Book giveaway

0708142138Before I became an author, I was a reader. Still am. I read all kinds of books–historical, fantasy, young adult, inspirational, science fiction, paranormal, and others.  My favorite books are historical, specifically historical romance, but I like my novels “sweet,” meaning, without swear words or sex scenes. Finding books that don’t have those can be tricky. However, there are some authors that I know will always be clean.

Recently, I moved my office into a different room and got it all arranged. As I did so, I went through a bunch of paperback books on my bookshelf and realized I had more books than I needed. Since there are very few books that I ever read a second time, I decided to give a few of them away. They are all clean or sweet romances. The authors of the books I’m giving away are: Shirley Kennedy, Regina Scott, Janet Dean, and Melanie Dickerson. If you’d like to enter the giveaway, please tell me what is your favorite historical era  in the Rafflecopter below.

You have more chances to win if you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter.

I will contact you via email to ask for your address so I can mail the books to you.

Sorry, due to the high cost of mailing a box internationally, not to mention the time involved, this contest is only open to the U.S. and Canada.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Regency Childbirth, the Practices and the Risks

In Regency England, childbirth was one of the most dangerous threats to a woman’s health and life. Most sources I read claimed that up to 20% of all women died either in childbirth, or immediately following birth, most often due to infection. Many accounts place the infant mortality rate at about the same level. That’s a sobering reality.

After giving birth six times to six healthy babies, I have a deep appreciation for the medical practices of modern-day America. There were complications during two of my deliveries which might have threatened the life of my child and myself but for the intervention of knowledgeable doctors and nurses, as well as technology to provide early warning signs of problems.

Unfortunately, our historical counterparts were not so lucky. In fact, in many of the cases I read, including the tragic and fatal “lying in” of Princess Charlotte, the lucky ones were those who gave birth without the interference of doctors, midwives, and accoucheurs.

Based on today’s standards, medical treatment was barbaric, and obstetrics was no exception. Common prenatal care included purges, bleedings, starvation diets, and induced vomiting in misguided attempt to keep the baby from getting too large for the mother to deliver. Such practices were surely factors in the death of Princess Charlotte hours after she delivered a stillborn son in 1817. Charlotte was the only legitimate child of Prince George “Prinny” who later became King George IV.  Princess Charlotte’s death and her stillborn child rocked the country and caused such public outrage that the medical community took a good hard look at common practices and make some key changes. But it took time to create any real improvements.

One such common practice for prenatal care that eventually changed included “lying-in” where the expectant mother remained in bed for a period of time ranging from a few weeks to a few months before giving birth, even if the birth seemed normal with no early labor signs. Though Princess Charlotte was told to get some exercise by walking, this did not appear to be the normal practice.

Once the mother was in labor, the birthing or lying-in rooms were heated and completely shut up to prevent the flow of air. Fear of drafts causing the mother to catch cold led to the practice of building up the fire, putting blankets over all the windows and doors, and covering every crevice. Not only would have that been uncomfortable and not allowed for adequate oxygen but it would have been a breeding ground for bacteria so it likely caused the very problem they were trying to prevent.

Many accounts report the mother lying in bed directly on her back, while only a few cite having the mother lie on her side. Apparently, the upper classes were more likely to lie in beds than the poor who are generally depicted sitting in birthing chairs. This may have been due to the desire to keep the lady more modestly covered but certainly would have made it difficult to push effectively.

If the mother seemed to be having trouble pushing out a baby, some doctors and midwives during the Regency used forceps. However, forceps were a new invention and few doctors in England accepted their use. Some believe that if forceps had been used for Princess Charlotte, as was originally determined but never carried out, her baby, at least, might have lived.

Cesarean sections had been in practice for many years, but generally only if the mother had died and the doctor believed the baby could be saved. This may have been partially due to the fact that people claimed that were was no anesthesia available. However, laudanum and opium were in use many years before for chronic pain and the surgery so I don’t know why it couldn’t have been used during a Cesarean for a live mother. Maybe it didn’t matter, because the mother would likely develop infection and die. It makes me wonder how any one survived surgery of any kind considering their lack of knowledge about cleanliness. I have not discovered how successful a C-section was in those days to the baby but I suppose with nothing to lose once the mother died, the doctors were willing to try to save the infant.

If a woman were lucky enough to have survived birth, the next few weeks could still prove fatal. A new mother’s diet was often limited to warm tea and/or wine for the first several days. A lack of solid food could cause a dysfunctional intestinal system, a condition aggravated by the mother remaining lying in bed for days, sometimes weeks.

Infection was one of the most common reasons for a woman dying after childbirth. Medical personnel seemed tragically unaware of the need for washing their hands and instruments. The practice of washing hands and providing clean linens did not become common until about the 1840’s, which lowered the mortality rate from 20% to about 6%.

Childbirth in Regency England was risky enough that two out of ten women and babies failed to survive it, which means most women would have known someone who died during or immediately following birth. Some have speculated one of the reasons Jane Austen never married was due to the potential disaster for mother and child. Three of Jane’s sisters-in-law died in childbirth, according to JOAN AUSTEN-LEIGH in her article My Aunt, Jane Austen. With such a grim family statistic, I might have thought twice about marrying and having children, too.

Once again, researching Regency England serves the dual purpose of providing the information I need for a book I’m writing, as well as making me really, really glad I live in a western nation in today’s world. I’d still like to visit Regency England though :-)

 

Sources:

http://www.janeausten.co.uk/developements-in-childbirth-in-regency-and-victorian-england/

http://austenauthors.net/really-scary-medicine-in-the-regency-era-2

 

Hatpins

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Pinning_the_Hat_(Le_Chapeau_épinglé)_-_Pierre-Auguste_RenoirMy latest foray into the research geekdom took me slightly out of the Regency Era, but since I love all kinds of old things, I decided to indulge in this new direction and share with you my latest discovery: hatpins.

To quote Wikipedia: hatpin is a decorative and functional pin for holding a hat to the head, usually by the hair. In Western Culture, a hatpin is almost solely a female item and is often worn in a pair.

The description made me smile since I can’t imagine anyone using a pin to fasten their hat to their head! Obviously, it attached to their hair :-)

In as early as the 1400’s, proper, and, I might add, probably only fairly wealthy ladies, used pins to secure their wimples and veils onto their heads. By the early 1800’s, ladies used them to keep their hats in place. Hatpins ranged in length from six to twelve inches and were made from a variety of metals including brass, copper, sterling silver, gold, or gold or silver wash, and often had a decorated head. Naturally, they had to be made by hand, which made them hard to find. In England, demand caused importers to bring hatpins from France. Apparently Parliament became alarmed at the threat to the delicate balance between import and export, so they passed a law restricting the import of pins to January 1st and 2nd. Supposedly ladies saved their money all year to have enough to purchase. Some believe this is the source of the term “pin money.” Other sources claim pin money came from the beginning of each tax she supposedly used to pay for her pins. However, I have always held fast to the popular Regency belief that ladies spent pin money to pay for pins used to fasten their gowns together, since buttons and hooks weren’t as common as modern people believe. Since the pins were made of metal, non-stainless steel, they eventually rusted and had to be replaced.

Regardless, hatpins remained a popular and necessary accessory into the 1920′s. Eventually in America, laws restricted the length of hat pins since they could be used as a deadly weapon so women had to cut them down to the maximum length.

Eventually, hatpins became mass produced, making them more readily available to the poorer classes with very simple heads. Of course, the wealthy always had fun hatpin heads made from materials such as, according to the American Hatpin Society:

HatpinsCarnival glass, rhinestones, hand blown molded glass, micro mosaic, or hand painted or transferred porcelain like the Japanese Satsuma. There were also hatpins made with ivory, emeralds, stone, amber, tortoise shell, jet, celluloid and other plastics, mother of pearl, and coral.

Hatpins spanned many styles including Baroque, Etruscan Revival, Greek Revival, Egyptian Revival, Oriental influence, Arts and CraftsArt Nouveau and even Art Deco, before waning around WW1 when metals became scarce and hats got smaller.

I was horrified to find in the picture to the right, a hatpin made in the shape of a swastika. However, the hatpins in this pincushion show a good variety of the many different styles of hatpins available. Today, hatpins are collectible items and there is an American Hatpin Society and The Hat Pin Society of Great Britain for modern enthusiasts.

Now that I know of their existence, I think I’ll have to write a scene in my next Regency historical romance novel where my heroine uses a hatpin to defend herself from a bad guy.

 

 

 

Lemon Ice

Lemon (1)

Ices or sherbets were as much a desirable treat in Regency England as they are today. In my Regency Historical Romance novels, my characters often go to Gunthar’s when they want to enjoy a frozen treat, and lemon was an especially popular flavor, but ices were enjoyed all year round at home and at social gatherings.  Even in winter, a room crowded with guests and candles and alcohol became stifling, leaving the guests the need for a cool refreshment.

According to the noted Regency researcher, Nancy Mayer, ice cream was a year-round treat in Russia because in the winter, the ice cream was warmer than the outside temperature. She also states that in India, cooks put the ingredients into a bag (what kind of material they used was not clear, but the sherbet or ice cream couldn’t leak through it) which was thoroughly soaked and put on a line with a pulley and pulled rapidly back and forth while servants fanned it.

The book Domestic Comforts tells about ice houses and ice ponds the wealthy built for creating and storing ice. Ice was also was imported from northern countries including Canada – once the custom agents realized it couldn’t be treated like other materials and just stacked on the dock or warehouse. Uh, doy.

But what if one didn’t have access to ice and my lady is craving one? Or what if my lord wishes to cool his wine? Never fear, saltpeter is here!

Kathryn Kane, on her blog Regency Redingote states:

“During the Regency, saltpetre was most likely to be used as a coolant in England as a scientific novelty, or for cooling when no stored ice or snow was available. An experienced and well-prepared Regency butler might keep ten to twenty pounds of saltpetre on hand in order to ensure he could cool enough wine or other bottled beverages for a family meal in the absence of ice, perhaps after an unusually warm and snow-less winter.” 

Sorbets and ices were also a popular way to cleanse the palate between courses at dinner.

Amy Guttman’s article on THE SALT “Three WaysCooking Has Changed Over The Last 300 Years” there is a great article on “The Unknown Ladies Cookbook, a 300 year old compendium of family recipes from between 1690 and 1830.”

 “What we think of today as dessert, they would have served as a second course,” Gray tells The Salt. “Their third course, or dessert, would be  ice cream, biscuits or fruit. But today, we tend to serve those things at the same time to end a meal.”

In that same article is a recipe for lemon cream, which sounds to me like a lemon pudding:

‘Lemmond Cream:’  “To four large lemmons squeesd put 3 qrs of a pd of the finest loaf sugar, 8 or 9 spoonfuls of water & a piece of the peel. Set it over the fire untill the sugar tis melted. Put in the whites of 4 eggs & strain it through a diaper napkin, doubled. Sett it on ye fire a gain & stir it all ye while. When it grows thick, take it off. Put in two spoonfuls of orange flower water. Lay some shreds of boiled lemmon peel at the bottom of the glasses.”

If you can follow those directions, you are a better chef that I am!

Here’s a much more user-friendly recipe for lemon ice from Jane Austen Centre blog, in an article entitled Lemon Ice by Laura Boyle.

 2 cups sugar

4 cups water

1 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp grated lemon rind

Dash of Salt

1. In a saucepan, combine sugar, salt, water and lemon rind.

2. Boil for 5 minutes. Cool.

3. Add lemon juice to cooled sugar water.

4. Churn freeze (in Ice Cream maker) or pour into a dish and cover.

5. Freeze at least 6 hours. Break frozen mixture into chunks.

6. Place chunks in food processor; process until smooth.

This method produces more of a “smoothy” texture. Makes 1/2 gallon. This looks especially tempting served inside half of a lemon. Simply cut your lemons in half lengthwise before beginning process. Squeeze out the juice to be used in the recipe, cut a small slice of peel off the bottom of the lemon half so that it sits upright. Scoop out excess pulp and membrane, cover in plastic until ready to fill with frozen mixture. Garnish with mint or berries.

(I think it would also look delicious if garnished with a curl of lemon peel.)

So the next time you want to get in touch with your inner Regency romance heroine, indulge in a little lemon ice and stay cool while you’re at it.

The Queen’s Drawing Room

Queen Charlotte 1762

Queen Charlotte 1762

During the Regency era, few ladies received an invitation to be presented to the queen.  Such an honor typically belonged only the to wives and daughters of peers and it was a one-time event.  Oddly enough, the presentation did not occur in the throne room, but in fact, happened in the queen’s drawing room. The event itself came to be known as “the Queen’s Drawing-room” (yes, with the hyphen, at least during the Regency).

During my research, I stumbled upon some fun facts I wanted to share. Today there are three queen’s drawing rooms in Buckingham palace; a blue drawing room, a white drawing room, and a red drawing room. Each is absolutely breathtaking and still retains the flavor of bygone eras.  Apparently the blue drawing room was originally intended to be a ballroom, but another took its place. The blue wallpaper adorning the walls has been in place since the rein of Queen Mary. It was in this room, originally called the South Drawing Room, where  ladies were presented to the queen during the Regency.

Keep in mind that I’m a gawky, middle-class American when I saw that I found the pictures I saw of the drawing rooms jaw-dropping and overwhelming. I doubt I’d ever receive the honor of actually viewing them in person, but if I ever did, I’m quite certain it would rob me of all speech.

I devoted a couple of blog posts regarding the details of what a court presentation actually entailed in the queen’s drawing room here and here but for this post, I’m concentrating on the rooms themselves.

Since I enjoy almost everything more when I share it with someone, I wanted to share the link I found of a virtual tour of the queen’s drawing rooms, which still retains grandeur of the  Georgian Era. The virtual tour is, putting it mildly, awesome–not the overused term for anything from “that’s cool” to “that’s great”–but literally, awesome as in, it inspires awe.

Click here for your virtual tour of the queen’s drawing room. I hope you enjoy it.

English Afternoon Tea, Jane Austen Style

 English tea with clotted cream

English tea with clotted cream

I am a total history geek. I freely admit this. My geekiness started way back when I was a child pouring over the pages of the Little House series, both the books and the TV series, among other historical stories. Later, it grew out of necessity when I decided I wanted my stories to take place during Regency England. Obviously, this means copious amounts of research. But research has grown into an extreme fascination all its own. I just have a good excuse now to get seriously geeky about anything from food to clothes to social customs–in most historical settings in general, but the Regency era in particular. Whenever I give into my inner geek and delve into research,  I always learn something new and fun to add to my growing arsenal of trivia. My newest curiosity sent me in the direction of the customs of British afternoon tea.

Tea is a time-honored tradition, and to this American, nothing says British Custom like afternoon tea. While most of us may think of High Tea as an upper class  tradition dating back hundreds of years, I discovered something else entirely.

Tea in the afternoon didn’t actually become common until the 1700′s. By the Regency Era, the custom had long-since caught on and the upper class had afternoon tea about four o’clock, which was before the fashionable time to promenade in Hyde Park if one was in London. Afternoon tea included, of course, tea served hot. Also served with tea, one would find small finger sandwiches (thin and crustless, thank you), biscuits (which the Americans call cookies), seedcake, and small cakes—not petite fours, at least, not during Regency but small cakes sometimes called fairly cakes with butter icing, which, from what I’ve been able to tell, were probably not much bigger than mini cupcakes. There has been much discussion among Regency enthusiasts as to whether scones with jam and clotted cream (also known as Devonshire cream) were served during the Regency or if that become more common during the Victorian era, when High Tea became such a grand affaire.

Food with tea probably evolved because the upper classs ate dinner at the fashionable time of about eight o’clock at night, and since many had not yet adopted the custom of luncheon or nuncheon, they probably needed that small meal in the middle of the day. Personally, I like a small meal in the afternoon even though I do eat lunch. I would have made a great hobbit with elevensies and lunch and afternoon tea, etc. But I digress.

 “High Tea” developed during the Victorian era. Some accounts say that high tea, served later in the day at about five or six o’clock, originated with the lower classes but I don’t understand how they could come home from work for high tea and then return to work for a few hours and then go home again for dinner. *shrug* 

At any rate, high tea is a more filling meal than afternoon tea. High tea usually comes with white and brown bread, meats such as roast pork, fish like salmon, scones, an assortment of sweets such as cake pie, trifle, lemon-cheese tarts, sponge cake, walnut cake, chocolate roll, pound cake, currant teacake, curd tart, macaroons, a variety of cheeses, jellies, as well as butter or clotted cream.

According to Laura Boyl in her article “Tea Time” on the Jane Austen website, the different names are derived from the height of the tables where the meals were served. Low tea is served on a table, which in the United States would be called “coffee tables.” High tea is served on the dinner table.

Because the characters in my Regency romance novels all hail from the upper class, or end up there eventually, I will focus on afternoon tea because that’s what they do every day, unless they are fighting pirates or running for their lives or battling villains, of course.

 Most sandwiches in the UK are traditionally made with a very thin white bread, generously buttered with potted paste. The potted paste could similar to deviled ham, but also could be a fish paste–salmon, for instance, very thinly spread. I guess they liked their pleasures small, thin, and bite-sized. 

Tea was (and still is, sometimes) served in a china or silver pot accompanied by slices of lemon or milk. They never put cream in their tea or it would ruin the flavor. According to Regency researcher and author, Kathryn Kane, tea leaves used during the Regency were chopped much more coarsely than those used today. The large size required that the tea be steeped for a longer period, but it also made it easier to strain the used leaves from the tea after it had been steeped. There was a special implement included in many tea services used to clear the strainer at the base of the spout of the tea pot, or to strain the used leaves out of each cup before it was served. You can find more detail at: http://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/the-mote-skimmer-a-specialty-tea-accessory/

tea 2However, Regency author Grace Kone, who is British, told me that if it’s done correctly, the tea leaves stay on the bottom, with just enough pouring out to make a scattering of leaves for fortune-telling. (It sounds very Harry Potter, doesn’t it?) Grace said she has never in her life strained leaf tea. Other British friends such as author Janis Susan May Patterson use something called a tea ball, which is small metal case into which she places the tea leaves. These are also known as ‘tea eggs.’ Other friends pour their tea into their cups through a silver tea strainer, like the one in this picture:

Here is a recipe, courtesy Regency author, Miranda Neville, for cucumber sandwiches:

Very thinly sliced white bread (or whole wheat if you insist on being healthy but really, why bother?). I use Pepperidge Farm Very Thin

Good quality unsalted butter

English cucumbers (about† one and a half per loaf of bread)

Salt

1. Slice the cucumbers very thin. Put them in a colander mixed up with some† salt, weigh them down with a plate, and leave them in the sink to drain for an hour or two.

2. Wash the salt off and pat dryish with a dish towel.

3. Butter the bread.

4. Put two layers of cucumber slices in each sandwich and press flat with your hand so it all sticks together, preferably without becoming totally squashed.

5. Cut off the crusts (very important). With a big sharp knife cut each sandwich into four – triangles, squares, or strips, your preference.

And from “The Royal Pavilion at Brighton a booklet A Choice Selection of Regency Recipes you can  now make at Home” here is a recipe for macaroons.

Macaroons.
1 large egg white
2 oz ( 55 g) ground almonds
2 oz (55) g caster sugar
a few drops rose water
1-2 drops almond essence
about 12 slivered almonds =-optional.

Heat the oven to 160C/325F/gas3 

Line as baking sheet with baking parchment paper. Whisk egg white until stiff. Using a large  metal spoon, fold in  the ground almonds, sugar, rosewater, and almond essence.  Mix until blended  into a smooth thick paste.

Using a teaspoon, put blobs of  the mixture on the lined baking sheet, leaving space between them to allow for expansion during cooking. Flatten with the back of a spoon. If you like you can top each with a sliver of almond.  Bake for about 20 minutes until light golden brown. Transfer to wire rack and leave to cool. Makes about 12.

Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?

Jane Austen TeaI think for my next book launch I will have afternoon tea.  In fact, I may not wait that long. I may just have a tea party just because it’s a fun and sort of a girly thing to do. I’m not a tea drinker, so I may deviate from tradition and have herbal tea in my cup, but the rest of it looks like great fun. Last week, I attended a Jane Austen tea in Salt Lake City, UT with some of my Jane Austen geeky friends such as Sarah M. Eden. We had high tea so we had lots of food (including non-traditional fruit and veggies) and we ate at small dinner tables with chairs. We all dressed up and did our fair fancy.

tea 3We even had some period entertainment such as a poetry reading, a soloist, and a flutist. It was so fun! 

Have you ever had afternoon tea?

 

 

 

Desert Rose RWA Conference

DDreams-Bookingsigning-PosterIf someone had told me five years ago that I’d love public speaking, I would have never believed them. Even though I’m an introvert, and speaking to more than one or two people is still a huge leap out of my comfort zone, I’ve learned to love teaching workshops about writing.

For one thing, it’s easy to speak about my passion. And for another, I feel I need to pay it forward by helping others who are new at writing just as many experienced authors helped me when I was a newbie. But one of my favorite things is watching the eyes of the workshop attendees light up when I say something that inspires them, or changes the way they write, or when they just “get” a concept I teach.

And, I have to admit, teaching workshops gives me as a writer a certain credibility, which was the whole reason I let my friend talk me into team teaching our first class together. We taught many classes as a team, and eventually we both began teaching on our own with a lot more confidence than that first workshop where we were both so nervous we could barely read our notes.

This weekend, I am teaching “Show, Don’t Tell” at the Desert Dreams Writers Conference in Tempe, AZ. There will also be a multi-author book signing Saturday night that is free and open to the public, so if you are in the Phoenix area, please stop in. And if you come to the book signing, please stop by my table and say hello. It’d be nice to have some traffic at my table while all those big time New York Times authors have massive lines that wrap around the hotel :-)

While checking and double checking what I needed to bring to the conference, I found this fun conference check list by Jami Gold and thought I’d pass it on to help those of you attending a conference somewhere in the near future.

The Ultimate RWA Conference Packing List

  • Clothes (casual business most of the time, dressier business for pitches or editor/agent meetings, dressy for Awards Ceremony)
  • Comfortable shoes & gel inserts
  • Snacks for between workshops when you can’t stop for lunch
  • Medications (no hangovers allowed) & prescriptions
  • Your schedule
  • Laptop/cellphone/camera (& chargers/power cords)
  • Paper/pen/highlighter
  • Business cards
  • Small toiletry case for purse or bag
  • Some way to ship back or carry your goodies
  • Some way to personalize your RWA tote bag to make it easier to find among the 2000 identical bags
  • Small sewing kit for wardrobe malfunctions
  • Bandaids for blisters
  • Mints/candies to suck on for energy and fresh breath
  • Swimsuit/coverup/workout clothes (for all that *ahem* unscheduled time you don’t have)
  • Cardigan for chilly conference rooms
  • Dress purse for Awards Dinner
  • Earplugs, white noise app on phone
  • Umbrella (shouldn’t need this for California this year)
  • Cash for tips, Literacy Booksigning, dining with friends, vending machines
  • Extension cord for hotel room (2-4 women, 1 sink—do the math)
  • Extra hangers for hanging all your nice clothes in the closet
  • Pins for lanyard (PRO, chapter, etc.)
  • Sharpie marker, tape
  • Hand sanitizer, wet wipes, stain stick or wipes, moisturizer

Other things to prepare and do:

  • Print out of hotel reservation, and email all important documents to yourself to ensure you have copies
  • Attach business card to phone/camera in case it gets misplaced
  • Make sure you drink plenty of water

*whew*  All right, what am I forgetting? *smile*

I’m not staying at the hotel this weekend because Tempe isn’t far from where I live (and I’m getting too cranky to sleep in a strange bed unless absolutely necessary), but I still have a bunch of things I need to bring. So here’s my list:

laptop and cord

Power Point presentation saved on a thumb drive in case their cords don’t fit my laptop

books for the book signing

display items such as book stands, postcards, pens, lace table covering

price sheet

note book and pen

business cards

my schedule

water bottle and snacks

items I’m donating to the hospitality suite: case of water bottles, cooler, crackers–both regular and gluten-free

I always carry breath mints and lip balm in my purse so I don’t need to pack that

(chocolate to hand out at the workshop (yes, I offer bribes for class members to ask questions)

cardigan for those chilly rooms inside the hotel

Did I forget anything? What do you like to bring to conferences?

 

Falling in Love or Growing in Love?

BigPinkHeartWe often hear the term “falling in love” but is it really something that happens whether or not we want it to, or does love only come to those who are looking for it?

As a romance author, I’ve written novels filled with characters not looking for love. They usually have other things they want to do, or need to do, before they start thinking about love and marriage.  It’s that surrender to love, whether or not they wanted it at that time, that can make such a sweet ending.

However, according to c/net, 75% of single men are actually looking for a long-term commitment.  This surprises me.  This tells me that most men want someone to be there for them, to talk to about their hopes and dreams and problems and concerns, someone to love, someone to share their future, someone with whom they can have a family.

Perhaps one of the reasons why my characters often aren’t looking for love is because when I me my husband, I wasn’t looking for love. I had all kinds of other things I wanted to do before I settled down, and a relationship would only get in the way. But when I realized that the nice guy who’d been hanging around was really someone special, I experienced not a few moments of dismay. I believe I even uttered the words “this ruins everything.”  So in a way, we grew into love so slowly I didn’t even realize we were doing it until I was in too deep to walk away. And yet, it did feel like falling because I wasn’t looking for love at that time.

And yet, here I am, twenty six years of marriage later, happy that I gave up those good things in favor of love and marriage–definitely something better.

How did it happen for you? Did you grow slowly in love, or did it happen so suddenly that you seemed to fall in love? I’d love to hear from you.

Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day!

Book giveaway–The Guise of a Gentleman

TheGuiseofaGentleman_432Win a free paperback copy of The Guise of a Gentleman, Book 2 of the Rogue Hearts Series.

It’s the proof, so there will be a stamped “proof” across the inside page, but otherwise it is exactly as a real paperback copy.

To enter,  simply follow the directions  in the Rafflecopter below.

Don’t be scared of Rafflecopter–it’s super easy and will walk you through the process.

Here is the blurb from the back cover:

Though her heart longs for adventure, Elise strives to be a perfect English lady living within the stifling confines of society for the sake of her impressionable young son. Her quiet world is shattered when she meets the impulsive and scandalous Jared Amesbury. His roguish charm awakens her yearning for adventure. But his irrepressible grin and sea-green eyes hide a secret.

A gentleman by day, a pirate by night, Jared must complete one last assignment from the Secret Service before he can be truly free. Elise gives him hope that he, too, can find love and belonging. His hopes are crushed when his best laid plans go awry and Elise is dragged into his world of violence and deceit. She may not survive the revelation of Jared’s past…or still love him when the truth is revealed.

Want it regardless? Buy the ebook copy now at Smashwords. Or Amazon. Or Barnes & Noble. Or the paperback copy here.

Last day to enter is midnight Sunday, February 9th.

Winners will be chosen randomly and announced on this blog.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest open to everyone but is void where prohibited by law.

Dressing a Kitten

Joseph_Wright_of_Derby._Two_Girls_Dressing_a_Kitten_by_Candlelight._c._1768-70I discovered this painting, Two Girls Dressing a Kitten by Candlelight  by Joseph Wright of Derby (1737-1797) between 1768-1770,  on a blog I adore called Two Nerdy History girls. While the author of the blog, Isabella Bradford, provided a fascinating discussion on the possible meanings of the painting,  I take a more simplistic approach.

Since I am neither an art critic, nor a psychologist, this painting took me down memory lane to my childhood.

As the very much youngest child of my family and living my earliest years  in a neighborhood with few children, I grew up pretty much alone. My saving grace came partially in the form of what seemed like a continuous supply of kittens as my playmates.  No kitten was safe from my affections. I spent hours dressing them up in my doll clothes and pushing them around in my baby carriage.

Though the painting may inspire deeper meanings, I love the idea that dressing kittens in doll clothes is a timeless past time.  Based on the mournful expression in the kitten’s face, not to mention the tail between his legs, the kitten isn’t enjoying the attention the girls are so lovingly lavishing upon it.  Still, I think it’s a sweet picture.

What do you see when you look at this picture?