It’s the holidays!! Time for fun and food and tradition! My debut release, NEVER DESIRE A DUKE, is a Christmas themed Regency romance. In it we see the hero, Claxton, return to his childhood home, and for the first time in years, enjoy some of the traditions of his youth to include eating the housekeeper’s special sugar plums, playing a game called “Lookabout” and wondering what mischief Lord Misrule will get into. There’s also some smooching under the kissing bough.
Just a few weeks ago, my daughter brought home an assignment from school. I bet a lot of you who are parents have seen this one. She had a set of interview questions that she was supposed to ask her family, whether that was Mom or Dad or grandparents and all of of the questions were centered on the topic of family origins, culture and traditions. From which countries did our families immigrate? How do those cultures affect our lives today? What are some of the cultural traditions we continue to practice?
Hmmmm. Well, my family is…er…Germanic and Welsh…from what I’ve been told. My husband’s family is Czech/Romanian/Hungarian. As far as traditions, we…um…eat a lot of kolaches? We’ve been to the SPJST (Slovanska Podporujici Jednota Statu Texas) a couple of times, and attended some funerals where they play a lively polka at the gravesite.
Quite honestly, I felt a little embarrassed at how sketchy our responses were. We are Americans, yes, but being that we descended from immigrants, shouldn’t we preserve and identify with more of their traditions? With the holiday season approaching, I started thinking about what traditions my family observes, and the reason for that, I admit, is because of my kids. I think traditions give us all a comforting anchor in life, and ensure that no matter how crazy and unpredictable things get, there is something special we can do—even if we can’t come home, to feel like we are home, and loved and with family, even if only in spirit.
I wouldn’t call these cultural traditions, just traditions that are special to our family.
- We go to Christmas Eve services at church.
- We pass the phone from person to person to talk to relatives who are out of state, and can’t be with us for the holiday. Sometimes this is fun. Sometimes, this is torturous. You know what I mean. **wink**
- We know when Santa’s been in the house, because he always leaves a particular song playing on my dad’s old phonograph (or playing on Dad’s Mp3 player, if we’re not at Grandpa’s). Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, sung by Gene Autry.
- We recycle gift bags and gift boxes. This started with my grandmother, who has always been notoriously frugal and a recycler – a quality I admire more and more as I get older. As an example, we have some gift boxes that look like toy soldiers that have been in “family circulation” since the 70s and are now held together with tape. Someone always ends up with a gift in them, and then brings them back the next year. Their appearance is always giggle-worthy.
I could list more, but you get the idea! What are some traditions you or your family observe each year, cultural or not. Serious or silly?
Shana’s blog yesterday got me thinking about sexy heroes (like I actually needed an excuse). But to go in the other direction from animated heroes, let’s talk about the wicked ones and why are they so damn sexy?
This question was posed to me for this blog and I decided to tackle the topic because well, who doesn’t love to talk about sexy men? Now the easy answer is…because they’re HOT!
I take this notion of creating heroes quite serious. Consider it for a moment…when you’re reading a romance novel, you want to root for the heroine and fall in love with the hero. If I can’t create a hero that readers can fall in love with, then I’m not doing my job right.
But what is it about the wicked ones, the bad boys, that really call to us? They don’t in the real world (for the most part). I mean most of us are married to the good guys. I know I am. My husband is a college professor for Pete’s sake. While he’d love to thing of himself as a rough-and-tumble tough guy, he’s a big ‘ol softy. So that’s what I want to come home to every night, but when I snuggle up with a book, sometimes I want that rogue.
I think the biggest appeal is not so much how naughty they are, but that they’re naughty with a chance at being redeemed. We want to be that woman that brings that bad boy to his knees. We secretly long to be that girl, the one with the stack of books and the glasses sitting in the school cafeteria and the hottest guy in school walks past those cheerleaders because he can see the reality of who that girl is. He wants to know her. It’s all tied into that fantasy.
So the redeem-ability factor is huge. The other thing is those naughty men give the heroines a reason to be naughty, even if only behind closed doors. It’s nice to fantasize about being able to be daring and reckless with a man, to trust him so much we’d let him take us anywhere.
All right readers, your turn, who’s your favorite bad boy hero? It can be TV, book, movie, whatever.
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?
First of all, welcome to the JQ’s new cyber-hangout! We love our site’s new design and hope you do too! Now to the topic of the day…tying the knot.
No, I’m not talking about a Regency man’s neck cloth, though there were so many different ways to wear a cravat, the topic probably deserves its own blog post! I’m talking about the “Parson’s mousetrap,” being “leg-shackled,” “riveted,” or becoming “tenants for life.” In other words, getting married during the Regency era, the time period in which Plaid Tidings is set.
There were three ways to go about it. The first and arguably most correct way was to have a fairly short engagement period, often less than a month, culminating in the “reading of the banns” on three consecutive Sundays prior to the wedding. The purpose of the banns was so that any legal impediment to the union might be brought to light before the couple said “I do.”
Church weddings were short affairs with relatively few people in attendance. Invitations were not typically sent to distant guests, though friends and family would be notified after the ceremony had taken place. In the Anglican Church, weddings had to be conducted between 8 AM and noon. No romantic candlelit evening ceremony for a conventional Regency bride.
The second way to wed was by special license. This was an expensive option since it had to be procured from the Archbishop of Canterbury at a cost of over 20 guineas! But it was the preferred method of the aristocracy because it meant they could dispense with the banns, have the wedding at home or wherever they chose, and at any time of the day. And in case you’re wondering, the legal age for marriage during the Regency was 21, but in 1823, it was lowered to 14 for men, 12 for ladies.
The third, and thoroughly scandalous way to wed was to elope to Gretna Green. Scotland still recognized the old “handfast” marriage, circumventing the need for the banns or a license. Any couple could declare their intent to be married before a witness (usually the blacksmith since his shop was at the crossroads of the town) and they were declared man and wife.
Then there’s the time-honored “shot-gun” wedding that takes place in Plaid Tidings because Alexander & Lucinda were caught in a compromising position…
Clarindon clapped a hand on Alexander’s shoulder and steered him to his place before the altar. “Face the facts, my friend. This is your last service to the Home Office. Your traveling days in Lord Liverpool’s service are done unless you mean to make your wife a widow to your career.”
“Not necessarily,” Alex whispered from the side of his mouth.
“What do you mean?” Clarindon turned to watch the MacOwen sisters precede the bride down the central aisle.
“Simply that annulments can be arranged,” Alex said.
“Yes, but in order to be granted one, you’d need to prove that a true marriage never took place. Rather hard to do since you’re only here now because you were within an ace of shagging the lass on a bearskin rug.”
“You think I can’t control myself?” Alex glared at Clarindon as the vicar ambled sleepily from the door that led to the sacristy. “I have a will of iron.”
“Tell that to the bearskin.”
The vicar shot the men a black frown that suggested if it were up to him, he’d happily cast the pair of them into the fiery pit. Never mind the scandal of a rushed wedding. The real crime was interrupting the vicar’s sleep.
Alex turned and faced the rear of the chapel.
Lucinda appeared, framed in the doorway at the rear of the chapel. She hesitated for a couple of heartbeats, then began to walk steadily toward him. The silk of her gown draped her form like water, conforming to her curves and spilling to the floor in pale pink folds. As she walked, her slippered toes peeped from under her hem, shyly disappearing again with each step.
The veil effectively obscured her features.
Alex wondered what she was thinking. Was she happy? Resigned? As confused by everything as he?
Guilt flogged him with long heavy stripes. She deserved so much more than to be leg-shackled to a man who had one foot out of the marriage before the vows were even said.
Lucinda stopped long enough for her sister to push back the veil to reveal her face. She leaned to kiss Aileen’s cheek, then turned and met Alex’s gaze.
The naked hope on her features rendered her vulnerable and soft and undeniably appealing. His chest ached. He wished someone would swoop in to snatch her up and carry her away. Someone should warn her not to face the world with such an open heart, not to risk herself on a man like him. He couldn’t love her as she deserved. He’d only bring her pain.
“About that iron will you were talking about,” Clarindon whispered. “Good luck, old son.”
4 ½ stars! “Marlowe has penned a wonderful tale, rich in romance and wit. Replete with memorable characters and a touch of Scottish legend, this well-written romance is both poignant and highly entertaining. Not to be missed by fans of Scottish Regency.” ~ Kathe Robin, RTBOOKReviews
They tell me it rained on my wedding day. I have no recollection of that. I was too focused on the man waiting for me at the altar. Do you have a wedding story you’d like to share—yours or someone else’s? Your comment will enter you in a random drawing for my Christmas novella My Lady Below Stairs! The winner will be announced on Sunday.
If you didn’t win this time, don’t despair. I have another giveaway going on this week. Leave a comment for me on the subject of How a Regency Hero Ties the Knot and you’ll be entered for a chance to win my Christmas novella, My Lady Below Stairs.