus. It is easy to recognise these latter because they often have on their sign the arm or the hand of a woman holding a coffee pot. There are many of these houses in the region of Covent Garden, which pass for being chocolate houses, where the customers are served by beautiful, clean and well dressed nymphs, who seem very agreeable, but who are in fact very dangerous.
These establishments were the first to introduce and serve tea when it came to England from the Far East, which is why a coffee house plays a pivotal role in my latest book, Compromising Willa. The heroine, Willa, is an expert tea blender who secretly donates her special brews to a coffee house that provides employment for poor women and children.
Hartwell, the hero in Compromising Willa, contemplates buying the coffee house building to turn it into the headquarters for his own sugar import business. He is among the first to realize Willa is courting scandal by secretly engaging in commerce. I can imagine modern readers happily settled in a chair at their local coffee house enjoying a cup of joe while reading about the romantic adventures of Willa and her duke. Here’s a little primer:
Lady Wilhelmina Stanhope is ruined and everyone knows it..Back in Town for the first season since her downfall, Willa plans to remain firmly on the shelf, assuming only fortune hunters will want her now. Instead she focuses on her unique tea blends, secretly supporting a coffee house which employs poor women and children. If her clandestine involvement in trade is discovered, she’ll be ruined. Again..
No one is more shocked by Willa’s lack of quality suitors than the newly minted Duke of Hartwell. Having just returned from India, the dark duke is instantly attracted to the mysterious wallflower. His pursuit is hampered by the ruthless Earl of Bellingham, who once jilted Willa and is now determined to reclaim her.
Caught between the clash of two powerful men, a furious Willa refuses to concede her independence to save her reputation. But will she compromise her heart?
Hartwell frowned. “I scarcely see how Lady Wilhelmina can belong to Bellingham if there is no betrothal.”
“There is certain talk no gentleman would ever repeat.” Heenan reached for his mother-of-pearl snuffbox. “Some say it is why the lady has kept herself away from Town for so long.”
“And this is commonly discussed in society?”
“It is not the kind of thing one hears in Mayfair’s drawing rooms,” Selwyn answered in halting tones.
“But most gentlemen about Town eventually hear the talk,” Garrick added with a lascivious smirk.
Heenan leaned over and inhaled snuff into his nose. “Not that anyone dares to cut her in public.” Leaning back in his chair with a satisfied sigh, he used a handkerchief to wipe remnants of the powdery substance from his upper lip. “Impeccable family lines and all. The family carries on as though nothing has happened. She is under the protection of her cousin, the Marquess of Camryn, who is quite influential in the Lords. No one dares risk his wrath.”
“I don’t follow.”
Garrick leaned forward. “They say the chit is compromised. Utterly and completely, if you get my meaning.” He winked at Hart. “But she still acts the frigid princess, all high and mighty. Otherwise, who wouldn’t want to toss up those skirts and give her a good hard—”
Something in his head snapped loose, blinding him to anything but the desire to crush the drunken whoreson beneath his boot heel. He bolted to his feet and shoved the table back with a loud clatter. Towering over Garrick, he grabbed the man’s cravat with one hand and drew back his fist with the other. Garrick shrank back in his chair, wide-eyed, his face pinched with fear. Action at the other gaming tables screeched to a halt. Silence descended; all eyes were riveted on Hartwell.
Selwyn jumped up and placed a calming hand on his shoulder. “Now Hartwell,” he said, partially positioning himself between the two men. “This is just a friendly misunderstanding among gentlemen.”
His neck burned. It was a lie. It had to be. “It is hardly the act of a gentleman to insult a lady’s honor in the most grievous way possible.”
Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Tempting Bella, Book 2 in my Accidental Peers series.
***A winner will be selected this Sunday, Dec. 15.***
Diana Quincy is a former television journalist who decided she’d rather make up her own stories because she can always guarantee a happy ending. As to tea or coffee, she swings both ways except when it comes to mornings, when she must jump start her day with a cup of java.
We’re giving away three books to one lucky commenter! Read on for more info.
My novella, Where the Heart Is, is a bit of a departure for me as it’s my first contemporary story. I’m so excited to share it with you! It kicks off my new Ribbon Ridge series about a family of sextuplets (and the seventh “oops” kid, plus the “almost brother” featured in Where the Heart Is).
Erica’s story, Midwinter Magic, takes place in her fantastical Nether-NetherLand, a place I wish truly existed because everything about it (from trolls to talking Pegasi to sasquatch lawyers) is full of win. If you haven’t read the first book in the series, Charmed, you’re missing out on laugh-out-loud hilarity and sigh-worthy true love.
Finally, The Cheer in Charming an Earl launches The Innocents subset trilogy of Emma’s Naughty Girls Series. If you loved her darkly emotional Courtesans books but prefer lighter fare for the holidays, this is the story you’re looking for. It’s also the only historical story in the anthology, so it will definitely appeal to our Duchess readers!
And if that’s not enough to tempt you, here’s some more intel!
You’re ready to put up a Christmas tree, heat up some wassail, and curl up by a roaring fire, right? Well, you’re going to need a good book to go with that. Lucky for you, you could get THREE! One lucky commenter will get a book from each of us:
From Darcy: Choose any of my historicals (Her Wicked Ways, His Wicked Heart, To Seduce a Scoundrel, To Love a Thief, or Never Love a Scoundrel)
From Erica: Charmed
From Emma: The Trouble with Being Wicked or The Problem with Seduction
To enter, comment with a “Christmas Don’t” of your own! The winner will be announced later in the day on Friday (Duchess Darcy has to go on a field trip with her daughter!).
Thanks for stopping by!