A little Friday fun

Susanna here, and so swamped under my current writing deadline for my 2015 historical romance, My Lady Defiant, that I don’t have time for any deep thoughts on the state of the romance genre or erudite discussion of my latest research discoveries. So instead I thought I’d share with you some of the inspiration that’s helping me see and hear my hero…

Everyone, say hello to Tom Hiddleston.

I could listen to him recite Shakespeare while selling cars all day:

And if that’s not enough for you, here he’s being Shakespearean on a horse:

And here he is teaching Cookie Monster about delayed gratification:

Frankly, this is the most I’ve ever focused on the actor I’d want to cast in the film adaptation of my book. I usually come up with an actor, an athlete or two who has the look I have in mind–I’m not that visual a thinker, so having an actual person to model a character upon helps me describe him or her better. Plus, when I’m filling out my cover art information sheet, I always like to include an image or two. If I describe Henry, my current hero, an elegantly handsome, leanly athletic, archetypically English blue-eyed dark blond, also linking to a nice Tom Hiddleston image shows my cover artist what all those adjectives and adverbs mean to me.

Yet this is the first time I’ve made a habit of watching an actor’s videos to help get me in the mood to write. Part of that is because the man in question is pretty yummy. Also, he has the right accent for the job, which couldn’t be said of Nathan Fillion (Will in The Sergeant’s Lady looks a lot like Firefly-era Fillion) or Cam Newton (my model for Elijah in A Dream Defiant’s brand of tall, dark, and athletic).

But I recently realized the main reason watching videos has helped me write Henry is that more than any other hero I’ve written, he spends his life playing a part. He was born with fairly severe dyslexia into a high-achieving, academically gifted family. So his life up until his book starts has been defined by his shame over what he considers his failure and stupidity, and he’s made an art form of avoiding any situation in which he might reasonably be expected to read aloud, write, or keep accounts. And then over the course of the book, he has to improvise even more than normal as he and the heroine spend most of the story running for their lives, pretending to be various people they aren’t to throw their pursuers off the scent. So imagining how a good actor might play my character helps me visualize how he plays himself, since he so rarely lets anyone see his whole truth.

What about you? Do you ever visualize actors or actresses playing the characters when you write or read?

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Apologies from Carolyn

Vicente_López_y_Portaña_-_Woman's_Head_-_Google_Art_ProjectCarolyn is prostrate with sorrow that the wonderful blog post she fully intended to write for today entirely slipped her mind!!

She promises to do better next week and we’ll all hold her to it, right????

What matter of importance have you forgotten lately? (The number of things I’m in danger of forgetting became so long I had to create a To-Do list)


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Lady In Red

1780s habit2
Habit, c. 1780s

This week’s post fulfills my promise to showcase red gowns. There are numerous extant examples, ranging from habits (red is a very common habit color, and the most common color for cloaks from what I can tell) to day dresses, to fancy evening gowns. They come in every fabrication possible (wool, silk, netting, linen, cotton) and appear across classes (you see plenty of reds in the scraps preserved in Threads of Feeling). Frankly, Pinterest is overrun with examples.

open robe 1790
Open Robe, c. 1790
1795 round kci
Round Gown, c. 1795
red net dress
Shawl Gown, c. 1800
Printed Gown, c. 1800-1805
1808 example front
Red Dot Apron Gown, c. 1800-1810
net dress 1811
Red Net Gown, c. 1810-1815
1820 1822 red muslin evening dress
Red Muslin Evening Gown, c. 1820


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Taxes and Wellington Winnner

Leaving_off_powder,_-_or_-_a_frugal_family_saving_the_guinea_by_James_GillrayI’ll bet many of you are doing your income tax returns right now. It is that lovely time of year. Income taxes. A topic that elicits strong emotion and, when filling out the returns, anxiety.

Did you know they had income taxes in the Regency?

Income taxes were first implemented in Great Britain in 1798 by William Pitt the Younger in order to pay for the impending war with Napoleon. It was a graduated income tax starting at 2 old pence in the pound for incomes over 60 pounds per year and rising to 2 shillings in the pound on incomes over 200 pounds.

This income tax was abolished in 1802 after the Peace of Amiens, but a new one was voted in in 1803, again because of the Napoleonic War. It wasn’t called an income tax, though. It was called a ‘contribution of the profits arising from property, professions, trades and offices,’ but, basically, it was an income tax.

Like our taxes, it even had different ‘Schedules.’ Schedule A was a tax on income from UK land. Schedule B, from commercial occupation of land. Schedule c was a tax on income from public securities. Schedule D was tax on trading income, income from professions and vocations, interest, overseas income and casual income (whatever that is!). Lastly, Schedule E was a tax on employment income.

The maximum tax rate seems minuscule to ours in the present day. It was only 5%, but, like all income taxes, it was very unpopular. After its repeal in 1816 Parliament ordered the destruction of all documents connected with it. This was all for show, though. The King’s Remembrancer made duplicates. 

Never fear, though. During that time there were many other taxes for the citizenry to complain about. Taxes on windows and glass, on servants, on carriages, on owning a dog (the more dogs, the more tax). And, of course, the tax on hair powder, which did its part in making that practice go out of fashion.

image1Winner of the Wellington (abridged) biography by Elizabeth Longford, in honor of The Duke of Wellington Tour, is……Louisa Cornell!! Louisa, I’ll be in touch by email.

So, who is having fun with taxes today?????

(By the way, I was quoted in a lovely blog post about Harlequin Historical on the USA Today Happy Ever After Blog!)

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Ladies of Ill-Repute

The Milk Sop - Thomas Rowlandson
The Milk Sop – Thomas Rowlandson

Moving along in my library, we leave last week’s Toilet of Flora, and move to my Georgian sex shelf.  On this shelf, we find the entertaining (and yet distressing) Harris’s List of Covent-Garden Ladies.  Like last week’s book, this is also now available to you in Google Books.  The one I’ve linked to is for 1789, but you’ll be able to extrapolate to a later date.

Harris’s list is sort of a Zagat’s guide to ladies of the evening. It was not, however, written by Jack Harris, but by one Sam Derrick, based on Jack Harris’s list. Mr Derrick apparently reached some sort of agreement for use of the list, and provided comprehensive descriptions of Mr. Harris’s ladies and where to find them.  Shall we look at a few?

Picking Cheerful - Thomas Rowlandson
Picking Cheerful – Thomas Rowlandson

The book opens with Miss D-vis, No. 22 Upper Newman-street. This is a fine lively girl, about twenty-one, rather above the middle size, genteelly made; has several good friends, but is much attached to young Br-om, the lottery-office-keeper, who is now in prison, where she often visits him; is ever obliging, and seldom out of humour, understands a great deal of her business, and never fails to please.

In No. 82, Queen Ann-street, we find Mrs. D-nby, who has found a neat way to make a little additional money by wearing her clients out and renting them a room for the night.

A fine plump lady, twenty-four years old, rather short with sandy colour hair, fine blue eyes, rather of an amorous constitution; when in the arms of an equally lewd partner, she never wishes to fall in the arms of sleep, whilst Venus holds her court, Morpheus is kicked out of doors, as she keeps the house, any gentleman may have a night’s lodging for one pound one shilling, and half the money if he can do the business well.

Mrs. D-l-v-t of No. 46 Hanover-street is apparently on hiatus but is thinking about returning to the business:

And Inclined Beauty - Thomas Rowlandson
And Inclined Beauty – Thomas Rowlandson

This lady is about thirty, she was bread a milliner, and married very young an attorney’s clerk, but as his income was not sufficient to support her in the manner she wished to live, she listened to the addresses of an American gentleman who made her a handsome allowance whilst he remained in England, and took some pains to persuade her to accompany him in his present visit to that quarter of the world, but she preferred old to new England. She is at present a housekeeper, but soon intends to quit her situation and retire to snug lodging as she has experimentally found that the frail sisterhood are vary bad pay mistresses.

We further learn that she has kept her looks and wields a “birchen rod” with dexterity (in case your taste runs in that direction). We also learn that she never never condescends to grant her favors for less than a guinea.

Let’s finish with Sally Cummins, Charles Street, Westminster who is a bluish eyed comely lass, but too much indebted to art for her complexion. She talks French, and sings agreeably, and in her cups is very religious, when you should find her to be a most bigoted Papist.  She sounds like fun, doesn’t she?

So, I leave you with another book to look into. Mr. Derrick has quite a way with words and one doesn’t know how much of this to take at face value. We do know, however, that it was based on Mr. Harris’s list, which was quite probably what it purported to be.  I also leave you with some illustrations by Thomas Rowlandson, who seems best fitted for this topic.


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Gail’s Winners and Lord Langdon’s Kiss Giveaway!

First of all, Gail would like to thank everyone who participated in the fantastic discussion of epilogues last week. She also asked me to announce the winners of her giveaway. Congratulations to Beth Elliott and Linda, who have won Kindle or Nook versions of The Captain’s Dilemma, the Regency romance which Gail has recently reissued with a lovely new epilogue.

This week I’m celebrating the reissue of my Regency, Lord Langdon’s Kiss, which unlike The Captain’s Dilemma, needed a lot more work than the addition of an epilogue. Lord Langdon’s Kiss was my first book, and although I’m proud that it sold, I’ve learned a lot in the fifteen years that have passed since I wrote it. In this version, I tackled an issue I’d shied away from the first time around and found that it helped me torture the hero a little more. That’s always a good thing. I also pruned out a lot of redundant introspection, cutting about 17,000 words. Maybe I can make a novella out of the chopped bits.

llkAnyway, I feel very happy about the revisions and I’m pretty sure I kept everything that people enjoyed about it the first time around. I’m hoping my favorite review is still true.

Lord Langdon’s Kiss is a fine Regency romp that will satisfy lovers of the genre like ice-cold lemonade on a hot afternoon. This is what Regency romance is all about.” (Four hearts) — The Romance Reader

I think the digital revolution has been a wonderful boon to the traditional Regency genre. It’s helped make many previously published Regencies available to new readers, and also opened up a market for new traditional Regencies, filling the void left when the major publishers ended their Regency lines.

Have you discovered or rediscovered any good traditional Regencies lately? Please share, for the chance to win a copy of Lord Langdon’s Kiss on Nook or Kindle.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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A Few Of Your Favorite Things?

In the comments, if you don’t mind, answer one or more of these questions:

1.  Name a few of your favorite historical romances. Books you’d want with you if you were stuck some place for a long time.

2. Are there types of stories you miss?

3. Duke. Pro or Con?

I’ll answer to get things started.

Mary Balogh’s A Summer To Remember is one of my all time faves. I loved Amanda Quick’s Ravished. I loved Karen Robard’s Loving Julia.

I miss the the big honking saga. I wish there were more Gothics. Once, I read a Regency-Set vampire book and I totally hated it. But now I wouldn’t mind. I can’t explain that.


But that doesn’t mean I’m not open to non-dukes.

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Invitation to a Tournament

Eglinton Castle in the early 19th century

You are invited to a tournament. In Scotland no less! There will be a few men in kilts, lots of people in medieval costume, knights in shining armor, and a multitude of shawls and bonnets that are, alas, neither waterproof nor color-proof. (Btw, you might want to bring an umbrella!!!)

“A tournament?” you might wonder. “Are we talking medieval romance now?”

Nope. We are talking about a tournament in 1839. That summer ten thousands of people — ultra-conservative members of the British aristocracy and gentry as well as people from all around the world — flocked to Ayrshire in Scotland and overran several small, sleepy villages (the traffic jams in the area were dreadful and unlike anything anybody in Ayrshire had ever witnessed) in order to watch young Lord Eglinton’s medieval spectacle. He and some of his friends were to don medieval armor (commissioned from Messrs. Pratt in Bond Street, London) and joust like medieval knights. You know, just like the characters in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe!

The noble knights had rehearsed for weeks in the garden of the Eyre Arms in St. John’s Wood (the “dress rehearsal” was watched by about 2000 people, which gives you some indication of the interest the tournament elicited), and they had given themselves proper chivalric names; names like The Knight of the Dragon (= the Marquis of Waterford) or The Knight of the Dolphin (= the Earl of Cassillis) or even The Knight of the Burning Tower (= Sir F. Hopkins). Lord Eglinton was Lord of the Tournament, and his stepfather Sir Charles Lamb acted as Knight Marshal of the Lists. As every tournament needs a Queen of Beauty to crown the victors, this role was given to Lady Seymour, who was allegedly one of the most beautiful women in all of Britain.

Doyle TournamentBut why would anybody want to give a tournament in 1839?

From the late 18th century onward, the Middle Ages had garnered new interest in Britain. The upper classes put medieval follies and fake ruins into their gardens or built themselves castles. Many of these neo-gothic buildings were invested with political symbolism, for medieval architecture became increasingly regarded as a symbol of Old England, where democracy was an unheard of thing. In addition, there was a flood of studies on all aspects of medieval life; portraits of people in medieval armor became all the rage; and Regency ladies amused themselves by painting medieval scenes on blinds.

But to spark the frenzy for all things medieval which emerged in the 19th century, it needed something more. It needed fiction written by an author who filled the imagination of his readers with images of noble knights and heroic deeds and whose imitators would feed and ever-growing audience with ever more glorious tales of the days of old when knights were bold. This author was Sir Walter Scott.

Numerous adaptations of Scott’s novels as well as his imitators increasingly presented audiences with an indealized version — a Disneyfied version, if you like — of the Middle Ages. The feudal age was transformed into a happy, glorious time when everybody knew their place and men were still men (hey, those knights fought against evil! and all kinds of monsters!! DRAGONS!!!!) and women stood helpless around, waiting to be rescued by a noble knight.

So when the old king died and a new queen was about to be crowned, everybody was looking forward to those age-old customs: the public state banquet for the Peers in Westminster Hall after the coronation service and that most wonderful ceremony of the King’s Champion riding into Westminster Hall and challenging all present to deny the queen’s right to the throne. It was going to be wonderful! Fabulous! And Sir Charles Lamb (Lord Eglinton’s stepfather) as Knight Marshal of the Royal Household was to marshal the Champion for Queen Victoria.

But then, alas, it was announced by the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, that the young queen was to be crowned without antiquated medieval pomp and circumstance. There would be no banquet. No Queen’s Champion.

The Tories were incensed. There were protests in the House of Lords against this “Penny Coronation,” yet despite heated arguments, the Prime Minister stood firm. Poor Sir Charles and his whole family were utterly disappointed. To cheer Lord Eglinton up, one of his acquaintances suggested that he should add some kind of medieval party to the next annual private horse race at Eglinton Park. And soon a rumour spread like wildfire: Lord Eglinton was going to give a tournament at his country estate in Ayrshire! How romanti! How exciting! And because Lord Eglinton was a bit of a young fool, he finally announced that the rumour was true and thus embarked on what Ian Anstruther has called “the greatest folly of the century.”


You’ll hear more about the Eglinton Tournament next month when I’m going to launch a new series of novellas set in the early Victorian age. In the first story, THE BRIDE PRIZE, my hero and heroine are going to meet at the tournament. In medieval costume, of course, but sans umbrella, alas.

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The Duke of Wellington Tour


The Duke of Wellington Tour
September 4 to 14, 2014

Diane: It is my pleasure today to welcome Kristine Hughes and Victoria Hinshaw of the fabulous blog, Number One London. Kristine, Victoria and I go way back. We became close during a tour of the UK, called The Romantic Road North tour, where Kristine was the tour’s historical expert (because she’s the author of The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England from 1811-1901) and Victoria and I were Regency authors soaking up research material.

We also came together as admirers and researchers of the Duke of Wellington.  I’m delighted to have them with us today to discuss their upcoming Duke of Wellington Tour scheduled for September of 2014.

In honor of the Duke of Wellington tour, I’m giving way a (very abridged) biography of Wellington by Elizabeth Longford to one lucky commenter, chosen at random.

Kristine and Victoria, can you tell us more about the tour?

Kristine:  The Tour features sites associated with the life and times of the Duke of Wellington. As you well know, the Duke played significant roles during the reigns of four monarchs – George III, George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria, for well over half a century.  Because of that, we’ve been able to put together a great itinerary. In addition to London, we’ll be visiting Kent, Brighton, Reading, and Windsor.

Diane: And we can bet you’ll come up with some unique adventure! Remember the Highwaymen who held up our coach at Belvoir Castle?

Kristine: Who could forget it!

Victoria: Don’t worry, we’ve include lots of unique opportunities on this tour, as well – a guided walking tour of St. James’s, a private dinner at the Grenadier Pub in London, a stop at the White Cliffs of Dover, luncheon at Wellington’s country home Stratfield Saye (below), and a river boat cruise in Windsor. Of course, we can’t tell you everything we’ve planned or they wouldn’t be secret.

Kristine: Yes, and it seems that the itinerary keeps changing, as well. We got an email from a curator at the Tower of London letting us know that they’ll be mounting a special exhibition on the Duke and his influence on the Tower that will be running at the same time as our visit, so we’ve substituted that for St. Paul’s.

Diane: How did you come up with the idea for the Duke of Wellington tour?

Victoria:  The Duke of Wellington was an obvious choice for our first Number One London tour. We called our blog Number One London, the original address of Apsley House, because the Duke’s lifetime stretched across the periods of British history that we’re most interested in – Georgian, Regency and Victorian.

Kristine:  The tour includes all the best bits from each of the historic periods.  Most of the sites, such as the Tower of London, Brighton Pavilion and Windsor Castle will appeal to a wide range of people with varied interests, from medieval prisons to Edwardian dollhouses.

Victoria: Yes, and then there are the stately homes we’ll be visiting, Apsley House, Basildon Park, the Regency Town House, and Highclere Castle – all have elements that run through various periods of British history.

Diane: What part of the tour are you most looking forward to?

Kristine: Hands down, Stratfield Saye. I’ve wanted to visit the Duke’s country house for years, but it’s very rarely open. I’m looking forward to seeing the house itself, the portraits of the Duke’s favourites in the dining room and I’m especially looking forward to visiting Copenhagen’s grave. But I’m also looking forward to revisiting sites I’ve been to before, this time with the emphasis on their connections to the Duke of Wellington.

Victoria: I want to stand in Highclere Castle (below) and just take in all that magnificence. I have a real love/hate thing going with the story of Downton Abbey, but I have unconditional admiration for the costumes and settings. Can’t wait to see the Van Dyke and Reynolds portraits, for example, not to mention the museum of Egyptian antiquities from the Earl of Carnarvon’s expeditions. We’re to be given a private guided tour through the house and we’ve also included lunch on the grounds.

Diane: What part of the tour was the hardest to arrange?

Kristine: Highclere Castle, without a doubt. Due to the popularity of Downton Abbey, they’ve been inundated with requests for visits, which they now have to fit in against filming schedules, so “open” days have had to be reduced. I believe they’re booked up a year or two in advanced just now, so we were really lucky to have been able to schedule our visit around the Tour dates.

Victoria: We’ve also arranged for private, guided tours at other sites, as well, such as Apsley House. We’re trying to keep the tour numbers small enough so that we can see things that aren’t typically open to the public.

Diane: This just sounds wonderful. I can hardly wait. Of course, Kristine, you and I have an ongoing rivalry regarding “dear Artie.” What makes you think he’ll prefer you above me?

Kristine: Well . . . . (sniff, sniff) I have dedicated the last thirty years to researching the life and times of the Duke of Wellington, dear. Seriously, Diane, I look upon the two of us as the modern day Mrs. Arbuthnot and Lady Shelley. Each of us adores the Duke in her own way, though I perhaps have taken that admiration to a greater extreme than you have.

Victoria: Wait a minute – not only to extremes, but to fixation! Both of you are downright obsessive over the man. Which puts you in excellent company, by the way. Speaking for myself, I think my more measured approach would be far more appealing to the Great Man.

(Kristine and Diane exchange glances and sniff in unison)

Diane: I cannot recommend this tour highly enough! I’m hoping to come and I’d love to have some Risky Regencies friends accompany us. Remember to comment for a chance to win Wellington by Elizabeth Longford–Who wouldn’t want to win Wellington? (hmmm, Kristine???)

Email Kristine and Victoria with any questions or to make reservations at london20@aol.com

Or ask your questions here! Kristine and Victoria will be stopping by.

Click here for complete Tour details.

Join The Duke of Wellington Pinterest Page

And the Facebook page

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