Susanna Craig: To Kiss a Thief (Giveaway)

A Place in Time

When you turn the last page and close the book, what sticks with you? An intriguing character? A shocking plot twist?

What about the setting?

I’m a firm believer that historical romance should capture a place in time, or else it’s not really historical romance. Whether it’s Victorian London or Tang Dynasty China, a story’s setting, when done well, shapes everything the characters—and readers—experience.

For my Runaway Desires series, I chose the late Georgian period, specifically the 1790s, because I knew that tumultuous decade would offer plenty of built-in tension and conflict, including political and economic uncertainties, war, and the fight to end slavery. It’s a slightly edgier cousin of the much-beloved Regency period. It’s also when Jane Austen’s first three novels were written (and arguably set).

In To Kiss a Thief, the first book in the series, the heroine, Sarah, is suspected of infidelity and involvement in the disappearance of a priceless sapphire necklace. Rather than face the scandal, she runs away. Three years later, her husband finds her on the northern coast of Devonshire and wonders why on earth Sarah had chosen such a place to hide away… She would almost certainly have been better able to disappear in London, where one could very nearly get away with anything under cover of anonymity. But in a fishing village of a few hundred souls, her arrival would have been remarked by all.

And it has. From the baker to the apothecary’s wife, everyone in Haverhythe has an opinion about Sarah. At heart, To Kiss a Thief is a small-town romance, and as my hero and heroine reconnect with one another, they are confronted and comforted by the members of this close-knit community.

Because I wanted the place and its people to leap off the page, I was determined to ground my fictional village in reality. I chose the general location of Britain’s West Country for its proximity to Bristol, where Sarah’s parents live. I wanted the temptation to go home to be always on her horizon—literally. Then, one evening, as I idly scanned that coastal region via Google Earth looking for inspiration, I stumbled upon Clovelly.


Clovelly harbor

From its appearance in the Domesday Book to the present day, Clovelly has enjoyed a long and interesting history. The picturesque village of fewer than 500 people has been a popular tourist destination since the Victorian period, thanks in part to one of its most famous residents, novelist Charles Kingsley. It is privately owned, and has belonged to just three different families since the thirteenth century.

I made use of several of Clovelly’s distinctive elements in constructing the fictional Haverhythe. One is its unique geography. Built into a cliff overlooking the Bristol Channel, the village consists primarily of a single, cottage-lined street that descends some 400 feet to the water. In the harbor lies another striking feature: a massive stone quay, built in in the fourteenth century. Once the ships’ cargo has been offloaded, it is transported overland via sledges drawn by donkeys.

Clovelly main street

Clovelly, main street

In To Kiss a Thief, characters travel the steep main street of Haverhythe under the watchful eye of all the village. Gossip travels “up-along” and “down-along” more quickly than the donkeys. And several memorable moments for my hero and heroine take place on the quay that curls into the harbor.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting Clovelly in person. But I’ve never visited the late eighteenth century, either. Like most writers of historical fiction, I find extensive research essential to crafting the best stories I can. I read about Clovelly’s history and geography, pored over the treasure trove of pictures online, and combined that information with my own experience of another coastal town, Tenby (Wales), to create my heroine’s perfectly imperfect hiding spot.

Travel, even in the pages of a book, makes us richer. Wherever your next reading adventure takes you, I hope you enjoy your visit!

What’s the most memorable setting of a book you’ve read? Or what’s your favorite real-life travel destination? One person will be chosen at random from the comments on this post to receive an e-book of To Kiss a Thief. The giveaway ends at midnight on August 21st.

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About To Kiss a Thief

TO KISS A THIEF low res copyIn the first book of a captivating new series set in Georgian England, a disgraced woman hides from her marriage—for better or worse…

Sarah Pevensey had hoped her arranged marriage to St. John Sutliffe, Viscount Fairfax, could become something more. But almost before it began, it ended in a scandal that shocked London society. Accused of being a jewel thief, Sarah fled to a small fishing village to rebuild her life.

The last time St. John saw his new wife, she was nestled in the lap of a soldier, disheveled, and no longer in possession of his family’s heirloom sapphire necklace. Now, three years later, he has located Sarah and is determined she pay for her crimes. But the woman he finds is far from what he expected. Humble and hardworking, Sarah has nothing to hide from her husband—or so it appears. Yet as he attempts to woo her to uncover her secrets, St. John soon realizes that if he’s not careful, she’ll steal his heart…


About the Author

IMG_8280_2 copyA love affair with historical romances led Susanna Craig to a degree (okay, three degrees) in literature and a career as an English professor. When she’s not teaching or writing academic essays about Jane Austen and her contemporaries, she enjoys putting her fascination with words and knowledge of the period to better use: writing Regency-era romances she hopes readers will find both smart and sexy. She makes her home among the rolling hills of Kentucky horse country, along with her historian husband, their unstoppable little girl, and a genuinely grumpy cat.


Christina McKnight: The Thief Steals Her Earl (Giveaway)

Using History to Your Advantage

As a historical writer I am constantly researching interesting topics to include in my novels. This includes anything from obscure French history (Scorned Ever More, A Lady Forsaken Book Three) or rare wind instruments said to have been created by Greek gods (The Thief Steals Her Earl, Craven House Series Book One). My latest hero, Simon Montgomery, the Earl of Cartwright, lives his life according to math, statistics, and science. Due to his uncle’s betrayal, it is safer for Cart to surround himself with facts and historical objects as opposed to anyone who can hurt him again.

In The Thief Steals Her Earl, Cart is a subscriber to Silliman’s Journal, currently known as the American Journal of Science. Professor Benjamin Silliman started the publication in 1818 and focused primarily on the natural sciences and geology. My hero uses the knowledge from an article to explain the natural forces that make it impossible for my heroine and him to stay apart. He believed that there were unseen forces at work, things that modern science could not yet explain, but were there, nonetheless. This research added an entirely new level to the story, deepening my character’s motivations and beliefs.

(More information:


What interesting historical fact did you learn while reading a romance novel?  One commenter will win an e-copy of The Thief Steals Her Heart.

About The Thief Steals Her Earl

The_Thief_Steals_Her_Earl_600x900 copyFollowing the passing of his father and an unforgivable act by a family member ending in near ruin for his family, Simon Montgomery, the new Earl of Cartwright, is forced to return home without finishing his education. However, that doesn’t stop Cart from absorbing every morsel of knowledge he can.

Unfortunately, doing so and applying his every moment to restoring his family’s lost heirlooms while seeing to his sister’s upbringing and attempting to wrangle his mother’s frivolous spending habits has made him somewhat of a recluse, a man unsure of how to live life unless it’s focused around academia, order, and routine. But what happens when Cart is faced with a woman as intelligent as he but far more cunning?

Miss Judith Pengarden has lived her entire life under her eldest sister’s firm yet loving guidance. When she discovers her family is in jeopardy of losing their home, Jude decides to use her skills to help them pay off their unsettled debts. However, when Jude attempts to steal from the wrong house, she finds herself alone, locked in a dank room at the night watchman’s residence, and she vows to stop thinking so spontaneously and risking her family’s name to scandal. Unfortunately, there are some loose ends that need to be tied up before she can. Luckily for her, however, she may have just met the man who can help her family and also steal a piece of her heart.

When Jude meets Lord Cartwright at a London garden party, he seems the perfect man to solve all her problems—a recluse unfamiliar with London Society and studied in antiquities. A lord like none she has met, Jude soon realizes that Cart is more valuable to her than any painting, sculpture, or vase.  But when she’s caught in possession of Cart’s long-lost family heirloom, completely unaware of what it really means, can she convince him that things are far from what they seem? That despite the deceit and subterfuge, her heart is in the right place. With her family…and with him.

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London, England

March 1818

Miss Judith Pengarden should be anywhere but edging down the darkened halls of Lord Gunther’s London townhouse, the chilled wall pressed to her back. Possibly having a late meal with her siblings or trying her hand at yet another card game her youngest sister insisted she learn. Or even attending the opera house. However, she was, indeed, sneaking through the drafty interior of a home long past needing a complete renovation. It was difficult to understand why her twin sister, Samantha, thought there was anything of value in this long-forgotten, ramshackle house.

In the hour Jude had scoured the musty second floor by candlelight, she’d discovered nothing but molding draperies, neglected family heirlooms, and unpolished wooden furniture. It was impossible to envision someone living within these walls, let alone storing a precious, ancient, and very valuable vase, carelessly placed on an end table.

“Oh, I should have known better than to trust you,” Jude mumbled, cursing her own inability to see past her twin’s many fables. It was more likely Sam hadn’t even met Lord Gunther, nor overheard him boasting about his prized vase.

She searched the all-but-abandoned townhouse with only the current wing left to explore. Making one final turn, Jude looked down the short, dim corridor, knowing this was her last hope of finding what she’d come for; what she’d risked her neck to procure.

Immediately, she noticed that this hall was better kept than the rest of the home; the floors were swept clean, if not polished to shine, the long draperies were held back by finely tied lengths of cord, and a small table sat just to the left of a set of double doors.

Jude had found the lord’s private chambers.


She grasped her long skirt in her hand and sprinted to the end of the hall, pausing before the table.

Nestled securely on it was what she’d risked all to find; its porcelain surface recently wiped clean, removing any dust that may have gathered to dull its fine colors and artfully crafted exterior.

Her breath left her as she admired the piece’s eternal beauty—only overshadowed by its worth.

It became increasingly difficult to draw air in as she lifted her fingers and gently touched the vase, feeling the slight ripples of the artist’s brushstrokes as he—or she—used delicate hands to paint the piece. Or so she imagined.

The thought of taking the artifact in her hands and descending the flight of stairs to scurry to her carriage, which was waiting several houses down the street and around the corner, terrified her.

Not that she—and Sam—hadn’t planned this ruse carefully, but never had Jude imagined herself breaking into another’s home to steal something of great import. Once she held the vase, removed it from Lord Gunther’s home, and traded it for enough pounds to settle her family’s debts and feed all of Craven House’s occupants for many years, a weight would be added to her shoulders. A line would be crossed and it wouldn’t be easy to step back over.

Jude pulled her hand back as if the vase had burned her.

Maybe she could tell Sam that she hadn’t found the piece, convince her it likely never existed, that their plan had been flawed from the start and they’d find another way to help their family. But she knew their options were limited and their time quickly running out.

Jude shook her head, casting out any lingering doubts. Her family needed help, and if she and Sam could provide their eldest sister with a fraction of financial security, then they owed her that.

And that safeguard, the answer to Craven House’s dilemma, sat before her—waiting to be taken…all but calling to Jude to remove it from this dusty, dilapidated house and transport it to a new owner who would worship its delicacy as was deserving.

The vase was practically begging her to take hold and liberate it from its cruel circumstances.

The intricately crafted piece belonged in a museum; a place where the public could admire its beauty and historical worth, not hidden away in this dusty old house.

That Jude would also gain something from the transaction was a bonus she could live with.

Not one to turn down the opportunity to give something a freedom formerly denied, Jude grabbed the vase, surprised at its weightlessness in her hands.

She wondered if she let the vase go if it would float to the floor, gliding like a feather.

When images of it shattering as it hit the ground flooded her mind, Jude tucked the piece under her arm securely and retraced her steps to the servants’ stairs.

Holding her breath once more, she descended the stairs two at a time before halting at the closed door that separated the stairwell from the hall that led from the front of the house to the kitchen.

Jude set her ear to the dull, cold door and listened.

Not a sound could be heard beyond.

No footsteps, no quiet whispers, no closing doors.

Not even a clock sounded anywhere in the house.

A shiver went through her. Her body was alert to the oddness of it all, but she pushed the door open and made her way to the room right off the main foyer. There, a window still stood ajar, waiting for her to crawl back through and lower herself to the shrubs below.

She was horrified at the exhilaration she felt as she moved through the abandoned house.

Jude only prayed she made it home safely—and that Marce, her eldest sister, appreciated all Jude did to help support everyone who sought refuge at Craven House. Not that Marce could ever know where the money came from, only that it appeared in her private chambers—as if from thin air.

The cool night breeze brushed across Jude’s face as she stared out the open window.

It was her last opportunity to turn around, return the vase to its rightful place, and depart with no one the wiser.

And her conscience clear of any wrongdoing.

With a deep breath, Jude made the only decision that made sense for her and her family’s future; she held the vase out of the window and released it, allowing it to fall.

…Directly into her twin sister’s waiting hands below.

Chapter One

London, England

May 1818

Jude plucked at the sturdy wool of her filth-streaked pinafore as she held her breath to keep the wretched smells at bay. The stink of unwashed bodies, moldy, forgotten food, and wet animal was overpowered only by the stench of a coppery odor she knew to be spilled blood. She’d certainly need to burn her current garment as soon as she was released and able to return to Craven House—if one of her siblings ever saw fit to collect her.

To do away with such a precious thing as a dress was not something she’d always had the liberty to do. For many years, she counted herself lucky to possess several dresses—even though she shared each with Samantha. The time she and her siblings had spent at Craven House should have prepared Jude for this night; men angered by too much drink, which turned into arguing, which led to fisticuffs and blood—the smell of which was something she’d never forget, though her family had tried to keep her far from it as much as possible.

A sliver of the rising sun outside the narrow window of her cell allowed a slice of light to penetrate her dank enclosure; though Jude would have been happy to remain ignorant of her despicable surroundings. Her dress, though made from a thick material, still snagged on the rough, splintering bench below her. But after hours of standing—and pacing—Jude had to rest her aching legs. It was either the sticky, grimy, wooden bench or the more intolerable hard-packed dirt floor littered with discarded food and a pail filled with what she was told was water but appeared murkier than the River Thames.

Actually, she’d prefer a swim in the Thames as opposed to her current predicament. She only hoped her elder brother, Garrett, didn’t ship her to the country for all the trouble she’d caused. The trouble she presumed herself in. A sojourn to the country would be preferable to what Marce, her imperious sister, would do to her if she found out about Jude’s escapades.

She’d seen herself as invincible; above being caught—so much so that Jude should be in a complete panic. But the surreal nature of her position hadn’t faded to allow in the stark actuality she faced.

It was supposed to be only once—the vase from Lord Gunther’s townhouse. They were to sell the piece, give the money to Marce, and be free to live with some semblance of peace knowing their home was safe. But the vase remained at Craven House and now their family’s future was in jeopardy. They should have known that a stolen vase would not go unnoticed and unreported in the post. They should not have been so delusional as to think they could take the vase and gain coin for it as easily as selling wares inside the marketplace.

As of now, she’d been left unaccompanied in this darkened room, the door securely locked, for hours. No one had come to inquire about her well-being; no offers of refreshment or fare, no blanket to ward off the night chill. She hadn’t heard another person since the constable had slammed the door shut on her with his sharp reprimand to not cause him further grievance or he’d make her sorry.

She was unsure how much longer she’d be locked in this room—her stomach let out a loud growl in protest at the thought—or even if her twin, Samantha, knew where she’d been taken.

One thing Jude was certain of; she didn’t relish spending another moment alone here. The window was too narrow for her to wiggle through and the door was bolted from the outside.

This led her to hours of pondering how she’d ended up here—what path she could have taken to deliver herself from such a wretched circumstance.

Her night had started off simple enough, with she and her twin devising a plan to remove fourteenth century Bible leaves from Lord Asherton’s townhouse—a far less notable and traceable antiquity than the vase from Lord Gunther, but almost as valuable. It should have been easy. Samantha was to meet the lord in question at a dinner party she was attending with friends while Jude slipped into his home, collected the ancient papers, and disappeared as if she’d never been there. They’d heard during a recent outing that the man’s house was light on servants as many had traveled to Lord Asherton’s country estate ahead of his scheduled departure on the morrow. The perfect time for their heist.

But little had gone as planned.

After searching a study on the ground floor, Jude had fled down a dark hallway when she’d heard voices coming from the kitchen, growing louder as she rushed in the opposite direction. It hadn’t been difficult to slip into an empty room, rush to a door, and flee—that was until her cap was ripped from her head as she bolted by a coat rack positioned inside what appeared to be a lady’s sitting room. Jude had quickly retrieved the cap, tugged it back into place to hide her red hair, and continued toward a door she hoped would open to a garden sitting area…and her freedom.

She was mere steps from the door when the alarm sounded behind her.

Not the shouts of an infuriated lord or the call to halt by a faithful servant, but rather the searing shriek of a child. Jude barely glanced over her shoulder to see her identifier before rushing through the door, along the side of the house, and around to the narrow lane behind the row of townhouses.

Several hours later, her ears still rung from the high-pitched screech.

She would never forget the rounded, frightened eyes of the young girl who’d peered at Jude from her seat on the lounge, a throw blanket lying haphazardly across her lap as she read a book. Her tousled hair fell around her shoulders, still crimped from her plaits. A pristine white night shift gathered at her throat in a bow.

Jude couldn’t accurately describe the girl beyond her long, dark hair and frightened look.

All she’d thought about at that moment was getting as far away from Lord Asherton’s home as possible, the valuable Bible leaves be damned.

Fleeing from the house and gaining a block’s distance hadn’t stopped an alarm being sounded. The night watchman was rushing around the corner, his lamp held high to illuminate his way.

The burly man, dressed in merchant’s trousers and coat, was only identifiable by the shiny tin star pinned to his jacket pocket. The swinging lamp sent light reflecting off the dinted piece of metal as they both stood stock-still, staring at one another. The pair was caught in the small circle of light given off by the uplighter. His expression was likely a mirror image of hers; fright.

She hadn’t expected to be caught and it was probable he had never apprehended a suspected criminal on his nightly watch.

She was an unchaperoned woman, dressed in a less than fashionable gown with a cap hiding her hair. It was reasonable for the constable to question her on principle alone, for what woman would be traversing the deserted London streets at close to midnight?

Maybe she should have run. Sam would have vouched for this course of action.

Certainly, she should not have agreed to the harebrained notion in the first place. Marce would have counseled against it.

The man wasn’t armed. Most night watchmen took to their route with nothing more than a billy club as protection.

And so, the standoff continued. Jude was analyzing the watchman’s size and strength; concluding he would easily outrun her on foot in a section of London she was unfamiliar with.

There’d been little else for her to do but employ her twin’s claimed talent for charming men. Unfortunately, her voice didn’t hold the sultry depth of Sam’s, nor was Jude adept at the coy behavior needed to lull a man into feeling secure enough to allow his guard to fall.

And so, she’d relented and allowed the watchman to lock her in this room—as any criminal would deserve.

Jude gave in to her exhaustion and leaned back against the grimy wall, needing to forget her many mistakes. She settled against the cold wall of her locked cell and drew her knees to her chest, allowing her dress to cover her chilled feet. As her head met the hard surface of the stone, she closed her eyes, begging her tears to stay where they belonged, unshed.

She would not cry. That right had been taken from her when she and her twin had decided to help bring extra income to Craven House—they’d known the risk they’d agreed to take with their actions.

She breathed deeply, allowing the stench of her surroundings to invade her nostrils and then expelled gradually, slowing her pulse. If she could calm herself, maybe sleep would take over and she’d wake to find it had all been an unpleasant nightmare. She’d awaken in her warm bed with Sam nestled in her matching one a few feet away, both tucked deeply under their soft, peach eyelet, down blankets. Jude would share her horrid dream with Sam. They’d laugh as they crawled from the warmth of their well-sprung beds and rang for their maid to help them prepare for their day of shopping and entertainments.

Except, Sam and Jude shared one bed, hadn’t the luxury of a maid, nor the spare funds for as much as even a new pair of gloves.

Marce reminded her younger sisters, daily, each time they offered their complaints, that many women were much less fortunate than they. At least they had a roof over their heads, food in their pantry, and some hope for a more fruitful future if they minded their behavior and attracted fine suitors.

And they had love.

They undoubtedly had an abundance of love.

But love would not keep the debt collectors at bay, nor garner additional food for their table.

And a new dress or two for them all would be appreciated, especially since Lady Haversham had been so kind as to sponsor their societal debut.

Jude huffed. It was a trivial, selfish thought, especially when she was perched on a splintered bench with her head leaning against a grime-covered wall in a room that hadn’t been properly swept in Lord knew how long.

From somewhere outside the cell, Jude heard loud, angry voices. They were muffled by the wall and door separating her from other parts of the building housing her, but the aggression in the dominant voice was unmistakable.

Jude would prefer a large hole open in the room and swallow her, as opposed to the force of nature currently headed her way. Only moments would pass before the ire presently unleashed on the night watchman who dared keep Miss Judith Pengarden locked in a room, would be refocused on Jude herself.

“I will not stand for this, Garrett,” Marce, Jude’s eldest sister and only motherly figure, bit out harshly as a key was slid into the lock. “I will have this door opened at once or I will bring the fires of Hades down on this establishment.” Marce’s emphasis on the word left no doubt in anyone’s mind what her family’s matriarch thought of the night watchman and his lodgings.

“Dear sister,” Garrett coaxed. “The man is only doing his job, earning a respectable salary while keeping the night streets free of vagabonds.”

“Judith is most certainly not a vagabond.” Marce’s voice rose three octaves until it was almost a shrill scream. “Now, release her at once or I will be forced to call on Lord Haversham or Lord Chastain. I am certain you know both the earl and the duke. They will quickly settle all this once and for all.”

Jude could picture her sister stamping her foot, her fury intensifying with each word.

No one dared defy Marce—not at Craven House or anywhere else she’d witnessed her sister in action.

“Ma’am,” the night watchman stammered, clearly resigned to following Marce’s orders. “My apologies for the mistake. The alarm was sounded and the butler in the household gave a description matching Miss Judith’s appearance.”

“And when you found nothing incriminating on her person, you decided the best course of action was to lock her up for hours in this flea-infested room? Most certainly not proper accommodations for a woman of her status.”

“Calm yourself, Marce.” Garrett attempted to soothe his sister’s wrath. “I know Mr. Newman would not purposely apprehend an innocent young woman.”

“I can assure you it was not—“ Newman tried unsuccessfully to interject.

“I will not calm down.” The door was wrenched open, its hinges groaning in protest at the swift movement. “If one hair on her head is harmed, I will have you drawn and quartered!”

Marce, her blonde hair falling down her back unrestrained and her coat buttoned down her front, stormed into the room with Garrett close on her heels. The night watchman remained outside, likely knowing it’s safer for him to stay out of Jude’s eldest sister’s reach.

“Again,” said Mr. Newman. “I was also worried about her being out late at night. She could have been set upon by any sort of unsavory character. She was without a chaperone and was unwilling to give me any information about herself beyond your direction, Lord Garrett.”

Jude would have laughed at the use of Garrett’s name spoken so formally, but that would draw Marce’s attention far sooner than Jude was prepared for.

Her sister may be vehemently protective of her siblings, but that in no way meant she coddled them.

“That will be all, Mr. Newman.” Retreating footsteps sounded as the poor man heeded Marce’s curt dismissal. But with his retreating steps, Marce’s concern also fled. “What exactly were you doing wandering London at midnight?”

Jude knew better than to speak. It was a rhetorical question meant to keep her silent, for Marce was in no way finished talking.

“I can tell you where you were not last night. You were not attending the Buckhams’ soiree with Lady Haversham and Mrs. Jakeston, as you should have been. You also did not arrive home with Samantha. I dare say you did not so much as depart with your twin at the start of your evening.” Marce’s brow rose, daring Jude to refute her. “What do you have to say for yourself, Judith Pengarden?”

Marce only used the siblings’ full names when trouble was afoot and she knew it could tarnish their family—as much as their scandal-ridden clan could be tarnished where they hung on the fringes of London’s proper ton.

“Is there something you’d like to hear from me?” Jude retorted, any calm she may have achieved disappearing.

It irked Jude to no end that Marce viewed her as a mere child—always the girl in plaits and kid boots—not a mature, educated woman, old enough by society’s standards to marry and start her own home and family. However, here Jude sat: in a dank room when any proper lady should be abed, accused of stealing into the home of a member of the beau monde.

And all because she was attempting to help her family.

Garrett stepped between his sisters. “I beg the both of you, finish this conversation in a less public,” he paused, looking at the filth overtaking the room, as if seeing it for the first time, “and certainly more hygienic, place. After Jude is allowed a hot—very hot—bath to cleanse this awful stink from her.”

Mockingly, he brought a loose tendril of her hair to his nose and sniffed, disgust masking his teasing nature.

She swatted at his hand and allowed her curl to fall from his grasp.

Jude looked to her sister, silently pleading for Marce to take Garrett’s suggestion.

Marce’s narrowed stare said she wasn’t convinced they need move their conversation. “I have a mind to leave you here.”

“Leave me here?” Jude gulped.

“Leave her here?” Garrett said at the same time.

“Why not?” Marce set her hand on her hip as she stepped around her younger brother to face Jude once more. “I am unsure what you—and likely Sam—are up to, but I will not allow you to run about London with no regard for the consequences. Both for you and our family as a whole.”

“I despise when you speak rationally.” Jude crossed her arms and stood, signaling her desire to depart. “It would be best to return home before we are spotted leaving a place of such ill repute.”

“Thank you for thinking of someone and something other than your own pleasures,” Marce said before turning on her heels and leaving the room with as much fanfare as she’d entered it. She left Garrett and Jude staring blankly at one another. “Come along, you two.”

The comment stung, but the truth in Marce’s words was undeniable. Her sister may not admit when she needed help, but Jude’s actions were risky and not as thought out as she’d hoped. It was highly likely Jude would never be adept at such things. Thankfully, she had no interest in repeating her actions. Not until their financial situation became increasingly dire, at least.

She vowed to refocus on being rid of the vase and not entangling herself in any more harrowing escapades about London.

“I have no doubt your reasoning for tarrying about after the midnight hour is very compelling, yet less than savory.” Garrett took Jude’s elbow and guided her from the dirty room, both of them squeezing through the doorway. “Sam’s note of warning did not find me abed either.” He winked with his words, letting Jude know he was concerned about her but would not pry—as he loathed his siblings prying into his affairs.

Jude turned rounded eyes on her elder brother—the lone wolf of a family full of females. She’d often wondered what occupied his many leisurely hours, but her need to respect his privacy outweighed her interest.

“Do not dally.” Marce’s call floated down the long corridor leading to the front of the establishment, her sure footsteps keeping time. “I have no qualms about leaving the pair of you to secure your own transport home.”

Jude allowed Garrett to walk her down the hall as she suppressed a sigh at her sister’s ire.

The situation seemed drastically less dreadful now that she was among the free again.

She and Garrett nodded to the watchman as they crossed the threshold into the cool morning air. A little bird chirped in the tree bordering the front walk.

“You will owe her answers when you arrive home,” Garrett confided.

“I am aware.”

“I hope you have thought up a plausible explanation in your hours spent locked down.”

“I have not,” Jude said.

Both remained quiet as a man came down the path before them. The stranger removed his hat and nodded to Marce in greeting. If her sister issued any response, it was too quiet for Jude to hear.

“Good morn,” the man greeted Jude and Garrett, a grim smile on his face as he looked away. His hair fell across his forehead at the movement, but he quickly brushed it aside. As he did, Jude noticed the youthfulness of his face.

She glanced over her shoulder as the man pushed his spectacles farther onto the bridge of his nose and strode into the night watchman’s home, his trousers and coat wrinkled as if he’d either slept in them or was against bothering his valet this early in the day.

“And to you, good sir,” Garrett called as the door closed behind the man, her brother’s shoulders lifting as he steered Jude toward their waiting carriage. It was very much like Garrett to puff his chest when faced with a gentleman of peerage, something he longed to be but had given up on years before—the forgotten younger son of a deceased lord.

Garrett’s horse stood tethered to a post nearby.

Jude’s heart sank. “You will not return to Craven House with us?”

“I fear not, mop,” he said, handing her up into the carriage where Marce was already arranging her skirts. “I have much to attend to.”

Marce chuckled softly from inside. “I’m certain he does.”

He turned a peeved look at their eldest sister inside the dim conveyance before continuing, “However, I will be round this afternoon to discuss…things.”

Jude hoped they could discuss “things” without her present, for she was certain she would be excluded from any and all talks of punishment due her.

“I shall be canceling my trip,” Marce said when Jude seated herself across from her. “There is something afoot and I will not let this family go to ruins in my absence.”

There was certainly something happening, but it was far more concerning than Sam’s and Jude’s antics.

“It is one week, Marce.” Garrett entered the carriage, his own transport forgotten as he motioned Jude to scoot over and allow him room to sit.

Their sister left her siblings for only one short week every year. Sometimes it was immediately following the holiday season, other times it was during the summer months, but she always returned a bit lighter in nature. They’d come to relish the short time Marce was gone, never asking her destination. But Payton—Jude’s youngest sister—had assumed for years that Marce traveled to Bath for several days of rest before returning to her obligations. Jude’s sisters envied Marce’s travels, thinking they were excluded from something enjoyable, but Jude could only imagine the weight on her sister’s shoulders. She cared for so many—receiving nothing in return. If she sought a few days to live a normal, carefree life then Jude could not blame her for taking it.

Many days, Jude wished she had the fortitude to do the same.

Take her life and future into her own hands, provide for herself instead of partaking in what Marce worked tirelessly to provide for them. Instead, she’d been told continually that at her tender age, she was still to be taken care of. Far too young and innocent to take on any further responsibilities.

And that had led to finding another way around Marce’s ban on Jude being anything more than a debutante—protected, sheltered, and treated as a delicate thing.

A way to help support their large household and push the debt collectors back. One time. That was to be the end of it, but when they’d been unable to sell the stolen vase, they’d had to alter their plans slightly, which included Jude taking the Bible leaves.

Another failure and setback for them.

“I can handle things at Craven House in your absence.”

Garrett’s declaration snapped Jude back to the present.

“That is not necessary,” Jude snapped. “We are of an age to care for ourselves.”

“In a fashion similar to last night?” Marce asked. “I think not.”

“Then it is settled—“ Garrett started.

“Nothing is settled,” Marce refuted, turning a sharp look on the pair. “I no more trust you to keep Craven House from burning to the ground than I trust the twins. It’s bloody insane, but I think Payton has a better handle on herself than the lot of you.”

“Payton?” Jude and Garrett said at the same time, once again.

“Do stop doing that,” Jude hissed at her brother. “People will think you and I are more closely related than Samantha and me.”

“Is that so awful?” he teased. “I am undoubtedly more attractive than she.”

“We look identical, you cad!” Jude felt her temper rising as it did on most occasions when she and Garrett were in the same place.

“Then I will be the pretty twin.” Garrett fluttered his eyes, his long lashes being one of his most notable features—if not as manly as he’d like. “I am certain to have many offers for my hand. Our dear eldest sister will be fighting off my hungry suitors!”

Jude swatted at him and he hurriedly scooted out of her reach on the bench seat, fluttering his hand as if fanning the heat from his face.

His actions were at odds with his purely masculine, deep chuckle at his lark.

It only took a moment for her annoyance to fade and a smile to appear.

He jested with Jude constantly. She should feel honored to have their only brother’s undivided attention so regularly when he rarely noticed Payton or Sam, but that also meant he kept better watch over her.

He loved his sisters, but Jude especially. Though he was a man about town, he never went long without visiting Craven House, no matter how often Marce insisted she did not need his concern over their well-being.

“You two will certainly send me to an early grave with your mischief,” Marce declared, her voice thin with exhaustion.

The trio settled into a companionable silence as their carriage traversed the bustling morning streets. A footman followed with Garrett’s mount. Each was lost to their own musings as the carriage found its way quickly home.

Mr. Curtis opened the carriage door with a flourish befitting a man half his age.

“M’lady.” He bowed to Marce as she exited, his back creaking with his effort. “This missive came for ye when ye was out.”

“Not another one,” Jude heard Marce mumble. “This has to stop.”

“You will rectify this shortly, will you not?” Garrett asked as he stepped down and turned to assist Jude. But she rebuffed his assistance and he turned back to Marce. “I do hope this is the last time.”

“For all of our futures, I certainly hope so.”

Jude hopped down from the carriage, snapping a quick glance at the letter before it disappeared into the folds of her sister’s gown. The envelope was labeled as clearly as the others Jude had seen: Notice: Delinquency—Funds Due!

She couldn’t help but feel she’d been privy to a conversation that was not meant for her ears.

In that instant, Jude regretted her decisions for the night, yet at the same time, knew the ends justified the means. She must remember she was, indeed, helping Marce and everyone who called Craven House their home. Though she needed to focus more on not getting caught if her great measures were to help and not hinder everything her family had worked so hard for.

About the Author

2015-09-18_11.22.55_pp-2 copyChristina McKnight is a book lover turned writer. From a young age, her mother encouraged her to tell her own stories. She’s been writing ever since.

Christina enjoys a quiet life in Northern California with her family, her wine, and lots of coffee. Oh, and her books…don’t forget her books! Most days she can be found writing, reading, or traveling the great state of California.


Susana’s Adventures in England: Syon House


If you’re looking for a stately home to visit in or near London, Syon House is a great choice. Located on the Thames across from Kew Gardens, you can get there by Underground (take the District line toward Richmond, get off at Gunnarsbury) and bus, (take the 237 or 267 bus to Brentlea). The pedestrian entrance is on your right when you get off the bus).

Syon House history

Syon began as an abbey, founded in 1415 by Henry V and closed in 1539 by the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, was imprisoned here prior to her execution in 1542. The 1st Duke of Somerset acquired it and had it renovated in Italian Renaissance style. In 1594, the 9th Earl of Northumberland acquired it and has owned it ever since.

A Royal Row

Queen Anne (1705)

Queen Anne (1705)

(from Wikipedia)

In the late 17th century, Syon was in the possession of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, through his wife, Elizabeth Seymour (née Percy). After the future Queen Anne had a disagreement with her sister, Mary II (wife of William III, also known as William of Orange), over her friendship with Sarah Churchill, Countess of Marlborough, she was evicted from her court residence at the Palace of Whitehall and stayed at Syon with her close friends, the Somersets, in 1692. Anne gave birth to a stillborn child there. Shortly after the birth, Mary came to visit her, again demanding that Anne dismiss the Countess of Marlborough and stormed out again when Anne flatly refused.

Mary II, 1685

Mary II, 1685

In the 18th century, Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland, commissioned architect and interior designer Robert Adam and landscape designer Lancelot “Capability” Brown to redesign the house and estate. Work began on the interior reconstruction project in 1762. Five large rooms on the west, south and east sides of the House, were completed before work ceased in 1769. A central rotunda, which Adams had intended for the interior courtyard space, was not implemented, due to cost.

Robert Adam!

Robert Adam's plan for Syon House

Robert Adam’s plan for Syon House

from Wikipedia:

Syon House’s exterior was erected in 1547 while under the ownership of the 1st Duke of Somerset. Syon’s current interior was designed by Robert Adam in 1762 under the commission of the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.

coloredceilingcornerThe well known “Adam style” is said to have begun with Syon House. It was commissioned to be built in the Neo-classical style, which was fulfilled, but Adam’s eclectic style doesn’t end there. Syon is filled with multiple styles and inspirations including a huge influence of Roman antiquity, highly visible Romantic, Picturesque, Baroque and Mannerist styles and a dash of Gothic. There is also evidence in his decorative motifs of his influence by Pompeii that he received while studying in Italy. Adam’s plan of Syon House included a complete set of rooms on the main floor, a domed rotunda with a circular inner colonnade meant for the main courtyard (‘meant for’ meaning that this rotunda was not built due to a lack of funds), five main rooms on the west, east and south side of the building, a pillared ante-room famous for its colour, a Great Hall, a grand staircase (though not built as grand as originally designed) and a Long Gallery stretching 136 feet long. Adam’s most famous addition is the suite of state rooms and as such they remain exactly as they were built.

geometricceiling2More specific to the interior of Adam’s rooms is where the elaborate detail and colour shines through. Adam added detailed marble chimneypieces, shuttering doors and doorways in the Drawing Room, along with fluted columns with Corinthian capitals. The long gallery, which is about 14 feet high and 14 feet wide, contains many recesses and niches into the thick wall for books along with rich and light decoration and stucco-covered walls and ceiling. At the end of the gallery is a closet with a domed circle supported by eight columns; halfway through the columns is a doorway imitating a niche.

More photos on my Syon Park Pinterest Page:







Regina Jeffers: Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep (Giveaway)

English Titles & Peerages

Many of the minor plot lines in my latest Regency romantic suspense concern who could inherit a title. There is the matter of the Marquess of Malvern’s losing his memory. Should the Duke of Devilfoard declare his eldest son incompetent and petition for his second son to assume control of the dukedom? Was such even legal? And what of the missing Earl of Sandahl? The original earl falls overboard on his “honeymoon” and cannot be found. Should he be declared dead? If so, who inherits? The logical answer is the second son, but that solution is not what it seems.

So, what do we know of peerages? When reading historical fiction/historical romance there are many misconceptions about titles. First thing a reader must know is not all titles are created equal. For example, a baronet may pass on his title to his heir, but he is not considered part of the Peerage in the United Kingdom. There are some 800+ peers in modern day England whose titles may be inherited. Peers include Dukes/Duchesses, Marquesses/Marchionesses, Earls/Countesses, Viscounts/Viscountesses, and Barons/Baronesses. The law that applies to a particular British title depends upon when it was bestowed upon the family and the method of its creation.

Peerages of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom follow English law; the difference between them is that Peerages of England were created before the Act of Union 1707, Peerages of Great Britain between 1707 and the Union with Ireland in 1800, and Peerages of the United Kingdom since 1800. Irish Peerages follow the law of the Kingdom of Ireland, which is very like English law, except no Irish peers have been created since 1898, and they have no part in the present governance of the United Kingdom. Scottish Peerage law is generally similar to English law, but differs in innumerable points of detail, often being more similar to medieval practice.” (Burke’s Guide to British Titles: Courtesy Titles. Burke’s Peerage and Gentry. 2005)

A title may be created by a writ of summons, which means that a person is summoned to Parliament. A writ of summons is a document calling Members of the House of Lords to Parliament. Members of the Lords may not take their seats until they have obtained their writ of summons. Writs of summons are issued by direction of the Lord Chancellor from the office of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. New writs are issued before the meeting of each Parliament to all Lords Spiritual and Temporal who have a right to seats in the House. (Francis Palgrave (1788-1861), Parliamentary Writs and Writs of Military Summons (2 volumes, 1827 and 1834) Writs of summons set out the titles of the Sovereign and the recipient of the writ. They state the reason for Parliament’s calling upon the individual.

When the Earl of Berkley died, his oldest son applied for a writ of summons to the House of Lords. The Committee on Privilege turned him down and said he and the other brothers born before 1795 were illegitimate and that the earldom had fallen to the sixteen-year-old born in 1796. The boy was too young to do anything about the matter and his oldest brother and mother ran things. When he came of age, he never put forth a claim to the earldom However, he was, by right and law, the earl so anything requiring the signature of the earl had to be signed by him. He signed responsibility over to his oldest brother, but the title itself went dormant until he died.

Titles may also be created by letters of patent. This method sets out a created peerage and names the person in question. It may limit the course of descent to the male line, with only legitimate children having a right to the title. (Scottish titles permit the “legitimacy” to be determined by a marriage, not simply a marriage at time of the birth.) Traditionally, only the peer sits in the House of Lords, but from the time of Edward IV, an heir to the title (who also held additional titles) could sit in the HOL as one of his father’s subsidiary dignities. This is possible through a writ of acceleration.

Letters patent granting the Dukedom of Marlborough to Sir John Churchill were later amended by Parliament (via Wikipedia)

Letters patent granting the Dukedom of Marlborough to Sir John Churchill were later amended by Parliament (via Wikipedia)

Letters Patent can be amended by Act of Parliament. Likely, the two most famous examples of amending Letters were the Dukedom of Marlborough in 1706 and the Duke of Windsor in 1936.

A person who is a possible heir to a peerage is said to be “in remainder.” A title becomes extinct (opposite to extant, which means alive) when all possible heirs (as provided by the letters patent) have died out, i.e., there is nobody in remainder at the death of the holder. A title becomes dormant if nobody has claimed the title or if no claim has been satisfactorily proven. A title goes into abeyance if there is more than one person equally entitled to be the holder.

In the past, peerages were sometimes forfeit or attainted under Acts of Parliament, most often as the result of treason on the part of the holder. The blood of an attainted peer was considered “corrupted,” consequently his or her descendants could not inherit the title. If all descendants of the attainted peer were to die out, however, then an heir from another branch of the family not affected by the attainder could take the title. The Forfeiture Act 1870 abolished corruption of blood; instead of losing the peerage, a peer convicted of treason would be disqualified from sitting in Parliament for the period of imprisonment.

London Herald (Edward VIII’s Abdicates)

London Herald (Edward VIII’s Abdicates)

Nothing prevents a British peerage from being held by a foreign citizen (although such peers cannot sit in the House of Lords). Several descendants of George III were British peers and German subjects; the Lords Fairfax of Cameron were American citizens for several generations.

“Hereditary peers do not have the automatic right to a writ of summons to the House. Irish peerages may not be disclaimed. A peer who disclaims the peerage loses all titles, rights and privileges associated with the peerage; his wife or her husband is similarly affected. No further hereditary peerages may be conferred upon the person, but life peerages may be. The peerage remains without a holder until the death of the peer making the disclaimer, when it descends normally.” (Hereditary Peers)

So what can a person do if he does not wish to accept the title? He could simply refuse to take up the title or touch the money. Technically he’d still be the title’s holder, but to have the full title and honors he must be confirmed before Parliament, and all the legal stuff has to be done to ensure he is the correct heir. He can simply not claim the title and not style himself by the title, but it remains it place at his disposal. The person does not need to send in the writ of summons to the House of Lords, and he can refuse to use the title, but someone must care for the property, and no one else may claim the title while he is alive. He can also do something drastic, such as commit treason, in which case he and his family would be stripped of the title, but no one would recommend such a step. It would be easier simply not to claim the title.

Like it or not, the heir cannot be disinherited to prevent his assuming the title. If there is a living person and the lawful successor to a title, he cannot be displaced unless convicted of a crime. During the Regency there was no way to disclaim a peerage except by not using it and not sending in a request for a seat in the House of Lords.

AngelCover copy

About Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

An early review

Angel Comes to Devil’s Keep is a well-written tale of courage and sacrifice and what women went through in order to marry well in Regency England. The author did her homework and it shows in an authenticity that we don’t often see in Regency romances.

Pre-orders available now

NookKobo • SmashwordsBlack Opal Books

Available everywhere on August 6, 2016


Leave a comment below to be eligible for an eBook copy of Angel Comes to the Devils Keep (Book 1 of the TwinsTrilogy). The giveaway ends at midnight EDT, August 7, 2016.

About the Author

author photoRegina Jeffers, a public classroom teacher for thirty-nine years, considers herself a Jane Austen enthusiast. She is the author of several Austen-inspired novels, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, Vampire Darcy’s Desire, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, The Phantom of Pemberley, Christmas at Pemberley, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, Honor and Hope, and The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy. She also writes Regency romances: The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, A Touch of Grace, A Touch of Mercy, A Touch of Love, and The First Wives’ Club. A Time Warner Star Teacher and Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, Jeffers often serves as a consultant in language arts and media literacy. Currently living outside Charlotte, North Carolina, she spends her time with her writing, gardening, and her adorable grandchildren.

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Caroline Warfield: The Renegade Wife


Love is worth the risk…

New cover, new release, new series! Coming in October

The heroes and heroines of Caroline Warfield’s Dangerous series overcame challenges even after their happy ending. Their children seek their own happiness in distant lands in Warfield’s new Children of the Empire series. In The Renegade Wife, first of the new series, reclusive Rand Wheatly finds contentment in his remote cabin in Upper Canada, intent on making his fortune in timber, until his precious solitude is disrupted by a woman running from an ugly past. He quickly realizes she wasn’t what she claims, but now she’s on the run again and time is running out for him to save her.

Caroline is celebrating with a GIVEAWAY on her website.

Gina Danna: The Wicked North (Book 1 – Hearts Touched by Fire)

May I Introduce….


By the time of the American Civil War, Victorian America followed many of Great Britain’s rules of society. Ladies looked forward to their next copy of Godey’s for the latest fashion for instance. What Queen Victoria did in London set the tide for manners and etiquette both in England and “across the pond” here in the United States. It is these actions that dictated society and guarded the sexes that give us a taste of life back then. Let us take a look at the foundation of society as set back in the mid-19th century.

Introductions: When people met back then, introductions were made based on the rules of etiquette. No man would consider simply walking up to a lady he didn’t know and say “hi”. That was considered rude and crass. If there was a lady he wished to meet, he needed to find someone who knew them both to make introductions. “Miss Smith, may I introduce Mr. Silvers of Charleston…” Now, if Mr. Silvers was of low account and totally unsuitable for the lady, this friend could deny introducing him or if it was made and she didn’t care for Silvers, she could snub him off. Really raise her nose as it were and ignore the man. This, of course, would be held against him as unworthy and the news passed quickly to avoid him.

While we are here, let us discuss names. Gentlemen and the workingman were always called Mr. Lastname while in public. Ladies were Miss if they were single or Mrs. if they were married (there was no such creature as “Ms.”). Mrs. John Smith was Mary Smith’s public name as ladies took their husband’s surname at marriage and protocol stated the first in public. If Mary was single and her father’s name was Charles Silvers, her name on invitations to her coming out ball were “Miss Charles Silvers invites…”


At societal gatherings, like a ball, a couple was announced as Mr. Charles Silvers and lady – not even Mrs. Charles Silvers if she is his wife!

It was a gentleman’s role to protect the fairer sex. For instance, if he was with her on the boardwalk in the city, he’d place himself between the street and her to keep her away from harm if a wagon or horse got out of control and barreled into the curb or to give her another type of barrier from mud or horse dung from slinging off the road onto the curb. If she were on an outing with a servant, the maid or male servant would serve the same purpose.

If a man was courting a lady, first the man had to ask her father for permission (or her male guardian if her father was deceased). Courting had its own rules. Ladies of the lower classes could marry at age 14 – an age we writers shy from, considering today’s way of thinking. Middle to upper class ladies usually had a “coming out” at about 18 or 19 years of age. Many times this was a ball where they were introduced and they dressed in bright pastels like pink, yellow or light green, often with flowers in their hair – even if it was winter. They wore the light colors because in candle or oil light, darker color dresses blended with the walls but the light stood out.


As they made the marriage circuit, it should be easy to find a husband in America at this time as the number of men out numbered the women prior to the War. Granted, some men headed west where land was cheap but that is another discussion. If a man wanted to court a lady, he needed to be 5 to 10 years older than her (if she was 18, he needed to be 23-28) and show he had the way and means to support her and their future children – in other words, he needed to have a job and a house, not living at home off of mom and dad.

Courting rules were simple – the couple was never allowed alone. A trusted servant or family member accompanied them – trusted by the parents, not the daughter. If she liked him enough, she might allow him to call her by her first name but it was her decision, not his. Otherwise, she was Miss Silvers.

Also, fashion had women wearing gloves whenever they were out or in formal situations. These gloves were generally white or ivory though they could match the color of her dress. Made of kid leather for the upper classes and cloth for the lower, these gloves protected her hands from the sun and other elements and from chafing. If she started to have feelings for her gentleman friend, not only would she allow him to call her by her first name, but also grant him the privilege of holding her bare hand (prior to this, only her father, brothers and lady friends could do so). And gentlemen of all classes wore gloves as well and one reason was, it was an honor and a privilege to help a lady in distress (i.e.: she fell or needed help in a carriage). If he ruined her gloves with callus on his hands, he was obligated to replace her gloves. For the workingman, kid gloves equaled more than he made in a month!


Back to courting, there were two ways a couple could be “alone.” One was on the front porch – basically they were on display for the whole street. No hanky-panky there. The other was the front parlor. Usually the front parlor had a couple of doors to it and/or a parlor mirror. These mirrors were convex in shape and reflected EVERYTHING in the room that anyone could see as they passed the doorway. Quite a hampering device.

Rule of thumb was if they were alone anywhere else for more than fifteen minutes, she was ruined, a “soiled dove”, and no man would want her therefore the young man with her would be forced to marry her to save her reputation. The “shotgun” marriage so to speak though there no doubt was a time or two daddy stood with a loaded gun and cocked it if the man almost backed out from saying “I do.” If he was shot after the ceremony, she was a widow and in good standing. Not saying that happened but…

Divorce – unacceptable in the Victorian age. Only one ground allowed it to happen and that was infidelity, mostly by the wife. No, if you didn’t like your spouse, you might live on different floors of the house and never meet or in different houses but if invited to an event, you went together as husband and wife and put a front on for society.

If she made it to age 23 without getting a proposal (a forward lady, speaking her own thoughts or opinions and not being the demur delicate flower could steer men away), the lady was now a spinster, “put on the shelf” as it were. If she attended balls, she had to wear the darker colors of navy, dark green, etc. with no flowers in her hair and sit against the wall, resigned.

Society wasn’t designed to have ladies be “independent”. Women were under male guardianship their entire lives – first their father than husband. If a wallflower, they still were under dad and could be the mistress to their father’s home if mother was dead, the nanny to their sibling’s kids or work in a hat boutique – those were about the only options available. If they taught, they had to go out to the wild west (at this time, Kansas City represented the wild west) for lady teachers were not the norm in the 19th century and very few allowed to teach in a classroom. The west was desperate for teachers so they’d take anyone willing to travel to the sparsely settled wilderness. If in KC teaching, she meets the man of her dreams and they marry, it is expected of her to quit teaching.

Which brings us to another issue –

Work. Ladies didn’t work. The lower classes did but middle to upper were not suppose to. Even if her husband lost his job, it was unacceptable for her to work, as it’s his job to make the money to feed and support the family and hers to raise the kids and run the house (the “Spheres of Domesticity” firmly in place). Therefore, some took in mending or laundry, under the table, and kept it hidden. If discovered, it could be a problem. And as to domestic abuse, the rule was what happened behind marriage doors was no one’s business. Quite disturbing.

Untitled 5

This is a taste of society in Victorian America. There are plenty of etiquette books made at that time – these were for the middle and lower class and mostly for men so they’d know how to carry themselves. Upper classes were taught this as they grew up.

What time do you want to live in? Back then, it’s very polite and structured but for ladies of an independent nature, it was hell!

About The Wicked North

Bound by duty and honor to wear the Union blue, a Southern-born West Point officer fights his own desires and the need to protect the woman he abandoned, he disobeys his orders to find her, as the Army of the Potomac marches toward her family’s home near Richmond.
She has the guts and willpower to protect her home from the hated Yankee aggressors, but when that traitor to the South appears at her door, she’s torn between wanting to shoot him and to be held in his arms again. Can she forgive him for their past indiscretion or does she turn him in to be executed, a traitor to both sides? 
In the summer of 1862, her family’s plantation becomes the personal battle ground between them as deceit, betrayal and passion ignite the flames of love and hate that burn brighter than the roar of the guns and rivers of blood surrounding them.


Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can, and strike him as hard as you can. And keep moving on!

General U.S. Grant, Virginia, June 1862

Emma Silvers was not afraid to shoot Yankees.

She leveled the .57 caliber Enfield rifle at the line of blue coats standing before her porch at Rose Hill that evening. She counted ten men, fully armed and wielding torches. They reeked of wet wool, sweat and gun powder–a noxious mixture combined with the scent of pink roses surrounding the house. Bile rose in her throat. She swallowed hard.

The officer took a step forward. In the dim light, she couldn’t discern his face, though she saw him flinch as she pointed the muzzle at him.

GinaDanna_TheWIckedNorth1400 copy“I want you off my land, now,” she demanded, her voice remarkably even despite her pounding heart. At twenty-two years and virtually alone, she knew one able-bodied man could easily overwhelm her. With no able men and few slaves remaining, she only had bravado left.

“Now, ma’am,” the Union officer began. He spoke like a gentleman, but, dressed in blue, he was an imposter as far as she was concerned.

Jeremiah, just behind her right shoulder, cocked the hammer on his rifle—a welcome sound to her ears. Good boy, Emma thought. If the Yankees didn’t believe she was a threat, she hoped the armed slave boy next to her got the message across. She wasn’t allowing any soldiers on her property again.

The rifle felt heavier by the minute, making her muscles ache, and she feared she’d drop it. The weapon was foreign to her hands, but as the war raged closer to her home, she learned to use it. She wasn’t very good at it, but, as close as the Yankees were, she was bound to hit one of them. She didn’t want to pull the trigger. The gun’s recoil would knock her off her feet, throwing her aim off. With so few bullets left, she’d hate to lose the shot.

The light streamed through the open front door across the officer as he stepped onto the porch. She saw his face and the nose of the gun slipped. Jack Fontaine, that good-for-nothing traitor! How dare he come here, especially after what had happened last summer? Rage took control and gave her the added strength to pull the muzzle up to his chest as she cocked the trigger.

“Emma, please,” he said softly. He looked at her the same way he had that night months ago, his green eyes glowing like emeralds in the light. She remembered those eyes, those mesmerizing emerald eyes. They were all hers the night she had lost her heart to him. The night he had betrayed her. Her anger flared. No. Not this time. Not again, she vowed. Gritting her teeth, Emma narrowed her gaze.

“Get away from me, Jack, or I swear to God, I’ll blow a hole through you and send you straight to hell!”

Inside the house, a babe wailed. Emma instinctively turned. Jack reached for her and she panicked, squeezing the trigger. The rifle exploded, throwing her backwards, pain shooting into her shoulder. But instead of falling, she found herself in Jack’s arms as they wrapped around her, shielding her back from the impact of the wooden floor.

The patrol stormed onto the porch and into the house. Lying in his embrace, his body shielding hers as his troops marched past them, Emma couldn’t breathe. Her eyes were wide open. She felt the heat of him around her. The scent of him invaded her senses. Warm, masculine, and spicy rolled into one. She fought the heat in her belly, but it was hard as his eyes locked onto hers, his lips only inches away.

She closed her eyes. Behind her, the wailing continued, and she heard the thud of soldiers’ boots inside. Her jaw tightened as she glared at him. “Get off me, Jack.”

About the Author

AuthorPic_Great and Unfortunate Desires copyA USA Today Bestselling author, Gina Danna was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and has spent the better part of her life reading. History has always been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, always dreaming of writing one of her own. After years of writing historical academic papers to achieve her undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, and then for museum programs and exhibits, she found the time to write her own historical romantic fiction novels.

Now, living in Texas,under the supervision of her three dogs, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream – her Arabian horse – with him, her muse can play.


Romance of London: Voltaire in London

Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.

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Voltaire in London

François-Marie Arouet, otherwise known as Voltaire, 1724-5

François-Marie Arouet, otherwise known as Voltaire, 1724-5

Voltaire lodged at the sign of the White Peruke, a fashionable French perruquier’s, in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden. In Swift’s Works (vol. xx of the duodecimo edition, p. 294), there is a letter to him, in English, by Voltaire, and dated from this house. The English seems a little too perfect. There is another following it which looks more authentic. But there is no doubt that Voltaire, while in England, made himself such a master of the language, as to be able to write in it with singular correctness for a foreigner. He was then young. He had been imprisoned in the Bastile for a libel; came over here, on his release; procured many subscriptions for the “Henriade;” published in English “An Essay on Epic Poetry,” and remained some years, during which he became acquainted with the principal men of letters—Pope, Congreve, and Young. He is said to have talked so indecently at Pope’s table (probably no more than was thought decent by the belles in France), that the good old lady, the poet’s mother was obliged to retire. Objecting, at Lord Chesterfield’s table, to the allegories of Milton, Young is said to have accosted him in the well-known couplet:—

Thou art so witty, profligate, and thin,

Thou seem’st a Milton, with his Death and Sin.

But this story has been doubted. Voltaire left England with such a mass of subscriptions for his Henriade as laid the foundation of his fortunes, and with great admiration of English talent and genius, particularly that of Newton and Locke, which, with all his insinuations against our poetry, he took warm pains to extend, and never gave up. He was fond to the last of showing he had not forgotten his English. Somebody telling him that Johnson had spoken well of his talents, he said, in English, “He is a clever fellow;” but the gentleman observing that the doctor did not think well of his religion, he added, “a superstitious dog.”

During his residence in Maiden Lane, there is a story of Voltaire’s having been beset, in one of his walks, by the people, who ridiculed him as a Frenchman. He got upon the steps of a door-way and harangued them in their own language in praise of English liberty and the nation; upon which, the story adds, they hailed him as a fine fellow, and carried him to his lodgings on their shoulders.—Leigh Hunt’s Town.

La Henriade

From Wikipedia:


La Henriade is an epic poem of 1723 written by the French Enlightenment writer and philosopher Voltaire. According to Voltaire himself, the poem concerns and was written in honour of the life of Henry IV of France, and is a celebration of his life. The ostensible subject is the siege of Paris in 1589 by Henry III in consort with Henry of Navarre, soon to be Henry IV, but its themes are the twin evils of religious fanaticism and civil discord. It also concerns the political state of France. Voltaire aimed to be the French Virgil, outdoing the master by preserving Aristotelian unity of place—a property of classical tragedy rather than epic—”by keeping the human action confined between Paris and Ivry. It was first printed (under the title La Ligue) in 1723, and reprinted dozens of times within Voltaire’s lifetime.

Voltaire in Great Britain

From Wikipedia:

The Bastille, 1715

The Bastille, 1715

In early 1726, a young French nobleman, the chevalier de Rohan-Chabot, taunted Voltaire about his change of name, and Voltaire retorted that his name would be honoured while de Rohan would dishonour his. Infuriated, de Rohan arranged for Voltaire to be beaten up by thugs a few days later. Seeking compensation, redress, or revenge, Voltaire challenged de Rohan to a duel, but the aristocratic de Rohan family arranged for Voltaire to be arrested and imprisoned in the Bastille on 17 April 1726 without a trial or an opportunity to defend himself. Fearing an indefinite prison sentence, Voltaire suggested that he be exiled to England as an alternative punishment, which the French authorities accepted. On 2 May, he was escorted from the Bastille to Calais, where he was to embark for Britain.

maiden-lane 061-plakette-5In England, Voltaire lived largely in Wandsworth with acquaintances including Everard Fawkener. From December 1727 to June 1728 he lodged at Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, now commemorated by a plaque, to be nearer to his British publisher. Voltaire circulated throughout English high society, meeting Alexander Pope, John Gay, Jonathan Swift, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and many other members of the nobility and royalty. Voltaire’s exile in Great Britain greatly influenced his thinking. He was intrigued by Britain’s constitutional monarchy in contrast to French absolutism, and by the country’s greater support of the freedoms of speech and religion. He was influenced by the writers of the age, and developed an interest in earlier English literature, especially the works of Shakespeare, still relatively unknown in continental Europe. Despite pointing out his deviations from neoclassical standards, Voltaire saw Shakespeare as an example that French writers might emulate, since French drama, despite being more polished, lacked on-stage action. Later, however, as Shakespeare’s influence began growing in France, Voltaire tried to set a contrary example with his own plays, decrying what he considered Shakespeare’s barbarities. Voltaire may have been present at the funeral of Isaac Newton and met Newton’s niece, Catherine Conduitt. In 1727 he published two essays in English, Upon the Civil Wars of France, Extracted from Curious Manuscripts, and Upon Epic Poetry of the European Nations, from Homer Down to Milton.

After two and a half years in exile, Voltaire returned to France, and after a few months living in Dieppe, the authorities permitted him to return to Paris. At a dinner, French mathematician Charles Marie de La Condamine proposed buying up the lottery that was organized by the French government to pay off its debts, and Voltaire joined the consortium, earning perhaps a million livres. He invested the money cleverly and on this basis managed to convince the Court of Finances that he was of good conduct and so was able to take control of a capital inheritance from his father that had hitherto been tied up in trust. He was now indisputably rich.

Further success followed, in 1732, with his play Zaïre, which when published in 1733 carried a dedication to Fawkener that praised English liberty and commerce. At this time he published his views on British attitudes toward government, literature, religion and science in a collection of essays in letter form entitled Letters Concerning the English Nation (London, 1733). In 1734, they were published in French as Lettres philosophiques in Rouen. Because the publisher released the book without the approval of the royal censor and Voltaire regarded the British constitutional monarchy as more developed and more respectful of human rights (particularly religious tolerance) than its French counterpart, the French publication of Letters caused a huge scandal; the book was publicly burnt and banned, and Voltaire was forced again to flee Paris.