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Monday, September 27, 2010

Guest C. Allyn Pierson: Regency Spies

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome C. Allyn Pierson, whose latest book is her Jane Austen historical romance, Mr. Darcy's Little Sister. As you can tell from the title, she continues Pride and Prejudice with Georgiana's story. But here she talks about Regency spies. Mr. Darcy and spies?

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of the two copies of Mr. Darcy's Little Sister which Sourcebooks has generously provided. C. Allyn 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.

C. Allyn has selected the winners Tiffany Green and gigi. Congratulations! I've sent you both emails. If I do not hear from you by October 8, I will select alternates.

Welcome, C. Allyn!

In my latest release, Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister, many of the characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice make appearances, including Col. Fitzwilliam and we learn more about what I thought he might be up to while in the military. I selected the Horse Guards as Col. Fitzwilliam’s regiment because I felt that the son of an Earl would be in one of the elite regiments, and the cavalry was the most glamorous branch of the service. In addition, the Horse Guards and the Life Guards were part of the Household Cavalry so they would be stationed in London and not sent off to the battlefields of Europe to fight Napoleon. I decided upon the Horse Guards because one of their primary functions at that time was to guard the safety of the royal family, so I could give Colonel Fitzwilliam access to the highest levels of the court.

In the Regency Era, England had not yet developed an organization dedicated to covert operations (sorry, no MI6 or James Bond!). Various ministers, such as the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, however, needed a source of information about the actions and plans of the enemies of the state. What these leaders did was develop their own system of contacts and informants, and these sources would then develop their own information systems. Because of the individual nature of these systems there was a great deal of duplication, and sometimes, holes in the system. The Horse Guards were not charged with carrying out covert actions, but I felt that their access to the most powerful men in England would make them an obvious choice when it came to sub rosa activities. I envision the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister getting to know Col. Fitzwilliam over the years and coming to realize that his easy-going appearance hid a trustworthy man who could keep his mouth shut and deal with problems diplomatically.

Eventually, the Horse Guards headquarters in Whitehall became the army headquarters and the term “Horse Guards” came to be used as the name of the building, like we use the term “Pentagon” for our military headquarters.

The English government first established the Secret Service Bureau in 1909 and it eventually changed name to the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). Foreign intelligence became Military Intelligence, Section 6 (MI6) just before WWI. Until this time, all covert operations were strictly individual plans by powerful Ministers.

I hope you will pick up a copy of Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister to see how the Horse Guards are represented! Thank you to all of the Historical Hussies for having me on the blog today!


Pride and Prejudice continues...

Georgiana Darcy grows up and goes in pursuit of happiness and true love, much to her big brother's consternation.

A whole new side of Mr. Darcy...

He's the best big brother, generous to a fault. Protective, never teases. But over his dead body is any rogue or fortune hunter going to get near his little sister! (Unfortunately, any gentleman who wants to court Georgiana is going to have the same problem...)

So how's a girl ever going to meet the gentleman of her dreams?

About the Author
C. Allyn Pierson is the nom-de-plume of a physician, who has combined her many years of interest in the works of Jane Austen and the history of Regency England into this sequel to Pride and Prejudice. She lives with her family and three dogs in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Common Title Errors

In my previous two posts, Titles and Courtesy Titles, I talked about English titles. Naming conventions are somewhat complex and errors abound in Regency romances. But once you get the hang of the titles, remembering the correct usage is not too difficult.

The most glaring error is using Lord (Lady) /last name/ in the wrong place when referring to the daughters and younger sons of peers. Most are Lord (Lady) /first name/ /last name/

I'll continue with Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey from my previous post. Peter, as the second son of the Duke of Denver, holds the courtesy title of "Lord"--Lord Peter Wimsey. He is never Lord Wimsey. By the same token, Peter's wife, Harriet, is Lady Peter Wimsey, or Lady Peter for short, but never Lady Wimsey or Lady Harriet Wimsey. Peter's sister, Mary, was Lady Mary Wimsey, not Lady Wimsey, before she wed. After her marriage to Mr. Charles Parker, her name was Lady Mary Parker, not Lady Parker.

Another error is referring to the younger son of an earl as "Lord". This son's title is "The Honorable", and he is addressed as Mister.

The next error is bestowing the courtesy title of "Lord" or "Lady" on the children of viscounts and barons. Their children are "(The) Honorable", and addressed as Mister or Miss. One very popular romance gave the daughter of a viscount the title of "Lady".

While the generic "my lord" or "my lady" serves to address most title holders, this form is incorrect for dukes and duchesses. A duke is "His Grace" to the lower orders, "Duke" to his peers, and his title to his friends. The friends of Lord Peter's brother, Gerald, the Duke of Denver, call him "Denver". Only his closest friends and family call him "Gerald".

And lastly, while dukes, marquesses and earls are usually "of somewhere", viscounts and barons never are. As for addressing them, John, the Earl of Siddington in my Regency Halloween comedy, Pumpkinnapper, is Lord Siddington or Siddington. Baron Henry Grey, the hero of Pumpkinnapper, is Lord Grey. The baronet Sir Charles Gordon of my upcoming Mistletoe Everywhere (available November 3), is Sir Charles.

Confused? I certainly am. Going through all this becomes easier the more you look at it. And there are always exceptions.

Some good links on titles: (Thank you, Joanna Waugh)

And a book
Terms of Address, published by Adam Black in London (Thank you, Jean Hart Stewart)

Have fun.

Thank you all,
Enter My World of Historical Hilarity

HIstory Mystery

Abe Lincoln was elected to congress in 1846
John Kennedy was elected to congress in 1946

Lincoln was elected president in 1860
Kennedy in 1960

Both were concerned with civil rights.
Both had wives who lost children in the white house

Both were shot on a Friday.
Both were shot in the head

Lincoln's secretary was named Kennedy
Kennedy's secretary was named Lincoln

Both were assassinated by Southerners
Both were succeeded by men named Johnson

The successors:
Andrew Johnson was born in 1808
Lyndon Johnson was born in 1908

The Assassin's:
John Wilkes Booth was born 1839
Lee Harvey Oswald was born in 1939
Both assassins were known by three names both names contain 15 letters

Lincoln was shot in a theater named "Ford"
Kennedy was shot in a car called a "Lincoln" made by "Ford"

Lincoln was shot in a theater, his assassin ran to hide in a warehouse.
Kennedy's was shot shot from a warehouse, and his assassin ran and hid in a theater

Booth and Oswald were both shot before they could go to trial.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Guest Elizabeth Chadwick: The Body Beautiful

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome acclaimed author Elizabeth Chadwick, whose latest book is the historical novel, For the King's Favor, set in the time of Henry II. Here Elizabeth gives us a fascinating peek into the world of a medieval makeup.

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of the two copies of For the King's Favor which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Elizabeth 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 Elizabeth selected are StephB and catslady. OK, you two, I know who you are (*g*) and I have your addresses. Congratulations.

Welcome, Elizabeth!

Many thanks to Historical Hussies for inviting me to talk on their blog.

“Under Hodierna’s supervision, Ida crushed the ingredients for a hair fragrance in a mortar. There were dried rose petals and watercress, scrapings of nutmeg and powdered root of galangal. A wonderful aroma arose from the blended elements, fresh and clean, but with an underlying sultry, spicy warmth. “Now add the rosewater,” Hodierna instructed “but carefully, no more than a spoonful at a time.”

This excerpt from For the King’s Favor comes from a scene where Ida de Tosney, the heroine, is pondering her future while another woman skilled in cosmetic lore is showing her how to make a perfumed lotion to comb through her hair.

It is an actual medieval recipe and is taken from a translation of The Trotula, a compendium of women’s medicine (including beauty tips) written in the late 11th or early 12th century and widely disseminated from its origins in Salerno. Want to brighten your mousey hair to gold? Then ‘cook down dregs of white wine with honey to the consistency of a cerotum (wax based ointment) and anoint the hair.’ And ‘If you wish to have hair soft and smooth and fine, wash it often with hot water in which there is powder of natron and vetch.’ Natron is sodium carbonate and was used to soften water and remove oil and grease.

The Trotula also says ‘Noblewomen should wear musk in their hair, or clove, or both, but take care that it is not seen by anyone. Also the veil with which the hair is tied should be put on with cloves and musk, nutmeg and other sweet smelling substances.’

We often tend to think of dirt and disgusting smells when we think about the middle ages, and while it is true they did not bathe themselves to death, a life of stench and grime is not the entire story. Just like today, there were different views on the matter of the body beautiful. Cleanliness and smelling sweet were indications of godliness. Cosmetics were often seen as vanity by the church, but that did not stop women who had the resources from using them. Numerous recipes for beautifying agents, perfumes and mouthwashes, existed in the Middle Ages, including a minty one!

Not all of the recipes are as delightful as Ida’s hair tonic it has to be said.

‘For whitening the face and clarifying it. Take the juice of pignut (a root from a tall growing plant) and mix steer or cow marrow with it, and let them be ground. And in these ground things add powder of aloe, cuttlefish bone, white natrol, and dove dung. Let all these be ground and let there be made an ointment. With this ointment, the woman should anoint her face.’ That’s one concoction I would rather not try! But then again, the range of chemicals that go into our own beauty products are probably a tad worrisome if you actually study the ingredients list.

A male historian called Gilbertus Anglicanus wrote the Compendium Medicinae in around 1240. He says that chips of brazilwood soaked in rosewater will redden the cheeks. Brazilwood came from a tree grown in Asia in the Middle Ages, (not South America which had yet to be discovered).

Gilbert also suggests the use of cyclamen root to whiten the face. There is another recipe from a text called L’ornement Des Dames, that suggested putting wheat in water for a fortnight, then grinding it up and blending with water, straining it through a cloth and letting it evaporate to produce a white powder that could then be mixed with rosewater and applied- to the face.

Many of these recipes and concoctions were for aristocratic and well-to-do women only, but even village women and those of more modest, although not impoverished means, could obtain products to beautify the body. Women in villages remote from the ports and cities where the more exotic ingredients could be obtained, were nevertheless able to purchase sundry products from travelling pedlars. There is a 13th century French song that refers to the contents of a pedlar’s pack and it includes ‘razors, tweezers, looking glasses, toothbrushes, toothpicks, bandeaus and curling irons, ribbons, combs, rosewater… cotton with which they rouge, and whitening with which they whiten themselves.’ For a pedlar to have such items in his pack, he must have had willing buyers, and many of the ingredients for beauty products could be picked and prepared from the hedgerow (although I am not sure I would want to use hand cream made from wild garlic and eggs myself!).

The more I study the medieval period and all its intricate little corners, the more I realise that one size certainly does not fit all, and that while very different from us in many ways, our medieval ancestors are similar too.

There were contradictory schools of thought on many subjects and opposite opinions, just as there are now. I have a close friend who believes that wearing any form of makeup is a pointless fluff, and another who thinks that applying one’s face for the day is essential. I have no doubt that such differences of opinion abounded in the 12th century. I also have no doubt that given the survival of the human race, the same opinions will be around 500 years from now and we’ll still be using cosmetics extensively.

The Trotula – An English translation of the Medieval Compendium of Women’s Medicine by Monica H. Green
The Artifice of Beauty: A History and Practical Guide to Perfumes and Cosmetics by Sally Pointer.
The Senses in Late Medieval England by C.M. Woolgar.

A bittersweet tale of love, loss, and the power of royalty…

A captivating story of a mother’s love stretched to breaking and a knight determined to rebuild his life with the royal mistress, For the King’s Favor is Elizabeth Chadwick at her best. Based on a true story never before told and impeccably researched, this is a testament to the power of sacrifice and the strength of love. When Roger Bigod, heir to the powerful earldom of Norfolk, arrives at court to settle an inheritance, he meets Ida de Tosney, young mistress to King Henry II. In Roger, Ida sees a chance for lasting love, but their decision to marry carries an agonizing price. It’s a breathtaking novel of making choices, not giving up, and coping with the terrible shifting whims of the king.


Elizabeth Chadwick lives near Nottingham with her husband and two sons. She is the author of 18 historical novels, including The Greatest Knight, The Scarlet Lion, A Place Beyond Courage, Lords of the White Castle, Shadows and Strongholds, the Winter Mantle, and the Falcons of Montabard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Awards. Much of her research is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval re-enactment society with the emphasis on accurately re-creating the past. She won a Betty Trask Award for The Wild Hunt, her first novel. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shoes in History

My current work in progress is set in Venice, and to stick with my subject, today I'm talking about shoes. And Oh what shoes! I saw a pair in a museum in Venice. Just looking made my feet hurt.
In early modern Venice, around the mid-fifteenth to mid-sixteenth centuries, the footwear of Venetian women drew the eyes of every visitor downward, and no wonder. Chopines, the impossibly high clogs considered the latest fashion, were worn by any woman who could afford them, usually courtesans or the wealthy, as they were hardly attire for a cleaning woman or baker's daughter.
The shoes were made of wood or cork, with leather or man-made material for the tops. The platforms were frequently decorated with jewels and extravagant designs, and sometimes tassels hung from the toes.
Women wearing chopines had to be supported either by men or servants so the wearer would not slip or fall as they strolled along the Grand Canal to see and be seen.
There is controversy over just where the style originated; some say it came from China, where the women prided themselves on small feet, an indication of wealth and helplessness. Others argue the fashion came from the Turkish baths, where women wore slightly elevated shoes.
No matter the origin, the fashion eventually died out, and I suppose today spike heels would be considered just as dangerous, especially if strolling on cobbled streets and crossing the Rialto Bridge. Here are directions to making your very own pair of chopines .

Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Kara Louise: Regency Ships

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Kara Louise and her book, Darcy's Voyage, where Pride and Prejudice's Darcy and Elizabeth meet on a ship. In this post, Kara gives us a fascinating view of the ships of the Regency.

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of the two copies of Darcy's Voyage which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Kara 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.

And the winners Kara selected are: peggy and catslady. catslady, I know who you are *g*. peggy, please contact me at by September 21 or I will select an alternate.

Welcome, Kara!

Thanks for inviting me to join you today. I am sure most of your readers love all things having to do with history, and I am here to tell you some interesting facts about ships and sailing that I discovered while researching my novel, Darcy’s Voyage, which was just released by Sourcebooks.

I discovered a site that inspired my “idea” for the ship Pemberley’s Promise, which is the name of the ship in my story. It was the Jeanie Johnson, which carried about a thousand Irish to Canada during the famine in the 1840s. While this was later than Pride and Prejudice, it gave me pause to consider the type of ship Mr. Darcy would invest in and the kind of captain he would put in place.

The Jeanie Johnston had much more desirable conditions that most of the “coffin” ships that took people across the Atlantic. By the name of those other ships, death was very frequent, either through disease spreading throughout the passengers or being wrecked at sea. Unlike those ships, the Jeanie Johnston was “a well run and humanely operated ship which cared as best it could for the fleeing emigrants.”

Some of the things attributed to its not losing a single passenger on its many voyages was the humanitarian attitude of the ship’s master, Captain James Attridge. He had a genuine concern for the welfare of his passengers. The hatches were opened whenever possible, bedding was taken out and aired, the accommodations below deck were kept as clean as possible, and everyone was encouraged to take a walk on deck each day, unless the weather was too rough. Pemberley’s Promise is, as you might guess, owned by Mr. Darcy, and I think he and Captain Wendell would have striven for the same excellence in keeping the ship clean and humane treatment of passengers.

Another interesting fact I stumbled upon was finding out that two children would often be considered as one adult in their bedding arrangements. This provided the inspiration in Darcy’s Voyage where Elizabeth willingly gives up her bed. She has become acquainted with a lady who is with child who has two daughters sharing a bed, one of which is sick. When the mother gives up her own bed for the healthy daughter, Elizabeth will not allow this woman to sleep on the floor and gives up her bed to the mother.

I also became fascinated reading a diary of a married woman who had sailed in 1809 from England to Australia. While she had not been on a large ship carrying a lot of passengers, her diary was very interesting.

She had one entry in her diary that was humorous. A young man had fallen overboard and the sailors were in a bit of confusion over it. When the captain saw their confusion, he asked if someone had fallen overboard, to which they replied, “Sir, Nobody has fallen overboard.” It was fortunate this man was rescued, as the nickname he went by was Nobody. The captain at first did nothing, but fortunately realized the mistake, and a small boat was put out to retrieve him. I think the moral of that story is to be careful what nickname you go by, or at least make sure the person in charge knows what it is!

I was first inspired to write a story about Darcy and Elizabeth at sea after reading Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast. This was Dana’s diary of a journey in the 1840s from Boston, down around the cape, to Southern California. I found his descriptions of the ship fascinating and his life on board ship, while definitely not romanticized, was certainly enough to get me thinking about putting Darcy and Elizabeth on a great ship.

While I may have merged a little fiction with historical fact in Darcy’s Voyage, I hope these little bits of information I learned were of interest to you. Thanks again for letting me share with you today.

I have included two of the websites I found that were of great help. The first is a description of the Jeanie Johnston and the second is a compilation of diaries written at sea from 1809 - 1822.

Thanks for letting me share with you today!

Kara Louise

A Tale of Uncharted Love on the Open Seas

In this enchanting and highly original retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet sets out for the new world aboard the grand ship Pemberley’s Promise. She’s prepared for an uneventful voyage until a chance encounter with the handsome, taciturn Mr. Darcy turns her world upside down.

When Elizabeth falls ill, Darcy throws convention overboard in a plan that will bind them to each other more deeply than he ever could have imagined. But the perils of their ocean voyage pale in comparison to the harsh reality of society’s rules that threaten their chance at happiness. When they return to the lavish halls of England, will their love survive?

Ever since Kara Louise discovered and fell in love with the writings of Jane Austen she has spent her time answering the "what happened next" and the "what ifs" in Elizabeth's and Darcy's story. She has written 6 novels based on Pride and Prejudice. She lives with her husband in Wichita, Kansas. For more information, please visit her website, Jane Austen’s Land of Ahhhs,

Saturday, September 11, 2010

stories too dumb for fiction

Mark Twain tells us fiction is more believable than fact because fiction must make sense.
Here are some headlines and news pieces too dumb for editors to accept in a story:

* A robber promises to tell a woman where he is pawning her jewelry and apologizes for the inconvenience.

* 911 was called when a man got his penis stuck in a hot tub jet and couldn't free himself.

* Would be burglar breaks into a restaurant and gets trapped in the header over the stove. Employee calls the police.

* Woman goes to police station to complain about her dealer who sold her bad crack.
The officers at the desk were stunned for a minute before arresting her.

* These two women must be related, stopped at a red light, woman lights a joint while waiting for the light to change. She is promptly pulled over by the nice officer who watched her from the next lane.

* Everything you never wanted to know about sex and still don't.

Woman sent to ER when a coke (soda) bottle was stuck in her vagina. The nurse drilled a hole in the bottom to release the suction.

Man sent to ER with a live hamster stuck in the rectum..... This one still has me reeling.

Woman tries to stop a would be rapist by telling him she has AIDS. She wasn't lying and he contracted the illness and attempted to sue her. The judge ordered him from the courtroom.
...forgive the vindictiveness, but justice delivered itself this time.

This one I'd take a crack at. The woman is my hero.

*Robbers in SC point a gun at the convenience store clerk. One of the robbers starts to beat on the office door where the manager is locked inside. Knowing the three men were in the front of the store she shot through a glass window, knowing the bullet would sail through the back of the store. The shot scared the robbers, and they fled.
When police interviewed her, they asked how she thought to do that.
"Reckon i was inspired by God. I always keep my gun strapped to my bible."

Laughing out loud, I gave a rebel yell and clapped at the TV. "Hell yes! This is a true southern woman!"
Let the villains beware, no one messes with a southern granny!

Recently, a little boy chased after a man who kidnapped his sister. he got close enough to scratch the kidnapper, but he got away with the sister. When police arrived, the child ran to the officer and held out his hand. "I got DNA for you." He told police.
They scraped his nails and the villain was caught.

Don't mess with big brother either, even if he is eight.

I wanted to share this list after I based a character conversation on one I actually had. The editor made a note saying "I don't think anyone would be this stupid."
Sadly, yes they can.
I am still working on the story.

Hope you enjoyed the silly break.
Take time to laugh; it's the only thing keeping you from crying.

be well,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Guest Susanna Fraser: The History I Left Out

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome fellow Regency author Susanna Fraser and her debut novel, The Sergeant's Lady. For all you Regency fans who like to overdose on history, read about the fascinating subjects Susanna had to leave out.

Susanna is giving away a $10 gift certificate to one lucky commenter. See below for details, and check back here for the winner. The winner is Beth Trissel. Beth, please email Susanna at susannamfraser AT gmail DOT com and let her know whether you'd prefer Amazon, B&N, or Books on Board for your gift.

Welcome, Susanna!

It’s a truism among historical authors that you only show about ten percent of your research. The other 90% is useful to the writer, since it gives you a fuller understanding of your characters and their world. But if it doesn’t directly impact the story, it doesn’t belong on the page. You’d just be showing off--”Look at ME! I did LOTS of research!”--and boring even the history geeks among your readers, because they’ve picked up your novel for a story, not a lesson.

So today instead of talking about fun facts that made it into The Sergeant’s Lady, I’m going to tell you about two big events I left out and why.

In early 1812, the British army’s key objective was to seize and hold the fortress cities of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, enabling them to secure their communication and supply lines and push further into Spain. Ciudad Rodrigo fell in January, completely offscreen from my story’s perspective. The army then marched on Badajoz and spent most of March laying siege to and bombarding the city in preparation for their attack.

The storming of the city on the night of April 6 did make it into The Sergeant’s Lady. As a sergeant in the Light Division, my hero would’ve been in the midst of the worst of the battle, so I put him there and had him wounded--both a likely outcome, as the division lost some 40% of its fighting strength, and one necessary for the resolution of my overall plot.

What I had to leave out was the aftermath of the battle. Once the British finally made it into the city, the soldiers went on a 72-hour rampage of rape and pillage, an atrocity made even worse because the Spanish civilians who were their victims were ostensibly allies. While it wasn’t the first or the last time an army went wild after a siege, it was an unusually bad case and is a serious black mark on the British army’s otherwise solid record during the Napoleonic Wars.

And I had no reason to put it in my story. My character was too severely wounded to be there heroically trying to stop it, or even to know about it till well after the fact. Mind you, I wanted to put it there. It felt like sugar-coating the British record to leave it out. Also, I wouldn’t want any fellow history geeks reading my novel to think I didn’t know what happened! But neither of those reasons was enough. It had nothing to do with my character’s arc, so it didn’t belong in my story.

Spencer Perceval’s Assassination
Only once has a British prime minister being assassinated. Spencer Perceval was shot and killed on May 11, 1812 by a lone and probably mentally unstable assassin with a personal grievance against the government. This event had no impact on my story whatsoever. However tragic it was for the Perceval family and whatever upheaval it created for the British government, I didn’t want to write about it.

Unfortunately, I needed to have some characters in England discussing current events--such as Badajoz, which, given the pace at which information traveled at the time, would’ve been news in England in May. I wanted to date the scene around May 15 or 20, when I felt like letters from the characters’ connections with the army in Spain would’ve had plenty of time to arrive. However, when I looked up what was happening around then and was reminded of Perceval’s death, I knew I couldn’t use those dates. My characters are politically involved enough that a prime minister’s assassination would’ve trumped everything else...for them, but not for me as an author with a different story to tell.

So I moved my scene to May 10 and neatly avoided the issue. I felt like I was stretching credibility a little to have my characters get letters from Spain so quickly--but not so much as I would’ve if I’d had the wife of politically active peer not even MENTION the prime minister’s death when a character recovering from a dangerous illness asks her if anything important happened while she was almost dying.

What history do you most want to see left out or included in your romance? One randomly chosen commenter wins a $10 gift certificate to your choice of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Books on Board.

The Sergeant’s Lady Blurb:
Highborn Anna Arrington has been "following the drum," obeying the wishes of her cold, controlling cavalry officer husband. When he dies, all she wants is to leave life with Wellington's army in Spain behind her and go home to her family's castle in Scotland.

Sergeant Will Atkins ran away from home to join the army in a fit of boyish enthusiasm. He is a natural born soldier, popular with officers and men alike, uncommonly brave and chivalrous, and educated and well-read despite his common birth.

As Anna journeys home with a convoy of wounded soldiers, she forms an unlikely friendship with Will. When the convoy is ambushed and their fellow soldiers captured, they become fugitives—together. The attraction between them is strong—but even if they can escape the threat of death at the hands of the French, is love strong enough to bridge the gap between a viscount's daughter and an innkeeper's son?

Excerpt here.

Susanna Fraser bio:
Susanna Fraser wrote her first novel in fourth grade. It starred a family of talking horses who ruled a magical land. In high school she started, but never finished, a succession of tales of girls who were just like her, only with long, naturally curly and often unusually colored hair, who, perhaps because of the hair, had much greater success with boys than she ever did.

Along the way she read her hometown library’s entire collection of Regency romance, fell in love with the works of Jane Austen, and discovered in Patrick O’Brian’s and Bernard Cornwell’s novels another side of the opening decades of the 19th century. When she started to write again as an adult, she knew exactly where she wanted to set her books. Her writing has come a long way from her youthful efforts, but she still gives her heroines great hair.

Susanna grew up in rural Alabama. After high school she left home for the University of Pennsylvania and has been a city girl ever since. She worked in England for a year after college, using her days off to explore history from ancient stone circles to Jane Austen’s Bath.

Susanna lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter. When not writing or reading, she goes to baseball games, sings alto in a local choir and watches cooking competition shows. Please stop by and visit her at, get to know her on Facebook at and follow her on Twitter at @susannafraser.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Margaret Mitchell Gets "The Call"

Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind, was born in Atlanta, Georgia. She attended Smith College, but dropped out when her mother died from the flu epidemic. Margaret then took a job writing for the Atlanta Journal.
When an editor from Macmillan Publishers came to Atlanta, his publicist introduced the two of them. The editor asked Margaret if she had ever written a book, and she said no. He told her that if she ever did, he would like to see it.
Margaret later overheard an acquaintance remarking at the incredulity of Margaret writing a book. Incensed at the woman’s remark, she hurried home, gathered up some envelopes of her writing, and brought them to the hotel to give to the editor, just as he was preparing to leave.
Later, Margaret regretted the impulsive act, and wrote to ask for the manuscript back. However, the editor had already read enough to know he had a winner in his hands. He sent her a check and asked her to write the book. At that point in time, she didn’t have the first chapter written.
In 1936, Gone with the Wind was published. That year, the sales of her book soared, and Macmillan Publishers gave their employees an 18 percent pay raise.
If you get to Atlanta, don’t miss seeing the Margaret Mitchell home, where you can learn more about her and her writing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Addressing a Knight or a Baron. (and other confusing titles)

As a fiction author of historical novels, I must balance the fine line between realism and making the story easy for the modern reader. While it may be more accurate for a young couple falling in love to call each other Miss and Mister their entire courtship, that practice seems just too formal to our modern selves.
And what’s with all the etiquette? How does one know how to address anyone? So here you are, the in’s and outs of addressing a person. (I’ll deal with titled peers and their families at a later posting.)

First Names
First names were almost never used in speech, except in rare circumstances, before this century. Most sources suggest that only children who grew up together or very intimate friends ever called each other by given names.
If a child was born into a title, either courtesy or apparent, that child was often called by his title. For example, if the son was John Smith, the Earl of Wentfordshire, he was often simply called Wentfordshire, or some nickname like Went that went with the title.

According to letters and novels written at the time, married couples often used more formal terms, even in private, rather than calling each other by first names. Therefore, they were much more formal than what is commonly portrayed in historical novels. However, because of the modern reader’s expectations, I use first names (or Christian names) in my romance novel to subtly reveal a level of established intimacy to suggest growing feelings. In The Guise of a Gentleman, the heroine is appalled to find herself calling Mr. Amesbury by his given name, Jared, in her thoughts and frequently corrects herself until finally succumbing to calling him Jared.

The Honourable
"The Honourable" is a formal title which applies to younger sons of earls and all children of viscounts and barons (and the wives of those sons). However, this term is not ever used in speech…ONLY on envelopes. It is not included in the salutation of a letter. Therefore, it would be quite impossible to know, based upon and introduction, that a person holds the title of Honourable. I used the term “honorable” in The Guise of a Gentleman in an introduction as a way of a secondary character taking a jab at the hero when he introduces him to the heroine, but it would not normally be used in speech at all.
“Mr." and "Miss" weren’t used in with "The Honourable" in speech or in writing, only on the address of an envelope. The eldest Mr. Smith would be addressed thusly: "To The Honble. Mr. Smith." A letter to his wife would be "To The Honble. Mrs. Smith." If he is a younger son, he would be addressed as the Honble. Mr. John Smith and his wife, the Honble. Mrs. John Smith.

It is interesting to note that in Persuasion, Austen states:
"they had the cards of Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple, and the Hon. Miss Carteret, to be arranged wherever they might be most visible; and 'Our cousins in Laura-place,' -- 'Our cousins, Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret,' were talked of to everybody." (Vol. II, Chapter iv)

Apparently, using Honorable and Miss together was used on a calling card as well on an envelope.

"The" is a distinction only used for peers and families of peers, so baronets and knights would never use it. An Earl’s wife, for example would be the Lady Tarrington. A woman who has a title in her own right, meaning the daughter of a duke, for example, would be the Lady Eleanor Averston. The wife of a baronet or knight would be Lady Stover, but never The Lady Stover. However, if the usage is not a formal occasion, such as being presented to the queen, "The" may be dropped.

"Miss," "Mr." and "Mrs." With and Without Given Names
"Miss" used alone with a surname, refers to the eldest unmarried daughter. Other daughters would be distinguished by using their given names. For example, Miss Smythe would be the eldest daughter while Miss Mary Smythe and Miss Jane Smythe would obviously be younger daughters. Or, you could call them all the Misses Smythe. If none of her sisters are present, a younger sister would simply be called Miss Smythe.

"Mr." is used alone with a surname refers to the eldest son (of a viscount, baron, knight, or commoner). The younger brothers are called by their Christian names, like that of "Miss" in the previous example, and their wives have the same usage. , Mr. Worthington is the eldest son, and Mrs. Worthington is his wife; Mr. Thomas Worthington is a younger son, and Mrs. Thomas Worthington is his wife.

So there you have it. Next time, titles (and you probably thought this was complicated!)