Father’s Day–Better Late than Never

I was supposed to post this last Sunday, but I was traveling from Oklahoma to Missouri and, well, too lazy to write anything.

So today, in a belated tribute to Father’s Day, I thought I’d write about notable fathers in romance novels–I’m referring specifically to the father of the hero or heroine, not heroes who are fathers, as there are a fair number of those–Google “fathers in romance novels” and you’ll see what I mean. There aren’t that many of the other kind. If they are mentioned at all, they are either gravely disappointed in their child, villainous, or dead, so the fathers who are not any of those things are significant. Here are a few of my favorites:

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

C’mon, you knew this had to be first on the list. Mr. Bennet is justifiably famous. “Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.” His affection for Lizzie is surpassed only by his long-suffering tolerance of his wife. He is flawed, of course–his habit of hiding in his study instead of taking a more active role in the raising of his headstrong younger daughter does get them all in trouble–but that makes him all the more relatable, even 200 years after he was written.


The Viscount Who Loved Me, by Julia Quinn

The father of the titular viscount in this book is, in fact, dead, but his influence is felt so keenly by Anthony Bridgerton that he is almost another character. Anthony so adored his father, who died unexpectedly at age 38, that he “simply couldn’t imagine ever surpassing his father in any way, even in years.” That sentiment so colors his thought that he puts his own happy-ever-after in serious jeopardy.

Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

Yes, I know, it’s trendy to bash Twilight, but I never bash other authors. We put too much of our heart and soul into our books to deserve the shaming that is sometimes heaped upon us. Plus, I enjoyed the series quite a bit. Charlie loves his daughter, Bella, but he doesn’t understand her at all, and his awkward attempts to parent her are endearing.


This Thing Called Love, by Miranda Liasson

Olivia’s father is protective of his daughter–at one point he threatens to castrate the hero “like a county-fair hog”–but he also respects her enough to make her own decisions. “Frank Marks looked around. His gaze did a panorama of Brad’s naked chest, Olivia’s wild hair, Annabelle’s drooly smile, and the spread of food at the table. He chucked the baby under one of her chins and sat down. ‘Well, I don’t know about you all, but I’m starved.'”

The Reluctant Debutante, by Becky Lower

“Ginger watched her father’s jaw flex. He was not an imposing man, but he had a will of iron. He needed a strong constitution to have successfully raised nine children and to have provided a privileged life for all of them. So, when she saw the movement of his jaw, she knew what it meant. Things were not going to go her way.” I love this description of the patriarch of the Fitzpatrick clan in Becky Lower’s first book. He is a strong, serious, and thoughtful man, but he loves his children and would do anything for them.

StirringUptheViscount_w9340_750Stirring Up the Viscount, by Marin McGinnis

Last but not least, I love the hero’s father in my first book. Lord Longley is a bit like Mr. Bennet, in that he would rather leave the running of the household, and the children, to his wife and stay out of it, but there the similarity ends.  “The man never met a stranger. He likes everyone, and everyone likes him. Her ladyship is a bit more practical, but she has a fun side, too. She and his lordship are always laughing, and I’ve seen ’em kiss a time or two when weren’t no one looking.”

I’m sure there are more out there–do you have a favorite father in a romance?

Cover Reveal!

Today is that exciting, slightly strange day in an author’s life–especially a newbie author–when a cover is revealed. I have mentioned before that it is a surreal experience seeing a character visually revealed, one who has lived nowhere but in your own head for awhile. But I have to say, cover artist RJ Morris totally nailed it.

So without further ado, the cover for Secret Promise, to be released by The Wild Rose Press later this year:




Falsely imprisoned as a blockade-runner during the American Civil War, Edward Mason yearns to go home. But when after seven years he finally returns to England, the life he expected is gone. His parents are dead, his home destroyed, his father’s legacy stolen, and his girl—his girl is now the single mother of a child Edward never knew.

Abandoned by the man she loved and disowned by her family, Anna Templeton has learned to stand on her own two feet and make a home for her son. Now the successful owner of The Silver Gull tavern, she’s not about to put their happiness in the hands of the one man who let her down so badly.

Edward is determined to regain Anna’s love and be a father to his son. But when a series of suspicious accidents threaten him and those he loves, he must stop the man responsible, or lose everything.

Grey Towers of Durham


My debut novel, Stirring Up the Viscount, takes place in County Durham in northeast England. I lived in Durham for a year in the mid-80s, while I attended the University of Durham. I was struck by the city’s beauty and grit back then, and found it an inspiring setting for a romance all these (many, many) years later.

Durham Cathedral 1985

Durham Cathedral 1985


Durham has a fascinating history. It begins with the story of St. Cuthbert, a seventh century monk from Northumberland. He was for many years the bishop of Lindisfarne, an island off the coast of Northumberland, who traveled far and wide across northern England. When Cuthbert died in 687, he was entombed in the monastery on Lindisfarne. Some years later, the monks on the island inspected the coffin for some reason, and discovered that Cuthbert’s body was perfectly preserved, a miracle deemed worthy of sainthood. St. Cuthbert continued to lie undisturbed until Vikings threatened to raid Lindisfarne in 793.



The monks fled the island, along with holy relics and the coffin of St. Cuthbert. Legend has it that they carried it around for more than a century until they reached a spot to the east of what is now Durham. The saint’s coffin suddenly became too heavy to lift, and no amount of effort would budge it. After three days of prayers and fasting, the monks reported that a vision of St. Cuthbert appeared to them, instructing the faithful that Dun Holm (meaning “Hill Island”) should be his final resting place.

The monks had never heard of such a place, but now that they had their marching orders they were able to move the coffin again. The story goes that while they were searching, they overheard a milkmaid asking whether anyone had seen her dun cow, and was told the cow was last spotted at Dun Holm. Overjoyed, the monks followed the milkmaid until arriving at Dun Holm (I like to picture a very Monty Python-esque assembly chasing after a milkmaid through the forest), which was a peninsula set inside a tight bend of the River Wear.  Eventually known as Durham, the area was found to be an ideal resting place for St. Cuthbert, and the monks settled there.

Durham Cathedral from riverbank


A wooden “White Church” was built in the center of the peninsula in 995, and replaced by a stone minster in 998. The present cathedral was constructed between 1093 and 1133.

Durham Castle



Construction began on Durham Castle in 1072. It housed the Bishop of Durham, and enabled defense of the area from invasion by the Scots.

Durham became one of England’s leading centers of scholarship during the medieval period, and three of the colleges which are now part of Oxford University—University, Balliol, and Trinity–had their origins in Durham. Although efforts were made to create a university in Durham as early as 1541, politics and North-South rivalries prevented it until 1832. Durham Castle housed the first of Durham University’s fourteen colleges, University College. Still in use today, the Castle is the oldest university building in the world.

Durham from train station

I had the titular Viscount in my novel, Jonathan Tenwick, attend the University of Durham. By the time he would have matriculated in the late 1850s, there were two more colleges, St. Hild & St. Bede and Hatfield. The paths that Lucien Ravensdale and the Earl of Longley would have walked continue to exist, and the train station still offers one of the most breathtaking views in England (although it’s kind of hard to tell from my really bad 1985 picture).

But it is there that the similarity between the real Durham and my fictional one ends. Although County Durham has been the seat of more than one nobleman and home to plenty of great houses, there is no Earl of Longley, no Longley Hall.  Nevertheless, I find that being able to picture a real place in my mind when I write makes it easier to describe the setting, and lets my imagination run wild with the possibility of what might have been.

For more information on Durham and its colorful history, check out:

And if you haven’t yet read about my fictional denizens of Durham, Stirring Up the Viscount is ON SALE for 99 cents at The Wild Rose Press through May 14. Also available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



The Surprising Truth About Contractions

I use contractions when writing dialogue. When I don’t, the language can seem stilted and unnatural. I have long wondered how common contractions were in days past, but I was afraid to look it up and find that they weren’t common, because then I would have to make a decision: use historically inaccurate language to make it sound more natural, or use historically accurate language that seemed odd to modern readers. But when one of my critique partners objected to the word “can’t” in the first line of my book as historically inaccurate, I finally looked it up.

Did the Victorians use can’t, won’t, and other words regularly in ordinary speech? The answer is a resounding yes, as did many, many generations before them.

The brilliant book English Through the Ages by William Brohaugh (if you write historical fiction you must have this on your shelf) notes that the following words were in use before the seventeenth century:

1605: we’d, you’d
1610: they’ll
1615: they’ve
1625: it’s
1640: don’t, who’d
1655: can’t, won’t
1665: I’d, shan’t
1670: ma’am
1680: they’d
1695: you’ve

Other contractions that we think of as modern date from the 16th century, and were in use before:

1570: I’ll
1580: we’ll
1595: I’m, she’ll, they’re, you’ll, you’re

Others came later:

1745: I’ve, mustn’t, she’s, we’ve
1780: ain’t
1820: t’aint
1860: doesn’t, it’ll
1865: we’re
1890: mightn’t
1905: it’d
1970: ’til

photo (4)These words were in existence, but did anyone use them? Definitely.

Although she used contractions sparingly, Jane Austen’s characters did say “can’t,” “don’t,” “won’t,” and “I’ll”: “[Y]ou can’t think how disappointed he will be if you don’t come to Cleveland.” (Sense and Sensibility, written 1798, published 1811) “…I am sure it will be too much for Kitty. Won’t it, Kitty?” (Pride and Prejudice, written 1797, published 1813) “Captain Harville holds himself quite engaged, I’ll answer for it.” (Persuasion, written 1816, published posthumously 1818)



In North and South, written in 1854, Elizabeth Gaskell used “can’t” 45 times, “don’t” 79 times, “won’t” 49 times, “doesn’t” 10 times, “I’ve” 40 times, “you’ve” 56 times, and, well, you get the idea. Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, Thomas Hardy, the Bronte sisters, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain–every one of them used contractions in their books.

There are many times when I’m writing that I will want to use a word, only to find it didn’t exist at the time.  Most contractions, fortunately, don’t fall into that category.

What words seem modern to you that might not be?


Author Interview: Louise Lyndon

Today I welcome Louise Lyndon, a fellow Wild Rose Press author. Louise’s debut novel, Of Love and Vengeance, released on December 19, 2014.

Welcome to the blog, Louise! Author Pic

Tell us a bit about you. Where do you live, and how long have you been writing?

Currently, I live in Melbourne, Australia. And I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember!

What inspired you to write Of Love and Vengeance?

The characters in my head would not keep quiet! So I really had no choice but to write this book. It was to quiet the voices in my head!

What does your writing process look like? 

I’m a panster. I’ll start with a snippet of a scene and then just go from there. I may not know how the story starts, but I DO know how it ends. It’s then just a matter of filling in the gaps in between.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Oh, I’m a huge TV buff. I love to binge watch series and I’m always on the lookout for something new to watch. I’m really into watching Empire at the moment. I love that show.

What are you working on now?

I have literally (and I do mean literally) just finished the follow up to Of Love and Vengeance, it’s called Of Love and Betrayal. I’ve just submitted it to my editor!

Name one thing about you that most people don’t know.

I’m not the eldest child, or the youngest, nor am I the middle child! 🙂

Mysterious! Only child?

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I know I should say something that would benefit mankind, but I’m going to say … the ability to be in more than one place at a time. Yes, completely selfish I know!

Not so selfish–I imagine most parents feel the same way at some point!

Neat freak or not so much?

Not so much. If something drops to the floor I don’t rush to pick it up. It’s not like it’s going to fall anything further!

What book are you reading now?

I have to admit I’m not reading anything at the moment. I know, shock, right? But when I’m in the middle of writing I don’t tend to read because I get too distracted by other storylines. And of course I feel guilty about spending a few hours reading when I should be writing. Now that I have just finished writing, Of Love and Betrayal, I’ll be able to start reading again!

I am in total agreement with you there, Louise. I find it very difficult to read when I’m writing, unless it’s in a totally different genre. I tend to gravitate toward paranormal YA at the moment. Thanks so much for joining me today, and best of luck with your release!


COVER Of Love and VengeanceOf Love and Vengeance by Louise Lyndon

Forced to marry Lord Aymon to ensure her nephew’s survival, English Lady Laila vows undying hatred for the Norman she holds responsible for so many deaths. Discovering Aymon has committed an act of treason gives her the chance to seek vengeance he deserves.  But will Laila really let Aymon die once she learns the truth?

A hardened Norman warrior, Lord Aymon has lived through atrocities no man ever should. With the invasion of England over, all he wants is a quiet life and a wife who will give him heirs and obey his every command. Instead, he finds himself wed to feisty and outspoken Laila. But when she learns the truth of his treasonous act, can Aymon count on her to keep his secret?


Aymon caught a flicker of movement from a window on the second story. “I think we’re about to meet the welcome party.” An arrow zoomed toward him and landed on the pommel of his saddle. A half an inch closer and he would no longer be able to sire children. As if in demonstration of his ability with the bow and arrow, the shooter fired again. This time directed toward Hugh. The second arrow too came within a half an inch of his friend’s manhood.

“You missed!” Aymon called toward the shooter.  He questioned his stupidity for mocking someone with such a good aim.

“You want me to show you how good an aim I really am?” a woman’s voice echoed out across the yard.

“Bloody hell,” Hugh half cursed, half laughed. “Where does a woman learn to shoot like that?”

Aymon was shocked and admittedly a little impressed a woman had such remarkable shooting skills. He could use such a sharp shooter on his side in battle. After all, it was better to have someone so skilled firing for you than at you.

Aymon raised his black leather gloved hand in surrender. “No. I’m firmly attached to my balls, thank you very much.”

“Who are you?” the shooter demanded. “And what do you want? There is nothing of value here for you to steal. Be on your way, man, and leave me in peace.”

“Some would say a female is of value,” Aymon drawled sardonically.

A second arrow lodged firmly on the pommel between his legs.

“I do not give third chances. I’ll give you to the count of three to leave. Or else you will find an arrow straight through your heart.”

Aymon’s warhorse whinnied, and he fought to control the beast whose temperament was as black as his coat. “Put down your weapon!”


“We mean you no harm!”


“I am Lord Aymon, and this is Lord Hugh. I’ve come to claim what is rightfully mine.”


The two men looked at one another unsure what to do. “Should we storm the building and lay claim to what is yours?”

Aymon shook his head. He dismounted but never took his eyes from the door to the manor. “She will soon make her appearance.”

Hugh, too, dismounted. “How can you be so sure?”

Aymon looked at his friend. “We do not have arrows through our hearts.”

Find Louise and her books here:
EMAIL: louise_lyndon@yahoo.com
WEB: www.LouiseLyndon.com
BLOG: http://louiselyndon.blogspot.com.au
FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/pages/Louise-Lyndon/1472910852955051
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/LouiseLyndon1
PINTEREST: llyndon3513

Drinking, Victorian Style

Everyone who’s ever read historical romance knows that there is very often alcohol featured somewhere. It’s typically consumed by the men in the story, although on occasion the heroine gets tipsy and does something stupid. Generally speaking, though, I prefer my heroines to be able to handle their liquor. Since my current heroine owns a pub in 1867, I thought I ought to find out what her patrons would be drinking. I am limiting this post to England; if I add American booze we’d probably be here all day.


Victorians drank a fair amount of beer–ale, bitter, porter, and stout. I couldn’t possibly do justice to the subject here, but I found this fabulous blog–Zythophile–which appears to be able to tell you everything you wanted to know about the history of beer, including a history of bottled beer.

For amusement, check out this beer ad from Wales in 1888. There’s a wonderful collection of Victorian era ads over at www.sensationpress.com/victorianadvertising.htm.


I love cider, much more than beer, although I can tell you from experience that it provides a hangover several times worse than beer. Cider, of course, is fermented apple juice, varying widely in taste and alcohol content. It has been popular since in England since the Norman conquest–the Normans were very fond of apples, and did amazing things with them–just think of that amazing nectar known as Calvados, an apple brandy. But I digress. To give you an idea of the popularity of cider in the Victorian period, a paper I found notes that “In 1877 there were 23,000 acres of apples in Devon, 22,000 in Herefordshire, 21,000 in Somerset, 9,000 in Worcestershire, 8,000 in Gloucestershire, and 6,000 in Kent.”


Most wine consumed in England during the Victorian “period was from France. Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published initially in 1861, provides the following about the wine known in England as “Claret”:

CLARETS.—All those wines called in England clarets are the produce of the country round Bordeaux, or the Bordelais; but it is remarkable that there is no pure wine in France known by the name of claret, which is a corruption of clairet, a term that is applied there to any red or rose-coloured wine. Round Bordeaux are produced a number of wines of the first quality, which pass under the name simply of vins de Bordeaux, or have the designation of the particular district where they are made; as Lafitte, Latour, &c. The clarets brought to the English market are frequently prepared for it by the wine-growers by mixing together several Bordeaux wines, or by adding to them a portion of some other wines; but in France the pure wines are carefully preserved distinct. The genuine wines of Bordeaux are of great variety, that part being one of the most distinguished in France; and the principal vineyards are those of Medoc, Palus, Graves, and Blanche, the product of each having characters considerably different.

Of Champagne (my personal favorite), Mrs. Beeton writes:

CHAMPAGNE.—This, the most celebrated of French wines, is the produce chiefly of the province of that name, and is generally understood in England to be a brisk, effervescing, or sparkling white wine, of a very fine flavour; but this is only one of the varieties of this class. There is both red and white champagne, and each of these may be either still or brisk. There are the sparkling wines (mousseux), and the still wines (non-mousseux). The brisk are in general the most highly esteemed, or, at least, are the most popular in this country, on account of their delicate flavour and the agreeable pungency which they derive from the carbonic acid they contain, and to which they owe their briskness.

Other wines included port, a sweet red wine from Portugal fortified with brandy, usually consumed by gentlemen after a meal, and sherry, an aperitif from Spain. Other wines included marsala, usually used in cooking, and madeira, often an aperitif. Mrs. Beeton also provides recipes for Elder Wine, Lemon Wine, Mulled Wine, and various cordials.

Eliza Acton, in her “Modern Cookery,” has an entertaining little recipe for “Raisin Wine, Which if Long Kept, Really Resembles Foreign.”  This book was originally published in 1845; you can find that edition and several subsequent ones on GoogleBooks.

Spirits and Liqueurs

Whisky (or whiskey–don’t ever use the wrong one), brandy, gin–the Victorians drank them all.

Whisky is the spelling preferred by the Scottish, and refers to the spirit made in that country. Whiskey is preferred by the Irish and the Americans. I have had a terrible time with this word, because my heroes are always drinking the stuff, and when deep in the throes of writing I sometimes forget which is which.  Since my characters do inhabit Northeastern England, just south of the Scottish border, I have decided they drink Scotch whisky.

Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine (or other fermented fruit), containing about 40% alcohol. The most famous brandy is, of course, cognac, which comes from certain producers in the Cognac region of southwestern France. It is usually an after-dinner drink.

And then there’s gin. Gin is basically ethanol flavored with juniper berries, about 40% alcohol. It originated in Holland (and is believed to be the source of the term “Dutch Courage,” as 16th century soldiers took a few swigs before battle to calm their nerves). Gin suffered a terrible reputation in the 18th century, as bans on imported liquor allowed the proliferation of affordable, poor quality gin, causing untold social problems.

Bear Street and Gin Lane, by William Hogarth, 1751.

Nevertheless, eventually gin did become more respectable. The gin and tonic was popularized by the Victorian military officers in India, who found it a much better way to get their daily dose of antimalarial quinine. Ladies sipped sloe gin, which is obtained by steeping sloe berries (from the blackthorn tree) in sweetened gin.

While not strictly a Victorian, Queen Elizabeth’s late mother, the Queen Mum, was born at the tail end of the Victorian era, and famously drank gin until she died. Her favorite tipple was a Dubonnet and gin: 2 parts Dubonnet to one part gin (preferably Gordon’s).  She had wine with lunch, port after lunch, a martini before dinner, and two glasses of pink Veuve Cliquot with dinner. And lived to 101–draw your own conclusions.

Shall we go down the pub?


So, today is my birthday–I won’t tell you which one–and I received the coolest present:

Gorgeous, no? I love the soft, elegant romance of it. Many, many thanks to the talented cover artist, Debbie Taylor.

I have to tell you, this whole cover business has been kind of weird. Theodora has been living in my head for the past two years, and it was an oddly intimate experience to see a photographic depiction of her. I can only imagine how strange, scary, and wonderful it will be to send the final version of the book out into the world.

Coming soon from The Wild Rose Press.  Happy birthday to me!

Weather and Other Curiosities

This is a recycled, and late (sorry), post from a group blog that is now defunct. But recycling is good for the planet, and it’s too damn cold to think of anything but how I wish I was somewhere where my car didn’t get stuck in the driveway, where I could venture outside without Arctic outerwear, and where my heating bill didn’t creep into four figures.


As a native Clevelander, weather is often on my mind; when I haven’t considered the weather before venturing out, I usually regret it.  Sometimes it’s gorgeous, other times not so much, but it is ever-changing. Anyway, it got me thinking about where one might find information on such things in history:  weather, what the headline in the newspaper was, what was playing at Drury Lane, what people did for fun. So, this hodge-podge post offers a few, hopefully interesting, tidbits on random stuff I have been thinking about.


Frost Fair on the Thames, 1841

For some of you, this may be old news, but bear with me, as I am often the last to know anything.  Did you know that there was a “Little Ice Age” in Britain that lasted over 400 years, and didn’t end until the 19th century?  The Thames froze so thick that it was common to have Frost Fairs on the river during the winter months.   Google “Frost Fairs” and you will find a number of pictures and articles.  The last frost fair was held in 1841; this picture of that event is courtesy of the Daily Mail.

You can find data on average temperature (1659 forward) and precipitation (1766 forward) in England on the website of the Royal Meterological Society.  

This site has interesting descriptions of English winters from the 17th century to the present day.  For example, 1816 was the year without a summer, and on Christmas day in 1836, snow accumulated up to 15 feet, with drifts of up to 50 feet!

That last site refers to a volcanic eruption having an impact on English weather, not unlike the eruption that we all remember from 2010.  Thinking about this made me wonder about historical weather events outside of England that may have had an impact, such as this 18th century volcanic eruption in Iceland.  


The first issue of The Times, 1788

Although news was not instantaneous in the 18th and 19th centuries, as it is today, newspapers nevertheless played an important role in daily life, and can offer a wealth of information, including, of course, what was playing at Drury Lane (on December 4, 1788, it was Mr. Kemble in Rule a Wife, and Have a Wife).
The British Library offers online access to British newspapers from 1800 to the present day.   An article on the British Library website reports the following: “In 1800, four main daily newspapers were being published in London, of roughly equal importance: the Morning Post; the Morning Chronicle; the Morning Herald and The Times.”  

Access to the British Library collection is by subscription, although it is free if you are affiliated with a subscribing institution, such as a British university.  Another interesting summary of British newspapers is available at http://www.georgianindex.net/publications/newspapers/news_sources.html.  There are some newspapers available at the National Archives, and you can also find a number of periodicals on GoogleBooks–for reasons which escape me, there is particularly good coverage of the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society, with marvelously titled articles like “Wild Birds, Useful and Injurious (With Seven Illustrations)” and “Marigolds Running to Seed.”

This site offers access to a few 18th century journals for free: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ilej/; and this one offers links to a number of other sites, including German, French, Dutch and other European papers: http://www.xooxleanswers.com/free-newspaper-archives/newspaper-archives-europe/.   You can find information on Canadian newspapers at http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/newspapers.  



Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1842

Much is made of theatre in period literature and in historical fiction.  It was an amusing diversion both for the rich and those less well-off, and for the former, it was a place to see and be seen.

This is an interesting article on the business of nineteenth century theatre and its personalities: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/0-9/19th-century-theatre/.  This article offers facts on the individual theatres: http://www.victorianweb.org/mt/theaters/pva234.html.  Some tidbits: The Adelphi was the first theatre to feature adaptations of the novels of Charles Dickens; the first female theatre manager in London was Eliza Vestris, who managed the Olympic Theatre in 1830; the celebrated actor Edmund Kean made his Drury Lane debut in 1814 as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.


Vauxhall Gardens by Samuel Wale, c1751

What post on historical English curiosities could be without a note on Vauxhall Gardens? They were the celebrated “pleasure gardens” which feature rather heavily in historical romance novels, with heavily wooded paths and secluded arbors just perfect for trysting aristocrats.  Vauxhall closed in 1859–for reasons which will surprise no one, it wasn’t as popular after Victoria took the throne–but during the decadent Regency period it was simply the place to be. There is a marvelous description of Vauxhall from 1760 by Goldsmith, in Curiosities of London: Exhibiting the Most Rare and Remarkable Objects of Interest in the Metropolis; With Nearly Fifty Years’ Personal Reflections, by John Timbs (p. 747, available on GoogleBooks):

“The illuminations began before we arrived; and I must confess that upon entering the Gardens I found every sense overpaid with more than expected pleasure: the lights every where glimmering through scarcely moving trees; the full-bodied concert bursting on the stillness of night; the natural concert of the birds in the more retired part of the grove, vieing with that which was formed by art; the company gaily dressed, looking satisfied, and the tables spread with various delicacies,–all conspired to fill my imagination with the visionary happiness of the Arabian lawgiver, and lifted me into an ecstasy of admiration.”  

As I can’t possibly top that, I bid you adieu until next time,


Contest News!

Awhile back I gave you my musings on contests. I still agree with everything I said in that post, but now my perspective is slightly different. I mentioned that I entered three contests this past spring. In the first, which was NEORWA’s Cleveland Rocks Romance contest, I didn’t come close to being a finalist. However, one of the judges gave me some fabulous feedback which I used to make some changes that greatly improved the manuscript.

The second was the Romancing the Lakes contest, which is a fairly new one; I think this was its first year. Wonder of wonders, I was one of five finalists in the Historical category.  I didn’t dare hope I would be in the top three, let alone win, but I did. It was the first real validation that my writing does not suck. For a newbie, that is a tremendously good feeling.

The third was the well-respected Lone Star contest, sponsored by the very first chapter of RWA. For the last two weeks, my husband and I have been doing a cleanse, which means a lot of cooking for me and no caffeine, alcohol, sugar, wheat, or anything else that’s fun to eat. Last Saturday, I was feeling crabby. So crabby, in fact, that I was in the middle of making gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free chocolate cookies (which rock, by the way–here’s the recipe) to cheer myself up, when I got The Call. The call that told me I was a finalist. (Actually, it was three calls, since I was too crabby to answer the phone or check my voice mail the first two times.)

I spent the last week editing and polishing the first four chapters of my book. I will admit I was thoroughly tired of them by the time I sent the entry back to the category coordinator last evening, so I am ready to move on and polish the rest. In the spirit of eternal optimism, which is generally a stranger to me, I will have it ready to submit by the time the winners are announced in October, just in case.

So now it’s back to work for me, and time for you to share your thoughts on contests. Do you enter them? Have you won?


Reality in Historical Romance

One of the blogs I follow is Hearts Through History, which features some marvelous posts on history in general, as well as historical romance in particular.  A recent post by Merry Farmer caught my eye, about historical body image. The concept of skinny, as she notes, is purely a 20th century notion, but most heroines in historical romance are portrayed as the young skinny girls of our current reality, rather than the curvy young women their real-life counterparts actually were.  Take a look at this piece of “genteel erotica” from 1886 and you’ll see what I mean:

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1886-female-bathers-No4-nude.jpg

Anyway, Merry’s blog led me to another I hadn’t seen before: Rakes, Rogues, & Romance by Nancy Goodman. How real, she asked in a recent post, do we want our romance? Do we read it purely to escape the reality of our not particularly romantic lives, or do we want something else?

Personally, I like some realism. I want to see the heroine lift her skirts a bit to step over the disgusting muck that filled London streets prior to the end of the 19th century. I want her to wrinkle her nose when she gets a whiff of the Thames as the wind shifts. I want to see the household staff wash off the windows, again, the soot that constantly covers them. In my mind, such snippets of historical fact add much to the setting, but don’t detract from the romance.

Perhaps it is my advancing age, but I am a bit tired of the virginal teen heroine, who loses her maidenhead to the more worldly but gentle hero and almost always has an earth-moving orgasm on the first try. (No comment on the realism of that.) I have read many romances which feature this type of heroine, and have enjoyed them, but nowadays I find I like my heroines grittier, with more life experience before the first page. To me, they are much more real, and these are the heroines I like to write about.

However, as in most things in life, balance is important. I do understand the need to read as an escape from reality–it is very often that impulse which leads me to pick up a book. I read a lot of different types of fiction, but I open a romance when I want to be assured of a happy ending. It isn’t always very realistic, but it is usually immensely satisfying.

So if you read romance, how do you feel about realism? How much is too much?

  • Archives