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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

1816: The Year Without A Summer, Part II

An unusual confluence of geological and astronomical factors precipitated the Year Without A Summer. The inciting event was the earth-shaking eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia from April 5-15, 1815. This explosion was immense, the largest volcanic eruption in the world since the Hatepe eruption in c.180 AD in New Zealand. People in Sumatra, 1200 miles away, heard the blast, and heavy volcanic ash falls were observed as far away as Borneo, Sulawesi, Java and Maluku islands.

The enormous amount of dust the volcano spewed into the atmosphere blocked the sun’s rays and lowered global temperature. But Tambora's eruption alone may not have caused 1816's disastrous weather. Other volcanic eruptions in the immediately preceding years (1812--La Soufrière on Saint Vincent in the Caribbean, and Awu on Sangihe Islands, Indonesia: 1813--Suwanosejima on Ryukyu Islands, Japan: 1814--Mayon in the Philippines) had set the stage by already darkening the skies and depressing temperatures around the world. In addition, all these eruptions took place during a Dalton Minimum, a period of unusually low solar activity.

Although most of the effects of The Year Without A Summer were disastrous (see my previous post), some were positive.

The large amounts of dust in the air produced spectacular sunsets worldwide, and most likely inspired J.M.W. Turner's paintings (Chichester Canal pictured).

The weather also inspired Lord Byron’s 1816 poem, Darkness:

The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars Did wander darkling in the eternal space, Rayless and pathless, and the icy earth Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air

In Switzerland, the atrocious weather forced Mary Shelley and John William Polidori, on holiday with their friends, to stay indoors. Mary Shelley used the time to write Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, and John William Polidori penned The Vampyre, two novels which influence us to this day.

And Pumpkinnapper, my Regency Halloween comedy, is set in the English countryside in the autumn of 1816.

Thank you all,

Monday, April 26, 2010

Forgiving Dr. Mengele

Not all heroines wield a revolver and have a sixth degree black belt in Karate.
We tend to view view strength as the ability to hold one's own in a physical confrontation, forgetting the strength that lies within the heart and will.

When Eva Kor was a little girl, she and her twin sister, Miriam were sent to Auschwitz and put through research studies with Dr. Josef Mengele. The doctor, a former dentist, was a sadist. Now with a license to experiment on the helpless wrapped in the honorable title of medical researcher.

The girls were liberated and came to America. When Eva's sister died, Eva began to wonder if the Auschwitz experiments could have contributed to Miriam's illness. She tried to find records of Mengele's research to no avail. Mengele disappeared leaving a legacy of pain and nightmares.

Eva became a real estate agent in Indiana. Once she was told, because of her accent, none would work with her. She was different, so she might be singled out. It wasn't as though she hadn't heard it before. She went on with her plans anyway. In addition to becoming a real estate agent, she opened a Holocaust museum called CANDLES in Terra Haute.

The museum was vandalized, swastikas painted on the walls. Eva was interviewed on the news. She began to talk about forgiveness. Anger was like a cancer, and hate ate at the soul until nothing was left. She went on to make a movie documentary called "Forgiving Dr. Mengele" where she revisited Auschwitz and forgave the Nazi's.

The movie was deemed controversial and criticized. Some were outraged that Eva would suggest forgiving the Nazi's. She was attacked on all sides by scholars, survivors, even clergy. In the midst of all the criticism, she was able to say "Getting even has never healed a single person."
In a society where "don't get mad, get even" is the mantra of most movies, the idea of forgiveness flies in its face.

Eva admits the perpetrator must take responsibility for his own actions, while the victim is free to to keep the pain, forgiveness sets the victim free. Carrying the hurt inside will only keep the victim a slave to the pain.
Forgiveness means the perpetrator can no longer hurt you.

Eva believes forgiveness is the ultimate means of self healing and empowerment. Forgiving the Nazi's isn't something she did for them; she did it for her. She encourages all people to seek this gift for themselves. She warns "Pain and anger are the SEEDS for WAR. FORGIVENESS is the SEED for peace."

Hollywood can keep the guns, bombs and fancy fight scenes. Turn down the volume and take time to listen to a real heroine.

Guest Lydia Dare: Werevolves in Regency England

Linda Banche here. All you historical werewolf fans take note! Today I welcome Lydia Dare, whose latest book is the Regency paranormal, A Certain Wolfish Charm.

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of the two copies of A Certain Wolfish Charm which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Lydia will select the winners. 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 their selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only. The winners are catslady and rm2h. catslady, I already know your address. rm2h, please contact me at so I can mail you your book. If I don't hear from you by May 5, I'll select an alternate.

Welcome, Lydia. Or should I say, Lydias?

We (yes, there are two of us!) were asked why we chose Regency England as our setting, because by the time of the Regency, all wolves/natural predators had been killed off.

Or had they? It depends on which world you’re speaking about, doesn’t it?

While, historically speaking, wolves and other natural predators were eradicated prior to the Regency period, our werewolves fit so nicely into Regency Society, we couldn’t resist. Historical details are integral to the tone of the novel, but our world is also steeped in the fantastical. Lycan’s weren’t killed off in our world, even if the Canis Lupus were no longer found in the area. Lycans are in existence in the hearts and minds of the readers. In fact, there’s a society dedicated to them. We know there is because we created it. The Westfield Lycans and their friends weren’t in danger of being killed because they were a threat to livestock or humans. Or because they were nuisance creatures. Well, perhaps William Westfield made a bit of a nuisance of himself in A Certain Wolfish Charm and Tall, Dark and Wolfish. But that’s another topic all together.

The Regency period is famous for the very common appearance of the alpha-rake. The dukes, the barons, the viscounts, and other gentlemen are commanding by their general nature. Add wealth, a sense of entitlement and striking good looks and you have the makings of a romantic hero. The men of the time period already have a very wolfish demeanor even without being placed into our fantastical world. But, when you add that world, and put the alpha-rake into a pack of his very own, you allow him to adopt some of the characteristics of fabled Lycans and you can make him multi dimensional.

There are always reasons why the hero and heroine can’t or won’t come together. It’s what romance is all about. All of that tension, heartache and strife makes for a story that can captivate a reader.

In A Certain Wolfish Charm (in stores now!), Simon Westfield, the Duke of Blackmoor, has convinced himself that he has to avoid women when the moon is full, that he can’t be part of society because of his sheer wolfishness. It’s not until a lovely woman calls to him more loudly than the moon that he is forced to rethink his point of view.

In Tall, Dark and Wolfish (in stores May 2010), Benjamin Westfield, the youngest Westfield brother, wants more than anything to find his Lycan side when it’s suddenly lost to him. He wants to return to his pack so badly that he seeks out a healer to help him get back to his former, wolfish self.

In The Wolf Next Door (in stores June 2010), William Westfield revels in the light of the moon, and has found a woman who loves him, but in his mind, it’s conditional and depends on the time of the month. If only she knew it was him she scratches behind the ears under the light of the full moon, his life would be perfect.

The fact that our characters are Lycans creates one more incredibly obtrusive reason the hero and heroine cannot be together. That’s why we put Lycans in Regency England. That and just because they’re just so darn much fun to write. We can add some animalistic traits to our heroes that make him even more masculine, even more troubled, even more easy to love than the average Regency hero.

There’s some element of doing the impossible when you try to place an animal into society. The time period makes that even more fun, even more engaging and, yes, even more ludicrous in some situations.

Lycans can cause all sorts of mischief just because they are what they are. We hope you enjoy the Westfields as much as we enjoyed creating them and their world.


He gets crankier and crankier as the moon gets full…

The rules of society can be beastly—especially when you’re a werewolf and it’s that irritating time of the month. Simon Westfield, the Duke of Blackmoor, is rich, powerful, and sinfully handsome, and has spent his entire life creating scandal and mayhem. It doesn’t help his wolfish temper at all that Miss Lily Rutledge seems not the least bit afraid of him, and in fact, may be as untamable as he is…

A woman whose charm is stronger that the moon…

When Lily’s beloved nephew’s behavior becomes inexplicably wild, she turns to Simon, the boy’s cousin and guardian, for help. But Simon’s idea of assistance is far different than hers, and Lily finds herself ensconced in his house and engaged to the rogue.

They both may have bitten off more than they can chew when each begins to discover the other’s darkest secrets…

About the Author
Lydia Dare is the writing team of Tammy Falkner and Jodie Pearson. Both Tammy and Jodie are active members of the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers and live near Raleigh, North Carolina. They are working together on their next paranormal historical trilogy as Lydia Dare, which will be released by Sourcebooks Casablanca in Spring 2010! For more information, please visit

Friday, April 16, 2010

Guest Blogger Amelia Grey: Permanent Attraction

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Amelia Grey, whose latest book is the Regency historical, An Earl to Enchant. All you Regency fans, take notice as she talks about the attraction of that unique and fascinating British era.

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of the two copies of An Earl to Enchant which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Amelia will select the winners. 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 their selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only. The winners are Amber and StephB. I'll contact you for your snail mail addresses.

Great to have you here, Amelia!

Good morning! Thank you for having me at Historical Hussies. I’m very happy to be here.

I want to share with you today my long standing love affair with Regency Romances and my permanent attraction to all things British. Maybe I got it from growing up in the sixties when the Beatles and Rolling Stones were my idols, and I went to sleep each night listening to their songs. I loved their proper-sounding accents when they talked and sat glued to the tv when they were performing. I love the English countryside with its green, gently rolling hills, dotted with stately manor homes surrounded by fabulous gardens that go on forever with vistas, waterfalls, and neatly trimmed yew. So I loved the British long before I read my first Regency Romance.

To me there’s just something very sexy about a powerful, titled gentleman dressed in buckskin trousers, shiny Hessian knee boots, and with his neckcloth perfectly tied. Back then men were gentlemen. They wanted to make ladies feel beautiful, tempting and cared for. He expected to open the door for her, pull out her chair, and he watched his language and his manners around her.

I love thoughts of brocaded silk gowns, white cotton chemises, satin slippers, and three strands of pearls lying delicately against skin the color of warm alabaster. I like to think that all the grand ladies of quality of the Regency were as strong and spirited as the heroines I write in my books. Innocence during the Regency intrigues me and I enjoy writing about that first blush of true love that simmers and sizzles until the hero and heroine know the moment they have to be together.

I enjoy writing about ballrooms glittering with candlelight and cooled by a night wind, while beautifully gowned ladies and handsomely dressed gentlemen dance a quadrille. I love to imagine young ladies smiling behind fans, winking at a rogue, or dropping a lace handkerchief as a dashing gent walks by.

Oh, and I absolutely adore the Ton. I dream of what it must have been like to be a member of that elite group of people who were born to power, privilege, and money. They were courtly, in the know, and station above all the rest. I love writing about the Season when young ladies make their entrance into Polite Society in hopes of catching the eye of debonair gentleman or a rake of the highest order.

These are just a snippet of what makes the Regency so special to me. Now, please let me know what you think is sexy about the Regency!

I hope I’ve teased your senses about the British and the fabulous Regency Romance. I’d like to think that you’ll a taste of all things I’ve written about it here in my latest book An Earl to Enchant. It’s the third book in the Rogues’ Dynasty Series and the first chapter is available on my website. I invite you to stop by and give it a try.

I’m always happy to hear from readers. Please e-mail me at or visit my website at

He’s determined not to be a hero…

Lord Morgandale is as notorious as he is dashing, and he’s determined no woman will tie him down. But from the moment Arianna Sweet appears on his doorstep, he cannot resist the lure of her fascinating personality, exotic wardrobe, and tempting green eyes…

She has a deadly secret…

Arianna Sweet never imagined the significance of her father’s research until after his untimely death. Now she is in possession of his groundbreaking discovery, one that someone would kill for. She can’t tell Lord Morgandale her secret, but she knows she needs his help, desperately…

About the Author
Winner of the Booksellers Best Award and the Romantic Times Award for Love and Laughter, Amelia Grey's books have been sold in Europe, Russia and China. Married for twenty-five years to her high school sweetheart, she has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and now calls Panama City Beach, Florida, home. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

1816: The Year Without A Summer, Part I

1816 was supposed to be a good year in Regency England. After almost twenty years of warfare, 1815 had seen Napoleon's final defeat and his exile to St. Helena in the southern Atlantic.

But even as a welcome peace settled over the land, a large number of cloudy days, temperatures much colder than average and excessive rain conspired against the return of prosperity.

Early 1816 in England ranks with 1814 as one of the two coldest winters since records were first kept in 1659. In the London area, snow fell on Easter (April 14), and again on May 12. A summer peppered with notably cold periods and unusually high amounts of rain succeeded the frigid winter. On July 30, snow drifts were still on Helvellyn, the highest peak in the Helvellyn range in the Lake District, and in early September, ice formed on water in London.

The depressed temperatures prevented normal crop growth and the copious rain caused what did sprout to rot in the fields. Poor harvests had been the rule for the previous few years, and 1816's crop failure led to food shortages. This dismal year was then succeeded by the bitter winter of 1817.

Since the weather prevented the crops from growing, farm laborers were left without employment. At the same time, returning soldiers seeking work swamped the country. The Corn Laws, enacted the previous year, had set the price of grain at a high level. The intent was to protect British farmers from an onslaught of cheap foreign grain. But after successive years of abysmal harvests, British grain prices soared to heights the poor couldn't afford. Food riots broke out and food warehouses were looted. In one riot in Dundee, rioters ransacked over 100 shops and a grain store.

Disease usually accompanies famine, and 1816 was no exception. The food shortages led to the typhus epidemic of 1816-1819, responsible for the deaths of an estimated 100,000 Irish.

What produced such atrocious weather? In my next post, I'll explore the physical causes of The Year Without A Summer.

Thank you all,

Monday, April 12, 2010


Linda Banche here. Today's guest blogger Monica is Fairview, whose latest book, The Darcy Cousins, is the second chapter in the saga of the American (gasp!) branch of the Darcy family.

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of the two copies of The Darcy Cousins, which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Monica will select the winners. 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 their selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to US and Canada addresses only.

Welcome, Monica!

It’s really a pleasure to be invited to blog here on Historical Hussies, which is a wonderful resource for those of us who write historical fiction. Linda sent me a question to get a conversation started for this guest blog: Since the setting/original story is so well known, how do you keep your own tale fresh and new, but still stay true to Austen's original?

If there is anything universally established, it is that no one can aspire to imitate Jane Austen’s style without incurring general censure.

Accordingly – and I hope my confession will not throw my readers into a fit of spasms like Mrs. Bennet – I resolved right from the beginning not to do so, resisting some gentle nudging from my editor at Robert Hale. Surely she could not hold up any hope that I could capture Jane Austen’s sly turn of phrase, her sparkling wit, the intricacy of her thought? Any attempt would leave me as open to ridicule as Mr. Collins, with his laboriously penned efforts to please the ladies. Or to draw on a notorious quote Jane Austen would have known: "A woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." (Samuel Johnson). Much as I may disapprove of Johnson’s sentiments regarding women, in this case it would surely be wise to avoid the trap of being the dog.

No, it was not a desire to emulate my worthy patroness that inspired me to write what is called, for the lack of a better phrase, an Austenesque novel. Rather, it was curiosity – that failing which has proven so destructive to our feline companions – that compelled me to revisit her characters and further my acquaintance with them. For the sad truth is, while Miss Austen was diligent in revealing the fate of the main personages in Pride and Prejudice, she left something to be desired when it came to some of the others.

Side by side with that curiosity came a compelling need to answer that most eternal of questions: “what if?”

What if Miss Caroline Bingley were heartbroken at losing Mr. Darcy? Having allowed that all too troubling question to take root, other questions followed thicker and thicker, until a whole garden of tangled weeds began to grow. What if she were to encounter a stranger, in the form of Mr. Darcy’s American cousin? Would she be kindly disposed towards him? Would she ever be able to overcome her social inhibitions the way Mr. Darcy did?

Once I had tended to Caroline, I found that Georgiana, too, suffered from Jane Austen’s neglect. She spoke so seldom in Pride and Prejudice that she could well have been one of the portraits Miss Bennet viewed when first visiting Pemberley. What if Miss Darcy chose not to be the obedient little sister Mr. Darcy expected her to be? What would her brother’s reaction be – a brother, moreover, who not only is ten years her senior but had stood in the stead of both a father and a mother to her for many years? Would he tolerate independence in her as he tolerated it in Elizabeth?

What of Miss de Bourgh? If possible, she speaks even less than Georgiana. Had she always been a sickly child, or was her character too weak to overcome the cosseting and imperious manner of her mother? Did she have any hopes or dreams of her own, beyond her mother’s failed plan to marry her to Darcy? What if she disobeyed Lady Catherine?

More questions tumbled through my head than I could ever endeavour to answer. Were I to encounter Miss Austen herself, I would have presented her with some of these queries and she would have undoubtedly engendered far wittier responses than I could ever conjure up. Alas, in the absence of that possibility, I could rely on no one but myself. Writing The Other Mr. Darcy and after it The Darcy Cousins were the only means I had at my disposal to satisfy my curiosity.

As for how I remained true to Jane Austen’s characters, I can only say that my prior acquaintance to them – generated over many years – provided me with the means through which I could extrapolate, interpret and improvise their roles when I placed them in new situations. I have said I did not seek to imitate Jane Austen, any more than an actor playing a role seeks to imitate the character. An actor must first memorize the lines and learn everything possible about the character, then she/he must seek to breath life into those lines. Once this has been accomplished, an actor can then improvise if necessary, construing the character’s reactions to new situations from her/his intimate knowledge of how the character thinks. Ultimately, the actor provides an interpretation which will succeed or fail depending on whether we recognize the character’s internal logic. Writing Jane Austen’s characters into my own creation entailed something very similar. It required learning the internal rhythms of the characters’ speech, recognizing their distinctive qualities, and being able to work out the direction of their thoughts. Above all, it required the discipline of setting aside my own voice to be able to hear theirs more clearly.

Having provided a very disciplined answer, I hope you’ll allow me the freedom of answering your question now in my own voice. The reason I’m able to keep the tale fresh and new is quite simply, because writing The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins was such tremendous fun.

A young lady in disgrace should at least strive to behave with decorum…

Dispatched from America to England under a cloud of scandal, Mr. Darcy’s incorrigible American cousin, Clarissa Darcy, manages to provoke Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Collins, and the parishioners of Hunsford all in one morning!

And there are more surprises in store for that bastion of tradition, Rosings Park, when the family gathers for their annual Easter visit. Georgiana Darcy, generally a shy model of propriety, decides to take a few lessons from her unconventional cousin, to the delight of a neighboring gentleman. Anne de Bourgh, encouraged to escape her “keeper” Mrs. Jenkinson, simply…vanishes. But the trouble really starts when Clarissa and Georgiana both set out to win the heart of the same young man…

Literature professor Monica Fairview loves teaching students the joys of reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized that what she really wanted to do was write. The author of The Other Mr. Darcy and An Improper Suitor, the American-born Ms. Fairview currently resides in London. For more information, please visit

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jacob Deshazer

A day of infamy led to a crusade for peace spanning three decades.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a group of pilots known as the Doolittle Raiders assembled for a mission to Japan, none expected a return home. Bombs were dropped over Japan, (Tokyo and Nogoya) and the pilots made for China.

In an interview, Jacob recalls how hatred for the Japanese burned inside of him as they flew toward China. When the plane ran out of fuel, the men were forced to parachute into enemy territory. Deshazer remembers thinking the bitterness in his heart was more than he could bear when they were captured.

The Japanese made an announcement over the airwaves that American pilots were captured. They would be held for "inhumane acts." They mentioned four men by name, promising to put them to death if Japan were attacked again. They mentioned Bill Farrow, Dean Hallmark, Sgt. Harold Spatz, and Cpl. Jacob Deshazer. The first three were executed by firing squad while Jacob was spared.

Jacob was a prisoner for 40 months. It was easy to hate. He was forced to watch as a friend was starved to death slowly. He was beaten, tortured and starved. He stated in an interview, the hatred for his enemy nearly drove him crazy. He began to think about the causes for such hatred between members of the human the race and his personal hatred toward them.

In his book "I was a prisoner of Japan," Jacob recounts what he heard about Christianity turning hate into real brotherly love, and he began to yearn for an end to the hate. he begged his captor's for a bible. Finally he was given one, but only for three weeks. He took great comfort in the reading.

It wasn't long before he got to try out his new faith. His captor was a mean spirited man, who forced Jacob to serve food to the other prisoners. Jacob was kicked and slapped. When he re-entered his cell, the guard slammed Jacob's foot in the door, and then: stepped on his foot.
Jacob began to wonder if "love your enemies" might include some exceptions. Was it reasonable to love someone who went out of the way to be callous?
Jacob memorized the phrase: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." The next day he greeted the guard with a friendly "good morning" in Japanese.

After six days of this, the guard slid back the small opening in the door to give Jacob a sweet potato for dinner. The first decent meal he had in months.
10 Aug 1945 the atomic bombs were dropped, the war was over.

The tract "I was a prisoner of Japan" was popular with the Japanese. Among those inspired by Jacob's story was a pilot Mitsuo Fuchida. He was the pilot who lead the raid on Pearl Harbor. The two fighter pilots met and became friends after embracing a philosophy of peace. He became a missionary in 1950, like Deshazer, spent the rest of his life as a missionary in Asia.

Two friends healed and renewed by the never failing power of love.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

15th century Ladies' Gowns

During the 15th century, ladies’ gowns were in transition, from the looser fit of earlier centuries, with an eye toward that coming age of elaborate fashion, the Renaissance.
Typical gowns were still long and full, worn over a kirtle or undergown. A chemise, made of linen or a soft fabric, was worn next to the skin.
Waists became higher, leaving behind the long-waisted look of earlier centuries. A high waist, like our “empire” waist, became popular, with fullness over the stomach.
The outermost gown usually had a V-shaped neck, cut low, the better to show the kirtle beneath. The outer gown could be trimmed with fur or velvet. Sleeves took on more importance and could be highly decorated, with embroidery or jewels. Toward the end of the century, sleeves with slits became popular. The slits enabled the full sleeve of the chemise beneath to be pulled out through the slits, making puffs along the arm, and displaying a contrasting color or fabric. Some sleeves were so elaborate they were transferred from dress to dress. Ladies must have liked the fashion, as elaborate sleeves stayed in fashion for the following two centuries.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Of Pirates, Bad Boys, and Hunks


Few words conjure up more dramatic, terrifying, and romantic images than pirates. They captured the imagination of Robert Lewis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie, Walt Disney, and many, many others. I even used pirates in my newest Regency Romance Novel, The Guise of a Gentleman. But what is it, exactly that makes a pirate both the perfect villain, and the perfect hero?

As a kid, one of my favorite rides at Disneyland was "The Pirates of the Caribbean. I loved Peter Pan, Treasure Island, and any other pirate story I found. The Pirates of the Caribbean movie made millions with fans divided between Captain Jack Sparrow and Will, who pretty much turned pirate to save Elizabeth. When my husband and I were in Las Vegas, we went to the (then) new Treasure Island Hotel which used to (maybe still does) put on a great show outside with a reenactment of the navy battling pirates. When the pirates defeated the navy, everybody cheered.

Are we all a bunch of sociopaths?

Nah. I think it goes back to the bad boy allure. They were non-conformists. They had the courage to buck the system. They wore blousy white shirts instead of those stuffy coats and ugly hats and white powdered wigs. They were totally free to go where ever they pleased and do anything they wanted. And they had the money to do it, thanks to the plunder they took. In the case of Las Vegas, the pirate captain was hunky and drop dead gorgeous, which never hurts.

We think of pirates as swashbuckling hunks who carried big curved swords, although having an eye patch and a parrot on the shoulder never hurts. Not to mention a certain allure in a map with an X that marks the spot to buried booty. Maybe we all secretly wish we could steal from the rich, throw social norms out the window and make our enemies walk the plank.

It's really just a fantasy. Real pirates are nothing like the men in the stories.

I did extensive research for my newest Regency Romance Novel, The Guise of a Gentleman and discovered that pirates were first and foremost sailors. They had a hard life and faced many dangers. They also preyed upon any ship that had the misfortune of crossing their path. Then, they'd go to a nearby port and waste their money. They also often ransacked the town, tortured the men, and ravished the women. And they were notorious slave traders. Not very glamorous, is it?

In my novel, I created a fictional problem of having a lot of out of work sailors and captains of privateering ships now that the Napoleonic War was over. So some turned to piracy and created a pirate ring led by a peer of the realm. In my novel, the hero has to become a pirate in order to infiltrate the ring and expose the leader. After studying real life pirates like Black Beard, Calico Jack, and others, I decided pirates make better villains than heroes. They were for the most part, ruthless and unconscionable. Yet, I still cheered for Jack Sparrow and Will Turner.

So enjoy the fantasy. And "Argh, matey! Don' forgit yer sword!"

The Guise of a Gentleman is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and The Wild Rose Press

Friday, April 2, 2010


Linda Banche here. Today, Historical Hussies is delighted to host Emery Lee, author of The Highest Stakes, a novel of horse racing in Georgian England, which Sourcebooks will release this month.

All you horse buffs, take notice! Today Emery talks about her love of horses, and the history of horse racing. Sourcebooks will give away two copies of The Highest Stakes. Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win one. Emery will select the lucky winners, and I will contact them. Please note that Sourcebooks can mail only to addresses in the USA and Canada.

Welcome Emery!

I will start by saying that as a history buff, I had fertile ground to explore while living in the upstate of South Carolina, an area rich in Revolutionary history. Building upon this ground, was a unique idea for a novel, a love story involving horses (my other passion) and colonial horse racing that would be set in pre-revolutionary Virginia and South Carolina.

I first began The Highest Stakes with what I thought would be a prologue, which I would use to present the history of my characters and their English origins. The problem was that the prologue ran away with me and became the novel!

Rather than Colonial Virginia under George III, my setting suddenly became England under George II! This is the world I was compelled to re-create in The Highest Stakes.

I found the society of Georgian England a fascinating paradox, with its powerful aristocracy using an outer façade of honor and politesse to cover its multifarious (love that word!) sins. In the words of Dr. Johnson: “Vice, in its true light, is so deformed, that it shocks us at first sight; and would hardly ever seduce us, if it did not at first wear the mask of some virtue.”

In commencing my story in England against the backdrop of high stakes racing upon which my hero, Robert Devington ultimately hangs his fate, I literally went back to the genesis of the Thoroughbred itself which arguably began in 17th century England at the court of the Merry Monarch.

King Charles II was an accomplished equestrian, who raced his own horses against those of his courtiers. Charles II’s enthusiasm defined horseracing as “the Sport of Kings.” As for his horses, the foundation of the Royal racing stud was based upon a number of mares imported from Tangier as part of Charles’ queen consort’s dowry.

Later, the English aristocracy would put their minds to the selective breeding of racehorses by importing a number of highly bred stallions from the Middle East to cross with the blood of the royal mares. Of the many fine stallions that came to be housed in the stables of the rich and powerful, three names would eventually dominate the racing world of Georgian England: the Byerley Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Barb.

The offspring of these three great “desert kings” would prove superior to all others, as they triumphed repeatedly on the English turf, and their prepotency would later name them the progenitors of the modern day Thoroughbred racehorse. These are the bloodlines that rip up the turf in The Highest Stakes.

We now cross the Atlantic where in strict contrast to England, horseracing was not limited to the aristocracy. At county fairs, in plowed fields, and on barely-more-than-cow-paths, the colonists embraced a completely different kind of race on another distinctly new breed of horse they called the Quarter Miler. With few racing tracks to speak of, the Colonial races were mostly quarter-mile sprints, match races run with one’s neighbor for a bale of tobacco.

Moreover, just as the inhabitants of America would later come to be, the blood of the quarter mile racing horse was as mixed as the Thoroughbred was pure. His origins were a cross of the original Spanish mustangs, the Galloways imported from the British Isles, and the Chickasaw ponies bred by American natives and greatly prized for their utility and speed over short distances.

My challenge in The Highest Stakes was to converge these two racing worlds, as I wove into the drama and romance, the histories, progeny, and bloodlines of these early racing horses of both England and Colonial Virginia.

I hope that readers will appreciate this research, and that most of all that they will enjoy the ride!

All thoroughbred horses in the world to this very day can trace their blood back to three specific Arabian stallions imported to England in the early part of the 18th century. Against this backdrop comes a painstakingly researched novel with breathtaking scenes of real races, real horses, glimpses of the men who cared for them, and the tensions of those who owned and controlled them.

In 18th century England and Colonial Virginia, when high-spirited stallions filled the stables of the lords of the land and fortunes were won and lost on the outcome of a race, a love story unfolds between a young woman for whom her uncle's horses are her only friends and the young man who teaches her everything about their care and racing. When she's forced into marriage, his only hope of winning her back is to race his horse to reclaim all that was stolen from him—his land, his dignity, and his love.

About the Author
Emery Lee is a life-long equestrienne, a history buff, and a born romantic. Combine the three and you have the essence of her debut novel: a tale of love, war, politics, and horseracing. A member of Romance Writers of America, she lives with her husband, sons, and two horses in upstate South Carolina. For more information, please visit