It all started with a house. Not just any house, a mansion in Grosvenor Square. During the Regency, Grosvenor Square was home to the fabulously wealthy and titled, so what better place to throw a party? Of course, that’s only the beginning of the story. Fellow JQ Vanessa Kelly is here with me to chat more about how our holiday anthology, A Grosvenor Square Christmas, came to be.
Vanessa: I had a blast working on the antho with you ladies, too! Actually, I think the original idea to write a Christmas anthology was yours, wasn’t it? And although I have menopause memory, which basically means no memory to speak of, I recall that the four of us brainstormed settings for an anthology of connected stories. There have been a number of these holiday or Regency anthologies, but most are set in the country at a house party. That makes particular sense for a holiday story, since the haute ton tended to head off to their country estates in the winter. But some folks must have stayed in London for Christmas, and we thought it would be cool to place the action of our stories at a grand holiday party in the city. And what could be a grander setting than a mansion on Grosvenor Square, one of the premier places to reside in Mayfair?
Shana: Exactly! We wanted to do something a little different, and someone mentioned it would be fun if we wrote about an annual ball, hosted by someone whose invitations were coveted. And then Kate or Anna said we absolutely must have an eccentric butler, and Philbert was born. He actually turned in to something of a sexy secondary character.
Vanessa: Philbert started out as something of a running joke when we were brainstorming common elements. Obviously, we needed the interior of the house to remain basically the same, and the owner of No. 3 Grosvenor Square had to play a role, too. And Regency authors and readers all know how important butlers were to the smooth running of any household. How could you throw the most successful party of the year, decade after decade, without a fantastically competent butler? We did initially envision Philbert as something of an eccentric and even comic character, but when we created our hostess—the dashing Lucy Frost, the widowed Countess of Winterson—Philbert’s role began to change. We began to wonder exactly why Lucy never remarried, and it appeared that it had something to do with Philbert, who morphed from a stodgy and eccentric fellow into a tall, mysterious, and attractive man. What happens to Lucy and Philbert over the course of the four stories became part of the fun of writing these stories.
Shana: Well, in my story Philbert was initially short, but I quickly came to see the error of my ways. As you said, we wanted the interior of the house to match up in our stories. We all referred to these pictures and more for inspiration.
Another element we had to work out was our timeline. Kate and Anna wanted to write stories set technically after the Regency, in 1825 and 1830, while I wanted to set mine technically before the Regency, in 1803. You anchored us in 1818.
Since Lucy Frost is rather young in my story, set in 1803 and has aged 27 years by the time Kate wrote about her, we also needed a model who had aged publicly over time. We used Helen Mirren, who was and still is quite lovely.
Also, in contrast, I think Kate and Anna’s stories are stand-alones, but both of ours have connections to books we’ve written. But despite all these differences, we made it work!
How do Nigel Dash and Amelia Easton fit into the world of your other books?
Vanessa: Nigel Dash is a secondary character in all four books of my Stanton Family Series. He’s the typical best friend and consummate good guy, always stepping into the social breach to save the day. There isn’t an awkward moment he can’t smooth over, or a grumpy old dowager he can’t charm. My readers loved Nigel and wondered when he would get his HEA. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do that. Amelia is a new character, and I think she’s just perfect for Nigel.
Shana, your story is connected to your Sons of the Revolution Series, which are wonderful books. Where does The Seduction of a Duchess fit in?
Shana: Readers were always asking me if the widowed heroes’ mother, Rowena, got her HEA. They also told me they were craving stories with older heroines. I thought this was the perfect venue to tell Rowena’s story.
The last thing I wanted to mention is that the anthology is digital only and it’s FREE on most retailers. The anthology is composed of short stories, around 10,000 words each, and we’re hoping is that those of you who haven’t read one of us featured in the anthology will read our story and give one of our longer books a try.
BN (waiting for it to publish)
Four breathtakingly romantic tales of a Regency Christmas from four bestselling romance authors.
Down through the years, enchantment touches a tall gray house in Grosvenor Square. The legend of Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball promises true love and happiness to one lucky couple. Who will feel the magic this winter?
1803 – The Seduction of a Duchess by Shana Galen
Rowena Harcourt, the Duchess of Valère, never forgot the handsome footman who helped her escape the French Revolution. For fourteen years, Gabriel Lamarque has loved Rowena—now at Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball, has fate finally delivered a chance to win her hand?
1818 – One Kiss for Christmas by Vanessa Kelly
Nigel Dash is London’s most reliable gentleman, a reputation he never minded until he fell in love with beautiful Amelia Easton. Unfortunately, Amelia sees Nigel as a dependable friend, not a dashing suitor. At Lady Winterson’s famous Christmas ball, Nigel vows to change Amelia’s mind—by sweeping her off her feet.
1825 – His Christmas Cinderella by Anna Campbell
At the season’s most glittering ball, a girl who has never dared to dream of forever after discovers a Christmas miracle.
1830 – The Last First Kiss by Kate Noble
Susannah Westforth has always loved Sebastian Beckett – but he’s only ever seen her as a friend. When Sebastian takes his Grand Tour, Susannah transforms herself into a woman he’ll notice. Now Sebastian is back, just in time for Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball – but the last thing he expects to see is his little Susie, all grown up…
You’re invited to join the whirling dance at Lady Winterson’s sparkling Christmas ball, where miracles happen and true love shines forever. How can you resist?
How They Met Themselves, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, watercolor, 1864
Not long ago the Norwegian and I were out for dinner when a complete stranger approached me and asked if I had seen the show Breaking Bad. I hadn’t, but he told me that Anna Gunn, the woman who plays Skyler White on the show, was my doppelgänger.
I looked her up when I got home. I could see a vague resemblance in the photograph. Of course, it piqued my curiosity about the show, especially since it has garnered so many awards. I started watching it and now I joke that I have a serious meth addiction. Really, I don’t. And I know drug addiction is no laughing matter, but the show’s writing is incredible and the acting is superb… But I digress.
They say everyone has a double. I guess mine might be Anna Gunn – sort of. We’re not identical. Our noses are completely different, and once I started watching the show and saw a more dimensional version of the actress, I thought she and I resembled each other less. Sometimes I think mannerisms and certain expressions make people similar even if they don’t look alike. In fact, that’s one of the story lines in my book, Celebration’s Baby, which will be out in April 2014. A secondary character, Maya, lost the love of her life years ago. He died in an accident and she hasn’t been able to love since. Fast forward years later, a man who reminds her of her old love shows up. She can’t decide if she’s attracted to him because he reminds her of her dead lover or if her heart is truly ready to love again.
He’s not exactly a doppelgänger, not in the true sense of the word. Then again, the meaning of the word has changed over the years. In folklore, doppelgängers are perceived as sinister versions of a person – an evil twin. In the old days, when you saw your doppelgänger, it was a harbinger of bad luck or an omen of death.
But, of course, the contemporary meaning of doppelgänger is simply a look-alike. Doppelgängers are a running gag through the sitcom How I Met Your Mother: at one time or another, the characters have spotted uncanny look a likes of each other, except for Barney (Neil Patrick Harris’s character). The absence of his doppelgänger is used as a significant plotline, which I won’t spoil in case you haven’t seen the show and want to.
Who’s your doppelgänger?
Celebration’s Bride is available now!
RT Book Reviews gives Celebration’s Bride 4.5 stars and says, “Thompson’s reality TV show setup rocks the pages with its quirky cast. Her couples’ imperfections make them realistic and alluring….”
Celebration’s Family - February 2014
Celebration’s Baby - April 2014
What does luxury mean to you?
Luxury… for me the word conjures up images of diaphanous silk gowns, tropical islands and huge white motor cruisers. The dictionary defines the noun as the ‘state of great comfort and extravagant living’ however the adjective give examples of: a luxury yacht or luxury goods.
Now we’re getting warm…
Wikipedia defines luxury as ‘products and services that are not considered essential and are associated with affluence….or is it maybe just something that brings pleasure or happiness.
Maybe not having to get out of bed in time to start the rush of the day? Maybe pampering yourself with a manicure or a massage? Maybe having a day by yourself reading in a hammock?
Certainly you can do these things without being affluent!
Over the past two months, my husband and I have toured the Australian in a (non-luxurious) camper trailer researching my next book “Outback Affair” and in the final week he took me for a two day luxury stay on an exclusive tropical island. The photo below is the view from our room. I am sure it was a reward for not complaining for forty five days and nights. After all we were researching my book! If you are interested in the non-luxurious side of things as I researched the outback I kept a travel blog with an appropriate title! http://wherethefekarwee.blogspot.com.au
If you look up luxury in a Google image search, it conjures up dream images of travel, tropical islands, swimming pools, many luxury boats and resorts, so I really had it made last month when we spent two days and nights on the luxurious (the adjective!) six star Hayman island.
Now I can share all of this with my readers. Luxury settings seem to have become a common theme in my books from tropical to Mediterranean Islands, to the luxury but fictional Crocodile Springs resort in the soon to be released Outback Affair.
Come along and be pampered in an Annie Seaton read!
So what defines luxury for you?
Choose your own luxury destination and leave a comment to go in the draw for your choice of Holiday Affair or Italian Affair.
Buy links for Dangerous Desire.
Annie Seaton lives with her husband, and ‘Bob’ the dog and two white cats in a house next to the beach on the east coast of Australia. She sits in her writing chair, gazing at the ocean and writing stories. Their two children are grown and married and she loves spending time gardening, walking on the beach and spoiling her two grandchildren. She has always been fascinated by all things romantic and has found her niche in life writing romance novels, ranging through contemporary, historical, suspense and paranormal…but all with romance of course.
Her love of reading and history began at an early age and she was a child who always carried a book (or two) no matter what she was doing. Several of her favourite books were confiscated from beneath her desk by teachers who had no understanding of her capacity to read while she was doing her schoolwork!
Her working life has seen her through several major career changes and Annie has now retired from the world of full time work and has fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a published author.
Annie’s debut full length novel, Holiday Affair, a contemporary romance set in the South Pacific was released as part of Entangled Publishing’s Indulgence line in March 2012 and has been a best seller on both Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. The sequel Italian Affair was released in June 2013, and will be followed shortly by Outback Affair. Annie has more books being released in 2013 and 2014 with Entangled Publishing in the Bliss, Entangled Ignite and Covet imprints.
In appreciation of the supportive author community, Annie has written a book on promotion to share the secrets of her success: Promotional Tips and Tricks for Aspiring Authors in the Digital Landscape.
Annie loves to hear from readers at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find her on Facebook at
Today we have a super special guest blogger. She’s a debut author and her first book just came out last month. But the coolest part is that she’s my mom! Being a writer and having a mom who is also a writer is pretty stinking cool. It’s an excellent thing to have in common with my mom and also she’s just a pretty cool gal. So without further ado, I give you Hattie Mae.
Thank you for having me. When Robyn asked if I would blog with you, I wondered what would I talk about. What’s has been on my mind is about my first book that came out in July, Under The Sassafras. I have been so excited and, I must say, proud of myself. Yet at the same time, it’s left me wondering, how? How could I put myself out there at my age? Thus my blog.
I would like to ask you what woman or women influenced you through life? Now I’m not trying to leave out the men. I myself have had strong men in my life who have helped make me who I am. My husband of 52 years for one, he’s currently sitting and reading my second book. But my mind kept going back to three women in my past that I really credit to who all played significant roles in the Hattie Mae who is here today.
My Mom would have to be the first. She married young and had me in her teens. You can say we grew up together. We were best friends that laughed, and cried together. She was a tiny woman full of sass and vinegar. She had dancing feet, a sharp tongue and laughter came easy to her. I think of her and miss her daily.
Lesson: She taught me that something worth doing is worth doing right. So I wrote a book. And then I wrote three more.
The next would be, her mother, my grandmother. She broke her wrist at the age of 70. She was riding a horse and bent over to pick up her beloved pipe that she’d dropped.
Lesson: She taught me that you are never too old to do what you love. So at the age of 70 my first book was published.
My other grandmother, she was a little Cajun woman who could hardly speak English–Cajun French was her first language. She knew her numbers but could not read or write. But she had tenacity. She made her own phone book with pictures she drew that represented the person with their phone number on the same line. She traveled across country by bus—changing in cities she didn’t know, to be at her ailing son’s bedside. When asked how she knew which bus to change to get where she was going, she simple replied—“I followed my suitcase.”
Lesson: She taught me that there is no job so hard that you can’t find a way to complete that task. So I simply follow my suitcase and write another book.
I know that I am who I am is not merely the influence of just these three remarkable women, but numerous others. My husband, my daughters, my son, and all six of my grandchildren, real friends, and even strangers I meet along the way.
What about you? Anyone come to mind?
Award-winning author, Hattie Mae was born and bred southern, cutting her teeth on cornbread and greens and running barefoot through the canals of her small Louisiana town. So when it came to writing, there was no question as to where to set her books. She’s now writing her fourth book set in Bon Amie, a busy little town nestled in the heart of Cajun country. She’s also published a short story in The Cup Of Comfort For Teachers. The love of books and writing runs in her family, Hattie’s daughter is award-winning historical romance author, Robyn DeHart.
When not writing you can usually find her playing with her grandchildren or cooking up some healthy versions of tasty southern fare. She lives in central Texas with her husband and one crazy cat. You can find out more about her and her small town romances on her website.
Nestled between the Atchafalaya Basin and Sugar Island lies Bon Amie, a friendly, quiet town, where nothing exciting ever happens. Until Joelette Benoit’s two sons find a man washed up in the murky water at the edge of the swamp.
Joelette Benoit, a widowed single mother, has sworn to never believe the promises of another sweet talking man. Fiercely independent and determined, she’s hidden away her heart, while struggling to provide for her two sons and lively mother-in-law. She swears the stranger will stay one night, and one night only, until she discovers he has no memory. Now duty-bound to aid him, Joelette decides to offer him a place to heal in exchange for his labor.
Against the colorful backdrop of life on the bayou, she watches as he immerses himself not only in her family but also in her town. She can do little to prevent her sons from bonding with the only man they’ve come to trust since the death of their father. Though she, too, is drawn to his kindness and vulnerability, she will not risk the heart of her family because without a past, this man cannot promise a future. But when his memory returns and he realizes he has blood on his hands, he knows he has unfinished business to attend to before he can claim the family he has grown to love.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
So this epileptic Norse woman is sold into slavery because her family thinks she’s been witched. She’s transported to ancient Byzantium where she’s bought by a eunuch spymaster. He hopes to convince the world that her “falling sickness” gives her a special window on the spirit world and she’s a seer of great ability. Before she’s placed in a silk trader’s harem to ferret out a plot against the emperor, she’s tutored in Greek by a disgraced Viking in the Varangian guard who falls in love with her and vows to see her free. Then they–
What? You haven’t run across this story?
Hmm. And just a month ago the folks at one prominent review site were saying historical romance was dying because the genre was too narrow and full of familiar tropes.
Granted the historical market is heavy on dashing dukes and debutantes, but that’s because readers love them. And they’re wickedly fun to write. However, for readers who enjoy something out of the ordinary, for those who aren’t put off by stories that aren’t quite safe, there are options out there. May I offer one?
People who live on the ragged edge, like the eunuch in Silk Dreams, fascinate me. They redefine the limits of human experience. A heroine who grapples with epilepsy during the Dark Ages, well, that sort of makes my daily challenges seem piddly. And as bad as those bad boys of the North were, what would a Viking have to do in order to be exiled in disgrace?
All right. I’ll admit it. I love this story and the wildly “not-the-usual-suspect” characters who live in it. Doing the research on 11th century Constantinople satisfied all my history geekness in spades. Interviewing my friend who lives with epilepsy to get that part of the story right was an eye-opener and it’s not often sexual dysfunction is dealt with in a romance, but when there’s a eunuch in the story, it can’t be ignored.
Will Silk Dreams sell like a half dozen dukes at Almack’s? Perhaps not. But that doesn’t mean Valdis and Erik‘s story didn’t need to be told. Love has always been part of the human heart, whether its dressed in a contemporary setting, a phantasmagorical paranormal world or the cruel labyrinth of ancient Byzantium.
So to those readers who love a walk through an unfamiliar world, with a hero and heroine who aren’t “pattern” (a description of conformity that would have been a high compliment in the Victorian Era but for some reason sets my teeth on edge), this story is for YOU!
“The lush smell of spices, the soft silk of the harem and the intrigue of court life combines as Marlowe sweeps readers into her novel of medieval Constantinople. She crafts a lavish love story that’s as entertaining as it is epic.” ~ RT BOOKReviews
“The colorful and captivating world of ancient Byzantium provides the intriguing setting for Mia Marlowe’s lushly sensual, sumptuously written historical romance.”—John Charles, Chicago Tribune
Here’s my question for you: If you could travel to any time and place, where would you most want to visit? (Don’t worry. This is only armchair travel. I’d never allow you to live for longer than a brief stay in anyplace that didn’t have running water, antibiotics and ebooks!)