Saturday, January 17, 2015

New Release: Lady Honor's Debt - The Baxendale Sisters Book #1

Enjoy an excerpt:

Highland Manor, Royal Tunbridge Wells, 1822

 Lady Honor Baxendale left the cook in the kitchen, mulling over the receipts for the following week’s dishes. Her mother was lying down in her bedroom suffering from one of her megrims. Mama’s nerves had worsened of late, especially since Honor’s stepfather had developed such a bad temper.
 The house seemed to be constantly in an uproar.
 Honor searched for her younger sister, Faith, and found her curled up in the corner of the cerise-striped chintz sofa in the morning room, beside the canary in its gilded cage.
 “You might take a walk in the sunshine, Faith. It does lift one’s spirits.”
 After Honor opened the French windows, a perfumed breeze swept in to ruffle the curtains. Beyond the terrace, the azalea bushes flaunted their mass of pink and mauve blossoms. “Why not go outdoors on such a beautiful day?”
 Faith gestured to the bird which chirped and hopped about. “I am talking to someone who will listen.”
 Honor joined her on the sofa. “I am listening. Don’t I always?”
 “Yes. But you cannot help me with this, Honor.”
 “You’ve been so horribly bored shut away in the country, dearest. Have you asked Papa to take a house in London for the Season?”
 “This morning. I begged him, but he was deaf to my pleas. He means to marry me off to Lord Gillingham. And I have no say in the matter.”
 Honor drew in a breath. “With me still unwed, I had hoped he’d give you one Season, at least.”
 “It’s business. One of us must marry a Gillingham.”
 “I’ll talk to him.” Honor doubted anything she said to her stepfather would hold weight. She was aware that she wasn’t in his favor.
 “It won’t help,” Faith said in a doleful tone. “His mind is made up.”
 “You get on well with Lord Gillingham.” Honor tried to sound positive while appalled at the notion. She would have to think of a way to prevent it. “He’s a personable man, is he not?”
 “He’s an amusing partner to sit beside at dinner, but I don’t love him.” Faith poked a restless finger through the bars of the cage, and the bird hopped along the perch to inspect it. “You are fortunate, Honor. Papa doesn’t force you to marry.”
 “I am a lost cause. I would not like to see you become one.”
 Faith gave a watery sigh and sniffed. “I shouldn’t like that. Just think, if tragedy hadn’t befallen you, you would be happily married now, with children of your own.”
 “Yes, dearest.” Honor patted her sister’s hunched shoulder. She couldn’t shrug off the guilty feeling. She’d been glad when her stepfather failed to consider her attractive enough for his business partner’s son. But Faith should not be denied the excitement of London, with its routs, balls and soire├ęs. Faith was so pretty. She would cause quite a stir, and would enjoy the whirlwind of a Season so much. Honor’s mind skittered away at the thought of her own Season, some years ago, which had ended in disgrace. Faith’s come-out would be far more successful. Why couldn’t her stepfather trust her to find a suitable husband? He seemed too panicked to consider things carefully.
 “I shall speak to Mama. We might wrangle a Season out of Father yet.” Honor opened the birdcage and removed the water tray to refill it.
 “You are wasting your time.” Faith stood and picked up her shawl. “If anyone needs me I’ll be on that walk.”
Released  1st April

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Duke's Mysterious Lady Amazon #1 Regency Historical Romance Bestseller!

A lovely ending to the year! The Duke's Mysterious Lady is #1 Amazon paid store! On Sale at $0.99 until Jan 8th

When a lady loses her memory, who better to rescue her than a seductive duke.
Viola, so named by her benefactor, Hugh, Duke of Vale, has lost her memory, along with her respectability, after being found unconscious near his estate dressed in a male servant’s clothes. She is a mystery unto herself, with her knowledge of books and Latin, and her skill at the pianoforte.

Thanks to the duke’s kindness, Viola has found a temporary home with his nanny in a cottage on his estate, while danger lurks in the shadows and darkens her dreams. She must leave beautiful Vale Park before Hugh marries Lady Felicity Beresford, the neighbor’s daughter; their marriage arranged when they were children. And before Viola and Hugh succumb to an impossible passion.

As the announcement of Hugh’s engagement draws near, he tries to accept the inevitable, he must marry a woman he doesn’t love. He is intrigued by Viola. Who is she and what has driven her to such an act? As the Bow Street Runners work to find the answers, Hugh grows more deeply and dangerously drawn to the mysterious lady. 


As if she wished to remain cocooned in a safe place, she drifted slowly back to consciousness. Then, forced to open her eyes, she gazed blearily at the festooned valance and bed-hangings of gold-embroidered crimson. With a small distressed whimper, she fingered the spotless linen bedclothes covering her body. Her heart thudded, and her head throbbed. Panicked, she threw back the bed cover to discover a lawn nightgown, well darned, the fabric worn thin from washing. “This isn’t mine, surely,” she muttered uneasily.

When she sat up too fast, her woolly head swam and her stomach churned. With a moan, she sank back onto the pillows, her cautious fingers moving over her scalp, examining the sore lump under her hair. She eased herself into a sitting position and gazed around the elegant chamber at the crimson Turkey carpet covering the floor, the green damask chair embroidered with deer, the French gilt desk and the commode. A large, gilt mirror hung above the fireplace mantel. All of which were completely strange to her. She uttered an anguished gasp.

A harsh bird call broke the silence. Swaying on her feet, she tottered to the stone window embrasure and pulled aside the heavy curtain. “Am I dreaming?” She couldn’t be, her head hurt too much. Yellow roses climbed a trellis attached to honeyed stone below her. Green fields dotted with white daisies stretched away to the distant sparkle of sunlight on water. A soft summer breeze stirred her hair carrying the sweet perfume of honeysuckle. If only her head would stop throbbing. She breathed deeply; her mind seemed in a dreadful fog.

The bird called again. A male peacock strutted across the lawn, his elegant tail feathers spread out like a painted fan of vivid blues and greens. Its haughty swagger was a welcome distraction, until a horse and rider burst from a distant grove of trees, covering the ground fast. She held her breath at the sight of the high gate in the hedge barring his way, but the big horse cleared it easily. In minutes, the rider was below her, strong hands on the reins, sitting tall in the saddle.

He dismounted in one graceful movement and glanced towards her window. She scuttled backward with the image of jet-black hair and broad shoulders. Curiosity got the better of her, and she peered from behind the curtain as he tossed the reins of the magnificent, chestnut stallion to a stable boy. “Make sure he’s well rubbed down, fed and watered.” His voice was deep and held an air of authority. He vaulted the steps and disappeared inside the house. The master of the house perhaps. And a perfect stranger. Her pulse raced in her throat and her head thumped.

Anguished, she turned, her hand to her head, and rushed to pull the bell sash, then caught sight of her reflection in the mirror. An untidy halo of tangled hair and a pale, gaunt face gazed back at her, wide eyes dark with confusion and terror. Panic closed her throat, making her fight for breath. Nausea brought tears to her eyes and the face in the glass blurred, as unanswerable questions filled the vacuum in her throbbing head. Who was she? Whose house was this?


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Victorian Christmas by Maggi Andersen

An English Christmas during the 1900s

By Maggi Andersen

The first known Christmas Tree was erected at Queen's Lodge, Windsor, by Queen Charlotte, the German born wife of George III, for a party she held on Christmas Day, 1800, for the children of the leading families in Windsor. Her biographer Dr John Watkins describes the scene:

In the middle of the room stood an immense tub with a yew tree placed in it, from the branches of which hung bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, and raisins in papers, fruits and toys, most tastefully arranged, and the whole illuminated by small wax candles. After the company had walked around and admired the tree, each child obtained a portion of the sweets which it bore together with a toy and then all returned home, quite delighted.
Christmas trees were an established Royal institution in Britain long before the custom spread to the general populace. Queen Adelaide always had one and the young Princess Victoria recorded her delight at the Christmas tree at Kensington Palace in 1832. 

Prince Albert, who is often wrongly credited with having brought the Christmas tree to Britain, certainly did most to encourage its general adoption, The Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle was featured in The Illustrated London News of 1848 and this inspired the imitation. Albert also presented large numbers of trees to schools and Army barracks at Christmas.
(From The Royal Windsor Website)

Santa Claus's first appearance in British society was not until the reign of Queen Victoria  when the wealthy middle class, generated by the industrial revolution, changed the face of Christmas forever.

Father Christmas was originally part of an old English midwinter festival, normally dressed in green, a sign of the returning spring. The stories of St. Nicholas (Sinter Klaas in Holland) came via Dutch settlers to America in the 17th Century. From the 1870s, Sinter Klass became known in Britain as Santa Claus with his bag full of gifts and toys distributed by reindeer and sleigh.

Inspired by Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol published in 1843, the wealthy gave money and gifts to the poor at Christmas. Christmas Day and Boxing Day became holidays. Boxing Day was so named because the poor opened the boxes containing gifts and money from their wealthy benefactors. The railways allowed those now living and working in the cities to return to the country for Christmas.

With factories came mass production, which produced less expensive games, dolls, books and clockwork toys than the handmade variety. Children of poorer families might have found an apple, orange and a few nuts in their Christmas stocking, which became popular from around 1870.

A famous Christmas dinner scene appears in Dickens' A Christmas Carol where Scrooge sends Bob Cratchitt a large turkey. Turkeys originated from America and had been in Britain for hundreds of years before the Victorian era. The turkey appeared on Christmas tables in England in the 16th century, and popular history tells of King Henry VIII being first English monarch to have turkey for Christmas. The 16th century farmer Thomas Tusser noted that by 1573 turkeys were commonly served at English Christmas dinners. The tradition of turkey at Christmas rapidly spread throughout England in the 17th century, and it also became common to serve goose which remained the predominant roast until the Victorian era. (it was quite common for Goose "Clubs" to be set up, allowing working-class families to save up over the year towards a goose before this). 

The pudding course of a British Christmas dinner may often be Christmas pudding, which dates from medieval England.
Trifle, mince pies, Christmas cake were also popular, but along with chicken, they were too expensive at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign. Roast beef was traditional fare in northern England, and in the south, goose was eaten. Queen Victoria and family in 1840 enjoyed both beef and a royal roast swan or two. 
 By the end of the century, most people feasted on turkey for their Christmas dinner.

 The “Penny Post” was first introduced in Britain in 1840 by Rowland Hill. The idea was simple, a penny stamp paid for the postage of a letter or card to anywhere in Britain. This simple idea paved the way for the sending of the first Christmas cards. Sir Henry Cole tested the water in 1843 by printing a thousand cards for sale in his art shop in London at one shilling each.

Tom Smith, a London sweet maker in 1846 invented crackers. The original idea was to wrap his sweets in a twist of fancy colored paper, but this developed and sold much better when he added love notes (mottos), paper hats, small toys and made them go BANG!

Carol Singers and Musicians “The Waits” visited houses singing and playing the new popular carols:
1843 - O Come all ye Faithful
1848 - Once in Royal David’s City
1851 - Amid the Winter’s Snow
1868 - O Little Town of Bethlehem
1883 - Away in a Manger 

I have a Regency Christmas short story on offer. After Lady Catherine Bellingham appeared in What a Rake Wants, I was inspired to give her own story. This is one special Christmas Night. A Forbidden Love affair. 
Lady Catherine's Scandalous Christmas

(Free on Smashwords and Goodreads) 

Widow Lady Catherine Bellingham thought she was content with her life. Then one Christmas night, Gerard, Earl of Berwick, showed her how wrong she was.

For those who celebrate it, Merry Christmas and for the rest Happy Holidays and a safe and prosperous New Year.

Best Wishes,


Images: Wikipedia