Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Her Christmas Pleasure

Her Christmas Pleasure, the second novella in the Merry Widows series, is now available!

Damien Morton is madly in love. Unfortunately, it's with his best friend's widow, Lady Danver. Damien is not worthy of Celia. Or so he thinks. Desperate to escape his feelings for her, he plans to leave the country at the first of the year. Celia treats him as a family friend and nothing more—until they share a heated kiss beneath the mistletoe...

Celia is shocked by the passions that surge within her at her dear friend's kiss. One touch and one taste aren't enough to satisfy her cravings, and she is startled into action. Damien has stirred something inside her that she never expected to experience again, and she must have more. Full of shameless desire and emotions newly discovered, she decides to pursue Damien and won't be deterred. Will she be able to convince him to stay—both in her heart and life—forever?

Find it here: Carina Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

I feel like I've waited for this moment all year! Oh, wait...I have. You see, I wrote the novella back in early January so it has been nearly a year since I first created Celia and Damien.

In celebration of Her Christmas Pleasure releasing, I'm all over the blogosphere these next few weeks. As a matter of fact, I'm over at the Manic Readers blog today, giving away an Amazon copy of Her Christmas Pleasure to one commenter. So please, come visit me.

Also, click here for the list of various blog stops I'm making. There will be many chances at winning prizes so I hope you'll stop by!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Regency Weddings

I hope all of the US readers of Romancing the Past had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday! Hopefully, you aren't too full and still lying on the couch...

What are you thankful for? I'm thankful for my family, friends, my health, my career, and of course that my Regency romance, LADY SEDUCTRESS'S BALL releases next month with Carina Press--right in time for the holidays! December 19th is the day!

In LADY SEDUCTRESS'S BALL, my heroine, Olivia is married... but *gasp* not to the hero! Unfortunately, for the lovely Olivia, her parents forced her into marriage to a MUCH MUCH MUCH older man, and she has fallen for the dashing, rogue, Tristan Knightley... but as in all romance, there must be a happy ending right? A wedding perhaps? Well, I can't tell you that! You'll have to read it to find out how Olivia gets her happy ending (double entendre intended *winks*)

Regency Weddings
During the Regency, weddings became mostly private affairs, and  if held at church (and not in the family drawin room) was not attended by that many. The lovely bride would be attended by her younger unmarried sisters or cousins, perhaps a dear family friend. The groom would also have a best man--brother, dear friend, cousin. There was also the required witnesses, who on occaision were those very same attendents.

A very popular place to have a wedding in London was at St. George’s Church in Hanover Square. In fact, in 1816 there were 1063 weddings held that year in the church. According to the Hibiscus Sinesis website, with that many weddings in the year, it was a rival with a Las Vegas wedding chapel.

It was during the Regency-era that white wedding gowns began to stick. Wearing white was popular during that time anyway, as it showcased innocence and virtue, and most women were expected to exude these qualities.

Reading of the banns (the announcement of the wedding read in the couple's local church for three weeks in a row, and objections could be made, if none made, the wedding was a go) was still done in the Regency-era but there were also a couple of other ways you could go about it. There was the common license, which was obtained by a bishop or archbishop. The couple had to be married in a church or chapel where either the bride or groom had lived for four weeks. The third way was a special license, which was issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Doctors Commons in London. The special license allowed the couple to marry anytime, anyplace.

Weddings were still done in the mornings, (majority from the Church of England Book of Common Prayer) and could be followed by a breakfast feast. The wedding itself would be announced in the papers (something many still do today).

After the breakfast, the couple would either go about their business as usual or leave for a honeymoon period abroad, perhaps to Bath in England or the countryside.  To be considered legit, the marriage must still be consummated.

Poor Olivia's first marriage was consummated, however ill-suited and dour her husband was for her, so annullment wasn't an option.
24 days until the release of LADY SEDUCTRESS'S BALL!!!

Don't forget to visit Romancing the Past starting in December for our special round-robin Christmas tale and prizes!


Invitation to Pleasure

As the wife of the elderly Earl of March, Olivia Covington has never known the intimacies of the bedroom. Though her curiosity is piqued by the shocking whispers of society ladies, she is too wary of causing scandal to indulge in an affair. But Tristan Knightley, Earl of Newcastle, tempts her to throw off propriety.

Tristan wants Olivia for his own, and has sworn off all others until he can rid himself of the obsession. He is sure once he has a taste, he will tire of her, and can return to his rakish existence. Unable to wait to have her in his bed, he invites her for a tryst at Lady Seductress's Ball...

Releasing December 19th!!!

24,000 words

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One thing leads to another

... who would have thought a bicycle would lead you anywhere except to where you're peddling to?

Now, the bicycle started off as a funny little thing, invented in Germany and known as a "running machine". You didn't actually peddle anywhere, but you ran along with this thing between your legs.

Now, my first thought was, well, at least they scored on the downhills. But then I went back to look for the brakes and, um, I can't see any? Can you?

Moving rapidly on to 1860, we get the bone-shaker, 3 guesses where it got its name from? But, hey, at least this one had pedals.

And here's where I start getting impressed: I never really thought about a bicycle as anything more than a bicycle... in the 1880's, the 'safety bicycle' came along, or really just the bicycle as we know it today.

Which led to...
 Susan B. Anthony said, "Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."

I had to smile at that.

But that's not all, all these bicycles and freedom led to the "Dress Reform" from middle to late Victorian era because all those petticoats and corsets were probably not ideal for peddling about the countryside. Ladies wanted something more practical for their athletic activities...

Say "Hello" to the Bloomer Suit

Not quite your spandex cycling shorts, but I love it, love it, love it. This is one of the reasons I love researching for my historical writing. I love reading and watching how women came into their own, how each small step brought them to where we are today.

Unfortunately, the fashion didn't last long before most women were forced back to more traditional wear due to public ridicule, but it was a start and from then on, the focus turned more on making undergarments more comfortable and rational (where they could not be ridiculed in public!!) ... and this finally led to the demise of the restrictive corset of those times.

You know what? I'm going to use this bloomer suit in the book I'm currently writing. It stands for everything women have had to fight for, the setbacks, the subtle path forward, and never giving up.

References pulled from [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/]
[reference from wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_bicycle]

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Star-Crossed Love in the Regency

My first two posts here at Romancing the Past focused mostly on the Past aspects of the regency period, so this time I thought I'd look at a little more closely at the Romancing side of things. Most regency fans are familiar with William Makepeace Thackeray, whose most famous work, Vanity Fair, has a regency setting and even hinges on the Battle of Waterloo. But did you know his mother's real life love story was worthy of any regency romance?

Anne with her son, William.

Anne Becher was born in 1792 in India and, like many children of East India Company families, was sent to live with relatives in England—specifically her paternal grandmother, also named Anne Becher. The younger Anne grew into a beauty, with dark curly hair, soulful eyes, and a tender, dignified manner. In 1808, when she was 15, she met a handsome 28-year-old lieutenant of the Bengal Engineers, Henry Carmichael-Smyth, at the Assembly Ball in Bath. Henry hailed from a respectable Scottish family; his father, James Carmichael-Smyth, was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and "physician extraordinary" to mad King George III. In a courtship right out of Othello, Henry won Anne's heart with stirring tales of his military service in India.

But Henry was only a younger son, and Anne's grandmother had hopes of a better match for her. Moving quickly to quash the romance, she forbade Anne to see any more of the dashing officer. Since her grandmother's property sat beside a river, a rebellious Anne slipped out of the house and met Henry on the riverbank, where he came by boat to see her. Unfortunately the two were caught together, and Anne's grandmother locked her in her room.

Anne wrote to Henry with the help of a servant, but Mrs. Becher discovered the clandestine correspondence. Taking matters into her own hands, she informed Anne that Henry had died of a sudden fever. Storytelling seems to have run in Thackeray's genes, for Mrs. Becher told Anne the poor dying officer had remembered her with his last breath. Meanwhile, she separately informed Henry that Anne had lost interest in him.

Determined to keep her granddaughter from learning the truth, Mrs. Becher packed Anne off to India. Anne no sooner arrived in Calcutta than the British community there hailed her as a great beauty. A prosperous young East India Company man, Richmond Thackeray, began to court her. The son of a legendary elephant hunter, Thackeray held a prestigious post as Secretary of the Board of Revenue. On October 13, 1810—her eighteenth birthday—Anne became his wife.

The Thackeray family—Richmond, Anne, and their son William.

Just nine months after the wedding, Anne went into labor with the couple's son, the future author of Vanity Fair. William Makepeace Thackeray was born with such a large head his mother never entirely recovered, and he was to remain her one and only offspring, though William did have an older half sister from his father's pre-marital dalliance with a mistress.

Five months after William's birth, Richmond Thackeray was promoted to Collector of the 24 Parganas, the district around Calcutta, a position roughly equivalent in Bengal to that of Home Secretary in England. The Thackerays' future looked bright. Then, in 1812, Richmond met "a most delightful officer" and invited him back to his official residence for dinner. Imagine Anne's surprise when the man walked in—and was none other than her first love, the supposedly dead and buried Henry Carmichael-Smyth.

Whatever looks passed between Anne and Henry and whatever their feelings for each other may have been—and subsequent events make it clear the two still loved each other—Anne seems to have been a model wife and mother. No rumors or scandal attached to Anne and Henry while Richmond Thackeray remained alive.

Then, in 1815, at the young age of thirty-two, Richmond suffered the very fate Anne's grandmother had invented for Henry Carmichael-Smyth, dying of a fever. A year later Anne sent her young son to England to live with his great-grandmother, the same disapproving matriarch who had told her Henry was dead; apparently, Anne possessed a most forgiving nature.

William Makepeace Thackeray
Yes, his head was huge.

Three months later, on March 13, 1817—a decorous interval of 18 months after Richmond Thackeray's death—Anne wed Henry Carmichael-Smyth at last.

United despite all obstacles, the couple remained happily married until Henry's death in 1861, forty-four years later. Anne even outlived her famous son, dying in 1864 on the first anniversary of his death.

The only shadow on Anne's happy ending was that she and Henry were unable to have children together, owing to William Makepeace Thackeray's enormous head.

Alyssa Everett's debut regency, A Tryst With Trouble, is available now for pre-order from Amazon. Her second, Ruined by Rumor, is due out in May. She hopes you'll visit her website and follow her on Twitter, where she promises not to spam you relentlessly.

Monday, November 14, 2011

All Roads Lead to Rome

Here it is, the cover for Mask of the Gladiator, my ancient Rome novella coming from Carina Press in January 2012! I hope you love it. I do.

What is it about ancient Rome that captures our attention so many centuries after its collapse? Is it buff gladiators fighting for life and death? Depraved emperors and the conniving senators plotting against them? The brilliant minds who engineered an empire before it all collapsed into the Dark Ages? I think it is a little something of each of these, combined with the rich archaeological and intellectual remnants that have survived the centuries.  There is something amazing about walking down roads built over a thousand years ago, or knowing that underneath modern cities like London are the graves and houses of people who set out to create one of the largest empires in history. There are many great ancient civilizations, but ancient Rome left its mark in so many places that it is hard to escape and easily accessible. You can touch an ancient Roman wall in Scotland, unearth ruins of a gladiator school in Austria or visit an amphitheatre in Paris. The Roman Empire, for good or for bad, left its mark on history and the landscape of Europe. It’s hard not to be captivated.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Romancing the --- Past

The name Romancing the Past (title of this webpage) really fits with my post this month. All historical writers in someway, and in various degrees do exactly that: we Romance the Past. You know what I’m talking about here. Take myself for example.

I write Native American Historical Romances. I have young, virile, handsome warriors who carry off (sometimes) helpless (well, how about victims of circumstance) women not of their culture and take them back to their tribes where the man and woman from two complete different worlds fall in love and overcome any and all barriers–including language!
Realistically, life for those women did not have a happily-ever-after. Sure, there were some who found happiness–maybe. I am hearing my husband snort of disbelief in my head as I write for he is a realistic person down to his engineering bones. I like to believe that not all were treated cruelly.

Okay, so why do we authors do this? Why take an era in time like the old frontier, the Civil War, any war, pirates, etc. and turn the ugly truth of what life was really like into stories of true love overcoming the impossible?

I can think of one reason: it is the era of that time period, the world long gone from us, that is somehow appealing. I’ll use my own expertise here. When readers of Native American stories, in the era where the white man and Native were dealing with territory issues, we aren’t seeing the spread of disease the white man brought to the Natives or the starvation during harsh winters or the savageness and slaughter that certainly was a big part of that time period. No, we see a freedom of living that we will never know in our lifetime no matter how many times we go camping or hiking.

The appeal is in living off the land, having no cumbersome possessions, no work demands, no bills in the mail box, no mortgage, no threat of foreclosure, no job layoffs, no mean, insensitive or jerk of a boss and–well you get the idea. When we look back, we don’t see people how they were. We see what we long for–if even for a few short hours. Sometimes, less is more?

Sure, there was work, hard work way back then. From sunrise to sunset and often long into the night but there was also plenty of time for celebration, for visiting the other women while working, the chatting and laughter, the bonding of males going off on hunts or a raiding party.

Then there is the appeal of never being alone, never wanting. Never having your children go hungry unless the entire tribe was hungry. For in those days, people shared. To own and collect and keep for the sake of owning was not a good thing. People shared what they had with those in need.
And the children! They were valued. Treasured. You’ve all heard the saying: it takes a village to raise a child? It’s true. Parents did not have to pay outrageous daycare fees so that they could attend to their duties for the children were looked after by everyone. Children were never tossed away like garbage. And a child grew up knowing he was loved. He was treated with respect, and taught to respect. After all, if a child is never given respect (or love etc) how can he give it later. Okay, there was probably mistreated children back in the era I write about but from what I know, in the pre-white man days, with most tribes, children were treasures. Unlike today where many are forgotten and swept away.

Hmm, I seem to have stepped a bit onto my soapbox. But I think you can take all my points using the Native American culture and apply it to any popular historical time period that we romance authors romanticize.

Does that mean its harmful to do what we do? I don’t believe so. There were storytellers in every culture, and not so surprisingly, stories of the same type (creation myths, moral stories, advice stories, and I’m sure some just for fun). But no matter the story, there were lessons buried beneath the words.

Today, we don’t have a tribal storyteller to pass down all that was learned from one generation to another. Instead, we have books and those books have themes that touch on all walks of life.

We today have so many things vying for our attention. I’m not even going to try to list those activities and chores, etc. I joke to my husband that if I were to write down everything I NEED to do, WANT to do, SHOULD do, FORGOT to do, I’d have a list a mile long and no hope in this lifetime of completing it.

So to keep from going slightly mad, many of us look to a time we believe or at least pretend to believe was much simpler and maybe a bit more rewarding. Sure, those stories are fiction but the world is at least in some part real but best of all, those wonderful characters in those fictionalized places become real. For at least the time we spend with them.  If I as an author can take a reader out of the stress of daily living and bring them back feeling good about themselves and their world, then I'm happy.

And maybe, there will be something to be learned that can apply to our lives today. Some moral lesson, a bit of advice, that can ease the passage of our own day-to-day experiences. Most of all, when we read true-to-life stories about people facing tough times just as we are facing tough times, we know we are not alone.

Share your comments and be entered into a drawing for a free copy of White Dawn.  Winner drawn on Friday.

Check back at my website for excerpts, reviews, and contest information (pages being updated over the next week)

Preorder Susan's White Series starting with the first four books.  Available November 21st.
White Dawn             http://tinyurl.com/7js4u44     
White Dusk              http://tinyurl.com/7js4u44
White Shadows        http://tinyurl.com/7vdpxwk   
White Wind             http://tinyurl.com/7ov7ghq

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Never dull

I do a lot of research before starting my manuscripts, but that doesn't stop me from stumbling over gaps in my knowledge while I'm in rough draft stage. Rather than letting them slow me down, I write bolded, all-caps notes to myself and keep going. My current work-in-progress's notes include:




The funny thing is, by the time I've learned enough about sheep to flesh out that paragraph, I bet I'll think sheep are fascinating. Maybe even almost as interesting as horses.

That's how it usually works for me. Before I started researching the War of 1812 as part of my current hero's backstory, I would've said it was nowhere near as interesting as the Napoleonic Wars. Now that I know more about it, well, it's messy and gripping and horrible, and it's just criminal how boring my high school history class made it sound.

Since I started writing historical romance, I've developed surprising interests in the flora and fauna of islands of the Indian Ocean (one of these days I'll finish that shipwreck story), the duties of footmen (I once had a hero go undercover as a servant, then decided it didn't work and rewrote those chapters), and the workings of the East India Company fleet. To name only a few. And my conclusion is that almost nothing is boring once you start to learn about it. Really, I think this Discovery Channel ad from a few years back sums up my attitude toward just about anything I've ever needed to research:

What about you? What topics that you thought were boring turned fascinating as soon as you knew anything about them?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A Bluffer's Guide to Gay Historicals

Top facts:

* Once non-existent, the genre stands proudly, and there are hundreds and hundreds of titles to choose from in every possible era from cavemen to WW2
* Covers. Getting better and better every year, we've gone from naked men in a frozen pond to covers with ships and everything!
* Writers of the genre here at Carina: 
ErastesJosh LanyonAleksandr VoinovFae SutherlandBonnie DeeAlex Beecroft, Charlie Cochrane (the latter two have books coming out in 2012)

In a nutshell

* There's still not enough of it, for a start. Yes, I'm never satisfied...
* Some Gay Historicals address the very real problems of being gay in a time when it wasn't just unacceptable, it was reviled and illegal. (Basically after Christianity kicked in) However, there were times when man on man love wasn't just acceptable, it was a normal part of everyday life. (The Greeks had a word for it.)
* Thankfully, due to pronouns there are few books with those classic romance titles such as "The Belgian Captain's Depraved Toyboy." (With thanks to the Random Romance Title Generator)

The Heroes

Not too different from the heroes in other historical romances. They are generally aristocratic (tall and handsome goes without saying - plus they are ALWAYS - always hung like horses, this is the law.)

So, create your character: Rich, check. Commanding, check. Handsome, check. Package of unusual size. Check and double check. OK, you can stop checking now.

The, er, OTHER Heroes

Now here you can play around a little. You can either make your other hero a match for your arrogant alpha in every sense of the word (and sit back and watch those sparks fly and those buttons go flying (gotta have flying buttons, more later) OR you can create a sensitive little soul. A downtrodden artist, perhaps, or an impoverished tutor. A kidnapped slave or an abused and rescued young man. As long as you get a vast gulf between your alpha and your omega, it doesn't really matter. Any excuse to make that boy cry his little heart out because the rough tough alpha doesn't know how to handle him. Or rather - he doesn't know how to handle his feelings - he knows how to handle him all right. (hur hur) The important thing is the desecration of innocence - but don't worry. No matter how nasty the alpha is, your sensitive soul will fall in love with him as he tops from the bottom.

The best bit about writing gay historicals
* Buttons
. Oh GOD the buttons. I've coined the term breeches ripper before, but for me waistcoat ripping is far more exciting. Also cravats. You can have a LOT of fun with cravats.
* UST. (No, no, not thereUnresolved SexualTension. Buckets and buckets of it. "I'm homosexual!++ Argh! God he's pretty. I wonder if he's homosexual too? How can I let him know? What if he's not? All right... so he is - he's sleeping with Lord [Whossit] - how can I get him?"A writer of gay historicals have immense fun torturing her characters - making every glance count, and when one's passing the port (to the left, of course) at dinner, fingertips are just bound to brush against each other.
It's much easier to get men together on a day-to-day basis. Whereas a hetero historical writer will have to write about dances, and chaperones and perhaps elopements men can simply hang out with each other, ride in each other's carriages (and no, that's not a euphemism!) without anyone fainting or ruining anyone's reputation. Of course it's pretty difficult to get them into sexual situation, but that's another post...

The best bit about reading gay historicals* Buttons! Ok, Is it just me and the buttons?
* Appreciating that the author knows exactly what the difference is between a sailor's whipping and a double fisherman but that you don't need to know anything as silly as long as the hero gets tied up.
* Sponge baths.
* The membrum virilus! Members, yards, rods, poles, perches, arbor vitae, gaying instrument. (yes, really.)

Top tip: beige...biscuit...blasé bleeding anachronisms

Check check check. You may think that it's all right to say your hero's breeches are beige but it wasn't so and any eagle eyed reader will Mock You. They will, however realise if you are trying and make a small slip-up, but they won't appreciate sloppy (or no) research, modern day speech patterns and contemporary men in fancy dress.

What not to say

* “Gad, that's an attractive ass!”

Over to you...

* What gay historicals would you like to see?
* What cliches are you sick of?
* What do you think of the covers these days?
* Anything else?

And if you are interested in finding out more: (and in a more sensible fashion)

Speak Its Name has The Definitive List of Gay Historical fiction.
The Macaronis: Fiction out of the Closet

Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives in Norfolk, UK with 3 demanding cats and a mad dog. Her new novella, "A Brush With darkness" a gay romance set in 19th century Florence is coming to Carina in March 2012. Check her website for her non-Carina titles www.erastes.com

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Paparazzi - Regency Style

There’s nothing in this world that hasn’t been done before, especially when it comes to writing Regency romance. Well, that’s how it seems when I’m trying to dream up a plot for a new book. Constructing an original storyline takes time and patience. I have plenty of the former – litter of the latter. (I blame my parents, but don’t let my mum know I said so!).

Still, I think I might be on to something. How did inquisitive souls receive their news during the Regency era? Newspapers, obviously, but I knew little about their origins and had scant knowledge of the titles that were popular at the time. A little research was called for.

I discovered that the London Times, still going strong today, started life in 1785 as the Daily Universal Register. John Waters, its founder, had been a Lloyd’s underwriter who suffered severe losses due to a hurricane in Jamaica. With what money he had left, he bought the rights to a typesetting process and started an advertising sheet that included small items of news to promote it, little knowing what he’d set in motion! After several years he was unable to sell his typesetting process but was making money on the paper.

Anyway, my point is that the Universal Register became The Times in 1788 and Waters included items of gossip in an effort to make the paper more popular. My ears pricked up when I read that snippet. Who supplied the gossip and what lengths were they prepared to go to in order to procure it? What if—a question that novelists ask themselves all the time—a young lady in straightened circumstances and with responsibility for the welfare of the rest of her family, had a talent for sniffing out scandal? The dangerous type than wasn’t to be found in fashionable ballrooms? Presumably women weren’t encouraged to undertake such work, so she’d have to disguise herself as a lad. I can already imagine her getting into all sorts of inappropriate situations, from which a hunky hero will have to rescue her. Needless to say, she won’t welcome his intervention.

Hmm, I can see I’ve got a bit more work to do on this plot. Still, some of my books have blossomed from less auspicious starts so I’m not feeling too downhearted. The one thing I can’t do is start until I’ve thought of an appropriate title.

The Pen is mightier than the Petticoat? Maybe not.

How about, The Renegade Reporter? No, that doesn’t quite work either.

Any suggestions?