Meara Platt: A Midsummer’s Kiss and Once Upon a Regency (Double Giveaway)

Meara copySusana, thank you so much for having me on Susana’s Parlour, a particular thrill for me because I’m a fan and often peek in to learn more about my favorite authors. For those who don’t know me, I’m Meara Platt and I write Regency-era historical romances. Some of your readers may know me from my Farthingale series; all three books released to date have been Amazon international bestsellers, and I’m looking forward to the release of Book 4 in the series, A Midsummer’s Kiss, scheduled to release this week!

Also scheduled to release this week is a box set called Once Upon A Regency: Timeless Tales And Fables, a set of nine Regency romance novellas inspired by fairy tales. My story in this set is Wish Upon A Kiss based upon Sleeping Beauty. Samantha Grace, Sue London, Ari Thatcher (she also writes as Aileen Fish), Amanda Mariel, and others—all have stories inspired by one of their favorite tales or fables: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, Alice In Wonderland, etc. It has been so much fun working with them and I look forward to more collaborations in the future. Our Once Upon A Regency launch party is February 5thWe’d love to see you there.

I also have a gift for all who stopped by my guest blog today. Please read through to the end and you’ll find a thank you from me as well as a contest where I’ll be giving away a prize.

Interview

Susana: What inspired you to start writing?

Meara: Actually it wasn’t inspiration, but a matter of chance. I’ve always loved historical romance, then several years ago I read a string of bad Regency romances, and after grumbling and tossing aside book after book, my husband suggested that I stop whining and write one myself. So I did, and it was AWFUL! Fortunately, I was not so deluded to think it was a masterpiece. I knew I needed help, lots of it. So after bumping into Nora Roberts in a NYC elevator – and by chance we happened to be wearing the same dress, which is what got us briefly chatting – I took it as a sign that I had to start writing. She was there for a Romance Writers of America conference, so I lurked and poked around and realized this was for me. I joined and am a member to this day. I also joined my local RWA chapter, went to all the monthly meetings, took workshops, went to conferences, and absorbed as much knowledge as possible. The ability to write an engaging story comes naturally to some of the lucky few. That wasn’t me. English is not my native language, but that was the least of it. I didn’t understand the concept of writing a tight story, had no clue what plot or conflict really were, and didn’t realize that by giving my hero and heroine certain strengths and weaknesses, I could create their goals and motivations to propel their story. Hopefully, I finally got those details right with the Farthingale series. The stories aren’t just love stories, they’re also about family, and the chaotic humor and character of this large family is as much a part of the romance as the compelling love story for each sister as she falls in love with (and creates heaps of trouble for) the man she’s destined to marry.

Susana: What is the best advice you can give to other writers?

Meara: The best advice I can give writers is to learn as much as you can about story structure, characters, conflict, and goals, and then take that knowledge and write from your heart. Write with affection and respect for your characters whether they’re good or evil, make them as real as they can be, and also respect your readers. Be honest about what you’re giving them. Don’t design your covers or write blurbs to entice a reader, then fail to deliver. Also know your strengths and weaknesses. Even though I may give my characters some difficult emotional baggage, as I did for my hero, Ian, the Duke of Edgeware, in The Duke I’m Going To Marry, I don’t think I’m capable of writing a dark story – so no matter what I throw at my hero or heroine, it’s done with a gentle hand and liberal use of humor to soften whatever pain they’re experiencing. My readers know they will always get strength and optimism in my stories as well as (hopefully) some laugh out loud moments as my alpha hero is brought to his knees in surrender by the clueless and innocent Farthingale sister who will steal his heart.

Susana: What happened when you got “the call”?

Meara: When I got “the call” it came after many rejections and very close calls and lovely revision letters, but the timing was right for me. Any sooner, and I would not have understood my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, or found my natural voice. You know the saying, when it rains it pours? The offer from my publisher came as I was about to receive an offer from another publisher. My publisher offered a generous multi-book deal and their business model was a perfect fit for me, so I accepted and have not regretted the decision. I also must add that this book deal came about because I knew a writer who had just published with them and she recommended me – it came out of the blue and the publisher acted fast because of the recommendation. She put her reputation on the line and would never have recommended someone she thought would make her look bad. As much as we write the books of our heart, this is also a business. Others rely on you to get your part done on time and to work with others from editing to cover art to promotions, and with other authors on boxsets or other collaborations. While artistic temperament might inspire a writer to create, that unreliable temperament will be viewed as toxic to others. So I’ve cleaned up a favorite saying of mine, a great line from a good friend of mine. It’s a simple bit of caution that applies to all we do – don’t be a jerk. Your position is never elevated by stepping on others.

Susana: How do you deal with writer’s block?

AMK-Teaser3FINAL copyMeara: That’s best answered by talking about my characters. I may have trouble writing a scene or figuring out an ending that readers will remember, but I don’t really have writer’s block. I have diarrhea of the mouth (or typing fingers) and have so much in my head that I hope I’ll have the time to get it all out! After years of trial and error, I found that what works best for me when starting a book is to decide upon the characters first and figure out what they need the most and what they want to avoid at all costs. My heroes especially will spend their entire story avoiding what we all know is best for them. For example, in my debut book, My Fair Lily, I knew that Lily Farthingale had to be a spectacle-wearing bluestocking who is gorgeous – dark hair and vivid blue eyes – who knows everything about books and nothing about men. I paired her with Ewan Cameron, an irreverent Scot, a man of action, who detests all things English and only comes down to London because of a deathbed promise made to his father. He’s brought along his shaggy, loveable but clumsy sheepdog, and his dog falls in love with Lily at first sight. So does Ewan, but he’s too stubborn (just like a Scot) to admit it to himself. Lily has an identical twin, Daffodil, and her story is The Duke I’m Going To Marry. I paired Daffodil, a girl with a big heart and lots of love to give, with Ian Markham, the notorious Duke of Edgeware, a man who has sworn he’ll never marry or fall in love. Most think he’s just arrogant and independent, but it’s really because he’s harboring a dark secret. It takes Daffodil’s strength, her intelligence and sharp wit, and her ability to love, to finally convince Ian to open up his heart to her and allow himself to find happiness. In Rules For Reforming A Rake, Daisy Farthingale enters her debut season with a slight tarnish to her reputation. To regain her respectability, she’s decided to marry the most respectable man she can find. Of course, she falls in love with Gabriel Dayne, London’s most notorious rakehell. What is Daisy to do? She sets about reforming him, of course. The right match helps the story to tell itself. In my upcoming release, A Midsummer’s Kiss, Laurel Farthingale accidentally runs down Graelem Dayne while riding her horse, and amid the chaos, Graelem’s leg is broken. Graelem has to find a girl to marry by Midsummer’s Day or he’ll lose a vast inheritance. When a remorseful Laurel gives her sacred promise to do whatever it takes to make it up to him, he accepts and tells her that she can make it up to him by marrying him. Graelem is another stubborn Scot (I love those heroes) and Laurel is hot-tempered, independent, and will only marry for love, not some sham betrothal that she agreed to because she gave her word. Graelem has only thirty days – and while hindered with a broken leg – to convince Laurel that they’re meant to be together.

Susana: Tell us about what story you’re currently working on.

AMKTeaser1FINAL copyI’d like to talk a little about Once Upon A Regency and my contribution to it, Wish Upon A Kiss for several reasons. The first is that it is a new release, so I’m excited to talk about it. The second, and most important reason, is that it is a collaborative effort with authors I admire and with whom I’ve since become friends. It is this bond of friendship that is as important to me as any book I’ve written. The same amazing thing happened with the talented authors who, along with me, were a part of Kathryn Le Veque’s Kindle World of the deWolfe Pack launch. We’ve all become as close as sisters and chat every day. My contribution to the deWolfe Pack world is Nobody’s Angel – another story about the power of love to conquer all, and how miracles can happen. But back to Once Upon A Regency and my Sleeping Beauty inspired story. Obviously, it is about Winnie, my heroine who is raised by her three ditzy godmothers. She lives quietly in the Lake District countryside and doesn’t know her true identity. The hero, Ardaric, comes upon her and is drawn to her from their first meeting. He insists on remaining to protect her when her life is suddenly threatened. As in Sleeping Beauty, he defeats evil to save the girl he loves. Winnie is a strong heroine in her own right and worthy of Ardaric’s love. What is the secret that I am about to reveal only to readers of Susana’s Parlour? As I finished the story, my nephew’s wife gave birth to their first child and they called him Ardaric. I fell in love with the new baby and his name – so STOP THE PRESSES! My hero’s name became Ardaric. So this story has special meaning for me beyond pride of authorship of this story!

In my books, family plays a big role. In this, I feel my childhood influenced much of my writing. I was born in Cairo, Egypt and spent most of my childhood moving from country to country before my family finally settled in the US. So we’ve lived in Egypt, France, and Australia until finally reaching the US. Although having to leave Egypt led to some very difficult times for my family, I can look back with happiness on the time I spent there. We spent only a short time in France, but several years in Australia (loved, loved, loved those wonderful years in Sydney, Australia) before leaving to join the rest of our family in the US. To me, Australia was paradise, and I was sad to leave. My twin sister and I still have the stuffed koala bear toys we were given as gifts from our friends and we treasure them to this day. Amid all the upheaval, the one constant in our lives was love of family and deep appreciation for the friends we made along the way. When I write about the power of good over evil, it has a very real meaning to me and I hope it will also have meaning to many readers who have faced hardships in their lives. My stories are also messages of hope – to stay strong, be kind to others, and good things will come to you.

Susana: Tell us about your favorite authors.

Meara: I’m an avid reader and enjoy reading many genres, but Regency is my favorite. A close second are the other historical (medieval, highlander, Viking, Victorian) romance genres. I also love a good cozy mystery or fantasy/paranormal tale. I don’t like stories that are dark and painful or about evil, twisted characters or selfish characters. I’m a hobbit in real life – I like warmth and comfort and don’t do well with nasty adventures that make me late for dinner. When I read, I want to feel good and cheer for the heroines as they find love with their worthy heroes. Judith McNaught is my all time favorite historical romance author. Today, I read Christi Caldwell and Julie Johnstone – love their books. I’ve also read Victorian romance author Amanda Mariel and love her stories. I also highly recommend the authors in the Kindle World of the deWolfe Pack – they’re all best sellers in their genres and are most deserving of the glory.

Susana: What are your writing plans for 2016?

Meara: There are more stories coming from me in 2016. Along with the Regency romances, I’m also launching a paranormal Regency series – an ambitious 4-book series that may grow into more books. I’ve always been a fan of fairy tales and fairy lore, so several years ago I decided to create a Fae world that exists in Regency times – in the Lake District, which is a favorite place of mine – and as we know, faeries and faerie lore were very popular in the 1800’s. Faeries (unlike Tinkerbell depicted in Disney’s version) are a form of demon. So are dragons and, ahem, hunky alpha dukes who happen to be able to shift into dragons, and protect England from those really, really evil demons of the underworld who intend to wreak havoc on the British subjects. There’s a Fae prophecy involved and everyone is searching for the Regency lass who is the only one who can save Fae and humans from domination by these underworld demons. Lots of fun, chaos, and Regency heroines who are strong enough to conquer demons even though they don’t know how to wield a battle sword, much less be able to lift one. No matter how dire the circumstances, there may be death and destruction, but in any Meara Platt book, there will also be laughter and happily ever after endings.

Susana, I’ve enjoyed my visit to your parlour so much! I hope those who joined us enjoyed this chat as well. I’ll be giving away a Farthingale ebook of choice to one winner. To be eligible, just leave a comment answering this question:

Would you read a Regency romance with paranormal elements and – strictly optional – let me know what you like about them?

For all who joined me in Susana’s Parlour, here’s the link to my newsletter where you’ll find the freebie Farthingale novella as a gift from me to you. It’s called If You Kissed Me. http://bit.ly/FreeRegencyNovella. If you would rather not sign onto my newsletter, just email me at plattmeara@gmail.com and I’ll email you the novella.

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About A Midsummer’s Kiss

Sometimes love happens at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected places. Sometimes it quietly sneaks up on you, and sometimes it knocks you over on a London street, just as it happens to Lord Graelem Dayne when Laurel Farthingale’s horse runs him over and breaks his leg. Graelem has until Midsummer’s Day, a mere thirty days away to find a wife or lose a large inheritance, so when a remorseful Laurel begs his forgiveness and promises to do anything, anything for him, he takes her up on that promise and insists that she marry him.

Laurel Farthingale has no intention of becoming Graelem Dayne’s biddable bride and is furious that he’s tricked her into a betrothal. She plans to marry another, her long-time friend and childhood infatuation who is now in London to propose to her, for she’s a Farthingale and everyone knows that Farthingales only marry for love. But as she comes to know Graelem, she realizes that he may very well be the man she’s destined to love. Can he ever love her above his desire to secure his baronial fortune?

My Fair Lily (Book 1)

The Duke I’m Going to Marry (Book 2)

Rules for Reforming a Rake (Book 3)

 A Midsummer’s Kiss (Book 4)

Once Upon A Regency: Pre-order for 99 cents

Nobody’s Angel

Excerpt

“Blessed Scottish saints,” Graelem said in a husky murmur. “Are you saying that I’m the only man who’s ever kissed you?”

“In that crude and plundering way. Yes.” In that wonderful, fires-of-hell-take-me-I’m-yours way that still had her blushing and wanting to rip the shirt off his body and run her hands along his hot, golden skin? Laurel cleared her throat. “In any way at all? Yes. You’re the first.”

A solemn quiet came over him, but he shook out of it quickly. “Laurel, lass.” He spoke with a gentleness not present before. “You can’t possibly love him.”

“I knew you were going to say that.” She curled her hands into fists and returned his gaze with a scowl of exasperation. “I do love him. I don’t love you. The kiss we shared was a mistake. I wasn’t myself. I was distraught and uncertain.”

She paused a moment and swallowed hard. “But thank you for not taking advantage of me. Had you tried, I think I would have let you.” Because she was crazed and hurting. No other reason. Certainly not because she felt any desire for the oaf.

Goodness and mercy! Why would she feel anything for him?

“I know, lass,” he said with a nod. “But I gave you my promise that I wouldn’t touch you against your will and I’ll keep to it. You wanted the kiss and it was harmless enough.” He leaned closer still. “Granted, you wanted more. But I will not have you shamed or living with regrets for your actions on one of the most difficult days of your life. When you marry me—”

If I marry you. Which I won’t.” Drat! The words sounded uncertain even to her ears.

“I’ll make you a bargain.”

She shot to her feet, instantly wary. “What sort of bargain?”

“I’ll agree to attend these bloody teas and musicales if you stop dismissing the idea of our marriage.”

She nibbled her lip in thought and noticed that Graelem’s eyes darkened as he watched her. Honestly, why did the oaf have to be blessed with dangerously seductive eyes? They should have been watery or rimmed in red. They weren’t. His eyes were clear and magnificent. “No more dismissing the idea of our marriage? I’ll agree not to mention it when we chat”— but I’ll still think it— “so long as you don’t dismiss out of hand the young ladies I plan to invite to said teas and musicales.”

“Agreed.” He gave her a heart-melting smile. “Care to seal it with a handshake?”

No, she’d much rather seal it with a kiss. A lips-locked, tongues-plundering string of kisses to be precise. “Blessed Scottish saints,” he said in a hoarse whisper and rose from his chair to stand beside her. “Don’t look at me that way, lass.”

“What way?” She felt her heart beating faster and the heat in her cheeks was now spreading through her body, blazing a fiery trail through her veins. Graelem stood too close. She put her hand on his chest to nudge him back, but somehow her hand curled against the front of his shirt and she found herself tugging his big body closer instead.

Oh, dear. The wrong way.

“What’s it to be, lass?” His mouth felt feather soft against her ear. “Do we seal our bargain with a safe and proper handshake?” His cool breath sent very hot tingles up and down her spine. “Or would you rather we seal it with a dangerously improper kiss?”

She let out a soft gasp. Did the man have no shame?

About the Author

Meara Platt is happily married to her Russell Crowe look-alike husband, and they have two terrific children. She lives in one of the many great towns on Long Island, New York, and loves it, except for the traffic. She has traveled the world, occasionally lectures, and always finds time to write. Her favorite place in all the world is England’s Lake District, which may not come as a surprise since many of her stories are set in that idyllic landscape, including her Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award winning story to be released as Book 3 in her paranormal romance Garden series, which is set to debut in 2016. Learn more about bestselling author Meara Platt by visiting her website at www.mearaplatt.com.

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World of the de Wolfe Pack Facebook Page

Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell for Ever

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The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

The Final Season: 18-25 July, 1859

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The Public is respectfully informed that this celebrated Place of Amusement, after an existence of nearly a Century and a Half, and receiving within its Portals the elite of the World is DOOMED TO BE DESTROYED; on Tuesday 26th Workmen will commence taking down the whole of the Buildings, and clearing the Ground in order to Let it for Building purposes. It is therefore with great pleasure that Mr G Stevens, for thirty five years connected with the establishment, informs the public that, through the kindness of the owner of the property, he is enabled to open the Gardens for The last Illuminations! The last Concerts! The Last Horsemanship! The Last Fireworks! The Last Music! The last Dancing! The Last Suppers! And The Last Punch!

On the last night, the “Grand Illumination Gala” included a military band in the Old Orchestra, a juvenile ballet; an equestrian troupe in the Rotunda, as well as numerous acrobats and rope dancers. Dancing on the new Leviathan platform ended with the usual fireworks, but no balloons.

The doors opened at 7 p.m., admission was only 1s, and over fifteen thousand people attended. At the end of the evening Mr. Russell Grover sang the last song, Nevermore shall I return; the last dance was a gallop and, after a short period of silence, the National Anthem was played. Then people began running to the trees on the platform breaking off twigs as souvenirs. Arthur Munby was there and recorded in his diary:

To Vauxhall. It was the last night: dense crowds of people filled the gardens: the circus, the ballet, the dancing & concerts, the supper-rooms, the rifle shooting, the fortune telling, the colored maps and the statues in the long walks—all were there as usual; there was no sign of dissolution: there was nothing in the noisy gaiety of the people (except perhaps that noisy gaiety itself) to show that they knew they were meeting there for the last time. But over all, in large letters formed of colored lamps, hung the words ‘Farewell for ever.’ These were the moral of it all… It is indeed much for a thoughtful man, to have seen the last of Vauxhall: to muse for the last time in those dim lighted alleys, and cry Vanitas vanitatum, and call up melancholy shows of Kings & Court ladies to put to shame the living laughing crowd: but the real sting is, that it is all over.

It’s all gone

All moveable items were sold at auction at bargain prices. The property itself, which was by now extremely valuable for development, was divided up into building plots. The only building left standing today—and it is nearly unrecognizable at this point—is the house that was originally built for the widow of Jonathan Tyers the younger.

pavilion and colonade

Anon., The Pavilion and Colonnade, Vauxhall Gardens, watercolour, November 1859 (Houghton Library, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Theatre Collection, Evert Jansen Wendell Bequest, TS 943.6.8F). The pictures have been removed from the walls and workmen prepare for the final demolition.

Why did Vauxhall close?

The weather was always a problem, and became a standing joke that farmers could always count on rain on the day of Vauxhall’s opening for the season. As the years passed, however, “an increasing number of covered areas, where entertainment could be provided even in a downpour” were introduced. Inclement weather is nothing new to outdoor events, but generally “if the attraction is good enough, the public will put up with the rain and the inconvenient delays or postponements associated with bad weather.”

Essentially, though, the Gardens failed to appeal to the Victorian middle classes.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries visitors to Vauxhall would experience an idealized version of a rural idyll—trees, walks and nightingales, supplemented increasingly by music, dining, drinking and man-made illusions… By the end of the eighteenth century, however, it was not enough; the changes in the structure of London society… brought to the gardens a new, less sophisticated clientele for whom the rural idyll no longer exerted its traditional charm. Londoners increasingly saw themselves as citizens of a great industrial power that was coming to dominate the world through trade and military might… [T]he new audiences wanted to be entertained, amazed and thrilled by new attractions that appealed to the self-confident and patriotic spirit of the age.

Madame Saqui’s daring high wire act and Charles Green’s balloons kept the place running long past the time it would naturally have folded. Expensive new novelties added rarely paid for themselves. Inept management and annual battles with magistrates over the renewal of the license—which resulted in increasing restrictions—also contributed to Vauxhall’s demise.

“There was, of course, always a significant section of the potential Vauxhall audience who opposed all attempts to turn the gardens into a modern popular attraction and pined for the good old days under Tyers.” However, in its beginnings, the Vauxhall area was largely rural. “The creeping urbanisation of the area brought with it the seeds of the final failure of the gardens. As they were no longer truly rural, the original reason for their existence disappeared. Yet if they were to offer little more than the theatres and music halls, they were a long way from the centre of town.”

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Vauxhall Gardens, photograph, c.1859 (Lambeth Landmark, 1259). One of only two known nineteenth-century photographs of the gardens. Lit by the setting sun, the figures in the foreground are standing on the New Monster (or Leviathan) Platform and give an idea of the scale of the Orchestra, the original building of 1758 much altered and lamp-encrusted. The caryatids supporting the sounding board were probably added during the remodeling of 1845.

Vauxhall, farewell forever

 

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV

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Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

Financial Setbacks & Bankruptcy

Vauxhall had suffered financial setbacks regularly over the years, but especially in its later years, when it changed hands frequently. Bankruptcy was declared in 1840, when the gardens were closed and auctions were held for “all sorts of fittings and decorations from the gardens, including many of the paintings; the Royal Nassau balloon, which had originally cost over £2000 was sold to [balloonist] Green for £500.”

Nevertheless, it opened again in 1841, when George Catlin’s “Red Indians” were introduced to the gardens. These tableaux vivant were made up of, in Catlin’s own words:

twenty living figures in Indian costumes, forming groups of their ceremonies, domestic scenes and warfare. These were got up and presented with much labour to myself, and gave great satisfaction; as by them I furnished so vivid and lifelike an illustration of Indian life as I had seen it in the wilderness.

From the satirical magazine Punch:

We wended our way to the ‘royal property’, to take a last look at the long-expiring gardens. It was a wet night—the lamps burnt dimly—the military band played in the minor key—the waiters stalked about with so silent, melancholy a tread, that we took their towels for pocket-handkerchiefs; the concert in the open rain went off tamely—dirge-like, in spite of the ‘Siege of Acre’, which was described in a set of quadrilles, embellished with blue fire and maroons, and adorned with a dozen drums, thumped at intervals, like death notes, in various parts of the doomed gardens. The divertissement was anything but diverting, when we reflect upon the impending fate of the ‘Rotunda’, in which it was performed.

Although it was announced that ‘Vauxhall would positively close its doors for ever’ on September 8th, 1841, it did open again for the 1842 season, but despite new acts such as Ducrow’s questions (now under the management of his black protégé, Mungo) and the exhibition of Napoleon’s state carriage taken from Waterloo, the gardens remained unprofitable. Vauxhall did not open at all in 1843.

In 1844, the new lessee brought the “Ioway Indians” to Vauxhall. An native encampment was established “on the old Waterloo Ground, from which the party of fourteen (three chiefs, five braves, four squaws, a child and a papoose) emerged from wigwams. They performed only in the afternoon and stayed in lodgings at night.”

This arrangement was one of very great pleasure to the Indians, as it allowed a free space to exercise in during their leisure hours, amongst trees and shrubbery, affording them almost a complete resumption of Indian life in the wilderness, as they had the uninterrupted range of the gardens during the hours that the public were not there to witness their amusements.

The next few years, surprisingly, were quite profitable for Vauxhall, with upgrades and new acts such as Monsieur Musard, “Napoleon of the Quadrille,” with his band of a hundred musicians.

Master Juba

One of the most famous of all Vauxhall performers, William Henry Lane, was an import from the saloons and dance halls of Manhattan.

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Anon., Juba at Vauxhall Gardens, engraving (David Coke’s collection) from the Illustrated London News (5 August 1848), 77. William Henry Lane, known as Master Juba, created a sensation in London and was known as the “Dancinest fellow ever was”. He is credited with the invention of tap-dancing.

Playing the banjo and the tambourine, he was known as the “Dancinest fellow ever was’ and hailed as the inventor of tap-dancing. Dickens made him famous in his American Notes, describing a lively young negro, who is the wit of the assembly, and the greatest dancer ever known. He never leaves off making queer faces, and is the delight of all the rest, who grin from ear to ear incessantly.”

Originally one of six so-called “Ethiopian Serenaders”, Juba was unquestionably the most talented although it was at Vauxhall where he became a star attraction. From the Illustrated London News:

How could Juba enter into their wonderful complications so naturally? How could he tie his legs into such knots, and fling them about so recklessly, or make his feet twinkle until you lose sight of them altogether in his energy. The great Boz immortalised him; and he deserved the glory thus conferred.

The Final Seasons

royal vauxhall gardens

Poster advertising Van Amburgh and Juba, 1848 (British Library, London, EVAN.474). This illustrates current attractions at the gardens and features (clockwise from top left): the Grand View of Constantinople; the Grand Orchestra; the Rotunda Theatre; the Ballet Theatre; the Coral Cave; the Pavilion and Musical Promenade; the Neptune Fountain; and C.W. Pell’s Serenaders.

In spite of continued financial problems, Vauxhall limped on a few more years, with a lion tamer renowned for putting his head the lions’ mouths (Van Amburgh), the Algerine Family (“clothed in rich Arabian silks and reclining on luxurious divans”), boat races, masquerades, the Great Italian Singers (1851), military fetes featuring the Crimean War, and the American bareback rider, Mr. James Robinson in 1859.

But when the last night came, on 13 October, it must have been clear to all that Vauxhall could continue no longer.

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

Diane Dario: The Rake’s Redemption

I have been reading romance novels since the age of fourteen.

Regency romances are one of my all-time favorite eras (grand ballrooms, dinner parties while sitting next to a grand duke or war hero just returned from fighting against Napoleon and the French, hey I girl can dream, can’t she).

When I am not reading or writing the stories I have visions in my head, I am enjoying the joyful moments with my growing family, the ballet and romantic movies.

Writing has always been a great passion for me, a long road of many ups and downs (and lots of online writing classes) and the years it took to get the craft right, finally, all my time and efforts paid off and now my dream of becoming a published author is now a reality.

It just goes to prove dreams can come true as long as you do not give up on them.

Susana: What is your favorite part of writing?

Diane: The research and having the opportunity to let my imagination run away with me as I go into another place and time while creating romantic stories.

Susana: Your current release, The Rake’s Redemption, takes a slightly different spin on the “left at the altar” storyline. Where did you get the idea for your unique spin on this familiar theme?

Diane: I always enjoyed reading second chance on romance books and I thought I could do this and the hard part was trying to come up with a plot that wasn’t used before. I do hope you like Caroline and Pierce as they found the love they once shared wasn’t lost forever.

Susana: This story also has elements of the difficulties soldiers face when they return home. Who or what was your inspiration for this secondary theme?

Diane: The anniversary of Waterloo and I thought what must it have felt like to be battle, seeing your fellow soldiers and friends die right before your eyes.

Susana: What do you have coming up next?

Diane: January 2016 – A Christmas Regency novella – The Earl’s Christmas Embrace – matchmaking gone astray. First of a series of war heroes coming home and searching for their missing friend.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

While researching for my debut novella The Rake’s Redemption, I stumbled upon PTSD and thought my hero, Pierce Mortimer, just returning from the Napoleonic wars, most likely had suffered this illness on this return home.

In Regency England, they would not have had the name or medical understanding that we have today. It was not until World War I that they termed the condition shell shock.

Research on the condition of PTSD in the 18th century has meant significant digging and piecing together information given to them in bits and pieces. Suffering with PTSD could lead one to re-experiencing experiences through recollections, dreams or acting as if the event is still going on.

PTSD is not limited to just re-experiencing. There are many pieces of the puzzle. There could be attempts to numb or avoid the topic of what he experiences with copious amounts of alcohol. There would be outburst or anger or one might have difficulty in social situations.

The Napoleonic wars were long and drawn out and it is not inconceivable that soldiers did not return with PTSD. They just would had a different name for it.

In regards to the Royal Navy, they were believed to just be melancholy. War and its consequences (death, disease) were so commonplace during the 18th century that those who had symptoms of PTSD were called cowards. The names they had for PTSD were cerebro-spinal shock or wind contusions. The condition was treated with skepticism which had to be difficult for a soldier who had no physical wounds.

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About Rake’s Redemption

Rake’s Redemption is a story of love interrupted by a young man’s call to duty…

Pierce, a younger son, realizes that the life of a military officer is far beneath what the woman he loves deserves. Despite her reassurances, he makes a decision to leave her behind, which will haunt him even after he returns from the war.

Caroline, socially ruined by a failed elopement, yearns for a husband and children of her own. Finally deciding to accept the attentions of eligible bachelors, her world is turned upside down once again when her brother in law returns from fighting Napoleon on the peninsula.

When Pierce returns to his childhood home, he and Caroline soon realize they share a sizzling physical attraction. But will the lingering pain of rejection she carries and his dark memories of battle stand in the way of love?

About the Author

IMG_0006Always an avid reader, Diane was introduced to the world of historical romance at the age of fourteen by favorite aunt. From that day, she determined to create her own world of romance, filled with the British aristocracy and the turbulent Regency era, during and after the Napoleonic Wars.

When not reading or writing about dukes, earls, and their ladies, Diane spends her time making beautiful memories with her husband and children, attending the ballet, or watching movies (love stories, of course!).

Pamela Labud: To Catch a Lady

Interview with Pamela Labud

Susana: What inspired you to start writing?

Pam: I was raised in Illinois, with only 3 TV channels and a small library, I couldn’t wait for more stories, so I started writing my own at age 13. I didn’t really finish a novel until much later when I read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and knew I had to write. Shortly after that I started my first historical romance novel!

Susana: How long have you been writing?

Pam's bio pic 4 copyPam: I’ve been writing romance for twenty years! Before I wrote mostly short stories and as a teenager, very depressing poetry. But, once I started writing romance, I never looked back. I love the genre and plan to write it forever!

Susana: What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Pam: Read everything you can get your hands on! All genres and all ages. Not just in your comfort zone. Read nonfiction as well as fiction. Pay attention to the masters, and by that I mean Stephen King’s On Writing, Deb Dixon’s GMC, Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, and Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King, among others. Learn to write synopsis, blurbs and log lines. Learn how to pitch a book and how to gracefully accept rejections and learn from them. And, finally, the most important thing to do? Write, write, write!

Susana: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Pam: I’ve not really suffered from writer’s block, but I do have moments of anxiety and times when the words just aren’t there. I think a block can come from several sources. Health problems, grief, fear, and even situational stress.

The best thing to do is to figure out what’s blocking you and then do your best to deal with it. Do you need medical treatment? A counselor? Time to grieve? Or, maybe a job change or help dealing with a domestic issue will make it possible to restart your writing.

Sometimes you can be blocked because of low self-esteem. “I’m no good, therefor I can’t do this. I’m a terrible person and therefore I’m a terrible writer. No one will want to read what I write, etc.”

When this happens, you really need to sit yourself down and start reciting positive affirmations. Writing is a very scary business, when you fail and when you succeed… No matter what, face that blank screen and keep trying.

Susana: What comes first the plot or the characters?

Pam: For me, it’s the characters. I grow the plot from their personality, flaws, goals and what cause conflict in their lives.  Every time they solve one problem, I give them another, bigger one. Of course, they all have that “black moment” where they think all is lost, but they figure things out and their story always works out. I believe in Happily Ever After or Happy for Now.

Susana: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pam: I’m a plantser! LOL! Actually, I start with my character’s profile and then pants, or free write from there until about halfway through the story. Then, I plot the rest. Also, I always know my ending before I sit down to write the first line.

Susana: What are you reading now?

Pam: I love reading Regency romances, except for when I’m actively writing in the genre. I love to read romantic suspense authors like Tammy Hoag and Kathy Reichs. At present, though, I’m reading the first book in an amazing series by Kristen Painter. The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride was so much fun! I can’t wait to finish the rest of the series.

Susana: What author or authors are most influential in your writing?

Pam: My favorite author growing up was Ray Bradbury. I so loved his books and poetry. He’s a Midwesterner like me, so his writing really resonated with me. In addition to his writing novels, he also wrote short stories and poetry. Plus, he wrote the screenplay for the first Moby Dick movie.

Later on, though I’d love authors like John Jakes, JRR Tolkien, and others, it wasn’t until I read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander that I really had the urge to write. I’m nowhere near the kind of writer she is, but I learned to write with emotions through her more than anyone else I’ve read. And, finally Jane Austin and Mary Jo Putney were my go to for Regency stories. Mary Jo’s The Rake and The Reformer is still my favorite modern Regency romance.

Susana: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Pam: All over the place! LOL! Six months ago I retired from nursing to write full time, and it has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. I have two grown daughters, and since I left nursing one of the graduated from college—three thousand miles away, and the other one got married. I also attended my first Romantic Times Convention and went to New York City for last year’s RWA National Conference. We are also doing a major reorganization of our house, so you can imagine what insanity that involves. But, I do write every day whenever and wherever I can.

Susana: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Pam: A writer, of course! After that, I decided to become a nurse. I had a long and wonderful career in nursing, 2 years as a nurse tech, and then 33 years as a registered nurse. I met lots of great people, met and married my husband of 26 years (who is also a nurse), and now have two wonderful daughters, one of which has become a nurse as well. I was always blessed with enough work to pay the bills, raise my girls and eek out time for writing, too.

Susana: What has been your biggest adventure to date?

Pam: That was definitely my first visit to New York City last July for the Romance Writers of America’s National Conference. I love that city!!! For my entire adult life, I have had a huge crush on the Big Apple. No lie. I started watching Law and Order, and fell head over heels crazy about that place. I watched Sex in the City not only for the fabulous stories, but to see NYC! And of course, CSI New York, and the list goes on. L&O the first show was my long time favorite show so I’d always felt a kinship. Then, seeing Times Square for real was just awesome. I so can’t wait to go back.

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About To Catch a Lady

Ashton Blakely, the Duke of Summerton, cannot stop his aunt from meddling in his affairs. So rather than let her select a most disagreeable mate, Ashton decides to fire the first volley by holding a ball as a scheme to bag the ideal wife: a deferential girl eager to produce and raise an heir, leaving Ashton to his beloved hunting lodge and titled friends. But when Ashton falls for the one woman who isn’t willing to play his game, all his plans scatter like buckshot. Suddenly, the chase is on!

Caroline Hawkins has no interest in marriage. In fact, she has devoted her life to defending women from the indignities visited upon them by their husbands. She only chaperones her beautiful younger sister to Summerton’s ball in the hopes of saving her family from bankruptcy. She certainly doesn’t expect to catch the Duke’s eye… nor is she prepared for the heat that rises every time she thinks of his powerful build or his dark, tantalizing gaze. Caroline can run, but she cannot hide—for Ashton has already captured her heart.

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About the Author

An avid reader since age 5, Pam Labud began seriously writing romance fiction in 1996. Published in 2005, Pam’s first mass market romance novel, Spirited Away, was a Romance Writers of America’s Double RITA contest finalist. That book and the one that followed, If You Could Read My Mind, both received 4 star reviews from Romantic Times Magazine. Since, she has been published both ebooks and in print, via online publishers as well as self publishing her own backlist titles. Currently she writes historical Regency romance, western romance, paranormal romance and fantasy.

Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Decades, Part III

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

The early 1830’s marked a low period in Vauxhall’s fortunes. The weather was often poor, causing cancellations of particular events, especially fireworks. There seems to have been a lack of cash for either further investment or spectacular displays.

Among the newer attractions were Michael Boai, the ‘celebrated Chin Melodist’; Joel, the ‘Altonian Siffleur’, who imitated birds; the Singers of the Alps; Don Santiago, the Lilliputian King, only 27 inches high; the great Boa Constrictor and Anaconda. Forty thousand attended on September 8, 1830 when the gardens were free all day to celebrate the coronation of William IV.

In 1832, charity events, flower shows, and other special events were held as a way of increasing income.  “Many of these events were run under the leadership of aristocratic or even royal patrons and attracted wealthy visitors.” These included a Ladies Bazaar and Fete Champetre in aid of the Royal Dispensary for Diseases of the Ear; a Fancy Fair sponsored by the Duchess of Kent for the cause of restoring the Lady Chapel at St. Saviour’s Church, Southwark; a fete for the abolition of slavery (1834), and the ‘Superb Gala for the benefit of the Distressed Poles’.

Ballooning

Balloon ascents had been taking place at Vauxhall since 1802, but it wasn’t until the 1820’s and Charles Green that regular balloon ascents and rides were held, generating much-needed income to keep the gardens a viable enterprise.

Green’s first flight was from Green Park on 19 July 1821 in honor of William IV’s coronation. Green’s balloons were larger because he used coal gas instead of hydrogen, which was easier and safer to inflate, as well as cheaper and less harmful to the silk canopy.  Green’s

first flights from Vauxhall took place in July 1826. These were the first ever night ascents in Britain and were the climax of the firework displays. The aeronaut could be observed launching rockets and other incendiary devices from the car of the balloon beneath the main canopy.

Not only was Green a serious scientist, but also a skilled showman, which was a winning combination for Vauxhall. “In 1832 he and a ‘scientific gentleman’ went up at 6 p.m. To measure air pressures and carry out other experiments with barometers.”

Balloon ascents were the main reason for daytime opening. For the afternoon openings, Green staged balloon races with his brother and other family members, also giving rides to members of the public. Dickens went to see the spectacle and left a vivid description:

So we retraced our steps to the firework-ground, and mingled with the little crowd of people who were contemplating Mr. Green.

Some half-dozen men were restraining the impetuosity of one of the balloons, which was completely filled, and had the car already attached; and as rumors had gone abroad that a Lord was ‘going up’, the crowd were more than usually anxious and talkative. […] Just at this moment all eyes were directed to the preparations which were being made for starting. The car was attached to the second balloon, the two were brought pretty close together, and a military band commenced playing, with a zeal and fervor which would render the most timid man in existence but too happy to accept any means of quitting that particular spot on earth on which they were stationed. Then Mr. Green, sen., and his noble companion entered one car, and Mr. Green, jun., and his companion the other; and then the balloons went up, and the aerial travelers stood up, and the crowd outside roared with delight, and the two gentlemen who had never ascended before, tried to wave their flags, as if they were not nervous, but held on very fast all the while.

The Royal Vauxhall balloon

The proprietors of the gardens financed part of this balloon, which was intended by Green to be three times bigger than any previous gas ballon.

Measuring 150 feet in circumference and 80 feet high when inflated, it consisted of 2000 yards of raw Italian skill, dyed crimson and white and made up by Mssrs Soper of Spitalfields. Alternate 90-foot lengths were then stitched and glued together, producing a striking striped effect. The whole surface was coated in a varnish devised by Green himself and encased in a net of ropes. The car… was made of wickerwork, oblong in shape, with a bench seat all round the inside. On the exterior there were large gilded eagles at either end, and the sides were draped with purple and crimson velvet, richly embroidered. The cost of the whole machine was put at £2100, but since members of the public were charged for flights at the rate of £21 for gentlemen and £10 10s for ladies, this was soon recouped… Despite the cost, the public demand for flights was insatiable, as Benjamin Disraeli commented in 1837: ‘There is no news today: everything is rather flat and the room is thin as the world have gone to see the monster balloon rise from Vauxhall.

The Great Balloon of Nassau

(c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

John Hollins, A Consultation prior to the Aerial Voyage to Weilburgh, oil on canvas, 1836. Green is seated on the right, discussing the voyage with Robert Holland; between them stands Thomas Monck Mason, while the group by the window comprises (left to right) Walter Prideaux, Hollins himself and Sir William Melbourne James. The balloon is visible in the gardens behind them. (c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

On 7 November 1836—without any prior notice—Thomas Monck Mason, Robert Holland, and Green took off in an attempt at a long-distance record. Financed by Holland, the provisions included 40 pounds of ham, beef and tongue, 45 pounds of fowls, as well as preserves, sugar, bread, and biscuits—not to mention two gallons each of sherry, port and brandy, and a device for heating coffee using quicklime.

Carried along on a north-westerly breeze, they passed Canterbury at 4 p.m., dropping a message for the mayor by parachute. Night fell after their Channel crossing between Dover and Calais so they sat down to a substantial supper.… Once it was light Green began seeking a landing site and brought the balloon safely to earth at 7:30 a.m., near the town of Wilbur in the Duchy of Nassau. The aeronauts had flown 480 miles in eighteen hours, easily setting the world record for the longest balloon flight.

More Balloons

Balloons with parachutes had been done since the 1790’s, and Robert Cocking developed a theory of aerodynamics that unfortunately led to his death. Besides the fact that his theory was faulty, the parachute was far too large and heavy. Green and others tried to dissuade him, but he was adamant, and when the parachute was detached from the balloon, it sunk like a stone, and Cocking died within ten minutes of landing from a serious head wound. Vauxhall held a benefit night for Cocking’s widow and Queen Victoria sponsored a public subscription to raise funds for her as well.

cocking's parachute

The tragedy of Cocking’s upside-down parachute

The plan for a lion tamer and a Bengali tiger to ascend never came to fruition, banned by the magistrate. “In 1850 Green went up on horseback, with his unfortunate mount locked onto a wooden platform by its hooves.

Handbill advertising Green's ascent on horseback, 31 July 1850 (Museum of London, A8955). This appears to be a complimentary ticket issued by Green himself. The flight did take place, with the horse firmly locked in place by the hooves.

Handbill advertising Green’s ascent on horseback, 31 July 1850 (Museum of London, A8955). This appears to be a complimentary ticket issued by Green himself. The flight did take place, with the horse firmly locked in place by the hooves.

George Cruikshank’s Comic Almanac for 1851

Would you want to have lived near Vauxhall with all these stunts taking place? The following piece purports to be from a disgruntled local resident:

Sir, I reside near a place of popular amusement ‘al fresco’. I am of a cheerful though quiet disposition, and should be perfectly happy but for one circumstance. During the entire summer season I am in a continual state of terror from balloons.

It was in my front garden that the Ourang-outrang descended in a parachute in 1836. I then said nothing of the annoyance caused by the mob rushing into my lawn and scrambling for fragments of the machine, of the destruction effected among my crockery by the animal attempting to escape through my scullery, nor of the alarm which his sudden appearance in the Dining room excited in the bosoms of myself and my family. I thought the balloon mania had reached its highest pitch—no such thing, Sir. After that came the Nassau Balloon which used to take a dozen people up at once exactly over my house, about once a week; till a terrible dream haunted me of seeing the whole party discharged into my premises.

Then Balloons with fireworks, waking me up every other night, and gazing at one of which, out of a window, I received a sudden blow in the eye from a firework case, descending fifteen hundred feet perpendicularly. My next alarm was occasioned by a hamper of champagne, which during a ‘perilous descent’, when a valve gave way, some intrepid aeronaut pitched through my roof at midnight.

Now folks go up on horseback. Can I walk at ease in my garden and know that the veteran Green is three miles above me, performing equestrian feats in the air? Pray, Sir, exert your influence in my behalf, or we shall shortly hear of a ‘Terrific Ascent in a cab,’ to be eclipsed by ‘First ascent of the Monster Balloon, taking up the Pimlico Omnibus.’.

not in my backyard

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

Andrea K. Stein: Horizons East (Giveaway)

How My Characters Found Me

by Andrea K. Stein

Readers often ask me how I find and develop characters. I don’t – they find me. And the most amazing part is they come with their own swashbuckling tales.

My hero in Fortune’s Horizon, the first in my series of romance on the high seas, came to me while I was delivering yachts out of Charleston Harbor. One night over beers with a Charlestonian sailor at City Marina, I heard an incredible story about blockade-runners during the Civil War.

He said they would anchor near the very bar where we sat, which back then was part of a cotton warehouse. After running goods, including supplies for the Confederate Army, through the Union blockade, they would cram their sleek ships with bales of cotton for the run back out.

Heading back to Nassau, or Bermuda, they would off-load cotton to ships bound for England. Huge syndicates owned many of the blockade running steamships and would re-stock them with goods and coal to fuel their engines.

But why take all that risk? Each run in and out of ports in the South could net $1 million in 1860s money. That would be about $63 million in today’s dollars.

The British government never publicly supported the Confederate cause, but tacitly allowed the syndicates to operate in England where many of the ships were built, as well as in waters controlled by the Royal Navy.

After some research on my end as well as in London, where my British delivery captain boss went to the Admiralty to do some digging, we came up with the perfect hero for my series. Captain Jack Roberts was a British post captain on half pay from the Royal Navy. Since England was not at war, she laid off approximately 210 of her 250 post captains.

Mostly battled seasoned, a good number of those men ran the Southern blockade making fortunes for the syndicates as well as themselves, if they were enterprising, and lucky.

The most interesting thing about Captain Roberts is he ran the blockade under an assumed name, because he was the third son of an English earl, and he didn’t want to embarrass his family. So, as a romantic hero, this character kept getting better and better.

In the first entry in the series, he tangles with a woman spy who sneaks aboard his ship and infuriates him. Of course, he marries her.

For the sequel, I found another spiral of adventures Captain Roberts lived through as an adviser to the Turkish Navy. You have to love a character that writes his memoirs near the end of his life (dictated to a much younger wife) and then publishes them in a book now available through Google Books.

My sequel needed a romantic subplot, though, in addition to the further adventures of Jack and his wife, Lillie.

On a hunch, I searched Debrett’s, and lo and behold, up popped Miles, Jack’s younger brother. He joined the Bombay Fusiliers in the mid-1800s, about the time the British government took over military command from the East India Company. And, believe it or not, he was an incurable romantic, according to a quirky newspaper report found online.

I hope these wonderful people we call characters keep coming to me and whispering in my ear. My part is easy. All I have to do is listen. But if I drag my feet, they do keep me up nights with their complaints.

How about you? Do you enjoy historicals more knowing the characters have a bit of a foot in actual events? One commenter will receive a free ebook of Fortune’s Horizon in choice of format.

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About Horizons East

In 1867, adventuress Lillie Coulbourne-Roberts is desperate. Her husband Captain Jack Roberts is missing. Now a commander in the Turkish Navy, he has to meet with His Majesty the Sultan within the week. When her stuffy brother-in-law, Miles, arrives, she dragoons him into service. On leave from military service in India, he gets claustrophobic at the thought of going undercover with his precocious four-year-old nephew and the boy’s nanny who loathes him.

Horizons East, sequel to Fortune’s Horizon, is now on preorder on Amazon at $2.99 until February 10, 2016.

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Amazon

Until February 10, the first entry in the series, Fortune’s Horizon will be available at 99¢.

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About the Author

A native Ohioan, Andrea K. Stein is the daughter of a trucker and an artist. She grew up a scribbler. The stories just spilled out. A newspaper professional and electronic print consultant for thirty years, she finally ran away to sea for three years. Now she writes high seas romance while tucked away in the Rocky Mountains at 10,000 feet.

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