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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Guest Stefanie Sloane: Regency Spies, and the Elizabethan Inspiration

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Stefanie Sloane and the three books in her Regency Rogues series: The Devil in Disguise, The Angel in My Arms and The Sinner Who Seduced Me. Those of you who like historical spy stories (I LOVE spy stories) will want to check out the series.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win a copy of the Regency Rogues book of your choice. See below for more details.

And the winner Stefanie selected is Maria! Congratulations, Maria, and thanks to all for coming over.

Welcome, Stefanie!

Stefanie Sloane:

First, thank you to the Historical Hussies for kindly inviting me here for a chat. Now, here’s a question that I’m asked quite often: what inspired you to write about spies?

In many ways, the inspiration behind my Regency Rogues series began with the movie, Elizabeth. Oh, I’d heard of Sir Francis Walsingham during my school years, of course. But it wasn’t until the Working Title film that Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster got me thinking. I know, I know—Elizabeth was absolutely riddled with historical inaccuracies and artistic license taken to the limits.

But the fact remains that the man captured my imagination.

Turns out, I’m not the only one who found him to be keenly unforgettable. Queen Elizabeth met Walsingham through mutual friends, including such notable men as Robert Dudley and Sir William Cecil. In 1570, Elizabeth assigned Sir Francis as ambassador to France—a terrible honor, if ever there was one, considering the queen’s desire to establish an alliance between England, Charles IX, and the Huguenots. Despite Walsingham’s best efforts, Catholic opposition proved too powerful and he returned to England defeated—but not undone. Elizabeth saw in Walsingham a man she could trust and put to good use.

And put to good use she did. He’d no more crossed the channel and set foot on British soil before the queen appointed him joint principal secretary alongside Sir Thomas Smith. Smith retired in 1576, leaving Walsingham in charge. One of his many duties included foreign intelligence—a subject matter close to the man’s heart. It is rumored that he’d been spying for Cecil from as early as 1567, reporting on the movements of foreign spies in London. His new position put an official stamp on his favored pastime, and he set to work building an efficient and impressive intelligence network the likes of which the world had never seen before.

He’s long been considered a forerunner of modern intelligence methods, one of the first to use agent provocateurs with 53 agents at foreign courts and another 18 whose duties are, to this day, a closely held secret. His men were trained in the art of deciphering correspondence, forgery, and many other, less reputable skills. As for the identities of his spies, the famous playwright Christopher Marlowe was rumored to be in Walsingham’s employ, as was Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno. But these are all just rumors, still—which, in my opinion, speaks to the man’s significance.

Yes, Rumors. Even more than his having thwarted both the Throckmorton and Babington plots to regain Elizabeth’s throne for Catholic rule, Sir Francis Walsingham’s ability to keep secrets—even from beyond the grave--is part of his mystique, at least for me. Sure, spies are all about secrets. But Walsingham managed an intricate network that included both Catholic and Protestant alike, stars of the stage and political big-wigs—all without any real rulebook, so to speak. He created and managed, directed and oversaw, during one of the most turbulent times in English history.

Fascinating stuff. And ripe for fictional pillaging, wouldn’t you agree? What if Walsingham’s men were as fascinating as the time they lived in? Why would anyone assume that they were immune to love’s lure? And if an author was to imagine an agent in Walsingham’s employ, where and when would their story best blossom and grow? I asked myself all of these questions, and more.
And found my way to the Regency Rogues.

Would you like to try one of my Regency Rogues books before you buy? Tell me which book you’d like to win, and you’re automatically entered to receive the Sloane book of your choice.

Good luck!

Please visit me on the web:

The Regency Rogues Series

The Devil in Disguise
Ballantine Books
ISBN-10: 0345517393
ISBN-13: 978-0345517395
May 24, 2011

The Angel in My Arms
Ballantine Books
ISBN-10: 0345517407
ISBN-13: 978-0345517401
June 28, 2011

The Sinner Who Seduced Me
Ballantine Books
ISBN-10: 0345517415
ISBN-13: 978-0345517418
July 26, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Guest Leigh Michaels: The Regency Season

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Leigh Michaels and her latest fun-filled Regency historical, Just One Season in London. Just One Season in London is a wonderful story of how you help yourself when you help others played out against the pomp and splendor of the Regency Season.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win one of two copies of Just One Season in London 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 selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winners Leigh selected are Teresa K. and Di. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all for coming.

Welcome, Leigh!

Tell us a little about “The Season” during the Regency period. Why was this time so important for marriages?

Leigh Michaels:

Thanks for inviting me to join the Historical Hussies today – and what a great question! The Season is a huge part of Regency romances (as it was a huge part of the lives of young men and women during the period). The Season happened in the spring, when the aristocracy left their great estates and gathered in London. After Parliament adjourned for an Easter break, the nobles returned for what could be an extended session of debate and negotiation – so it made sense to bring their families along. The wives had little to do while their noble husbands debated laws, so they (and the members of society who were not part of the law-making body) socialized, gave parties and balls, and introduced their daughters. The daughters learned the ways of the world, formed friendships, met young men, and contracted marriages.

The timing of the Season was based not only on Parliament’s schedule but on weather. During the winter, travel was more difficult and less predictable; during the summer, un-air-conditioned London smelled, and fresh breezes were rare in the crowded neighborhoods. Though there was what’s called the Little Season in the autumn, most of the aristocracy preferred to go hunting at that time of the year. So the spring and early summer became the all-important time where young ladies were introduced to the queen and to society – and to potential mates.

The Season is sometimes referred to as the Marriage Market, because it was the best way for young people from all across the country to come together, get acquainted, and make matches. Travel was still arduous, time-consuming, expensive, and occasionally dangerous – so the pool of men a young woman could meet in her day-to-day life was seriously limited by geography. Ten miles was at least an hour’s drive (and that didn’t allow time to harness the horses). But many a great estate had only a neighbor or two within that distance. Perhaps one of those few nearby families had an eligible offspring of the same age, and perhaps the two young people would hit it off. But more likely not.

So it made sense for everyone to gather in one spot on a regular basis to assess potential mates. Though the ten or twelve weeks of the Season seems a fearfully short period of time to decide the important question of a lifelong mate, in fact people could get to know each other better in a few weeks of constant contact and observation during a London Season than in months or years of occasional meetings. In the fishbowl existence of the London Season, each could assess the other – see how he behaved around his elders, how she treated those less fortunate than herself – but also get the opinions of those with more experience. The Season was a lot more than dancing and flirting. How a woman handled the constant pressure, and how a man handled the constant temptation, could tell a great deal about character.

A London Season was expensive. The rental of a town house, the wages of servants, the cost of carriages, all added up. With perhaps fifty balls and great parties to attend and at least as many more soirees, dinners, galas and concerts, a young woman needed a wardrobe the size of a modern department store.

Rye, Sophie, and Miranda in Just One Season in London know exactly how high the stakes are. They can’t afford a second try – so they have only one chance to make their marks and to cement their futures. Just One Season in London

A family that courts together…
Viscount Ryecroft has a beautiful sister he needs to marry off… if only he had the money for her Season in London.

His family is in financial ruins, and his mother is willing to do anything to help her children, including sell herself to the highest bidder…

Finds passion on their own…
Sophie Ryecroft will sacrifice love to marry for the good of her family… but instead finds passion and solace in an attractive alternative.

With so much riding on their one and only Season in London, Rye, Sophie, and Miranda can’t help but get hopelessly entangled with all the wrong people…

Celebrated author Leigh Michaels effortlessly weaves three tales of unexpected romance with surprising twists you won’t soon forget.

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 RT Book Reviews, 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 Ottumwa, Iowa, where she is working on her third book from Sourcebooks, The Wedding Affair, which will be in stores in September. For more information, please visit

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guest Amelia Grey: Regency Twins and Arranged Marriages

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Amelia Grey and her latest Regency historical, A Gentleman Never Tells. A Gentleman Never Tells is the first book in her trilogy about a pair of Regency twins and their older brother.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win one of two copies of A Gentleman Never Tells 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 selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winners Amelia selected are Judy and catslady. Congratulations! Thanks to all for coming over.

Welcome Amelia!

Amelia Grey:

Good morning, everyone! I’m thrilled to be with you at Historical Hussies. Thank you for having me at this fabulous site.

Today I want to give you a peek into my new trilogy and a little about the first book, A Gentleman Never Tells.

While I was finishing my last book, I had this crazy idea, wouldn’t it be wonderful if a handsome, powerful-looking set of twins came to London to quietly make their fortune. And wouldn’t it be intriguing if they instead they set the town on fire with scandalous gossip because they are the spitting image of a well-respected man in London—and that man is not their father? Now they know why their mother said it would be a cold day in Hell before they set foot in London.

Well, I was hooked on the idea so I ran with it, and started plotting and planning. It didn’t take me long to realize I needed to do a little research on twins in the 1800s because it was very rare for both of them to live to be adults. Not only that, I needed some general information, too. Do they really think alike as well as look like each other? Do they feel each other’s pain? Do they know if the other is in trouble and needs help? Do they have their own secret language?

So before I could get to the twins stories, which the first one, A Gentleman Says “I Do” will be coming out next spring, and A Gentleman Surrenders which will be the second twin’s story, I had to write their older brother’s story—Tada! A Gentleman Never Tells.

Viscount Brentwood knew what his twin brothers would be facing in London so he came to help them weather the gossip only to end up embroiled in more scandal than he thought possible. And, the trouble he became involved in had nothing to do with his brothers. You’ll learn all about them in the later books.

Brentwood is minding his own business, walking his mother’s Pomeranian in Hyde Park early one morning when out of the mist a lovely and alluring young lady walks up and kisses him. Of course, this is all very much to his liking until they are caught and he finds out that she is not only another man’s fiancée, she also happens to be the daughter of a powerful duke. And if that wasn’t enough trouble for the Viscount to be in the middle of, he’s lost his mother’s dog, too.

Lady Gabrielle is beautiful, clever, and courageous. The last thing she wants is to be forced into another loveless engagement, so she isn’t going to give up her freedom easily. She has plans that her father and Lord Brentwood don’t know about. But Gabrielle discovers that Brent has a few plans of his own as together they work to find London’s notorious dog thief.

Thankfully we don’t have arranged marriages today, but if we did what lengths would you go to get out of one? Let me know for a chance to win one of two copies of A Gentleman Never Tells.

Please visit my website at or email me at for more information about me and my books.

A stolen kiss from a stranger…
As if from a dream, Lady Gabrielle walked from the mist and into Viscount Brentwood’s arms. Within moments, he’s embroiled in more scandal than he ever thought possible…

Can sink even a perfect gentleman…
Beautiful, clever, and courageous, Lady Gabrielle needs Brent’s help to get out of a seriously bad situation. But the more she gets to know him, the worse she feels about ruining his life…

Enter the unforgettable world of Amelia Grey’s sparkling Regency London, where a single encounter may have devastating consequences for a gentleman and a lady…

Winner of the Booksellers Best Award and the Romantic Times Award for Love and Laughter, Amelia Grey’s books have 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, July 13, 2011

Guest Mary Lydon Simonsen: Elizabeth Bennet--the Good, the Bad and the Other Woman

Linda Banche here. My guest today is Mary Lydon Simonsen and her latest Pride and Prejudice retelling, A Wife for Mr. Darcy. Here she elaborates on why we love Elizabeth Bennet--she was wrong about Darcy, admitted her mistake and changed her mind. Mary also tackles the question of what could have happened if Darcy had already committed himself to another woman.

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

And the winner Mary selected is cyn209! Congratulations, cyn209, and thanks to all for coming over.

Welcome, Mary. Happy to have you here.

Mary Lydon Simonsen:

Hi, Linda. Thank you for having me back at Historical Hussies, one of my favorite historical blogs. You have asked me to write about the good and the bad of Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and the “other woman” in my novel, A Wife for Mr. Darcy.

Like most of us who were born without the Mother Teresa gene, we have our good side and our bad side. Elizabeth Bennet was no different. When she first met Mr. Darcy, she was greatly insulted by his comments and his rude behavior at an assembly in Meryton. Because her pride had been wounded, she was determined not to hear any good of him. She did not ask herself why a man of the landed gentry, and someone with such high connections, would befriend Charles Bingley, a man whose family had made its fortune in trade. Nor did she take into consideration that poor Mr. Darcy had spent endless afternoons and evenings at Netherfield Park with Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst, two felines who always had their claws out. Even after she learned of his devotion to his sister or that he visited his autocratic aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and her sickly daughter, her opinion of the gentleman remained unchanged. Why? Because Darcy had wronged her. It wasn’t until Mr. Darcy revealed all in his letter following her rejection of his proposal at Hunsford Lodge that she took a step back and reviewed the whole of their acquaintance, and when she did, she didn’t like what she saw.

But that is the beauty of Elizabeth Bennet. Unlike Wickham or Mr. Collins or Lady Catherine, she is capable of correction. When presented with an opportunity to set things right, she does. By the time she meets Darcy at his estate in Derbyshire, her opinion of the man has undergone a sea change, and because of that, the ground is fertile for the seeds of romance.

Now, as to the other woman in A Wife for Mr. Darcy. Her name is Letitia Montford, and she is everything that an accomplished woman of the Regency Era should be. She draws, paints, does needlework, sings, plays on the piano-forte, and knows the modern languages. She is an excellent dancer and performs well in public. What’s not to like? At first that is Mr. Darcy’s conclusion as well, and since he is of an age when a man’s thoughts tend toward taking a wife for the purpose of producing an heir, he seeks her out at the different venues during the season. Because Mr. Darcy had paid sufficient attention to Miss Montford, rumors are circulating that the gentleman from Derbyshire has found a wife. But that was before he had set eyes on Elizabeth Bennet. So what is a man to do? You’ll have to read the novel to find out.

What do you think about Lizzy Bennet? Did she make other mistakes? For example, why was she so willing to believe Mr. Wickham, someone she hardly knew, when he was telling lies about Mr. Darcy? I would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading my post.

A gentleman should always render an apology...
When Mr. Darcy realizes he insulted Miss Elizabeth Bennet at the Meryton Assembly, he feels duty bound to seek her out and apologize...

When he has insulted a lady...
But instead of meekly accepting his apology, Elizabeth stands up to him, and Mr. Darcy realizes with a shock that she is a very different type of lady than he is used to...

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s first book, Searching for Pemberley, was acclaimed by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and RT Book Reviews. She is well loved and widely followed on all the Jane Austen fanfic sites, with tens of thousands of hits and hundreds of reviews whenever she posts. She lives in Peoria, Arizona where she is working on her next Jane Austen novel. For more information, please visit and, where she regularly contributes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Face Screens in History

As a child growing up, on cold winter nights, I loved sitting close to the fire. I loved the warmth, the coziness, and sometimes we sat so close that Mother had to tell us to back away. Recently, I found an interesting item that sadly has faded from use. Perhaps others knew of the existence of face screens, but I had never heard of one.
During earlier centuries, when homes were warmed only by fires in a hearth, well-to-do ladies who valued their delicate skin used face screens to protect their face from the heat of the fire. These face screens were made of various materials, much like fans. Face screens could be silk or other fabric, or of more solid material, and were richly decorated. They had handles much like hand mirrors, but longer.
Now, face screens are highly collectible, like these two in the picture, from in Province, France.

Joyce Elson Moore