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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Regency Weather

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

MARK TWAIN, editorial in the Hartford Courant, Aug. 24, 1897

Whether or not this quote is accurate, and there’s some doubt about its validity, the weather confounds us all.

Love it or hate it, the weather is always with us. My latest Regency comedy novella, An Inheritance for the Birds, is set in England. Rainy, chilly England. Cold, damp England.

Well, not necessarily.

England's climate is both colder and warmer than that of the United States. The warm Gulf Stream crosses the Atlantic from North America to brush the southern and western coasts of the island, creating milder weather than in New England, where I live. Palm trees grow in Cornwall, England’s southwestern most county. According to Jen Black ( author of Fair Border Bride), who lives in Northumberland, the palm trees are in protected areas. But I think that any palm tree that can survive outdoors at 50 degrees North latitude is doing pretty good.

Snow is rare in England, especially in the south, as are blazing hot temperatures. In 1818 London, according to the Royal Society’s Meteorological Journal, the temperature range for the year was 24 degrees F to 80 degrees F. Compare that to the Boston Massachusetts range of 6 F to 103 F from February 2011 to January 2012.

But where there is weather, there are extremes. The summer of 1818 in England was one of the hottest on record to that time, with June and July the warmest. According to the Royal Society’s observations, the average London temperature for June was 66.1F, with a high of 78 F and a low of 57 F. For July, the average was 68.9F (high 80 F, low 61 F). Compare those readings, again according to the Royal Society’s London records, to the more typical year of 1817: June range 81 F - 47 F, average 62.8 F, and July range 70 F - 54 F, average 60.8 F.

The summer of 1818 was not pleasant in London. The River Thames, which for all practical purposes was an open sewer, reeked more than usual. The streets, full of horses and their manure as well as other effluvia from man and beast, reeked as well. With no air-conditioning, deodorants or running water, the people, dressed in their year-round woolens, did, too. The ever-present pall of coal smoke from thousands of chimneys added to the miasma.

In An Inheritance for the Birds, my hero, Kit, abides in noxious London when he receives the letter from his late great aunt's solicitor informing him of a possible inheritance. In order to win her estate in Somersetshire, he must compete with her former companion. Their task: Make her pet ducks happy.

Idiotic the contest may be, but the prospect of a sizeable inheritance is enough to make him accept. Another lure is the trip to the country, where, although the temperatures may not be lower, at least the air will be cleaner.

An Inheritance for the Birds, available from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance Ebooks and other places where ebooks are sold.

Thank you all,


The painting is The Vale of Dedham (1828) by John Constable

Friday, April 6, 2012

Guest Tracey Devlyn: Becoming a Spy

Linda Banche here. My guest today is Tracey Devlyn and her debut Regency historical, A Lady's Revenge. A Lady's Revenge is a spy story, and Tracey tells us all about Regency spies.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of A Lady's Revenge which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Tracey 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 Tracey selected is Mel K! Congratulations, Mel K, and thanks to all who came over.

Welcome Tracey!

Tracey Devlyn:

First off, a big thanks to Historical Hussies for having me today here today!

Cora deBeau’s journey to becoming the Raven, England’s most valuable spy, began at the inconceivable age of ten. The year she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders. That fact alone, though, wasn’t enough to propel her into a life of intrigue and loneliness.

A deeper motivation drove her to greater, almost obsessive, lengths to track down a murderer. What, you ask? Oh, I cannot share, for the answer would spoil one of the suspense elements of the story. J

What I can tell you is how Cora gained her special skills for becoming a British secret service agent. Cora grew up in an interesting family. The deBeaus traveled all over the world, exposing a young Cora to many different cultures and philosophies. But the most significant impact on Cora’s future vocation was the fact that her father led an elite group of international spies known as the Nexus. The Alien Office housed this secret division within the walls of the Foreign Office. Now some of you might be aware that the Alien Office was actually under the auspice of the Home Office, but my special group of spies took their direction from the Foreign Office. Fiction’s great, isn’t it? Thankfully, I found a reference in Elizabeth Sparrow’s Secret Service: British Agents in France, 1792-1815 that the Foreign Secretary appointed the Superintendent of Aliens, so my scenario isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Pardon my digression—I love talking about a great reference book! Given Cora’s father’s access to intelligence, he believed there to be a looming threat of civil revolution in England, similar to what had occurred in France. To give Cora, her brother Ethan, and their friend Guy the best chance at survival—should the worst happen—he taught them how to pick pockets, gather intelligence, and self-defense tactics. Cora’s father never counted on his pupils’ aptitude for nefarious pursuits. What began as a means to ensure their safety wound end up securing them a spot with the Nexus.

Especially Cora. Her specialized training provided her with a means of avenging her parents’ murders. Something she desperately desired, even knowing her course would prevent her from ever taking her rightful place in society. For nine years, every decision she made, every task she mastered, and every sacrifice she endured had but one focus—find the killer.

Until the eve of her first mission, when her childhood friend and comrade in nefarious pursuits became her one regret. During her last summer in England, Cora began noticing small things about Guy Trevelyan, like the magnificent length of his ebony eyelashes, the adorable dimple in his right cheek, and the fine hairs that peppered the backs of his hands. Her newfound awareness made her feel awkward and guilty around him. Guy was her friend, a brother to her in so many ways. But her preoccupation grew and her admiring gaze had drifted from small things to intimate things like the breadth of his shoulders, the musculature of his thighs, and the beauty of his angular face. Her friend had become her living hell. He kept her insides in a quivering knot and her easy quips would lodge in the back of her throat with just one of his teasing winks.

When she started imagining all her days spent in his company and when her lifelong quest began to fade, Cora set off for France, leaving Guy behind. Distance and distraction, she hoped they would be enough to rid her of the unbearable longing Guy stirred in her heart.

She hoped in vain.

So now you know how my Regency lady became a notorious spy. J

Have you ever run away? Even for an hour? What can you tell me about spies in the Regency period?


A British agent flees her French captor’s torturous dungeon and falls in love with the decoder responsible for her imprisonment.

British agent Cora deBeau has spent the last three years seducing secrets from the most hardened of French spies while searching for her parents’ killer. When her latest assignment goes awry, she suffers at the hands of her French captor until Guy Trevelyan, the Earl of Helsford and master cryptographer, saves her during a daring rescue. Scarred and wary of men, Cora shies away from the one man who could heal her savaged heart.

After rescuing Cora from a French dungeon, Guy discovers it was one of his deciphered messages that led to her captivity. Guy strives to earn her forgiveness while outwitting their enemy. But will he find the scars on her wounded soul run too deep?

Tracey Devlyn writes historical romantic thrillers (translation: a slightly more grievous journey toward the heroine's happy ending).

She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Australia Romance Readers Association and the Windy City, Beau Monde, Women’s Fiction, and PASIC Romance Writers of America chapters. Tracey’s also co-founder of Romance University, a group blog dedicated to readers and writers of romance, and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, Chicagoland’s exciting new reading salon devoted to romantic fiction.

An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekends torturing her characters. For more information on Tracey, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website at: | |

Monday, April 2, 2012

Can't Get Enough of Mr. Darcy Adaptations

Today my special guest author is Regina Jeffers who writes Jane Austen adaptations/sequels, as well as Regency Romance. Welcome, Regina!

DONNA: Why did you choose these genres?

REGINA: I. As far as the Jane Austen books, my career began with my Advanced Placement English Language and Composition class. I was explaining to the class the nuances of dating in Regency England. In the midst of my explanation, I spoke of the many Austen-inspired novels I had read, giving my personal critique of whether the author achieved what I believed to be a viable continuation of Austen’s tales. When I remarked about tossing a particular title across the room in disgust, one of my students said, “If you know how to do this, why not do it yourself?” At first, I laughed with the possibility, but the more I thought of it, the more it made sense. I wrote Darcy’s Passions, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. I never thought it the first step of a new career. Permitting the students to edit (Cringe!!!) and to do the cover art, I self published the book. It was a way of saying, “I met your challenge, now you must meet mine” to my students. The Amazon sales were strong, and Ulysses Press contacted me. I have published works with them since 2007.

For Regency-based pieces, what can I say? I have read historical romance for pleasure since I was a teen. (My mother was the one to hook me on the genre.) I have always preferred Regency England or Civil War based American pieces. With writing Jane Austen sequels, Regency England seemed a natural choice.

DONNA:  It sure does. What difficulties does writing this genre present?

REGINA: The difficulty with writing Regency pieces is that the Regency was really only ten years in length – from 1811 to 1820. Most readers of the period will accept events from 1800 – 1830, but my pieces tend to fall between 1810 and 1820. This compacting of time means that a writer is dealing with a limited number of actual events to use as the backdrop for his/her story line. Another complication in writing Regency is the “strict” guidelines under which the aristocracy performed. It takes a skillful writer to give the heroine a bit of “independence” when she must operate in a Society that permitted few opportunities for her to express her personality.

DONNA: How much time do you devote to writing each day?

REGINA: When I was still teaching school, I spent on average 2-3 hours per evening on a story line. Then two years ago, I retired, and I managed to crank out 3 books that first year. I was spending 6 – 8 hours per day. At present, I am babysitting my first grandchild for nine hours daily. By the time his mother picks him up, I am exhausted, and I admit that my writing has suffered.

The thing about writing, at least for today’s marketplace, is one cannot simply write his/her next novel. There is time each day on social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc. There are emails, maintaining a website and a blog, and LOTS of self promotion. There are edits and revision. An author is likely to spend 2-4 hours with these each day.

DONNA: Tell us about your other works, books, stories, etc.

REGINA: I have seven Jane Austen-inspired pieces. As I said earlier, Darcy’s Passions was the first. Darcy’s Temptation (a Booksellers’ Best Award Finalist 2009) was “Passions” sequel, and it begins the day after “Passions” ends. Next came Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, which tells Austen’s Persuasion from Captain Wentworth’s POV. Ulysses then asked for a vampire version of Pride and Prejudice, and Vampire Darcy’s Desire came about. It is set in a time 80 years before the release of Dracula. Therefore, it uses the more traditional vampiric folk literature. The Phantom of Pemberley followed. It is a cozy mystery based on the legend of the “Shadow Man.” “Phantom” took third in Romantic Suspense in one of RWA’s chapter contests. Christmas at Pemberley was released in November 2011. It is set two years after the end of Pride and Prejudice, and it takes a more “inspirational” slant than many sequels. The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy hit shelves on March 26. It is another cozy mystery based on a Scottish folk tale, the legend of Sawney Bean.

In writing Regencies, I have a series of books based on a covert governmental group, known as the Realm. A Baloch warlord, who believes that one of Realm has stolen a fist-sized emerald, is hunting them. The first book was originally titled A Touch of Gold. With the Ulysses’ release, the book was changed to The Scandal of Lady Eleanor. Book 2 is called A Touch of Velvet, which is followed by A Touch of Cashémere. I am currently working on Book 4, A Touch of Grace. The first book in my First Wives Club trilogy is also available. Each of the ladies in this series begin their time in Society pretending to be a “widow,” which gives them more status than they would possess if they entered the “marriage mart” as a genteel lady with no connections. And believe it or not, I do have two contemporary romances: Honor and Hope (which is a contemporary romantica based on Pride and Prejudice) and Second Chances: The Courtship Wars (a sweet romance set around a reality TV show). Books 2 and 3 of the Realm series and First Wives’ Club, along with Honor and Hope are slated for release in the next couple of months. Currently, they are available on my website.

DONNA: Tell us more about Book 4 of the Realm series

REGINA: I am writing. A Touch of Grace is the tale of Gabriel Crowden and Grace Nelson, and I love creating a back story for Crowden, who is a bit standoffish. Women “bore” him, but why? I have also started a new novel Angel and the Devil Duke. As far as my Austen titles are concerned, I will be writing another project for Ulysses Press. I would like to do another Christmas title that follows up on events in The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy. At the end of that piece, Georgiana is pregnant and due during Christmastide. It would the perfect situation to carry her story forward. With the success of The Phantom of Pemberley, we are also discussing another cozy mystery.

DONNA: How do you write?  Are you a pantser or a plotter?  Is it your characters or your plot that influences you the most?

REGINA: I am truly a pantser. I have a “list” of events that will occur in my piece, but I do not outline and plot each detail. I open a spiral notebook and begin to write. Often times (ALWAYS!!!!), the story takes on a life of its own. It plays (as if it is a movie I can rewind over and over until I get it right) in my head as I seek sleep each night. I’m constantly saying, “He wouldn’t say that” or “She would act more surprised” or “That would be so cool.” The plot is the key through which the characters are defined.

DONNA: Sounds a lot like me. So How do you choose your characters' names?

REGINA: Obviously, for my Austen pieces, many of the characters are already well known to the reading audience. Those readers know the characters’ names, the individual characteristics, and what they think should be the outcome of the interactions of certain characters. Minor characters are named with appropriate Christian and surnames that fit the period. As both the Austen titles and my historical romances are set in the Regency Period, names must be apposite for the time period. For example, I love the name “Joshua.” Heck, I named my only child “Joshua.” However, it does not truly fit the time period in which I write.

Occasionally, the names are thrust upon me. I met a young man named Brantley Fowler at a local Enterprise car rental outlet. I told him I was going to “steal” his name and make him famous. Brantley Fowler is the main character in A Touch of Velvet. His “lady” is a young woman named Velvet Aldridge. Years ago, I had a student named “Velvet.” It was the perfect name for that young lady and for my character.

And the power round:
Favorite food? I am a vegetarian. Any fruit or vegetable works for me, but my comfort food is mashed potatoes.
Favorite dessert? An old-fashioned hot fudge sundae 
Jeans and T-shirt, or designer clothes? Designer clothes
Guilty pleasure? I am very much Anne Elliot of Persuasion in this matter. I love the company “of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation.”
One word that describes you? Focused
Favorite flower? Yellow rose
Favorite sport? (tie) NFL football and distance running

Book Blurb:
Shackled in the dungeon of a macabre castle with no recollection of her past, a young woman finds herself falling in love with her captor – the estate’s master. Yet, placing her trust in him before she regains her memory and unravels the castle’s wicked truths would be a catastrophe.

Far away at Pemberley, the Darcys happily gather to celebrate the marriage of Kitty Bennet. But a dark cloud sweeps through the festivities: Georgiana Darcy has disappeared without a trace. Upon receiving word of his sister’s likely demise, Darcy and wife, Elizabeth, set off across the English countryside, seeking answers in the unfamiliar and menacing Scottish moors.

How can Darcy keep his sister safe from the most sinister threat she has ever faced when he doesn’t even know if she’s alive? True to Austen’s style and rife with malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, this suspense-packed mystery places Darcy and Elizabeth in the most harrowing situation they have ever faced – finding Georgiana before it is too late.

Website –
Twitter - @reginajeffers
Publisher – Ulysses Press


Regina Jeffers, an English teacher for thirty-nine years, considers herself a Jane Austen enthusiast. She is the author of 13 novels, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, The Phantom of Pemberley, Christmas at Pemberley, The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, and A Touch of Cashémere. A Time Warner Star Teacher and Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, as well as a Smithsonian presenter, Jeffers often serves as a media literacy consultant. She resides outside of Charlotte, NC, where she spends time teaching her new grandson the joys of being a child.