Last year was awful in many ways, but there were some bright spots. For me, one of those was being invited by the Bluestocking Belles, a group of historical romance authors, to be one of the guest authors in their 2021 story collection. It was a unique experience, and a great deal of fun, interweaving our stories and characters into the collection’s setting. All of the stories take place in the fictional Suffolk town of Fenwick on Sea during a “storm of the century”. It is the first week of April 1815, and Napoleon Bonaparte has just escaped from Elba.
When this opportunity arose, I was in the middle of writing Fated Hearts, my Regency-set retelling of the Macbeth story. Since Fated Hearts was set in March 1815 in the middle of the Corn Riots and in the week that ended with the arrival of news of Bonaparte’s escape, the Storm & Shelter project gave me the perfect opportunity for a secondary character’s romance.
Spring has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, and this year’s April storms include the 1815 North Sea gale that is the setting for the stories in the Storm & Shelter novella collection :
When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.
One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.
The collection includes my novella, The Comtesse of Midnight, a sequel to my full length novel, Fated Hearts. Here’s the blurb:
A Scottish Earl on a quest for the elusive Comtesse de Fontenay rescues a French lady smuggler from the surf during a devastating storm, and takes shelter with her. As the stormy night drags on, he suspects his companion knows the woman he’s seeking, the one who holds the secret to his identity.
Marielle Plessiers may dress like a boy and go out with the local free traders, but she’s really the Comtesse de Fontenay. She trades in spirits, not secrets, but the information she holds will change Malcolm Comyn’s life forever.
The other contributors are members of the Bluestocking Belles: Jude Knight, Caroline Warfield, Sherry Ewing, Rue Allyn, and Cerise DeLand.
A runaway heiress, a mysterious stranger.
When Letty’s ship founders in a violent storm, she forges a rare bond with her rescuer.
Simon is a troubled man on a final, deadly mission—until the spirited yet soothing Letty makes him question everything. Hiding in plain sight among the refugees at The Queen’s Barque, Simon is more than capable of protecting them both. But when the floods recede, can either of them say goodbye?
She is so wrong for him.
Miss Josephine Meadows is so young. In love with life. His accountant in his work for Whitehall. Her father’s heir to his trading company—and his espionage network. Lord Stanton cannot resist marrying her. But to ensure Wellington defeats Napoleon, they must save one of Josephine’s agents.
Far from home, amid a horrific storm, Stanton discovers that his new bride loves him dearly. Can he truly be so right for her? And she for him?
Zach Newell knows Patience Abney is far above his touch. But he has been enchanted by her since she raced out of the storm and into the Queen’s Barque with a wagon full of small boys, puppies, and a bag of books. When the two of them make their way across the flooded marsh to her badly damaged school in search of a missing boy, attraction deepens. She risks scandal; he risks his heart.
A quest for a title. An encounter with a stranger. Will she choose love?
Miss Miranda de Courtenay has only one goal in life: to find a rich husband who can change her status from Miss to My Lady. Captain Jasper Rousseau has no plans to become infatuated during a chance encounter at a ball. Their connection is hard to dismiss, despite Miranda’s quest for a title at all cost. What if the cost includes love?
Enemies by nature—Esmeralda Crobbin, aka the pirate Irish Red, and Captain, Lord Brandon Gilroy have met before.
Fate trumps nature—When a fierce storm creates a chance encounter and forced proximity, Brandon learns the pirate is a woman of serious honor and responsibility. Esmeralda discovers the captain is more than a uniform stuffed with rules and regulations. Both love the sea with boundless passion, but can they love each other?
The tempest that batters Barnaby Somerville’s village is the latest but not the least of his challenges. Vicar to a remote parish, he stretches his tiny stipend to adopt his orphaned niece and nephew and his time to offer medical care as well as spiritual. A wife is a dream he cannot afford. But the storm sweeps into his life a surprising temptation—a charming young woman who lavishes her gentle care upon his wards—and him. God knows, he will forever be richer for having known her, even if he must let her go.
He’s not really a blacksmith, and she’s not really an heiress… Can they forge a happily-ever-after anyway?
Thaddeus Pennrith finds a way to recover from multiple griefs when he accepts the blacksmith’s post at Fenwick on Sea. Village life gives him a sense of belonging that Polite Society never could, though he must resume his aristocratic responsibilities soon. Along comes Lady Sarah Weatherby, refugee from an engagement gone badly awry, and Thaddeus is faced with both a compelling reason to reveal his titled antecedents, and a longing to keep them forever hidden….
Greetings for the holiday season! This is the time for gift-giving, and I’m devoting this Quarter Days’ post to a unique gift-giving project I’m taking part in with a group of Regency Romance authors.
We’re taking some of those dark, down-on-their luck characters from literary fiction and giving them the Regency Romance treatment!
With complete artistic license, and an abundance of hubris, a group of Regency romance authors are retelling some of the great stories of literature, setting them in Georgian England, and giving these tragic heroes and heroines a happily-ever-after.
I am not super well-read in tragic fiction, so I settled on a story I do know: Macbeth. The real Macbeth was a relatively successful (though bloody) ruler of Scotland for about ten years in the eleventh century. Shakespeare’s Macbeth and his lady–well, you probably know their story. They die!
What’s a Romance Author to do? I decided to follow Shakespeare’s example of adding and discarding facts and characters as required. As I plunged into planning, I quickly decided that the action would begin twenty years after Macbeth and his lady’s quest for title and power and their “demises”.
In my version, a failed lawsuit, allegations of unfaithfulness and a disastrous divorce sent Macbeth off to a bloody twenty-year war with France and his lady into a tailspin of depression. Older and wiser, they meet again in London in March 1815 during the worst of the Corn Riots, in a week that ends with the arrival of news that Bonaparte has escaped from Elba.
I’ve taken the liberty of reversing characterizations (after all, Foul is Fair, and Fair is Foul) and adding others to lighten the mood for our aging lovers. Writing this, I often had to wrest my hero back from the darkness of his story. Or, as my editor gently suggested, I had to “moderate his fatalism”.
Hah! It is 2020, isn’t it?
All-in-all, it was a fun story, requiring a deep dive into the Peninsular campaign, the Corn Riots, and best of all, Highland soldiers in kilts.
Release day for Fated Hearts is December 29, 2020, and it’s available for 99 cent preorder. It won’t be at that price for long, so if you’re interested, pick up your copy ASAP.
Here’s a bit about the story and the other books in the Tragic Characters in Classic Lit series.
Plagued by hellish memories and rattling visions of battle to come, a Scottish Baron returning from two decades at war meets the daughter he denied was his, and the wife he divorced, and learns that everything he’d believed to be true was a lie. What he can’t deny is that she’s the only woman he’s ever loved. They’re not the young lovers they once were, but when passion flares, it burns more hotly than ever it did in their youth.
They soon discover, it wasn’t fate that drove them apart, but a jealous enemy, who played on his youthful arrogance and her vulnerability. Now that old enemy has resurfaced, more treacherous than ever. When his lady falls into a trap, can he reach her in time to rescue this love that never died?
by Lindsay Downs (Frankenstein)
When bodies start turning up in Whitechapel, Miss Steen returns to London with Lord Cartwright and the Countess of Harlow as her chaperone to solve the murders. Little does she realize she will be introduced to the last person she wants to meet — and hunting down the murderers proves a lot more difficult than they had anticipated.
by Regina Jeffers (Robin Hood)
William de Wendenal, the notorious Sheriff of Nottingham, has come to London, finally having wormed his way back into the good graces of the Royal family. Yet, not all of Society is prepared to forgive his former “supposed” transgressions, especially the Earl of Sherwood.
However, when de Wendenal is wounded in an attempt to protect Prince George from an assassin, he becomes caught up in a plot involving stolen artwork, kidnapping, murder, and seduction that brings him to Cheshire where he must willingly face a gun pointed directly at his chest and held by the one woman who stirs his soul, Miss Patience Busnick, the daughter of a man de Wendenal once escorted to prison.
by Audrey Harrison (Pride and Prejudice)
Colonel Fitzwilliam is a second son, often overshadowed by his titled, older brother and his cousin, Mr Darcy. Returning from Waterloo he knows it is time to find a wife with a healthy dowry, but he longs for a love match. Unfortunately for Fitzwilliam, love doesn’t put food on the table.
Miss Prudence Bamber has never known her mother’s family. A woman with her own mind and full life, she indulges her father’s wish to visit her long-lost relations. It turns out to be a trip she won’t forget in a hurry.
Two people looking for love, but challenged by pride, secrets and prejudice. Will they be able to overcome the odds to find their own happy ever after? Or, are they destined to remain separated by the constraints of society?
by Alanna Lucas (Wuthering Heights)
Her wild ways tamed, Catherine Earnshaw has launched into London society. Only none of her marriage-mart suitors excite her because her heart still lies with another; whatever happened to Heathcliff, her childhood soulmate?
Markus Bell left Yorkshire to find his true identity and turn a fortune. Now the talk of the ton, he has Catherine in his sights, not to woo her but to seek revenge; he can’t forgive how she spurned him.
Catherine is puzzled where the gossip dogging her through the season comes from. Until she meets Markus, who’s as dark and devilishly handsome as her Heathcliff, and her world is turned upside down.
The Company She Keeps, by Nancy Lawrence (Madame Bovary)
Captain Stanwick’s Bride, by Regina Jeffers (The Courtship of Miles Standish)
Glorious Obsession, by Louisa Cornell (Orpheus and Eurydice)
I’ll be back in March for the next installment of my Quarter Days’ blog!
Greetings! I’m back for my quarterly post about various and sundry things related to writing historical fiction.
In my last post I talked about the delights of playing with words and creating Tom Swifties.
Today I’m talking about the difference between English and English, as in American vs. British.
Is it fall? Or is it autumn? More on that later.
Words are the building blocks we writers and speakers use to create story. We start hoarding those blocks early, and the resulting vocabulary says much about our own personal settings—where we grew up, what our social milieu is, what our family is like.
A case in point—my grandkids’ first words. We waited with bated breath for each munchkin’s first spoken vocabulary word. I coached them repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) to say “mama”.
But for both of them the first word was… DOG! (Yes, we do love our dogs.)
are taught “write what you know”. I wonder why? It’s a lot more fun to step outside the known world. But it does lead to challenges.
The biggest challenge: You don’t know what you don’t know.
For a 21st century American like me trying to set a story in Georgian England, there are a million opportunities to err.
First there’s the issue of etymology. Was a word used during this story’s time period?
A couple of examples from a Regency first draft I was beta reading for a friend:
And a couple from my own first drafts:
Which brings up another potential pitfall for the fledgling Regency Romance author.
Americans and Brits may speak the same language, but we use different words.
I’m fortunate to work often with an editor in England, and so I’ve compiled my own list of Americanisms for my own pre-editing purging.
Some more examples:
This very funny post from a British writer complete with illustrations.
And a list of 60 American English words translated into British English.
Once, long ago, while reading one of Georgette Heyer’s books, I wondered why they kept writing “cosy” instead of “cozy”. Why had so many misspellings slipped past the editor?
The British spelling was different enough to make it a jarring read for this ignorant and unaware American who happens to be a good speller. Fortunately, I’m wise to them now.
There are also punctuation differences. Here’s a short post about some of those.
I don’t believe Regency readers will pillory an author over this issue, so I’ve settled on using American spelling and punctuation in my stories.
One might say, in this area at least, I’m writing what I know!
Do you suppose we’ll ever go “one-world” on the spelling and punctuation rules?
Happy fall (and autumn) to everyone, and I’ll be back in December!
Images credits: autumn leaves and dog are from Stencil (I’d happily claim that dog though!); image of words is from Wikimedia Commons.
One of the rules of contemporary fiction is that all words ending in -ly ought to be found in a Word search and banished.
Another rule is to avoid using substitutes for said: no murmurs, grunts, hisses, etc.
In what I always think of as the Golden Age of pulp fiction, an author might get away with a Tom Swifty. Though I have a degree in English and I’ve been to countless writing conferences, I only just learned this term from one of Anne R. Allen’s blog posts.
In case you don’t have time to link to the Merriam-Webster article here’s the definition:
“A Tom Swifty is a play on words taking the form of a quotation ascribed to Tom and followed by an adverb.”
Or, as Wikipedia says, it’s
“a phrase in which a quoted sentence is linked by a pun to the manner in which it is attributed.”
First published in 1910, the Tom Swift books spanned multiple series, and were written by Edward Stratemeyer and other authors under the pseudonym Victor Appleton. Stratemeyer was also the creator of the Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew books.
I haven’t read Tom Swift, but I grew up with Nancy Drew. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have as many successful book series as Edward Stratemeyer?
Another famous author of commercial fiction used this sort of “punny” literary device: Charles Dickens. Ah, the good old days when authors could have more fun.
A whole book has been written on the subject, Tom Swifties, by Paul Pease and Bill McDonough. The few copies available start at $40 on Amazon!
But, the Wikipedia article on the subject has a long list of howlers like these:
I could see these working in a humorous cozy mystery!
Do you have a favorite Tom Swifty? Share in the comments below!
We’re living in interesting times, and I was tempted to write a post about historical plagues and pandemics… But, if you’re like me, you’re heartily sick of hearing about them.
So, since March is Women’s History Month in the U.S., I’m sharing a gem of a book I found about women bankers.
Regency romance enthusiasts will know the story of Sarah Sophia Fane Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey and one of the patronesses of Almack’s. Sarah inherited a partnership in Child’s Bank, and became an active participant in the bank’s management until her death in 1867. (Her mother, also named Sarah, had been cut out of the will after her scandalous elopement to Gretna Green with the Earl of Westmoreland!)
The authors explain how some women, either through the wisdom of enlightened parents or their own power as widows managed this:
The law has always offered loop-holes. Provision could be made in her marriage settlement for a woman to retain the use of her own property . . . It was also possible for a woman’s property to be placed in the hands of trustees before her marriage, so that her husband could have no use of it without her consent.
Marriage settlements were extremely important financial and legal agreements negotiated by wealthy parties prior to marriage. Today, we call those “pre-nups”.
The book includes the stories of Lady Jersey and Harriet Mellon Coutts, an actress who inherited her husband’s interest in Coutts Bank and went on to marry the Duke of St. Albans (and still retain ownership of her wealth). But most of the seventy-six women bankers were solidly middle-class.
Many women established country banks with husbands or sons. Some inherited banks. Many also engaged alone or with husbands in other types of commerce, such as shipping, mining, or manufacturing.
And you won’t find most of these women mentioned in Wikipedia!
If you’re interested in a chronicle of women in business in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, you might enjoy this book.
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