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Spotlight on Regency Author Joan Smith + Giveaway

I’ve been making my way through two shelves of Joan Smith books for quite some time (guaranteed fun reads), and the other day when I found one that I felt was truly outstanding, it occurred to me that it was a shame that few young people—who may not have been born in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s when Joan Smith was producing her delightful Regencies—have had the opportunity to read her work. (Note: Joan also wrote as Jennie Gallant; don’t overlook those titles when you come across them.)

Oh, you can find them in used bookstores, and nearly 70 of them can be found in the Kindle store for $3.99, not to mention on the Regency Reads web site for $5 a pop, but let’s face it, authors’ backlists don’t get the sort of promotion the newer titles do, and most younger people will probably never know what they missed.

So I decided to do my part in getting the word out. What sort of reader would appreciate Joan’s Regencies? Anyone who enjoys

  • traditional, “sweet” Regencies. Her stories will never be outdated.
  • spirited heroes and heroines with a sense of humor
  • witty dialogue à la Georgette Heyer without the superfluous narrative found in other books
  • three-dimensional, memorable secondary characters
  • well-crafted plots and believable scenarios
  • lively romps through Regency society in a variety of English locales

The Virgin and the Unicorn

the virgin and the unicornThis is the book that inspired me to write this post. I wrote this review for Amazon:

Miranda has known the Herscham family all her life; thus, she knows better than to set her cap for Lord Rotham, the oldest son, who has proven to be a ramshackle young man of the worst sort–not to mention the one who had played fast and loose with her older sister’s affections all those years ago. Miranda has been sent to stay with the Herschams, ostensibly because of her younger sister’s bout with the measles, but Miranda knows her parents are hoping she will make a match of it with Pavel, the younger Herscham son. It seems hopeless, though, since Pavel is only eighteen–the same as Miranda–and they’ve always been more like siblings.

Lord Rotham unexpectedly returns from his post at the Vienna Congress, and although he has a serious problem on his hands, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to Miranda, who proves to be immune from his practiced charm. It gives him pause to realize how his antics of the past have tainted him in Miranda’s eyes, and this latest escapade of his–having stolen a valuable French tapestry from a cathedral on a lark–is not showing his character in any good light either. Still, there’s no keeping secrets in that household, especially after the tapestry is stolen and the servant left guarding it seriously wounded. Since this matter is likely to cause an international incident, somehow they have got to figure out who stole it and get it back again.

Rotham knows what he wants almost from the first, and even his affectionate parents see it before Miranda does. But how can she take this rogue seriously when he was the cause of her sister Trudie’s anguish in the past? No doubt he had cut quite a swathe through the great ladies at the Vienna Congress before returning home. And hadn’t she seen the looks he’d exchanged with the beautiful comtesse who was also lodging with the Hershams? No, Miranda is far too sensible to have her head turned by a gentleman with HIS track record.

And yet…is Miranda truly so cautious and staid herself? Perhaps the truth is that she’s been waiting for an opportunity to have an adventure herself…and who better but an experienced rogue–one who is feeling seriously remorseful of his misspent youth–to accompany her?

I love the characters, the close family relationships, the witty repartee, especially Pavel’s remark about the lump on Rotham’s forehead giving him the look of a unicorn, a reference to the famous tapestry of “The Virgin and the Unicorn”. (No need to worry; it was a minor injury that soon faded.) The implication being, of course, that Miranda was the virgin who had tamed the unicorn without really trying to; he had voluntarily laid his head in her lap in a gesture of eternal surrender.

Joan Smith is a talented author; it is to be hoped that her books will be released in ebook format for the enjoyment of newer readers, who do not often get the chance to read such delightful Regencies these days.

Who is Joan Smith and What’s She Up To These Days?

This is the bio you will find at the end of most of Joan Smith’s books and on web sites. (It’s dated, as Joan hasn’t published anything since 1998, as far as I can tell.)

Joan Smith is a graduate of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and the Ontario College of Education. She has taught French and English in high school and English in college. When she began writing, her interest in Jane Austen and Lord Byron led to her first choice of genre, the Regency, which she especially liked for its wit and humor. She is the author of over a hundred books, including Regencies, many with a background of mystery, for Fawcett and Walker, contemporary mysteries for Berkley, historical mysteries for Fawcett and St. Martin’s, romances for Silhouette, along with a few historicals and gothics. She has had books in the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, been on Walden’s Bestseller list, had two Regencies selected for the Romantic Times ten best ever Regencies, and had one book condensed in a magazine. Her favorite travel destination is England, where she researches her books. Her hobbies are gardening, painting, sculpture and reading. She is married and has three children. A prolific writer, she is currently working on Regencies and various mysteries at her home in Georgetown, Ontario.

Update from Joan as of April 22, 2013:

The bio you have pretty well covers it. Still following the same interests, along with a keen interest in healthy cooking. I’m a widow now, enjoying time with the growing family of grandkids and great grandkids.

Have you read any of Joan’s books and if so, what do you like best about them?

Joan Smith Giveaway

In case you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of Joan’s books lately, I’m offering one lucky commenter the following six books from my Joan Smith collection. Do make sure you leave your email address in the comment so I can contact you if you happen to be the lucky winner.

The Barefoot Baroness (1992)

After one disastrous Season, Laura Harwood had no designs for snagging a husband. She hardly felt qualified to accompany her cousin, Olivia, Baroness Pilmore, to London for her debut.

However, Olivia’s fears of social failure proved unfounded—although meeting the Season’s social lion, Lord Hyatt, whose artistic talent was rivaled only by his masculine perfection, was a bit troubling.

His interest in painting Olivia’s portrait put Laura on her guard. Was it Olivia’s aesthetic countenance or her fortune that Hyatt found so appealing? Moreover, Laura found Hyatt’s attention to herself most disturbing. Alas, she knew it was simply a matter of time until he saw her for the provincial miss that she was.

The Royal Scamp (1989)

She had her pick of dashing gentlemen, but was one among them a common thief?

Naturally, eyebrows rose when Esther Lowden, a lady of quality, turned her family estate into a country inn. But business had never been better, thanks to the notorious highwayman whose midnight escapades encouraged fearful travelers to stay the evening.

Dabbed the “Royal Scamp,” he was rumored to be quite the gentleman, bestowing kisses on his more comely victims. Indeed, Esther suspected, he might even be one of the dashing new arrivals at Lowden Arms.

Well, no proper businesswoman would harbor a criminal. But which gentleman wore the mask of a highwayman…and which wore the face of love?

Reprise (1982)

No one ever dreamed that Prudence Mallow, who wrote novels and was not London’s most ravishing beauty, would ever capture the heart of the dashing Lord Dammler. The fact that he wrote poetry was, of course, a bond with his beloved. But he cherished her most for her beauty of spirit and her lively intelligence.

Alas, one day Prue unexpectedly visits her fiancé at his home only to discover his former mistress prancing about in appallingly few clothes. Naturally this leads her to believe that Dammler has renewed his erstwhile erotic relationship.

And so Prue decides to get even—in a very novel manner.

Valerie (1981)

Valerie was a lioness!

Tall, sandy-haired, with golden feline eyes. What better model could her eccentric aunt find for the heroine of her latest anonymous romance novel?

But the plot of life proved far richer than fiction. For when Valerie arrived at her aunt’s country estate, she suddenly found herself in the midst of high society séances and chicanery…where secret passages hid stolen jewels, where money changed hands as fast as Val changed gowns. And where distant French cousins and dashingly attractive, if poor, scholars, turned out to be as intangible as ghosts, as flimsy as certain “famous” fortunes, and as illusive and longed-for as love.

Tea & Scandal (1996)

There was much ado about something at Wildercliffe!

Exceedingly wealthy Lord Pargeter had married his housekeeper…then expired, leaving the woman an heiress. There was something havey-cavey about the whole business, especially when the woman’s niece, Jane Lonsdale, arrived unexpectedly from her teaching position at Miss Prism’s Academy.

Across the lake, neighbors at Swann Hall were most interested. Visiting acquaintance Lord Fenwick decided to investigate…and was very intrigued by Jane, whose past hinted deliciously of scandal and whose lovely face and lively spirit fascinated him even more.

As devilishly attractive as she found Lord Fenwick, Jane kept frantically busy trying to keep her past a secret and was not gullible enough to succumb to the charms of a man too curious about her for his intentions to be nobel!

Bath Scandal (1991)

How much mischief could anyone get into in Bath?

At the insistence of his high-minded fiancéer, Lord Southam had dispatched his unruly tomboy of a sister, Gillie, to an acquaintance in Bath. Mrs. Beatrice Searle, an elegant widow, could surely smooth the girl’s rough edges.

But when rumors of Gillie running free with a reckless gambler reached Southam, he wondered if Mrs. Searle was still the unexeptionable lady he knew years ago. Determined to see how matters stood, Southam was unprepared for the charming, beautiful, and somewhat fast-living Beatrice Searl. And with his wild oat-sowing days about to end, how could he ignore the charms of a merry widow?

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Sources of Joan’s Books

The Belgrave House (her non-Regency titles)

Regency Reads (Regency and Georgian titles)

Links

Joan Smith: The Canadian Georgette Heyer

Joan Smith on Goodreads

Jennie Gallant on Goodreads

Joan Smith on Shelfari

Romance Wiki (Joan’s Silhouette titles)

Many thanks to Peggy, Carola Dunn, and others from the Regency Yahoo Forum and the Mary Balogh Fan Forum for the great leads they passed on, and to Neff Rotter of Belgrave House for contacting Joan and getting a brief update on her for this post.

BTW, Joan: I was a French/English teacher also for a lot of years!

Guest Interview: Berengaria Brown

Today my guest is Berengaria Brown, who writes in many sub-genres of romance, although today she’ll be discussing her Regency series. Welcome to Susana’s Parlour, Berengaria!

  • What is your favorite historical period or region and why? Did you enjoy history while you were in school or was it frankly boring? How would you suggest we teach history to kids now—(i.e.) can fiction maybe be a tool here? Do you think we can and should learn from the past or is it now irrelevant to modern times and issues?

I loved history in school and have always enjoyed reading history textbooks, and biographies as well as historical fiction. Likely my favorite era is Regency England, thanks to an addiction to Georgette Heyer developed in my early teenage years, but I also enjoy medieval. One of the first biographies I read was of Queen Elizabeth I of England and I developed, and have maintained, a great deal of admiration for her.

People and what motivates them don’t change, but the means by which they achieve their ambitions may change. I think kids enjoy history more when they hear the stories of the people. Learning the dates of battles may be boring but hearing about the people who lived through those battles is more engaging.

  • Do you think historical accuracy is important in fiction? How about the use of modern speech and politically correct ideas instead of those that faithfully portray the period? Do you find this good, bad, a necessary evil or something you shun?

Factual accuracy is essential. People didn’t know about germs, microscopes and antibiotics had not been invented. They would never have sterilized the wounds. But your hero can fall into a river and wash off the dirt that way. Politically correct is a bit different. You do need to be correct to the ideas of the times. For example “bloody” was not used as a swear word as it was considered a reference to menstruation—something that was never discussed. The further back in history you go though, the more difficult it is to use the correct language as we have lost the words or their meanings have changed. But I consider it very important not to use a concept that was not yet understood. No psychology in medieval times, but you heroine may be considered mad or a witch.

  • Can you share a favorite author and title that perhaps inspired you to write in the historical genre?

Georgette Heyer. Any of her Regencies. She is the epitome of the era for me.

  • If there were such a thing as a time machine, where would be the first place you would go once you had a ticket to ride? Do you think you’d want to stay or just look around and then come right back to today?

I would like to go to the Court of Queen Elizabeth I of England. It was a very exciting time historically and she was an incredibly powerful ruler.

But I would likely miss not having bathrooms and heating or air conditioning, and the Internet, and come home after a little while—in winter if not before.

  • Please give us a bit of information about the book or books you’re sharing today.

The Virgins No More series consists of three MF erotic Regency-set historical books featuring the Arnott family.

The Vicar’s Virgin is Georgina’s story, Almost a Virgin is Theodora’s story, and A Promising Virgin is Sapphira’s story.

Book 1: The Vicar’s Virgin

The Reverend Mr. Ridley needs a wife so he focuses his attentions on Georgina Arnott, a sensible, intelligent, yet attractive woman.

On their wedding night he’s relieved to discover she enjoys the pleasures of the bed, and, after a slow start, their evenings are full of passion and joy for both of them.

Unfortunately, when she takes an interest in his parish, it seems to involve filling his house with noisy people tramping muddy boots through the hallways, and filling his kitchen with dirty children.

He loves his wife. But can this marriage work?

Buy link: http://www.evernightpublishing.com/the-vicars-virgin-by-berengaria-brown/

Book 2: Almost a Virgin

Theodora has loved John Smith ever since she was a little girl. But he’s very wealthy and she is only a vicar’s daughter and sister.

John had been waiting for Theodora to grow up. When he kisses Theodora in the garden at the ball, lust roars through him and he takes her there in the garden, fully dressed, only a few yards away from a hundred people. She’s warm and more than willing in his arms, and it’s not until the deed is done that he realizes he’s just dishonored his best friend’s sister.

Theodora doesn’t regret what she’s done. She enjoyed it and wants more of him. Even though he’s only marrying her because he dishonored her, she doesn’t care. She’ll make him so happy in bed and in his home he’ll stay with her even though he may never love her.

Buy link: http://www.evernightpublishing.com/almost-a-virgin-by-berengaria-brown/

Book 3: A Promising Virgin

Zethan, Earl of Mitcham, decides, after careful thought, that the stunningly beautiful Miss Sapphira Arnott will make him the perfect wife. It’s only when she declines his oh-so-flattering offer, that he realizes how rude and arrogant he’d been to her and her brother, and how much he loves her. The only solution is to woo her properly.

Meanwhile Simeon Arnott is in love with Miss Anne Smith. But she’s incredibly rich and he’s a mere baronet. Fortunately her brother and she herself accept his proposal and they have an extremely successful wedding night. Their ball, however, is almost less than successful thanks to the “help” of the three youngest Arnotts and their plans to go one better than a recent much-talked-about society event.

The Season is almost over. Can Zethan win his lady’s trust?

Buy link: http://www.evernightpublishing.com/a-promising-virgin-by-berengaria-brown/

STORY EXCERPT

The earl was standing at the window, his back to her. He was a very good-looking man—tall, with broad shoulders, and muscled arms and legs. She knew he rode well and played all sorts of manly pursuits. And, of course, he was rich and titled. Simeon was right. She wouldn’t get a better offer than this one from him. And she did like him. She enjoyed his company. He was always a considerate dance partner and his conversation was intelligent and witty. Her heart always beat faster when he held her in his arms for a waltz. She’d known herself very jealous of other women if he danced the waltz with them. Did that mean she loved him? She looked at his taut ass in his tight breeches. His body looked mighty fine and being older than her he’d know well how to please a woman. Her belly clenched at the thought of a man’s hands in all her secret places. She rather thought she’d enjoy the marriage bed. Especially with a well-built, good-looking man like Mitcham.

“Have you finished looking at me, Sapphira? Shall we have the wedding one month from today? In the cathedral of course. No other church will be big enough for all the guests I’ll need to invite.”

Sapphira took a step back in surprise. “You haven’t asked me yet.”

Mitcham stared at her then came closer and took her hands in his. “Dear Miss Arnott, please accept my offer to unite my house with yours in holy matrimony.”

“Do you care for me at all?” she asked hesitantly.

“You’re beautiful. Your wealth and lineage are adequate. You suit me well enough. I’ve never proposed to anyone before, if that’s what you mean. Now, I’ll send my man of affairs to the Bank of England to my lockbox to retrieve the diamond and ruby ring. You can go to Rundell and Bridge tomorrow so they can alter it to fit your finger properly. Then—”

She pulled her hands out of his grasp. “But you don’t care for me as a person. I’d always hoped to marry a man who cared for me at least a little.”

“Of course I care for you. I’m about to spend a monkey altering a family heirloom ring to fit your finger.”

“That’s not what I mean. My mama and papa loved and respected each other. They had a happy marriage. Georgina and Barnabas have found happiness together. They too love each other. I want to marry a man I can love and who loves me in return.”

“Love is for peasants, not for people of our class. You can love our son when he’s born. I will provide you with everything you can possibly need.”

“No. No you can’t. Because what I need is to be loved. I’m sorry, my lord, but I cannot accept your very flattering offer.” Sapphira turned and ran out of the room.

  • Where can our readers find out more about you and your writing? Please share your web site, social network pages, blogs or any other contact areas you maintain

Berengaria is a multi-published author of erotic romance: contemporary, paranormal (magic, ghosts, vampires, fairies, dragons, and werewolves), futuristic, medieval, and Regency-set historical. She loves to read all different kinds of romance so that is what she writes: one man/one woman; two women; two men; two men/one woman; three men, two women/one man, three men/one woman…. Whatever the characters need for their very hot happily-ever-after, Berengaria makes sure they get it.

I update my blog several times a week: http://berengariasblog.blogspot.com/

Website: http://berengariabrown.com/

Friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter

Susana, thank you so much for inviting me into your parlour today.

Berengaria

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Georgette Heyer: The Grande Dame of Regency Romance

georgetteI suppose you could say that Jane Austen was actually the first, but while she simply wrote about life in the time in which she lived, Heyer had to do so from a distance of a hundred years.

Heyer took pride in the historical authenticity of her novels, which was possible only as a result of a great deal of research on such things as daily living, fashion, transportation, famous personages, and the language that was used at the time. While critics complained that her books included too much detail of daily life at the time, in reality, this was necessary because Heyer’s readers needed it in order to understand the historical setting. And in Heyer’s stories, the setting is nearly as important as the plot!

Heyer’s first novel, The Black Moth, was written in serial form to entertain her brother in his sickbed. Her father liked it so much that he sought to have it published, which it was, in 1921. In 1935, the first of her Regency romances, Regency Buck, was published, and even though she also wrote thrillers and a few contemporary pieces, her Regency romances far outsold them. In spite of the fact that she refused to do anything to promote them.

cousinkateI think the first Heyer Regency I read was Cousin Kate, which had come out only a couple of years before. I was a freshman in high school and had won a $25 gift certificate (for being the top Spanish student) to the local college bookstore. I think my teacher expected me to buy a dictionary or something, but instead, I found the romance section and loaded up. (I think most of the books were 75¢ or less, so I had quite a bagful when I left the store.)

And that was how it all started. After reading all of Heyer’s Regencies—more than once, mind—I moved on to other authors. Historicals were always my favorite, but the Regency time period has always had a special place in my heart. Why? I’m not sure I can pin it down. I did make a stab at it in a recent blog post for The Romance Reviews, though.

“…the Regency was also a time of elegant manners, fabulous balls, and glittering aristocratic lifestyles. The traditional Regency romance, à la Georgette Heyer, involves dashing heroes, spunky heroines, witty dialogue, and an unexpected, “sweet” romance.”

What’s not to like?

If you haven’t discovered Georgette Heyer’s Regencies yet, don’t wait any longer! And if you find yourself as crazy about them as I am, you might want to buy the whole lot of them. Last year, all of her books were made available for $2.99 each during the month of August, Heyer’s birthday. Make a note in your calendar and stock up!

Which of Georgette Heyer’s books is your favorite? What do you like most about her stories?

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