Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle June 2017

Windsor Castle is a worldwide icon for England. Built in the eleventh century, it has been in continuous use as a royal residence since William the Conqueror–the only structure that fits that description. To date, thirty nine royal generations have called this home. In recent times, Windsor Castle became more of a weekend retreat for the royal family, although formal events also occur here.

      Donna Hatch in front of Windsor Castle

William the Conqueror founded the castle and is credited for its original design, however, Edward III, Charles II and George IV all left their marks creating new sections and improving the exterior. Today it is as sumptuous as any stately home and befitting a royal family. As a visitor, I was not allowed to photograph the interior, unfortunately, so all my pictures are of the exterior.

another view of Windsor Castle June 2017

The castle was originally meant as a fortress from which to defend from enemies but quickly became a place for the royal family to live and to entertain state guests. Though its first carnation, began in 1070 and completed in 1086, had outer walls built out of timber, Henry II had it re-walled with stone. Many monarchs left their mark in this impressive castle, however, it was King George IV’s vision who remade it into the lavish palace it is today. Never one to hesitate to spend staggering amounts of money on his own pleasures, King George IV (formerly the Prince Regent for which is named the Regency Era) created an almost fairy-tale-like quality that is today’s Windsor Castle.  Queen Victoria spent much time here, using Windsor Castle as her country retreat as well as a place to entertain state and foreign visitors, much as it is used today. During her reign, it also became a favored location for family gatherings, weddings, and celebrations.

Another major player in today’s castle décor was the fire of 1992.  It is ironic that the castle survived World War II bombings when so much of London was destroyed, only for such devastation to come from a fire. During a major rewiring project–at which time someone inspired soul had the wisdom to have most of the art and furnishings removed–a fire began in Queen Victoria’s Private chapel in the northeast corner of the castle. Investigators believe a curtain blew too closely to a spotlight, which caused an ignition over the altar. The fire spread with astonishing speed.

  A Romeo and Juliet worthy window in Windsor castle

While the world watched with breathless horror, 200 firefighters battled the blaze for 15 hours. In the typical indomitable spirit which defines the British, they began restoration immediately. During my visit, a kind tour guide standing inside Queen Victoria’s chapel showed me photos of the castle before, during, and after the fire and explained the tragic events that transpired there. I drank it all in, equally horrified and fascinated. Heart-rending video, as well as photos of just after the fire, and of how it looks now after the restoration can be viewed here. I wish I could have gotten copies of the before and after photos that I saw, but for some reason those were not available for the asking.

Today, most of the restored areas are even more beautiful than before the fire. St. George’s hall, a breathtaking medieval hall honoring knights, looks even better now than it did before the fire, with much lighter wood details on the ceiling than its twelfth century version. The workmanship was identical to medieval techniques, which satisfied the history nerd in me. According to the Official Souvenir Guide, “the castle is now in better condition than at any time for the last 200 years.”

I lingered in delight over the queen’s doll house filled with miniatures. I also basked in the beauty of the Queen’s drawing room where so many of my heroines from my novels would have taken their bows to the queen. The state rooms also invite one to linger and bask in the beauty and history, not only of the castle, but of the people whose heritage is so rich with tradition and honor.

                       Windsor Castle Moat Gardens

The gardens are lovely! Built in what was originally intended to be the moat but never served in that capacity, the gardens are a lovely refuge where I would loved to have lingered.

Fun crown detail on top of all the light posts at Windsor Castle

Now that I’ve seen it, I want to write at least one scene in a future book that takes place in Windsor Castle. Perhaps my hero or heroine are invited to Windsor Castle for some state function. Or perhaps for a secret mission. Hmmm. The possibilities are endless.

But for now, my hero and heroine have their hands full in my upcoming release,  Courting the Country Miss, coming soon. I’m very excited because this features characters from one of my previous books called Courting the Countess.

Here is the back cover blurb for my newest Regency Romance, Courting the Country Miss:

Cynical and broken-hearted, Leticia banishes dreams of marriage. When her childhood friend, Tristan, wagers he can find her the perfect husband, she hopes the challenge will coax him to forgo his devil-may-care lifestyle. Meanwhile, Leticia throws herself into forming her charity school but meets opposition—even from the people she’s helping.

Guilt-ridden that his past mistakes robbed Leticia of true love, Tristan vows to set it right, but match-making has its pitfalls for a repentant scoundrel. When he finds two ‘perfect’ gentlemen to court her, he discovers his own deep feelings for the lady.

Though Tristan seems to reform, Leticia doesn’t dare risk heartbreak with a notorious rake. When opposition for the school takes a deadly turn, can Tristan protect her from a madman bent on destroying their dreams and their lives?

Courting the Country Miss is available now from Amazon or directly from my publisher as well as other retail book stores.

Sources:

Most of this information came from the walking tour of London I took during my Regency Tour with Number One London Tours, plus my own observation during my visit.

 

Take Me Back Historical Romance Giveaway

****Contest ended****
If you love historical romance, now’s your chance to expand your library! The Take Me Back! Historical Romance group is a great way to try new authors of historical romance for free. This huge promotion features 18 great historical novels by 18 amazing authors of all heat levels … plus FIVE $10 gift cards. This is not a contest where you have to enter and only hope you win. Everyone gets to download all the free historical romances of their choosing. Simply select the book or books you want to read for free and start reading!
Here is where you go to discover and receive free books, plus be entered win one of Five $10 gift cards: https://mybookcave.com/g/eafe8305/
I hope you enjoy the new books you find!

Enter to Win 60 Romantic Suspense Novels PLUS a New Kindle Fire!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love to read romantic suspense?

Enjoy the chance to win 60 romantic suspense novels from your favorite award-winning and bestselling authors, plus a brand new Kindle Fire!

Check out all the book covers here!

The Grand Prize winner receives a Kindle Fire and all participating books. One runner-up receives all books.

Participating is easy — just sign up on the contest page: bit.ly/rom-suspense-may17

(Note: This link is case-sensitive.)

Here is the un-shortened link: https://booksweeps.com/enter-win-60-romantic-suspense-novels/

My Regency Romantic Suspense novel, A Perfect Secret, has been invited to participate in this fantastic promotion along with 59 other romantic suspense novels.

Will you win the grand prize?

Again, here is the contest page: bit.ly/rom-suspense-may17

 

Writing with My Heart

BooksAs a novelist, I sometimes get the question; Do you ever write real stuff into your books?

That’s a hard question to answer. My definition, I am a fiction writer, so technically none of it is true. And I write historical romance novels that take place during the Regency, or early 1800s in England, so a lot of “real stuff” can’t happen in my books due to the change in culture, technology, and fashion. And much of the events that happen in my books have never happened to me. However, a lot of my writing is colored by my life, and many events within stories come from my own experiences and sometimes from the experiences of others.

Here are some examples:

When I was twelve, I nearly drowned in a river. It was terrifying and traumatic and I had nightmares about it for months. Even though I am a strong swimmer, I am still afraid of dark water and have to “psych myself up” to jump into a river or lake if the water isn’t very clear. This is an experience from which I heavily drew when I wrote the river scene in A Perfect Secret.

Also, in my youth, I found myself in the presence of pushy men, so that comes through in a few of my stories, where the heroine must use courage to forcefully reject a man whose making improper advances. I’ve also felt trapped and under the control of a verbally and emotionally abusive boyfriend, which helped create A Perfect Secret. Also, my mother fled an abusive husband before she met my father, so that influenced the tale a well.

When I was writing The Suspect’s Daughter, my husband, the perpetual athlete, was playing basketball and collided with another player. (I keep reminding him basketball is a no-contact sport but he says I should be telling the other guy 😉 He woke up lying on the floor with people surrounding him asking if he was okay. A CAT scan showed he had a concussion, and he dealt with the side effects of that injury for weeks. So when my hero leaped after my heroine to save her from a fall, I wrote in that he received a concussion and suffered many of the same after-effects my husband did. This made my hero more vulnerable, and susceptible to tender moments with the heroine than his type of character normally would.

Many of my heroines are a bit on the shy or introverted side because I am an introvert who was painfully shy as a child and youth. They also tend to be on the less confident side, feel alone in a crowd, and feel as if they aren’t pretty or talented or smart enough to be of any notice. All of these are traits that continue to plague me.

I know the darkness of losing an unborn child due to a late pregnancy miscarriage, another experience that showed up in my stories twice. I also know the discouragement and sense of loss that comes with failure.

Major plot points come from my own life, as well. In my novella, A Perfect Match, the heroine is horrified to realize she is falling in love with the man her best friend loves. Like many teens, I too experienced this. Unfortunately for me, I justified my actions because the guy I had a crush on had a chance with my friend and she didn’t give him any encouragement. But when he and I started dating, my friend felt hurt and betrayed. Our relationship never survived that. Later, after he and I broke up, he did end up dating her. My relationship with my former best friend could not be salvaged, despite my efforts. However, because I write romance and want happily ever afters with neat tie ups, the story I wrote has a better ending.

I know what it’s like to choose between my heart and my better judgement. Sometimes the logical choice, the obvious choice, is at odds with my heart. Other times, the yearnings of my heart (or perhaps my hormones) need to be tempered with logic and self control. The agony of making these choices seems to be a common thread in many of my stories.

choclate covered strawberriesIt’s not all dark, though. Little things sneak in, like my love of going for long walks, for music, reading, chocolate, and dancing.  If you’ve read my books, you may have noticed that most of them mention a harp, or a harpist. I do that deliberately because I was a harpist for many years. Putting mention of harp in my stories is a subtle signature.

harp 85 petiteTwo of my upcoming releases, Heart Strings and Courting the Countess, have heroines who are harpists. This was so fun to write because I could express in a limited way the joy and peace that comes from playing the harp.

In each story, there is a time when the harpist must give up her harp (temporarily). In Heart Strings, I write a scene in which the heroine bids her harp farewell. That was a very emotional scene for me to write because I recently bade farewell to my harp. We were moving from Arizona to Washington, due to my husband’s extended unemployment and under-employment, we lacked the cash reserves for a down payment. Our only real commodity was my harp. So we sold it to provide a home for our family. I cried as it was driven away. Much of my identity was wrapped up in the harp, as well as much of my time and heart. So, when I wrote that scene, I put in some of that heartbreak. In that same story, I also wrote about the euphoria of playing. And it was nice not to have to do research for something for a change 😉

Sarah, Janette and me telling secrets at Tea PartyGood experiences make it into my stories, too. I write about friendships and what a lifeline that can be. I know the sweet moments with a beloved mother. I understand the euphoria during the beginnings of new love, all those tender touches and admiring glances, the exciting bliss of the first kiss, and of course, the sense of home and belonging when the words “I love you” are finally exchanged. All of those universally human emotions and experiences shape and color my stories.

Tom and Donna at parkI also have a firm belief in happily ever after, partly because I am a romantic and an optimist, and because my husband and I have been married for over 25 years. Yes, we’ve dealt with sorrow, disappointment, internal and external conflicts, family issues, and money problems. We have endured and our love is deeper now than ever.

A great deal of the real me is in each story I write. No, I’ve never been kidnapped by pirates, or abused by my mother, or held at knife point, but many of the same perceptions, fears, hopes, and joys I experienced appear in every story I write.

I hope they touch a place in the hearts of my readers.

 

19th Century Firearms

179114_411185115585451_1139554877_nSometimes, staying true to the Regency era can create some problems, yet further research almost always provides fun answers. While writing my Regency Romance, The Guise of a Gentleman, my Regency lady grabbed her gun and faced down a group of bad guys. I knew if she were to defend the man and boy in danger, she’d only be able to get off one shot because of the time and difficulty reloading guns in that era. I considered either having her ride with two loaded guns or have a groom with her but I wasn’t crazy about either option.

Then, I found just what I needed: existence of a double-barrel flintlock which could fire two shots using two different triggers. Huzzah!!!

Some rifles also had a side-by-side barrel, like a double-barreled shotgun. Like the shotgun, this type of weapon has two hammers, though it’s hard to see the second one behind the first in most photos. It also has two triggers, one for each barrel. I found a .54 cal. with the damascus barrel measuring nine inches long and weighing close to three pounds. Unusual for its day, the double-barrel configuration provided a decided advantage over its single-barreled counterpart, given the notoriously slow reloading procedure for flintlocks. The barrel is generally about eight inches long and it weighs about 2 pounds.

Most Flintlock pistols measured between 10 to 16 inches long, from butt to barrel muzzle. They weighed from one to four pounds, depending on the caliber and the number of barrels. There were a number of styles of double-barreled pistols during the Regency, but they were generally big and heavy. There were two types, the over and under, with a revolving lower barrel, but only one hammer, so that the pan had to be primed before firing again.

Ladies’ pistols were generally six to eight inches long–too small to hold a ramrod. A bullet for such a small gun would be no wider than this: / / roughly the size of today’s ammo for a BB gun.  Ladies’ pistols weighed between 12 oz to one and a half pounds. The problem was that the flint, amount of powder, and mechanisms has to be smaller, which made firing them successfully more difficult.

Even though ladies’ pistols and double-barreled pistols look different, they were loaded the same way as all flintlocks. Most all flintlocks were smoothbores. Some were rifles, with spiral rifling in the barrels. They were difficult to load because the bullet had to be seated against the rifling grooves to spin the ball, so it was hard to ram home. Using cloth or leather wrapped around the ball made it easier to get down the barrel.

In the early 1800s, guns were hand made, and could be customized to fit the buyer’s specifications, so there were almost limitless options.

 

Note: I tried to add photos to this blog, but couldn’t find any that I was certain weren’t copyrighted. If you go to your browser and type in: “18th century black powder flintlock” or “18th century black powder ladies’ guns” you will find some beautiful images, mostly from places that have them to sell.

 

Why Pirates?

Blackbeard_battle_colourPirates. Few words conjure up more dramatic, terrifying, and yet oddly romantic images than pirates. They captured the imagination of Robert Lewis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie, Walt Disney, and many others. I even used pirates in my Regency Romance Novel, The Guise of a Gentleman, book 2 of the Rogue Hearts series. But what is it, exactly that makes a pirate both the perfect villain and the perfect hero?

When I was a child, one of my favorite rides at Disneyland was “The Pirates of the Caribbean. I loved Peter Pan, Treasure Island, and any other pirate story I found. The Pirates of the Caribbean movie made millions with fans divided between Captain Jack Sparrow and Will, who pretty much turned pirate to save Elizabeth. When my husband and I were in Las Vegas, we went to the (then) new Treasure Island Hotel which used to (maybe still does?) put on a great show outside with a reenactment of the navy battling pirates. When the pirates defeated the navy, everybody cheered. Including me.

Are we all a bunch of sociopaths?

Nah. I think it goes back to the bad boy allure. They were non-conformists. They had the courage to buck the system. They wore blousy white shirts instead of those stuffy coats and ugly hats and white powdered wigs. They were totally free to go where ever they pleased and do anything they wanted. And they had the money to do it, thanks to the plunder they took. In the case of Las Vegas, the pirate captain was hunky and drop dead gorgeous, which never hurts.

We think of pirates as swashbuckling hunks who carried big curved swords, although having an eye patch and a parrot on the shoulder never hurts. Not to mention a certain allure in a map with an X that marks the spot to buried wealth. Maybe we all secretly wish we could steal from the rich, throw social norms out the window and make our enemies walk the plank.

It’s really just a fantasy. Most real pirates are nothing like the men in the stories.
TheGuiseofaGentleman_432
While researching for The Guise of a Gentleman, I discovered that pirates were first and foremost sailors. They had a hard life and faced many dangers. They also preyed upon any ship that had the misfortune of crossing their path. Then, they’d go to a nearby port and waste their money. They also often ransacked towns, tortured men, and ravished women. And they were notorious slave traders. Not very glamorous, is it?

After studying real life pirates like Black Beard, Calico Jack, and others, I decided pirates make better villains than heroes. They were for the most part, ruthless and unconscionable. Yet, I still cheered for Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner. And in truth, some real pirates really were good men caught in difficult circumstances.

In my novel, I created a fictional problem of having a lot of out of work sailors and captains of privateer ships now that the Napoleonic War was over, so some turned to piracy and created a pirate ring led by a peer of the realm. The hero, Jared Amesbury, is a government agent assigned to to become a pirate in order to infiltrate the ring and expose the leader.

So enjoy the fantasy about pirates. And “Argh, matey! Don’ forgit yer sword!”

The Guise of a Gentleman, book 2 of the Rogue Hearts series, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and everywhere books are sold.

Book giveaway

The Suspect's Daughter, book 4 of the Rogue Hearts Series

The Suspect’s Daughter, book 4 of the Rogue Hearts Series

***GIVEAWAY CLOSED****

THE WINNERS: Julie won A Perfect Secret and Jerika and Rebecca won The Suspect’s Daughter.  CONGRATULATIONS! Thank you to everyone who entered.

It’s giveaway time! I am giving away 2 PROOF paperback copies of The Suspect’s Daughter, book 4 of the Rogue Hearts series. If you have not yet read any of my other books, don’t worry–you don’t have to have read them first in order to understand this book. It’s written as a complete, stand-alone story.

Here is the back cover blurb of The Suspect’s Daughter:

Determined to help her father with his political career, Jocelyn sets aside dreams of love. When she meets the handsome and mysterious Grant Amesbury, her dreams reawaken. But his secrets put her family in peril. Grant goes undercover to capture conspirators avowed to murder the prime minister, but his only suspect is the father of a courageous lady who is growing increasingly hard to ignore. He can’t allow Jocelyn to distract him from the case, nor will he taint her with his war-darkened soul. She seems to see past the barriers surrounding his heart, which makes her all the more dangerous to his vow of remaining forever alone. Jocelyn will do anything to clear her father’s name, even if that means working with Grant. Time is running out. The future of England hangs in the balance…and so does their love.

Like all my stories, The Suspect’s Daughter is a Clean & Wholesome Romance. It gets a bit gritty and deals with some sensitive subjects, but there are never sex scenes or bad language in any of my books.

This particular copy is the early, “proof” edition of The Suspect’s Daughter. It was printed to give to final proof readers and has a couple of dozen or so typos and other errors in it. So please be kind when you read it–it’s not perfect. The final copy that is available for sale on Amazon has these errors corrected.

If you’d like to enter one of two free proof copies of The Suspect’s Daughter that I am giving away, please leave a comment in the Comments section below. Include the title of the book you want, your name, and your email address so I can contact you. This is a purely random drawing.

I ask nothing in return, however, if you feel you can give it a good review on Amazon and/or Goodreads, please consider doing so. Reviews really are the life-blood of an author.

A Perfect Secret

Original cover

Also, I am giving away a paperback copy of my book, A Perfect Secret book 3 in the Rogue Hearts Series. This particular book has the original cover, not the new and improved cover, which is why I’m giving it away. It’s the same story–just with a new cover.

The old cover is pictured at the left. The new cover, pictured at the right, is NOT part of the giveaway. I’m just showing it so you know what it looks like. I’m just nice like that 🙂

Here is the back cover blurb of A Perfect Secret:

APerfectSecret2Desperate to protect her father from trial and execution, Genevieve breaks off her engagement with Christian Amesbury and marries a blackmailer. After a year of marriage, she flees her husband’s violent domination only to have fate bring her back to Christian. Just when she thinks she’s started a new life of safety and freedom, her husband tracks her down, stalks her, and threatens everyone she loves. Still brokenhearted over Genevieve’s betrayal a year ago, Christian can’t believe she’s come back into his life–and worse, that she’s done it on the anniversary of his brother’s death, a death that haunts him. Though tempted to throw her back into the river where he found her, he can’t leave her at the mercy of the terrifying man she married. When her husband torments Genevieve and puts the Amesbury family in danger, Christian will do anything to protect those he loves…anything except give Genevieve another chance to break his heart.

Like all my stories, A Perfect Secret is a Clean & Wholesome Romance. It gets a bit gritty and deals with some sensitive subjects, but there are never sex scenes or bad language in any of my books.

If you’d like to enter to win a paperback copy of A Perfect Secret, please leave a comment in the Comments section below. Include the title of the book you want, your name, and your email address so I can contact you. This is a purely random drawing.

I ask nothing in return, however, if you feel you can give it a good review on Amazon and/or Goodreads, please consider doing so. Reviews really are the life-blood of an author.

Rules:

Available only in US and Canada

Random drawing

No purchase necessary

Void where prohibited