New! Improved! Sneak Peek at A Notorious Ruin

I have been madly revising and revising and revising and revising and wow.

The New and Improved

I have a new cover for Scandal. It should be go live across vendors as I fit in the uploads with revisions…

New cover for Scandal

I tried, I really, really tried, to post the first two chapters of A Notorious Ruin, but WordPress does not indent and I don’t have time to hack the css to make it do that. So, maybe next time? Or you could click on this link to a pdf (at the Riskies). Came out kind of nice.

A Notorious Ruin, Chapters 1-2

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Tuesday Pretties

Happy Tuesday, everyone!  Like Diane, i just got hit with some last-minute copy edits (though I will not be in England soon!  Waaah!).  So–let’s look at some pretty.  A court gown and train from the French court.  These are so intricate and sumptuous (though a bit heavy at the moment, considering it’s almost 100 degrees here…)

CourtGown1 CourtGown2

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Too Much Monday

Today I am a bit overwhelmed. I need to finish my revisions for Book One in The Scandalous Summerfields series, Bound By Duty, and need to get ready for my trip to England on The Duke of Wellington tour.

I’ll be in England next Monday!!

So I’m going to leave you a picture of me working diligently.

And a view of London from the Thames, taken from Ackermann’s Microcosm of London

Wish me luck that I will get everything done!

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A little something from the WIP

Almack'sI am thisclose to finishing the manuscript I’m working on, so rather than go off and do unrelated research, I am going to give you something from the first chapter.

My hero writes an anonymous fashion column and, here, he is framing it in his mind as he watches the guests at Almack’s

Almack’s glittered in its inimitable dingy way on Wednesday last. At least, let me say, that the attendees glittered, although some were more glittery than others. The handsome Miss S, London’s newest diamond showed the rest of the ton how an incomparable should look. Her sea foam green silk gown and silver net overdress – undoubtedly the work of Madame Cecily – was the perfect foil for Miss S’s silver-blonde hair and flawless skin. Her turn as a delectable sea creature did not go unnoticed by the formally-clad fisherman of Almack’s.

On the other side of the beach was Lady V, looking distinctly crab-like in her red satin panniers,  Do au courante ladies still wear panniers, I ask you? Someone should whisper the news in Lady V’s shell-like ear.

One could go on, but perhaps one shouldn’t, except to say that among the glittering throng, yours truly was the most glittering of all.

Simon does tend toward the nature metaphors, but he has quite a following among the ton.

I hope to have the last chapters completed before next week when, possibly, the research will continue.

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Murder and Medicine

Susanna here!

A week or two ago, I decided to count my to-be-read pile and discovered that between my Kindle and my bookshelves, I own over 300 unread books! Which is just crazy. I buy books faster than I read them, especially since I’m also getting books from the library that take precedence over the ones I own because I have to take them back in three weeks.

To lessen the madness a bit, I’ve decided that every third book I select to read has to come from the TBR. I don’t have to finish each book. I believe life is too short to waste time on books I don’t enjoy, so if I discover one of my impulse buys is poorly written, boring, annoying, or whatever and set it aside a chapter or two in, that still counts as clearing it.

research shelf

Almost a third of Mount TBR is composed of research books. I can’t walk through a used bookstore without checking out its history section and coming home with any likely-looking tomes on Wellington, Napoleon, the lives of women in the 18th and 19th centuries, and so on. And then there are all the times I’ve had an idea for a story, invested in some relevant research books, and for whatever reason either abandoned the idea or simply haven’t gotten around to writing it yet. So now I have all these books on Peninsular War battles like Salamanca and Busaco, on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, and on Scottish Highland Travellers, just to name a few topics. Sometimes I swear those books are giving me reproachful looks for abandoning them to gather dust on my shelves.

So I decided that at least one and preferably two of my TBR books each month have to come from the research shelf. I just finished the first such book, The Regency Underworld, by Donald Low. It’s an overview of crime, police work, and punishment during the Regency, all the way up until London’s first modern police force was created in 1829. If you’re interested in those topics, it’s a quick, worthwhile read.

Burke and Hare

Most of the book focuses on London, but one incident in Edinburgh caught my eye–the Burke and Hare Murders of 1828. Burke and Hare became serial killers after hitting upon a gruesomely lucrative moneymaking scheme. A tenant in their lodging house died of natural causes while owing Hare and his wife rent money, so they decided to sell his corpse to the anatomists at Edinburgh University rather than turning it over for proper burial. You see, back then the only legitimate source for medical cadavers was executed criminals…but by the early 19th century the number of executions was declining while medical school enrollment was growing. This led to a literally underground business for “resurrection men” who’d sneak into graveyards at night, dig up fresh corpses, and sell them to anatomists (who turned carefully blind eyes to where their cadavers were coming from).

Once our villains saw that the medical school would pay good money and not ask many questions, it quickly occurred to them to make their own corpses…and in the year or so it took them to get caught, they claimed sixteen victims, largely by targeting those who weren’t likely to be missed. The public horror once the crimes were revealed was instrumental in the development and passage of the Anatomy Act of 1832, which was designed to expand the legitimate supply of medical cadavers.

This is all fascinating enough on its own account…AND it’s given me the early germ of an idea for a story. In my January release, Freedom to Love, my heroine has a 13-year-old half-sister who learned healing at her mother’s knee and wishes she could study medicine. By the time of the Burke and Hare Murders, she’d be 26. Who’s to say she wouldn’t be living in Edinburgh at that point, perhaps as the young widow of a doctor or apothecary? If she was, she’d spend as much time as a woman could around the medical community, and who knows what she might suspect or witness? I can’t guarantee this story will happen–see above about abandoned ideas!–but it’s certainly fun to play with.

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Figures that dress and undress

Other than your hero/heroine, that is…

Fuller interior temple of fancy-thumb-450x321-20803Today I’m talking about paper dolls of the Regency period, but not the fashion figures that originated in France and were adopted by dressmakers and their clients, and their clients’ children in the 1790s. Paper dolls specifically for children were created and published by Samuel and Joseph Fuller in a series of  paper doll booklets–figures that dress and undress–and sold at their shop The Temple of Fancy on Rathbone Place in London. Attracting an upperclass clientele, the shop also sold prints and painting materials and supplies.

In mediocre rhyme, the books told an improving story with a hand-colored paper doll, outfits only, with a moveable head at the end of the book.  Hours of fun and instruction! Here’s an overview of The History of Little Fanny: Exemplified in a Series of Figures (1810) and you can play online paper dolls with Fanny here.

little_fanny_setI have seen a reproduction copy of Little Fanny and the storyline is depressingly moral. Little Fanny is far too interested in clothes and learns the virtues of plain living and hard work. Another title, Ellen, or, The Naughty Girl Reclaimed, pretty much speaks for itself.

But the boys. Oh, did the boys have fun. How about Frank Feignwell’s Attempts to Amuse His Friends on Twelfth-Night. You can dress and undress flamboyant young Frank here.

And then there’s The History and Adventures of Little Henry.

little_henry_setJust by looking at this you can see that Henry has a whale of a time, and you can view the book online here. First, he’s stolen by gypsies (moral lesson on inattentive nursemaid included) and becomes a beggar, then a chimney sweep, a drummer boy, and a sailor, rising through the ranks to return to England with fame and fortune. Huzzah!

So, yes. Boys can dress up and seek material success in life, but not girls. “The textual morals against love of clothing are gendered in problematic ways, with female characters mortified for this flaw more readily than male characters.” (A Story, Exemplified in a Series of Figures: Paper Doll versus Moral Tale in the Nineteenth Century by Hannah Field. More) And there’s also a great deal of self-satisfaction, one suspects, on the part of the well-heeled patrons of the Fullers’ shop, buying these idealized, smug stories for their own children.

For more online fun, Williamsburg has an online paper doll game and you can find downloadable Regency paper dolls, designed by a historian, at

Did you enjoy paper dolls as a child and/or with your own children?

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Ferocious Lions, Winged Bulls, & a New Novella

sketch of an Assyrian winged bull with the cover image of DEVIL'S RETURN

Earlier this year when I was in Berlin for the LoveLetter Convention, I visited the Pergamon Museum, which houses several truly fantastic artefacts from classical antiquity (like the huge, huge, HUUUUUUGE Pergamon Altar), among other things. I wasn’t really all that clear about those other things, so I was completely bowled over when I went through the entrance hall and up to the first floor & found myself facing the magnificent Ishtar Gate from Babylon. It is one of the most mind-bogglingly beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

Lion from the Ishtar Gate, Pergamon Museum, Berlin
But I was almost as thrilled when I found several sculptures and bas-reliefs from other ancient cities of the Near East in another suite of rooms – like Mr. Human-Headed Winged Bull here. (I might have even squeed a little.) (Quietly.) (Totally on the inside.) (I think…)

human-headed winged bull in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin
All that inside squeeing was due to the fact that the hero of my novella DEVIL’S RETURN has taken part in Austen Henry Layard’s excavations of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrod, where he would have seen the same kind of statues and bas-reliefs I was admiring in the Pergamon Museum:

So Alex told them about Layard’s latest excavations, and their plan to prepare for his visit later this year. He described the alabaster sphinx that had been found in one of the buildings of Nimroud, and the strange creatures in the bas-reliefs: ferocious lions and winged bulls with human heads, dragons and fearsome monsters with heads of lions, bodies of men, and feet of birds.

Many of the 18th and 19th-century archaeological excavations seem to have been done in a rather haphazard way (“Oh, look! There’s a mound! Let’s dig it up and see what’s inside!”) and very often by people who were mostly interested in the pretty things they could drag back home and show off to their friends & acquaintances. (Lord Elgin and the sculptures from the Parthenon come to mind here.) (Though, to be fair, he seems to have primarily wanted to get them for the British Museum, not for his own sitting room.)

In other cases, archaeological excavations were motivated by a desire to give the finger to Britain’s neighbors across the Channel, in particular to the arch-rival France. Indeed, securing Assyrian antiquities for the British Museum to rival those in the Louvre was one of the main reason for the British ambassador in Istanbul, Sir Stratford Canning, to finance Layard’s first excavations. In 1846 Layard received additional funding from the British Museum itself for the excavations that are briefly described in DEVIL’S RETURN. The first of the artefacts Layard found (i.e., the bas-reliefs and sculptures he had removed from the walls of the ancient city) arrived in London in 1850 and were soon exhibited at the British Museum, where, judging from the long article in The Illustrated London News, they received considerable interest.

illustration of an Assyrian sculpture from an article in THE ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS
DEVIL’S RETURN is out now (Amazon | Kobo). Follow my adventurer-hero Alexander Crenshaw from the ancient cities of Assyria to the fashionable soirées of London high society, where he will face the biggest challenge of them all: his long-lost love…

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Beach Romance?

First of all–winners!  The winner of my own Betrayed By His Kiss is…Laurel Hawkes.  The winner of Linda Carroll-Bradd’s Capturing the Marshal’s Heart is…Louisa Cornell.  And the winner of one of Alicia’s dean’s titles is…Janine Gallant!  If you could all email me your info at amccabe7551 AT yahoo, I will get them sent to you asap….

Portugal1I am finally starting to get back into the work-home routine, after all the excitement of getting (yay!) married and being on vacation.  (And many, many thanks to everyone for the congrats and good wishes!  It is so wonderful).  First order of business–starting my next book for Harlequin Historicals, which I am actually loving–it’s a Regency set in Brazil!  So there are tropical sunsets, beaches (though not too many–Rio was actually not very near a beach then, and it was very hard to reach), but with lovely muslin gowns and Neoclassical art.  Fun!!!

This story was inspired when I happened to come across the book Empire Adrift: The Portugese Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808-1821 by Patrick Wilcken, the story of the Braganzas, the royal family of Brazil, and a court of overv 15,000 people fleeing to Brazil ahead of invading Napoleonic forces.  I knew very little about this aspect of the wars, but found it amazing in so many ways.  A family that was the very definition of “dysfunctional” (the Prince Regent John VI ruled for his insane mother Queen Maria; as children, he had married his Spanish cousin Carlota, and they had many children together but hated each other, and Carlota spent her life plotting against him.  Sound familiar??), plopping their aristocratic Iberian ways into the middle of a tropical colony, with political skullduggery swirling all around them.  A great backdrop for an exciting story, I thought.

PortugalCourt2My characters are English–the hero is a Naval officer who is part of the convoy assigned to escort the Portugese to Brazil in November 1808 (they departed on November 29, in a scene of immense chaos, but didn’t arrive at their ultimate destination in Rio until March 7, 1809.  They didn’t return to Portugal until 1821).  My heroine is the daughter of an English diplomat, who has been serving as his hostess for many years.  But our hero and heroine have a secret past together!  Can they keep it hidden under the warm skies of Rio???

I’m sure I will be sharing many more historical tidbits and images as I make my way through this story, but this is just the beginning.  What’s your favorite “unusual” setting for a story?  Where would you like to see more titles set in the future???

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Read a Regency Romance!

2014-sidebannerToday I’m one of the authors for Read A Romance Month, which is taking the whole month to celebrate romance and to encourage readers to read a romance!

Read A Romance Month is an idea conceived by romance fan, NPR feature writer and Kirkus reviewer, Bobbi Dumas, as a way for romance authors and fans to come together to celebrate the genre they love–Romance!

Bobbi lined up 93 authors to write essays about celebrating romance and who answer some fun interview questions. I’m delighted to be a part of it. You can read my essay here.

One of the interview questions for the authors was to tell about a book that changed our lives. I did not choose one book, but a whole genre–the genre of Regency Romance!

I didn’t discover Regency Romance until after I’d started writing. I’d read a few of the historical romance groundbreakers, like The Flame and The Flower, but when my friend Helen pointed me to the traditional regencies and to Georgette Heyer, I found the world where I belonged!

I can think of three books that stood out for me in that period, although I’d read dozens. I devoured the Signets and Zebras and I still miss those shorter “trads.”

jpeg1. The Rake and The Reformer by Mary Jo Putney

The Rake and the Reformer was the first traditional regency I read and I loved it. I loved the characters and the real issues they struggled with. I loved the world they lived in. I was hooked. Mary Jo went on to rerelease this book in a longer version titled The Rake, but I always preferred the story in its original form.

VenetiaNovel2. Venetia by Georgette Heyer

I loved Heyer’s Regency romps, but Venetia, for me, was pure romance and that was what I loved about it. It was so clear to me how these two characters needed and deserved each other and I loved how Heyer brought about the happy ending.

91cbc8f1c531b62592f78425641434d414f41413. The Last Frost Fair by Joy Freeman

This book gets mixed review on sites where it is rated, but I loved it. It was so very emotional and its hero and heroine needed to go through so much before they found their happy ending. Before reading this, I had no idea that a Frost Fair on the Thames could have existed.

unlikelyduch4I could also have included the early traditional regencies by Mary Balogh to this list–An Unlikely Duchess and A Precious Jewel, are two that come to mind. An Unlikely Duchess was as madcap as Heyer could be, and A Precious Jewel showed me that an author could be daring in her choice of characters and story lines and still write a successful romance.

When Amanda, Megan, Janet, and Elena, who were all writing traditional-but-risky regencies at the time, asked me to join Risky Regencies blog, I was delighted that they thought my books fit in with theirs, because they were also writing the sort of books that changed my life!

What Regency romances were important for you?

Go to Read a Romance Month for a chance to win a signed copy of A Lady of Notoriety!

Posted in Reading, Regency, Risky Book Talk | 5 Comments

Summer’s going fast!

Salt_Springs_2014_3I’m insanely busy, so my apologies for a quick, catch-up kind of post.

I haven’t had a great deal of time for writing, but I’m still doing some story brainstorming. Last weekend, I spent a day at Salt Springs State Park in PA with friends from church. I hiked up a waterfall (no pics of the waterfall as I am too klutzy to dare carry a camera or phone while doing something like that) and also walked along the creek. Later I spent some time working on ideas for another novella, this time a sequel to Lady Em’s Indiscretion, rounding out the trilogy.

Salt_Springs_2014_5I’ve also been working on another Big Project which I’ll tell you all about when the time gets closer.

Now I’m concentrating on getting my oldest ready to head off to college next week. So many emotions! I had a mini-meltdown, breaking into tears as we were leaving Bed, Bath & Beyond yesterday. But I’m excited too, and of course happy that my daughters have opportunities not available to ladies in the Regency. (Read more about education during the Regency in this article by Cheryl Bolen.)

A fan has suggested I write a story inspired by these experience, kind of “Yentl in the Regency”. I don’t know. Has that already been done? How’s everyone else spending the end of this summer?


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