Against His Will by Nancy Kelley & a Giveaway

One of the best things about having friends that are authors is that sometimes you get to read their books before anyone else.  In the case of Nancy Kelley I get to read her new projects at multiple stages and because of this I have known for over a year what you are all about to find out.

Sebastian Montgomery is hot. Continue reading

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A Most Devilish Interview with Ashlyn Macnamara

Ashlyn_Macnamara_Headshot_medWelcome back to Teatime Romance, Ashlyn! Many of you may not know this, but Ashlyn holds a special place in my heart because last year I won from the Brenda Novak Auction critiques from the Secret Curtsy Society (Ashlyn, Sara Ramsey, Anne Barton, Erin Knightley, and Valerie Bowman—all the 2011 Golden Heart Finalists). Ashlyn took a look at the very first draft of what is now A Dangerous Invitation and really helped me figure out where I needed to go in the story. Not only does Ashlyn write great books, but she’s a prime example of the supportive romance writing community.

Macnamara-AMostScandalousProposalCoverAs our readers may remember, Ashlyn talked with Amy when her debut novel, A Most Scandalous Proposal, released in February. We learned a lot about Ashlyn then—how she is agented by Sara Megibow and how her first book jumped off from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility—but today, we plan to delve into the deep, dark secrets of Ashlyn Macnamara. Her second book, A Most Devilish Rogue, released on August 27th with the most scrumptious cover I’ve ever seen. Continue reading

Fave Five: Regency Research Resources

For some writers it’s the bane of their existence. For others it’s a beautiful way to procrastinate yet still feel productive.

It’s research.

For the historical novelist, it’s essential. If your Regency romance or Medieval mystery sounds like it could be set in southern Texas or northern Australia, your readers will ditch your book for one with more authenticity.

For me, research is just plain fun 🙂  I fell in love with history when I was a kid, and made it my major in college. I can spend many happy hours in front of the computer or browsing through a library, in search of a specific detail or wandering through time. My personal collection of research material isn’t vast (yet!), but I’ve already discovered a few favorites: Continue reading

Researching the Regency Series

As promised, here’s a post about researching clothing for my Nelson’s Tea series!  Woot!

Regency Fashion Promenade Dress ca 1810

Clothing is something most of us take for granted, unless you are a fashion maven, right? (Or my oldest daughter who graduated with a Fashion Design major.) Most people get up every morning, throw on a robe, take a shower and, depending upon the day job, a wardrobe is selected for the day with little or no thought. All anyone really has to do is match color, comfort, and style. Well, unless little fashion sense has been inherited. Stay-at-home writers, on the other hand, have it easy. Pajamas, sweat pants, and comfy tops keep a writer happy. And if a pirate crew desires expertise, anything goes.

I ask you, aren’t pirates the bomb?

captain-jack-sparrow

“I do tend to cause that reaction in the ladies.”

“Jack, darling, back away. This post isn’t about you.”

captain jack sparrow 2

“Isn’t it?” Jack winks before lifting a dram of rum to his grinning lips. “Do go on.”

To continue without interruption. Ahem…

What about being a writer? Imaginary friends don’t care what you look like. Only that you entertain them with the styles they’re accustomed to. But how do you do that when anything goes? A great thing about being a writer of historical romance is getting to research styles and norms of the day while not having to worry about social exclusion. I can dress however I want, when I want and my characters won’t say a word. (And the choir chorus, which tends to act as my internal editor, sings, Hallelujah!)

So let’s take a look at the eras behind us, shall we?

Medieval clothing, rich in color and design, served many purposes, mainly to protect the body and keep it warm. Georgian fashion exhibited tremendous innovation of line, using squared shapes and tall wigs to achieve an air of sophistication. But complexions were powdered, and wigs were popular, in some instances to conceal small pox scars. Victorian styles, with bustles and modernized corsets, flaunted a woman’s physical form to perfection even though society had grown more severe. Both eras showcase women as beauties but it was that tiny snippet of time in between, the Regency era, which stands out in my mind.

During the Regency, fashions tempered the far-out shapes of the Georgian era and became the precursor for Victorian models. Via empire waistlines, straight skirts leaving little to the imagination, and a gentle sense of delicacy in bodices which dipped low, the silent extravagance sculpted a focus upon the woman, rather than the style.

Regency Fashion Afternoon Half-Mourning Dress May 1798

It was a time of elegance, quiet beauty magnified by subtle hues of the purest white. Satins, silks, gauze, linens and cotton framed a woman’s form. Embroidery, Irish lace, detailed shawls, the finest kid gloves and boots, intricate fans, and beautifully arranged ribbons on garments and hats accentuated the simplicity of style but drew attention to a woman’s face. Beautiful gowns were trimmed and dainty kid gloves and satin slippers completed the ensemble. Chemises, corsets, pelisses, and Spencers, and hats of every persuasion, shape, and form were created. Fans that spoke a language of love, gossip, and promiscuity were fluttered at every social affair. Hair combs were carved from ivory and wood. Satins, linen, silk, and gauze, were cherished additions to a woman’s trousseau, though silk was difficult to wash and therefore rare.

Regency Fashion Beau Brummell

Men paid attention to detail too. Even before Beau Brummell, men employed servants to help them with their daily garments. Stocks, cravats, wrist cuffs, properly fitted frock coats, breeches and stockings seemed simple enough. But it took a skilled man to tie his cravat in such a way to exhibit the style and fashion sense appropriate to advertise a gentleman’s brilliance. Even Almack’s refused to allow men within the premises if they weren’t properly attired. Hand carved canes, great coats, top hats, quizzing glasses, pocket watches, snuff boxes and pipes were a gentleman’s accoutrements. And if a man had a well-dressed woman from a proper family on his arm— all the better.

Keeping this in mind, I had to do a lot of research to write my books in the Nelson’s Tea series. Not only did I need to discover what a Regency woman wore, and how she behaved, I had to investigate titled gentlemen, pirates, house servants and ship mates, as well as Nelson’s navy and naval uniforms. Correctly sculpting a character means keeping a reader invested in the story. But it also means more than that.

Christopher Reeve

Think of Christopher Reeve in Somewhere in Time. The character had to cast away everything modern thing in order for his mind to take him back to the year 1912, the Edwardian era. He succeeded in going back in time, only to discover a 1979 penny in his pocket, which reeled him back to the present. This exemplifies what happens to a reader when they read any historical book, only to discover an element is out of place.

captain jack sparrow w compass

“Bilge rats! It’s like trying to get this compass to point to what I want most,” Jack decries.

I wink. “By George, I think you’ve got it.”

Captain Jack Shooting Guns

“Who’s George?”

Calgon take me away!

So, my dearests, my advice on researching historical novels is, first, create the best characters who are bound and determined to find their HEA, even if they have to buy a 1912 ensemble and will themselves there! Wake up, stroll into the kitchen for that crisp aroma of coffee or steaming cup of hot tea and approach writing in comfort. Second, make sure your characters arrive properly attired and prepared not to draw the reader, or you, back to the present. If you can do these two things, you’ll be a great success in historical romance.

What do you find to be the hardest part of research? Time? Finding the right source?

And, if you could live in the Georgian, Regency or Victorian era, which one would you choose?

Thanksgiving Elegance

Shiver me timbers!  Thanksgiving is just days away.  I was going to blog about costuming my characters in historical romance but decided not to regale you with tales of my crew, me hearties.  I’ll save that blog for another time.  Because ‘tis time to plunge into extravagant table settings. Yes, the Georgian, Regency and Victorian era reigned supreme when it came to dinner parties.  Isn’t that what Thanksgiving really is, one big partay for our mates?  After all, there’s nothing better than setting out to amaze our guests with a properly prepared and presented feast.  Just make sure any pirates milling about wash their hands.  You never know where a pirate has been.  Savvy?

Recently, I read an article about capturing the appeal of Downton Abbey in your own home.  (Who killed Mrs. Gates?  Pardon me, I digress…) Though this fabulous Victorian Era series dates later than my historical time period, the etiquette was the same and proper dress codes and behavior prevailed.  (Sorry, Jack)

Throughout the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods dining tables were laid out with suitably rich and succulent flare.  Tabletops gleamed with elegantly draped tablecloths and delicate napkins.  Bone china (Wedgwood, Crown Derby or Worcester) and crystal reflected light from polished brass candelabras topped with fiery candles.  The goal, to put your guest at ease, was also achieved by adding demitasse cups and wine goblets to each place setting.  Wine (Madeira, sherry and champagne) was like water in the day and it succeeded in relaxing many a tongue.

In the days of the Regency or even Downton Abbey, no one invited guests via Facebook or text.  (No pirates allowed!)  Handwritten invitations were sent via messenger for an immediate response.  On the night of the event, guests arrived 15 minutes prior to the invitation time in order to prevent angering the cook, who fretted the food would get cold.  A parade of happy party goers, females accompanied by a male companion, adjourned to the dining hall where Jeeves announced, “Dinner is served.”  (Do not try to sit beside your wife, Mr. Collins!)

Wives were simply not allowed to sit beside their husbands. (Proprieties must be observed at all times.  Ergo, the reason no pirates were allowed.)  Ladies were then shown to their seats while men hobnobbed before taking their chairs.  An epergne (centerpiece of grapes, pineapples, peaches, apricots, or pyramid of plums), pleased the eye as the first course, fish and a tureen of soup, were eaten. Strawberries, raspberries, dried fruit and nuts were placed at table corners.  And yes, there would even be cake, wafers and apple puffs too.

Dishes were graded by color and texture.  Six courses were served with precision.  Oftentimes, there were as many as 25 dishes on the table at once.  And I’m happy to announce that mustard was on every English table during this time.

Such an extravagant affair lasted two hours until the hostess finally pronounced the ladies should retreat into another room whilst the gentlemen drank Madeira, port, and claret, and discussed politics or gambled for hours on end.

Oh, yes!  Me hearties, these were grand affairs requiring men to wear tightly laced cravats and women to wear gloves.  Straight-backed postures were the rule of the day.  (Though, me thinks wearing a corset probably kept that rule in place.)

Jack says, “Clearly, you’ve never been to Tortuga.”

Are you planning Thanksgiving dinner at your house?  Whether you have servants at your disposal or not, break out the china and crystal.  Engage in living the meal instead of eating to live.  You may not have Oriental rugs, faded chintzes, Staffordshire dogs or leatherbound books as the article How to Capture the aura of ‘Downton Abbey’ by Laura K. Lloyd from the McClutchy News Service suggests.  You may not live in a highborn English Manor House, but elegance is only a state of mind, me hearties.  Savvy?

Remember extravagance = lighting = candles.

Elegant dining = linens, china, crystal and wine = relaxed tongues.

Grab your lovers arm and walk arm in arm to dinner.  Hold your head high like the toffs, highborn aristocrats, who celebrated every meal in style.  Spice up your Thanksgiving with period etiquette and charm.  And if you’re interested in how you can become a toff, you can find ‘Downton Abbey’ replications of bedding, bath, furnishings, décor, apparel, and more at Knockout Licensing or check the modern comfort of CuriousSofa.com.

What are your Thanksgiving plans?  Do you have a feast in the making?  How will you present your fare?

Katherine

You Bastard! Illegitimacy During the Regency

Because I am both a writer of historical romance and a teacher, I though we might have a little history lesson today.  I’d be willing to bet, though, that this is a lesson you never had in school 🙂

In order to be considered a legitimate child during the Regency, your parents had to be married at the time of your birth.  It didn’t matter what their status was at your conception, as long as they made it to the altar—together—before you made an appearance in the world.  If you came before the nuptial ceremony, you were illegitimate, forever, even if your parents married later*.

If your mother was married to another man at the time of your birth, you were legitimate, but legally the child of her husband.  There are all kinds of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) jokes and references in Regency and Georgian novels about ladies letting a “cookoo” in the nest—passing off the child of an affair as one belonging to her husband.  It’s even a major plot point in Julia Quinn’s It’s In His Kiss: the hero and his “father” both know he’s the product of his mother’s affair, but he’s still the legal heir to his “father’s” title and fortune.

Illegitimate offspring could not inherit entailed property (property that, by law, passed to the next legitimate male heir), or titles.  Ever.  They could inherit unentailed property (property that could be disposed of in any manner), money, or goods by will—as could anybody else.

A great example of this is Mary Balogh’s A Secret AffairThe hero, Constantine Huxtable, was born two days before his parents’ wedding, thus rendering him ineligible to inherit his father’s earldom (this is actually the basis for the series, as a cousin inherits instead).  But wait, you say.  Grace Burrowes has a hero who’s illegitimate, and he’s an earl!  In The Soldier, Devlin St. Just is the bastard son of a duke, and he does gain an earldom, but not through inheritance.  St. Just’s title was granted for service to the Crown during the Napoleonic Wars, and it was the monarch’s prerogative to confer the honor.  (Where do you think all those nobles came from in the first place?)

Bastardy was also a bar to society, for the most part.  According to Allison Lane, an illegitimate daughter was not accepted or welcome at all socially, while a son could be admitted to the fringes of society with the help and sponsorship of his father.  The heroine of Julia Quinn’s An Offer from a Gentleman is a good illustration: she was the bastard daughter of an earl, but never acknowledged as anything other than the earl’s ward, nor did she move in society (except once, but I won’t spoil it for you).

There were exceptions to this rule (there always are, right?), and a big one was William, Duke of Clarence (later William IV) had ten (yes, ten!) illegitimate children with an actress known as Mrs. Jordan.  Being the bastard get of a royal duke was clearly a better lot than that of other illegitimate children (and many legitimate ones, too).  Since their father was the son and brother of a king (then later a king himself), the FitzClarences, as they were called, did rather well socially.  They were given the precedence of the children of a marquess, the eldest son was granted an earldom, and the rest married nobles or the children of nobles.

*For those of you that are familiar with the medieval period, you’re probably jumping up and down right now, yelling “John of Gaunt!” or “Beaufort!” (or maybe you’re yelling something else at me!).  Yes, John of Gaunt (son of Edward III) had four children with his mistress Katherine Swynford who were given the surname Beaufort (after one of John’s properties).  And yes, they were eventually legitimized by the pope and their cousin Richard II when John scandalized everyone and married Katherine (their children were adults by then).  But this was under the medieval Catholic Church, where rules could be bent for the right price, and John was a very powerful man.  And this legitimacy was questioned a few generations later when Henry Tudor, great-great-grandson of John through his eldest Beaufort son, claimed the English throne.  The Regency was several hundred years after the Reformation, and Britain’s aristocracy was (for the most part) steadfastly Protestant.  Different time, different church, different rules.

Valerie Bowman Stops by for Tea

Valerie BowmanAs an aspiring author, one of the things I make sure I do is read Regency Historical Debut novels. I tell my husband, its marketing research, but mostly I want to understand what landed “The Call” for that writer. I also love celebrating that very special event of seeing your first book in a bookstore or online.  I even have a photo of a bookshelf in ebook,a bookstore of where my book might be.

I thought it would be fun to interview a debut author each month and see what it was like for them to get “The Call”. This way we can share in their excitement and learn a bit about them. Valerie Bowman has graciously agreed to be my first debut author.

Valerie’s debut novel, Secrets of a Wedding Night, will be released September 25th. I, for one, can’t wait to read it!

Valerie, welcome to Teatime Romance. Tell us about yourself.

This is my bio from Pinterest but I believe it adequately sums me up. : ) Regency romance author. Smithie. 7th sister. Dog lover. Cake eater. Lilac admirer. And imaginary girlfriend of Henry Cavill.

Henry Cavill is the reason I keep watching Tudor reruns on BBC America.  Can you tell us about the book and the series?

SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT is the story of a lady (Lily) who writes a scandalous pamphlet. When her former flame (Devon), who was recently jilted because of the pamphlet, comes looking for her insisting she write a retraction, the game is on.

The other two books in the trilogy involve Lily’s sister Annie and Devon’s closest friend, Jordan, (SECRETS OF A RUNAWAY BRIDE, March 26, 2013) and Lord Medford, the nobleman publisher of the scandalous pamphlets (SECRETS OF A SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE, Oct 2013). I am also writing two novellas based on other characters within the series. Those are set to be published in February and August 2013.

Tell us about “The Call”. How did you celebrate?

I was so lucky to have gotten the call when I was in New York City at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National convention in 2011.  No one understands “the call” like your writing friends. And they were there, in the room, and we all jumped up and down. They also had cameras and took pictures of me actually getting the call which would NEVER had happened if I’d been at home. My critique partner, Mary Behre, happens to be a photographer and happened to have her camera out. When she realized what was going on, she started snapping pictures. I have some truly fabulous pictures of that moment. So surreal!

What’s the one surprising thing that has happened to you as a new author?

Getting emails from people asking questions about the book and telling me they look forward to reading it. You spend all this time alone writing and then one day it’s on other people’s radar. It’s an indescribable feeling, truly, and I am humbled by it.

We found a picture of you all dressed up for a Regency Ball. Care to tell us about that?

Oh, that was the most fun! For several years I’ve been a member of the RWA special interest chapter,  The Beau Monde, which focuses on Regency romances. However, my schedule has never permitted me to attend one of the famous soirees at the National conference. This year (Anaheim 2012) I got the chance. I had a wonderful dressmaker make me a Regency gown (I chose lavender because it’s my favorite color, regardless of the fact that during the actual Regency it was on the spectrum of mourning colors.) and was able to attend the soiree with my new gown and matching reticule. One of my very favorite pictures is of me drinking a beer in that gown. So funny!

As you know, this is called “Teatime Romance” so tell us what your favorite tea and scones are.  Do you have a recipe you care to share?

I famously do not cook so I cannot share a recipe. : ) Seriously, you wouldn’t want a recipe from me, but my favorite tea is peppermint. I drink it whenever I am sick for some reason and it makes me feel better mentally and physically…I think.

Valerie, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.

Thank you so much for having me, Amy. I do enjoy a good tea with friends.

Valerie Bowman writes Regency-set historical romance novels with a focus on sharp dialogue, engaging storylines, and heroines who take matters into their own hands! Publishers Weekly calls Secrets of a Wedding Night, an “enchanting, engaging debut that will have readers seeking future installments” and Romantic Times Book Reviews says, “This fast-paced, charming debut, sparkling with witty dialogue and engaging characters, marks Bowman for stardom.”  You can find Valerie on the web at www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com and on Facebook,  Twitter,  and Goodreads. You can purchase Secrets of a Wedding Night at Amazon   Barnes and Noble,   Books a Million