Keep Calm and Read This: Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

Keep Calm and Read This: Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US and you need to treat yourself to a terrific book as a reward for the hours spent preparing, serving, and cleaning up after the holiday feast. Look no further than this week’s guest, bringing just the thing to present to give yourself for another holiday in the books. It’s a pleasure to welcome Donna Hatch to share with us what she’s learned about smooching under the yuletide greenery, and introduce us to her newest novel, Christmas Secrets.

Mistletoe Kisses

Is it just me, or does the image of sharing a long-awaited kiss underneath a mistletoe sprig create all kinds of delicious images? Mistletoe kissing is a time-honored tradition. Like many holiday customs, kissing under the mistletoe has pagan origins, and the custom has evolved over time. Most sources trace it back to ancient Scandinavia but it spread to England and much of Europe during the Middle Ages.

Probably because it was one of the few plants that stayed green during the winter, Celtic druids believed mistletoe contained magical properties of vitality. They seemed to have been oblivious to that fact that it is a parasitic plant that lives off trees. Apparently, they viewed mistletoe as the tree’s spirit revealing signs of life when the rest of the tree looked dead during winter. Also, oak mistletoe is rare compared to that found in fruit trees, so the druids believed mistletoe growing on oak trees was rare and more powerful. Since these druids thought mistletoe had life-giving powers, they conducted fertility and healing rituals underneath a bow of oak mistletoe for sick cattle and other animals.

People also looked to it for protection.

According to the Holiday Spot:

In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning.

Eventually, a practice in Scandinavia developed for hostile parties to gather underneath mistletoe to negotiate peace. Even quarreling husbands and wives made up under the mistletoe, and kissed to seal their renewed love and commitment to their marriage. Other herbology claims mistletoe is both an aphrodisiac and an abortive plant, which might be why some of the earliest customs involved more than an innocent kiss. But we won’t go into that.

Over time, the custom of kissing moved indoors. Sometimes the ball or sprig of mistletoe was decorated with ribbons, holly, apples, oranges and other fruits. Some people hung mistletoe below figures of the infant Christ, Mary, and Joseph.

In some parts of Europe and Great Britain, arriving guests kissed their host’s hand under a sprig of mistletoe hung in a doorway. Eventually a custom sprang up to have maidens wait under the mistletoe in the hopes that a young man would kiss her with the expectation that he would marry her within a year. If she didn’t get kissed, she had little expectation of marrying that year, sorta like a marriage fortune teller.

A young man who kissed a girl under the sprig or bough of mistletoe traditionally plucked off one of the white berries. When all the berries were plucked, the kissing, at least while under the mistletoe, also ceased.

I often see people mistake mistletoe with holly. Mistletoe has soft, pale green smooth leaves and white berries. Holly has green, glossy, ragged-edged leaves and red berries.

By the Regency Era, the custom of mistletoe kissing no longer came with strings attached. It became an excuse for behavior not normally condoned among unmarried ladies and gentleman. Maidservants stood underneath a decorated ball of mistletoe in a doorway to indicate her willingness to kiss in exchanged for a coin.

In my newest novel, Christmas Secrets, an innocent mistletoe kiss leads to a startling realization.

A stolen Christmas kiss leaves them bewildered and breathless.

A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together…or divide them forever.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss…even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.

Christmas Secrets is available now – get your copy right now!

 

 

Best-selling author, Donna Hatch, is a hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, the force that drove her to write and publish twenty historical romance titles, including the award-winning “Rogue Hearts Series.”  She is a multi-award winner, a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles multiple volunteer positions as well as her six (yes, that is 6) children. Also a music lover, she sings and plays the harp, and loves to ballroom dance. Donna and her family recently transplanted from her native Arizona to the Pacific Northwest where she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

Find Donna Hatch online at:

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And always remember to #ReadARegency!

 

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Keep Calm and Read This: A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder

Keep Calm and Read This: A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder

It’s a holiday week here in the US, and that means it’s time to find a comfortable chair, a favorite beverage, and curl up with a good book or three. If you’re like me and love to read and reread about the Bennets, Darcys, and Bingleys (or at least one of the Bingleys), I have just the recommendation for your reading pleasure: A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder. This is a laugh out loud farcical comedy starring my favorite characters, but with a twist.

Elizabeth Bennet’s life is uncomplicated until she meets a quartet of new men: the haughty but handsome Mr. Darcy, the pert-with-a-pout Mr. Bingley, the confident and captivating Mr. Wickham—and then there is her father’s cousin, the happy man towards whom almost every female eye has turned.

Mr. Collins is HOT—well, incredibly handsome in Regency-speak—beautiful of face, fine of figure, elegant of air, his perfect clothing and hair matching his Greek god-like form. Unfortunately, when he opens his mouth, Elizabeth wishes he were mute. With affected servility and prideful self-conceit, he capitalizes upon his exquisite appearance and fixes on Jane Bennet as his bride.

Can Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy form an alliance to stop Jane’s suitors from issuing challenges—and will Elizabeth coax a smile from Mr. Darcy?

Here’s a sneak peek at a snippet of Chapter One from A Most Handsome Gentleman:

Bestselling Regency romance author Suzan Lauder delivers a hilarious Austenesque romance suitable for all readers of Pride and Prejudice. Grab your copy for a Thanksgiving reading treat!

 

 

A lover of Jane Austen, Regency period research and costuming, cycling, yoga, blogging, and independent travel, cat mom Suzan Lauder is seldom idle.

Her first effort at a comedy, A Most Handsome Gentleman is the fourth time Lauder has been published by Meryton Press. Her earlier works include a mature Regency romance with a mystery twist, Alias Thomas Bennet; a modern short romance Delivery Boy in the holiday anthology Then Comes Winter, and the dramatic tension filled Regency romance Letter from Ramsgate.

She and Mr. Suze split their time between a loft condo overlooking the Salish sea and a 150 year old Spanish colonial home near the sea in Mexico.

Suzan’s lively prose is also available to her readers on her blog, road trips with the redhead.

You can also find Suzan on Facebook, Twitter, and her Amazon Author Page.

 

And remember to always #ReadARegency!

 

Keep Calm and Read This: A Marchioness Below Stairs by Alissa Baxter

Keep Calm and Read This: A Marchioness Below Stairs by Alissa Baxter

I’m so pleased to welcome Alissa Baxter this week. She’s visiting with her latest release, A Marchioness Below Stairs, and sharing some fascinating discoveries she made while researching. If you love traditional Regency romances, you’ve found your next indulgence!

Plus she’s having a giveaway!

Gambols on the River Thames. Feb 1814 by George Cruikshank and Thomas Tegg, Museum of London.

While researching my upcoming release, A Marchioness Below Stairs, I came across some interesting information about the winter of 1813/14, which inspired some of the events of the novel, particularly the Frost Fair on the Thames in 1814.

Between 1600 and 1814, the River Thames could sometimes freeze over for up to two months at time. There were two main reasons for this; the first was that Britain (and the entire of the Northern Hemisphere) was experiencing what is now known as the ‘Little Ice Age’. The other catalyst was the medieval London Bridge and its piers, and specifically how closely spaced together they were. During winter, pieces of ice would get lodged between the piers and effectively dam up the river, meaning it was easier for it to freeze.

Although these harsh winters often brought with them famine and death, the local Londoners decided to make the most of iced-over Thames and set up the Thames Frost Fairs. Between 1607 and 1814 there were a total of seven major fairs, as well as a number of smaller ones.

Shops made out of sail cloths, blankets and oars were set up on the river, along with pubs and ice skating rinks… everything that you would expect in the crowded streets of London – but it was on ice.

The 1814 Frost Fair began in London on 1st February, and lasted four days. An elephant was led across the river below Blackfriars Bridge. George Davis, a printer, published a 124-page book called Frostiana; or a History of the River Thames in a Frozen State. The entire book was type-set and printed in Davis’s printing stall, which had been set up on the frozen Thames. This was the last of the famous Frost Fairs which took place during the Little Ice Age, roughly between 1350 -1850.

As the climate grew milder, the replacement of the old London Bridge in 1831 with a new bridge with wider arches, allowed the tide to flow more freely, and the embanking of stages of the river in the 19th century prevented the river from freezing over again as it did in 1814.

(Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Thames_frost_fairshttp://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25862141http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/The-Thames-Frost-Fairs/)

Escaping from Bath and the news that her former love is about to marry another, Isabel, the young widowed Marchioness of Axbridge, accepts an invitation to her cousin’s house party. Yet, instead of finding respite, she stumbles into a domestic crisis of majestic proportions: The kitchen servants have succumbed to the influenza.

If that weren’t bad enough, her former sweetheart arrives with his fiancée, seeking shelter from the increasingly hazardous snow storm. Trapped inside Chernock Hall with a volatile mix of house guests, including abolitionists and slave owners, Isabel wishes she could hide below stairs for the duration. But, alas, she cannot. While helping in the kitchen, Isabel is cornered by her cousin’s disreputable friend, Marcus Bateman, who challenges and provokes her at every turn.

At last, the storm subsides. However, the avalanche of repercussions cannot be undone. Caught in the grip of the terrible winter of 1813, will Isabel’s greatest threat come from the weather, her abolitionist views, or from falling in love again?

They entered the drawing room, and Lady Kildaren beckoned her imperiously. “Would you care to play the pianoforte, Lady Axbridge? Your mama informs me that you play very well.”

“I’m sadly out of practice, your ladyship.”

“Come, my dear. It will be delightful to listen to some music.”

Isabel smiled and nodded, and sat down at the pianoforte. She spread her fingers over the keys, and started to play from memory, pieces ranging from Mozart to Beethoven to various Scottish and Irish airs. She had just begun a song for the popular stage composed by Dibdin, when the door opened and the gentlemen entered.

She glanced up, then swiftly focused her attention back on the music. She would play for the rest of the evening. It was an excellent way to avoid facing Mr Wetherby, or conversing with Lord Fenmore and Mr Bateman.

She looked at her fingers as she played, but even so, she could see Mr Bateman out of the corner of her eye. He sat beside Miss Wetherby, seemingly absorbed in conversation with her. The young woman giggled. Isabel hit a false note, and grimaced. He had said Miss Wetherby was not in his style at all and yet there he was, gazing at her and looking for all the world as if he found her company enthralling.

And when Captain Wetherby and his son walked over to them a short while later, he laughed and conversed with them, perfectly at ease in their company. Drat the man! How had she ever felt any sympathy for him?

Some Bach was in order. She started hammering out his Military Quintet No. 3 in B flat major, until she sensed someone standing at her shoulder.

“Bach’s Military Quintet?” Mr Bateman asked in a low voice, startling her.

“Yes.”

“You were playing such a cheerful ditty when we entered the room.”

“My mood changed.”

“Ah.”

“I prefer not to play with someone standing behind me. It throws me off.”

“Well, something has certainly thrown you off.”

She dragged in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Fortunately, she knew the piece by heart, so she gave it very little attention, while she contemplated a scathing set-down.

“Scoundrel, reprobate, traitor… will one of those do?”

Isabel’s shoulders stiffened. “Sir, I am unable to converse with you while I am playing the pianoforte.”

“Unable or unwilling?”

“Both!”

He chuckled. “Remind me to talk to your back in future, my lady. It appears to loosen your tongue.”

“There will be very few future conversations between us. Monsieur Martin is all but recovered and the thaw is about to set in.”

“I am living in hope of the thaw setting in.” He moved to stand beside her.

Something in his voice made her look at him, and the warmth of his gaze took her breath away. She returned her focus to the pianoforte, and shook her head. “We will be going our separate ways soon. I think that is, on the whole, a good thing.”

“There may be a few surprises in store for you in that regard. Good evening, my dear.”

He strolled to the other end of the room and engaged her mother in conversation.

Isabel tried to concentrate on her playing, but her mind was far away. What did he mean? Her life was ordered, peaceful and predictable. Surprises did not fit well into that paradigm. His relaxed air of assurance was especially irritating, as he did not appear at all abashed regarding his abominable behaviour – kissing her in the cow shed one evening, and flirting with another lady the next; purporting to care about the abolition of slavery, yet unashamedly socialising with the owners of slaves. He was a riddle of a man, a riddle that would have to remain unsolved, because if she were foolish enough to try to figure him out she could end up with a solution that was only the start of another problem.

With a defiant toss of her head, she played the opening notes of the folk song Lord Bateman. Across the room, her nemesis stiffened. Then his laughing eyes met hers. “Why, your ladyship, I must sing along – this song is my namesake, after all.”

He returned to her side and Isabel blushed at the wicked gleam in his eyes. She had well and truly thrown down the gauntlet now. When would she learn to leave well enough alone?

Grab your copy of A Marchioness Below Stairs today!

 

 

Alissa Baxter wrote her first Regency romance, The Dashing Debutante, during her long university holidays. After travelling the world, she settled down to write her second Regency romance, Lord Fenmore’s Wager, which was inspired by her time living on a country estate in England. Also the author of two contemporary romances, Send and Receive and The Blog Affair, Alissa currently lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two sons.

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Alissa would like to give away two ebooks to a lucky commenter: Lord Fenmore’s Wager (the prequel to A Marchioness Below Stairs) and A Marchioness Below Stairs. Just answer the following question… please tell Alissa about your favourite kind of hero in a Regency novel… Do you prefer the dark, brooding tortured type, or a more light-hearted kind of hero with a witty sense of humour?

The contest will close at 11:59pm Central Standard Time on Sunday, November 19th. The winner will be drawn by random and contacted via email.

Good luck, and remember to always

#ReadARegency!

 

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!

 

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!

 

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.

Preorder your copy of Never Too Late at any of these online vendors:


 

 

 

 

 

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.”

Find your very own copy of A Chance at Christmas at one of these online vendors:

 

 

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!