Archive | April 2013

Shereen Vedam: A Beastly Scandal + Giveaway

Today my guest is Shereen Vedam, author of A Beastly Scandal, a sweet Regency romance. Shereen is giving away a free ebook of A Beastly Scandal to one lucky commenter.

Welcome to Susana’s Parlour, Shereen!

 shereenfaceandscarfThank you for having me here, Susana!

What inspired you to write this story, Shereen?

In coming up with a concept for my first Regency novel, I decided to do one based on a fairy tale. One of my favorite fairytales is Beauty and the Beast so it was easy to dream up an isolated mansion, a brooding alienated hero and a good-hearted heroine, from which evolved A Beastly Scandal.

How long did it take you to write?

I was terrified I would fail to do this wonderful genre justice.  It took me a year to write the book, and several months after that to edit.  Then, although it was picked as a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart® contest, the book wasn’t published.  By the time fairytales became popular enough for this story to catch a publisher’s interest, I had finished six other Regencies and able to apply all that I had learned into this book’s final edits. It also helped to have a great editor to work with. Thanks to her guidance, I learned so much about adding tension at the end of scenes, being clearer about a character’s thoughts and feelings and adding specificity to my descriptions.

What is your favorite thing about writing?

I used to love writing the first draft.  Now I love the editing process even more. Editing gives me the opportunity to add in layers and polish.  A bit like dressing up for a ball.  It’s not enough to simply put on a pretty gown.  We need to choose the right jewelry, apply makeup skillfully and dress our hair in a pleasing style, never mind choosing the perfect pair of shoes to match the gown.  All these extra touches are what allow us to wear that pretty gown with confidence. It’s the same when it comes to getting a novel ready for the public eye. The world building has to be right, then we need to strip away excess words and ensure the historical detail is correct. I believe editing is what helps to ensure a book become an enjoyable experience for a reader.

What is your least favorite thing about writing?

The need to hold down a full-time job in order to pay for the privilege of being able to write in my spare time.

Tell us something about A Beastly Scandal that is NOT in the blurb?

A game this couple plays is one of my favorite parts of the book. Showed me that sometimes when you win, you’re actually losing, and when you think you’re losing, you might actually be winning.

Are you working on something at present that you would like to tell us about?

My next three fairytale-inspired Regency romances to be released by ImaJinn Books starts of a new series called The Rue Alliance:

  • A Devilish Slumber (inspired by Sleeping Beauty)
  • A Scorching Dilemma (inspired by Cinderella)
  • A Perfect Curse (inspired by Snow White).

I find that Regencies often incorporate elements of fairytales. For instance, I’ve always thought that Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has a certain flavor of Beauty and the Beast. Can you think of any others?

Scandal_200View the Book Trailer

About A Beastly Scandal

A BELLE OF THE BALL…

Lady Annabelle Marchant was a belle of the ball in London until she used her psychical senses to save a man’s life. She failed miserably, leaving him dead and her disgraced. All she wants now is a chance to comfort his widow by cleansing the woman’s home of her husband’s restless spirit. But the widow’s son, the beastly Lord of the Manor, accuses her of coming to the wilds of Cheshire to snag him as a husband. Thoroughly disgusted, she is bent on proving him wrong.

…BECOMES PERSONA NON-GRATA…

Lord Rufus Marlesbury, the Earl of Terrance, is suspected of murdering his father. He has come home to clear his name by finding the real killer before the new year or the king has promised that Rufus will be called in front of the House of Lords to answer for the crime. He does not have time to waste fending off a marriage-minded miss who has inveigled an invitation to his home by playing on his grief-stricken mother’s worst fears.

…WHEN A MURDERER IS ON THE RAMPAGE

With an unruly manor ghost terrorizing the occupants and corpses piling up in the village, Belle must find a way to see the man beneath the beast and Rufus must learn to believe in the love of a woman who has no reason to trust him. Only by working together can they stop a vengeful ghost before it torments the guests or before the killer strikes again.

Excerpt

Lord Terrance may have forbidden her from coming to his manor house, but she was determined to clear his country home of its resident ghost.

“That is a desolate looking house, is it not?” Winfield said. “I would have it torn down and rebuilt in a more flattering style, but Terrance seems fond of this monstrosity. So what brings you so far north, my lady?”

She faced the gentleman. “I have come for a visit with Lady Terrance. She is my grandfather’s friend.”

“I had heard the countess still wore dark colors.”

Before she could respond, a loud crack sounded. She sensed danger stab from above. With a shouted warning, she pulled Mr. Winfield out of harm’s way just as an icicle crashed and shattered where they had stood. She protected her face as splinters flew in all directions.

Mendal screamed. The owl fluttered its one good wing and screeched. The dog barked ferociously.

Mr. MacBride spoke first, his voice quivering and eyes wide with terror. “It is an omen, ah tell ye.”

“He is right,” Mendal said, sounding unusually timorous as she crossed herself. “We should leave. Bad luck comes from going where we are not wanted.”

The front doors opened then, and a footman descended. Immediately, the dog raced up the stairs and inside.

“Dog!” Belle called out in alarm. The animal might wreck the place. This was not how she had hoped to introduce herself to the countess.

An older woman, dressed in black, moved to the open doorway. Belle recognized her from a drawing her grandfather had shown her. This was Lady Terrance. She gave off waves of fear as she looked toward the roofline.

Belle’s worries drowned beneath the lady’s emotional assault, leaving her head pounding with a headache. Through that onslaught, Belle’s purpose became crystal clear. This is why she had come here. Lady Terrance needed her.

About the Author

Shereen Vedam was born on a tiny paradise island called Ceylon, later renamed Sri Lanka. Since then she arrived in Canada and moved across the provinces until she landed in British Columbia where she found a new paradise all her own, filled with people and pets and plants (including an awesome giant Weeping Sequoia) that nurture her love of reading, writing and dreaming.

Website: www.shereenvedam.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShereenVedam

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/shereenvedam/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShereenVedam

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3415603.Shereen_Vedam

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Shereen-Vedam/e/B005A53Q10/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1366498580&sr=1-1

What Makes a Tortured Hero?

 What Makes a Tortured Hero?

When I think of a tortured hero, I think of Outlander’s Jamie Fraser, who had to let Claire return to the 20th century to save her life and that of their baby, and then endured 20 years without her, knowing that she was living with her 20th century husband and he’d never see her again, or their child. (Of course, Claire was equally tortured, and her 20th century husband as well, but they had Brianna, while Jamie was all alone (well, mostly anyway).

????????????????????????????????????????In Treasuring Theresa, Damian tells himself he’s not at all interested in a country bumpkin like Cousin Theresa, but why does it bother him to think that she’s still in love with Reese Bromfield, the man she always expected to marry?

In Cherishing Charlotte, my current WIP, Colin discovers that his past family squabbles are not nearly so torturous as falling in love with his employer’s granddaughter who is fated to marry a worthless fribble in order to save her family from penury.

In the as-yet-untitled next project, Gabriel, having suffered through a previous marriage to a lunatic, finally finds a woman he wishes to share his life with, but then discovers she has deceived him. He should steer clear of her. Hasn’t he learned his lesson?

One thing all of these “tortured heroes” has in common is their willingness to risk everything to protect the women they love. Jamie has to allow Claire and the baby leave him forever. Damian has to prove his worth to win Lady Theresa’s heart. Colin must allow Charlotte to marry her cousin because he himself cannot save her family. And Gabriel has to come to an understanding that the circumstances of Isabelle’s past gave her no option but to do what she did, and that a life with her is worth fighting for.

Who is your favorite tortured hero? What makes him a tortured hero, in your opinion?

Treasuring Theresa, a 45-page Regency short story, is available now at Ellora’s Cave, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All-Romance eBooks, Sony, Google Books, and Bookstrand.

Click here to find one of my favorite scenes. (The official excerpt is here.)

Note that all Ellora’s Cave books are 50% off on All-Romance eBooks for the month of April!

More information about Cherishing Charlotte, Susana’s current WIP, is available here.

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!

georgeiiiSusana: [to the Reader]: Lady Pendleton’s opinions on George III tend to be diametrically opposed to mine, which she attributes to my “ignorance due to indoctrination by history books written by misguided wretches attempting to justify the dreadful bloodbath caused by the radical colonists.”

It seems doubtful that we will ever come to agreement on that score—too many years of July 4th picnics and fireworks and, pledging allegiance to the flag, and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner”—but I have begun to see George III in a more sympathetic light. More than 200 years have passed and since my trip to England last year, I have come to realize that the English do not see him as the tyrant “we” do (and I say “we” even though at least some of my ancestors still lived in England during that time), and most never did.

And I have to say—in spite of all the patriotism instilled in me over decades—I am intrigued with the idea of growing up speaking with a British accent. (Can I be deported for saying that?)

Lady P: You must admit that the American accent sounds decidedly low class, Susana. Perhaps I could give you lessons in enunciating. Much like that Henry Higgins did to Eliza in that film we saw the other evening. You would never pass for upper class in society, of course, but it would be a definite improvement.

Susana: I thank you for offering, Lady P, but I’ll stick with the lazy American drawl for now. Perhaps some other time.

Lady P: Very well. Shall we discuss His Royal Highness King George III for your readers? Where shall I start?

Susana: At the beginning would be best. Where did you meet him?

Lady P: I was too young to attend his wedding to Queen Charlotte, but I do recall my mother bringing home a flower—was it a camellia or a rose?—but it was pink and she put it in one of the heaviest books in the library for pressing. I remember feeling very sad that she had to destroy such a pretty posy in order to preserve it. I wonder what happened to it? I believe my brother Henry inherited all the books in the library, so perhaps it’s still there. He was never one to read or study overmuch.

Susana: But you did meet him at some point?

Lady P: Goodness, yes. During my come-out—my mother was so vexed that the Royal Pair failed to attend my presentation ball—I was presented to Queen Charlotte, as were all of the young debutantes, you know, and I did meet them once or twice that season. After I was married to Lord Pendleton, we met more often. Lord P was in the House of Lords, you know, and we were obliged to attend certain political events.

Susana: What did you think of him?

Lady P: He was a kindly old man, quite stodgy, you understand. As a young girl, I didn’t appreciate that quality in him. One expected the King to be a cut above the rest of society, and he wasn’t at all. I recall complaining to Pendleton about the plainness of the fare at Windsor Castle and why the King could not have a French chef as skilled as ours, and he said the King didn’t appreciate rich food anymore than he did the French. Good, hearty English fare was good enough, he said.

Susana: I hear his marriage was a love-match.

Lady P [snorting in a very unladylike manner]: Romance again, Susana? Americans seem obsessed with it. The King met his betrothed on the day of the wedding. He wasn’t allowed to marry Lady Sarah Lennox when he wished to because she was only the sister of a duke. Royalty must marry royalty, you know. Or at least they did in my time.

Susana: But they did have fifteen children, so the marriage must have been somewhat of a success.

Lady P: Oh indeed, they got on well after that. Queen Charlotte was not well-favored, but she had a very pleasant disposition. She was a perfect wife for a down-to-earth man like the King.

Susana: So what happened to their children? The sons, at least, did not seem to be able to sustain such happy marriages. Look at the Prince Regent, for example. His life was like the antithesis of his father’s.

Lady P: Indeed. The King disliked his oldest son intensely. Frederick was his favorite. Pendleton told me the King often bemoaned the fact that Frederick was not his oldest son. Brought up to be a military man. He was the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, you know, until the scandal.

Susana: The scandal?

Lady P: Apparently he passed on military secrets to his mistress, a sly little hussy by the name of Mary Anne Clarke. She took bribes in exchange for promotions, and although she was the one to blame, it was his indiscretion in telling her such things that caused him to resign in disgrace. [shaking her head sadly] Should have stuck by his long-suffering wife. Frederica was a most amiable woman.

Susana: So even his favorite had feet of clay. What about the others? Wasn’t one of them accused of murder?

Lady P: Ernest, that was. He was an odd sort. Spread all sorts of cruel rumors about his brothers. His valet turned up with his throat cut, and it was whispered that he’d been seduced by his master, who murdered him when the man attempted to blackmail him.

Susana: Oh my. Homosexuals were hung in those days, were they not?

Lady P: Indeed they were. It would have been a massive scandal had that little fact become known. Which is no doubt why the inquest determined that the man committed suicide.

Susana [shuddering]: Who commits suicide by cutting their throat?

Lady P: Exactly. Not to mention that the man was left-handed, and the deed had to have been done with his right hand. [sighing] But I suppose such things must be done to protect the monarchy and the nation.

Susana: Surely among fifteen children there must have been at least one or two who turned out well. What about the daughters?

Lady P: Poor Amelia died in 1810. She was 27 and unmarried, since she had not been allowed to marry the man of her choice, Charles Fitzroy. She was the youngest and the King’s favorite and he was never the same after that. The other girls—well, the oldest, Princess Charlotte was married to the King of Württemburg—remained unmarried and living at home, and dear me, they never dissembled about expressing how they felt about that. Well, they were all rather plain, like their mother, and ran to fat, but they did adore their father, no matter how unstable he become as the years passed.

Susana: The Prince of Wales was made Regent because of his illness, which has been called dementia. Did you ever see him in that state, or know someone who did?

Lady P: I did not, of course, since he was kept in seclusion as soon as he began to exhibit symptoms. But Pendleton did, on one occasion, when he was attending the King on parliamentary business. [clucking her tongue]. He began speaking in shrill tones, so quickly that he could not be easily understood, calling for “the woman he loved,” a certain Lady Pembroke who served at court. His eyes bulged and he dropped his breeches to reveal his backside. Pendleton was horrified when I nearly fell over laughing when he described it. He said it was a horrifying experience.

Susana: The King of England mooned your husband? Heavens, what a sight that must have been! [grinning broadly]

Lady P: Harrumph! It was, rather. And yet I did feel very sorry for him. He was a fine king and deserved much better than to be afflicted by such an undignified malady. And then to have his sons to be such bounders, and one of his daughters to bear an illegitimate child… It is almost a blessing that such distressing news was kept from him.

Susana [sighing]: My belief in fairytale royal marriages died a tragic death after what happened with Princess Diana. Although I can’t help hoping that Prince William and Kate will end up happily.

Lady P: They do seem a sensible pair, and very well-matched, like my nephew Damian and his wife Theresa. Have I told you Theresa is expecting again?

mi_hacienda_edited-1Susana: You’ve mentioned it a few times. What do you think about Subway for dinner?

Lady P: What was that Spanish place we went to last week? I rather fancy one of those—what do you call them—burros?

Susana: Burritos, Lady P. And it was Mexican, not Spanish. Mi Hacienda, on Glanzman Street. They offer salsa lessons on Wednesday nights. What do you say we paint the town while we’re at it.

Lady P: A burrito will do, Susana. And perhaps some of those savory chips. Never had anything like them before. Do you suppose I can take the recipe back with me for my own cook to prepare?

Susana [shaking her head]: Sorry, Lady P. We’ve had this discussion before. Remember the Prime Directive?

As always, please do comment if you have any questions you’d like to ask Lady P about the late Georgian/Regency era. She does love to chat!

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”

The Dress: Episode 2 + Giveaway

This post is part of a mini-series about the experiences of my mother and me in creating a Regency gown for the Romantic Times Convention on May 1-5, 2013 in Kansas City. You can find Episode 1, where we shopped for fabric and struggled with cutting out the dress pieces here.

DSCN0032I tried the dress on and it fits!!!

It’s not finished yet. The fastening at the back remains to be done, plus the hem and lots of trim. But it does look like a dress now, and it does look pretty good on me, if I do say myself!

My mom’s a genius!

However, we had a bit of a setback a week ago when my uncle died unexpectedly and we all had to fly north for the funeral. It was cold and nasty and, well, sad, because we had to say goodbye to Uncle Bob, but it was good to see friends and family we haven’t seen for years.

We still have a couple of weeks left, though, before I have to take off for Kansas City, and it’s quite likely we’ll have the blue satin coat done too, by that time. She’s already got the pieces for the gown and the lining cut out, as well as the organdy ruffle at the collar and the sleeve stays. We think this will go faster than the gown, since she’s already worked out the fit issues. But it is still rather a complicated design and she’s something of a perfectionist, so she’ll be putting in a lot of hours. That worries me a little bit, because I don’t want her to wear herself out. I try to help with lunch and errands and Dad, but I am seriously going to owe her after this. Big time.

Mom_sewing

Mom_cutting2

    Mom_fabric

She also just had her 75th birthday on April 15th and wouldn’t let us buy her anything. Of course, I did give her a Treasuring Theresa necklace (see below), but I’m going to have do something really nice for her for Mother’s Day this year. Hmm. What can you give someone who doesn’t want you to “waste” money on her?

TT_necklace_keychain

Please comment with any suggestions you may have of how I can show my appreciation to Mom for her commitment to this massive project. One random commenter will receive a Treasuring Theresa keychain (see above), with Damian on one side and Theresa on the other).

Letitia_gown_bonnet6P.S. Here’s my sister Gloria (aka Letitia, Lady Beauchamp) in the Regency gown she had made from an artisan on Etsy recently (and the hat our mother made). I offered to take her with me to the RT Convention as my lady’s maid (trust me, somebody is going to have to help me in and out of this gown), but she said she can’t leave her cat that long. A cat? Really? Hmm. At least I know where I stand!

Stand by for further reports on the progress with “The Dress.” The deadline approaches, but I have perfect confidence in my mother’s abilities.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: Mom is NOT interested in taking this up as a profession or a hobby. Being retired is in itself very time-consuming. Once is enough for her…and I’m the lucky one!

Meg Mims: Traveling the Transcontinental Railroad + Giveaway

Meg is offering a free digital copy of Double or Nothing for one lucky reader and I’m throwing in a $10 Amazon gift card for another. To enter: leave a comment (and your email address) on this blog entry and then click here to enter the Rafflecopter. The winner will be chosen and notified on April 19th. Good luck!

I love reading historical fiction. I love researching them even more… and the transcontinental railroad is a favorite topic because the first book in my Double Series is a twist of True Grit and Murder on the Orient Express. Double Crossing won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel, and my new release, Double or Nothing, is the sequel. Book two is not set on a train, but incorporates some further information about the New York to San Francisco railroad.

So let’s talk trains! Most people take for granted the highways of today. Over 150 years ago, when gold was first discovered in California, men hoping to get rich traveled to San Francisco via steamships which navigated through the dangerous Panama River and jungle region in Central America. Settlers heading west chose stage coaches, river boats, Conestoga wagons, oxen or horses, which dictated how far one could go—and such trips would often take many months due to weather, Indians and no real roads.

After the ‘war of Rebellion,’ the Union Pacific began laying tracks west from Omaha. They had their own problems with marauding Indians, the Rocky mountains and keeping up the pace (although I’m not certain the AMC series Hell on Wheels is all that accurate). The Central Pacific had far greater obstacles and dangers. Relentless winter storms in the Sierra Nevada mountains stalled the work. Snow sheds were fashioned to keep progress going, and thank goodness for nitroglycerin and the Chinese laborers who gave their lives to build that route. The five-mile-long Summit Tunnel in the Sierra Nevada took 15 months, in fact, to finish. The “race” between the two companies ended at Promontory Point in Utah in May of 1869.

After the Golden Spike ceremony that joined the two lines, travelers could begin in New York and end up in Sacramento within a week or 10 days in good weather. But travel wasn’t easy. The Pullman Palace sleeping cars proved expensive for the average traveler, but were not luxurious by any standard. Station houses with 30-minute meal stops gave way to dining cars within the decade. Indians who had often sabotaged the Union Pacific crews withdrew further north to fight at the Little Big Horn—and eventual defeat after that short-lived victory by the turn of the century. The Western Pacific railroad was also built from Sacramento via Stockton and San Jose to get as close to San Francisco as possible, although many people took a spur railroad to Vallejo and then a ferry across the Bay. Within 25 years, the majority of fruit shipped to the East Coast from California via refrigerated freight cars.

The transcontinental railroad proved to be the biggest fuel for American western expansion. My Double series gives the reader that sense of the west, of adventure and mystery, a touch of romance, and a bit of inspiration as well. Double Crossing is a twist of True Grit and Murder on the Orient Express, while Double or Nothing continues the adventures of Lily and Ace with a twist on The Fugitive.

DOUBLE CROSSING—BOOK 1

Endorsed Double Crossing 500 x 750A murder arranged as a suicide…a missing deed…and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.

August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father’s murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed — both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey.

As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust—the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her … for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?

Click here to see the BOOK VIDEO

DoubleorNothing 500x750 (3)DOUBLE OR NOTHING—BOOK 2

A mysterious explosion. A man framed for murder. A strong woman determined to prove his innocence.

October, 1869: Lily Granville, heiress to a considerable fortune, rebels against her uncle’s strict rules. Ace Diamond, determined to win Lily, invests in a dynamite factory but his success fails to impress her guardian. An explosion in San Francisco, mere hours before Lily elopes with Ace to avoid a forced marriage, sets off a chain of consequences.

When Ace is framed for murder before their wedding night, Lily must find proof to save him from a hangman’s noose. Will she become a widow before a true wife?

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE BOOK VIDEO!

About the Author

Meg in ViennaClocks and time play a big part in any late bloomer’s life. And time plays a vital part in every mystery.

Meg Mims is an award-winning author and artist. She writes blended genres – historical, western, adventure, romance, suspense and mystery. Her first book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel from Western Writers of America and  was named a Finalist in the Best Books of 2012 from USA Book News for Fiction: Western.  Double or Nothing is the sequel. Meg has also written two contemporary romance novellas,The Key to Love and Santa Paws — which reached the Amazon Kindle Bestseller list.

Excerpt 

DOUBLE CROSSING — Chapter One

I burst into the house. Keeping the flimsy telegram envelope, I dumped half a dozen packages into the maid’s waiting arms. “Where’s Father? I need to speak to him.”

“He’s in the library, Miss Lily. With Mr. Todaro.”

Oh, bother. I didn’t have time to deal with Emil Todaro, my father’s lawyer. He was the last person I wanted to see—but that couldn’t be helped. Thanking Etta, I raced down the hall. Father turned from his roll-top desk, spectacles perched on his thin nose and hands full of rustling papers. Todaro rose from an armchair with a courteous bow. His silver waistcoat buttons strained over his belly and his balding head shone in the sunlight. I forced myself to nod in his direction and then planted a quick kiss on Father’s leathery cheek. The familiar scents of pipe tobacco and bay rum soothed my nervous energy.

“I didn’t expect you back so early, Lily. What is it?”

With an uneasy glance at Todaro, I slipped him the envelope. “The telegraph messenger boy caught me on my way home.” My voice dropped. “It’s from Uncle Harrison.”

Father poked up his wire rims while he pored over the brief message. His shoulders slumped. “I’ll speak plainly, Lily, because Mr. Todaro and I were discussing this earlier. My brother sent word that George Hearst intends to claim the Early Bird mine in a Sacramento court. Harrison believes his business partner never filed the deed. He needs to prove our ownership.”

“Hearst holds an interest in the Comstock Lode, Colonel.” Todaro had perked up, his long knobby fingers forming a steeple. The lawyer resembled an amphibian, along with his deep croak of a voice. “His lawyers are just as ambitious and ruthless in court.”

Father peered over his spectacles. “Yes, but I have the original deed. I didn’t plan to visit California until next month, so we’ll have to move up our trip.”

“Oh!” I clasped my hands, a thrill racing through me. “I’m dying to visit all the shops out there, especially in San Francisco. When do we leave?”

“We? I meant myself and Mr. Todaro.”

I stared at the lawyer, who didn’t conceal a sly smirk. “You cannot leave me behind, Father. I promised to visit Uncle Harrison, and what if I decide to go to China?”

“Lily, I refuse to discuss the matter. This trip is anything but a lark.”

“It’s a grueling two thousand miles on the railroad, Miss Granville. Conditions out west are far too dangerous for a young lady,” Todaro said. “Even with an escort.”

“The new transcontinental line has been operating all summer. Plenty of women have traveled to California. I’ve read the newspaper reports.”

“I’m afraid the Union and Central Pacific cars are not as luxurious as the reports say. You have no idea. The way stations are abominable, for one thing.”

I flashed a smile at him. “I’m ready for adventure. That’s why I’ve considered joining the missionary team with Mr. Mason.”

Father scowled. “You are not leaving Evanston until I give my approval.”

“You mean until you dissuade me from ‘such a ridiculous notion.’”

“Need I remind you of the fourth commandment, Lily?”

“No, Father. We’ll discuss this later.”

My face flushed hot. Annoyed by being reprimanded in front of Todaro, I ignored the rest of the conversation. I’d always wanted to see the open prairie and perhaps a buffalo herd chased by Indians, the majestic Rocky Mountains and California. California, with its mining camps, lush green meadows and warm sunshine, the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco that had to be as exhilarating as downtown Chicago. I’d pored over the grainy pen-and-ink drawings in the Chicago Times. Uncle Harrison, who’d gone west several years ago to make a fortune and succeeded, for the most part, would welcome me with open arms. I plopped down on an armchair and fingered the ridges of the brass floor lamp beside me. Somehow I needed to persuade Father to allow me to tag along on this trip.

Contacts

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Guest Author Eva Scott and The Last Gladiatrix

Today my guest is Eva Scott, who recently joined a Facebook group called History Lovers, which was originally formed by several of us who were teammates in Savvy Authors NANO Smackdown with Entangled Editors last fall. We’re all history lovers, of course, and we write historical romance, although with quite diverse settings. 

Welcome to Susana’s Parlour, Eva!

eva scottThanks, Susana. It’s great to be here! I’d like to begin by talking about the role of women in ancient Rome.

While my novel The Last Gladiatrix is set in Rome my heroine is not actually Roman.  Xanthe is a Sarmatian, the people who are thought to be the source of the Amazon legend.  Sarmatian women fought side by side with their men in times of war, being equally as skilled in archery as in cooking up a mean pot of lamb stew for afterwards.  Their lives revolved around horses and many Sarmatians were bow-legged as a result of the custom of putting children of both sexes on horseback before they could walk.  The Sarmatians were a nomadic people travelling with the seasons, tending their flocks of sheep and goat not unlike their ‘cousins’ the Scythians or the Alans.

Roman women, however, were not quite as free.  A Roman woman was controlled by her father even after she married.  Her father could order her divorce if he so choose—even if the couple in question didn’t agree!  Once her father died she didn’t automatically pass into the authority of her husband.  If her father appointed a tutor before his death then that man would become her legal guardian.   Yet there was a way out from under the yoke.  If a free-born woman had three legitimate children, and her father was dead, she was rewarded the right to legal and economic independence from her tutor.

It wasn’t all gloom and doom for Roman women.  In the ideal Roman family a husband and wife shared a partnership and made important decisions together.  Not unlike our family model of today.  And there is a lot of historical evidence for the important role mothers played in their son’s life—for better or for worse.  Women often manoeuvred for power in the back rooms and salons of Roman society.  A powerful man often had a strong, clever woman helping behind the scenes.  And the older a woman became the more weight her opinion carried and the more respect she earned. I don’t know about you but I do like the sound of that!

Gladiatrix_Final (427x640)About The Last Gladiatrix

Captured and enslaved by a Roman legion, Xanthe never expects to end up training for the Coliseum floor, but every night after the day’s march, she is put through her paces by a Roman solider who challenges her, tests her, and excites her.

Titus is drawn to Xanthe, her fire and her spirit, so he breaks one of his rules and brings notice on himself, offering to train her as a gladiatrix to spare her a courtesan’s role. But training her, working with her, soon becomes too much. Titus knows the penalty for taking property that does not belong to him, but how long can he resist?

Excerpt

The flash of her green eyes in the candlelight reminded Titus of the verdant wild forests of Northern Italy, which they had recently left. He rubbed a smear of dirt from her cheek with his thumb, and then taking her hand, he raised Xanthe up to stand. With deliberate, slow movements he unfastened her tunic, letting it fall from her shoulders to pool on the ground at her feet.

Xanthe made no move to stop him, their eyes locked, her fear and trust clear to see. He slid his fingers beneath the waist of her leggings and tugged them down over her hips, leaving her naked, standing there before him.

Titus took a sponge and dipped it into a bowl of warm water, letting it soak before applying it to Xanthe’s flesh. He washed her with firm yet gentle strokes, and as the water ran over her skin it dripped deliciously from her breasts. The centurion bent his head and licked at a droplet, pleased to feel her shudder in response. Her nipple hardened, inviting him to explore further. He needed no invitation. Xanthe had to summon all her self-discipline to stand still while Titus explored the curves of her body. His touch turned her core to molten fire; she could barely contain her need.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Gladiatrix-ebook/dp/B00BSKJF98/

http://www.escapepublishing.com.au/products/tag/historical

About the Author

I live on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland Australia with my fabulous husband and gorgeous little boy. When I’m not writing romance you can find me out on the water kayaking, fishing or swimming. When on dry land it’s all about the shoes and the coffee.

http://www.evascottromance.com/

http://www.facebook.com/eva.scottromancewriter

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Romancing-The-Romans/476218929112324?ref=hl#!/pages/Romancing-The-Romans/476218929112324

http://www.twitter.com/EvaScottWriter

The Dress: Episode 1

The idea of wearing a Regency gown to the Romantic Times Book Convention (as well as book signings and other events) originated with my friend Ellen, who has lots of experience promoting her teacher books in conference exhibit halls. She said I should stand in front of the table, not behind it, wearing a period gown, and have a list of questions about the Regency period to ask in exchange for prizes. Wow, that sounded like a lot of fun to me, so I started looking around for gowns.

regencypatternI found a pattern on etsy.com and ordered it (have since found you can get it at Jo-Ann’s in the Butterick catalog), and my mom, who is a superb seamstress, offered to make it for me. (Actually, it’s a gown and coat both.) I don’t think at the time she realized how complicated it was going to get, but she is a woman of her word and determined to see it through.

The first obstacle was shopping for materials. For one thing, fabric has changed a great deal in 200 years. While there are many beautiful fabrics today, many with sparkly threads and sequins that would look great on me, we had to bypass those and look closer to find fabrics that might at least resemble a Regency-era fabric. It was a painstaking process, because as soon as we found something we thought would be perfect, we’d discover there wasn’t enough fabric on the bolt, which turned out to be a constant problem. For some reason, fabric manufacturers have started putting less fabric on the bolts, so unless you find a brand new bolt, chances are there won’t be enough fabric for a long gown on it. Rats! We had this problem with the lining fabrics as well as the gown and coat, and had to find another Jo-Ann’s Fabrics in the next town to get enough. And buy a yard or two extra to make sure we had enough for the extra-long skirt pieces.

Eventually, we ended up with an off-white pintuck taffeta for the gown and a blue satin for the coat.

fabric2smBut that wasn’t the end, because these garments require lots of decorative trim. The coat has an organdy trim at the neckline, but the clerk at the fabric store had never heard of organdy! But we found something that seemed like organdy that will work. Then we needed several kinds of trim for the sleeves and empire waist for the gown and for the coat as well. The problem with this was that it couldn’t be anything too white, and it had to be a specified width. Inevitably we’d find the perfect trim and find that it was too wide or narrow.

As far as the cost, well, that could not be a concern. It was hard enough to find something that would work at all. There was no way I was going to take the time to shop around all the fabric stores in Central Florida to find stuff on sale. Not when this project has to be finished before I leave for RT on April 28! Thanks to Mom, we did have a 15% off coupon, though!

In case you’re wondering, this is definitely not an economical project. I have already spent quite a bit on Regency shoes from American Duchess (with beautiful shoe clips), period stockings, a ringlet hairpiece, and gloves, in addition to the fabric and notions that were so hard to find. (Obtaining the proper undergarments to give me the right shape was also quite costly.) My philosophy is you either do it right or not at all. So I’m not sweating the small (or the large) stuff. And it’s all tax-deductible for a Regency author, right?

So this week we got all the materials and started pulling out the pattern pieces and laying them out on the fabric. We started with the lining, moving the kitchen table in my folks’ house so that we could cut on the floor. NOT a great idea at all! We both ended up with aching backs from maneuvering ourselves into uncomfortable positions and having to get up and down off the floor so many times. After that, we decided to take everything down to the clubhouse (we live in a retirement community in Florida during the winter), move a few tables together, and do our cutting there. Voilà! SO much better. So now we have the lining and dress pieces cut out and ready to put together.

And a few people came in to get their mail and wondered what we were doing, so I took the opportunity to give them a bookmark for Treasuring Theresa. All good!

mom_smile_edited-1One thing that rather astonished me is the need for proper fitting. My own feeble sewing efforts have involved buying the fabric and the pattern and hoping it would fit by the time I was done. That might work with knits and stretchy fabrics, but not with Regency-era fabrics. No indeed. The bodice and the sleeves, at least, have to be fitted closely to the body, and it’s a painstaking process that I couldn’t do in a million years. Thank goodness I have a mother who not only knows how to do it but is willing to put in the hours and hours it takes to make things work!

First she worked on altering the pattern; in spite of having lost 30 pounds recently, the pattern still needed to be made larger to fit properly. Somewhat humiliating, but there’s no point in having a gown that won’t fit! Once she had the pattern right, she could cut out the lining and make a few more adjustments. Now she knows exactly what needs to be done with the bodice of the dress too, where there’s less room for error.

It turns out Mom and I make a pretty good team. She’s the brains and I’m the brawn. And the cook. I provide lunch every day and help her with simple things in the afternoon, like pinning the pattern pieces to the fabric, moving around tables and chairs, cleaning up afterward, things like that.

This is all great research, by the way. Whenever my heroines have to have dresses made, they go to the modiste’s and stand there for hours in their underwear while having pins stuck in them. Now I have a good idea how that feels! Ditto with searching out the right trim, ostrich feathers, etc. (Oh, should I look for an ostrich feather or two?)

My mornings are devoted to writing. I’m hoping to finish the first draft of Cherishing Charlotte in the next few days and then go over it and add some final touches before sending it off to my wonderful critique partners. Then I have another novel to finish, plus a Christmas story to submit for the Ellora’s Cave Christmas Cotillion anthology. Would like to finish all three projects before heading to Scotland on June 20!

Oh, by the way, my sister Gloria (aka Letitia Beauchamp) also has a Regency gown that she had made. She’ll have to come to some book signings with me to wear it. I wonder if her husband Mike (aka Lord Beauchamp) would consent to having a Regency outfit made for him? Sounds like a plan to me!

Stand by for further reports on the progress with “The Dress.” The deadline approaches, but I have perfect confidence in my mother’s abilities.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: she is NOT interested in taking this up as a profession or a hobby. Being retired in itself is a very time-consuming activity. Once is enough…and I’m the lucky one!