Tag Archive | Christmas

Alicia Quigley: The Highlander’s Yuletide Love

We all enjoy our family Christmas traditions at this time of year, and for many of us that includes putting our feet up with a nice romance novel in between decorating trees, wrapping presents, baking cookies, and all of the other Christmas fun. When the setting is the Regency period, we need to have a look at how people celebrated the season at the time. Last year I published The Yuletide Countess, and this year’s Christmas release is a sequel, The Highlander’s Yuletide Love. Both take place in Scotland in the late Regency period.

Amazon

Hogmanay

Early 19th century Christmas customs in England differed quite a bit from ours, and those in Scotland still more. For example, the Christmas tree only became common in the Victorian era, although their presence in the German-influenced royal court was documented in the 1700’s. In Scotland, there was an even bigger difference. In much of Scotland, Protestant believers viewed Christmas as a holiday that was far too Catholic, and it was seldom celebrated.

Before the Reformation occurred in 1560, Scotland celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, in much the say way as other European countries. However, the Church of Scotland associated it with Catholicism and frowned on it. In 1640, the Scottish Parliament actually made what were referred to as “Yule vacations” illegal. Even though this was repealed in 1686, the Grinch pretty much stole Christmas in Scotland for the better part of the next 400 years! It only became a public holiday in 1958.

However, all was not cold and dark in Scotland during Yule season. Hogmanay, or New Years, had a long history of celebration including gift giving to family and friends and any number of other local superstitions and traditions. One of the best known is First Footing, or the arrival of the first guest on New Year’s Day.

A tall dark man (much like the hero in The Highlander’s Yuletide Love) bearing gifts as the “first foot” was supposed to be a sign of good luck. Gifts were also given to friends and family members on Hogmanay. Various regions of Scotland also had specific traditions. In The Highlander’s Yuletide Love, the hero hails from the Trossachs, a region near Loch Lomond. Traditionally, the men of this area would march in torchlight procession to the top of the Lomond Hills as midnight approached.

The English custom of Boxing Day, in which gifts were given to servants, tradesmen, etc. on the day after Christmas, also had an analog in Scotland. On the day after New Years day, known in the 19th century as Handsel Day one would give gifts or money to those who had waited on or worked for you during the year. The word “handsel” originates from an Old Saxon word that means, “to deliver into the hand”. During the 19th century, both of these holidays were celebrated on the first weekday after Christmas or Hogmanay, rather than always on the day after as is the present custom.

The Highlander’s Yuletide Love Final-FJM_Kindle_1800x2700 copy

Excerpt 

It was the fashionable hour of the promenade, and all around them the cream of London society swirled, the ladies glowing in their finest walking dresses, strolling arm in arm or riding in elegant carriages, while the men tooled their phaetons or rode well-bred horses. They circled one another, now and then stopping to converse, all eager to learn of the latest scandal or fashion.

Isobel tucked her arm through Sophy’s. “I think we shall outshine all the other ladies here this afternoon,” she teased.

Sophy took in Isobel’s elegant appearance in her plumed bonnet and emerald green pelisse worn over a pale yellow muslin gown. “You look fine indeed, but Miss Durand has been acclaimed the beauty of this Season, and I fear we cannot challenge her,” she laughed.

Isobel made a wry face. “That simpering nitwit? I’ve never understood what Society sees in her. Let us enjoy our drive all the same.”

Their carriage moved some ways down the path, the ladies nodding here and there to an acquaintance, and even stopping once or twice to talk briefly. Suddenly Isobel gave a little start.

“There is Colonel Stirling!” she said. “How very surprising. I haven’t seen him for an age. Francis will be delighted to know that he is in Town.”

As it would be bad ton to display her very real pleasure at seeing a friend, she waved rather languidly at a tall gentleman some distance down the path from them. He clearly saw and recognized the occupant of the barouche, and, nodding at the gentleman he was conversing with, made his way towards Isobel’s carriage.

As he drew nearer, Sophy noted the breadth of his shoulders, his narrow waist, and the powerful thighs under his fawn-colored pantaloons. His gait had the ease of an athlete, and she perceived as he reached the barouche that he was very handsome; a strong jaw, straight nose, golden brown eyes, and cropped black hair were set off by the elegant tailoring of his black coat, his perfectly arranged neckcloth, and gold-tasseled Hessians which he appeared to have been born in, so closely did they fit about the ankle.

Despite his attractiveness, Sophy also perceived an aura of arrogance surrounding him, as though he held himself aloof from his fellows, but it was countered by an air of confident masculinity that was extremely appealing. As he sauntered towards them, she was confused by the conflicting impressions that flooded her. She tried to imagine painting such a man; one whose surface was so alluring, yet who also possessed an inner chilliness, and found her mind awash in ways of translating such conflicting impressions into images. As a result, when Colonel Stirling arrived beside the barouche and Isobel introduced him, she found herself in a state of confusion.

“Lady Sophia Learmouth, may I present Colonel Stirling? He is a dear friend of Exencour’s,” she heard Isobel say.

The Colonel bowed elegantly. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lady Sophia. I believe I have encountered your father upon occasion.”

Sophy did her best to bring her thoughts back to the moment. “Oh thank you, Colonel Stirling. I’m delighted to be sure.”

She flushed slightly at her nonsensical response, and saw with a twinge of annoyance that Colonel Stirling, whose face had shown a touch of curiosity, now assumed a look of bland politeness. He had clearly dismissed her as a foolish girl beneath his notice, and the thought stung.

Isobel stepped in, drawing the colonel’s attention. “Have you been long in London? I hadn’t heard from Exencour that you were here, and I feel certain he would have mentioned it if he had encountered you. He speaks often of you, you know.”

A smile glimmered on the colonel’s lips. “No, Lady Exencour, I have missed much of the Season, and I seldom venture to London of late. After the death of my older brother this past year, I decided it would be best to spend some time in Scotland with my father, learning more about the estate. I shall have to sell out, I suppose, if I am to be the next laird.”

“My condolences, Colonel Stirling. You must feel the loss of your brother deeply,” Sophy said gently.

Ranulf switched his gaze from Isobel to her companion, and looked at Sophy closely for the first time. Her charming bonnet made of chip, trimmed with a garland of pink silk roses and matching silk gauze ribbons framed an expressive face, with large blue eyes fringed by dark lashes and a mouth that was full, yet surprisingly firm. Dark curls peeked out from under her hat, emphasizing the slim column of her neck. He raised his eyebrows.

“Why would you think I must necessarily miss my brother, Lady Sophia?” he asked, his voice faintly mocking. “My chief memories are of him teasing me mercilessly when we were boys, and as I embarked on a military career over a dozen years ago, I’ve seen little of him since.”

A spark of annoyance lit Sophy’s eyes. “I was being polite, and attempting to sympathize, Colonel Stirling, as you doubtless know. But I can tell you that I have a brother as well, and, as much as I wish to throttle him from time to time, if he were to suddenly disappear from my life, I would be heartbroken,” she replied, a touch of acid in her voice.

The smile grew broader, and Sophy blinked as the colonel’s handsome face grew even more attractive. “Well said, Lady Sophia. I do indeed miss my brother a great deal, if only because his death makes me take on the responsibilities of the family lands.”

Isobel glanced from Sophy to the colonel, her eyes alight with curiosity. “Colonel Stirling’s father is the Laird of Spaethness,” she said.

Sophy received the information with apparent disinterest. “Are you from the Highlands, then?”

“Yes, Spaethness is in Argyll, hidden away in the Grampians,” he replied. “We are wild Highlanders through and through.”

“No wild man out of the glens has his coats made by Weston, as yours clearly is, or wears boots with a shine such as yours,” said Sophy dryly.

A touch of amusement crept into his sleepy eyes. “I see I shall have to take my tales of kelpies and banshees elsewhere then.”

Sophy gave a gurgle of laughter despite her annoyance. “I may be a lowlander, but you must definitely find a more gullible female to impose upon than me.” She turned toward him and their eyes met and, though she relished the opportunity to give this confident gentleman a bit of a set down, she realized she had not managed to chase away the pull of his personal magnetism.

After a moment he looked away and gave her a careless reply. The conversation turned to the doings of the Season, and particularly of the Exencours’ and Colonel Stirling’s mutual acquaintance, while Sophy listened in silence. After a few minutes Isobel held her hand out to the colonel with a cheerful smile.

“We must not keep you any longer,” she said. “But do call upon us at Strancaster House. Francis will be very pleased to see you again.”

“I am always happy to see Lord Exencour, and his charming wife as well,” said the colonel. He turned to Sophy, and nodded. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Lady Sophia.”

Sophy inclined her head coldly, not failing to note that this caused the colonel’s lips to twitch slightly. She watched, annoyed, as he bowed politely while the barouche pulled away.

About the Author

AQ Twitter Avi copyAlicia Quigley is a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high.  She made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for her Barbie.  In spite of her terrible science and engineering addiction, she remains a devotee of the romance, and enjoys turning her hand to their production as well as their consumption.

Website • Twitter • Facebook • Amazon Author Page

Beppie Harrison: Two Rings for Christmas

DSCN0086 copy

I don’t know exactly why I fell in love with County Donegal.

Well, I don’t know why I fell in love with Ireland! I’m married to an Englishman, and during a considerable part of the recent Troubles we were living in Ireland, and both sides, using religion to cudgel each other, exasperated and irritated me. It all seemed so medieval to be battling—actually killing each other—over what brand of Christianity you preferred.

It wasn’t until much later that I came to Ireland and found that I loved the place. For one thing, it is so green. That’s what everyone says, but the amazing part is that it’s true. Look around you and a seemingly endless variety of greens are there. Bright, fresh new greens and weathered, comfortable greens that have been there for generations. And the people! Probably what you notice first is that they love to talk about anything—mainly in that most Irish of institutions, the pub. The pub is sort of the family room of Ireland. That’s where you go to meet your friends and family, from silent old geezers with bulbous noses testifying of years of cheerful drinking to families with young children who bounce around the pub meeting friends and chattering, the young mothers with babes in arms, young men and girls eyeing each other. All are welcome. The food is usually plain and good, served on thick pottery plates. Most memorable of all are the stories. If you look as if you have time, you’ll hear the stories. So sit down, pull up a chair or a stool, be at your ease, and wait for the stories to start.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00016]

My stories are set in various parts of Ireland, but my Christmas novella, Two Rings for Christmas, is set in Donegal, which I think now is my favorite bit of Ireland. It is the far northwest piece of the Republic. Donegal, which had always been part of Ulster, was not included with the six counties who chose to remain part of Great Britain, but its narrow connection to the Republic of Ireland is at one point only five miles wide, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and Northern Ireland to the east. Donegal is a beautiful stretch of Ireland, with a spectacular Atlantic coastline and stark mountains. The people make their lives in valleys with more peat bogs and hills than fertile ground. The people of Donegal are a tough and stubborn population who have lived in the country they’ve loved for generations, even if the land was never really suitable for growing much besides potatoes and oats and no great quantities of them. They don’t give up easily, and like many people who have lived on the edge of subsistence for generations, they have astounding generosity in sharing what they do have.

Amazon

Excerpt

Jenny was soft and fragrant, so close to him. Fergus had known that fragrance before, but only distantly. Even that day when he had held her in his arms for the first time they stood on the quay it had not been like this. The smells of the sea and of the wet wood of the ship and the dock and the jumbled cargo being carried aboard had nearly masked the scent of Jenny, but he had known it was there. Now it was overpowering.

“What are we to do?” he asked.

She pulled away from him, slowly and reluctantly. “Things are as they are.”

“But this cannot be!”

“It is. We can share the blame alike. You did not write to me and I lost faith. So here we are. I am to be the wife of Daniel Beatty. It is as it is.”

“You cannot.”

They were standing separate now, facing each other. “What else can I do? I agreed. I took his ring.”

About the Author

BeppieHarrisonPHOTO copyBeppie’s books are on the warm and friendly side, although they deal with all the pain and anger that existed over the long centuries—almost a thousand years—when Ireland was ruled by England. But the people there, both the Irish and the English, had their moments of reaching across the gulf and being confronted with its reality. Beppie writes about those moments.

WebsiteFacebookTwitter

Other books by Beppie Harrison:

The Heart Trilogy

The Defiant Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louisa Cornell: Christmas Revels II (Giveaway)

How to Survive a Regency Family Christmas

With Christmas a little over a month away, the thoughts of any lady of the house must turn to…

“Who invited all of these people and how will I keep them entertained?”

There are all sorts of possibilities available to the discerning hostess of today. Many guests simply require a place to plug in their phone or their laptop. A television and a stack of Christmas DVD’s can provide hours of amusement to guests of all ages. Video games, board games, bowl games, and music to suit every ear and every pair of dancing feet can be provided at the mere touch of a button. And let us not forget, if all else fails, a nice Christmas punch laced with a suitable spike can keep those hard to please guests quiet if not entertained.

Think of the dilemma faced by the mistress of the house in England two hundred years ago. Unpredictable weather, no electronic options, and each and every friend, acquaintance, and relation looking to be fed, housed, and amused. What is a Regency era lady of the manor to do? Fortunately there are a number of Regency Christmas traditions designed to keep the guests occupied and the lady’s reputation as the consummate hostess secure.

As many Christmas gatherings might last as long as a month (from St. Nicholas Day to Epiphany or Twelfth Night,) a good hostess had to provide a bounty of entertainment for her guests. Trapped in a house, no matter how large and stately, with friends and relatives for an entire month could be trying at best and akin to a wartime siege at worst. In addition to the usual Regency party games – charades and whist, here are a few sources of entertainment common to a Regency Christmas.

On St. Nicholas Day (December 6th) small gifts were exchanged among friends. This marked the official beginning of the Christmas season. After this the rounds of Christmas balls, parties and visits ensued.

While Christmas carols might be sung around the piano by friends and family, caroling as we know it was not something members of the ton did, save perhaps a group of young people out for a lark.

However, while there were no Christmas carolers in Regency England, there were wassail groups who would go from house to house singing begging songs in the hope of receiving food, drink, and money. Wassail was a mixture of beer, wine and brandy and was usually served to the singers at each house.

The house was not decorated for Christmas until Christmas Eve. To do so earlier was thought to bring bad luck. Whilst servants often “brought in the greens,” as it was called, a more creative hostess might send her guests, especially the younger ones, to make up a party and go out into the estate’s forests and woodlands in search of greenery to festoon the manor. The guests enjoyed a bit of fresh air and exercise and there were many opportunities for young men and women to end up under the mistletoe for a surreptitious kiss as they cut it for kissing boughs to be hung in each open doorway and out of the way corner for later “accidental” meetings. Men had the opportunity to show off for the ladies as they dragged the yule log into the house to be lit from a stub from last year’s log and burnt in the hearth until Twelfth Night.

Another source of entertainment were troupes of players called mummers, a tradition dating back to the medieval era. These varied from professional players to groups of lower class men who went from door to door asking if mummers were wanted. A good hostess might even hire a specific troupe to stop and entertain her guests. They were dressed in elaborate costumes with high paper caps – gilded and spangled, and ribbons of every color tied to their clothes. The characters of St. George and the Prince were also armed with ten swords. Their performance was called a “mysterie,” a very specific sort of play, which ended with a song and the collection of funds from those who had enjoyed the performance.

It is thought these mummers’ plays were the forerunners of a Regency tradition still alive today in England – the Christmas pantomime. It usually opened on Boxing Day (December 26th) and was performed in local theatres. Drury Lane hosted one in London and even Astley’s Amphitheatre held a special Christmas spectacular.

Another Boxing Day activity for the men in attendance, and some of the more adventurous ladies, was fox hunting. The Boxing Day Hunt was a long standing tradition, one I observed when I lived in England as a child.

Under the heading of a Regency version of “Hey y’all, watch this!” comes the Christmas game of Snapdragon. Raisins were soaked in brandy in a large shallow bowl. The lights were snuffed out, and the brandy lit. People had to try and grasp a raisin and eat it without burning themselves. I think you’d have to soak me in brandy to get me to try it!

A more tame version of the game was called bullet pudding and is described here in a letter from Jane Austen’s niece, Fanny Knight, to a friend.

Godmersham Park, 17 January 1804

…I was surprised to hear that you did not know what a Bullet Pudding is, but as you don’t I will endeavour to describe it as follows:

You must have a large pewter dish filled with flour which you must pile up into a sort of pudding with a peek at top. You must then lay a bullet at top and everybody cuts a slice of it, and the person that is cutting it when it falls must poke about with their noses and chins till they find it and then take it out with their mouths of which makes them strange figures all covered with flour but the worst is that you must not laugh for fear of the flour getting up your nose and mouth and choking you: You must not use your hands in taking the Bullet out.

I think this might be a successful game even today. It sounds like a great deal of fun.

Christmas trees were not prevalent during the Regency, although some houses were known to put up small ones bedecked with small gifts. They were made more popular in England by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the middle of the 19th century. However, on Epiphany Eve, men would gather round a tree, usually in an orchard, with cider and guns. In an ancient ceremony, they would drink to the tree and fire the guns to drive away evil spirits and promote the vigor of the trees. Horn-blowing was an alternative to firing guns. One would hope the lady had a physician in attendance, just in case.

A more ambitious hostess might engage her guests in performing their own Christmas play. With a month to write and rehearse it, some of these plays were quite elaborate. And on Twelfth Night (the official end of the Christmas season) gifts were exchanged again and a masquerade party was held. To add to the fun, guests sometimes had to search the house for elements of their costumes. Sometimes they would draw names of characters they were to play throughout the party. The characters’ names usually described the sort of person the guest was to portray. Mrs. Candor – a lady who always speaks with perfect frankness. Miss Tittletattle, who speaks nothing but gossip. Lord Bumblefoot, who trods on ladies’ toes when dancing. The character must be maintained throughout the party.

Once the Twelfth Night festivities were over it was time to take your leave until next year. As you can see, a lack of electronic devices did not hinder the ladies and gentlemen of the Regency era from celebrating Christmas with a great deal of laughter, joy, friendship, and love. Exactly what I wish for each of you during this most wonderful of seasons!

Do you have any unique Christmas traditions or forms of entertainment enjoyed by your friends and family? Tell us about them! A random commenter will receive an e-copy of either Christmas Revels or Christmas Revels II – winner’s choice.

CR - ebook cover copy

About Christmas Revels II

Let the Revels begin—again! Four new stories with four distinctive voices:

The Vicar’s Christmas by Anna D. Allen

Margaret Trent never needs anything or anyone, but when two London solicitors show up on her doorstep, she needs a hero. Enter Henry Ogden, mild-mannered village vicar. Hardly the stuff of heroes . . . until adversity brings out unexpected talents.

A Christmas Equation by Hannah Meredith

A chance meeting between a reluctant viscount and a self-effacing companion revives memories of their shared past—a time when they were very different people. With secrets to keep, Sarah Clendenin wishes Benjamin Radcliff gone . . . but he’s making calculations of his own.

Crimson Snow by Kate Parker

A trail of blood drops leads Jane Merrywether to a wounded stranger—the only person standing in the way of her wicked guardian becoming an earl. John Rexford, long-thought dead, has returned to claim his inheritance and his promised bride . . . if he can survive a murderous Christmas.

A Perfectly Unregimented Christmas by Louisa Cornell

After years at war, Viscount Pennyworth returns to his ancestral home to find some peace and quiet and to avoid the holiday he loathes. But four naughty boys, a bonnet-wearing goat, a one-eyed cat, a family secret, and one Annabelle Winters, governess, make this a Christmas he’ll never forget.

AmazonBarnes & Noble iBooks • Kobo

 

Excerpt

A Perfectly Unregimented Christmas

“And what of Christmas, my lord? Are the boys to have no part of the holiday?”

“I have not celebrated Christmas in twenty years, Mrs. Winters. Soldiers seldom have much chance on the battlefield.”

“This is not a battlefield, my lord. This is your home. And theirs while they remain.”

He crossed the room to where she sat. Putting one hand on the table and the other on the back of her chair, he leaned over her. The scent of soap, leather, and cloves made her want to move closer, but she did not dare.

“I have been pelted with snow-covered potatoes, knocked down the stairs, attacked by some unidentified one-eyed creature—”

“Attila. He’s a cat.”

“By what right does that thing call himself a cat? I have had my breakfast poisoned, my patience tried, and my sanity called into question. What would you call it, if not a battlefield? There will be no Christmas in this house.” He blinked. Slowly removed his hands. And took a step back. With a brief nod he turned to go.

“We’ll just see about that,” Belle muttered.

“Do not go to war with me, madam. I have years of experience and tricks you cannot begin to imagine.” He threw open the parlor door and stalked down the corridor, his boots delivering a ringing celebration of his temper.

“So do I, Colonel Miserington. So. Do. I.”

 

About the Author

100_0239[1] (3) Revise2 copyLouisa Cornell read her first historical romance novel, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, at the age of nine. This inspired her to spend the next three years writing the most horrible historical romance novel ever created. Fortunately, it has yet to see the light of day. As Louisa spent those three years living in a little English village in Suffolk (thanks to her father’s Air Force career), it is no surprise she developed a lifelong love of all things British, especially British history and Regency-set romance novels. (And Earl Grey tea!)

During those same three years, Louisa’s vocal talent was discovered. Her study of music began at the London College of Music and continued once she returned to the States. After four music degrees and a year of study at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, Louisa was fortunate enough to embark on a singing career in opera houses in Germany, Austria, and most of Eastern Europe. As a traveling diva, Louisa discovered playing a role costumed in lingerie in March can be a chilling experience, and in most Romanian B&B’s hot water is strictly a matter of opinion.

Now retired from an active career in opera, Louisa has returned to her first love— writing Regency-set historical romance. Her publishing debut, A PERFECTLY DREADFUL CHRISTMAS (from the anthology Christmas Revels,) won the 2015 Holt Medallion for Best Romance Novella.

Two time Golden Heart finalist, three time Daphne du Maurier winner, and three time Royal Ascot winner, Louisa lives in LA (Lower Alabama) with Frodo, a Chihuahua so grouchy he has been banned from six veterinary clinics, several perfectly amiable small dogs, one large, goofy dog named Duke, and a cat who terminates vermin with extreme prejudice.

WebsiteFacebookTwitter

 

Lauren Smith: The League of Rogues, Book 2

Character Interview with Lucien and Horatia

from His Wicked Seduction

Rochester Hall in Kent was full of life for the Christmas holidays. I was fortunate that I could take a chance to interview Lord Rochester and his soon to be bride Horatia Sheridan. Their engagement had caused quite a scandal because Horatia’s brother Cedric was Lucien’s friend, and they had fought a duel on Christmas day over Horatia’s honor, and then all three of them were nearly killed by an assassin from Lucien’s past. It was a story I needed to hear more details about and had reached out to Horatia for an interview.

Lauren_Smith_2014 copyShortly after arriving at the beautiful mansion in the countryside via coach, I was escorted to a drawing room to wait for his lordship and Horatia to arrive. A few moments later, a maid with a tea tray bustled in, followed by a handsome man in his early thirties with dark red hair and a wicked, yet playful smile. He tugged the edges of his silver waistcoat down and walked over to where I sat on the settee and bowed gracefully.

“Tis a pleasure, Madame.” He captured my hand and feathered a light kiss across my knuckles.

“Thank you, my lord. It’s a pleasure to meet you too.” I knew I was blushing, and by the amused glint in his eyes, he knew I was blushing too. Even betrothed and most decidedly off limits to a woman like me, Lucien, Lord Rochester, was irresistible.

The door opened again, to admit a woman I recognized, my friend Horatia Sheridan. In a rich blue silk gown, a color more suited to a married lady than a unmarried one, she looked stunning. In Rochester Hall, away from society’s judgmental eyes, Horatia was wearing gowns that looked much better with her fair skin.

“Lauren!” She rushed to greet me and we embraced.

“I’m so happy for you, Horatia. When I heard the news, I knew I had to come down and speak to you and meet your future husband.”

“Thank you.” Horatia snuck a little glance at Lucien who was grinning openly. The rogue. I smiled too.

“Why don’t we sit down and you can ask us your questions.” Horatia suggested.

Me: Lucien, it is no secret that you are a member of the League of Rogues. What is it like to be branded a rogue by London’s society?

Lucien: “Good lord, you don’t hold back, do you? Well, yes, I’m a member of the League. There are six of us: Godric, Cedric, Ashton, Charles, Jonathan and myself. I don’t mind the amusing moniker of the name. It suits me quite well. I’m both an acknowledged rake and a rogue, so why deny it?” he leaned back in his chair and crossed one booted knee over his ankles.

Me: So, Lucien – tell us about this Midnight Garden we’ve heard about? Is it the type of place you would think to encounter a young girl?

At this Lucien actually paled. “Right, well. It’s a place of ill repute,” he hesitated. “You know, a place where a man or woman with sensual appetites can be sated. Certainly not a place for a well bred young woman.” He coughed and shot a direct gaze at Horatia. She shrugged at him, then smoothed her skirts, as though unperturbed by his silent chastisement.

Me: Then it must have about given you a heart attack when you noticed Horatia there! Tell us about it?

“I’ll tell you,” Horatia butted in before Lucien could speak. “I think I was more shocked than he, even though it was my plan to find him. You see, I bribed one of his servants to find out where he went in the evenings, and decided that if he wanted a woman to take to bed, it had better be me, since I was so completely in love with him. Then when I came into his room, we each wore masks per the rules of the Garden, but he recognized me, and I knew it was him.” Horatia finally looked over at her lover, a playful little smile on her lips. “He thought he’d teach me a lesson and half-seduce me, but we both lost ourselves to the passion and it was wonderful.”

Me: Horatia – it must have been quite frightening to go to that place – what made you decide to do that?

“Lucien was afraid to fall in love with me because he is my brother’s best friend. Cedric would have killed him if he even looked at me in a desiring way. But I knew I had to be with Lucien, and that meant taking wild risks in order to save him from his attempt to hide from me.”

Me: It seems like you took a round about way to love – did you ever have any doubts that you would be separated?

Lucien answered this time. “Well, when her brother had his pistol pointed at my chest there were definitely doubts that I might shed this mortal coil and never seen my beloved, darling Horatia ever again.”

Horatia’s eyes sparked with tears. “And that wasn’t even the worst of it. When that assassin trapped us in the burning gardener’s cottage, I was convinced we would not make it out. But we did.” She took Lucien’s hand and they shared a secret look of love.

Me: You’ve known each other since you were quite young.  Any fun childhood memories?

Lucien laughed. “I was a young man when I met Horatia. She was only fourteen and I was in my twenties. She was also so serious as a child, determined to replace her deceased mother in the family and take care of her older brother Cedric and her younger sister Audrey.”

“And you were all charm and teasing, Lucien. It’s what drew me to you. Like a flower to the sun, I craved your light-hearted spirit to ease my serious one,” Horatia added.

Me: Were any of those memories at Rochester Hall? Had you ever spent the Christmas holidays there before with Lucien’s family?

Horatia shook her head. “I only spent one real holiday at Rochester Hall and it wasn’t during Christmas. I was there during the spring and accidentally ruined Lucien’s attempt to propose another woman. I spilled a bucket of water over her head from the top of a gazebo.”

Lucien chuckled. “I was so furious with you, love, but now I can only thank you from saving me from marrying that awful creature.” He turned to face me. “You see, I was going to marry Melanie Burns. She ended up marrying my dreaded enemy, Hugo Waverly. It was him who sent the assassin after us to kill us, but not because of Melanie. That’s another story, I won’t share here.”

Me: As one of the League of Rogues, we had never thought you’d settle down – not for years! What was it that Horatia did or said to get you to abandon your single life so quickly? 

Lucien smirked. “What indeed?” He slid a hand into the pocket of his dark blue trousers and pulled out a piece of fine red silk cut into a strip. “I discovered my little Horatia had a taste for bondage in bed, she like to be tied up, just as much as I loved to tie her up, among other things.” He winked at his future wife. “But the truth is this, she wasn’t afraid to be herself with me, even when I was a fool and tried to push her away. She was brave, bold and beautiful, and I knew a woman like that was a rare find and I couldn’t deny my feelings for her any longer. A woman like that deserves to be loved and cherished, even by a scoundrel like me.”

Me: Are you sad to leave your reputation as a playboy behind – or are you excited for whatever new adventures lie in front of you with your new wife?

He laughed. “Sad to leave behind my lonely bachelor ways? Absolutely not.”

Horatia giggled. “He’s most happily entertained with me. I keep him busy and satisfied.

“No doubt,” Lucien continued. “We’ll have plenty of children to keep us both busy. My mother will get her wish for grandchildren sooner rather than later I expect.”

Me: And now the most important question of the interview – now that Lucien is in wedded bliss, which of her children will Lady Rochester now turn her matchmaking abilities to?

“My mother? Who will her next matchmaking victim be? That’s a frightening guess to make. I feel, if I answer that I’d condemn one of my younger brothers or my sister to a wedding. But, then again, I’d love to torture one of my siblings. Let’s see, next in line by age is Lawrence, he’s like me, too stubborn for even my mother to arrange anything. Then there’s Avery, the family spy, always off on the Continent doing lord knows what to save King and Country. Then there’s Linus, he’s lovestruck with Lucinda Cavendish but far too young to marry, he’s only twenty-one. I would have to my bet on Lysandra, my only sister, just nineteen. However, she’s a real blue stocking, addicting to education and learning, not into husband hunting. I imagine my mother will set her sights on poor Lysa.”

I laughed and thanked Lucien and Horatia for allowing me to ask those rather personal questions. They in turn insisted that I stay with them through the remainder of the holidays. A Russell family Christmas? How could I refuse? Humming merrily, I picked up my belongings and went straight to my rooms, determined to write their story, His Wicked Seduction, one more adventures of the League of Rogues. I can’t wait!

About The League of Rogues, Book 2

Can the League’s most wicked rakehell be tamed? Or has this Rogue fallen too far?

Horatia Sheridan has been hopelessly in love with Lucien, her brother’s best friend, ever since he rescued her from the broken remains of her parents’ wrecked carriage. His reputation as London’s most notorious rakehell doesn’t frighten her, for under his veneer of cool authority she has glimpsed a man whose wicked desires inspire her own.

HisWickedSeduction300 copyLucien, Marquess of Rochester, has deliberately nurtured a reputation for debauchery that makes every matchmaking mother of the ton quake with fear. His one secret: he is torn between soul-ripping lust for Horatia, and the loyalty he owes her brother.

That loyalty is put to the test when an old enemy of the League threatens Horatia’s life. With Christmas drawing near, he sweeps her away to his country estate, where he can’t resist granting her one wish—to share his bed and his heart.

But sinister forces are lurking, awaiting the perfect moment to exact their revenge by destroying not only whatever happiness Lucien might find in Horatia’s arms, but the lives of those they love.

Warning: This book contains an intelligent lady who is determined to seduce her brother’s friend, a brooding rake whose toy of choice in bed is a little bit of bondage with a piece of red silk, a loyal band of merry rogues and a Christmas love so scorching you’ll need fresh snow to extinguish it.

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKobo • Samhain • Google

Excerpt

She is going to be the death of me.

“Lucien! You’re not even listening to me, are you? I’m in desperate need of a new valet and you’ve been woolgathering rather than offering suggestions. I daresay you have enough for a decent coat and a pair of mittens by now.”

Lucien Russell, the Marquess of Rochester, looked to his friend Charles. They were walking down Bond Street, Lucien keeping careful watch over one particular lady without her knowledge and Charles simply enjoying the chance for an outing. The street was surprisingly crowded for so early in the day and during such foul wintry weather.

“Admit it,” Charles prodded.

Lucien fought to focus on his friend. “Sorry?”

The Earl of Lonsdale fixed him with a stern glare which, given that his usual manner tended towards jovial, was a little alarming.

“Where is your head? You’ve been out of sorts all morning.”

Lucien grunted. He had no intention of explaining himself. His thoughts were sinful ones, ones that would lead him straight to a fiery spot in Hell, assuming one wasn’t already reserved for him. All because of one woman: Horatia Sheridan.

She was halfway up Bond Street on the opposite side of the road, a beacon of beauty standing out from the women around her. A footman dressed in the Sheridan livery trailed diligently behind her with a large box in his arms. A new dress, if Lucien had to hazard a guess. She should not be out traipsing about on snow-covered walkways, not with these carriages rumbling past, casting muddy slush all over. It frustrated him to think she was risking a chill for the sake of shopping. It frustrated him more that he was so concerned about it.

“I know you think I’m a half-wit on most days, but—”

“Only most?” Lucien couldn’t resist the verbal jab.

Charles grinned. “As I was saying, it’s a bit obvious our leisurely stroll is merely a ruse. I’ve noticed we’ve stopped several times, matching the pattern of a certain lady of our acquaintance across the street.”

So Charles had been watchful after all. Lucien shouldn’t have been surprised. He hadn’t done his best to conceal his interest in Horatia Sheridan. It was too hard to fight the natural pull of his gaze whenever she was near. She was twenty years old, yet she carried herself with the natural grace of a mature and educated queen. Not many women could achieve such a feat. For as long as he’d known her, she’d been that way.

He’d been a young man in his twenties when he met her, and she’d been all of fourteen. She’d been like a little sister to him. Even then, she’d struck him as more mentally and emotionally mature than most women in their later years. There was something about her eyes, the way her doe-brown pools held a man rooted to the spot with intelligence—and in these last few months, attraction…

“You’d best stop staring,” Charles intoned quietly. “People are starting to notice.”

“She shouldn’t be out in this weather. Her brother would have a fit.” Lucien tugged his leather gloves tighter, hoping to erase the lingering effects of the chill wind that slid between his coat sleeves and gloves.

Charles burst out into a laugh, one loud enough to draw the attention of nearby onlookers. “Cedric loves her and little Audrey, but you and I both know that does not stop either of them from doing just as they please.”

There was far too much truth in that. Lucien and Charles had known Cedric, Viscount Sheridan for many years, bonded during one dark night at university. The memory of when he, Charles, Cedric and two others, Godric and Ashton, had first met always unsettled him. Still, what had happened had forged an unbreakable bond between the five of them. Later, London, or at least the society pages, had dubbed them The League of Rogues.

The League. How amusing it all was…except for one thing. The night they’d formed their alliance each of the five men had been marked by the Devil himself. A man by the name of Hugo Waverly, a fellow student at Cambridge, had sworn vengeance on them.

And sometimes Lucien wondered if they didn’t deserve it.

Lucien shook off the heavy thoughts. He was drawn to the vision of Horatia pausing to admire a shop window displaying an array of poke bonnets nestled on stands. Her beleaguered footman stood by her elbow, juggling the box in his arms. He nodded smartly as Horatia pointed out a particular bonnet. Lucien was tempted to venture forth and speak with her, possibly lure her into an alley in order to have just a moment alone with her. Even if he only spoke with her, he feared the intimacy of that conversation would get him a bullet through his heart if her brother ever found out.

Charles had walked a few feet ahead, then stopped and turned to kick a pile of snow into the street. “If this is how you mean to spend the day then consider me gone. I could be at Jackson’s Salon right now, or better yet, savoring the favors of the fine ladies at the Midnight Garden.”

Lucien knew he’d put Charles out of sorts asking him to come today, but he’d had a peculiar feeling since he’d risen this morning, as though someone was walking over his grave. Ever since Hugo Waverly had returned to London, he had been keeping on eye on Cedric’s sisters, particularly Horatia. Waverly had a way of creating collateral damage and Lucien would do anything to keep these innocent ladies safe. But she mustn’t know he was watching over her. He’d spent the last six years being outwardly cold to her, praying she’d stop gazing at him in that sweet, loving way of hers.

It was cruel of him, yes, but if he did not create some distance, he’d have had her on her back beneath him. She was too good a woman for that, and he was far too wicked to be worthy of her. Rather like a demon falling for an angel. He longed for her in ways he’d never craved for other women, and he could never have her.

The reason was simple. His public reputation did not do justice to the true depth of his debauchery. A man like him could and should never be with a woman like Horatia. She was beauty, intelligence and strength, and he would corrupt her with just one night in his arms.

Within the ton, there was scandal and then there was scandal. For a certain class of woman, being seen with the wrong man in the wrong place could be enough to ruin her reputation and damage her prospects. These fair creatures deserved nothing but the utmost in courtesy and propriety.

For others, the widows still longing for love, those who had no interest in husbands but did from time to time seek companionship, and that rare lovely breed of woman who had both the wealth and position to afford to not give a toss about what society thought, there was Lucien. He seduced them all, taught them to open themselves up to their deepest desires and needs, and seek satisfaction. Not once had a woman complained or been dissatisfied after he had departed from her bed. But there was only one bed he sought now, and it was one he should never be invited into.

He glanced about and noticed a familiar coach among the other carriages on the street. Much of the street’s traffic had been moving steadily and quicker than the people on foot, but not that coach. There was nothing unusual about it; the rider was covered with a scarf like all the others, to keep out the chill, yet each time he and Charles had crossed a street, the coach had shadowed them.

“Charles, do think we’re being followed?”

Charles brushed off some snow from his gloved hands when it dropped onto him from a nearby shop’s eave. “What? What on earth for?”

“I don’t know. That carriage. It has been with us for quite a few streets.”

“Lucien, we’re in a popular part of London. No doubt someone is shopping and ordering their carriage to keep close.”

“Hmm,” was all he said before he turned his attention back to Horatia and her footman. One of her spare gloves fell out of her cloak and onto the ground, going unnoticed by both her and her servant. Lucien debated briefly whether or not he should interfere and alert her to the fact that he and Charles had been following her. When she continued to walk ahead, leaving her glove behind, he made his decision.

Lucien caught up with his friend still ahead of him on the street. “I’ll not keep you. Horatia’s dropped a glove and I wish to return it to her.”

“Plagued by a bit of chivalry, eh? Go on then, I want to stop here a moment.” He pointed to a bookshop.

“Very good. Catch me up when you’re ready.”

Lucien dodged through the traffic on the road and was halfway across the street when pandemonium struck.

Bond Street was turned on its head as screams tore through the air. The coach that had been shadowing him raced down the road in Lucien’s direction. Yet, rather than trying to halt the team, the driver whipped the horses, urging them directly at Lucien.

He was too far across the street to turn back; he had to get to safety and get others out of the way. Horatia! She could be trampled when it passed her. Lucien’s heart shot into his throat as he ran. The driver whipped the horses again, as if sensing Lucien’s determination to escape.

“Horatia!” Lucien bellowed at the top of his lungs. “Out of the way!”

About the Author

Amazon Best Selling author, Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets: a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.

 WebsiteFacebookTwitterGoodreads 

“Smith’s fast-paced historical keeps readers on their toes as they’re taken hostage by a whirlwind of characters and an unforgettable romance. Readers will get their fair share of emotional outbursts, which includes laughter, lust, anger and sadness…it’s action-packed, sizzling hot and readers of all genres will enjoy the scramble to the finish.”—RT Book Reviews Magazine
 
“Lauren Smith’s debut League of Rogues novel is a fun, clever and wonderfully sympathetic read that will no doubt earn her a number of fans. Her insight into her characters and willingness to take risks with them is impressive…and brought a fresh voice and a heap of compassion, transforming it into something highly readable and quite enjoyable.”—The Romance Reviews
 
“The best thing for me was the quality of Lauren Smith’s writing. I will read her again. She is a fresh voice to watch out for.”—Romantic Historical Reviews
 
“I really enjoyed Wicked Designs, Lauren Smith’s debut Regency historical novel. This witty and entertaining romance features an emotionally scarred hero, a smart heroine and a loveable group of rogues… Emily is a delightful heroine. She is smart, courageous and spirited enough to stand up for herself. I love her determination to outwit her captors and escape. She certainly keeps those five rogues on their toes!”—Rakes and Rascals.com

A Regency Christmas Quiz

A Regency Christmas Quiz

(Answers below)

For this quiz, the Regency is defined as 1811-1830.

True/False

  1. Christmas trees lit by candles were common decorations in Regency England.
  2. Gift-giving was a prominent Christmas tradition in Regency times.
  3. The Twelve Days of Christmas began on December 26 and ended on January 6 and did not include Christmas Day because it was a solemn, holy day and not one for partying.
  4. Many Christmas traditions were pagan in origin.
  5. Although it originated as a pagan ceremony to ensure a good apple crop, wassailing became more of caroling event in the Regency.
  6. Christmas Pudding, or Plum Cake, contains raisins rather than plums.
  7. A Christmas Pudding can be made months in advance.
  8. Finding a thimble in your slice of Christmas Pudding means good luck for the coming year.
  9. Mince pie and all things Christmas were banned during Cromwell’s reign because they were considered “pagan,” but it all came back when Charles II came into power.
  10. Originally, mince pie was made with meat and spices and served as a main course.
  11. The three spices in mince pie—cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg—were meant to represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  12. Originally, the Yule Log was from the largest tree that would fit in the fireplace so it would keep burning throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas.
  13. “Mummers” were traveling troupes of actors who would go door-to-door offering to perform and sing for a few coins.
  14. In the Regency era, Christmas decorations were often left up throughout the month of January.
  15. Silent Night was one of the Christmas songs commonly sung in the Regency era.
  16. The custom of stealing kisses beneath the kissing bough, or even a sprig of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling or doorway in a place where people were certain to walk beneath it, became popular in the late eighteenth century.
  17. Boxing Day was a time to reward servants, tenants and tradesmen with gifts of money and/or food.
  18. Plough Monday, which is the Monday after Twelfth Day (Epiphany), is when the farm laborers are called back to work after the Christmastide.
  19. Christmas Eve was the traditional night for wassailing.
  20. If your piece of King Cake contained a bean, you were crowned “King” for the night.

Contest Winner

(from the Sweet N Sexy Divas blog contest)

Nancy Mayer

Regency Researcher Extraordinaire

Answers

  1. False. Christmas trees did not appear until the Victorian era, when Prince Albert brought the German custom to England.
  2. False.
  3. True.
  4. True.
  5. True.
  6. True.
  7. True.
  8. False. It means “thrift.” Finding a wishbone means good luck.
  9. True.
  10. True
  11. False. The three spices were in honor of the Three Magi who came from the Orient to honor the Christ Child.
  12. False. The Yule Log was the largest and tallest true and was inserted the long way into the fireplace, with the rest jutting out into the room. In the Regency era, it was a large log that would burn at least twelve hours on Christmas Day.
  13. True
  14. False. It was bad luck to have them up past Twelfth Day (January 6th).
  15. False. Stille Nacht was one of many German songs that were exported to Britain during the Victorian era.
  16. True.
  17. True. Because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, it was tradition to give them the next day off to spend with their families.
  18. True.
  19. False. Twelfth Night (the evening of January 5th) was the traditional night for wassailing.
  20. True. Whoever got the pea was “Queen.”

About A Twelfth Night Tale

In A Twelfth Night Tale, the Barlows celebrate the holiday with their neighbors, the Livingstons, and the St. Vincents—a wealthy viscount who is courting the elder daughter Lucy and his three daughters. Andrew Livingston, who has returned wounded from the Peninsula, suffers a few pangs of jealousy as he watches the viscount’s attentiveness to the now-grown-up-and-very-desirable Lucy. Is it too late for him to stake a claim for her?

http://www.susanaellis.com/A_Twelfth_Night_Tale.html

twelfthnighttale_msr copy200x300

Ellora’s Cave • Amazon • Barnes & Noble • Kobo

 

Cynthia Moore: It’s Never Enough

Cotillion Christmas Feasts

fireplace small

2014 is the final year of Ellora’s Cave’s Cotillion Christmas anthologies. Enjoy these sweet Regency Christmas tales this year while you still can!

Message From Cynthia

It all started with the theme-Christmas Feasts. I wanted to set up an opening scene showing the heroine unable to sleep because she is hungry. She convinces her maid to accompany her to the kitchen for a late night meal. I needed the heroine to encounter the hero in the kitchen unexpectedly. They should each show embarrassment as well as longing and concern for one another (an obvious hint at continued affection on both sides). Then I had to come up with a reason why they were each holding their emotions in check. That’s when I decided that there would be a misunderstanding between them the night before the hero goes to war. This mistake has festered and bothered each of them in the months the hero has been away. She is confused and heartbroken, he is full of longing for her but he believes he did the right thing to set her free so that she could be with the man she loved.

About It’s Never Enough

Lady Selina Durwood has been in love with Lord Robert Crestor since she was a young girl. As the years passed by and their relationship matured, it was assumed by all who knew them they would eventually marry.

Robert makes a decision to join the British cavalry to assist in the fight against Napoleon. While attending a ball the night before he leaves, Robert observes his best friend Justin Wexley, Marquess of Rockton, speaking to Selina. They both appear to gaze longingly into each other’s eyes while they talk. Robert assumes they are in love with each other. Later that night, he informs Selina that she is released from any expectations of marriage with him.

Invited to spend the Christmas holidays with her parents at his family’s estate, Selina agrees to attend believing Robert is still stationed with his cavalry in Brussels. Upon entering the kitchen with her maid for a late night meal, she unexpectedly encounters Robert.

Will Robert come to realize he made a very unfortunate conjecture about his friend and Selina? Can Selina forgive Robert for the heartache and pain she has lived with since he set her free and went away to battle? The true strength of their love for one another is put to the test in this holiday story.

AmazonBarnes & Noble Ellora’s CaveKobo

Excerpt

Chapter One

December 23, 1815

“Ellie! Miss Worth! Please wake up!”

“What…what? Whatever is the matter, my lady?”

“I’m famished. I can’t sleep. My stomach is growling like an angry bear with a bee in its ear! You need to accompany me to the kitchen.”

9781419993367_p0_v1_s260x420Miss Worth yawned loudly and then looked embarrassed. “I’m sorry, my lady. We were traveling all day to get here and I ate a huge meal in the servants’ quarters this evening. I’m plumb exhausted as well as stuffed. Are you sure you’re hungry, my lady?”

Selina walked back into her own room and reached for her wrapper. She tied it securely at her waist and thrust her feet into the slippers that were on the floor near the bed. “You know what has happened lately whenever I go to balls or parties and I have to sit at a table and eat food surrounded by people I don’t know. I get nervous. I worry someone will ask me a question just as I take a mouthful of meat. Or a piece of cabbage will get stuck in my teeth and it will shine like a green beacon for everyone to see when I smile. I end up taking a few small bite before the hostess rises from her seat and announces it is time for the women to leave the gentlemen to their brandy and cigars. Such a thing occurred tonight.”

Miss Worth sat up in her cot and frowned at Selina from the connecting room. “But, my lady, Lord and Lady Dunstable have been friends of your parents since before you were born. And you’ve known Lord Rockton for many years. Surely you have no trouble eating a meal around them?”

Selina began pacing across the carpet that lay in front of the hearth. She needed some sort of activity to keep her mind off her hunger pains while she waited for Ellie to get ready. “Of course I don’t. But several new acquaintances are joining us here for the holidays. A Lord John Bartley, his sisters, Miss Bartley and Miss Francis Bartley and Lord Bartley’s friend, Sir William Elsmere. They were all at the table this evening.”

Miss Worth struggled to her feet and trust her arms into her wrapper. “Oh yes. I believe I heard the butler mentioning the arrival of more guests. He seemed very upset that Lord Crestor hadn’t made an appearance, my lady.”

“Robert…um, Lord Crestor? He is busy with the Cavalry Brigade in Brussels. He can’t make time to be with us now.” Selina stopped pacing and frowned down at the glowing bits of coal in the hearth.

“But, my lady, Napoleon is safely imprisoned on Saint Helena. Surely Lord Crestor could take some time away from his duties to be here for the holidays?”

“You seem unduly concerned by his absence, Ellie.” Selina raised her eyebrows as she looked at her maid.

“I’m the one who dried your tears after he left, my lady. I know how much you love him.”

“Yes, well, Lord Crestor made it perfectly clear that any thoughts of affection I might have had were misplaced when he released me from any prior claim to him just before he left to join his regiment in April.”

“My lady, you know that he hadn’t formally asked for your hand. He wanted you to be free in case he should be killed in battle.”

“We’ve been over this before, Ellie. He obviously didn’t care for me as much as I did for him.” Selina forced a smile upon her face and picked up the lighted taper on the bedside table. “Come, my mouth is watering when I think of the roasted quail and apple tarts that are taking up space in the larder this very moment.”

They made their way down the stairs, through the darkened entryway and tiptoed past the housekeeper’s quarters at the back of the house until they reached the door leading to the kitchen. Selina put a shaky hand against the frame as a loud rumble of hunger omitted from her stomach once again. Without further ado, she turned the knob and entered the room.

“Selina…um, Lady Selina? Is that you?”

Her hand trembled and the candle wavered as she heard the sound of the deep, soothing voice of the man she had known and loved since childhood. She raised the candle and focused her gaze on the figure that had risen from the nearby table. She stifled a gasp when she saw him clearly. He had lost a considerable amount of weight in the months since he had gone away to battle. His black hair was still thick and wavy, brushed back off his forehead. But his cheek bones seemed more pronounced and prominent on his face. He had taken off his coat and draped it over the back of a chair. His cravat was untied and his white linen shirt hung loosely across his chest. As she looked into his hazel eyes, she had the impression that he was holding himself in check-hiding something from her. “Robert? Uh, Lord Crestor? I thought you were still in Brussels.”

Susana Says

SusanaSays3…sweet and light holiday romance: 4/5 stars

Can a gentleman be too honorable?

Robert believes his betrothed is in love with his best friend, so he releases her from the relationship before he takes off for the war on the Continent.

Selena is left heartbroken when her betrothed gives her the freedom he believes she wants and then takes off for war.

Now he is back for Christmas with his family and a party of friends that includes Selena and the man he thinks she loves. He doesn’t understand why they have not married after so much time has passed, and besides, show no partiality for each other even now.

Cute love story set among English holiday traditions and culinary delights. Short enough to finish at one setting. Enjoy!

About the Author

author_photoCynthia Moore is a native Southern California girl. At a very early age, she discovered her local library and the exciting potential of escaping the real world inside the pages of a good book. In her early teens, she became a fan of British literature. After reading most of the Victorian classics, Cynthia found English Regency romance novels in 1987. It was love at first read. Since her chance introduction to this wonderful era, Cynthia has read over three thousand fiction novels and she maintains a large collection of research books on the period. She is extremely proud to be able to say she has several published novels taking place during the English Regency.

Other Stories in the Cotillion Christmas Feasts Series

Christmas Fete by Barbara Miller

The Size of the Scandal by Jillian Chantal

Her Very Major Christmas by Saralee Etter

A Christmas Scheme by Christa Paige and Vivien Jackson

It’s Never Enough by Cynthia Moore

Heather Hiestand: Christmas Delights

BBT_TheKidnappedBride_Banner copy

Heather will be awarding a $25 AMAZON or BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

About Christmas Delights

The sweetest gift is the hardest to unwrap. . .

Lady Victoria Allen-Hill never dreamed she’d be a widow at twenty-one–let alone a virgin. Her father insists that she attend a matchmaking house party in the snow-covered seaside town of Pevensey in hopes she’ll find a suitable husband. But for Victoria, it’s an opportunity to indulge in a passionate affair—and the handsome inventor she meets at the Christmas Eve masquerade ball may be just the man for the job. . .

Lewis Noble is the cousin of London’s famed Redcake sisters, so it almost stands to reason that he’s just as irresistible as one of their sugar-iced pastries. Lewis catches the eye of every woman at the party–but Victoria is the only one who catches his. He won’t be tied down in her father’s business, but watching other men court her amid a flurry of engagements ignites a jealousy he’s never felt before. A dose of honesty may be just the thing to mend their broken hearts–for many holidays to come. . .

“Before I realized it, the unusually strong and well-developed characters of The Kidnapped Bride had sneaked up on me and captured my full attention. This is one of the best shorter books I have ever read.”

Delle Jacobs, author of Lady Wicked

“A delightful, sexy glimpse into Victorian life and loving with two wonderfully non-traditional lovers.

Jessa Slade, author of Dark Prince’s Desire and His Wicked Smile

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKensington Books

Excerpt

“Why would you want to dine with him?” Lewis growled. “He’s a known rake, on the prowl for a rich heiress.”

Cover_The Kidnapped Bride copy“I am a rich heiress,” Victoria said softly.

“I thought you were interested in me. Was that all a mistake?” His expression stayed closed, remote.

“Will you be dreaming of some other woman when I’m in your bed?” Her retort shocked her. She was acting like a jealous lover, not a flirt.

He stared at her for a long moment. “If I allow a woman into my bed, she is going to be the only thing I think about. The only thought I will have will be her pleasure; my only concern will be her satisfaction.”

She felt her intimate flesh contract in a hard burst of pleasurable shock. “Are you ready to allow it, sir?”

“Are you?” His gaze narrowed. “You seem to be having second thoughts.”

“I never have second thoughts at midnight. Only at other times of the day,” she said lightly, wishing she could run her hands over his elaborate jacket and feel the outline of the hard muscles underneath.

“Then we will make an assignation for some midnight,” he said.

About the Author

Heather Hiestand photo copyHeather Hiestand was born in Illinois, but her family migrated west before she started school. Since then she has claimed Washington State as home, except for a few years in California. She wrote her first story at age seven and went on to major in creative writing at the University of Washington. Her first published fiction was a mystery short story, but since then it has been all about the many flavors of romance. Heather’s first published romance short story was set in the Victorian period, and she continues to return, fascinated by the rapid changes of the nineteenth century. The author of many novels, novellas, and short stories, she has achieved best-seller status at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. With her husband and son, she makes her home in a small town and supposedly works out of her tiny office, though she mostly writes in her easy chair in the living room.

For more information, visit Heather’s website. Heather loves to hear from readers! Her email is heather@heatherhiestand.com.

FacebookTwitterPinterest

Jillian Chantal: The Size of the Scandal

Cotillion Christmas Feasts

fireplace small

2014 is the final year of Ellora’s Cave’s Cotillion Christmas anthologies. Enjoy these sweet Regency Christmas tales this year while you still can!

Message From Jillian

I’m Jillian Chantal and want to thank Susana for having me here to talk about my new release, a Christmas story from the Cotillion Collection at Ellora’s Cave.

AuthorPicI love Christmas stories and when I saw the call for this year’s stories based around the Regency Christmas feast, I had an idea for a young lady who never seemed to be able to behave quite properly. She skated on the edge of scandal her entire life and her father was concerned she would land in the middle of one before she could be married.

Since her first season was a failure, the heroine’s father betroths her to an old friend of her brother who she hasn’t seen in years. The heroine’s reaction to what she sees as her father’s betrayal is to run away. That’s when the story starts.

I love to write pert, sassy heroines and I hope this one pleases the reader. The cover of this book made me giddy with delight. The couple is absolutely perfect for the story. He’s handsome and witty and she’s sassy. The cover epitomizes them and their personalities.

About The Size of the Scandal

the-size-of-the-scandalCharlotte Greystone can’t seem to stay out of trouble. When her father betroths her to a man she hasn’t seen in almost ten years, she runs away. Never mind that it’s days before Christmas and she has no survival skills.

When she’s almost crushed by hunters on horseback, a handsome man on a black stallion comes to her rescue. Not thinking of the scandal of being alone with a strange man, she allows him to assist her in returning to her home.

The next day, Charlotte is appalled when the butler announces her betrothed—the same man she shared a horse with the day before. Terrified he will tell her father of her behavior or cause an even bigger scandal by breaking off the engagement, Charlotte is knocked off-kilter—and stays that way as she spends the hours until Christmas trying to understand the man.

Ellora’s CaveAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

SusanaSays3Susana Says

…a coming-of-age love story set at Christmastime: 4/5 stars

An earl’s daughter on the cusp of womanhood is shocked to discover her father has betrothed her without her knowledge to a man she hasn’t seen for nearly a decade: a man she remembers as being short and stubby.When it turns out that “Stubby”is not only a war hero, but also tall and excessively good-looking, she begins to see how childish she has been. Fully expecting Major Cavanaugh to reveal her behavior to her parents, she is gratified and intrigued when he does not. But that doesn’t mean he’ll go through with the marriage after everything that’s happened. And that’s when Charlotte begins to realize that she might have inadvertently ruined her chance for a real-life happy-ever-after.

Young girls might dream of fairy-tale romance, but in the Regency, quite often marriages were arranged for quite different reasons. Eventually, a young woman must put away childish things and learn to deal with reality in a more mature manner. Happiness is, after all, a choice. And sometimes love pops up in the most unexpected places.

About the Author

Jillian Chantal lives in the beautiful state of Florida, where she works in the legal profession as well as writing romance novels in her spare time. She is multi-published in the romance genre. She is the mother of two sons and enjoys the laid-back Florida lifestyle. Other hobbies are photography and travel. She uses both as inspiration for her fiction work. Jillian loves to hear from readers.

WebsiteFacebookTwitter

Email

Other Stories in the Cotillion Christmas Feasts Series

Christmas Fete by Barbara Miller

The Size of the Scandal by Jillian Chantal

Her Very Major Christmas by Saralee Etter

A Christmas Scheme by Christa Paige and Vivien Jackson

It’s Never Enough by Cynthia Moore

Elizabeth Essex and “The Scandal Before Christmas”

Scandal-Before-Christmas

About The Scandal Before Christmas

Lieutenant Ian Worth needs a wife by Christmas, and he can’t afford to be choosy. He has to find her, woo her, and wed her before he goes back to sea—all within a matter of days.  

Anne Lesley is a shy spinster with no prospects, and nothing and no one to recommend her but her own self. She accepts the lieutenant’s hasty offer only for the comfort and security it will bring. But when a midwinter storm snows her and Ian in, they both find they got much more than they bargained for—laughter, light, and a Christmas filled with honest to goodness true love… 

Look for the next novel in the sensational Reckless Brides series, After the Scandal, coming in April 2014from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Praise for Elizabeth Essex’s Reckless Brides series:

“Nonstop action, witty repartee, and deft plotting.”—RT Book Reviews

“Deliciously sexy romance…I will read anything Elizabeth Essex writes!”

—New York Times bestselling author Celeste Bradley

“Adventure-packed, passion-filled, and totally satisfying.”—Romance Junkies

About the Author

elizabethessexElizabeth Essex is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed Reckless Brides historical series. When not re-reading Jane Austen, sipping tea or mucking about her garden, Elizabeth can be found writing, making up wonderful stories about people who live far more interesting lives than she. It wasn’t always so. Elizabeth graduated from Hollins College with a BA in Classical Studies and Art History, and then earned her MA from Texas A&M University in Nautical Archaeology, also known as the archaeology of shipwrecks. You can visit her web site at www.elizabethessex.com.

SUSANA SAYS: Lovely story of a couple who expect to make an arranged marriage: 5/5 stars

SusanaSays3I meant to read this before Christmas, but…well…things got in the way. January was nearly half over before I got to it, and I’m so glad I did! I have to say this is not overtly a Christmas story, except for the fact that it takes place in that time period. The Scandal Before Christmas can be enjoyed any day of the year!

It is truly a delight to watch the progression of emotions as these two lonely young people fall in love. Anne goes from being plain to somewhat attractive to beautiful in his eyes as his feelings deepen. Anne tries to guard her feelings—this is a man who *nearly* offered for her sight unseen and who intends to desert her most of the year while he continues his naval career. But his touch enflames her, and she finds herself drawn into the romantic spell. But will it all collapse when Ian’s father the Viscount arrives to put a spanner in the works?

Regan Walker and “The Twelfth Night Wager”

VBT The Twelfth Night Wager Banner copy

Regan will be awarding a copy of three (3) of her books, Racing with the Wind, The Holly and the Thistle and The Shamrock and the Rose to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

Interview with Regan Walker

Your new novella, The Twelfth Night Wager, begins as two men in White’s, one of the men’s clubs in Regency England, are discussing marriage (“the leg shackled state”). Then one of them challenges the other to a wager, that he must seduce, bed and leave a certain unnamed lady (and she is a lady) by Twelfth Night, or January 5th. I found this intriguing…how did you conceive of this?

Well, in my research about the lives of men and women during that period in England’s history (from 1811-1820) when the Prince Regent reigned, I discovered they loved to wager. About almost anything. And in some clubs, such as White’s (a very old club) they kept a book where the wagers were entered. Such occurred the evening my story begins: two men drinking at White’s and one, a bit bored, agrees to an outrageous wager. He’s a rake after all, known for his conquests. How difficult could it be to seduce one widow? Seemed like an interesting beginning to me, and apparently it did to Christopher St. Ives, Viscount Eustace, too.

Is this your first holiday themed story?

No, actually I have three—all set in the same year, 1818. First is The Shamrock & The Rose, a short story that takes place around Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day (with an Irish hero). Then there’s the novella, The Twelfth Night Wager, that begins in October and extends through the New Year, capturing the fall season of house parties, fox hunting, pheasant shooting, Christmas and, of course, Twelfth Night. And on the tale of that comes The Holly & The Thistle, a short story that features Lady Emily Picton, introduced in the novella, and a Scot hero. All three have as a character Muriel, the Dowager Countess of Claremont, an infamous matchmaker.

What are you working on now?

Having finished the third in my Agents of the Crown trilogy, Wind Raven (which should be released early spring), I turned back to a project I started a few years ago, a medieval titled The Red Wolf’s Prize. It’s set in England just after William the Conqueror claimed the land for his own. I’m about mid way through the novel and deep into a siege scene at the moment when William faced the rebellious English at Exeter in 1068. Researching is a love of mine but going all the way back to the 11th century is a huge challenge, I must say.
 
What are you reading now?

I have a blog for lovers of historical romance, Regan’s Romance Reviews, and January is Viking month. So, I’m deep into some Viking romances that I’ll be reviewing for an update of my Best Viking Romances list. I love a good Viking raid, don’t you? All those handsome, conquering hunks towering over the fair maidens. Ah yes…at least in fiction it can end happily, no?

What author or authors have most influenced your writing?

It would be the classic romance authors I still read and re-read today. All have been featured on my blog. Their books (along with those of some newer authors) can be found on my “best lists.” But my short list would be Penelope Williamson, Elizabeth Stuart, Jan Cox Speas, Virginia Henley, Shirlee Busbee, Heather Graham (aka Shannon Drake), Meagan McKinney, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Marsha Canham to name a few. They tell sweeping sagas based on solid research for a great love story. And they are the ones I want my work to be like. I want to sweep the reader away and I want her to feel like she knows the characters, like she’s traveled with them. And, in the end, I want the reader to enjoy the happily ever after.

If your publisher offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming project, where 
would you mostly likely want to go? Why?

I’m thinking Istanbul. It has a fascinating history and I can so see a romance set there. And though I’ve been to 40 countries, including Turkey (more than once), I’ve never been to Istanbul. I would love it. Yet I must add that after I finish my medieval, I’m going to write the prequel to my trilogy, To Tame the Wind, and that novel begins in France in the late 18th century. So, while I’ve been to Paris, a trip to northern France would not go amiss.

What’s your social media of choice and why?

It would have to be Facebook. I love the pictures, the conversations I strike up with my Facebook friends and the general sharing we indulge in. It’s the way I connect with readers most of the time, though some contact me via my blog, too. I spend at least an hour each day on FB and love it when my friends tell me my posts meant much to them or a particular picture I posted inspired them. I love to get new friends, too, so I encourage your followers to find me on Facebook (see below).

About The Twelfth Night Wager

On a dull day at White’s, the Redheaded Rake agreed to a wager: seduce and abandon the lovely Lady Leisterfield by Twelfth Night. After one taste of her virtue, he will stop at nothing less than complete possession.

Available

AmazonBarnes & Noble

Excerpt

MEDIA KIT Book CoverSoon he was escorted into the gilded green dining room and to his place. The other guests had already been seated. Across from him sat Alvanley and Lady Ormond, and on either side of him a lady new to him. Neither, he reflected sadly, was the beautiful blonde who occupied his thoughts.

A few places down the table he saw her sitting next to Ormond. There was a gallant on her other side with whom she was conversing. The shimmering coral gown she wore embraced her curves, modestly revealing the creamy mounds of her full breasts. Would that she was close enough he could speak to her. Close enough he could inhale her delicate scent. Memories of their morning ride assailed him—

Perhaps it was just as well she was not so close. His fervent interest in the lady might be too apparent, which would not do.

Lord Ormond, seeing the direction of Christopher’s gaze, raised an eyebrow. Christopher forced a smile and dipped his head in greeting, just as Lady Ormond sitting across from him drew his attention.

“Good eve to you, Lord Eustace.”

“And to you, my lady. And you, Alvanley.”

Introducing himself briefly to the two brunettes on either side of him, Christopher attempted to keep the conversation moving along through dinner. One was the daughter of a fellow Whig and companion of the other, who was young and apparently unattached by the way she was flirting with him. Carrying on with many women while desiring only one was proving to be exhausting. Generally he took women on one at a time. Not so this game. He was forced to at least appear to pursue several at once.

About the Author

MEDIA KIT Author PhotoAs a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors thought her suited to the profession of law, and Regan realized it would be better to be a hammer than a nail. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.

Contacts

WebsiteBlogTwitter • Facebook