Today at Teatime we’re pleased to be hosting author Regan Walker.
First, thank you for coming to Teatime. It’s so much fun to host authors of Christmas books because they always come up such interesting info about the holidays that we don’t know. Your novella, The Twelfth Night Wager. You’ve written about your research into Regency holiday preparations before. How did it help you set the stage for the events in your novella?
Thanks for having me, Jennelle!
What a fun first question! Well, I knew from the start the wager on which the story is based would be made at White’s Club in London, and I worked off of pictures to describe it. And since the story begins in October and the start of the theatre season, I began researching the plays and the theatres in 1818. When I found Bachelor Miseries was the lead play that October at the San Pareil Theatre (later the Adelphi), I knew I’d found the one! And then I was off to the fall season of pheasant hunting and house parties. One cannot just leap into Christmas for a ninety-day wager! For those fall activities, I set the scenes in an actual estate one can visit today, Wimpole Hall. Only after that did I work my way into Christmas and its festivities and then on to Twelfth Night. They didn’t really decorate until Christmas Eve and then it was greenery, not Christmas trees (which became popular in the Victorian era). For each of my stories, I include an Author’s Note that gives you background and some interesting historical tidbits for those who love such things like I do.
A ginger Viscount (can you hear the happy sighs from Teatime Lady Erica?) a virtuous widow with secrets (that “Oooh!” would be from me) and a bet that could, at best, be labeled “improper” and yet you manage to fit that all within the confines of a novella. Looking at the other books in the Agents of the Crown series, all of which are full-length novels, I can’t help but ask what you thought of the novella length for The Twelfth Night Wager. Easier? Harder? Mixed blessing?
You forgot the blackmail and the murder! Well, to answer your question, the size of a novella is definitely a mixed blessing. The story is all there, of course (at 42K words, it’s not a short novella), but there were some rabbit trails and some twists and turns in the murder plot that I could have added if there were more pages. Still, for a reader who wants a holiday story that doesn’t take 2 or 3 days to read, it’s perfect. My short story, The Holly & The Thistle, which follows (with an auburn haired Scot hero!) is an even shorter read for those on the go. All you need is a glass of hot-spiced cider and you’re good.
I do so love bite-sized romances and the holidays make them that much more delightful. In addition to The Twelfth Night Wager, you have other short stories that are holiday themed. Can we count on other shorts and novellas? Do you think they might follow this same holiday pattern?
Probably. My publisher likes them and the holidays seem to fit those smaller stories. I’ve one in mind that I want to write at the end of the Agents of the Crown (after the prequel, To Tame the Wind is finished). It was hinted at in The Holly & The Thistle. I’m tentatively calling it the Secret Scottish Christmas and I envision all the “agents” and then some showing up to celebrate a holiday then banned in Scotland. If I can squeeze it into a novella, I might do. It will be the story of the twin Powell brothers mentioned in the last two books of the Agents of the Crown, and William Stephen’s sister mentioned in The Holly & The Thistle—two young Englishmen fighting over one young, beautiful Scot, all at Christmas!
You have additional books in the Agents of the Crown series, I see Wind Raven is scheduled for an early 2014 release. Let me just give a mighty cheer for pirate Regency, which I seem to be devouring as of late. Wind Raven is set both on land and on sea and in a variety of locations. Did you get an opportunity to travel when researching this book? I know you’ve been blessed with international travel experience. What about the other books in the series? Any travel associated with those?
There is travel in all of them. I promise adventure as well as love! In Racing with the Wind, the hero and heroine journey to Paris; in Against the Wind, it’s a revolution brewing in the Midlands of England; and in Wind Raven, it’s the Atlantic, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and Baltimore! I’ve been to England and Paris several times, to the Caribbean several times, including St. Thomas where the scenes are set, and to Baltimore’s inner harbor, and I’ve been on ships—but never have I been to Bermuda. I spent a week “living” in Bermuda online. My head was full of the island’s history and it’s food and traditions. At the end of my research, I felt like I had been there. (I even posted recipes on my website from those scenes, as I often do!) It’s like that sometimes. I could feel the warm tropical wind on my face, I could smell the frangipani flowers and the salt air—well, you get the picture.
In addition to Wind Raven, you also have other works coming out and scheduled through 2015. The Red Wolf’s Prize comes out in 2014 (yay medieval England!) and your prequel for the Agents of the Crown series, To Tame the Wind is scheduled for 2015. Good lord, the organization required to manage a schedule that far out. Can you offer us up-and-comers any tips? What does it take to manage multiple, long-term schedules like this? What does a typical week look like for you?
My head is always partly in the future. And, while I’m not a plotter, scenes for To Tame the Wind have been coming to me as well as issues for research. I started a folder on my desktop and a “Research” sheet where I keep url’s for the sites I need to look at later. It’s set in late 18th century France and England and on ships of the period so there’s a lot of work involved. I have a shelf in one of my bookcases that clusters the books for each of my books I’m researching. I’ve already got some books lined up for To Tame the Wind. The medieval I’m writing now, The Red Wolf’s Prize, is a William the Conqueror romance set in 1068. I actually started it after Racing with the Wind but left it half done to finish my trilogy. It was nagging me to finish it. I was fascinated by the idea of one culture conquering another and wondered what a high-spirited young Saxon woman would do. I had no idea of the challenge of researching life in the 11th century or knights and what they wore then and the kinds of horses they rode (they did not, for example, ride destriers all over the countryside!). I have stacks of research for that one all over my desk.
A typical week for me involves walking my dog each morning, some time on the computer doing social media, particularly when I’m promoting a new release like I am now with The Twelfth Night Wager, or doing posts for my Regan’s Reviews blog. Then I try to get in a chunk of time on my research or work in progress. Right now, I’m not working so I may have more time than most. Of course, there’s the usual fixing of meals, seeing friends and shopping. And church on Sunday. In the evenings, I mostly read. I’m a voracious reader and reviewer of historical romance. (I have over 600 reviews on Amazon and am also now one of the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads.) I love helping other readers find the keepers.
On your romance review site, you list some of your favorite authors and books in multiple categories (including a wonderful list that I saved for my Highlander obsession). One question that we ask all Teatime visitors is this: your house is on fire and your eReader is already slagged into a molten heap. Which five books across all those genres you love do you save from fiery death?
You can see these on my Top 10 list:
- Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas (Highlander) – beautifully written
- The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson (Irish in America)
- The Windflower by Laura London (aka Sharon & Tom Curtis) (pirates!)
- The Dragon and the Jewel by Virginia Henley (Medieval England)
- Princess of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham) (11th century England)
Even choosing those was hard. There are so many more wonderful novels I truly love and will re-read—all 5-star keepers. I don’t just read eBooks (though I do love my Kindle), but I also dig for the greats that can only be purchased used. Such are #s1 and 3 on the list above. But so worth it!
Thanks for the reading suggestions. One final question, then if you don’t mind: how do you take your tea?
I drink my tea green with jasmine and stevia. I also like white tea.
Excellent! Jasmine is my favorite too. Thanks so much for stopping by, Regan!
As 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 encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. 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.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.
Regan can be reached in a variety of ways:
An Excerpt from The Twelfth Night Wager
London, January 5, 1819
It never would have happened if he hadn’t been so terribly bored that night at White’s. Staring into the crackling fire in the parlour on this frosty night and reflecting back on the last several months, Christopher St. Ives, Viscount Eustace, recalled the evening well; the deep leather chair he sat in, the lit cheroot dangling from one hand and a brandy in the other. He had only been half listening as Hugh Redgrave, the very married Marquess of Ormond, droned on about the virtues of the leg-shackled state. Happily married men could be so tiresome. Looking back on it now, it seemed years not months since they’d traded quips in the conversation that led to the wager:
“I say, Ormond, just where are you going with this praise for the wedded state? You know me too well to believe I’m convinced.”
“You might at least consider taking a wife, Eustace. There’s much to be said for the change it would bring about in your otherwise tawdry existence of late. After all, thirty-five is past the age where dissipation wears well, don’t you think?”
Tawdry existence? Dissipation? “Surely you cannot mean those words, Ormond. I’m just after a bit of fun.”
“You go after women like you go after the fox. It’s all in the chase for you.”
“And that is wrong? Just because you have your heir and a spare at thirty-two does not mean I wish to accumulate the same baggage.” At the frown that appeared on Ormond’s face, Christopher, Lord Eustace, hastened to add, “No offense meant toward the beautiful Lady Ormond, whom I admire above all women, but I am not ready for such a change, as my recent indulgences confirm. Besides, I like women and have my own way of handling them, which suits me quite well. I see no reason for change.”
“As far as I can see, your way of ‘handling’ them is not to have one at all.”
“Ho, now that ain’t so, and well you know it! Though, being a gentleman, I’ll not disclose the number ‘had’ even if I could recall. My method, I assure you, works perfectly for me.”
“You have a method?” Ormond asked, incredulous.
“Well, perhaps not a method as you would count it. I seduce ’em, bed ’em and—”
“Leave them. Yes, I know. But not always smiling, I’ve heard.”
Christopher looked up at the chandelier above and back to his friend as he let out a sigh. “Perhaps not, but none complain till the end is in sight. Then, well…I admit things have on occasion become a bit sticky. But they are all willing players in the game.”
“Your way of handling women cannot work with all. You must have failed with some.”
“Quite the contrary, my good man. I’ve succeeded with every lady I’ve gone after.” Christopher held back a grin. He did not lack confidence when it came to his success with women. And a worthy adversary made every game more exciting.
“I would wager there is one you cannot seduce.”
“Ho! Wager? Do I hear a challenge being laid down?” Snuffing out his cheroot, Christopher leaned forward. “Who might this unassailable paragon be?”
Ormond glanced about the sparsely populated club room filled with tables and chairs. Christopher’s eyes followed, noting the small group of men at a round table engaged in muted conversation some distance away. None appeared to be eavesdropping.
Leaning forward, Ormond whispered, “Grace, the Lady Leisterfield.”
Christopher leaned back in his chair and took a sip of brandy. In his mind’s eye he saw a slim blonde in a rather modest gray gown standing next to the elderly Lady Claremont. “Yes, I recall her from the last ball of the Season. The young widow lives like a nun, or so I’ve heard.”
Ormond grinned. “That, old man, is the challenge.”
“She’s in mourning, is she not?”
“Just coming out. And a worthy contender to test your…method.”
“I see.” But did he? Was there more to this than a wager? It was clear Ormond had something in mind, and the marquess could be exceedingly cryptic at times. Still, whatever was behind the challenge, and whatever the stakes, Christopher was drawn by the opportunity, even more by the encouragement, to entice the lovely Lady Leisterfield to his bed.
“I’ve been very impressed with the lady,” his friend continued, “and I would love to see you fail miserably trying to scale her castle walls. I would consider it sweet justice for the fairer sex.” Ormond winked.
Christopher was tempted to decline, still miffed at Ormond’s comment about his tawdry existence. Yet the memory of the beautiful Lady Leisterfield permeated his thoughts. “Perhaps I shall accept your delightful challenge.”
Ormond grinned, then his expression turned serious. “One thing. If you do this, Eustace, you must promise to preserve the lady’s reputation no matter the outcome. That must be part of the challenge, as I would not see a good woman ruined at the end of it.”
“Well, I know of no woman who has suffered overmuch from being associated with me, but I assure you I will be discreet.”
“All right—and so we are clear,” said Ormond. “You must seduce, bed and walk away from the baroness, else I will have won.”
Christopher nodded, wondering all the while if he’d missed something. Ormond always seemed to have an agenda not fully disclosed. With him, much was hidden beneath the surface.
The marquess suggested with a pointed look, “Ninety days should be sufficient; do you agree?”
“We are indeed agreed. And let me add, it will be my pleasure.”
It wasn’t just the thought of bedding the lovely widow that put a grin on Christopher’s face; he was thrilled with the prospect of a real challenge with a virtuous woman. It was a wholly different sport than he normally engaged in, but Lady Leisterfield was a worthy quarry. A challenge indeed. One for which he felt himself uniquely qualified.
“Shall we reduce the wager to the book?” Ormond inquired with a wry smile. “Say, one thousand pounds to make it interesting?”
“Done.” Casting his reservations aside, Christopher set down his empty glass, reached for Ormond’s extended hand and gave it a hearty shake.
And so, that night, Christopher entered the following into White’s book:
Ld Eustace has wagered Ld Ormond 1000 pounds that by Twelfth Night he can seduce, bed and walk away from a certain lady understood between them.