Archive | June 2013

Historical Romance Deal Breaker #1: Reluctant Heroes

Blast From the Past: Susana is traveling in Scotland this week and she thought some of you might enjoy revisiting some of her previous posts on Susana’s Parlour.

Decades of reading historical romances have led me to develop strong opinions of what defines a truly satisfying story, so the other day I set about making a list of characteristics that turn a potential five-star read into a one- or two-star. Admittedly, there are some skillful authors who manage to successfully incorporate one or more of these scenarios in their books; however, I have run across quite a few more who in my opinion haven’t quite managed it.

Overview of Susana’s Historical Romance Deal Breakers

  1. Reluctant Heroes
  2. Adultery
  3. Anachronistic Behavior and Historical Inaccuracies
  4. Cliffhanger Endings
  5. Unattractive or Drop-Dead Gorgeous Heroines
  6. Heroes With Mistresses or Who Sleep With Servants
  7. Drop-Dead Gorgeous Heroes
  8. Promiscuous Heroines
  9. Contrived Endings
  10. Waifs and Silly Heroines
  11. Long Separations
  12. Excessively Cruel Heroes and Heroines
  13. Breaking the Rules: Why Some Authors Get Away With It

These are what I call “deal breakers”—characteristics that make a book a wall-banger. Not surprisingly, many involve character, particularly the character of the hero and heroine. They have to be likable. They have to be three-dimensional, i.e., well-drawn-out characters with flaws, not fairy princesses. And they have to be able to fall in love, convincingly, the head-over-heels kind of love.

The first deal breaker for me is the reluctant hero.

Nothing is guaranteed to turn me off a book so much as a hero who denies his feelings until the very last chapter. Certainly some initial reluctance is expected; what Regency buck is eager to tie himself down to a leg-shackle before he has sown his wild oats? But the attraction needs to happen fairly soon after he meets the heroine; there must be indications early on that he enjoys her presence, resents it when other men pay her attention, etc. Which doesn’t mean that love at first sight is de rigueur. Instant attractions can be quite wonderful, but ultimately, the feelings between them must be based on something other than physical characteristics.

Below are some examples of reluctant heroes I have encountered recently:

  • The hero was so in love with his deceased wife that he cannot imagine ever risking his heart again, so when he starts falling for the heroine (poor thing), he determines to marry another young lady he doesn’t care as much for instead. Heroes cannot be idiots.
  • The hero recognizes his soulmate, but continually spurns her because childhood traumas make him feel unworthy. Heroes cannot be whiners.
  • The hero is damaged from his experiences in the war, but not too much to fall into bed with his deceased best friend’s sister. When events come to the point where her reputation will be ruined, he refuses point-blank to marry her. Heroes cannot use the heroine and then abandon her.
  • The hero is a notorious rake who has determined never to marry, and when faced with the love of his life, he runs away with another woman, forcing her to marry another man, who abuses her cruelly. Heroes cannot be jerks.
  • The hero and the heroine share a kiss in a moonlit garden and arrange several more meetings. When the heroine, who is being pressured to marry a wealthy old man, begs the hero to marry her, he confesses that he is already married (how could he forget?), and abandons her to a miserable marriage. Heroes cannot be cowardly or adulterers.

Of course, the above cases are extreme; many times the reluctant hero is simply…reluctant. Not mean or cruel or particularly stupid. . . just there. While he may not get my dander up, he’s also…boring. And frankly, heroes cannot be boring either.

What do you think? Can you add some examples of reluctant heroes that you have encountered lately? Or can you think of stories where an initially reluctant hero successfully makes the transition into delightfully besotted hero? I’d love to hear about them!

Spotlight on Philippa Carr

Philippa Carr is a pseudonym of Eleanor Hibbert (1906-1993), who also wrote under the names of Jean Plaidy (historical fiction), Victoria Holt (gothic romance), and Eleanor Burford (contemporary romance), among others.

philippa2Eleanor worked in a jewelry store until she married George Hibbert, who was twenty years older, whereupon she was able to quit her job and begin writing “in earnest.” Her first efforts did not meet with success, but that changed after she took the advice of an editor and began writing romantic fiction. She published 32 contemporary romances under her maiden name before turning to historical fiction, which she wrote under the name of Jean Plaidy. Later, she wrote Gothic-style romances under the name of Victoria Holt and then she produced a series called The Daughters of England (historical fiction) under the name Philippa Carr.

My first introduction to Hibbert’s work was in the late 1960’s and 70’s when I would devour all the gothic romances I could find. Victoria Holt was my favorite; she couldn’t write fast enough for me! In 1973 I discovered Jean Plaidy’s historical fiction; she became my next obsession; I didn’t realize the two were the same person until years later, but I knew I couldn’t get enough of their writing. I don’t recall when I discovered Philippa Carr, but I’m sure by then I was aware of her true identity. And her books went to the top of my TBR list along with the rest. Several years ago, by trolling eBay, I was able to acquire a complete collection of Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr books for my personal collection.

Good News: Open Road Media is reissuing these titles for today’s historical fiction lovers. The digital version that I received from NetGalley is a collection of the first three titles in The Daughters of England series: Miracle at St. Bruno’s, The Lion Triumphant, and Witch From the Sea.

From the Publisher

Miracle at St. Bruno’s

During the tumultuous reign of King Henry VIII, Damask Farland, named after a rose, is captivated by the mysterious orphan Bruno. Discovered upon the abbey altar on Christmas morning, then raised by monks, Bruno becomes the great man whom Damask grows to love—only to be shattered by his cruel betrayal.

The Lion Triumphant

While the rivalry between Inquisition-torn Spain and Elizabethan England seethes, Captain Jake Pennlyon thrives as a fearsome and virile plunderer who takes what he wants—and his sights are set on Catherine Farland. Blackmailed into wedlock, Cat vows to escape. Fate intervenes when she’s taken prisoner aboard a Spanish galleon . . . unaware that she’s a pawn in one man’s long-awaited revenge.

The Witch from the Sea

Linnet Pennlyon, proud daughter of a sea captain, finds herself in a vicious trap: Pregnancy has forced her to marry the cunning Squire Colum Casvellyn. Once their baby is born, she devotes herself to their son. Yet, little by little, against her will, Linnet finds herself drawn to her passionate, mercurial husband. Dark secrets lurk in their castle, and when a beautiful stranger washes up on the shore, Linnet suddenly finds she’s no longer in control of her family—or her life.

Susana Says: Riveting Reads, 4/5 Stars

SusanaSays3Damask, Catherine, Linnet, Tamsyn…are the strong, independent female protagonists in this fascinating saga of The Daughters of England. The first clue that these stories are more along the lines of historical adventures than romances is the use of the first person. The reader’s knowledge of the thoughts of the other characters comes directly from the narrator’s thoughts and beliefs—and because she is sometimes mistaken, the reader finds herself equally astonished when certain truths are revealed.

Damask comes from a wealthy family; her father is a devout Catholic who watches Henry VIII’s gradual power grab from the Church with concern. These are dangerous times for men with consciences, for anyone who disagrees openly with the king may soon find himself bending over a chopping block. Damask, like all girls, must marry, and she finds herself with a choice of her worthy distant cousin and another young man, whose birth was said to be miraculous, and who, unbeknownst to her, harbors lofty ambitions.

Her daughter Catherine finds herself on the Spanish island of Tenerife, the victim of a revenge plot. With little hope of rescue, she tries to make the most of her situation, and when her liberation is finally at hand, she is horrified by the direction it takes and fears that there will be worse problems ahead. Great description of the events leading up to and following the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Linnet is well on her way to becoming the wife of a worthy businessman when she suddenly finds herself wed to a cocky brute eerily reminiscent of her own father. Although theirs is a volatile relationship, they share a passionate nature, and Linnet is content. But then a beautiful Spaniard washes up on the shore, and suddenly Linnet begins to have doubts about her marriage…and her husband’s mysterious occupation.

witchThese books will take you through a hundred years of English history as though you were there living it yourself. I’d forgotten how much I liked the first-person point of view, since it’s fallen out of fashion in recent years, but in these stories, its use strengthens the link between the narrator and the reader, to the point where you feel you are Damask, Catherine, Linnet, and Tamsyn.

This volume is a bargain at $9.99 for three full-length novels and a series of exciting adventures to the past. I’m already dusting off the remaining books in this series because I disliked seeing it come to an end.

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Georgiana Louis and “The Reluctant Duke” + Giveaway

Georgiana is offering a digital copy of The Ruined Marquis, the second in the Spares series, to the most original commenter.

Why I Love the Regency Period

I did an interview on an American radio station last week and the host asked me why I wrote about the Regency period, as there was no Regency period in Australia. I had to laugh, because I rarely write about things I know about. Where’s the fun in that?

Instead I write about places I dream of, times that interest me.

Ever since I picked up Sabrina Jeffries’ To Pleasure a Prince in a secondhand book store, I have been hooked on the Regency period. And it’s not because of the clothes either!

I actually find the clothes to be quite horrible, and don’t write much about them.

Instead, what I love, are the rules, the society and most of all I love the changes within society that began through that period. The way love matches within the aristocracy and gentry became more common, versus the contracted marriages of the the late 18th century.

I love the rules about how a lady must act, the ridiculous double standards for gentlemen.

The Regency period was a time when ladies became more than just a pretty society piece. Ladies who had conversation became more prized, and I think that is what totally enthralls me.

I hope you enjoy my Spares series—I loved writing it. My four, tortured heroes and the women who bring them to their knees.

About The Reluctant Duke

Colin Lyre, recently inherited 10th Duke of Lincoln, has been told his whole life that he is superfluous to his family.

When he must deal with the responsibility and stress that comes with his new title, he flounders rather badly. He is determined do his ‘duty’’ and marry an ‘appropriate Duchess.’

Life throws Colin’s plans wayward when he rescues the beautiful Annabelle from a ball. She makes him realize how much better his life could be, but he doesn’t know if he truly deserves such happiness.

Annabelle wants nothing to do with the responsibility of marrying a title. She simply wants to make a suitable match with a gentleman who can support her family.

Colin is Annabelle’s perfect prince until she realizes what life as his life would be like. However, making the rational decision to stay away from one another is much harder than either of them expects.


Red Rose Publishing


TheReluctantDuke_LRG“Thank you so much sir. I need to get out of here before anyone sees me. Can you help me please?” She implored through her ministrations.

“Oh… of… course I can,” Colin stammered, his mind racing with the logistics of how to get her out of the grounds unseen. Why hadn’t he been thinking about that before she mentioned it? He should have been the one to offer aid.

“I can’t be found like this,” Her voice broke on the words and two fresh tears slipped down her cheeks. “No one would ever marry me.”

Colin’s heart all but broke at the pitiful look on her face, for it was indeed true. Her beauty and virginity were the two things that would be her greatest assets on the marriage mart. If people regarded her as damaged goods, no one of any consequence would marry her, no matter how beautiful she was.

“I’ll get you out of here, let’s walk towards the front of the house and you can hide whilst I get a carriage.” Colin put his arm gingerly around the angel, ushering her towards the house.

“I’m Annabelle by the way,” she sniffed as she wiped her face again with his now soaked handkerchief.

“Oh … well…” Colin stammered again, how did this beautiful woman keep flabbergasting him? He’d never been so verbally incompetent in his life.

“I think we’re past polite names do not you? After all, you have probably seen more of me tonight than any one should before marriage.”

Colin was shocked by her honest and far too accurate assessment of the situation. It occurred to him if someone saw them in her current state of ‘dress’ it would be his head on the chopping block, or in the parson’s trap as the case may be.

“I do not want to get married,” he blurted out louder than he should have, stopping her in their rather quick race to the front gate.

Annabelle chuckled at him.

“I did not mean I wanted to marry you, my lord. I just meant that considering the state you found me in and after all you have done for me tonight, the least I could do was introduce myself as Annabelle and not Miss such and such, daughter of such and such.” She sighed loudly. “I hate all that.”

Colin smiled despite himself. Was there really a marriageable female here that did not care about connections? He frowned cynically, he did not think she’d feel the same way when she was properly introduced to him.

“I’m Colin,” he smiled shyly at her. He’d never been introduced as just ‘Colin’ in his entire 26 years. What an odd, exhilarating feeling. ‘Colin’ could be anyone, do anything.

“Colin,” she said his name with a slight huskiness that sent a bolt of desire to his groin.

About the Author

all photos sept 2011 282Georgiana Louis is a chiropractor, wife and mother in the real world. However, her passion for writing could not be denied. She fell in love with romance novels at the tender age of eleven. Thousands of books have been read, absorbed and enjoyed since then. More recently, the wonderful world of Regency romance—dashing heroes and beautiful heroines in an era just beginning to accept love matches. Please join her in the fictional world, where everything ends as it should, happily ever after.


Joan Vincent and The Honour Series

It is my pleasure to introduce Joan Vincent, whose Dell Candelight Regencies I used to read years ago. I was so delighted to run into Joan and her sister Vera at the Romantic Times Convention in Kansas City last month and to discover that she is back to writing her fabulous Regencies once again!

Susana Ellis and Joan Vincent at Club RT in Kansas City

Susana Ellis and Joan Vincent at Club RT in Kansas City

I came to write the Honour series in a very roundabout manner. Between 1977 and 1983 I sold eight novels that were published in the Dell Candlelight series. I returned to teaching in 1983 because my daughters needed dental surgery and braces. I still wrote that first year but gave it up when the demands on time and energy from the combination of family, teaching, and learning computers, networking etc. became too great. It wasn’t until 2000 when I retired that I returned to writing at the urging of my sister, Vera. The book I chose to write was one for which I sketched a brief outline before I discontinued writing. In fact, I had described it in such detail that my daughters both remembered me talking about it almost twenty years earlier.

I did some review research on 1808 England. Then I studied my outline, sketched my characters, and began writing. I was surprised that after so many years the story flowed so easily. That is, it flowed until I was in the midst of Chapter Five. In the middle of that chapter I was astounded as I typed one character telling another that Mr. Martin had died.  Mr. Martin was the villain. You don’t have much of a book if it is only five chapters long! (This is just one of my many experiences when my characters acted like true children of the mind and did what they pleased no matter what an outline said! Thankfully, I learned this happens to other writers also.)

My sister Vera has always read my books as I wrote them so I visited with her about the problem. Then I decided to let the mind mull it over in its own strange way for a few days. When I returned to the keyboard I found a new villain already in the book and a deliciously evil one at that-—the French master spy Donatien. The only problem was that it completely changed the tone of the book from a sweet regency like my earlier work into something more complex and definitely darker. I thought on it a few more days and came up with the idea of a Napoleonic spy mystery with an element of romance.  I revamped my characters and their motivation a bit and learned the hero was an officer in the 15th Light Dragoons with four fellow officers who were very good friends.  One of these had a very important part in the book.

By Chapter Seven I knew I needed an English spy but who to pull out of the character hat?  Once again I brainstormed with Vera. She came up with the idea of using Andre Ribeymon, Baron de la Croix. Andre had first appeared in Bond of Honour, published in the early 80’s as the six-year-old nephew of the heroine. In 1808 he would be in his early 20’s and ripe for adventure. Of course he would have a good friend to go on escapades with him and Hadleigh Tarrant, the hero in Honour’s Choice came to life. What was truly fascinating was that I later realized Donatien is also in Bond of Honour. He is part of a group that attempted to kidnap Andre.

At that point I had seven strong hero types and an excellent villain in Donatien. I had this vision of my seven posed like the men in that old 80’s western The Magnificent Seven—the 15th Light Dragoons in their regimentals (Bellaport, Danbury, Merristorm, Vincouer and Goodchurch for those unfamiliar with the Honour series), Andre in his guise as a dandy and Hadleigh in his staid Brummel style-dress. I also had six more stories—one for each of my other heroes—come to me full-blown in which each man in turn would battle Donatien and also find his true love.

Choice-final epub coverThe Honour Series was not a nine-month term baby but more a month in gestation. Writing about how it came to be has reminded me of how many pillars underpin a book! And I haven’t even told you about the two gentlemen from the Royal Agricultural Society in Britain who helped me, via email, track down where and when the Agricultural Society met in 1809. It is a minor point in Choice but one I wanted to have it correct. It almost takes a village to write a book.

Honour’s Choice, the story of an older woman and younger man, came into existence long before the so-called cougar trend began.  Anyone who reads the story would hardly think of Sarah as a cougar in any guise. Her knowledge of herbal medicine led me to a lot of research on the topic and many calls to my sister-in-law who is a nurse and who plied doctors with questions for me. I can’t really remember when I realized Hadleigh had a fascination with insects, but that aspect of his life has also led me to many books on bugs I never thought I’d read. Hadleigh and Sarah have struck a strong chord with all who have read their story. That has been true from the first very rough draft, although sadly, I’d have to admit I’m not certain why. I am very glad I wrote their story and hope those who read it enjoy it as much as I did.

About Honour’s Choice (The Honour Series Book Two)

She’s the only one who can help when a spy hunt goes terribly wrong.

1809 England. Hadleigh Tarrant joins in the hunt for government bullion thieves. Captured and tortured by their leader Donatien, Hadleigh is left to die. Sarah, Lady Edgerton, a middle-aged widow, nurses the critically injured Hadleigh when he is found near her home despite the danger to her reputation. Their hearts choose each other, but Hadleigh is haunted by the tragedy of his parent’s marriage and fears that love will cause him pain worse than that of any torture. Sarah, trapped by the years between them and secrets that would turn him from her forever, tries to hide her love and do what is best for Hadleigh by giving him up. Donatien, the malicious French spy reappears determined to purloin military secrets. He is also intent upon a revenge that threatens Sarah and Hadleigh’s growing love and their very lives. Hadleigh must unmask the spy before he and Sarah can decide between dishonour and Honour’s Choice.

  4* Review from RT Book Reviews


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About the Author

jvincentJoan Vincent lives with her husband in Kansas. Her hobbies include sewing for and playing with her young grandchildren, quilt making and quilting, flower arranging, and research. Her husband claims her favorite hobby/passion is filling an ever-increasing number of bookcases with books on all facets of 18-19th century English, French, and Spanish life and politics.

JV Website



Joan’s earlier Regencies are available at Regency Reads.

  • The Audacious Miss
  • A Bond of Honour
  • The Curious Rogue
  • The Education of Joanne
  • Never To Part
  • The Promise Rose
  • Rescued By Love
  • A Scheme For Love
  • Thomasina

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Susana: Lady P, who is still visiting her daughter’s family in 19th century Kent, heard some rather juicy gossip about the scion of a prominent family in the area and decided to investigate, intending to present the results of her investigation to me in an attempt to make reparations for making free with my credit card to buy gifts for her grandchildren prior to her return to her own time period.

Lady P [interrupting]: Although I know Susana well enough to know that it is not the money that concerns her; it’s something called the Prime Directive. So silly really, to think that something as innocuous as the Laugh and Learn Learning Puppy could cause the end of the world. [Shaking her head] In any case, I sent a note to Lord Rutherford to call upon me at my son-in-law’s home in Thanport at his earliest convenience, and he was pleased to do so.

* * * * * *

Lady P: I am much obliged to you, sir, for your prompt response to my invitation.

Rutherford [bowing]: You indicated that it was a matter of some urgency?

Lady P: Yes, indeed. Rumor has it, my lord, that you are a sapskull.

Rutherford [eyebrows raised]: A sapskull, madam? Indeed? And how did you come to that conclusion?

Lady P: Although perhaps it is merely a ploy to draw attention from your dabbling in the area of espionage.

Rutherford: Espionage? Really, my lady. I think you’ve been reading too many Minerva romance books.

Lady P [waving an arm]: Do not be alarmed; your secret is safe with me. I am more concerned about your attentions toward a certain highly-regarded young lady in the area.

Rutherford [rather stiffly]: If you mean Miss Marsh…I suppose it is no secret that I am courting her.

Lady P: It is hardly flattering to Miss Marsh that you spent so many years sniffing after Lady Phoebe and only turned to her when Lady Phoebe became engaged to another.

Rutherford: I was not sniffing after Lady Phoebe. She has never been more than a friend. I was merely waiting until Miss Marsh attained an age to marry. [Under his breath: Shocking how meddlesome older ladies can be!]

Lady P [with narrowed eyes]: What was that about older ladies?

Rutherford: Nothing ma’am. Are you quite finished with your interest in my affairs?

Lady P: Not even close, my lord. Then you waited on the sidelines while Miss Marsh received countless offers of marriage…surely any sensible man would have made an effort to fix his interest with the woman he intends to marry. What if she’d have accepted one of them? Where would you be, then?

Rutherford: I had the situation well in hand. If it appeared as if she were interested in another gentleman, I would have stepped in.

Lady P: Why did you decide on Miss Marsh? What are the qualities you saw in her that gave you the impression that she would make a suitable wife for you?

Rutherford: I have known her all her life. She is a well-behaved, proper lady who has all the attributes I desire in a wife. Furthermore she is used to taking her lead from me. I wish to live a well ordered life. With Miss Marsh there will be no surprises.

Lady P: I understand, however, that Miss Marsh has turned down your offer of marriage.

Rutherford [running a finger down his cravat]: That is true. A fit of pique, only.

Lady P: But you persist in pursuing her. What makes you think you can prevail upon her to change her mind? Miss Marsh appears to be a young lady who knows her own mind. I doubt she will be easily importuned.

Rutherford: I have been busy during the past couple of years. Once I spend some time dancing attendance on her, I’m sure she’ll come around. After all, we have been close friends for years.

The Secret Life of Miss Anna MarshLady P: What can you offer Miss Marsh that her other suitors could not?

Rutherford: I beg your pardon, my lady, but these questions are extremely intrusive. [To himself: not to mention something I don’t wish to think about.]

Lady P: How have your feelings changed toward Miss Marsh since your return to Kent?

Rutherford: Really, these questions are outside of enough. My feelings toward Miss Marsh are no concern of yours. All anyone need know is that I intend to make her my wife. You can tell that to Lady Blanchard. [Rutherford mutters behind his hand: Now if I can only convince Anna. I wish I knew why the devil she is being so difficult.)

[A maid comes in and whispers in Lady P’s ear.]

Lady P [to the maid]: Tell my daughter I’ll be along shortly. [to Lord Rutherford]: I do beg your pardon, Lord Rutherford, but a domestic squabble requires my attention. Before you depart, however, there is one last point of curiosity I should like you to satisfy, if you would be so kind.

Rutherford [rolling his eyes]: By all means, my lady. I have no wish to leave your curiosity unfulfilled.

Lady P [with a saucy grin]: Can you tell me where I might find a copy of that book Miss Marsh found in the library? You know, the one with all the—er—fascinating illustrations? I have a novelist friend who would give her eye-teeth to have one.

Rutherford [clearing his throat] I believe I must take my leave of you, madam. It’s been a pleasure, of course.

Lady P [winking and offering her hand]: Indeed it has, Lord Rutherford. I wish you well in your endeavor to win Miss Marsh’s affections. Perhaps a match between you is not quite so ill-conceived as I thought.

Rutherford: À bientôt, my lady. [softly cursing as he walks out the door]

About The Secret Life of Miss Anna Marsh

Since she was a young girl, Anna Marsh has dreamed of Sebastian, Baron Rutherford asking for her hand in marriage. But that was in another life when her brother Harry was alive, before she vowed to secretly continue the work he valiantly died for. Now as Sebastian finally courts Anna, she must thwart his advances. Were he to discover her secret, he would never deem her a suitable wife…

Sebastian has always known Anna would become his wife someday. He expects few obstacles, but when she dissuades him at every turn he soon realizes there is much more to this intriguing woman. Somehow he must prove to her that they are meant to be together. But first he must unravel the seductive mystery that is Miss Anna Marsh…

Available for pre-order on

SusanaSays3Susana Says: Fabulous Read, 5/5 stars

On the surface, Anna Marsh appears to have everything a young lady could wish for. She’s beautiful, accomplished, well-mannered, and sought after by countless eligible gentlemen. She’s also a wealthy heiress. But Anna is not a typical debutante. She has a secret life that she is determined never to give upeven if it means she must remain unmarried the rest of her life. In any case, the man she’s always loved, Sebastian, Lord Rutherford, seeks a biddable, compliant wife, which she knows she’ll never be.

Sebastian, Lord Rutherford has been waiting for Anna to mature into a desirable young lady, and now that she has, he’s ready to pop the question. But when he doesn’t get the answer he expects, he becomes all the more determined to win her heart. But how can he truly love Anna when he doesn’t really know her? The question becomes: is he a suitable husband for her?

Anna is a strong, independent woman determined to make more of her life than the typical society maven. There were times in the beginning when I wanted to slap Rutherford silly for taking Anna for granted for so long, but, on the other hand, there is nothing quite like seeing a man grovel to appease his lady, and Rutherford manages to do so quite satisfactorily.

There is a very sweet secondary romance in this story, and also a mystery to solve originating from Anna’s “secret life.”

The Secret Life of Miss Anna Marsh is the second in a series, following The Seduction of Lady Phoebe. The book stands well on its own, however. This review was written from an ARC provided by the author, who, incidentally, has the first book on pre-order. Ella Quinn is a wonderful new talent in the Regency world, and this Regency devotee looka forward to enjoying her future works.

About the Author

Ella QuinnElla’s studies and other jobs have always been on the serious side. Reading historical romances, especially Regencies, were her escape. Eventually her love of historical novels led her to start writing them.

She is married to her wonderful husband of twenty-nine years. They have a son and granddaughter, Great Dane and a Chartreux. After living in the South Pacific, Central America, North Africa, England and Europe, she and her husband decided to make St. Thomas, VI home.

Ella is a member of the Romance Writers of America, The Beau Monde and Hearts Across History. She is represented by Elizabeth Pomada of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency, and published by Kensington. Her debut novel The Seduction of Lady Phoebe, will release in September 2013


Website: (Up soon)



Blog http://ellaquinnauthor.wordpresscom


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”

Guest Author Elizabeth Bailey: A Lady In Name

The Georgian Gentleman’s Version of the Little Black Book

by Elizabeth Bailey

Women who fell from grace in the 18th Century had few options open to them. Get married with speed was top of the list. Preferably to the fellow with whom you did the deed, but frankly anyone of respectability would do.

If Darcy had not intervened to get Lydia married to wicked Wickham, as Lizzie Bennet points out, not only Lydia, but her four sisters would have been tainted and probably doomed to spinsterhood since they had no money to bribe a prospective bridegroom into overlooking the disgrace.


A page from Harris’s List

The Bennet girls were lucky. In reality, the family would likely have disowned Lydia. When Wickham tired of her, she was young and pretty enough to have found herself another protector. As time went on, Lydia might have drifted in the direction of Covent Garden where she could well have found herself portrayed in a couple of extremely frank paragraphs in the annual publication of Harris’s List of Covent-Garden Ladies.

This fascinating little volume was started in 1757 by one Samuel Derrick, as a venture to get himself out of debtor’s prison. His lively descriptions of the ladies who made themselves available for a gentleman’s amours proved so popular that he not only procured his release, but he started a phenomenon that continued until 1795.

Almost all the ladies spoken of as being of good education evidently fell into “the life”, as it was popularly called, by way of seduction and subsequent abandonment.

Like Miss Char-ton (note the missing letter, a thinly veiled anonymity) of No. 12, Gress Street, who “came of reputable parents…yet the address of a designing villain, too soon found means to ruin her; forsaken by her friends, pursued by shame and necessity; she had no other alternative…”

Prostitutes propositioning a sailor

Prostitutes propositioning a sailor

Seduction was not confined to the educated classes. There was Miss Le-, of Berwick-Street, Soho, who “was debauched by a young counsellor, from a boarding-school near town, where she was apprentice.”

Then there was Miss We-ls, of No. 35, Newman-Street, daughter of a Welsh farmer, who is described as being “as wild as a goat, of a sandy colour, her features are small, and is a tight little piece.” She was sent to London when young where “a young gentleman ingratiated him so far into her graces, as to gain her consent to make him happy by her ruin, under a promise of marriage” and then he subsequently “abandoned her to the reproaches and calumny of a merciless world”.

The majority of the ladies featured in this entertaining little black book for your pleasure-seeking young buck were in their teens or early twenties. An example is Miss Townsend, nineteen, of whom we learn that “the use of the needle first fired this lady’s imagination with the use of a certain pin”. This sort of witty euphemism abounds.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the anodyne of choice for a number of the ladies is strong liquor. Like Miss Godfrey, a commanding female, who “will take brandy with any one, or drink and swear, and though but little, will fight a good battle.”

The women are delineated in detail, depending on their particular attractions: “she is amorous to the greatest degree, and has courage enough not to be afraid of the largest and strongest man that ever drew weapon in the cause of love”. Or non-attractions, as “but a middling face, with large features, a coarse hand and arm, and in stature short and clumsy”, but she is “an excellent bedfellow”.

Their looks are described: “of a middle size, black eyes, plump made and her skin good” or another with “fine blue eyes that are delicious”. We are told about good teeth and “sweet breath”, in a day where these were rare. We hear about “yielding limbs, though beautiful when together, are still more ravishing when separated”.

Disposition is mentioned, whether she is “agreeable” or “animated with no small degree of vanity” or indeed “a pompous heroic girl, without either wit or humour”. There is a figure to suit every taste, and an accommodation for every sexual whim. We learn whether or not she has a keeper (which doesn’t stop any lady selling her favours elsewhere) and what it may cost our young man about town to enjoy her charms.

Prostitutes angling for business in the lobby of a theatre

Prostitutes angling for business in the lobby of a theatre

One or two guineas appears the norm, with here and there a more expensive luxury on offer. The genteel Miss Le- above, who was led into sin, is only seventeen and “has a piece of the termagant about her”, but she commands three or four guineas for her services, which include birching for those so inclined. While Miss – of Wardour Street, who is “but newly arrived” and “darts such irresistible glances as can scarcely fail to engage the hearts of the beholders” will not accept less than five guineas. Mrs Ho-fey, on the other hand, who “calls forth all her powers to give delight with uncommon success” will happily settle for half a guinea.

A guinea (one pound, one shilling) seems a pathetic sum to us. Yet these women were the middling class of prostitute. They could not aspire to the heights of high-class courtesans like the later Harriette Wilson, whose clients included the Duke of Wellington, but they were a good deal better off than the street corner girls who plied their trade for a few pence, or a few shillings at best.

But whether they earned a pittance or a fortune, many women ended up selling their bodies to make ends meet. There were 50,000 prostitutes in London in 1797, according to a contemporary magistrate’s account. That statistic argues a lack of opportunities for women to find gainful employment. The better bred, the fewer the options.

It’s tempting to withhold sympathy for our Covent-Garden ladies when you convert their earnings to the present day. In today’s money, a guinea is worth around £60. A lady’s maid was paid less than that in a year, and no doubt worked a lot harder. While Miss Le- with her five guineas was getting buying power to the tune of our £300 every time she lay flat on her back!

What’s more, these ladies of the night could afford to please themselves how they lived, which was more than could be said for most wives, be their husbands lord or boot boy. They lived in comfortable apartments, had a great deal of freedom, could pick and choose among their clientele, and enjoy all the entertainments on offer in the shops and theatres of the time. And all at the trifling cost of respectability.

Hogarth—a bawd from a brothel enticing a country girl newly arrived in London

Hogarth—a bawd from a brothel enticing a country girl newly arrived in London

The downside was the future. The lifestyle was no sinecure. There are very few females over thirty in Harris’s List. Assuming one could avoid a dose of “the pox” or any other disease and live, what to do when the charms of youth faded? How many of them were canny enough to salt away a quantity of takings as insurance?

A few, one assumes, if they had garnered sufficient fortune, might be lucky enough to marry. Others are mentioned as having moved into brothel-keeping themselves. But the rest?

What happened to Sally Robinson, who was given five shillings at the age of fifteen to cure her of the clap “which she got from her deflowerer”? On the town in 1761, what hope had “a tall, fat girl” of any kind of living thirty years later? Or Kitty Buckley, who was one of the few older females and already 35 in 1761? She was “reported to have ruined twenty keepers” because she was “as wicked as a devil, and as extravagant as Cleopatra”. Since she had been in the bailiff’s hands about three times a year, did she end her days in prison?

While Harris’s List is a delight in many ways, there is something a little distasteful in the warts-and-all public exposure of a whole generation of unfortunate females, whose only mistake was to succumb to the lure of sensual gratification.

Besides marriage or prostitution, was there any other way out for the fallen woman? If they were lucky, or had kind and generous relatives, there was hope. Transported to another place, perhaps with an allowance, they could start a new life under an assumed name – but with the shadow of the past always ready to catch up with them.

This is of course a familiar theme in our modern take on the historical romance. Our heroine is plucked from this life of shame and obscurity by the love of a good man. What better way to compensate her for enduring such punishment for what was, to our twenty-first century thinking, perfectly natural behaviour?

As for the luscious Covent-Garden Ladies, who had the gumption to use the only means they had of making a decent living – good for you, ladies!

About A Lady In Name

On discovering she is the illegitimate daughter of a peer of the realm, Lucy Graydene, bereft and grieving, sets out to confront Lord Pennington with the result of his misdeeds. She finds instead his autocratic heir, Stefan Ankerville, and is dragged willy-nilly into the new earl’s unconventional family. Lucy is driven to battle for her independence while she struggles against the venom of the half-sister she never knew she had.

When the secrets of Lucy’s past begin to unravel, she is reluctantly obliged to rely on Stefan’s help. Can Lucy overcome a dangerous attraction to the earl, with whom an alliance is impossible? Or is there a faint hope of happiness in the hidden truth of her origins?


The hubbub of a busy inn penetrated dimly into the quiet of the upstairs parlour. It was a small apartment, designed for privacy rather than comfort, and furnished with the minimum of necessities. A chill hung in the January air, little eased by the meagre warmth from a fire in the grate, but the solitary occupant of the room appeared unaffected by this circumstance, although her aspect was far from relaxed.

Lady in Name 500 x 750She was seated on one of the straight high-backed chairs placed about the heavy oaken table at which travellers were encouraged to partake of refreshments, but she had not thought to move it nearer to the hearth. Nor was there any sign that she had availed herself of the innkeeper’s offerings to assuage either hunger or thirst. She was clad in a plain black greatcoat, and a simple black bonnet, unadorned, concealed her hair and a good deal of her face. She sat perfectly upright and still, except for her gloved hands, which she repeatedly clasped and unclasped where they lay in her lap.

From time to time, her eyes flickered to the door, as if in the expectation of its opening at any moment. And once she cast a frowning glance at the case clock on the mantel, which was dragging its way about the eleventh hour, its steady ticking pulling her out of her unquiet thoughts.

She scarcely knew what she was doing here, and the longer she waited for an arrival upon which she could place no real dependence, the stronger grew her anxieties. What had she to hope for, thrusting herself upon the notice of Lord Pennington? The man who had repudiated her three and twenty years ago was unlikely to greet her sudden appearance with complaisance. Nor could she imagine the intervening years had changed one hard-hearted enough to reject all responsibility for the consequences of his libertine conduct. Despite his cloth, Papa’s dictum, frequently uttered, had been that a leopard never changes his spots.

The remembrance caught at her heartstrings, turning a knife in the wound. Papa—so she must always think of him. She churned again with the futile yearnings that had plagued her from the instant of his uttering the fateful confession.

If only he had not chosen to reveal the horrid truth of her origins. If only he had been spared the necessity. If only the Almighty had spared him. And most painful of all, if only Lucy had been more alert to his weakness after the dreadful downpour.

It had caught him on a visit to Mrs Mimms—one of the poorest of Papa’s parishioners, her cottage situated a good five miles from Upledon vicarage with no vestige of shelter between. The dread picture of his return, his clothes dripping, his horse streaming in the deluge, had haunted Lucy from the onset of his short and fatal illness.

In vain had Papa protested at her rage of tears, his once round tones faint with effort as he drew each difficult breath. ‘My child, you could not have known. Recollect that I was well for days after the incident.’

‘Apparently well,’ Lucy had argued, fierce against the inevitable doom she was powerless to prevent. ‘You were pale, Papa. And you could not stand for long without a rest. I see it now. I should have seen it then.’

‘Lucy, there is nothing you could have done. It is God’s will, and you must accept it.’

But Lucy was incapable of trusting to the will of a deity who could deprive her at one stroke of her sole source of loving comfort and the entirety of her life’s belief. Oh, Papa, if only you had not told me! Except that if he had not, he would not have been the man she had known and cared for as her father: compassionate, patient, and the exemplar of “the milk of human kindness” demanded by his calling. Else he could not have taken to his heart and raised as his own the child of dubious parentage Lucy now knew herself to be.

Caught in the turmoil of her unhappy thoughts, the opening of the door took Lucy unawares. She jumped, her eyes flying to the aperture where a man stood revealed. She took in a tall frame enveloped in the grey of a many-caped greatcoat, one slender hand holding to the door handle. From under a dark beaver hat, a steel gaze pierced her in a countenance considerably younger than Lucy had anticipated.

Startled, she shot out of her chair, starting forward a step or two, a riot of question leaping to her tongue.

‘Oh! Surely you cannot be—? There must be some mistake! Unless—have you been sent by him? Or, no—perhaps you have mistaken the room?’ Lucy gathered her scattered thoughts. ‘This is a private parlour, sir.’

The gentleman made no move to vacate the room, but the disconcerting violence of his regard lessened a trifle.

‘Miss Graydene?’

‘Yes, I am she. But you—I was expecting Lord Pennington.’

‘I am Pennington.’

Elizabeth Bailey close-up reducedAvailable


About the Author

Elizabeth Bailey grew up in Africa with unconventional parents, where she loved reading and drama. On returning to England, she developed her career in acting, theatre directing and finally writing. Elizabeth has 18 novels published by Harlequin Mills & Boon and recently began a Georgian historical crime series of which the first two books were published by Berkley (Penguin US). But since she still loves romance, Elizabeth is delighted with the opportunity to publish her work independently.


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Author Georgiana Louis and “Ellie’s Gentleman” + Giveaway

My guest today is Georgiana Louis, author of Ellie’s GentlemanGeorgiana is offering a digital copy of Julia Quinn’s The Bridgertons’ Happily Ever After to the person with the most original comment.

Welcome to Susana’s Parlour, Fiona, and thanks for consenting to be interviewed!

What comes first: the plot or the characters?

To be honest it depends on the book. For Ellie’s Gentleman it was the characters. I saw Ellie in her carriage, riding home after another failed Season in London. I could just feel her relief to be out of the city and then just wrote. She literally falls over Robert in the next scene and it just unwound like that.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A total pantser. I often write for submission calls, as this one was. A publisher asked for sweet stories in the Regency era, with a Christmas theme and 12-25,000 words. So I thought, “I can do that.” Started writing and ended up somewhere in the middle.

Do you have a favourite quote or saying?

Yes, I have a few. But the one that stands out is:

“I wish I was a glow worm, a glow worm’s never glum, coz how can you be grumpy when the sun shines out your bum?”

What author or authors have influenced you?

Sabrina Jeffries was the first author I read from the Regency period. Her book To Pleasure a Prince lured me away from the Mills and Boon books I was reading and I never looked back. I love her style, also Eloisa James, Julia Quinn. Diana Gabaldon’s style of invoking the senses and using both first and third person has been interesting to read and learn from too.

Do you ever suffer from writers block and if so, what do you do about it?

I do on occasion, with Ellie’s Gentleman especially. It was my first true sweet book where you can’t use physical contact to move the story along. It was much harder than I ever thought it would be.

I just put it down and wrote another story. Then I’d pick it up again and get stuck. I asked my beta readers and critique partners for help and even asked my husband for plot ideas.

I love to write and do so every single day. So if one story isn’t working I start another and write till I’m stuck or tired again.

It works for me.

About Ellie’s Gentleman

Ellie Sommers is twenty years old, beautiful, lively and intelligent. She has finally returned to her family home after another long London season. She wants nothing more than to stay in her beloved country town and ride her horses. Enter Robert Blakely, a widower and a true gentleman. He has come to spend Christmas with his long-time friend William, Ellie’s father. Robert has no wish to marry again and is shocked to discover his own interest in the beautiful daughter of his friend. The only problem is that he is twice her age and a widower who has convinced himself he will never marry again.


“Oh Father! Whatever have you done?” Ellie raced along the hall to her father’s side. Her father merely laughed and growled at her.

“I twisted my ankle. Stop fussing. I’ve had a big enough lecture from Robert.”

Robert frowned at him. “Well, you know how many potholes are in those fields, whatever were you doing walking through one?”

Ellie's Gentleman300dpiHer father just grumbled and after struggling free, hopped to a chair.

“Jennings, call the doctor for an opinion and get me to my room. I’m sure by dinner I will be much better.”

He turned his steady green gaze on her. “Ellie, my dear, how has your day been?”

She smiled. Her father was the very best parent she could hope for. “It has been good, thank you father. I was hoping to go for a walk shortly.”

Robert removed his jacket and shook his head at her. “It’s raining quite heavily now I’m afraid.”

Ellie sighed, she didn’t feel like doing much else today. “Perhaps you could play a game of chess with her, Robert.”

Ellie heard her father’s suggestion and smiled. He had always been proud that she could play chess as well as any of his friends.

Robert smiled. “I wouldn’t have thought you could play, Ellie.”

She lifted her eyebrows at him. “My father needed an opponent for many years when I was younger. It is set up in the library Robert, if you would care to join me?”

She watched his reaction and saw a fleeting panic before he nodded. “Of course. Allow me to see your father settled first.”

Her father hmmphed and called to two of the younger footmen. “You go and enjoy yourself and I will see you at dinner.”

Ellie stood side by side with Robert as her father was helped up the stairs to his bedroom. Ellie waited, hands clasped behind her back. Robert turned to her and indicated down the hall. “Lead the way Miss Ellie.”

Ellie blushed and turned. Why was she not able to control her face better around this man?

She walked slowly so that her cheeks would calm down, then made her way straight over to the chess board. “I’m always white, if that is all right Robert?”

He smiled and nodded his head. “I am always black, so I believe that is perfect.”

Ellie hid her smile as she sat down into the chair and Robert sat opposite her. She moved her first piece and watched his clever eyes begin to make many moves ahead. A real chess player.

“Which mount did they give you to ride today?”

A ghost of a smile flitted across Robert’s lovely wide mouth before he moved his piece and looked up.

“A lovely, docile gelding.”

She nodded. How typical!

“You should have taken Storm Cloud. He would have enjoyed a walk.”

Robert’s grey eyes lit up at the mention of the stallion. He appreciated a beautiful horse just as she did.

“I did not think a stallion like that one would want to walk.”

Ellie giggled at his tone and moved another piece.

Robert frowned but moved his piece just as quickly.

“He doesn’t generally, but he does enjoy being out of the barn. I’m sure you could handle a gentle gallop.”

Robert looked at her wide eyes and burst out laughing. Ellie couldn’t help the accompanying laugh that bubbled up from her throat. He had such a wonderfully relaxed way of being.

Ellie moved her pawn, captured Robert’s castle and watched him frown once again.

“You are quite aggressive, young lady.”

Ellie flushed. Hardly. “My father taught me to put all of my effort into an endeavor if I wish for it. And in this circumstance, I wish to beat you.”

Robert laughed again and moved his pawn to capture another of her pawns. “At this rate, you just may. But I won’t give up without a fight.”

Ellie smiled and concentrated harder. “Oh, I wouldn’t expect it of you Robert.”

His dark eyebrows rose for a moment but he dropped his head and concentrated on their playing.

It was a quick, intense game that Ellie won by the skin of her teeth. As she took the black king into her sweating palm, victory filled her. “That was so enjoyable!” she squealed at him.

all photos sept 2011 282Robert groaned and slid back in his chair away from her. “For you, maybe. It has been many years since I have lost a game of chess.”

Rolling the chess piece in her hand, Ellie stood up to leave the room. It would be dinner time soon; she must dress. “Perhaps we could play again?”

Robert stood up and bowed to her, putting out his hand for the chess piece. Ellie looked at his hand for a moment before she reached out and placed it in his warm palm. Her fingertips grazed the skin of his palm and he gasped before he curled his fingers around the king.

Robert cleared his throat his throat and nodded. “Yes, I would like that.”

With feet that felt like they were floating on a cloud, Ellie ascended the stairs and made her way to her room. Which gown would be best for tonight?


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About the Author

Georgiana Louis is a chiropractor, wife and mother in the real world. However, her passion for writing could not be denied. She fell in love with romance novels at the tender age of eleven. Thousands of books have been read, absorbed and enjoyed since then. More recently, the wonderful world of Regency romance—dashing heroes and beautiful heroines in an era just beginning to accept love matches. Please join her in the fictional world, where everything ends as it should, happily ever after.