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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Down among the dead... Guest post E.E. Carter

I have been greatly looking forward to having Australian author Elizabeth Ellen Carter as my guest because I know her latest book, MOONSTONE CONSPIRACY, involves a scene in the Paris Catacombs... or at least the part of the catacombs that has served as an ossuary for over 200 years. I visited the catacombs on our recent trip to Paris... and it is a case of one visited - never forgotten.


Paris has few skyscrapers unlike many modern metropolitian cities and the reason lies beneath the city streets.

For under the City of Light, is a City of Death.

They are the catacombs – miles of upon miles (some say as much as 400 miles) of tunnels that criss-cross the city.

Strictly speaking, only a little more than a mile of the underground network is an underground ossuary (correctly called a catacomb), the rest are disused mining tunnels that supplied limestone and gypsum for the people above ground.

I have to confess, that before researching Moonstone Conspiracy I hadn’t given much thought to the origin of ‘Plaster of Paris’!

Ultimately expediency helped the people of Paris solve a distasteful and potentially deadly problem – where to store the remains of the dead.

By the 17th century Paris was a major European centre home to half a million people – a population equal  to that of London. And people have a rather inconvenient habit of dying.

Rather than establishing new cemeteries outside the city (and one very good  reasons against doing so is cemeteries ‘sterilise’ arable land otherwise use for feeding the living), Parisians keep piling more and more bodies into existing cemeteries.

Church of Les Innocentes
Sadly, not a sustainable practice, especially when the inmates decide they want to escape – literally. Following heavy rains in the spring of 1780, a wall of Paris’s largest cemetery, Les Innocents , collapsed, spilling rotten corpses onto neighbouring properties.

From 1786 and for the next 12 years, between six and seven million new ‘residents’ found their eternal resting place underground. The earliest bones moved to the catacombs are estimated to be more than 1200 years old.

The catacombs today are a major Parisian tourist attraction – officially and unofficially. Organised tours are available to savour this history of this most remarkable  place.

Supporting pillars of bones and skulls
For others, known as cataphiles, the appeal is the forbidden. Groups of modern day cavers  explore the rest of the tunnel network, dodging officials sent to ferret them out and not always successfully. One underground amphitheatre had been turned into a cinema, complete with chairs, projector and screen, a neighbouring cavern was home to a restaurant and bar!

So it’s not very surprising to learn that during World War II, both the Germans and the French Resistance used the catacombs as secret bunkers.

While I didn’t find any research to suggest that Parisians looking to escape persecution and certain death during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror used the tunnels, I think they would have done so on that basis, the Paris Catacombs and the people who inhabited them play a major role in Moonstone Conspiracy.

During the French Revolution, churches were nationalised and deconsecrated, even the magnificent 1200 year old Notre Dame Cathedral was vandalised and turned into a temple for the culte de la raison (that incident featured in Moonstone Obsession). Not only were aristocrats guillotined, but also priests and nuns – including those who were cloistered with no interest in temporal politics – others were dragged out onto the street and hung or raped, then beaten to death.

Catacombs often brings to mind the ones in Rome where, back in ancient Rome, Christians escaped persecution. So I extrapolated some historical fact to create eglise sous terre – the church underground – in Moonstone Conspiracy to draw attention to not only real historic events in Paris, but also the restive outer regions including the Vendee.


A single candle lay inside a small adit, just wide enough for them to walk two abreast. Daniel picked it up and handed it to Abigail. His meaning was clear—if he had to defend them, he would need both hands.
The white chalky walls reflected the light down a tunnel which turned black as it pushed further into the hill.
“Do not fear, you are among friends,” whispered a voice that echoed eerily down the passage ways.
“Who do we have the honor of calling friend?” asked Daniel.
“Come further inside to safety. The soldiers are superstitious; they won’t come any further than this entrance.”
Daniel placed his left hand on the small of Abigail’s back to gently urge her forward. She glanced up at him and he gave a nod of confirmation making sure in the candlelight that she caught of glimpse of the knife he carried.
They rounded the corner and the passage continued for about fifteen yards to where a small lamp stood, indicating another corner. They rounded it and then another. Dotted at intervals of about ten yards small lamps lit their way until they entered another passage. Abigail suppressed a scream. A skull in the wall eyed her sightlessly. She raised her candle higher and could see skulls, hundreds of them, twenty feet along and lining six feet up the walls.
Bones of other sorts too were neatly stacked in rows.
“There’s no need to fear. Our sentries will keep a look out,” the voice laughed, amused by his own jest.


For her unwitting participation in a plot to embezzle the Exchequer, Lady Abigail Houghallhas spent the last two years exiled to the city of Bath. A card sharp, sometime mistress, and target of scandalous gossip by the London Beau Monde, Lady Abigail plots to escape her gilded cage as well as the prudish society that condemns her. But the times are not easy. France is in chaos. The king has been executed, and whispers of a similar revolution are stirring in England. And because of her participation in the robbery plot, the Spymaster of England is blackmailing her into passing him information about the members of London’s upper crust. 

When the dashing English spy Daniel Ridgeway takes a seat at her card table and threatens to expose her for cheating, she has no choice but to do as he demands: seduce the leader of the revolutionaries and learn what she can about their plot. As she’s drawn deeper into Daniel’s dangerous world, from the seedy backstreets of London to the claustrophobic catacombs of a war-torn Paris, she realizes an even more dangerous fact. She’s falling in love with her seductive partner. And the stakes of this game might just be too high, even for her. 


Elizabeth Ellen Carter’s lives in Australia with her husband and two cats. A former newspaper journalist, she ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years.

Her debut novel, Moonstone Obsession set in England and France during the French Revolution,was published in 2013. Her second novel, Warrior’s Surrender, was published  the following year. Set in Northumbria in 1077, it sets the relationship between a displaced Saxon noblewoman and a Norman baron against the turbulent backdrop of England in the years following the Norman invasion of 1066. 

Warrior’s Surrender (now in print as well as eBook) was named Favourite Historical Fiction at the 2015 Readers & Writers Down Under Readers Choice Awards in March this year.

A Moonstone Obsession character, the sinful Lady Abigail Houghall, features in the full length novel Moonstone Conspiracy, released in July 2015.

Carter is currently working on her fourth novel, set in ancient Rome and tentatively titled Dark Heart, which will bring together the elements for which she has become known in just a few years – in-depth historical detail woven through gripping adventure and captivating romance.

Find E.E. Carter 

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Book 2 in the Guardians of the Crown series'

To be released on September 8 - The King's Man (Guardians of the Crown Book 2)

You met him in BY THE SWORD... you saw him fall at the Battle of Worcester. What has happened to Kit Lovell in the intervening three years... and can he ever forgive himself?

London 1654: Kit Lovell is one of the King’s men, a disillusioned Royalist who passes his time cheating at cards, living off his wealthy and attractive mistress, and plotting the death of Oliver Cromwell.

Penniless and friendless, Thamsine Granville has lost everything.  Terrified, in pain, and alone, she hurls a piece of brick at the coach of Oliver Cromwell, and earns herself an immediate death sentence. Only the quick thinking of a stranger saves her.

Far from the bored, benevolent rescuer that he seems, Kit plunges Thamsine into his world of espionage and betrayal – a world that has no room for falling in love.

Torn between Thamsine and loyalty to his master and King, Kit’s carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. He must make one last desperate gamble – the cost of which might be his life. 


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THE GUARDIANS OF THE CROWN... a series set in the English Civil War about love, honour, betrayal and loyalty... view the trailer...

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Wilful Colt - Guest post with Ann B. Harrison

My Friday guest this week is Australian author, Ann B. Harrison, with a horsey tale. I was one of those desperate horsey little girls who would have given my right arm to have my own horse... as it was I had to be content with an imaginary horse I kept stabled in the back yard by the incinerator. Just as well I had a vivid imagination! Consequently I love horsey tales...

Ann hails from a particularly lovely part of the country - the Hunter Valley  and her country background and environment makes her perfectly placed to write western/rural romances and romantic suspense. She tells me she is nurturing a desire to write about a man in a kilt... hmm, not a big call for kilts in rural romance! 
To find out more about Ann, visit her WEBSITE

Ann's latest book CHANCE FOR LOVE, is set a long way from the Hunter Valley - in the beautiful idyll of Colorado. Mountains and horses... and horses is what Ann will talk to us about today.


Growing up as a country girl, I had come into contact with a wide variety of animals and had more than my share of orphans to look after but my world changed when our first foal was born.

He was a stunning chestnut Arab with a crooked white blaze on his nose and we called him Shilo. Our daughter lay claim to him from the beginning and she adored him.

Our old neighbour whom we’d dubbed, Uncle Tom gave us all the advice we could wish for. I mean to say, we were used to sheep and cattle, not long legged graceful if not wilful colts.

Shilo soon got too big for his boots and when I walked into the paddock he would charge me, kicking up his feet and quite rightly putting the wind up me and his young owner.

Back then, almost twenty years ago, we weren’t so lucky as to have the internet so back to Uncle Tom we went. 
It was time to break in Shilo. We herded him into a yard with his dam and called in the local farrier who as the local horse breaker, educated us too.

“Never let him boss you around.” All well and good for a strapping 6’ man like him. I was 5’ nothing! “Show him who’s boss.”

We did. Solitary confinement seemed to work for him and we had no trouble breaking him in after that.

When I wrote the following scene in Chance for Love I remembered those words. “Never let him boss you around.” Callie, my Aussie heroine takes on a rodeo bull in order to save her husband from serious harm by herding said bull into a yard. I wish I’d had her nerves when we had our fiery colt to deal with.

Excerpt from CHANCE FOR LOVE

She looked on in horror as her husband threw himself on the ground only to be picked up and thrown through the air. He landed, hitting the ground hard. Callie waited for him to attempt to get up and escape the bull but he didn’t move. Terror pawed at the ground and ducked his head down, ready to attack again.

Callie turned the horse, rode to the gate, and slipped the latch, pushing her way through. She kicked Sultan’s ribs and headed straight for the bull, waving her hat and screaming at the top of her lungs. She rode between bull and man, pushing the bull further away from the prone body lying still in the grass.'

“Move you big bastard. Move I say.” 

She herded Terror away from Chance toward the holding yard, not stopping until he was forced inside and the gate was shut behind him. She hurried back to Chance and jumped from the horse before it stilled. Callie crouched beside him. “Chance, please, please be alright.”


Callie can't resist the advert for a ranch manager in Colorado. Only thing is, it also stipulates marriage. Down on her luck with more debt than she can manage after the death of her parents in a vehicle accident, she takes the plunge and commits.

Chance is sick of the high life he's led for years as a top rodeo rider. The glitz and glamour aren't what he wants. After an accident leaves him unable to return to the circuit, he decides now is the time to do what his heart has been yearning for - marry a down to earth country girl and raise bulls on his ranch, with the hope of bringing his brothers back together. Little did he know that an advert would bring him a sassy talking Australian bride to turn his world up side down.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

When the tribe roars...New releases from Downunder!

One wonderful aspect of being a writer (and maybe it is a romance writer thing!) is the generosity and the friendship of my fellow writers. Apart from my wonderful, amazing Critique Group (who are always ready with tea and sympathy over all aspects of life, not just writing), I am fortunate to belong to another group of published writers who meet every few months for lunch and laughs!

In an amazing coincidence, nearly everyone in the group has a book out or just coming out and I would like to introduce you to the varied talents of this incredible group - we are as different as the books we write!

First up is Nicki Edwards who writes medical romances set in remote parts of Australia.


Intensive care nurse Mackenzie Jones is no stranger to running. As a teenager she fled her family home with a tragedy in her wake. Now, after fifteen years alone in Sydney, with the strain of working in a city hospital wearing her thin, she's tempted to run again.

Mackenzie jumps at the chance to work in a mining town in the West Australian desert – anything to lift her spirits. Though she barely dares to hope, she wonders if she might find the kind of love that can ease her loneliness.

In the outback, Nathan Kennedy is at a loose end. He's been making money in the mines for years, and pressure from his family to return to the east coast, settle down and get married is reaching fever pitch. The problem is, he hasn't met the right woman.

When Mackenzie turns up in town, there's an instant attraction between her and Nathan, maybe even true love. But tragedy's not done with Mackenzie Jones – the past is about to catch up with her in more ways than one.
Can Nathan convince Mackenzie to stop running, or is this just another tragedy in the making?

Perfect for fans of Fiona McArthur and Melanie Milburne.

Recent releases from the tribe:

I have written before about Fiona Lowe's lovely Contemporary romances. Her latest series is set in Montana in the fictional town of Medicine River.  Her latest release is TRULY MADLY MONTANA

Romances set in the Australian bush are popular at the moment and Lisa Ireland has just released FEELS LIKE HOME (and I hum that song every time I step on a Qantas plane!). 

Coming soon...

And if you like your reading on the hotter side Delwyn Jenkins sexy, sensual paranormals are for you. Book 3 in the Watchtower series will be released on September 24. KISSED BY WATER

Sasha Cottman is a fellow historical romance writer and Book 3 in her Regency Romance Duke of STrathmore series, THE DUKE'S DAUGHTER will be released on 11 August. Sasha will be my guest later this month.

... and of course me... THE KING'S MAN will be released on September 8 but watch this space next week for news about that release!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Pitching the Pitch with Belinda Williams.

As we edge closer to the Romance Writers of Australia Conference, writers across the country are polishing their 'pitches'. This is the one time of the year when a writer gets to front an editor or an agent and sell their book.

For some people it is a mind bogglingly terrifying experience, but for some it is a way of life - marketing professionals in particular ('The PITCH' was my favourite part of The Gruen Transfer,a humorous look at how the ad men sold an often unsaleable product).

My guest this week, Belinda Williams, is a marketing communications specialist and copywriter who allowed an addiction to romance and chick-lit to get the better of her. She was named a top ten finalist in the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award in both 2013 and 2014 and it is interesting to see how she took her real life experience into her latest book... called THE PITCH!

Over to Belinda to explain where the lines between fact and fiction blur...


My ‘Fun Fact’ isn’t something I stumbled on, nor is it a particular piece of research I found fascinating. My Fun Fact relates to my real world experience in marketing. In my other life I work in marketing and have done for fifteen years. I guess I wanted to write a book set in this world and I felt the time had come when I could accurately portray this to my readers.

In The Pitch, Maddy runs her own marketing agency. In real life, I’ve worked for both marketing and advertising agencies. In The Pitch, Maddy is pitching for a huge piece of business that could change the trajectory of her agency. In real life I’ve pitched for business. In The Pitch, Maddy’s big potential client is a major bank. In real life I’ve worked for financial services companies.

So yes, there are a lot of parallels but I should stress that The Pitch is completely fictitious (and I’m not saying that to cover myself, it’s true. Or do I mean fiction? You get my point . . .)

I think the major motivating factor and theme for The Pitch was the desire to write about the issues around juggling work or career aspirations with relationships because it’s a challenge so many women face.

In writing The Pitch, I feel like I’ve conducted the research over a lot of years and in many different jobs. So either it’s one of the lengthiest research projects for a contemporary romance novel, or one of the easiest! I’ll leave it to my readers to decide how effective my ‘research’ proved.

About The Pitch

She’s in a long-term, committed relationship. With her business.

In three years Madeline Spencer has single-handedly grown her marketing agency, Grounded Marketing, into one of the country’s fastest growing companies. But her success has been at the expense of her social life, and her girlfriends have had enough. They’ll do whatever it takes, from speed dating to blind dates, to show her there’s more to life than work.

Only Maddy is having a hard time forgetting about her business. She’s about to pitch for her biggest client ever and the mysterious media mogul, Paul Neilsen, has volunteered to mentor her. Maddy might just be in with a shot of landing the account—if she can keep her mind on the job.
Working with Paul is not at all what she’d imagined, and Maddy finds herself torn between her ever increasing workload and her feelings for Paul. She’s discovering playing in the big league means making sacrifices…and Maddy must decide what she can’t live without.

The Pitch is the second book in the City Love series released by Momentum.

More About the Author
Belinda's other addictions include music and cars.Her eclectic music taste forms the foundation of many of her writing ideas and her healthy appreciation for fast cars means she would not so secretly love a Lamborghini. For now she’ll have to settle with her son’s Hot Wheels collection and writing hot male leads with sports cars.
Belinda lives in Sydney and blogs regularly about writing and reading here:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Research from the Ground Up: Hannah Methwell (aka M.J. Logue)

I have been looking forward to this week's guest, Hannah Methwell. Hannah writes a historical fiction series (as M.J. Logue) set in the English Civil War - the Uncivil Wars series - which I blogged about HERE, having devoured the entire series while I was away on holiday.

What makes me particularly envious of Hannah is that she is a re-enactor. I am certain if I lived in England, I would be a re-enactor too, but alas, the Sealed Knot or English Civil War Society have not ventured downunder. I should add she is a one-eyed adherant to the Parliamentary cause and is trying to convert me...

When not attempting to redeem the reputation of the Army of Parliament, Hannah lives in Cornwall with her husband and son, three cats, and a toad under the back doorstep. 
As she says:  "There is little more to divulge, other than - "I had rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a Gentle-man and is nothing else. "

As this is a research post... it is only appropriate that Hannah talks to us about 'method research' - living the life of an English Civil War camp follower - which she does frequently.


I have the most unladylike wrists imaginable - broad and flat and solidly-muscled. 

Possibly, had I not learned to fight with a heavy backsword, I'd be a delicate little flower. But I did, and I'm thankful. (Not really. He's tall and fair and a bit scarred, and I'm red-haired. Probably Babbitt, then.) 

I decided when I was writing my first book set in the seventeenth century, that rather than writing randomly about stuff out of books, it might be an idea if I turned myself into one of Cromwell's plain russet-coated captains, who knew whereof she wrote and loved what she knew. 

Walking into the courtyard of a seventeenth-century inn in North Cornwall to meet half a hundred musketeers, pikemen and camp followers was one of the weirdest moments of my life. I was in a plain russet skirt and bodice, petticoats, stays, kerchief, coif, cap, latchet shoes, wool stockings. Some of them were in back and breast plate and buffcoat. Some were in officers' black, or soldiers' coats. There was nothing, at first glance, to anchor me into the present day, in that inn courtyard. Frightened the hell out of me, and in the same heartbeat, it was like coming home.

I have crawled out of a nest of blankets in a damp canvas tent in the first pearly light of a summer dawn, to bury bare feet in dew-wet grass and smell woodsmoke and frying bacon.
I have slept in a castle with the sound of the sea thirty yards below my head as the tide swept in.
I have cooked on an open fire in the rain.
I have faced a cavalry charge, and not broken.
I have fired a musket and fought hand-to-hand with a dragoon in a green field in Devon, and I didn't think the musket butt would ever be the same and I'm damn sure my knuckles haven't.
I have been preached at by a Ranter, married to a gentleman, and got drunk with cavalry officers. (Rowdy lot, they are, too.)
I've sat in an silent Elizabethan manor garden at dusk, with the bats flitting low in the air and the scent of hot grass and bruised rosemary rising from the earth as it cools.

I know Babbitt's world. I've lived in it.

For more information about the Babbit/Uncivil War books, visit M.J. Logues Website

RED HORSE - Babbit Book 1

September 1642, and the storm clouds of civil war are gathering over England. After the King raises his standard against his rebellious Parliament, idealistic young Luce Pettitt sees his duty clear - to defend the noble cause of freedom against the Royal tyrant. He doesn't expect that duty to lie with possibly the scruffiest, most disreputable troop of cavalry in the Army of Parliament, commanded by maverick ex-mercenary Hollie Babbitt. Events conspire to bring Hollie and Luce to a wary friendship, in spite of their differences. But in the aftermath of the first bloody battle of the war, will Luce keep faith with his ideals, or his friend?

Friday, July 17, 2015

MIddle Class Women in Georgian Times - Guest Elyse Huntington

And it's Friday! And another chilly week in Melbourne (Australia) - there has even been snow in Queensland (unheard of!).

To warm our hearts I have debut Australian author Elyse Huntington whose first book, MY DARK DUKE is the perfect antidote to a chilly night. Hailing from Borneo, Elyse joins the ranks of 'lawyers who write romance' (of which I am an alumni member!). The world seems to expect lawyers to write crime novels but romance is a wonderful escape from the cut and thrust of the legal world and I'm with her! Elyse has always had a fascination with Dukes and any book with Duke on the cover was an immediate draw card. Meet Elyse at her website, Facebook and Goodreads

MY DARK DUKE is set in Georgian rather than Regency times and Elyse's researches have taken her into some interesting areas. Today she focuses on the lives of middle class women of the 18th century. Welcome... Elyse!

Middle-class Women in 18th century England

Despite having written my first novel My Dark Duke which is set in England in 1770, I find that I am still discovering new information about 18th century England. Of course, this is hardly surprising. There are so many aspects of this century that information about it would encompass many encyclopedic volumes. There’s the politics, fashion, living conditions, architecture, medicine and social conventions, to name just a few. Today, though, I have chosen to focus on women who are considered to belong to the middle class in the Georgian era.
Childbirth was dangerous and infant mortality was high. Infants who progressed to solid food were fortunate to survive diseases such as infantile diarrhoea , which was likely caused by the preparation of food in unhygenic kitchens, from dirty bread, or from water or milk infested with bacteria. Babies who had teething problems might have their gums lanced with a sharp instrument. And if you think this sounded terrible, there is even advice that strong children should be bled from the jugular to help with teething!
Once the girls were older, they would attend day schools or boarding schools where they learnt subjects such as English, French, arithmetic, geography, needlework and dancing. Girls in more affluent households had governesses and visiting tutors and may be given lessons in languages such as Latin or Italian, and be taught how to play different musical instruments. It’s likely that part of the motive for their education, at least at some schools, was to assist them in obtaining husbands.
When it came to marriage, women found husbands from either working with them (such as domestic servants) or answering lonely-heart ads, some of which were hilariously prescriptive. I was surprised to find out that the average age of marriage was around 26 or so. And here I had thought ‘young’ ladies of this age were very much on-the-shelf.
This leads to the next interesting fact that an average family was estimated to have 2.5 children, so really, no bigger than the families you meet today. This is partially explained by the fact that the women were no longer at their most fertile by the time they married in their mid-twenties. There was also the adherence to the church’s calendar, which meant couples abstained from intercourse during Lent, Sundays and fasting days. This, in addition to menstruation and long periods of breast-feeding which could inhibit ovulation, meant that babies were not conceived very often.
The women had to supervise their servants to ensure the smooth running of their household. They also did their own food shopping at the markets (or street vendors) if they didn’t have a cook or a housekeeper, or were between cooks. Cooking in those days was very labour intensive. The cook had to ensure that the coal-fuelled fire was the perfect temperature for a roast pig or a cake, she had to maintain her cooking utensils and she had to preserve as much as she could to prevent waste. Thankfully, there were also establishments where you could buy ready-made dishes to eat in or take away, if you were to be in one of those highly inconvenient between-cooks periods.
I do admit that my preference is to write about the wealthy men and women in the aristocracy. I did find reading about this particular class of women to be quite entertaining. Who knows, one day I might even write about a duke who, against his better judgment, falls in love with such a female. She will be around 25, well-educated, independent and of course, be very impudent!
I leave you with this humorous anecdote of a marriage ceremony taken from Dr. Johnson’s London by Liza Picard which includes quotes from the Gentleman’s Magazine, September 1964. I can easily picture a heroine of mine doing exactly this!

When asked whether she would ‘take this man to be her wedded husband’, one woman said, ‘No and I have often told him so’. The parson asked the obvious question – why was she there?  ‘Only to tell you, before him, that I would not marry him’, and she left the church, and her swain.


Since his notorious wife died in mysterious circumstances, rumours about James, the handsome Duke of Trent, have scandalized society. Now, he must marry again – but finding an eligible woman willing to overlook his past won't be easy.

Defiantly single, Lady Alethea Sinclair has already turned down six offers of marriage. She prefers living on her own terms and refuses to answer to any man. Yet when Alethea meets the seductive and enigmatic Duke she finds herself strangely drawn to him.

Intrigued by Alethea's defiance of society's expectations, James is instantly taken with the willful beauty and soon they are enjoying a playful flirtation. And when circumstances force them into a comprising situation, he does the honourable thing and marries her.

But adjusting to the constraints of marriage doesn't come easily to the rebellious Alethea and, despite their growing feelings for each other, the Duke's troubled past keeps getting in the way. Can they learn to trust each other and give love a chance before it's too late?

A steamy Georgian romance about desire, the importance of staying true to yourself and the power of the past to cast a shadow on the present.

There is a bonus epilogue for My Dark Duke at her website so please do visit. And if you sign up for her mailing list, you will have exclusive access to a free short story when it becomes available. Click HERE

MY DARK DUKE is available at all reputable ebook stores...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Brokering a Marriage - 17th Century Style - Guest Diane M. Denton

My Friday guest today is Diane Denton, one of the seventeenth century passionistas, with whom the magic of the 'interwebs' has allowed me to connect. Say what you like about Facebook and social media, I remain eternally grateful for the contacts it has given me and the friendships I have developed with people like Diane!

What to say about Diane? She is a true creative who finds expression through poetry and music and this is reflected in her wonderful novels, set partly in Italy and partly in Restoration England - A HOUSE NEAR LUCCOLI  and its sequel TO A STRANGE SOMEWHERE FLED (more on those later). The stories are interwoven with the beautiful baroque music of the period and the real lives of musicians such as Alessandro Stradella. I have learned so much about women and music in the 17th century (see Diane's post on HOYDENS AND FIREBRANDS... click HERE.  You can connect with Diane through her website... click HERE.

Continuing her thoughts on the life of women in the 17th century, Diane is bringing us a fabulous post on Marriage brokering and the part it plays in her book A HOUSE NEAR LUCCOLI. 

Over to Diane.... 

Marriage broker - someone who arranges (or tries to arrange) marriages for others, usually between strangers and for a fee.

Why would a talented up-and-coming composer, patronized by a Queen and other highly placed individuals, engage in marriage brokering? As with most of the self-injurious choices made by the flamboyant 17th century composer Alessandro Stradella (1639 – 1682), who is at the heart of my historical fiction A House Near Luccoli, there isn’t any definitive answer as to what he was thinking. 

Marriage... from Hogarth's A Rake's Progress
Although born to minor nobility and receiving many commissions, his extant letters reveal he was often in financial difficulty, which may have been due to his ‘employers’ not always paying him and his own mismanagement of money. In any case, in 1667 he was involved in a dubious marriage brokering scheme, and then again in 1671, an incident he referred to as “a certain misfortune” that happened to him in Rome.

With a well-known castrato as an accomplice, Stradella contrived to receive a substantial payment from an ugly old woman “of low birth, not respectable” by marrying her off to Cardinal who was a member of the powerful Roman Cibo family. It’s reported that Stradella and the singer got the Cardinal drunk and a priest performed the marriage before he sobered up. The Cardinal put the woman in a nunnery, had the marriage annulled, and demanded that Stradella and the castrato be imprisoned, one account claiming the latter was tried and found guilty, while Stradella avoided the same consequence by taking refuge in a convent and eventually fleeing Rome altogether.

This happened ten years before the timeline of A House Near Luccoli, which finds Stradella in Genoa involved in yet another scandal; but, as with most of his reckless adventures, it could not be left out of any part of his story entirely.

     There were woundings all the time. In words or actions, owned or anonymous, answered or ignored. Sometimes they were as obvious as Pier Francesco Guano attacked on the second of December, needing twelve stitched on his face. Lonati must have known it was old news, pounding the front door and rushing upstairs.
     “Only the beginning.” He didn’t acknowledge Donatella dropping music sheets, just Alessandro picking them up. “Beware. If you don’t turn around you’re a dead man.”
     Alessandro’s irritation came down on the keyboard, but then he played the piece as pleasantly as it was written, “I’m a prisoner of cortesia now.”
     Lonati snatched the pages out of Donatella’s hands. “Well, this is from the good old days. Rome, mid-sixties? All carnivals and palaces, especially for Monesio and Stradella.”
     “What’s behind us may be all there is.” Alessandro continued to accompany his aggravation with music that might soothe it.
     “Your singing was magnificent.”
     “What part?” Donatella approached the conversation.
     Alessandro winked. “Rigore, of course.”

     “The talk of the town,” Lonati began to pet her arm but thought better of it, “before he received more attention for his lack of discipline.”


Over three years since the charismatic composer, violinist, and singer Alessandro Stradella sought refuge in the palaces and twisted alleys of Genoa, royally welcomed despite the alleged scandals and even crimes that forced him to flee from Rome, Venice, and Turin, his professional and personal life have begun to unravel again. He is offered, by the very man he is rumored to have wronged, a respectable if slightly shabby apartment and yet another chance to redeem his character and career. 
He moves in to the curiosity and consternation of his caretakers, also tenants, three women whose reputations are of concern only to themselves. 
Donatella, still unmarried in her mid-thirties, is plainly irrelevant. Yet, like the city she lives in, there are hidden longings in her, propriety the rule, not cure, for what ails her. She cares more for her bedridden grandmother and cats than overbearing aunt, keeping house and tending to a small terraced garden, painting flowers and waxing poetic in her journal. At first, she is in awe of and certain she will have little to do with Stradella. Slowly, his ego, playfulness, need of a copyist and camouflage involve her in an inspired and insidious world, exciting and heartbreaking as she is enlarged by his magnanimity and reduced by his missteps, forging a friendship that challenges how far she will go.

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To A Strange Somewhere Fled

Sequel to A House Near Luccoli. 
After the sudden end to her collaboration with composer Alessandro Stradella, Donatella moves from Genoa to join her parents in a small village in Oxfordshire, England. 
The gift of a sonnet, 'stolen' music, inexpressible secrets, and an irrepressible spirit have stowed away on her journey. Haunted by whispers and visions, angels and demons, will she rise out of grief and aimlessness? 
Her father's friendship with the residents of Wroxton Abbey, who are important figures in the court of Charles II, offers new possibilities, especially as music and its masters—including the 'divine' Henry Purcell—have not finished with her yet.

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