La Belle Assemblée, March 1807
The Master of Ceremonies announces a great ball to be held on Valentine’s Day in the Upper Assembly Rooms of Bath. Ladies of the highest rank—and some who wish they were—scheme, prepare, and compete to make best use of the opportunity. Dukes, earls, tradesmen, and the occasional charlatan are alert to the possibilities as the event draws nigh.
But anything can happen in the magic of music and candlelight as couples dance, flirt, and open themselves to romantic possibilities. Problems and conflict may just fade away at a Valentine’s Day Ball.
25% of proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.
by Jessica Cale
He’s a liar and a fortune-hunter… and exactly what she needs.
The moment Lady Emilia sets eyes on the Chevalier d’Aubusson, she knows their fates are tied together. For good or ill, she cannot say. A mysterious aristocrat with a tragic past, the chevalier makes waves with his considerable charm.
But the chevalier is not as he seems. There are cracks in his story, and Emilia never could resist a mystery. Whether he’s a gentleman or a bounder, he might just be the man for her.
by Sherry Ewing
It began with a memory, etched in the heart.
Lady Celia Lacey is too young for a husband, especially man-about-town Lord Adrian de Courtenay. But when she meets him at a house party, she falls in love.
Adrian finds the appealing innocent impossible to forget, though she is barely out of the schoolroom and a relative by marriage.
His sister’s deceptions bring them together, but destroys their happiness. Can they reach past the hurt to the love that still burns?
by Jude Knight
In all the assemblies and parties, no-one Charis met could ever match the beast next door.
Charis Fishingham has always felt more at home at Eastwood—Beastwood, as the neighbours called it, after the flawed child who once lived there. In the Eastwood gardens, Charis can escape her mother’s expectations, her sisters’ chatter, and her own worries about her future. There, she reads and remembers her secret friend, long gone into exile to have his birthmarks removed at his family’s command.
Now the Beast has returned. Eric Lord Wayford would rather face the surgeons of Naples and Napoleon’s armies than the tongues of the ton. He joyfully greets Charis, and their future looks to be full of hope.
But someone does not wish Charis to wed the Beast of Beastwood, and will stop at nothing to keep them apart.
by Amy Quinton
A serious-minded, scientific man of learning seeks a complex and chaotic practitioner of all things superstitious who will upend his well-ordered life.
The Umbrella Strikes Again! Another Bachelor Has Fallen!
Dr. John Edward Hartwell needs assistance, though not quite the kind of help he might think. True, he is well-organized, tidy, and pathologically set in his ways—a more serious-minded man one might never find.
But in his ways, I have determined, lies misery.
Enter Miss Emma Merryweather—a woman who is as lovely as she is chaotic. She is the perfect candidate to compliment our man of numbers and logical focus, bringing sunshine and superstition to redirect him away from a future of certain wretchedness.
And now that she has been categorically convinced that they are destined to be together—the signs, you see—no one can stand in her way, for she is as tenacious and optimistic as she is beautiful.
And none can resist her smile.
If I have anything to say about matters, and I always have something to say about matters, the signs will point the way.
They already have.
Lady Harriett Ross,
Self-proclaimed Motley Meddler * Mistress of Destiny * Wielder of the Infamous Umbrella
I’m just an old woman with opinions. On everything.
by Caroline Warfield
Doug Marsh and his candles bring light to many, none more than Esther. They may light the Assembly Rooms even as his love lights her life.
Doug Marsh knew what the army expected of him. Invalided out, he struggles to run his uncle’s candle-works and look after those dependent on it. A contract with the Bath Assembly Rooms would go a long way toward succeeding at both of those things. The plight of a young woman is a distraction he doesn’t need.
Esther Hopkins, formerly ‘the Honorable’, has no time to mourn the life denied her by a single mistake. A woman alone with a new-born son to raise needs work, and she is determined to make it on her own. If only she could stop yearning for the sturdy arms and kind blue eyes of the man who rescued her from starvation and enlisted the entire Marsh Candle Works to her support. But Sergeant Marsh shows nothing but benevolent interest in her welfare. Why should he care for a fallen woman?
In the normal course of things Esther is far above Doug’s touch. Can he find the courage to court her and still take care of business at the same time?
The Bluestocking Belles (the “BellesInBlue”) are ten very different writers united by a love of history and a history of writing about love. From sweet to steamy, from light-hearted fun to dark tortured tales full of angst, from London ballrooms to country cottages to the sultan’s seraglio, one or more of us will have a tale to suit your tastes and mood.
Eight authors and eight different takes on four dramatic elements selected by our readers—an older heroine, a wise man, a Bible, and a compromising situation that isn’t.
Set in a variety of locations around the world over eight centuries, welcome to the romance of the Bluestocking Belles’ 2017 Holiday and More Anthology.
After November 15th: $2.99
We’re still working on the rest of the retailer links but just in case you want to take advantage of our special pre-order price, jump on over to Amazon and order your copy now. The release date for NEVER TOO LATE is November 4th. Remember, 25% of the sales from the Belles’ box sets benefit our mutual charity, The Malala Fund. You, too, can make a difference in the life of a young woman or child by contributing to this worthy cause!
Print – $18.99
True love binds them. Deceit divides them. Will they choose love?
Coira does not regret traveling with her grandfather until she is too old to wed. But perhaps it is not too late? At Berwyck Castle, a dashing knight runs to her rescue. How can she resist?
Garrick can hold his own with the trained Knights of Berwyck, but they think of him as a piper, not a fighter. When his heart sings for the new resident of the castle, he dares to wish he is something he is not. Will failure to clear her misunderstanding doom their love before it begins?
“You saved me,” she whispered in a shaky tone. “You are truly a gallant knight to rescue me. Your liege lord must value you as one of his warriors.”
Warrior? Him? He opened his mouth to correct her assumption but could not find the words. He knew she would think less of him if she but knew he was only the clan’s piper.
“Are ye harmed?” he murmured, still holding the pleasing womanly curves of the lady who had not yet moved from atop him. Her brow rose, and Garrick inwardly cursed knowing there was no way to hide his Scottish accent.
“Nay, but only because of your ability to move so quickly. Thank you, Sir…” She left her sentence linger in the air between them.
“Garrick,” he answered, giving her his name, “of Clan MacLaren.”
“My thanks, Sir Garrick,” she replied with a kind smile.
They seemed to come to the realization the lists had become eerily silent with the exception of one person running in their direction.
“Get your hands off her!” a voice bellowed.
Before either of them could move, the woman was ripped from his arms, and Garrick saw her enveloped in the fierce embrace of Morgan. Her arms wrapped around his neck, and Garrick could not help the feeling of jealousy assaulting his emotions and tugging at his heartstrings.
“Coira! By St. Michael’s Wings you gave me such a fright, woman,” Morgan scolded in concern. Setting her down upon her feet, he proceeded to clasp both her cheeks afore placing kisses on each.
An injured knight trespassing on Mary Bennett’s land is a threat to the widow’s
already frail refuge. Even so, she cannot turn away a man in need and tells him he has her husband’s leave to stay until Christmas.
Doran Ward wishes only to survive for one more day. However, as he begins to
heal and to pay for his lodgings by fixing the rundown manor, the wounds to Mistress Bennett’s heart intrigue him.
Can two desperate souls find hope in time for Christmas?
To her surprise, her guest had laid out a few vegetables, and she set about cutting them without saying a word to him.
At one point, he reached across her for another knife.
She stiffened and jerked back.
“My apologies,” he said. “I did not mean to startle you.”
“Do not touch me,” she said, fear melting into anger in her voice. “My husband is a very strong and angry man. He shall take exception to anyone who dares to touch me.”
“Will he be joining us for dinner?” he asked as if unfazed.
She did not like to lie to him. Lying, after all, was a sin. But she also must protect herself.
“No,” she said shortly. “He already ate and has retired for the evening.”
“So it shall be only the two of us?” He glanced over his shoulder at the chunks of meat he had cooking over the fierce fire.
“Aye. You can brine-cure the meat we do not eat.”
“Very well.” He never did grab the knife but returned to tending to the meat.
Soon enough, she added the vegetables to a pot, along with some of his meat. A short time later, the stew was finished.
The man brought over two bowls. She stared at the wooden spoons in her hands. Her husband had lost their silver in yet another game.
Another sign to alert him that all is not well here.
Head back, she took a deep breath. Matters such as they were, she had no other recourse. As cold as the house was despite fires, she could not imagine anyone surviving the night out of doors. Would her good intentions spell even more doom for herself?
Edward Rothschild returns home from war defeated in more ways than one. His friends killed and his property seized, he is an earl in name only. His family and his servants have all deserted him– all except his housekeeper, Lillian Virtue.
Lillian feels like home in a way that nothing else does, but as his servant and a recent widow, it would be impossible for them to be together. Then again, Christmas has been banned and the social order fractured; can one more impossible thing happen this year?
Somerton’s smile was like a bolt of lightning, a sudden flash of terrifying intensity that surprised them both. One shot of light across the darkness of his face and it was gone.
Her knees failed her suddenly and Lillian caught herself on the edge of the table just as Somerton reached out to catch her arm. His hand closed around her elbow and sent a shock up her spine.
“Are you well?”
Lillian had always held her master in the highest regard, but some part of her had feared him, as well. It was not only that her position depended upon his good graces, but he had seemed more than human to her. His presence was overwhelming and perhaps otherworldly; he had a spark of the infinite that suggested a link to the Divine. She could have easily taken him for a priest or a saint.
She had known he was objectively handsome; what she had not realized was that she thought he was handsome.
She felt her blush deepen and took a steadying breath. “Quite well, my lord. Forgive me.”
He frowned as he examined her face. “You look peaked. Join me for coffee.”
Somerton wanted her—Lillian Page, no, Virtue—to sip coffee with him in his private bedchamber? It was inappropriate, to say the least, but when she opened her mouth to object, all that came out was, “I only brought one cup.”
As a spy deep in the heart of Revolutionary France, Michael St. John hopes to make amends for a wasted life his by helping the citizens of the Vendée stage a counter-revolution.
Jacqueline Archambeau, tavern owner and cook, accepts that life and love have passed her by. She never dreamed she would fight her own countrymen for the right to keep her customs and traditions.
When they plot together to steal plans at a regimental dinner will they risk their lives—and their hearts?
“Bonjour.” The smile on Jacqueline’s face was unexpected, as was the greeting and he found himself returning it.
Until he felt the unmistakable press of a gun barrel at his lower back. It seemed that Madame Jacqueline was not alone.
“Your knife, monsieur.” Jacqueline held out her hand.
Michael obliged, handing the weapon over hilt first.
“So, Jacques is really Jacqueline?” he asked, feeling like the world’s greatest fool.
“And I’ll take any other weapons you might have on your person,” she continued.
He hesitated, and the barrel pressed at his back became silently insistent.
“Please?” she asked as pleasantly as if she had simply asked him to pass the butter.
Michael raised his arms, threaded his fingers, and placed them at the back of his head.
“You’ve completely disarmed me, madam, but you are welcome to check for yourself.”
Hazel eyes clouded with mistrust. Jacqueline glanced to the person behind him as though looking for instruction.
“Who sent you?”
The voice behind him was that of another woman.
Michael gritted his teeth. He would kill Colonel Jeffers when they next met. The man knew his contacts were women and thought it amusing not to tell him. To further his bona fides, Jeffers had even made him memorize the first stanza of a poem, Ode To Him Who Complains, no less, by scandalous poetess Mary Darby Robinson.
Lord George St. Vincent doesn’t realize it, but his days as a bachelor in good standing are numbered.
He has a fortnight, to be precise—the duration of the Marquess of Dansbury’s house party.
For I, Lady Harriett Ross, have committed to parting with several items of sentimental worth should I fail to orchestrate his downfall—er, betrothal—to Miss Dorothea Wythe, who is delightful, brilliant, and interested (or will be).
If I have anything to say about matters, and I always have something to say about matters, they’re both doomed.
Did I say doomed? I mean, destined—for a life filled with love.
Without a doubt, he made her breath catch every single time he looked her way, even if only looking past her, which was pretty much all the time and kind of pitiful. But who cared? It was another secret that was all hers.
Besides, she was undoubtedly not the only woman who struggled to breathe in his presence.
Dory clenched her hands into fists and reminded herself for the millionth time that she was more of the glasses and books type (of which there were far too few in the world) than the roguish smile and flirty type (of which far too many abounded). Hence, her easy slide into spinsterhood at the ripe age of thirty-one.
Yes. St. George was blond and slender and solidly built. And he was beautiful, somehow elegantly masculine, and gloriously tall. She wasn’t the only person that understood this. Everyone acknowledged these traits as if they were all a set of facts that could be found in any book on science. Or a math fact, a proven geometrical theorem.
Like the bluestocking she was, Dory imagined writing proofs over the theory of his gentlemanly beauty. Given George St. Vincent is taller than most men. Given St. Vincent has blue eyes the color of the sky and blonde hair the color of wheat. Given George St. Vincent has a blinding smile and broad shoulders. Prove George St. Vincent is the most swoonworthy man in all of England.
Dory chuckled to herself, though she felt on the verge of hysterics.
But all of that didn’t mean he was a worthy man for her affections.
Vauxhall gardener Alice Crocker has had to defend herself from encroaching males all her life, but the new violinist is a different sort. So when she discovers that he is the victim of a malicious rumor, she naturally wants to help.
Peter de Luca greatly admires the lady gardener, but this is his problem to resolve.
What will it take to prove to this pair that they would be stronger together as a harmonious duo than two lonely solos?
Alice found her feet tapping in time to the music of the orchestra rehearsal while she inspected the site for the new illumination, which would honor the new Duke of Wellington after his victory over Bonaparte at the Battle of Paris. If only the designer had included the measurements! It was difficult to decide how to arrange the plantings without some inkling of the space requirements. With luck, the fellow himself would arrive soon, since the spectacle was planned to open the next day.
Miss Stephens must be singing tonight, she thought as she found herself humming the tune of the popular Northumberland ballad about a brave lass who rowed out in a storm to save her shipwrecked sailor beau.
O! merry row, O! merry row the bonnie, bonnie bark,
Bring back my love to calm my woe,
Before the night grows dark.
She liked the idea of a woman rescuing her man instead of the other way around. It might seem romantic to be rescued by a handsome prince, but one could not always be a damsel in distress, could one? Alice knew from her mother’s marriage that there was no happiness or romance in a marriage where one partner held all the power. She herself had no intention of placing herself in the power of any man. She would be responsible to no one but herself—and perhaps her employer, as long as she was permitted to work for a living. She narrowed her eyes. She could work as well as any man, better than some, in fact. Why did so many men feel threatened by that?
Burned in their youth, neither Tad nor Lottie expected to feel the fires of love. The years have soothed the pain, and each has built a comfortable, if not fully satisfying, life, on paths that intersect and then diverge again.
But then the inferno of a volcanic eruption sears away the lies of the past and frees them to forge a future together.
She was nothing to him. He was sorry for her, that was all. As he’d be sorry for anyone stuck in her predicament. She’d be better off staying in New Zealand, where Mrs. Bletherow’s malice couldn’t reach her. There was work in Auckland, in shops and factories. Not that a proper English lady would consider such a thing.
She could do it, though. She wasn’t as meek as she pretended. He’d seen the steel in her, the fire in those pretty hazel eyes.
The word ‘pretty’ put a check in his stride, but it was true. She had lovely eyes. Not a pretty face, precisely. Her cheeks were too thin, her jaw too square, her nose too straight for merely ‘pretty’. But in her own way, she was magnificent. She was not as comfortably curved or as young as the females he used to chase when he was a wild youth, the sort he always thought he preferred. Not as gaudy as them, with their bright dresses and their brighter face paint. But considerably less drab than he had thought at first sight. She was a little brown hen that showed to disadvantage beside the showier feathers of the parrot, but whose feathers were a subtle symphony of shades and patterns. Besides, parrots, in his experience, were selfish, demanding creatures.
After two years at war, Harry is out of metaphors for death, synonyms for brown, and images for darkness. Color among the floating islands of Amiens and life in the form of a widow and her little son surprise him with hope.
Rosemarie Legrand’s husband died, leaving her a tiny son, no money, and a savaged reputation. She struggles to simply feed the boy and has little to offer a lonely soldier.
Are men in Hell happier for a glimpse of Heaven?”
The piercing eyes gentled. “Perhaps not,” the old man said, “but a store of memories might be medicinal in coming months. Will you come back?”
Will I? He turned around to face forward, and the priest poled the boat out of the shallows, seemingly content to allow him his silence.
“How did you arrange my leave?” Harry asked at last, giving voice to a sudden insight.
“Prayer,” the priest said. Several moments later he, added, “And Col. Sutherland in the logistics office has become a friend. I suggested he had a pressing need for someone who could translate requests from villagers.”
“Don’t meddle, old man. Even if they use me, I’ll end up back in the trenches. Visits to Rosemarie Legrand would be futile in any case. The war is no closer to an end than it was two years ago.”
“Despair can be deadly in a soldier, corporal. You must hold on to hope. We all need hope, but to you, it can be life or death,” the priest said.
Life or death. He thought of the feel of the toddler on his shoulder and the colors of les hortillonnages. Life indeed.
The sound of the pole propelling them forward filled several minutes.
“So will you come back?” the old man asked softly. He didn’t appear discomforted by the long silence that followed.
“If I have a chance to come, I won’t be able to stay away,” Harry murmured, keeping his back to the priest.
“Then I will pray you have a chance,” the old man said softly.
Last Wednesday marked the release of Too Hot to Handel, the fifth novel in the John Pickett series of mysteries set in Regency England. I’ve so looked forward to this one, for a couple of reasons: it’s my personal favorite and, not coincidentally, it’s the one that finally resolves the romance between Bow Street Runner John Pickett and the widowed Julia, Lady Fieldhurst, whom he first met, quite literally over her husband’s dead body, in the first book of the series, In Milady’s Chamber.
But before there was Too Hot to Handel, there was Waiting Game—a novella that was never intended as part of the series at all, and yet sold more than 1,500 copies in the last month alone.
How did it happen? It’s a long story—no pun intended. Too Hot to Handel was originally scheduled for March 2016, but just before Christmas my publisher, Five Star/Cengage, announced that due to unforeseen circumstances, the entire 2016 publishing schedule was being delayed three months, pushing my March release date back to June. Now, a three-month postponement may not seem like much, but when marketing plans are measured in months, not weeks, every one of those months is crucial. My bookmarks had already been printed with “March 2016” as the release date—and I didn’t even want to think about what the interruption meant as far as ARCs, which would probably go out much too late for the major reviewers such as Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.
But the people I felt the worst for were my readers. I’d left them a romantic cliffhanger at the end of the previous book, Dinner Most Deadly, which concludes with [spoiler alert!] John Pickett recklessly declaring himself to Julia, who is too stunned—and too moved—to respond. I had assured readers they wouldn’t have long to wait for resolution on this, since the next book would be out in only six months, rather than the more typical ten to twelve, and now I discovered that I was wrong. Granted, it wasn’t my fault, but I still felt like I’d lied to them.
I felt like I owed fans of the series something to make it up to them. I’d had some success with a prequel novella called Pickpocket’s Apprentice, so I decided to write a short piece to self-publish in March, something that would fill in the gap in the timeline between the end of Dinner Most Deadly and the beginning of Too Hot to Handel. Ironically, that gap was also three months, from November 1808 to February 1809.
It was a good idea in theory, but I soon realized I’d written myself into a corner. The book’s setting made it practically imperative that the Christmas season be addressed in some way, but I didn’t want it to turn into a Christmas story, given that it would be released in March. Furthermore, since the text of Too Hot to Handel makes it very clear that there has been no interaction between Pickett and Julia during those three months, I somehow had to advance the romance without ever putting the potential lovebirds together.
One of the women in my writers’ group suggested that I let Pickett be actively trying to avoid being seen by Lady Fieldhurst, and it seemed to me that this situation would lend itself well to comedy. Since Pickett had extracted a reluctant promise from his magistrate not to send him on cases involving the aristocracy, where he might encounter Julia, I decided to create a scenario involving the merchant middle class. Of course there would be a marriageable young woman whose advances he would have to rebuff. (There’s always some girl after poor John Pickett; it’s a running gag throughout the series.) Throw in a big dog named Brutus who manages to steal almost every scene in which he appears, and the story practically began to write itself. And hey, since this story involved a linen-draper’s shop, wouldn’t it be fun to include a cameo appearance by a youthful Ethan Brundy, titular hero of The Weaver Takes a Wife, the most popular book I’ve ever written? (After writing three books about the man, I should have known him better than that. He refused to remain a mere bit player, and insisted on assuming a significantly larger role than I’d intended.)
It’s not strictly necessary to read Waiting Game to enjoy Too Hot to Handel, but I do strongly recommend reading at least one of the John Pickett mysteries before reading the romantic denouement. While the mystery will stand alone, the love story will be more satisfying if you’re at least somewhat familiar with the characters’ history up to this point. Besides, romantic resolution, much like book publication, is all the sweeter for having been delayed.
Win a copy of both John Pickett novellas (Waiting Game and the prequel novella, Pickpocket’s Apprentice) by leaving a comment.
Sheri is concerned that the three month delay might have a deleterious effect on sales of Too Hot to Handel to libraries. So… anyone who requests that their library purchase Too Hot to Handel can email a screen shot of their filled-out request form to her at Cobbsouth@aol.com along with their mailing address, and she’ll send them a handy-dandy jar opener and an 8-page coloring book featuring scenes from her novels. See photo below of both prizes. No drawing on this one; anyone who requests that their library purchase the book, and sends me a screenshot as proof, automatically wins.
Sheri Cobb South is the author of more than twenty novels, including the John Pickett mystery series and the critically acclaimed Regency romance, The Weaver Takes a Wife. A native of Alabama, she now lives in Loveland, Colorado.
Around the end of the Georgian period (1714 to 1830), the population of Tonbridge in Kent in Southeast England numbered about two thousand. It was a main stop for stagecoaches travelling from London to Hastings and Rye and was used as a staging post for the mail coaches, where horses could be changed and passengers provided with food.
The coaches the travelers rode in during the early eighteenth century were heavy, lumbering vehicles devoid of springs. They were generally covered with dull black leather, studded with nails and the frames and wheels picked out with red. The windows were covered with boards or sometimes with leather curtains. Pastor Moritz, who came to England in 1782, found a coach of this description still upon the roads, and having a taste for fresh air and sunshine he complained of a fellow traveller, a farmer “who seemed anxious to shun the light and so shut up every window he could come at.” It was not the light to which the farmer objected—no one in England minded light—but they did object to the air that came through the window. This was considered prejudicial to health.
Though the carriage or coach ride had to be jarring, the countryside in Essex would have been beautiful.
In To Tame the Wind, set in 1782, the hero and heroine flee London (and her French pirate father) for Rye via carriage, which is how the upper classes most frequently traveled (though some Englishmen might prefer to travel on horseback). It would take them two days from London with an overnight in Tonbridge.
The roads were very rough and they would be jostled around in what was essentially a padded box. In Sussex the roads were often impassable in winter. Fortunately, my hero and heroine traveled in summer.
Once they arrived in Tonbridge, they stayed at the Rose and Crown, a coaching inn open for business then and still serving travelers today. Located on High Street, it is just down from the Ivy Public House.
The original Rose and Crown inn was a Tudor house built in the 16th century. The front and porch display alterations made some two centuries later. Thus, as my hero and heroine saw it, the inn was a fine timber-framed building with an impressive brick façade. According to its current owner, it still features “many oak beams and Jacobean panels” inside.
At the sign of the Rose and Crown, one could find a comfortable bed and a hot meal. It was known in the Stuart Court, to Roundheads and Cavaliers, to the diary writers John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys and to all the travellers who passed on their way to Rye, Hastings or “the Wells” in the wasteland to the south.
While a traveller had his choice of inns, he had to choose carefully. There were the grand establishments, the posting houses, such as the Rose and Crown, which entertained the quality who posted in their own carriages. Such inns might accommodate a riding gentleman if his servants accompanied him. Some of these inns accepted passengers from the mail-coach, some did not; but they would not to take in passengers from a common stage. Those people had to go to the inns that catered to them.
Even in good inns it was not unusual for strangers to share rooms or even beds, as my hero, Captain Powell tells the heroine. This was regarded in much the same way as the sharing of a ship’s cabin in later times.
On the whole, English coaching inns were good. Arthur Young, who had travelled through the length and breadth of England, described them as “neat inns, well-dressed and clean people keeping them, good furniture and refreshing civility.
All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell’s schooner, the English privateer decided to take the one thing his enemy held most dear… her.
A BATTLE IS JOINED
The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire’s father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises.
Bestselling author Regan Walker loved to write stories as a child, particularly those about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits were encouraged. One of her professors suggested a career in law, and she took that path. 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.” Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.” Each of her novels features real history and real historic figures. And, of course, adventure and love.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, who she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.
When Isabella, the Countess of Huntleigh, returns to England after fifteen years roaming the globe with her husband, an elderly diplomat, she finds herself in a locale more perilous than any in her travels—the Court of King George IV. As the newly elevated Earl and Countess settle into an unfamiliar life in London, this shy, not-so-young lady faces wicked agendas, society’s censure, and the realities of a woman soon to be alone in England.
Unaccustomed to the ways of the beau monde, she is disarmed and deceived by a dissolute duke and a noble French émigré with a silver tongue. Hindered by the meddling of her dying husband, not to mention the King himself, Bella must decide whether to choose one of her fascinating new suitors or the quiet country life she has searched the world to find.
Her hand shot like a musket ball into his shoulder. Arms flailing for a handhold, his feet went right out from under him, dumping him gracelessly and painfully on his behind, legs sprawled on the tiled floor. Next to him, on top of a pile of broken pottery and loam, sat a crumpled shrub he had dragged off the table when he fell. Rosemary, he assumed, as it smelled suspiciously like the capon his cook served at least once a week. Examining the punctures and scrapes on one hand, using the other to rub his hip, he stretched to ease the bruise he would have by nightfall, finally kneeling to right himself.
She looked down her nose at his undignified position, then swept past him to the greenhouse entrance.
Mariana Gabrielle is a pseudonym for Mari Christie, a mainstream historical and Regency romance writer. She is also a professional writer, editor, and graphic designer with twenty years’ experience and a Bachelor’s in Writing from the University of Colorado Denver, summa cum laude. She lives in Denver, Colorado with two kittens who have no respect at all for writing time.
Regency gentlemen had a serious obsession with fashion, especially after Beau Brummell arrived on the London scene. More about him next week.
During the Regency, knee breeches gave rise to trousers, although it was a good long time before trousers were accepted at Almack’s Assembly Rooms. By 1816, after Brummell’s flight to the continent, trousers became all the rage, with breeches reserved for very formal occasions (except for older gentlemen who did not adapt well to change).
Pantaloons and trousers were made of light colors, such as buff or yellow, and clung tightly to the body. Pantaloons had side slits with buttons to keep them tight, and straps under the instep to keep them in place.
A gentleman’s shirt tended to be long, shapeless, and white. Over the shirt would go the waistcoat (white for evening wear, colorful and eye-catching for day wear). An elaborately-tied cravat would spill over the shirt and waistcoat. Over that would be a dress coat with tails—cut in a straight line from the waist down), or a morning coat or riding coat, which also sported tails, but was cut away in front. Following Waterloo, a frock coat with a military design became popular for informal occasions. Over all of this would be a great coat, worn all year round, often with capes of various lengths along the top.
Black boots were the daytime shoes of choice for a Regency gentleman, particularly Hessians, which were knee boots that sported a tassle in front. Hessians were worn over the trousers, but at the end of the Regency, Wellington boots, which were worn under breeches, which were tied at the foot, became popular. For evening wear, black pumps—perhaps made of the new patent leather—and silk stockings were worn. Hoby was the bootmaker of choice.
Regency gentlemen wore top hats of various shapes and sizes, and hats made of beaver were quite popular. Lock’s was the hatter of choice for the exclusive Regency gentleman. Gloves, jewelry (cravat pins, rings, and fobs), snuff boxes, quizzing glasses, and scents were also important to a gentleman’s toilette. Thanks to Beau Brummell’s fastidious cleanliness, bathing also become de rigueur in the Regency.
Just as Regency ladies required a personal maid or abigail to assist them with dressing and care for their wardrobe, gentlemen required the services of a valet.
For further information:
Laudermilk, Sharon H. and Hamlin, Theresa L., The Regency Companion, Garland Publishing, 1989.
Lady Pendleton: Dear me! Susana has a special treat for you today, dear readers. She’s been working long and hard to tell the story of a young girl called Helena who came to me from the 21st century seeking my help in finding the family from whose arms she was snatched when only a babe.
In this scene, Helena is recalling her consultation with the gypsy lady who offers to help her travel back to the past to discover the truth about her origins.
The sign painted on the window read “Genuine Gipsy Fortune Telling” in large red letters with “Palm Reading • Tarot Cards” in smaller print underneath with the bottom line proclaiming “Séances Scheduled at Your Convenience”. A mannequin dressed flamboyantly in a red peasant blouse and gold skirt stood in the window with outstretched arms, no doubt meant to lure the bystander inside. Although an attempt had been made to give her a gypsy appearance—black wig tied back under a bright red headscarf, and glittery gold dripping from every possible place—her expression was the typical bland stare associated with mannequins.
It was cheesy. The sort of place an educated person would never deign to enter. Certainly not Helena, who didn’t believe in psychics or fortune telling, let alone time travel. Was her coincidental meeting with Mrs. Herne simply a scheme to drum up business?
If so, she had been very, very good at it. Her dark eyes seemed to probe into Helena’s very soul, seeing things she could not possibly have known otherwise. A lost soul, she had proclaimed. Wrenched out of her time. Isolated and alone because her soul was out of sync.
“I have a friend who might be able to help you,” she had said cautiously. When asked what she meant, the woman had turned cagey.
“Come to my shop”—she pushed a card toward Helena—“and we can discuss it.”
Helena’s eyes narrowed. “Why not now? Here?” she asked, indicating the lively sandwich shop. “Why must I go to your shop?” She wanted to believe. Mrs. Herne’s words struck a nerve. She’d never fit in, no matter how much she’d tried. Perhaps…there was a reason for it. Something she could do about it. But…travel through time? That sort of thing happened only in science fiction. As Dr. McCoy explained in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: “Sure, you slingshot around the Sun, pick up enough speed—you’re in time warp. If you don’t, you’re fried.
But here she was, standing outside Mrs. Herne’s fortune-telling shop, gathering up the courage to go inside. Well, she’d come this far. Might as well go for broke. She stepped forward.
The foyer was papered in red damask sprinkled with gold medallions. On a table between two gold satin wingback chairs was an antique ouiji board. On the adjacent wall was a showcase with a magnificent crystal ball in the center and zodiac plates on the side.
But what really drew Helena’s attention was the familiar-looking Zoltar fortune-telling machine in the corner. The gold-turbaned gypsy male had a narrow black beard and a thick mustache that turned up at the ends like a villain’s. He wore a black leather vest over a gold shirt, hoop earrings, and his eyes seemed to be laughing at her. The case of the machine was of elaborately-carved wood painted in black and gold, and the front of the glass box said “Zoltar” in gold-outlined red at the top, and “speaks” on the bottom. His right hand hovered over a crystal ball, and the left seemed to beckon her to come closer. Now where had she seen that before?
“It was the movie Big,”
Mrs. Herne pushed aside some of the strands of colorful beads that obscured the interior of her shop as she approached Helena.
“They had one exactly like this, but mine is the original. I purchased it from Patty Astley herself when her husband refused to have it anywhere near his amphitheatre. She was a good friend of mine, was Patty. Quite the horsewoman, too. But then, Philip was an excellent teacher.”
Astley? Of Astley’s Amphitheatre? From upwards of two hundred years ago?
“How old are you, Mrs. Herne?”
She was tall and had a generous, but not zaftig, figure in her flowing crimson caftan. Her black hair was liberally streaked with gray, and her dusky face showed the beginnings of wrinkles. She certainly did not have the look of an aged woman.
Mrs. Herne threw back her head and laughed loudly.
“How old do you think I am?” she asked finally.
“Oh…well…forty-five?” Helena hedged, trying to be diplomatic. She actually figured the woman for about a decade older.
“Right you are, Miss Helena. I stopped aging on my fifty-fifth birthday.” She smiled at Helena’s startled reaction. “You were trying to be kind, of course. To a young person, fifty years seems a long time. In reality, fifty is the best age. You know yourself well by then, and aren’t always trying to become someone else. And you don’t take things so seriously. Life is meant to be enjoyed, after all.” She looked Helena directly in the eye. “After all, fifty is the new forty, or so they say.”
“Come inside, and sit for awhile, and I’ll fetch some tea.”
She was personable and kind, and her words carried the semblance of truth. The tea had long grown cold by the time Helena left the shop, carrying a round gray stone flecked with gold and a list of instructions—mostly preparations for the trip and suggestions for what to do when she arrived. Mrs. Herne’s clairvoyant power pointed to the year 1792 as her birth year, and it was decided that 1817 would be the most opportune time for her return.
“And my good friend Lady Pendleton will be there to assist you!” she had exclaimed. “How very fortunate that she is in Town for the Season this year!”
Helena wasn’t entirely certain who or what Lady Pendleton was, but then, she hadn’t quite figured out Mrs. Herne either. Was she a fool to trust either one of them? Perhaps, but it wasn’t like she had to jump off a cliff or anything. She only had to clasp the rock tightly in her hands and concentrate on thinking about where she wanted to travel to.
“But you must truly wish it,” Mrs. Herne cautioned. “Reflect on your desire to be reunited with your true family and live the life you were meant to live.”
And how to return if things didn’t work out in the 19th century?
“Oh, Agatha will help you. Lady Pendleton, that is. Or you can drop by my shop on Gracechurch Street. Only thing is, I was traveling quite a bit myself that year, so you may or may not find me there. You have a better chance with Lady Pendleton.”
And what if she couldn’t find Lady Pendleton?
“Oh well, you’re a bright girl. Not like the silly chits typical of the period. Keep your wits about you and learn from your surroundings. You’ll be fine.”
Would she? Helena recalled Claire Fraser being branded a witch in Outlander and wondered if they burned witches at the stake in that era. Oh no, they were dunking her, weren’t they, before Jamie came to the rescue.
Mrs. Herne was frowning. “That was nothing more than a book.”
It was eerie how easily the gypsy lady read her thoughts.
“If this is where you belong, you’ll adapt. In time.”
Helena didn’t like the sound of “if.”
But in the end, she couldn’t resist. The past was pulling at her, drawing her, and she finally let it take her into its mysterious lair.
Lady Pendleton: Yes, well, time travel does have that effect on people. I find it rather addictive, actually.
Oh, I wanted to tell you that Susana and I are having a wonderful time in Florida. It’s a bit cold today, but sunny and beautiful, and I was simply over the moon to catch my first glimpse of the baby sand hill cranes. Here are some photos of them. I almost got close enough to touch them! Aren’t they adorable?