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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Reader, I Married Him

“Mr. Collins to be sure was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary.  But still he would be her husband.  Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.  This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it.”

on Charlotte Lucas’s marrying Mr. Collins
Pride & Prejudice, Volume 1, Chapter 22

1_MG_9842Last week, at 6:30 on a Friday evening, I married my sweetheart (and future romance novel inspiration), Kyle!  It was nothing like Charlotte Lucas’s pragmatic arrangement, really nothing like a small church Regency wedding at all (except that it was small!  We married in the garden of a hotel in Taos, New Mexico, with 10 people there including us, and a lovely dinner with cake and champagne after).  There were no grand spectacles, a la Marie Antoinette’s great crush or the Cambridges’ regalness, but it was beautiful and romantic, and exactly what we wanted.  It was a day I never thought would come for me–walking down the aisle toward a man I am madly, romance novel-style in love with, my best friend and partner in a crime.  And now we’ve stared a new life together, which I find to be amazing (and scary as heck, natch).

1 IMG_1054My dress was a pale pink silk and soft white organza, with a pleated bodice and pearl-beaded satin belt, strapless with a pleated bodice, and I told the salon I wanted a “fairytale” look for the hairstyle and makeup, which I think they did so well with long curls and soft lipstick.  The vows were tailored just toward us, how we met, how we share a love of music and theater and creativity, and my best friend and her husband read a lovely poem that perfectly depicts “us.”  (see it at the end of this post!).  The rain held off until just after we finished the photos and went in to dinner, so all went off perfectly. :)



1 IMG_1059Next year we’d like to renew our views in England, maybe Bath in Regency attire at the Pump Room, or Tudor garb at Hever Castle.  Or maybe I’ll be crazy, get a Kate lookalike gown and parade around Westminster Abbey!!!  With him, the adventure is endless.

What was your wedding like?  What would you have done differently/the same?  Where would you have a wedding now?  And whos had your very favorite wedding ever (in books, in history, or in real life!).  We have wedding fever here today….in fact, I will give away a signed copy of my book “Betrayed By His Kiss” (not out til October!) to one commenter on the subject of weddings….

“I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard Warburg

I like you and I know why.
I like you because you are a good person to like.
I like you because when I tell you something special, you know it’s special
And you remember it a long, long time.
You say, “Remember when you told me something special?”
And both of us remember

When I think something is important
you think it’s important too
We have good ideas
When I say something funny, you laugh
I think I’m funny and you think I’m funny too

I like you because you know where I’m ticklish
And you don’t tickle me there except just a little tiny bit sometimes
But if you do, then I know where to tickle you too

You know how to be silly
That’s why I like you
Boy are you ever silly
I never met anybody sillier than me till I met you
I like you because you know when it’s time to stop being silly
Maybe day after tomorrow
Maybe never
Too late, it’s a quarter past silly!

That’s because you really like me
You really like me, don’t you?
And I really like you back
And you like me back and I like you back
And that’s the way we keep on going every day

If you go away, then I go away too
or if I stay home, you send me a postcard
You don’t just say “Well see you around sometime, bye”
I like you a lot because of that
If I go away, I send you a postcard too
And I like you because if we go away together
And if we are in Grand Central Station
And if I get lost
Then you are the one that is yelling for me

I like you because I don’t know why but
Everything that happens is nicer with you
I can’t remember when I didn’t like you
It must have been lonesome then
I like you because because because
I forget why I like you but I do

So many reasons
On the 4th of July I like you because it’s the 4th of July
On the fifth of July, I like you too
If you and I had some drums and some horns and some horses
If we had some hats and some flags and some fire engines
We could be a HOLIDAY
We could be a CELEBRATION
We could be a WHOLE PARADE

See what I mean?
Even if it was the 999th of July
Even if it was August
Even if it was way down at the bottom of November
Even if it was no place particular in January
I would go on choosing you
And you would go on choosing me
Over and over again

That’s how it would happen every time
I don’t know why
I guess I don’t know why I really like you
Why do I like you
I guess I just like you
I guess I just like you because I like you.

Posted in Frivolity, Giveaways, Weddings | 9 Comments

The Duke of Wellington and The Tower Of London

The_Duke_of_Wellington_(1839)_by_George_HayterOne of the stops on the Duke of Wellington tour (only 3 more weeks and I’ll be in London!) will be the Tower of London. I’m very excited about this because I’ve never visited the Tower of London.

What, you ask, does the Tower have to do with the Duke of Wellington? The duke was Constable of the Tower from 1826 to 1852.

The Constable of the Tower has always been a prestigious one. Although now the role is largely ceremonial, in Wellington’s time the Constable was the man in charge of the Tower, and, typical of Wellington, he set about to make improvements.

rb_fight1. He closed the Royal Menagerie.
The Royal Menagerie had been at the Tower since the early 1200s and had housed all sorts of exotic animals, like ostriches, elephants, lions, tigers, kangaroos, etc. The waste from the animals drained into the moat, creating disease and noxious odors, plus there were some vicious animal attacks, including a fight between a Bengal tiger, tigress and a lion, ending in the lion’s death. The animals were moved to the London Zoo at Regent’s Park.

2. He drained the moat.
The Surgeon General at the time described the moat as ‘impregnated with putrid animal and excrementitious matter… and emitting a most obnoxious smell.’ The moat was blamed for several soldier’s deaths and for cholera outbreaks. The Duke drained the moat and created a dry ditch or fosse that visitors see to this day.

Tower_of_London_at_night23. He build the Waterloo Barracks.
To adapt the Tower for modern warfare and a professional army, he closed the Tower pubs, instead creating an army canteen and an officer’s mess. He built the Waterloo Barracks to house 1,000 soldiers. The Waterloo Barracks is also where the Crown Jewels are kept.

4. He made the awarding of Yeoman Warder to be based on distinguished military service.
Before Wellington’s time as Constable, the post of Yeoman Warder could be purchased for 850 guineas or even inherited within families. The Duke brought these practices to an end.

5. He oversaw the rebuilding of the Tower after the fire of 1841.
After the fire, Wellington strengthened the Tower, making it secure from potential civil unrest.

6. He increased the number of visitors to the Tower.
Under the Duke, tourism at the Tower increased–much to his displeasure. Wellington did not approve of public visiting the Tower. He felt them a nuisance and a threat to security.

The Tower will have a special exhibit of the Duke of Wellington’s influence during his time as Constable of the Tower on the newly opened North Walk. I can’t wait to see it!

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Kensington Gardens, 1798
Kensington Gardens, 1798

In the late 18th Century, landscape architect, Lancelot “Capability” Brown, diverged from the rigidly formal gardens favored at the time and designed naturalistic landscapes, breaking up the gardens with “follies, cascades, lakes, bridges, ornaments, monuments, meadows and wood.” (The Omnipotent Magician: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, 1716-1783 by Jane Brown).

One of his legacies appears to have been a nice collection of shrubbery into which my characters keep disappearing. Early in the manuscript on which I’m working, the hero takes the heroine off the beaten path in Kensington Gardens and into a rather lovely shrubbery during which stroll they are, alas, interrupted. But don’t worry. There will be other shrubberies.

Unfortunately, my hero finds himself in a shrubbery with the wrong woman during a morning party at a London estate. Fortunately, he is rescued by the hostess. Today, I thought I’d share the rescue with you.

Simon was dumbstruck. It wasn’t that he was unaware of his sister-in-law’s wishes and he would have to be blind and deaf to miss Lady Margaret’s blatant overtures. He had not, however, expected such a flagrant bid for a proposal. He knew he shouldn’t have gone near the shrubbery.

As Simon stared in amazement at the woman clinging to his arm, and searched his mind for an appropriate response that would not land him in front of a parson, he was saved by a party led by Lady Frampton. The hostess was ostensibly leading a group through a tour of her gardens. From the conversation, it seemed as though she had just run them through the parterre and hustled them into the shrubbery where she claimed to have the largest Hawthorne in Middlesex County. Simon smiled. Perhaps Lady Frampton had found her missing sheep. The group stopped abruptly in front of Simon and Lady Margaret.

“Join us?” Lady Frampton asked.

“We were just returning to the garden,” Simon said, on a sigh of relief.

“Very well, then. Off with you.” Lady Frampton nodded, and Simon could have sworn, winked again. 

And so, having shared this with you, I return to the manuscript. I am very near to reaching the ultimate shrubbery.

Posted in Regency, Writing | 3 Comments

Vacation Miscellany

steelsongSo here I am on Friday morning, and unusually for me, I did not have my post written in advance. From unpacking and catching up from my two week vacation, I’ve moved into Trying-Not-To-Panic Mode while getting ready to send off my oldest to college. So maybe I’ll talk some more about things I enjoyed during vacation—with a tiny bit of Regency interest thrown in.

One thing I love about vacation is having more time to read. One of the many books I enjoyed over break is Steel and Song, the first in a new steampunk series by Ani Bolton. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of steampunk but hadn’t actually read anything before this. I was caught up by the world-building and the compelling characters.

Poseidon_Exhibit_CardAfter the Club Med interlude, I spent a few days in Orlando with my husband’s family and visited two museums. Among the offerings at the Tampa Museum of Art was an exhibit on “Poseidon and the Sea: Myth, Cult and Daily Life” .  I saw some lovely and intriguing ancient objects and realized how much my daughters knew about the mythology (their interest sparked by Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series). Some of the depictions of ladies in the exhibit reminded me again of the influence of the classics on the Regency. Not only did Regency ladies often wear classically-inspired clothing and hairstyles, the way they were depicted in fashion prints–that straight line from forehead to nose–resembles ancient depictions of women.









Morse_Museum_CardLater, I visited the Morse Museum in Orlando, which houses “the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933)”. It was a feast for the eyes and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves art and/or needs a break from theme parks.

So what have you enjoyed this summer?  Any good summer reads?


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First look at Outlander

Outlander has been a long time coming and it’s finally arrived–you can watch the first episode online here even if you’re not a Starz subscriber. I thought I’d share my thoughts on this first episode. Whatever its faults, I don’t believe there is one careless frame–even the (eeew) field surgery scenes are beautiful in their way. There’s a whole lot of very effective playing around with light and filters–the present day (immediately after WW2) sequences, for instance have a sepia, historic feel to them–and it all looks amazing.

outlander_62462The camera lingers on Caitriona Balfe’s stunning face. Most often she’s gazing at her husband Frank, who is not looking much at her. In fact I liked the scenes with Frank better than the scenes with the Scotsmen, where she comes over as predominantly sulky and stone faced. Maybe she caught it from Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie imageswith a limited repertoire of expressions–I think I counted about three variants on stoic bearing of pain–although there are a couple of flashes of manly thigh. I wait to be impressed.

There is a huge amount of historical filth and grime–the first appearance of a Scotsman suggests a walking collection of rags in the land of bad haircuts. The countryside is gorgeous. The horses are nice.

So what’s not to love? Well, the pacing is off, off, off. Those of us who’ve read the book(s) know that Claire will be going through the stones. Does she get there in episode 1? Eventually, yes. Compared to the brief, brilliant flashback that shows the young Claire on an excavation (lighting a cigarette for her archaeologist uncle, tsk tsk–what, children smoking???–a nice touch) the setup goes on and on and on. I wonder whether it would have been possible to have Claire going through the stones as the end of episode one.

And when she does go through … well, surely this is the Big Moment. We get a black screen. Good. Then … oh dear, flashback to car wreck which is what Claire compares it to, although not I believe in the book, pulling us right out of the moment (and I rarely meets a flashback I don’t like). Bad. I was really hoping for a sort of Hitchcockian Vertigo moment here, lots of wobbly camera effects and panic. Maybe a Blair Witch moment.

Really, all in all, there’s a lot that happens in this first episode but it doesn’t feel that way on the small screen. It’s both disjointed and repetitive. Claire swears, Scotsmen and/or English officers threaten her, she runs, she gets a bit more dirty, performs first aid, rinse and repeat.

I have the greatest admiration for Diana Gabaldon, whose episodic technique was a revelation to me when I heard her speak about twelve years ago: that you can skip onto a scene that you’re dying to write or even a scene that seems to have no particular place to go (yet). Reading her now, I find myself thinking, this scene is great, but really, what are we doing here? Do we ever meet this character again? Do we have to remember him/her? I suspect the TV series will have too many moments like this as well, and it’s too bad.

But, yes, I’ll be watching. Will you, have you? What did you think?

Posted in TV and Film | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments