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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guest Kiki Howell: Playing With The Old Rules

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Kiki Howell and her latest book, the erotic Regency paranormal, Torn Asunder. Here she talks about those strange-to-us Regency rules of propriety.

Welcome Kiki!

When writing from the point of view of the women and men of Regency England, I find it fun to play with the rules and restrictions and systems of etiquette set by the aristocracy to set themselves apart from the masses. For example, the gentler sex, as women were referred to, could not renounce the system, live free of the social conventions of the times, but it is entertaining to let your heroine think upon it and the possible outcomes of such actions.

Propriety demanded that emotions be controlled in public, even though swooning was readily accepted among the women. But my heroines, they fight the body's inclinations to faint and rant and rave about injustices behind closed doors. I like them to fit in, obey the rules, and yet be strong and smart at the same time. Are there a lot of scenes in my books that are ‘behind closed doors’ then? Of course! In my newest novel, Torn Asunder, my heroine also has magical powers she has to hide as well. Her way of covering for her study of magic was to call herself a bluestocking, a woman who was highly educated since in the early eighteen hundreds in England women were not generally educated as much as the men.

If you think the odds are against my main gal there, well, I kept going. Arranged marriages were common with certain restrictions on the fond idea of marrying up. I set my heroine in a lower class and had her fall in love with a man whose family had already established who he was to marry. She had a lot working against her as she tried to live within the bounds of the old rules of the upper ten thousand. And, I enjoyed immensely playing with each situation. To me, it is half the fun of setting your story during those times. It builds suspense, complicates the romance and leads to interesting situations in a time in history that seems magical to me even before I add paranormal elements to it.

What is the other half of the fun you may ask? Well, frolicking within the homes, planning the meals, making the social calls, dressing up in the garments and establishing the businesses of the time. Of course, that is not even to mention visiting the pleasure haunts of Regency England like Vauxhall Gardens and such.

So, I hope you will enjoy my newest novel as much as I did writing it. Fraught with scenes of explicit intimacy, romantic spells and mystical shapeshifting, Torn Asunder is a unique blending of the age of manners with sexual magic.

Torn Asunder BLURB:
Aubrey Griffen is a witch whose true reasons for coming to London soon fall to the wayside when she catches the eye of Edmund Bryant, the Marquess of Dalysbury. He seduces her into a whirlwind romance until the lies and threats of his mother force her to flee to Triaill Brimuir, a secret island of her ancestors off the coast of Ireland. Edmund goes after her only to be hit by Aubrey’s confusion and anger when she magically transforms him into an elemental beast of her own creation.

However, it is when Edmund’s lust mysteriously turns him back into a man that the couple are forced to deal with a family secret and untold of powers. Now, Edmund must learn to shift himself into the beast in order to save her in a battle of black verses white magic.

Genres: Historical (Regency), Paranormal (Witches & Shifters), Erotic Romance

Purchase at in ebook or trade paperback at Excessica Publishing or Amazon as well as many other retailers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Insult like a Shakesperean Character

Ever wanted a really fun, creative insult without resorting to profanity or crudeness? Here is a list of Shakespearean insults guaranteed to bring on laughter, or at least, looks of puzzlement. Simply choose three or four and string them together for the ultimate insult.

Here are the insults and their meaning:
chutless - rude
danish - damp/must
errant - stray
fobbin - lying
gotbellied - fat
loggerheaded - foolish
quailing - weak
saucy - insolent
unmuzzled - talkative
beef-witted - foolish
dizzy-eyed - nauseated
ill-nurtured - badly educated or trained
milk-livered - cowardly
onion-eyed - crying
pottle-dep - drunken
weather-bitten - decayed
codpiece - rogue
lewdster - sexually indulgent

So there you are. Any character you create, from the Elizabethan Era to the Victorian Era, or anyone who might have a colorful vocabulary, can throw a series of fun and unusual insults. Or, if nothing else, memorize a few for the next time you want to really shut someone up ;-) Happy insulting.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Warming Our Beds through History

In Medieval times, a servant or the woman of the house heated a stone or brick at the fireside, then wrapped it in cloths and carried it quickly to the bed. By the 16th century, people were using pans filled with smoldering embers from the fire itself. The brass or copper warming pan hung by the fire. At bedtime, hot fuel was put inside, and the warmer, carried by its long handle, was rushed to the bed and rubbed between the bed linens.
Some of these warming pans had pierced patterns, and some were elaborately decorated. The piercings allowed oxygen to reach the embers, making the heat last longer, but the bed would smell of fumes and there was always a risk of scorching the linens. Also, in parts of the UK, peat was burned as fuel, which would have made a most unpleasant smell in the bedroom.
In the 19th century, closed warming pans might hold either fuel or hot water. Some of these pans, especially decorative or silver ones, were handed down, generation to generation.
Here is an insight as to the importance of warming pans. It is from Cora Millet-Robinet’s Domestic Economy, 1853.

A copper warming pan is indispensable to a household. Take care to have a big enough quantity of embers, above all some red cinders, when you want to heat a bed. Get it smouldering well before you use it, otherwise the fire will soon go out and the bed will not warm up. You must move the warming pan constantly to avoid scorching the sheets.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Novel Time

Even in the make-believe world of fiction, time matters. In my Regency novellas, time plays a prominent role.

In Lady of the Stars, my time travel, when the heroine, Caroline, suspects she's traveled into the past, she asks Richard, the hero, what the day is. He answers the day is Wednesday, July 9, 1817. I checked. July 9, 1817 was a Wednesday. Here's the calendar for 1817.

I selected that date on purpose. Astronomy is a prominent part of Lady of the Stars. Caroline and Richard fall in love as they observe the stars. Bright moonlight washes out the stars, so part of the storyline had to occur when there was no moon to interfere.

From Lady of the Stars: "The clouds thinned that very day, and the next five nights were clear and moonless, perfect for observation."

These five nights occurred on days 4-9 of Caroline's sojourn in the past, July 12-16. According to the calendar, the new moon occurred on July 14. The new moon rises at sunrise and sets at sunset, so was not in the sky to interfere with their observations.

Romantic Times Book Reviews gave Lady of the Stars a 4 star review (contains spoilers). From the review: "a quick read and a delightful short romance." Thank you, Romantic Times. Lady of the Stars was also a finalist in the 2010 EPIC EBook Competition in Science Fiction Romance.

Pumpkinnapper, my Halloween comedy, also makes use of the moon's phases. The story starts on September 28, 1816, at the moon's first quarter. Here's the 1816 calendar.

The times for Pumpkinnapper were more complicated because most of the action occurs in the dark after moonset. I found the times for moonrise/moonset using the US Naval Observatory website. The times are valid only with the correct latitude and longitude, which I found at the NGA GEOnet Names Server (GNS) .

At first quarter, the sun rises about noon and sets around midnight. Corrected for the latitude and longitude of Lindsell, Essex, England, using the above sites, moonset on September 28, 1816, occurred around 10PM.

Each day, the moon rises and sets about an hour later. The Pumpkinnapper climax occurs on the night before full moon, the night of October 4-5, when the moon sets after 3AM.

Here, Hank, the hero, waits until he can go to Emily's, the heroine's, house to try and catch the pumpkinnapper: "Hank glanced at the clock on the mantle above the fire. Only midnight. Moonset was at three, so he couldn't leave for at least another hour."

Why did I pick the dark after moonset? All kinds of things happen in the dark.

Pumpkinnapper is a finalist in the 2011 EPIC EBook Competition in Historical Romance.

In Mistletoe Everywhere, my Christmas novella, the climax occurs on Christmas Eve, 1814: "The almost full moon’s light glinted off the snow to bathe the area in a silvery glow." December 24, 1814 was two nights before the full moon. 1814 calendar here.

And in my upcoming Gifts Gone Astray, the climax occurs on the night of July 2-3, 1817: "The waning moon, a little past full, sailed high in the now-clear sky." The full moon occurred on June 28.

Do you like this level of detail in your stories?

Thank you all,
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ladies Regency Fashion--"Undress"

The Regency era brought dramatic changes in women's fashion. Those huge hoop skirts and pinched waistlines popular in the Elizabethan Era disappeared in favor of the Roman style gown with high waistlines and lighter fabrics.

Ladies of the Beau Monde changed her clothing at least three different times a day depending on the time of day and her activities. Because the aristocracy and upper crust were so steeped in tradition and manners, they had no trouble following the rules. However, I have no doubt that arrivistes and the rising middle class found this custom bewildering.

The term Undress, or dishabille, was the more casual or simpler style of gown worn at home usually in the morning. These were loose, comfortable gowns made with warmer fabrics and had higher necklines than gowns worn later in the day. Ladies often wore a cap in the morning, too. Ladies wore Undress gowns all morning until noon, depending on scheduled outings or visitors. On a quiet day, a lady might wear Undress until four or five in the afternoon. Sometimes undress gowns were quite decorative. Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet in the 1996 film version of Sense and Sensibility wore a morning gown in the film that closely resembled an 1815 Ackermann fashion plate. The actresses playing the Dashwood women often wore an apron or pinafore over their dresses when picking herbs or working in the kitchen. I don't know how accurate this is, or if they only did so because they were not overly wealthy and had to be very careful with their clothing.

Mornings were a time for solitude and tending to the house. For the lady of the house, her morning activities were fairly regimented. After rising, dressing, and eating breakfast, she consulted with her cook and housekeeper, and caught up on her correspondence.

Young ladies such as Jane Austen often practiced the pianoforte first thing in the morning. Ladies also read, sewed, wrote letters, made preserves, and oversaw the gardens.

When I'm staying home, I like pajama pants or stretch pants and a big soft T-shirt. (My favorite writing attire) Of course, if I were to tell my husband I planned to wear undress today, he'd imagine something entirely different ;-)

What do you like to wear when you're at home?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Guest Leigh Michaels: How to Have an Affair, Regency Style

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Leigh Michaels, whose latest book is the Regency historical, The Mistress’ House. Here she talks about how to conduct an affair in Regency times.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win one of the two copies of The Mistress’ House which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Leigh 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 Leigh selected are StephB and catslady! Ok, you two, I know who you are and I've sent you email.

Welcome, Leigh!

There were many ways for a Regency gentleman to carry on an affaire, from visiting a bordello to sneaking into a lady’s bedroom at a house party to finding a quiet nook in a hay barn on his country estate. Sometimes the location depended on the duration and depth of the attachment between the lovers; a few years before the Regency period, the Duke of Devonshire installed his mistress – who also happened to be his wife’s best friend – right in his household, and he carried on the affair until the death of the duchess left him free to marry his mistress.

But the most romantic-sounding of all the possible ways for a pair of lovers to get together was the love nest – where a gentleman hired or bought a small house in which he could install the lady of the moment in comfort and security (for her) and convenience (for him). As Thorne thinks when he’s considering buying the house which becomes The Mistress’ House:

There was certainly merit to the notion of buying a house just off Portman Square. If he could tuck a mistress into a trysting place just a step from his own garden, he could avoid a long list of inconveniences. Kicking his heels for hours while messages were delivered and answers returned… Riding halfway across London for an assignation… Finding new, safe, and very secluded meeting places… Wandering around the halls of a country house trying to locate a particular lady’s bedchamber… Keeping his horses, and the grooms who cared for them, waiting outside a private house on a cold day…
© Leigh Michaels, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2011

Young women of the day – even those who had been married and widowed – were well-protected from scandal even when they didn’t wish to be. In The Mistress’ House, Anne Keighley is staying in her brother’s house, so she can’t exactly invite her lover to stop by her bedroom. Living with relatives means that her time has to be accounted for, or her brother and sister-in-law will ask questions. She can’t simply go off by herself without taking along a maid or footman or groom, and her brother’s servants owe their loyalty to the man who pays their wages.

Throw in the practicalities – like a gentleman’s coat that was so tightly fitted it required assistance to put on, and a lady’s corset and petticoats – and it’s a wonder clandestine Regency lovers ever managed to get naked together.

So the idea of a love nest – a private house where a couple could be together with minimal risk of interruption – was an attractive option for the man who could afford it. His mistress would be always on call, at his convenience. And when he tired of one paramour, he could move her out while he was looking around for her replacement.

Though having a discreet little love nest right around the corner didn’t quite work out the way Thorne hoped it would in The Mistress’ House

In the book, the love nest is located at Number 5, Upper Seymour Street (isn’t that a lovely aristocratic address?) Though no illustration exists, maps of the period show there was a real house located there, pretty much as it’s described in the book. It stood directly beside the entrance to Berkeley Mews, just around the corner from Portman Square.

Today it’s just called Seymour Street. The houses are gone, and a hotel now occupies the site where The Mistress’ House stood during the Regency era. It’s fitting, I think, that the hotel is called the Hyatt Regency!

Three beautifully intertwined love stories…

The rules are made to be broken…
When the handsome, rakish Earl of Hawthorne buys the charming house across the back garden from his town home, he never expects the lovely lady he installs there to ensnare him completely…

After Lady Keighley marries the earl, it seems a shame to leave the house empty, so she offers it to her childhood friend Felicity Mercer, who discovers that the earl’s gorgeous cousin is precisely the man she’s been waiting for…

and again…
Finally, feisty Georgiana Baxter moves into the house to escape an arranged marriage, and encounters the earl’s friend Major Julian Hampton late one night in the back garden. The handsome soldier is more than willing to give her the lessons she asks for…

There is plenty of gossip, scandal, and torrid speculations surrounding the “mistress’ house”, but behind closed doors, passions blaze…

Leigh Michaels is the author of nearly 100 books, including 80 contemporary novels and more than a dozen non-fiction books. More than 35 million copies of her romance novels have been published by Harlequin. A 6 time RITA finalist, she has also received two Reviewer's Choice awards from Romantic Times, and was the 2003 recipient of the Johnson Brigham Award. She is the author of On Writing Romance, published in January 2007 by Writers Digest Books. Leigh also teaches romance writing on the Internet at Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cosmetics in the Past

Makeup, in one form or another, has been used since before the dawn of Christianity. In ancient tombs, archaeologists have found evidence of the use of unguents to hydrate the skin in the hot, dry climate of Egypt. In addition, Egyptians colored the underlid of their eyes with dark green, and blackened their lashes and upper lids with kohl. The ancient Greeks used mulberry juice to color their cheeks and lips, while other civilizations used concoctions made from beet juice or other berries.
In Rome, during the 1st century AD, citizens used kohl, too, along with chalk to whiten their faces, rouge to color lips and cheeks, and pumice to clean their teeth. Persians preferred henna to stain their hair and faces.
During the Victorian era, it was considered vulgar for women to use coloring on their faces, so when a young lady wanted to make a favorable impression on a suitor, she was inclined to pinch her cheeks and dab a little grease on her lips to make them shine.
Ladies were not the only ones to use makeup. Up until the middle of the nineteenth century, men wore rouge, and of course used talcum to whiten their wigs, when those hairpieces were in fashion.
George IV is said to have spent a small fortune on cosmetics, unguents and cologne.
Here are a few cosmetic recipes used in the late 1800s:
For freckle removal, squeeze the juice of chickweed, and add three times that amount of water to the chickweed juice, then bathe the skin ten minutes morning and evening.
To wash the complexion: Take one teaspoon flour of sulphur, and to that, add a wine glass of lime water well shaken. Mix in one-half glass glycerin and a full glass of rose water. Rub on face nightly before bedtime.