Amanda’s The Queen’s Christmas Summons

Diane here, posting for Amanda whose WordPress is doing wonky things. Here’s Amanda!

christmassummonscover1I’m so happy to be back at the Riskies today! I hope I can still be considered a part-time (or honorary) Risky). I’m also so excited to have the chance to talk a bit about the history behind the book for my new release The Queen’s Christmas Summons. This story has been brewing in my mind for a long time, ever since I was a little girl and my grandmother (who was very proud to be Irish, and have the famous “black Irish” looks of dark hair, olive skin, and bright blue eyes) told me she was descended from a shipwrecked Spanish soldier who landed on Ireland’s coast in a storm and married a Galway woman. This story, while fantastic, is almost certainly a family legend, but it made me wonder—what would really happen if two such people met??? That’s how John (an English spy planted with the Armada) and his love Alys came to be. She saves his life on the Irish shore—and they meet up later at the queen’s own court for Christmas.

I’ll be giving away a signed copy of The Queen’s Christmas Summons to one lucky commenter, chosen at random.

The paperback is available now at bookstores and online venues. The ebook will be released November 1.

                        The Spanish Armada (Grande y Felicisima Armada, “great and most fortunate navy”) was one of the most dramatic episodes of the reign of Elizabeth I, and one of her defining moments. If it had succeeded, the future of England would have been very different indeed, but luckily, weather, Spanish underpreparedness, and the skill of the English navy were on the queen’s side. The mission to overthrow Elizabeth, re-establish Catholicism in England, and stop English interference in the Spanish Low Countries, was thwarted.
King Philip began preparing his invasion force as early as 1584, with big plans for his fleet to meet up with the Duke of Parma in the Low Countries, ferry his armies to England, and invade. His first choice as commander was the experienced Marquis of Santa Cruz, but when Santa Cruz died Philip ordered the Duke of Medina Sedonia to take command of the fleet. The Duke was an experienced warrior – on land. He had no naval background, and no interest in leading the Armada, as the invasion fleet came to be called. He begged to be dismissed, but Philip ignored the request, as well as many other good pieces of advice about adequate supplies and modernizing his ships.

After many delays, the Armada set sail from Lisbon in April 1588 (in The Queen’s Christmas Summons, it carries my hero, an English spy, along with it!). The fleet numbered over 130 ships, making it by far the greatest naval fleet of its age. According to Spanish records, 30,493 men sailed with the Armada, the vast majority of them soldiers. A closer look, however, reveals that this “Invincible Armada” was not quite so well armed as it might seem.  Many of the Spanish vessels were converted merchant ships, better suited to carrying cargo than engaging in warfare at sea. They were broad and heavy, and could not maneuver quickly under sail.  The English navy, recently modernized under the watch of Drake and Hawkins, was made up of sleek, fast ships, pared down and easy to bring about, which would prove crucial.

A series of signal beacons atop hills along the English and Welsh coasts were manned. When the Spanish ships were at last sighted off The Lizard on July 19, 1588, the beacons were lit, speeding the news throughout the realm. The English ships slipped out of their harbor at Plymouth and, under cover of darkness, managed to get behind the Spanish fleet. When the Spanish finally reached Calais, they were met by a collection of English vessels under the command of Lord Howard.

The English set fireships adrift, using the tide to carry the blazing vessels into the massed Spanish fleet. Although the Spanish were prepared for this tactic and quickly slipped anchor, there were some losses and inevitable confusion. On Monday, July 29, the two fleets met in battle off Gravelines. The English emerged victorious, although the Spanish losses were not great; only three ships were reported sunk, one captured, and four more ran aground. Nevertheless, the Duke of Medina Sedonia determined that the Armada must return to Spain. The English blocked the Channel, so the only route open was north around the tip of Scotland, and down the coast of Ireland. Storms scattered the Spanish ships, resulting in heavy losses.
By the time the tattered Armada regained Spain, it had lost half its ships and three-quarters of its men, leaving a fascinating trove of maritime archaeological sights along the Irish coast (and myths of dark-eyed children born to Irish women and rescued Spanish sailors! In reality, most of them met fates far more grim and sad). Among this most unlikely of places, John and Alys meet and find love!

Did any of this history of the Armada surprise you? Remember to leave a comment about the Armada or about The Queen’s Christmas Summons for a chance to win a signed copy!

If you’d like to read more about this fascinating time, here are a few sources I liked:

Robert Milne-Tyne, Armada!, 1988

Ken Douglas, The Downfall of the Spanish Armada in Ireland, 2009

Neil Hanson, The Confident Hope of a Miracle: The True History of the Spanish Armada, 2003

Laurence Flanagan, Ireland’s Armada Legacy, 1988

James Hardiman, The History of the Town and Country of Galway, 1820

Colin Martin, Shipwrecks of the Spanish Armada, 2001

Garrett Mattingly, The Armada, 1959

Posted in Giveaways, History, Risky Book Talk | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Farewell post: Romantic Halloween

Hello Riskies! It is with great sorrow that I announce that today marks my last Risky post. It’s been wonderful being part of your community for the last two years. Stay in touch! (The best ways to do that are probably to follow me on Twitter or sign up for my newsletter.

Next week is Halloween. I’m pretty excited because the BFF and I are dressing up as our two favorite wrestlers, who are also BFFs!

When I was researching Sussex for my Lively St. Lemeston books, I discovered that traditionally, Halloween in Sussex was a pretty romantic holiday! Or at least, it was a time when young people attempted to divine their romantic future. Here are two divinatory games/rituals that were played on Halloween:

1. Put two nuts in the fire, representing you and your crush. Then say “If he loves me, pop and fly; If he hates me, lie and die.” If the nuts burst or explode, scattering pieces, that’s a good omen for the relationship.

2. Everyone hangs an apple on a string in front of the fire, and then watches to see which fall first. The order in which the apples fall supposedly tells you the order in which the players will marry; the player whose apple falls last will never marry.

What are your Halloween plans?

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The Battle of Trafalgar

trafalgar_by_radojavorYesterday was the 211th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. Shouldn’t we take a moment to remember it? Famously the battle where Admiral Nelson was killed, it is considered by historians to be hugely significant for a different reason –they cite the battle as the defining point in the power of the British Navy that dominated the 19th century world from then on.

As with most topics, once you poke the surface, there are so many directions to go in! For one, there is the fact that Nelson’s ship, H.M.S. Victory, hms-victoryis still a commissioned British Navy vessel, 257 years after she was built. She is the official flagship of the First Sea Lord of the British Navy. Has anyone visited or seen it?

Then, there are all the artistic renderings of the death of Nelson, a dramatic event guaranteed to capture the public’s imagination, as well as that of countless aspiring and established artists.  Benjamin West’s painting is probably the most famous, with an epic feel in the lighting and composition. death_of_nelson


Accuracy was not important to West, who included portrayals of all sorts of people who weren’t actually there, not to mention that Nelson didn’t die quite so instantly. But the same flaws can be pointed to in most of the other paintings –the one by Devis, for instance, which shows Nelson dying below decks in a glow of unearthly light. They were never intended to be a historical record. deathofnelsondevis

Nelson himself was a fascinating character of our period. It just seems like we should give him a passing nod on this anniversary and consider the impact his life and leadership had on the rest of the century that followed after his death. Hats off!!


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Colonial Spirits & a Bit of News

I’m super excited to share the news that I’ll be giving THREE workshops at next year’s Historical Novel Society conference in Portland. I’m giving my popular History of Underthings workshop, co-presenting my Georgian and Victorian “kickshaws” workshop with Delilah Marvelle, and I’ll be giving the big Friday night kickoff workshop: Hooch Through History. If you want to join me, registration opens at the end of the month.

As soon as I’d hashed out the details of what they wanted for the Hooch workshop, I saw that Steven Grasse (booze god, creator of Sailor Jerry rum and Hendrick’s gin) was going to be talking about his book Colonial Spirits at a local bookshop. I immediately made plans to go, and I’m so glad I did. His talk was entertaining and informative, and the sample colonial cocktails were amazing.


Of course I bought the book (research!) and I’ve really been enjoying perusing it. How can you not love a book that’s intro includes: “These drinks may get you drunk. They may put hair on your chest. But they will not, we are proud to say with some measure of confidence, kill you.” Well ok then …

There’s a ton of interesting information in the book (both historical and anecdotal) as well as many recipes that I’m dying to try out! I’ve done a little brewing in my life, and I may have to put that experience (and a few friends and their brewing supplies) to work in the coming months.

I absolutely have to try out George Washington’s recipe for small beer. I know we’ve all read about small beer, and I’ve actually had it at reenactments, but I’ve never made it. In case anyone hasn’t heard of it, small beer (or small ale) is an ale with a low alcohol content that was commonly consumed by people the way we consume water today. I’ve always read that small ale was made by reusing the mash (so brew ale, then brew again, like reusing a tea bag). But George Washington and Grasse disagree. So this is going to have to be attempted.


Luckily, some of the recipes don’t require brewing and I had all the ingredients on hand. So there was immediate experimentation (in the name of science and history!). My first experiment is the Hop Flip. It’s a combination of rum, beer, molasses, and a raw egg. Flips go back to at least the 17thC. They began as beer, rum, and some kind of sweetener, heated with a hot poker (basically, it’s a type of hot punch, something to warm your bones on a cold, damp night).


I’m horrified to report that it’s not bad. Basically a lot like a hot, alcoholic egg cream. Not something that will be taking over from the Hot Toddy for me, but I’m not sorry I tried it and I’d totally make it again at an event.

Are there any historical drinks you wonder about as an author or a reader? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to cover them in the upcoming months.

Posted in Food, History, Isobel Carr, Regency | 4 Comments

Blogs: Past Present and Future

Blogs are one of the best developments of the Internet. They have given inividuals a chance to share their interests in everything from Period fashion to Type II Diabetes. But I think that blogs are fading in popularity. Be warned most of my evidence is anecdotal.

First and foremost time is a factor. We all seem to have less of it. I can’t be the only one who never quite finishes the ‘to do’ list and rarely has (or makes) time to go back to the blogs I’ve saved for a few free minutes Honesty compels me to admit that I usually use those free minutes to watch TV, read or play games. There is a point where the last thing I want is something else that will make me think. So TIME is the big factor in my lessening interest in blogs.

Facebook figures in the equation. It’s easy to share an idea there. Reddit has a generational following that is significant and you can pursue or introduce categories that interest you and hopefully find an audience who feels the same.. Pinterest is ideal for those who love a visual representation of their favorite subjects. And Twitter makes the sharing quick and pointed.

How can blogs bear up against all those other ways to share what intrigues us?

That said I bet we all have blogs we still follow. One of my favorites is Mimi Matthews whose field is social history:

So I have three questions for you. Do YOU think blogs are losing ground? Why (whether you answer yes or no.)? And finally, what blogs do you still follow and want to share? Answer one or two or all three. Thanks!

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Regency Treasures in Worcester, MA

elena_worcester_artLast weekend, I enjoyed a visit to the Worcester Museum of Art. It’s not a huge museum like another favorite, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but it has interesting collections, laid out and presented in a way that encourages conversation. My daughters and I had a lot of interesting discussions while going through the galleries at the leisurely pace we all enjoy.

This museum has an interesting collection of arms and armor, where this sword caught my eye. Labeled “Smallsword, about 1790”, it’s attributed to Josiah Wedgewood or possibly Matthew Boulton. I love jasperware and own a few modern pieces, and I’m always amazed to find it decorating unexpected items. In the MFA in Boston, there’s a pianoforte with jasperware medallions. Here, a sword.










Another treasure is this painting of “Mr. and Mrs. James Dunlop” by Sir Thomas Lawrence, who’s credited with painting portraits of some of our fictitious Regency characters as well as the real ones. The painting is dated 1825, which surprises me a little. Her dress seems earlier. Perhaps any costume experts here could weigh in? In any case, it’s a lovely image, something like I imagine our happy couples might look like.


I also love “The Banks of the Loire”, by Joseph Mallord Turner, exhibited in 1829. It has such a romantic feel!

I always feel inspired after visiting art museums. Has anyone else visited this one? What did you think? Do you have any favorite lesser-known gems like this one?


elena_greene_sampler_cover_areP.S. I now have a free sampler of my work, if you’d like to try before you buy. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and All Romance Ebooks.

Posted in Regency, Research | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Regency Mad Lib

Let’s see if this works. Make a note of your answers to the following polls:

You are attending a Regency Ball. What color is your gown?

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Your dear friend is . . .

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You walk into your boudoir and see a . . .

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When you walk along the lake you see a

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How handsome is that gentleman?

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Yesterday, you did not enter the ballroom at a walk, you

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Now, fit your answers (or the winners, your choice) into the sentence below. Hopefully you can copy and paste into the comments or something.

Miss Smythe’s face turned [First answer] when she heard the news that her money had gone [2nd answer]. All she had left in the world was a [3rd Answer]. Her brother, who had no more sense than a [4th Answer]. She had no choice but to ask her bother’s best friend  for help even though it would be [5th answer] fitting. As she crossed the street to his house, she [6th Answer] into his arms.

The End. Or is it?


Posted in Frivolity | Tagged | 5 Comments

Announcing Caroline Warfield’s winner

Using, Caroline Warfield has selected the winner of her giveaway from her visit with us on Sept 30. A-n-d the winner is: JUDY!! Caroline tells me Judy has already received her choice of either Dangerous Works or Dangerous Secrets, from Caroline’s “Dangerous”series. Congratulations, Judy!! Thanks for visiting us at Risky Regencies!

Posted in Giveaways, Guest, Uncategorized, Winner announcement, Winners announced | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Of Chestnuts and More: Research Pitfalls

conker Did you know that in Britain, the second Sunday in October is “National Conkers Day”?? Yes, yesterday you should have pulled out your best hardened-up horse chestnut on a string and challenged some other conker player to a match. What, you didn’t know? Well, I confess I didn’t either until I ran across this factoid while doing research for my current revisions.

So, this time it started because my heroine needed to climb a tree. Not just any tree, but a big old one, tall with spreading branches that would be stout enough for the job –not to mention that earlier in the story a cheetah needed to perch on one of said stout branches of the same tree.  horse-chestnut-tree-4  (I do know that cheetahs don’t climb trees. You’ll need to read the story –The Magnificent Marquess wasn’t originally and in the new version still won’t be your standard Regency romance.)

I thought a horse chestnut ought to do the trick, and they are common in Great Britain in modern times, but –I was pretty sure they aren’t native to Britain. So first thing to check: when were they introduced? Second thing to check: how big can they grow?

I’ve learned that in doing research, assumptions are the biggest stumbling-block (and often the hardest thing to recognize!). That’s where the conkers come back in. I found the info I needed (trees introduced from Persia/Turkey/the Balkans in the 16th century, can grow to 100 feet high). I thought about having children in the story engage in playing conkers since the tree was there.


Have you ever played conkers? I haven’t –but my husband says he did in his youth. I was aware of it as a thing people (mostly boys) used to do, and I assumed that conkers was a game well-venerated through the ages, human nature being what it is. And actually, it is. Just not with horse chestnuts.

2014 World Conkers, photo courtesy Jez Shimell

It seems, at least according to the sources I saw, that in earlier times conkers was played with snail shells, cobnuts, even stones, but conkers with horse chestnuts (they claim) is 20th century. I also saw the date 1848 given in several sources as the year of the first recorded conkers game, on the Isle of Wight. Victorian, and not with horse chestnuts, apparently. Now the World Conker Championships are held in Northamptonshire on the second Sunday in October every year.

1200px-stringing_conkersIt would take some more digging to verify if the sources I saw were actually correct. I did not take the time to look further. Too many rabbit holes out there, and time is always short. Who could prove they were the first person ever to put a horse chestnut on a string? I am not convinced that it was not being done during the Regency, or earlier, but it was also not important for my story. The point is the surprise. So often things I assume are old enough to be Regency turn out not to be. This is just one example.

I love doing research, and I do a lot of it. I like to think my stories “could have happened” even though I made them up. But the hardest part of doing story research isn’t finding the information –it’s figuring out what bits you need to check!

Of course, in the end, the story is what matters most. And all of us story-tellers hope that when the reader is engaged deeply enough, any glitches we missed won’t matter. What research pitfalls have you encountered, as a writer or a reader? If I had tripped over this one, would you have known, or cared?





Posted in Regency, Research, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

A last post

Dear Risky friends,

I’ve been on this blog since its very beginnings, way back in 2005 (I think) when Megan Frampton and I met up at a conference and decided that since we were both about to publish books that had sex in them (Fact: there was no sex in the Regency then unless it involved turgid members and hymens made of kryptonite) we needed a filth platform. And so the Riskies came into existence.

And now I’m going! Sure, I’ll always like the Regency period, particularly the servants and the clothes and the music. Not so much the Dukes and that’s why I’m no longer attempting to crack the Romance code. It’s been fun, and thank you to all of you who’ve visited, commented, bought our books, and entered our contests.

For old times’ sake, here are a few of my greatest hits in no particular order:

A funny. The Regencyland Hotline.

England’s first same-sex marriage in 1834. The documentary about Anne Lister is probably no longer available online but it’s worth hunting down. It’s narrated by Sue Perkins, one of the former hosts of the Great British Bake Off *(don’t know about the show’s crisis? Read all about it! and Mary left too).

All about Capability Brown, landscaper extraordinaire.

Rewriting the classics as Regency Romances.

A truly risky writer–George Eliot. Also why Daniel Deronda is like Thanksgiving turkey, because for a long time I blogged on Thursdays and had to come up with a turkey-related post.

Truly risky books–thoughts on Our Mutual Friend and Mansfield Park.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments