WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hum Trum

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hum Trum

Regency era London was a noisy place to be. Streets were congested with all manner of traffic, from private carriages to hackneys to freight wagons. Pavements on the sides of streets were just as clogged, with all manner of hawkers and their carts, writhing seas of pedestrians, and just gawpers in general. The racket raised by the sheer number of people and machinery was enormous. Add to that the criminal element of pick-pockets scurrying about, and the streets were a mishmash of business, leisure, and delinquency. So what else added to the noise pollution of the time?

Street Musicians.

According to Jane Austen’s World, musicians “roamed the land, and London streets offered a pandemonium of sound, much of it derived from musical instruments.” Street musicians were known as buskers, and they were equally loved (or at least tolerated) and loathed. And while many buskers had real instruments, such as violins and barrel organs, others made music from devices cobbled-together from whatever implements could be collected from people’s cast-offs.

Hum Trum

A musical instrument made of a mopstick, a bladder, and some packthread, thence also called a bladder and string, and hurdy gurdy; it is played on like a violin, which is sometimes ludicrously called a humstrum; sometimes, instead of a bladder, a tin canister is used.

The Enraged Musician by William Hogarth, 1741, British Museum.

Street musicians would play popular folk songs and ballads, some classics of storytelling and some downright bawdy numbers. Jane Austen herself copied many such “common” songs in her handwritten collection of sheet music. She especially enjoyed tunes by composer Charles Dibdin. His prolific compositions ranged from serious and patriotic, to ditties and sea shanties. The latter of such songs were the main pieces played upon the hum trum. One of Dibdin’s most famous songs is Tom Bowling. I can only find today what my Granny would have called “highfalutin” versions of this song about an everyman, but it’s an excellent example of the type of folk song that would have been played by street buskers in hopes of earning a penny or three.

Here, a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling, the darling of our crew;
No more he’ll hear the tempest howling,
For death has broached him to.
His form was of the manliest beauty; his heart was kind and soft
Faithful below, Tom did his duty, and now, he’s gone aloft.

Tom never from his word departed; his virtues were so rare
His friends were many and true-hearted; his Poll was true and fair.
And then he’d sing so blithe and jolly, ah!
Many’s the time and oft.
But mirth is turned to melancholy, for Tom is gone aloft.

Yet shall poor Tom find pleasant weather, when He, who all commands,
Shall give, to call Life’s crew together, the word to pipe all hands.
Thus Death, who kings and tars despatches,
In vain Tom’s life hath doffed,
For though his body’s under hatches, his soul is gone aloft.

The television show Harlots has some of the best representations of folk songs I’ve heard of late, amongst its likewise faithful (I swear I can almost smell the scenes in this show) depictions of sex trade and fine society in the midst of politics and economics in Georgian England. In Episode Four, the younger daughter of brothel owner Margaret Wells sang a song during the masquerade party Pandemonium, thrown to earn enough blunt to pay off the debt of moving on up, to Greek Street rather than the East Side. Lucy sang the 18th century ballad My Thing is My Own.

I, a tender young maid, have been courted by many
Of all sorts and trades as ever was any.
A spruce haberdasher first spake to me fair
But I would have nothing to do with small ware.

My thing is my own, and I’ll keep it so still
Yet other young lasses may do as they will.

A sweet scented courtier did give me a kiss,
And promis’d me mountains if I would be his,
But I’ll not believe him, for it is too true,
Some courtiers do promise much more than they do.

A fine Man of Law did come out of the Strand,
To plead his own case with his fee in his hand;
He made a brave motion but that would not do,
For I did dismiss him and nonsuit him too.

Next came a young fellow, a notable spark,
(With green bag and inkhorn, a Justice’s clerk)
He pull’d out his warrant to make all appear,
But I sent him away with a flea in his ear.

A Master of Musick came with an intent,
To give me a lesson on my instrument,
I thank’d him for no’hing, but bid him be gone,
For my little fiddle should not be plaid on.

An Usurer came with abundance of cash,
But I had no mind to come under his lash,
He profer’d me jewels, and great store of gold,
But I would not mortgage my little Free-hold.

A blunt Lieutenant surpriz’d my placket,
And fiercely began to rifle and sack it,
I mustered my spirits up and became bold,
And forc’d my Lieutenant to quit his strong hold.

A crafty young bumpkin that was very rich,
And us’d with his bargains to go thro’ stitch,
Did tender a sum, but it would not avail,
That I should admit him my tenant in tayl.

A fine dapper taylor, with a yard in his hand
Did profer his service to be at command
He talk’d of a slit I had above knee,
But I’ll have no taylors to stitch it for me.

A Gentleman that did talk much of his grounds
His Horses, his Setting-Dogs, and his greyhounds
Put in for a Course, and us’d all his art
But he mist of the Sport, for Puss would not start

A pretty young Squire new come to the town
To empty his Pockets, and so to go down,
Did profer a kindness, but I would have none
The same that he us’d to his mother’s maid, Joan.

Now here I could reckon a hundred and more
Besides all the Gamesters recited before
That made their addresses in hopes of a snap
But as young as I was I understood trap.

My thing is my own, and I’ll keep it so still
Until I be marryed, say men what they will.

From Pills to Purge Melancholy, Vol. IV, D’Urfey

Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart have a fine cover of the mournful-yet-vulgar song, but the adaptation by the Sirens is a much earthier and faithful rendition that does justice to the innuendo-laden lyrics. And their harmonies are gorgeous.

Some of the songs from Harlots are original compositions done in the style of Georgian tunes, and they fit both historically and in circumstance. My favorite so far is Mary Cooper, for all that it’s subject is about to die of myriad working girl ailments. As the harlots paraded poor Mary’s corpse through Covent Garden, all they lacked were violins, organs, and a few hum trum. I can’t find a clip of the actual scene, but the lyrics tell the story well. Watch Season 1, Episode 2, to see the feast for the eyes (in both horrid and sumptuous glory) that is Harlots.

Get your hum trums out and play along.

Mary Cooper, Mary Cooper.
She’s had every Lord and Trooper
Kisses scorch, her waps are super.

Mary Cooper, Mary Cooper,
She’s had every Lord and Trooper.
Mary Cooper, Mary Cooper,
Leaves her lovers in a stupor.

Ridin’ high, no man can dupe her-
London’s Venus, Mary Cooper!

 

 

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Keep Calm and Read This: A Secret Scottish Christmas by Regan Walker

Keep Calm and Read This: A Secret Scottish Christmas by Regan Walker

I love it when Regan Walker stops by for a visit. It always means a great new book and some fascinating bit of information gleaned from her research! She has a new release in her Agents of the Crown series, A Secret Scottish Christmas, and beautiful Gordon Setter dogs feature in her story.

The Early Gordon Setters by Regan Walker

A Secret Scottish Christmas, the newest installment in the Agents of the Crown series, is set during the Regency mostly in Scotland. When the Powell twins, Robbie and Nash, first encounter Miss Aileen Stephen, the sister of their Scottish host, they are both taken with her and thereafter compete to win her heart. The first night, as they go down to dinner, they encounter her and her two dogs on the stairs:

This short scene is from Robbie’s point of view:

They began to descend the stairs just as Aileen Stephen came through the front door, her cheeks rosy from the cold. She let her tartan scarf fall to her shoulders, revealing a bounty of bright red hair. A tempting picture to be sure.

Two great black and tan dogs bounded in after her.

“Why, hello,” said Robbie, giving her one of his sincerest smiles. Beside him, Nash tensed, none too pleased at Robbie’s initiative.

His brother smiled at the girl. “What dogs are these?”

She looked up at them, her dogs wagging their long tails, their paws on the steps sniffing at Robbie’s feet. “Goodness and Mercy, a gift from the Duke of Gordon. He raises them on his estate in Moray to the north.”

Robbie stepped down to the entry hall’s stone floor and patted the head of the closest dog, a friendly sort, then returned his attention to the girl.

Nash alighted from the last stair to scratch one of the dogs behind the ear. “How ever did you come up with those names, Miss Stephen?”

“You may call me Ailie. Most everyone here does. You are Robbie and Nash?”

“I am Robbie and this is my brother, Nash,” said Robbie, gesturing first to himself and then to his twin.

Her beautiful face lifted in a one-sided grin as she glanced between them. “’Twill be difficult telling you apart. As for the names of my dogs, do ye nae ken yer Scriptures?”

Robbie exchanged a look with his brother. Neither, he was certain, had a clue as to her meaning, yet she had spoken in the way of the Scots, intentionally deepening her accent. Perhaps she meant to suggest Englishmen might be ignorant of the Good Book’s teachings.

“The twenty-third Psalm ends,” she recited, “‘Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…’ aye?”

“Clever,” said Nash. “I won’t be forgetting their names any time soon.” From the admiring look Nash gave the girl, Robbie surmised his twin wouldn’t be forgetting her either.

Robbie returned his attention to the large lean dogs he decided were setters, but not the black and white speckled ones he was used to. These two were mostly black with small bits of copper and white trim. “I can scarce see a difference between them.”

Her brows lifted. “This from two brothers who are made from the same mold? Really, ’tis easy to tell them apart. Goodness is the male and Mercy is the female.”

So what kind of dogs were these black and tan dogs?

Black and tan setters existed as far back as the 16th century in Scotland and England. But the man credited with developing the breed is Alexander Gordon, the 4th Duke of Gordon, known as the Cock o’ the North, the traditional epithet attached to the chief of the Gordon clan. At the time of my story, 1819, he was breeding setters for hunting at Gordon Castle near Fochabers not far from the River Spey in Scotland.

Alexander Gordon, Fourth Duke of Gordon,
(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.

The dogs Ailie named “Goodness” and “Mercy” were the early Gordon setters. The Gordon setter is an air-scenting breed, developed for the purpose of scenting game birds (mostly grouse) on the heather-covered Scottish moors. The Gordon Castle strain was mostly black, white and tan (a relic of the white can sometimes be seen today in the small white spot on the chest). Ailie’s setters would have been mostly black, as they are today, but marked with more white as well as tan.

In A Secret Scottish Christmas, Ailie’s setters go hunting for the pink-footed geese and stalk deer. Gordon setters are alert and lively, pleasant and exceedingly loyal. They tend to be devoted to members of their household, which you can see in the devotion Goodness and Mercy show the Stephens.

Spies and Scots and Shipmasters, oh my!

Scotland 1819

Twin brothers Nash and Robbie Powell of Powell & Sons Shipping, London, sail with their fellow Agents of the Crown to Scotland for a secret celebration of Christmastide, a holiday long frowned upon by the Scottish Kirk. But more than Christmas is being kept secret. The two brothers have accepted an assignment from the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to ferret out a fugitive fomenting rebellion among the Scots.

Aileen Stephen, the only daughter of an Aberdeen shipbuilder, had to be clever, devious and determined to gain her place in the family business. She succeeded to become a designer of highly coveted ships. One night, a man’s handsome face appears to her in a dream. When two men having that same face arrive on a ship full of Londoners, Ailie wonders what her second sight is telling her. Is the face she saw a portender of the future, a harbinger of danger, or both? And which of the two Englishmen is the one in her dream?

Older than Nash by a mere five minutes, Robbie has always been protective of his twin. When he realizes Nash is attracted to the sister of their Scottish host, he thinks to help matters along. But Nash wants no help from his brother, not where Ailie Stephen is concerned because Robbie is attracted to the girl himself!

Two brothers vie for the affection of the Scottish lass but only one stirs her passion. Which one will it be? And what will she do when she learns they are spies?

Graby your copy of A Secret Scottish Christmas today!

 

 

Regan Walker is an award-winning, #1 Amazon bestselling author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romances. She writes historically authentic novels with real historical figures along with her fictional characters. Among the awards she has won are the International Book Award for Romance Fiction, the San Diego Book Award for Best Historical Romance, the RONE Award for her medievals and the Illumination Award for The Refuge: An Inspirational Novel of Scotland.

You can sign up for her newsletter on her website and get the “Readers Extras” there, too. Regan loves to hear from her readers. Connect with Regan here:

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And always remember to #ReadARegency!

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bumfiddle

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bumfiddle

One might be tempted to raise an eyebrow at the low-brow sound of this week’s compound word when examining it from a vulgar Regency perspective, so proceed with care, gentle reader. Deep diving into Google reveals many carnal connections to each word separately, so this post is definitely not safe for work, subway rides home, or drinking coffee at Starbucks.

Bumfiddle

The backside, the breech. See ars musica.

Okely-dokely. Except the definition for ars musica is – you guessed it – bumfiddle. No help there; let’s parse.

The Online Etymological Dictionary cites the other, venerable OED when defining bum as “buttocks,” from the late 14th century, “probably onomatopœic, to be compared with other words of similar sound and with the general sense of ‘protuberance, swelling.”

The word fiddle is where we stir up the good stuff this week. It means everything from the literal “stringed musical instrument, violin” (the Online Etymological Dictionary again),  to “a device (such as a slat, rack, or light railing) to keep objects from sliding off a table aboard ship” (from Merriam-Webster), and to a “swindle, fraud” (according to Dictionary.com).

Those seem fairly tame.

But considering that the vulgar tongue is, well, vulgar, methinks the true definition for this week’s word is less literal and more bawdy. Cue a perusal of A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespeare and Stuart Literature. A used copy will run you about $2200, so I recommend a stroll through the digital world of Google Books instead, where you will learn that “fiddle” always and only means vagina. Except when it means penis.

Time to consult the artistic oracle: James Gillray. Mayhap he has an illuminating illustration.

Ars-musica by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 16 February 1800, National Portrait Gallery.

A woman plays rather inelegantly at the piano while the cellist on her left seems highly perturbed and the violinist on her right is so incensed he’s stopped playing altogether. How is this ars musica also bumfiddling? Her music is so bad it’s as if she’s playing from her bum? Or is her posterior passing wind that sounds like a musical instrument, displeasing in both sound and smell, hence the faces of displeasure?

Your guess is as good as mine. I’m officially stumped by a Word of the Week.

 

Keep Calm and Read This: Saving Shadow by Laura Beers

Keep Calm and Read This: Saving Shadow by Laura Beers

I’m so excited to welcome new author – and fellow Dr. Pepper aficionado – Laura Beers! Her debut novel, Saving Shadow, is book one in her series, The Beckett Files. It’s Regency, romance, and suspense.

Check, check, and check.

Laura graciously agreed to an interview to share some bits about herself and her new release. Just be warned: you’re going to want to be her friend afterward as much as I want to – and you’ll be clicking immediately to buy her book!

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I absolutely love writing. I could sit in my chair and write all day long, but my kids and husband would eventually starve.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self that it is okay if your manuscript is not perfect because you will eventually employ an amazing professional editor that fixes all your mistakes.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I would say that my spirit animal would be a raccoon because they are so inquisitive. They want to feel, touch and absorb everything around them. Racoons are adorable creatures, but can be ferocious when threatened.

What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success is when someone I do not know is reading my book in the airport.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

My superpower would be to eat as much as I want and still stay skinny. As my muffin top continues to expand, it might be time for me to cut back on my soda drinking. *sips soda*

If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?

I would be Wonder Girl and dress like Wonder Woman. Even if Wonder Woman didn’t want me around, I would still help her defeat the evil villains in the world. Eventually, she would bring me on as her sidekick because of my sweet dance moves.

What items do you have stuffed under your bed?

I do not store anything under my bed, but my dog thinks it is the perfect place to store his toys, bones and random trash wrappers. I am constantly reaching under the bed to throw my dog’s trash away. It is a good thing I love my dog!

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Henry Cavill as Benedict, Earl of Sinclair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katherine Pierce as Lady Elizabeth Beckett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell us something about your new release that is NOT in the blurb.

Lady Elizabeth Beckett is a kiss-ass spy who has become more of an assassin than an agent. At the beginning of the book, you discover that she has become jaded by her work as an agent of the Crown and she is in a downward spiral due to a near death experience.

Do your characters “talk” to you, that is, give you direction for their voice, style, and personality?

As I start writing the story, I try to get into my character’s shoes. Each one of my characters have distinct personalities and each has an unique story to share.

 

Born with a perfect memory, Lady Elizabeth Beckett has become one of the world’s most notorious spies, despite being the daughter of a duke. She is shielded only by her code name: Shadow. When young ladies of High Society begin disappearing from London, Eliza has no doubt who is orchestrating these crimes; a heinous man she has been investigating for years. Vowing to save them before they are sold to the highest bidder, she must risk everything to stop him.

Lord Sinclair was perfectly content being the second son of a marquess, but when his brother is murdered, he is thrust into a position he has not been prepared for and does not desire. As an agent for the Crown, he is expected to retire now that he is the heir, but he’s been granted special permission for one more mission… to obtain justice for his murdered brother.

Used to keeping secrets, Lady Eliza and Lord Sinclair must learn to open up to each other when they are assigned as partners to bring down the same ruthless man and his brutal empire of abduction and slavery. As Eliza’s tainted past becomes too much for her to bear alone, can she learn to trust her new partner with her secrets, her life, and possibly her heart?

Find your copy of Saving Shadow at

 

 

Laura Beers spent most of her childhood with a nose stuck in a book, dreaming of becoming an author. She attended Brigham Young University, eventually earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management.

Many years later, and with loving encouragement from her family, Laura decided to start writing again. Besides being a full-time homemaker to her three kids, she loves waterskiing, hiking, and drinking Dr. Pepper. Currently, Laura Beers resides in South Carolina.

Connect with Laura!

 

 

 

And always remember to #ReadARegency!

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bugaboe

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bugaboe

It’s a busy writing month for me so I’m revisiting and revamping some old posts. I’ve previously written about this week’s word, but I’ve added a bit to this new post. I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy Halloween and all its trappings, with the emphasis on all things hair-raising, not stomach-churning. This week’s word brings to mind the one scary character that, no matter how many times I see the movie, always gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I mean, I can’t even write this post at night because of the gifs below. But stay tuned to the end for a list of haunting period dramas to watch this Halloween! I highly recommend The Innocents, The Awakening, and The Turn of the Screw, if you prefer being frightened rather than nauseated.

Last warning. To me, these movie scenes are terrifying.

Bugaboe

A scare-babe or bully-beggar, 1811; buggybow, 1740. Also thought to be connected with Bugibu, a demon in the Old French poem Aliscans from 1141, which is perhaps itself of Celtic origin (bucca bogle, goblin, and Cornish bucca-boo).

Que viene el Coco (Here Comes the Bogey Man), No. 3 of Caprichos series by Francisco Goya, 1799, Prado Museum.

A google search of the word bugaboo – the 21st century spelling for this week’s word – results in hits ranging from a baby stroller to a mountain range in British Columbia to a song by Destiny’s Child. It also pulls up what the word originally meant, when it was spelled slightly differently – the bogeyman.

halloween mike myers as ghost

The bogeyman for me is epitomized in Michael Myers. Not the former SNL comedian and definitely not the gore-infused Myers of the 21st century remakes, but the original, William Shatner mask-wearing killer of 1978’s Halloween by John Carpenter.

The guy was obsessed with doing anything to get back home to kill his remaining sister; every thing and everyone in his way were doomed. What makes him even creepier is that he always walked – never ran – and remained eerily calm in his pursuit.

I mean, come on! Heebedie-jeebedies!

Heavenly days, that head tilt. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

halloween dr. loomis looking for myers

Dr. Loomis, Michael’s longsuffering psychiatrist – who pleaded with authorities not to release his patient – tried his best to warn and save everyone. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the town of Haddonfield, Illinois thought Michael Myers was more legend than fact, more bogeyman or scare-babe than threat.

halloween jamie lee curtis it was the bogeyman

Yes. Yes, it was.

halloween movie mike myers sitting up behind jamie lee curtis

Aaaandd still is! Don’t sit in the house with a Bugaboe, dead or alive! Go. Now.

Girl, I told you not to sit there.

And that skinny little stick is not going to stop a Bugaboe.

halloween you can't kill the bogeyman

Truer words have n’er been spoken.

Need some spookety period dramas this All Hallow’s Eve? Have no fear – Willow and Thatch have you covered.

15 Haunting Period Dramas for Halloween

20 Chilling Period Dramas for Halloween

 

Keep Calm and Read This: Forged in Fire from the Never Too Late Collection by the Bluestocking Belles

Keep Calm and Read This: Forged in Fire from the Never Too Late Collection by the Bluestocking Belles

I love it when Jude Knight stops by for a visit. There’s sure to be fascinating historical research woven into a romantic tale that keeps me spellbound. Forged in Fire, from the new Bluestocking Belles holiday collection, Never Too Late, looks to be another must-read for me! This time Jude is giving us a deeper glimpse into her heroine.

Lives of Quiet Desperation

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau

This quote set me in mind of many of my heroines. Thoreau was writing about men who do work that doesn’t bring them joy, simply because it was expected of them. Throughout history, women—even more than men—have lived lives of quiet desperation, stuck in circumstances not of their choosing, doing their best to survive each day with a minimum of pain and destruction.

Lottie in Forged in Fire is typical of the women I like to write. She retains hope of something better, while doing what she must in the meantime.

Once, long ago, she made a mistake, though not the mistake she was accused of. She lost everything: her home, her family, her chances of marriage or an independent future. For many years, she has been the unpaid companion of a bullying cousin. And she endures.

I don’t write heroines who sit around waiting to be rescued. I’ll have no Perils of Pauline plot arcs, thank you. Often, they can see no way out of their current circumstances, but they are making the best of them, finding humour in small things, counting their blessings, and waiting for an opportunity to escape. Quiet desperation, but not without a small measure of hope.

And my heroes have their own problems, usually from earlier emotional wounds. Any rescuing is going to be completely mutual. My Tad in Forged in Fire was exiled from home as a teenager, also because of a lie. He, too, has lost his home and his family. But men had more options than women in the nineteenth century British colonies. He has built a new, independent life; one he could never have had without his disgrace. He is doing what he loves, and now faces the prospect of giving it up in order to do his duty.

So if my heroes don’t rescue my heroines, what do they do? They offer the motive for the heroine to seize the opportunity, they help her with whatever action she chooses, and they love her for her quiet strength. That’s enough, surely? I like my heroines to reach the point where marrying the hero is a choice they make for love, not simply the better of two unsatisfactory options.

So a lot is going on in the story. My heroine is moving from quiet desperation to hope, inspiring the hero to make the same journey. At the same time, they’re getting to know one another in extreme circumstances because the emotional journey they make is set against a rather dramatic background. In 1886, Mount Tarawera in New Zealand’s Rotorua region erupted along a thirteen kilometre rift, shooting ash, rock and fire thousands of feet in the air, to settle on the surrounding ground and bury villages and people under metres of ash and mud.

Lottie and Tad have survived their families and their society. The volcano could be a bit more of a challenge.

They both fell silent when an explosion attracted their attention to a large inky black cloud that welled up above the mountain beyond the ridge between them and the lake, lit by constant flashes of lighting. Lottie sat up and edged closer to Mr. Berry.

“It’s Tarawera,” he said, leaning in close and shouting to be heard. “It has erupted.”

The shakes continued, as they watched the mountain in awe.

Several men started up the hill from the hotel. Lottie was relieved they followed a path further along than the one she and Mr. Berry had taken. Mr. Berry watched them until they went out of sight around a curve in the path.

“They’ll be going to the old mission station. They’ll get a good view from there.”

A sudden explosive roar, louder than she had ever heard, brought her surging to her knees. A great curtain of fire rose heavenward from three points along the mountain. Another earthquake shook the ground, and Lottie clutched Mr. Berry’s hand as the billowing cloud began to shoot fireballs like rockets, showering down on the lake and the mountain side.

The explosions continued, battering their ears for several minutes at a time, dying to distant rumbles for a long moment, then returning to full force as the earthquakes kept coming. The cloud, now thousands of yards high, began to spread out from the column of fire, rapidly approaching across the sky towards Te Wairoa.

“We need to take cover,” Mr. Berry said. He grabbed her hand, and she followed where he led, stumbling over snags on the bush floor and pushing between ferns. A sudden vicious wind snarled into them, and stones and great dollops of mud began to fall, battering at the arms they held up to protect their heads.

Then, suddenly, they were in a dark space, and just in time, as the deluge thickened, drumming onto whatever protected them from above. When Mr. Berry wrapped his arms around her, Lottie did not object but leant into his comfort.

“It’s an abandoned house,” Mr. Berry said into her ear so he didn’t have to shout to be heard over the racket of the deluge of airborne missiles. “It’s still solid. I hope it’s strong enough to keep us safe.”

As the barrage continued, so did the same pattern of explosions and shakes: periods of sound and fury followed by brief lulls in which they could speak, raising their voices to be heard over the noise of the downfall.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Thompson. I am taking liberties.” Mr. Berry was apologising, but not, Lottie noted, letting go.

“I appreciate the comfort of being held, Mr. Berry. Do you not think you should call me Lottie, since you are taking liberties?”

She could hear the smile in his voice when he replied. “Lottie, then. For Charlotte? And I am Tad.”

Lottie shook her head. “For Otillie. At school, they used to call me Tillie, and I hated it. Is Tad short for Thaddeus?”

Forged in Fire is a novella in Never Too Late, the 2017 box set of the Bluestocking Belles. Eight authors and eight different takes on four dramatic elements selected by our readers—an older heroine, a wise man, a Bible, and a compromising situation that isn’t. Set in a variety of locations around the world over eight centuries, welcome to the romance of the Bluestocking Belles’ 2017 Holiday and More Anthology.

It’s Never Too Late to find love ~ 25% of proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.

1181
The Piper’s Lady by Sherry Ewing
True love binds them. Deceit divides them. Will they choose love?

1354
Her Wounded Heart by Nicole Zoltack
A solitary widow, a landless knight, and a crumbling castle.

1645
A Year Without Christmas by Jessica Cale
An earl and his housekeeper face their feelings for one another in the midst of the English Civil War.

1795
The Night of the Feast by Elizabeth Ellen Carter
One night to risk it all in the midst of the French Revolution.

1814
The Umbrella Chronicles: George & Dorothea’s Story by Amy Quinton
The Umbrella Strikes Again: St. Vincent’s downfall (aka betrothal) is assured.

1814
A Malicious Rumor by Susana Ellis
A harmonious duo is better than two lonely solos for a violinist and a lady gardener.

1886
Forged in Fire by Jude Knight
Forged in volcanic fire, their love will create them anew.

1916
Roses in Picardy by Caroline Warfield
In the darkness of war, hope flickers. In the gardens of Picardy, love catches fire.

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Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything. She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

You can connect with Jude at her website or newsletter, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

Keep Calm and Read This: A Chance at Christmas by Beppie Harrison

Keep Calm and Read This: A Chance at Christmas by Beppie Harrison

I’m honored to welcome Beppie Harrison this week, an author whose imagination has been fully and forever captured by the Regency period. She uses that imagination to bring to life vivid characters in stories rich with adventures, societal rules, and heartfelt romance. Beppie is sharing her new holiday novella with us, A Chance at Christmas.

 

 

Christmas is coming, and Catherine Woodsleigh and her crippled brother John have no hope of celebration until an invitation to spend Christmas with an old friend and her family arrives. But after the holiday, worse misfortune looms before them. Living on the diminishing number of coins drawn from a jar left by their dead father and mother, a dire future seems inevitable. Will this chance to share a wondrous sparkling Christmas not only provide a glorious holiday but a new turn in their futures and the astonishing possibility of romance?

 

There was indeed a man standing close by, his attention fixed on their carriage. There was no one else but them now. He must be the one sent for them.

It was going to be all right.

He was tall, a young man, clearly a gentleman by his elegant dress. His boots shone and his cloak was multi-caped. He looked at her directly, with cool grey eyes and long lashes that would have been spectacular had he been a woman.

“Miss Woodsleigh, I believe?” he asked as she stepped out of the coach. “My sister Katie sent me to fetch you.” His words were as smooth and well-spoken as might be expected of a fashionably-dressed Englishman. Was this then the brother on whom she had pinned her hopes? Elegant he was indeed. Warm-hearted? She hoped he might be.

“I am Viscount de Montjoy,” he said.

She looked into his face as she came out of the carriage, hearing John’s boots thud behind her as he descended the step. Did the man have some of the look of Katie? He did seem courteous, rather than annoyed to be sent on such an errand. A hopeful sign, perhaps. She smiled at him.

Automatically, she reached back to steady John as his left boot landed on the step. Then he shifted balance to his right before stepping, leading again with his left foot, down to the ground. She kept her hand on his elbow as he rocked a bit before standing upright.

Viscount de Montjoy, who had answered Catherine’s smile with one of polite welcome, stared past her to John, clearly taking in his lame leg, twisted arm, and all.

His forehead creased. “Who is he?”

Foreboding plunged from Catherine’s head down to her toes. She took John’s arm.

“My brother.” She did not feel her lips move. She made a valiant effort to keep her smile. She would not let disappointment overwhelm her. Not yet. This was Katie’s brother, after all. The man on whom her fragile hopes rested.

He surveyed John attentively and then nodded. “I see. Does he require assistance to reach my carriage?” He half turned to indicate a neat, well-maintained landau perhaps fifty feet away.

“I do not,” John said for himself just as Catherine began to speak. She folded her lips to cut off words she might have said.

The viscount raised his left eyebrow, as if surprised John could speak.

“My man will take your bags.” He lifted a peremptory finger and a man in livery approached. A footman, perhaps? A coachman? Catherine’s family had never run to menservants, and she was unsure of what his position might be. She would have to pay close attention when they were in Katie’s house to make sure she didn’t make mistakes.

The footman, if such he was, took the heavy bag from Catherine and as John had set down his lighter one, grabbed that one as well. He headed off in the direction of the carriage and the viscount started to walk briskly after him.

He came to a stop almost immediately.

“I am sorry,” he said directly to Catherine. “Is my pace too rapid for your brother?”

Again John spoke up politely but firmly. “I believe I can nearly keep up, sir,” he said. “You will not have to wait long for me.”

The viscount looked at him, the eyebrow raised again. “Indeed.”

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Beppie Harrison lives on Boston’s South Shore close to the ocean in a big white New Englandish house with her husband, a lawyer daughter, and an assortment of dogs and cats. They live a somewhat trans-Atlantic lifestyle. Her husband is an English architect, and they lived in London at the beginning of their marriage, only moving to the States when they had young children. Now the children are grown, they return to old friends and familiar places as frequently as they can. In many ways, England still feels like their second home.

For Beppie, the pull from across the Atlantic comes not only from the dales of Yorkshire and the buzz of London, but from Ireland. Did it start with its literature, its green beauty, or its wonderfully garrulous people? However it happened, both England and Ireland draw her now.

Her first fiction trilogy, the Heart Trilogy, is placed primarily in Ireland during the Regency period. The Grandest Christmas, a companion novella for the holiday season, is a warm and cozy read for Christmastime. Her upcoming quartet of novels is placed again in Regency times, but, as introduced by the novella The Dowager’s Season, introduces four cousins to the excitement and romance of London’s presentations and balls.

Connect with Beppie by signing up for her newsletter, or visiting with her on Facebook or her group blog, Romancing Yesteryear.

And always remember to #ReadARegency!