Thanks for having me back to JQ, Nancy! It’s such fun to be here. <<NRT: Happy to have you, Michelle!>> Living in Colorado during the winter that might never end, you hear lots of ski terms bandied about–first tracks, back bowls, fresh powder, bluebird days. Friends use these phrases to caption Facebook photos where they are smiling from the top of some mountain resort. These people are about to launch themselves down an icy, snow-covered slope with oversized popsicle sticks strapped to their feet and…they are grinning. It sort of makes me want to push them.
I don’t have time to smile when I ski because I’m too busy praying to make it down the mountain in one piece. Yep, I ski. Despite the constant trembling in my knees, the stomachache that starts as soon as I put on my (never flattering) ski pants and an internal monologue that involves lots of cursing, every few weekends we pile the kids into the car and hit the slopes. Why? For the same reason moms do most things we don’t want to – for the kids.
This season my daughter broke through her fear (unlike me) and now we’re taking lifts to the more advanced blue runs. My son is busy detouring into the trees and looking for jumps as we hurtle toward the bottom. I can barely keep up and I love it! Because it means soon I’ll achieve my ultimate ski dream—to be the mom camped out in the corner of the toasty warm lodge surrounded by coats and gear, sipping hot cocoa and wearing boots I can walk in without feeling like I’m going to fall over. I have happy visions of a full Saturday spent alternating between my laptop and Kindle while I smile at the cold, wet, red-faced suckers who take a break from risking life limb on the mountain. I’m going to be the best lodge mom ever.
Among friends my views on skiing put me in the minority, and I sometimes wonder if I’m a total wimp. I probably am a total wimp, and I’m okay with that. But I’m also curious how people outside of ski-crazy Colorado feel about it.
Would you be carving the slopes or hanging in the lodge? Either way, I’ll have the hot cocoa waiting.
I’ll be drawing two winners from the comments for a copy of my March release, A Second Chance At Crimson Ranch. The heroine, Olivia Wilder, has come to Crimson, Colorado to find place she can feel at home. Lucky for her, there’s a new (and a few years younger) contractor in town that might be the perfect guy to help her. I’m excited to invite readers back to Crimson because it’s a town filled with wonderful people and lots of opportunities for falling in love (yes, there is a ski mountain but I haven’t forced any my characters onto it…yet).
I’m so pleased to welcome historical romance author Alyssa Alexander to The Jaunty Quills. The first two books in her Spy in the Ton series have garnered much critical acclaim and a bunch of Top Picks. Alyssa agreed to take some of my questions!
Hello to all the JQ followers, and to Vanessa for inviting me! It’s a pleasure being here. I get to hang with my fav authors! (Forgive me if I go fan girl.)
You write historical romance with a strong suspense element. Why romance and not straight historical mystery or suspense?
I’ve always read various genres/subgenres of romance and mystery, going back to Nancy Drew. In my teens I gobbled up gothic romances (Victoria Holt! Mary Stewart!), as well as books by the great Phyllis Whitney. They were clean enough for a sheltered teenager, but still gave me both chills and the “ahhhh…” of a good romance. I’ve never looked back. So I suppose one reason (among many), is that I like to be on the edge of my seat, guessing at the identity of the villain and wondering if the hero and heroine will conquer evil, yet at the same time watching them fall in love. Romance makes me feel warm and happy inside. I love that moment when I close the book and sigh. But the suspense appeals to my sense of justice. It’s a doubly satisfying ending to see the villain get his comeuppance while the hero and heroine have their happy ever after.
Your heroes are Regency spies (love them!). Does your legal background have anything to do with your interest in the topic, or influence your writing?
My legal background has not a thing to do my spies. Ha! I write spies because I love a good James Bond or Jason Bourne movie. But my fourteen years as a legal assistant/paralegal-ish secretary does influence my writing. I never dwell on the laws of the time period, but I do think about them. When the secondary character Jack Blackbourn in THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK was arrested, I spent hours researching the charges against him, the prison he would be held in and potential sentences. I didn’t use a quarter of what I learned in the book, but I researched it anyway. Also, my job makes me aware of the intricacies of the law. In the Regency there are property laws, voting laws, enclosures, taxes, dowries, contracts, guardians, entail, banns, etc. All of those can affect a story.
Of course, I don’t know even a smidgen of the laws of the time period, but I do try to get my facts right to the best of my ability. (P.S. If I got one wrong, let me know so I don’t goof it in the future!)
What kinds of research did you do for this series? Any really interesting or bizarre bits pop up?
Oh, let me tell you about Jack Rattenbury! I’m sure I’m not the first historical romance author to discover him. I started researching smuggling in England and Jack Rattenbury comes up pretty quickly. He was born in Beer, Devon, which is where THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK takes places, and wrote a memoir about his days as a smuggler on the coast of England. He was a rascal and rogue if there ever was one. I fell in love. So, naturally, I wrote him into the story as a rascally father figure for Grace, the heroine.
One thing you really love about the Regency period?
Oooo. Clothing. Totally clothing. I’m not an expert, though I do research clothing for descriptions. But wow, do I love looking at extant specimens or drawings from La Belle Assemblée and similar publications.
And, OK. I kind of like to pretend I’m wearing the clothes. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Dress up was a staple in my house as a girl. My mother went to Goodwill and rummage sales, bought old prom dresses and altered them for our 5- to 12-year-old selves. I spent hours and hours dressing up with my sisters and acting out the stories in my head. I guess I never lost that! I don’t have any historical costumes as an adult, but somewhere in the depths of my parents’ basement is a ruffled parasol and a much-loved box of 1980’s prom dresses, hats and purses.
One thing you really dislike?
Technology. Or, rather, determining when items were invented and when they were widely in use. Even simple items can trip you up. What was rouge and face powder made of? When was chloroform widely used? Was a high-perch phaeton popular in the year I’m writing in? Earlier? Later? What about gaslight? I spent entirely too much time researching carriage lamps to determine the design and placement and materials. I also (for a manuscript hiding under the bed) spent hours determining when the first pen was made. I love this research, but I wish I didn’t need to look up who the prominent porcelain maker was in 1813. It would be easier if I knew it off the top of my head.
What’s up next for you?
More books in the Spy In The Ton series! I’m not at all ready to leave those characters. I know them too well, now, and want everyone to have their own happy ever afters!
Also, remember those carriage lamps? That research was for IN BED WITH A SPY, the second book in the series. Since I teased you all with that bit of research, here is an excerpt. I will also give away one copy of IN BED WITH A SPY to a commenter! Open to US and Canada residents, 18 years or older, winner’s choice of print or ebook. Just tell me what author you read in your teens that influenced you!
It didn’t seem possible a person could be abducted from a London townhouse in the middle of a crowded ball. But it had happened.
Now here she was, sitting in Angelstone’s carriage, with the faint glow of the lamps highlighting his inflexible jaw and cutting cheekbones. All lean legs and broad shoulders, he filled the vehicle’s interior. In the partial light, with his unreadable gaze and his unruly queue of hair, he looked much more dangerous than a fallen angel.
“Mrs. Fairchild.” The words were clipped. No seductive purr, no sensual smile from those lips. Lips that had kissed her senseless and reminded her she was a woman with needs and desires. Even now, she could she taste him. Rich brandy and wild heat.
Embarrassment washed through her. She’d been forward and shameless, and look where she found herself. Hands bound and trapped in a man’s carriage, destined for parts unknown and heaven knew what treatment.
“I demand to be released.”
“Why am I here?” she fired back.
“I think you are quite aware.” He watched her steadily as he pulled off first one glove, then the other and stuffed them in his pocket. It was an unpardonably rude gesture for a gentleman. Obviously, he was not a gentleman.
He was close enough she could kick him. But she wouldn’t be able to open the carriage door quickly with her hands bound. And he had the medallion. The final gift from her husband, one he gave her with his last breath.
She refused to leave without it.
“The medallion is mine,” she said.
“Is it? Interesting.” The conversational tone of his words was oddly frightening. “Well, now the medallion is mine.” Propping his elbows on his knees, he leaned forward. He filled the space between them until his face was only a foot from hers.
The instinct to shrink into the seat was overwhelming.
So she leaned forward to meet him. And smiled. Slowly. “Give me”—she angled her head insolently—“the medallion.”
“Oh, but your smile is a formidable weapon, Mrs. Fairchild.” He reached out, tracing a bare thumb over her bottom lip. His skin was calloused and sensitizing. “Wicked, wanton and willful.”
Heat pooled low in her belly as desire warred with temper.
“Why, thank you.” She flicked the tip of her tongue over his thumb, tasted salt and man. Lilias hid a smug smile at Angelstone’s quick inhalation. “So is your voice. It’s by turns chilling and erotic.”
“Erotic?” he said. “A strong word for a woman.”
“I’m a strong woman.”
The carriage shuddered to a stop and they stared at each other through the darkness. The clip of the horses’ hooves rang on the cobblestones as the animals paced a step or two. Above them, the coachman called out to calm the horses.
Large hands tugged the hood of her cloak forward to shade her face. It concealed everything from her view but his face. Just there in front of her. Lean and male—and frightening given the circumstances.
But she wasn’t beaten yet.
You can find Alyssa on her website at alyssaalexander.com.
Join us for an interview with the Christi Caldwell.
Margo’s winners are Barbara Elness and Mary Anne Landers. Congrats, ladies! I’ll be in touch with details.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by the blog to comment!
Please welcome former Jaunty Quiller and fab historical romance author Margo Maguire!
It’s been a long time since I was one of the Jaunties, and I am so pleased to be back! Thank you, Vanessa (who – I think – became a Jaunty in my place!!) for inviting me to share the news about my two new Regency romances.
And here we are, in the middle of January! How much fun is that?
Well, for a lot of us, not so much. Where I live in Michigan isn’t as bad as some places, but we get a fair share of snow. And lots of cold, for sure – which makes it a great time to hunker down by the fireplace with a nice hot beverage to do some reading.
Luckily, I enjoy writing almost as much as I like to read, so I can get a lot accomplished during this weather. My latest books – the start of a new series I call The Berkshire Brides – just came out, and I’m already working on the next book in the series.
Eleanor and the Duke is the story of Eleanor Easton and her ex-fiancé, Andrew, Duke of Beckworth. Sometime before the start of this book, Eleanor fell head over heels in love with Beckworth, and she believed he felt the same. But then her world fell apart when she learned he intended to keep a mistress throughout their marriage. Heartbroken, Eleanor fled from England before the wedding could take place. Poor Andrew could not go after her right away, and he didn’t understand why she would leave him, anyway. He didn’t know about the lies Eleanor had been told. Not then.
But now is a different story. At the start of Eleanor and the Duke, Beckworth is in Berkshire at Eleanor’s small country house, waiting for her to arrive. Her father has recently passed away, leaving her a small annuity to live on. And Beck is the trustee. All her money must go through him first. It’s the perfect chance for Beck to win not only her love, but her trust. All Eleanor has to do get over her fear of betrayal before she can accept Beckworth again.
After I wrote Eleanor and the Duke, I decided to give Eleanor and Beckworth more of an introduction, so I wrote the novella Mad About Ivy – and it’s a free download. Ivy’s story takes place at a house party in Berkshire, and it’s perfectly obvious to everyone that Eleanor and her duke are madly in love with each other. Beck’s good friend, the Earl of Claymere is at the party only because his mother demanded he escort her, but he has no interest in any of the young women there. He is only thirty years old, and has no intention of marrying for at least another decade. That is . . . until he meets Ivy.
Eleanor and the Duke is about second chances. Tell me which of the following kinds of romance stories appeal to you, and I’ll choose two responders to receive any book from my backlist: friends to lovers; second chance at love; soul mate/fate; secret romance; first love; strong hero/heroine; reunited lovers; love triangle; sexy billionaire/millionaire; sassy heroine.
I hope you all have a wonderful New Year, and to start it off right, here is an excerpt from Mad About Ivy.
Shefford Manor. Southeast Berkshire, England. Late March, 1816
“I do not intend to marry anyone until I am at least forty, Mother, no matter how much you like her,” said Devereaux Kipling, Earl of Claymere. “Therefore, this house party and all of Lady Shefford’s attempts at matchmaking are a perfect waste of time. Hers, yours, and most especially mine.”
“Dev, don’t be a numbskull. How on earth could you possibly believe that a twenty year difference is the—”
“Because of you and Father.” He went to the window and pushed the curtain aside as several young ladies started out on a walk down the drive. They were the golden apples of their parents’ eyes, and therefore, forbidden fruit.
Give him a tavern wench any day – the sooner the better, in fact – and Dev would be content. But no, he was stuck here at Lord and Lady Shefford’s house party, with a dozen or so stuffy peers and their female offspring. It was enough to put him off his feed for a fortnight . . .
He did have to admit, however, that one young lady had caught his eye – Ivy Barnett, the beautiful American niece of the Earl of Kendal. Dev happened to see her in the card room two nights ago, besting her opponents with good-natured aplomb. And again, yesterday in the morning room laughing and walking arm-in-arm with Eleanor Easton, fiancée of Dev’s closest friend, the Duke of Beckworth. Later, he’d seen her taking part in an impromptu dancing lesson, demonstrating some subtle difference in the American quadrille versus the British version. She managed to have all the other young ladies laughing and giggling throughout.
A perfectly unacceptable attraction began to develop, and Dev realized he had to avoid Miss Barnett. Like the plague. Because a proper bride was sure to turn up when he was prepared to marry, years from now.
His mother clucked her tongue in that annoying fashion of hers, and dropped her book upon the table. “You cannot be serious, Devereaux.”
He cleared his thoughts. “Of course I am. Have you known me to be anything but serious?” He had his life well-planned, and marriage was not in his near future.
“Not in years, no,” she retorted, rising from her chair. “But I would have you understand something perfectly clearly. My marriage to your father was less than ideal. He was an old man by the time I had reached my prime, and my convictions prevented me from— Well, let us just say that I was not one to fall into the arms of any dandy-prat who cast a lecherous eye in my direction.”
“And I thank God for that.”
“You are missing the point, Dev.”
“I had hopes of missing this entire discussion, Mother.”
She came up to him and poked his chest. “Mark me well, my dear son. You will be thirty years old next month. If you persist in this notion of waiting until you’ve sowed every last one of your wild oats, you are going to end up with some young chit who will resent you and wish you in your grave before your first decade of marriage is out.”
“Please, Mother. Do not be so melodr—”
“Because that is how it was with me, and history has a way of repeating.”