Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest Emery Lee: Georgian Gambling

Linda Banche here. My guest today is Emery Lee and her lush, exciting Georgian historical romance, Fortune's Son. Prequel and sequel to her previous book, The Highest Stakes, Fortune's Son is set in the London world of high stakes gambling. Here she talks about the types of gambling popular in the Georgian era.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of Fortune's Son which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Emery will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winner Emery selected is christinebails! Congratulations, Christine, and thanks to all who came over.

Welcome Emery!

Emery Lee:

Gambling in all its various forms, from horseraces to cockfights, to cards and dice, and spinning wheels, reached a zenith of popularity in the Georgian age; but wherever large sums of money are staked, there are always those who prey on the unwary. In FORTUNE’S SON, Lady Susannah Messingham secretly believes the green tables are the answer to her financial woes and uses all her feminine wiles to persuade Philip Drake to teach her. In the following excerpt her extremely reluctant pedagogue endeavors in vain to open her eyes to the dangers.

(Excerpt from FORTUNE’S SON Chapter Six)

Are you not a professional gamester?” Lady Messingham asked.
Philip looked uncomfortable. “The question is not so easily answered. I don’t deny taking my living from the green tables but I assure you that I endeavor to maintain… certain standards… in my play.”
“Do you indeed?” Her half-smile bespoke disbelief.
“First of all, I endeavor never to sit down with a lady, or even with a man who has already over-imbibed. I find no allure in taking from those so disadvantaged.”
“So you deny that you win by cheating?”
He flushed. “’Tis such an unpalatable word, cheating, associated with swindlers, cutthroats, and highwaymen. By my troth, my lady, I have never marked a card, or rolled weighted dice. These are the trademarks of a cheat. I would merely say that I play with enhanced skill. I do not seek out victims to dupe, nor do I play intentionally to ruin any man. If, however, one has not the sense to know when to leave the tables, he deserves what he gets.”
“Are you not still a sharp, Philip?”
He paused to consider, “No. I do not say so. Not in the truest sense of the word. Besides, the term hardly encompasses the entire world of professional gamesters.”
“You speak almost as if it were a society in itself.”
“It is precisely that. Simply put, there are many types of players; varying degrees of Athenians, Captain Sharps, Amazons, blacklegs, tricksters, bamboozlers, and outright swindlers, inhabiting both the upper and the lower classes of society.”
“I have heard of the Greeks, but I don’t understand why the brethren of our much-venerated Aristotle are so vilified.”
“Ah,” Philip answered, “’tis a story that goes back to the days of Louis XIV, when a certain chevalier, A Greek named Apoulos, was admitted into the court. He was astonishingly adept at play and won a veritable fortune from the princes of the blood before his true methods were revealed.”
“What happened to him?”
“The king was much displeased and sentenced him to twenty years in the galleys. A true Greek tragedy,” he quipped.
“Thus, all players of his stamp are called Greeks?”
“Nay, only the select few. It is the name reserved for only those who play with great mastery. The Greek of the ton is by far the subtlest, most adroit, and the cleverest of creatures. He is accustomed to the best of company, and his deportment and manners are all that can be desired. He is capable of the most challenging conjuring feats—the partial shuffle, the false cut, the shift-pass, mucking, palming, pegging, and culling. No one surpasses his skill in drawing the ace, or breaking the cut, concealing cards or placing them. He raises the practice to an art.”
By now, Lady Messingham hung in rapt attention upon his every word.
“He is a master who lives for naught but the game, playing each one with unparalleled skill and equal perfection, yet plays only for others’ ultimate destruction. Attempts to hide emotion from him are in vain. He discerns the least movement or contraction of the features, peering with uncanny ability into his adversary’s very soul…”
“Lackaday! It sounds as if you describe Beelzebub, himself!”
“He is not far removed!” Philip laughed. “True vice, my lady, would frighten us all, if it did not wear the mask of virtue.”
“If that is so how does one evade a fate as his victim?”
“One can easily do so by avoiding deep play,” Philip answered “Since he is a master who only delights in high stakes, steer clear of his table, and you’ll never fall victim.”
“Do you not count yourself among those who are ‘equal in his talents’?” she asked.
“Not I, madam!” Philip barked. “I’d never make such a boast.” He paused with a thoughtful frown. “Nay, I do not endeavor to make my fortune so. I do not live for the play as others do.” His voice grew pensive. “I still have hope of something better.”
He met her quizzical look without further elaboration, and abruptly shifted back to their prior topic. “You have yet to learn of the wandering Greek—” He flashed a grin, breaking the solemn mood.
“Not to be confused with the wandering Jew?” she quipped back.
He laughed. “Indeed not. Although this manner of sharper does travel from place to place. He frequents the taverns, public assemblies, and pleasure gardens, seeking out the young and unwary, but rarely working alone.”
“He has an accomplice?”
“Yes, he employs a decoy, often an Amazon.”
“An Amazon? A woman? So there are, after all you said, women who are successful gamesters?” she remarked thoughtfully.
“I have never encountered one who does not act in conspiracy with a man. Her role is more to play the shepherdess to lure the hapless sheep to the wolf. Yet this is not even the worst type of sharp.”
Philip’s voice now took on a harsh, gritty quality. “The lowest sort of creature is the varlet who frequents the public gaming hells, and the low drinking dens. They are naught but evil wretches, wrought out of idleness and debauchery. After plying a victim with strong drink, their ‘games,’ involving any manner of trick or treachery, begin.”
“You speak as if you have fallen victim.”
“I was very young… and a fool. I am lucky to have escaped with my life.
She stared at him, stunned even more by what his words had not said than by what he had revealed.
Have I now opened your eyes?” he asked softly. “Or are you still bent on this inane gaming scheme?”
“It is only harmless diversion,” she lied. “It’s not as if I intend to make my living at the tables.” (end excerpt)

Philip Drake, an impoverished but titled gentleman, is forced to liquidate his assets and go back to his past gaming habits in an effort to right himself. Lady Susannah Messingham is a woman with a past and nearly ten years Philip's senior. After watching him at the tables, she propositions him to teach her to win at gaming. This fascinating and original look at an uncharted aspect of English life explores a gentleman snared by gambling, the threat of debtor's prison, and the wayward lady who redeems him.

About the Author
Emery Lee is a life-long equestrienne, a history buff, and a born romantic. A member of Romance Writers of America, she lives with her husband, sons, and two horses in upstate South Carolina. She is a self-professed “Georgian Junkie,” and is also the moderator for Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers. Her first book is The Highest Stakes, which is the prequel to Fortune's Son.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, All!

All cultures have harvest festivals. The United States harvest festival is Thanksgiving, now celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

Our current Thanksgiving dates from 1621. Two years after their 1619 landing in the New World, the Pilgrims in Plymouth in the Massachusetts Bay Colony held a feast to celebrate their first good harvest. Strictly speaking, this celebration was not the first one. Settlers in Virginia and the Spanish explorers in Texas held harvest/thanksgiving celebrations earlier.

The actual date for Thanksgiving has varied through the years. Since Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, the day generally occurred in October or November. Each state set its own date until 1863, when, by presidential proclamation, all the states celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November. But November can have four or five Thursdays, so Thanksgiving remained a moveable holiday until 1941, when federal legislation fixed it at the fourth Thursday in November.

Now for some Thanksgiving quotes:

For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!
Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American. O. Henry

Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. Native American Saying

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey be plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!
Author Unknown

And my favorite quote, which I saw in a Thanksgiving greeting card: "Thanksgiving--the one day in the year we give thanks for turkeys."

Gobble, gobble.

Thank you all,

The picture is "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe. From Wikipedia

Monday, November 14, 2011

Guest Sharon Lathan--Classical Music: The Disco of the Regency Era

Linda Banche here. My guest today is Sharon Lathan and Miss Darcy Falls in Love, her latest Pride and Prejudice sequel in which Georgiana meets her match. Today she talks about the disco of the Regency.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of Miss Darcy Falls in Love which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Sharon will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winner Sharon selected is Karen H! Congratulations, Karen H, and thanks to all who came over.

Welcome back, Sharon!

Sharon Lathan:
A hundred years from now if a person were to ask, “What was the popular music during the 1970s?” disco will probably still be the first answer to pop into most people’s minds. Yet a rapid look at that decade reveals the emergence of hard rock, new wave and punk, the fusion of country with rock (Southern rock, as it was dubbed), and the growth of urban rhythm and blues, just to name a few. Two hundred years ago the same question would not be answered with as much diversity, but just like in the 70s, music was evolving and styles varied.

Somewhere in the very early decades of the 1600s Baroque music with it’s complex tones and formalized themes supplanted the simpler melodies of previous periods. There was a major shift to the preference for keyboard instruments, and stringed instruments became more sophisticated. Opera as a staged musical drama and vocal embellishments also began during this period. Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Handel are well known examples of Baroque musicians.

Classical period music sprung forth around 1750, lasting until 1820 when the Romantic period emerged. Although today the term “classical music” is used to encompass all three musical styles, the differences are distinct. True Classical music has a lighter, clearer texture with melodies consisting of varied rhythms and frequent changes in timbre. Orchestras increased in size with a wider number of instruments. This lead to the birth of symphonies and concertos, the importance given to instrumental performances that were independent of vocal performances. Composers Scarlatti, Haydn, Mozart, Hummel, Schubert, and of course Beethoven were revolutionary in how they wrote music. Unafraid to experiment and break established rules, their unique twists and willingness to embrace the emotional elements ushered in the Romantic era of music.

The Regency Era, especially when referring to the broader years, was a period of change in all the arts. It was also the time when music was no longer under the control of wealthy patrons or the aristocracy, this freedom initiating a burst of expression. Institutions for learning were established for men and women, rich or poor, to study and enhance their talents. England tended to move slower than the rest of Europe, as is evidenced by the preponderance of Italian, French, German and Austrian composers versus English ones. The influence was certainly felt, however, and the compositions crossed the Channel to be enjoyed by English audiences large and small.

When I decided to give Georgiana Darcy the gift of composing and mastery at playing the pianoforte I honestly had no clue how intricate the world of music was. Most of what I wrote in the above paragraphs I only marginally understand, even after months of study. I learned the bare essentials necessary to write my novel via a crash course in musical theory!

A woman of Georgiana’s class would have begun studying music at a very young age. Probably from her mother at first, and then from tutors. In general a woman only needed to be skilled enough to entertain her future husband and guests. If, however, she showed a greater aptitude and the desire, she could receive instruction from a “master” - that simply a man (typically) who had been educated and who had experience as a practicing musician. She would also attend the opera, symphony, and concertos while in London. Books on musical theory were plentiful, and since being an “accomplished woman” was valued, a woman could converse with men on the subject and practice endlessly. Yet beyond that an English woman had few other options.

Other countries in Europe did have conservatories that women could attend, and women actively participating as a singer or musician for staged performances was common. Last week on Peeking Between the Pages I wrote a blog about this subject if interested to learn more. For my purposes it was fabulous to discover that Georgiana did have an option and with her conveniently in Paris anyway I was able to leap onto the opportunity for her to enroll as a student in the Conservatoire of Music.

Nevertheless, while it was plausible for Georgiana as I arranged it, an extensive education for an Englishwoman, or acceptance as a composer, prior to the 1900s was rare. But then so was being a published author, and we all know at least one writer who managed to do that!

Synopsis of Miss Darcy Falls in Love--

Noble young ladies were expected to play an instrument, but Georgiana Darcy is an accomplished musician who hungers to pursue her talents. She embarks upon a tour of Europe, ending in Paris where two very different men will ignite her heart in entirely different ways and begin a bitter rivalry to win her. But only one holds the key to her happiness.

Set in post-Napoleonic Empire France, Miss Darcy Falls in Love is a riveting love story that enters a world of passion where gentlemen know exactly how to please and a young woman learns to direct her destiny and understand her heart.

Sharon’s Bio--

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Her previously published novels are: Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, Loving Mr. Darcy, My Dearest Mr. Darcy, In the Arms of Mr. Darcy, A Darcy Christmas, and The Trouble With Mr. Darcy. Miss Darcy Falls in Love is Georgiana’s tale of love and adventure while in France. Complete with a happy ending. In addition to her writing, Sharon works as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. She resides with her family in Hanford, California in the sunny San Joaquin Valley. Visit Sharon on her website: and on Austen Authors, her group blog with 25 novelist of Austen literature:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Guest Grace Burrowes: Regency Music

Linda Banche here. My guest today is New York Times bestselling author Grace Burrowes with Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish and The Virtuoso, the latest books in her saga about the Regency Windham family. Here she talks about Regency music.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win one of two copies of The Virtuoso which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Grace will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winners within a week of selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winners Grace selected are Hope and Kitchen Witch! Hope and Kitchen Witch, please contact me at by November 24, 2011, in order to claim your prizes.

Welcome back, Grace!

Grace Burrowes:

As with many aspects of culture, the Regency was a musically fascinating time. Art in general was making a transition from the highly structured, elegant restraint of the classical approach to the more emotionally expressive, spontaneous Romantic approach. Musical ensembles grew from the small chamber orchestras maintained at court or by wealthy nobles to professional orchestras and opera companies capable of playing to large audiences. For example, His Majesty’s Theatre in Haymarket—a popular concert and opera venue—was expanded during the Regency from a seating capacity of 1200 to 2500.

Technological advances played a significant part in this evolution. Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791) and his sister toured London in 1764 and 1765, for example, and would have been performing on a five-octave piano with limited volume. By the end of the Regency period, the piano keyboard encompassed least six octaves (more for concert instruments), and due to improved material for the piano wire, sound board and mechanism, had a much louder sound with a better sustaining mechanism.

Music continued to be a source of entertainment and pleasure in better homes, with hostesses showing off both skilled amateurs and promising professionals at informal musicales. The Regency also, however, saw the rise of the virtuoso.

The musician most often referred to as the first piano virtuoso is English-educated Muzio Clementi (1752-1832). Clementi squared off against Mozart for the entertainment of Emperor Josef II of Austria-Hungary, in 1781 (the emperor graciously declared the contest a draw), then went on to enjoy a long career as a composer, performer, piano manufacturer, and music publisher. While we recall him today mostly for his sonatinas, though in the Regency period he was a musical celebrity of great renown, and musicologists credit him with influencing Chopin, Liszt, and other later Romantic composers.

Beethoven (1770-1827) was, of course, active during the Regency period, having written his first eight symphonies and all five of his piano concertos prior to 1814. The London Philharmonic Society, forerunner of the Royal Philharmonic Society, founded in 1813, takes some of the credit for commissioning a choral symphony from Herr Beethoven in 1822, which eventually developed into the wonderful Ninth Symphony with its choral finale. English demand for chamber pieces (string quartets and piano trios) also prompted Beethoven to include these forms in his later repertoire.

And while works for public performance were becoming longer, more complicated, for larger ensembles and to be played on more sophisticated instruments, in the case of the piano, at least, smaller, simpler versions of the instrument were making music an affordable pastime for more and more households. These cottage pianos were as little as three feet high, with a shortened keyboard and modest cabinetry.

In the Regency period, the English continued a long tradition of luring Continental talent to London for lucrative performance opportunities. Josef Haydn (1732-1809) enjoyed success as both a conductor and composer in his English travels in 1791 and 1794, and many an operatic talent traveled from Italy to perform offerings such as Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, Cosi Fan Tutte, and La Clemenza di Tito.

With music becoming at once more accessible, more sophisticated, more public, and more available in the home, and instruments becoming more plentiful and of better design, it’s hard to imagine a more exciting period in music history than the Regency.

The Virtuoso by Grace Burrowes – In Stores November 2011
A genius with a terrible loss…
Gifted pianist Valentine Windham, youngest son of the Duke of Moreland, has little interest in his father’s obsession to see his sons married, and instead pours passion into his music. But when Val loses his music, he flees to the country, alone and tormented by what has been robbed from him.

A widow with a heartbreaking secret…
Grieving Ellen Markham has hidden herself away, looking for safety in solitude. Her curious new neighbor offers a kindred lonely soul whose desperation is matched only by his desire, but Ellen’s devastating secret could be the one thing that destroys them both.

Together they’ll find there’s no rescue from the past, but sometimes losing everything can help you find what you need most.

Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish by Grace Burrowes – In Stores NOW!
A luminous holiday tale of romance, passion, and dreams come true from rising star Grace Burrowes, whose award-winning Regency romances are capturing hearts worldwide.

All she wants is peace and anonymity…
Lady Sophie Windham has maneuvered a few days to herself at the ducal mansion in London before she must join her family for Christmas in Kent. Suddenly trapped by a London snowstorm, she finds herself with an abandoned baby and only the assistance of a kind, handsome stranger standing between her and complete disaster.

But Sophie’s holiday is about to heat up…
With his estate in ruins, Vim Charpentier sees little to feel festive about this Christmas. His growing attraction for Sophie Windham is the only thing that warms his spirits—but when Sophie’s brothers whisk her away, Vim’s most painful holiday memories are reawakened.

It seems Sophie’s been keeping secrets, and now it will take much more than a mistletoe kiss to make her deepest wishes come true…

About the Author
Grace Burrowes is the pen name for a prolific and award-winning author of historical romances. The Heir, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and was selected as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year for 2010. Both The Heir and its follow-up, The Solider, are New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. She is a practicing attorney specializing in family law and lives in a restored log cabin in western Maryland without a TV, DVD or radio because she's too busy working on her next books. For more information, please visit

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gentlemen's Clubs in Regency England

Every respectable Regency gentleman (and a few who weren’t exactly respectable) belonged to a gentleman’s club. Some of the more popular ones were White’s, Brooks’s, (yes that is the correct spelling and punctuation) and Boodle’s. All were very exclusive.

When a member was accepted into the club, it was known as an “election.” If a gentlemen had been a member for 3 years, others would say “three years after his election into so and so.” All exclusive gentlemen's clubs in London used a method of voting for proposed new members whereby a system of back and white balls were deposited, in secret by each election committee member, into a special box. A single black ball was sufficient to deny membership. Hence the term “blackballed.”

By far the most revered (and oldest) of London's gentlemen's clubs during the Regency Era was White’s. It was founded as a chocolate shop in 1693 by an Italian, Francesco Bianco, who’d changed his name to Francis White. White’s was politically conservative, which means most of its members were Tory. Even today it’s still considered the most prestigious club. Originally, when White’s became a club, it was mostly a gambling hub, with members who frequently played high-stakes card games. Whist, faro, quinze and hazard were some of the most popular games played. With all the clubs, obsessive betting occurred with some frequency. The smallest difference of opinion invariably resulted in a wager and was duly recorded in a book--everything from how many birds will perch on that tree in the next hour to who is Lady B's new lover were fodder for the betting books.

Brooks’s was basically liberal, which means a large Whig membership. For a while, the Prince of Wales favoured it. He changed his preference to White’s when they blackballed his close friend, Jack Payne. As a gaming club in the eighteenth century, which is just before the Regency Era, it had been in Pall Mal. The stakes were high. It was customary for gamblers to play for 50 to 10,000 pounds! Charles Fox and his brothers reportedly lost many thousands of pounds in a single night. Hazard was their game of choice.

With Boodle’s, I’ve seen so many different characterizations of this one that it’s hard to say, but it seems to have offered deeper gaming than the above two. Some sources say Boodles was the club for country squires and those who 'rode to hounds' in the fox hunts. It wasn’t tied to any political party, at least not during the Regency Era.

Another was Watier’s which was a short-lived club started by the Prince of Wales's (or Prinny’s) chef. It appears to have specialized in fine food and very deep gaming.

There were many, many more clubs, but the above four were the ones with space in St. James's Street and thus at the core of society. There was the Beaf-steak (or Beefsteak) club, which had precisely thirty members and met once a week for a fine dinner. Their building was open to members for the usual purposes such as conversing with friends, reading the latest papers, gaming, etc. The Athenium Club focused on ancient Rome and Greece. I recall hearing that only Latin was spoken there which wouldn’t have been a problem for too many Regency gentlemen, since Latin was taught in every school.

There were private gaming hells, which, since gaming was restricted to members and guests, qualify as clubs. Many clubs had bedrooms that members could use as a sort of hotel during a quick trip to town.

My favorite was also the Four-Horse Club, also called the Four-in-Hand Club which, though originally a wild club of young men, had, by the early 1800s, become a respectable club for superb drivers. Great fodder for heroes, isn’t it? It was a small group with only somewhere between 30-40 members at its peak. They didn’t meet in any specific place. It began to fade around 1815 and disbanded in 1820, was briefly revived in 1822 but finally ended. The members met at set intervals to drive coaches-and-four out to Chalk Hill and back. Hard-core Corinthians supposedly exercised with a very specific uniform, but they didn’t have a clubhouse where they met. The rest of the time, Corinthians used Jackson’s Salon or Manton’s as their daytime hangout and might spend an evening in Cribb’s Parlor, but all of these places were open to anyone so they hardly qualify as clubs. I have always heard that the Corinthians hung out at the gambling hells more than at the clubs.

There was also the Alfred Club at 23 Albermarle Street. It began in 1808 and attracted writers and other men of letters. If I remember correctly, Byron was a member. It was a great success, and in 1855 it joined with the Oriental Club which was established in 1824 (just after the Regency Era) as a club for men who'd been "out East" in India and other areas.

So, to which club does your Regency Hero belong?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gambling History

In doing research for my latest novel, I ran across some interesting information about the history of gambling, a sport that has endured through the centuries.
Ancient man played games of chance, using the knucklebones of sheep as a primitive form of dice. Later, archaeologists uncovered a pair of ivory dice in Egypt, dating before 1500 B.C., proving that the dice of today are much like those used for centuries.
Betting on athletic games at the Roman coliseum drew wagers from rich and poor alike, and later, during the Middle Ages, gambling in all its forms took place in private homes and in city streets.
When first used, cards were a rich man’s game, as each card was stamped from a woodcut. Later, with the invention of the printing press, a deck of cards became readily accessible in every tavern in Europe.
When the English came to the New World, they brought the culture of gambling with them, but the Puritan-led Massachusetts Bay Colony outlawed possession of cards and dice (along with dancing and singing). Later, the rules were relaxed, as long as the game was an innocent one and no money exchanged hands.
In Venice, men and ladies both went to the ridotto, a salon for gambling and other pastimes. Ridotti became very popular in Europe, even serving as forums for the arts. Verdi celebrated the opening of his opera, Rigoletto, in the Ridotto San Moise. In the 1800s, the Doge of Venice closed the ridotti, and they were reopened as state run casinos.
For further reading, a very good book by David Schwartz, titled Roll the Bones, covers every aspect of the history of gambling in Europe and the United States.