October 30, 2014

Sabra Waldfogel's Slave and Sister - Guest Post and {Giveaway}

Just Short of Marriage: Isaac Cardozo and Lydia Weston of Charleston

As I researched my novel Slave and Sister, about Jews and their slaves in antebellum Georgia, I found some real people whose lives were as fascinating as anything I could imagine. This is one such story.

Isaac Cardozo and Lydia Weston, both of Charleston, South Carolina, were intimately connected for more than three decades after they met in the mid-1820s. Between 1828 and 1838, they had six children together. But they were not husband and wife.

Isaac Cardozo was a Sephardic Jew. Lydia Weston was a free woman of color.

They were “just short of marriage.” It was a liaison not unusual in antebellum Charleston, where a white man might have a lifelong and intimate connection with a black woman. He might father all of her children and try to provide for them. He might buy her a house or, if he were unmarried, install her as his housekeeper. But he could not take her into society or marry her.

Everyone knew of these relationships “just short of marriage”, but no one admitted to them. They were private, if not always secret.

Both Isaac and Lydia were native Charlestonians, Isaac born in 1793, Lydia in 1805. Isaac’s father, David Cardozo, was descended from Portuguese Marranos, secret Jews, and had fought in the American Revolutionary War. Lydia’s father was a mystery, but she took her name from her master, Plowden Weston, who freed her in his will of 1826. She was not his daughter; her manumission was a gesture of her master’s gratitude for nursing him when he was ill. The Cardozos were solid and respected among the Jews of Charleston, but the Westons were grand. Plowden Weston was one of the wealthiest planters in South Carolina before the Civil War.

In Charleston, a connection “just short of marriage” often involved money and property, and Lydia was blessed with both. She owned slaves. In 1830, there was a girl under ten in her household who was enslaved, and in 1840, a woman over fifty-five. (Were they her relatives, purchased so that she could protect them from punishment or sale? We don’t know.) In 1852, she bought property—she owned her own house.

But the closest connection between Isaac and Lydia was through their children.

In 1828, Lydia bore their first child together, a daughter also named Lydia. A son named Henry followed, and another daughter named Eslanda. The next two children, both boys, were named after Isaac’s brothers—Jacob and Francis. The last child, Thomas, was born ten years after the first.

In antebellum Charleston, white men with mulatto children often made provision for them, for an education or a trade. All of Isaac’s children were educated, daughters as well as sons. Eslanda went to a school for free blacks. Henry, the oldest son, was learned enough to join the Clionian Debating Society, a group dedicated to education and intellectual improvement for the free black men of Charleston. His younger brother Francis was prepared enough to attend the University of Glasgow. The youngest son, Thomas, received an education that let him start a career as a teacher.
Isaac’s children were equipped for life in other ways. At least two of the sons, and one of the daughters, were taught a trade—Henry and Lydia learned tailoring and Francis was apprenticed as a carpenter.

Isaac left no record to describe his feelings for Lydia and their children, and despite their education, none of his children recorded their feelings for their father. But Henry, the eldest son, left a hint. Isaac Cardozo died in 1855. Henry’s first son was born a few years later. In a perfect confluence of African and Jewish traditions of memorial, the boy was named after his grandfather. He was called Isaac Nunez Cardozo.

Two of the best sources for the lives of free people of color in antebellum Charleston are Marina Wikramanayake, A World in Shadow: The Free Black in Antebellum South Carolina (University of South Carolina Press, 1989), and Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roark, No Chariot Let Down: Charleston’s Free People on the Eve of the Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2001). A good source on the Cardozo family in the antebellum South is in the early chapters of Andrew L. Kaufman, Cardozo (Harvard University Press, 1998). For the idea of “just short of marriage”, see Adam Wolkoff, “Family Property, Family Properties: Interracial Wealth Transfer in the Low Country during the Early Republic” (academia.edu).

About the book
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Sabra Waldfogel
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 379
Genre: Historical Fiction

Adelaide Mannheim and her slave Rachel share a shameful secret. Adelaide’s father, a Jewish planter in Cass County, Georgia, is Rachel’s father, too. Adelaide marries neighboring planter Henry Kaltenbach, a Jew deeply troubled by slavery, and watches with a wary eye as her husband treats all of his slaves—including Rachel—with kindness. As the country’s conflict over slavery looms ever larger, Henry and Rachel fall in love, and as the United States is rent by the Civil War, the lives of mistress and slave are torn apart.
When the war brings destruction and Emancipation, can these two women, made kin by slavery, free themselves of the past to truly become sisters?

Praise for Slave and Sister
“Two faces seen in a mirror: a black slave and her white mistress. Their eyes, their cheekbones, reflect a disturbingly similar cast. Disturbing for the times, antebellum Georgia, and for the reason: Adelaide Mannheim and her slave Rachel share the same father. Later, as war clouds gather, Adelaide, newly married, finds her husband and Rachel have fallen in love. What could have been a tawdry tale of forbidden romance becomes, in the hands of author Sabra Waldfogel, a complex story of survival and the emergence of true love and heroism. Waldfogel has an eye for character and the historical training to ground her story in the milieu of the 1850s and ’60s. A veritable page-turner that will capture the reader from start to finish.” – Lavender Magazine

“A carefully crafted cavern through time… Waldfogel’s wizardry with words makes it impossible not to be devastatingly impacted by her work… A literary tapestry of shame and honor, of glory and defeat, and of coming to terms with the most important issues in life.” – The Northern Star

About the Author
Sabra Waldfogel grew up far from the South in Minneapolis. She studied history at Harvard University and received her Ph.D. in American History from the University of Minnesota. She has worked as a technical writer and has written about historic architecture for Old House Journal and Arts and Crafts Homes. Her short story “Yemaya” appeared in Sixfold’s Winter 2013 fiction issue. Slave and Sister is her first novel.
For more information please visit Sabra’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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Twitter Hashtag: #SlaveandSisterBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #CivilWar
Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @SlaveandSister

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October 27, 2014

Ned Hayes' Sinful Folk - Spotlight and {Giveaway}

Publication Date: January 22, 2014
Campanile Press
Formats: eBook, Hardcover, Audiobook
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery/Medieval

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A tragic loss. A desperate journey. A mother seeks the truth.

In December of 1377, four children were burned to death in a house fire. Villagers traveled hundreds of miles across England to demand justice for their children’s deaths.

Sinful Folk is the story of this terrible mid-winter journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village. For years, she has concealed herself and all her history. But on this journey, she will find the strength to redeem the promise of her past. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and transcendence.

The remarkable new novel by Ned Hayes, illustrated by New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Nikki McClure, Sinful Folk illuminates the medieval era with profound insight and compassion.

Praise for Sinful Folk
In December of 1377, five children are burned in a suspicious house fire. Awash in paranoia and prejudice, the fathers suspect it is the work of Jews and set out to seek justice from the king, loading the charred bodies of their boys onto a cart. Unbeknownst to them, among them is a woman, Mear, who has been hiding out in the town for the past 10 years posing as a mute man. It is a treacherous journey, for their rations are spare and the weather is brutal. And always, they are haunted by the question, Why were their boys in Benedict the weaver’s house, and who would do this to them? Mear, ever resourceful, not only watches for clues to unravel the mystery but also provides invaluable aid in finding their way, for she has traveled this way before and is the only literate one among them. The reason for her false identity is slowly revealed as the villagers are chased by bandits and must overcome numerous obstacles, hunger and fear among them. Brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed, Hayes’ novel is woven through with a deep knowledge of medieval history, all conveyed in mesmerizing prose. At the center of the novel is Mear, a brave and heartbreaking character whose story of triumph over adversity is a joy to read. –Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist *Starred Review*

“A pilgrim tale worthy of Chaucer, evocative, compelling and peopled with unforgettable characters artfully delivered by a master storyteller.” – Brenda Rickman Vantrease, bestselling author of The Illuminator and The Mercy Seller

“Brilliant, insightful, unflinching and wise. This spellbinding mystery will keep readers turning pages until the last sentence. Remarkable.” – Ella March Chase, bestselling author of The Virgin Queen’s Daughter and Three Maids for a Crown

“Suspenseful, page-turning mystery of a mother pursuing the truth… Every reader will come to love the brave and intrepid Mear, a most memorable character in a most memorable story.” – Jim Heynen, award-winning author of The Fall of Alice K.

“Sinful Folk is a work of art. Miriam’s story is a raw and brutal and passionate tale, but her story touches the reader because it’s a timeless story – a wonderful portrayal of medieval life. Highly recommended.” – Kathryn Le Veque, bestselling author of The Dark Lord and The Warrior Poet

“A suspenseful and mesmerizing tale full of rich and vital characters. Ned Hayes crafts a narrative that shows a devotion to craft in each word.” – Renée Miller, editor of On Fiction and author of In the Bones

Booknote Interview with Ned Hayes

About the Author
Ned Hayes is the author of the Amazon best-selling historical novel SINFUL FOLK. He is also the author of Coeur d’Alene Waters, a noir mystery set in the Pacific Northwest. He is now at work on a new novel, Garden of Earthly Delights, also set in the Middle Ages.

Ned Hayes is a candidate for an MFA from the Rainier Writer’s Workshop, and holds graduate degrees in English and Theology from Western Washington University and Seattle University.

Born in China, he grew up bi-lingually, speaking both Mandarin and English. He now lives in Olympia, Washington with his wife and two children.

For more information please visit www.sinfulfolk.com and www.nednotes.com. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest, Booklikes, YouTube, Google+, and Goodreads.

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Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Sinful Folk (Open to U.S. and U.K. only)!

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October 23, 2014

Piers Alexander's The Bitter Trade - Guest Post

The Fascinating Industry of Killing

I opened my eyes into a slit. I was propped up in a high-backed chair, a bolster behind my neck, hands folded widowishly in my lap. The chair was set back a little from a narrow table. Three men sat facing me, their faces limned by the half-shuttered oil-lantern hanging behind them; and the darkness beyond glittered with a thousand wolf-eyes.

Echoes told me that the chamber stretched far away behind me, and as I forced my eyelids wider open, I saw that the light reflected on steel, a thousand dangling swords. Polished breastplates and gorgets hung from hooks in the rafters, as if invisible soldiers hung there in gibbets for crimes unspoken. Egg-domed helmets were stacked up at the end in gleaming columns, and pitted cast-iron shot lurked in neat stacks at every corner, fists of gloom.

I was flanked by rack upon rack of halberds and lances, lying side-on so that their points walled the walkway. Each vicious spike flickered in the torch-light, staring brutishly back at me, a thousand unmourned deaths each waiting for its turn.

Excerpt from Scatterwood, to be published June 2015

Historical fiction is liberally spiced with violent death: stabbings, shootings, hangings, earthquakes, riots and drownings. This isn’t just in war and adventure: romantic and royal stories are equally packed with murder and execution. I confess that I have enjoyed thousands of gruesome endings since I started reading as a boy. 

It was only when I visited Europe’s biggest medieval armoury in Graz that I really felt the industrialization of death. Four floors of glowering steel, forged to keep the terrifying Turkish army at bay: it inspired the scene above (which has never been seen before by anyone!), and the memory is very powerful. I recently visited the Royal Armouries in Leeds, England, and was struck by how they’d arranged the pikes and swords and chest plates in dazzling geometric patterns, the way the gentry used to. It’s beautiful, in a Hannibal Lecter kind of way.

Images - The Royal Armouries, Leeds

Calumny Spinks, outsider hero of my novel The Bitter Trade, is dragged into blackmail, racketeering and treasonous conspiracy, and has to fight to protect himself and his father. I’ve read a lot of adventure stories, but it still struck me just how big a deal it is to carry a pistol for the first time. To sink a knife into someone’s flesh for the first time. It’s something that Patrick O’Brian writes about beautifully in the Master and Commander series: his scenes of naval bombardment are made raw by the way blood runs from the scuppers.

Like many other readers, I’m drawn to periods where life was more fragile. It makes me feel more alive in today’s safer, more virtual world.

But I’m also fascinated by the industrialization of death, and that’s maybe another reason why the seventeenth century appeals to me as a setting. I grew in the fortress city of Luxembourg, where the Spanish built over 20km of tunnels to withstand sieges. Visiting those armouries is a similar experience to walking in the Spanish casemates: you marvel at the sheer level of engineering and manufacturing required to wage war. It’s much more precise and plotted than medieval combat, and my hero Calumny becomes increasingly disillusioned as he stumbles into the second book.

Gunpowder and Anachronisms…

At Chapter One bookstore, Luxembourg, for an unusual reading event!

Just in case you were feeling too serious after the last paragraph… Let me explain this photo!

It goes back to the middle of the year when we sent some books out to the Sealed Knot, one of the largest English historical reenactment societies, and they invited me down to take part in the Siege of Sherborne Castle in August. I’d been curious about reenactment for a long time. I’m not averse to a bit of dressing up myself – I’d been both Marty and George McFly for Secret Cinema’s Back To The Future night the week before – but wondered what made people do it for a major hobby. But, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I wanted to feel the fear and fury of the battlefield for myself. You can find out more about my experiences at www.piersalexander.com/powder-horn.

Anyway, some reenactor friends came to the London book launch in costume, so I challenged the Luxembourgish society, Milites Viennenses, to do the same – and here they are outside Chapter 1 bookstore in a Luxembourg suburb. Interestingly, it seems that gunpowder accidents are very common on both sides of the English Channel – I heard some bloodcurdling stories…

Whichever era you like to read about – happy time-travelling!

About the book

Publication Date: April 7, 2014
Formats: eBook, Paperback; 448p

Genre: Historical Adventure/Thriller

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In 1688, torn by rebellions, England lives under the threat of a Dutch invasion. Redheaded Calumny Spinks is the lowliest man in an Essex backwater: half-French and still unapprenticed at seventeen, yet he dreams of wealth and title.

When his father’s violent past resurfaces, Calumny’s desperation leads him to flee to London and become a coffee racketeer. He has just three months to pay off a blackmailer and save his father’s life - but his ambition and talent for mimicry pull him into a conspiracy against the King himself. Cal’s journey takes him from the tough life of Huguenot silk weavers to the vicious intrigues at Court. As the illicit trader Benjamin de Corvis and his controlling daughter Emilia pull him into their plots, and his lover Violet Fintry is threatened by impending war, Cal is forced to choose between his conscience and his dream of becoming Mister Calumny Spinks.

The Bitter Trade won the PEN Factor at The Literary Consultancy’s Writing In A Digital Age Conference. Jury Chair Rebecca Swift (Author, Poetic Lives: Dickinson) said: “The Pen Factor jury selected The Bitter Trade based on the quality of writing, the engaging plot, and the rich and unusual historical context. Dazzling and playful!”

Praise for The Bitter Trade
“A fantastic debut novel” - Robert Elms, BBC Radio London

“The ambitious, cheeky Calumny Spinks is a great guide through the sensory overload of 17th century London, in an adventure that combines unexpected insights with just the right amount of rollicking ribaldry. I hope it’s the opener to a series.” - Christopher Fowler, author of the Bryant and May novels

“This debut novel is a gripping evocation of late seventeenth century London, rich in persuasive dialect and period detail and with a bold protagonist. An unusual thriller that just keeps you wanting to know more about the many facets of this story. You’ll never view your coffee in quite the same way again.” - Daniel Pembrey, bestselling author of The Candidate

“A very exciting and superbly researched novel” - Mel Ulm, The Reading Life

Buy the Book
Amazon UK (Paperback)
Amazon US (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)

03_Piers Alexander

About the Author
Piers Alexander is an author and serial entrepreneur. After a successful career as CEO of media and events companies he became a Co-Founder and Chairman of three start-up businesses. In 2013 he was awarded the PEN Factor Prize for The Bitter Trade. He is currently working on the sequel, Scatterwood, set in Jamaica in 1692.

For more information visit Piers Alexander's website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

The Bitter Trade Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, October 13
Review at Back Porchervations
Spotlight at Literary Chanteuse

Tuesday, October 14
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, October 15
Interview at Back Porchervations
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry

Thursday, October 16
Spotlight & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, October 20
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, October 21
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, October 22
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, October 23
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Tuesday, October 28
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, October 29
Spotlight at Unshelfish

Thursday, October 30
Review at Broken Teepee

Saturday, November 1
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Monday, November 3
Review at Book by Book
Review & Interview at Dab of Darkness

Tuesday, November 4
Review at Just One More Chapter
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, November 5
Review at Turning the Pages
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, November 6
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Monday, November 10
Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, November 11
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, November 12
Spotlight at Layered Pages

Friday, November 14
Review at Anglers Rest
Review & Giveaway at Booklover Book Reviews

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October 22, 2014

Caddy Rowland - Making History, Bohemian Style (Part 10)

Please welcome back historical fiction author and artist, Caddy Rowland, our monthly contributor here at Historical Fiction Connection.

We’ve talked about places where artists gathered to party and discuss art. We’ve even talked about their favorite place to get supplies. But what about their favorite place to paint? Well, I’ve mentioned how freeing it was to be able to finally buy paint in tubes. Many times artists would escape into the countryside to paint idyllic scenes. Other times they would simply set up a canvas on a Montmartre street and capture the daily lives of various residents. And, of course, many are familiar with the paintings and posters done featuring the Moulin Rouge dancehall girls by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (see above), not to mention the fabulous painting of Moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (see below).

But there was one location that became the most popular place for artists to gather and paint. It was a small, unassuming public square in Montmartre named Place du Tertre. Here they could gather and capture the feel of the village while at the same time work off of each other’s energy and excitement. It was a great place to share new ideas and experiment.

I mentioned previously how Impressionists could capture the different times of day. Being outside meant they could capture the glow of sunrise or sunset; show the glare of a full sun beating down on a building, or the shadows as they moved across a street during different times of day. Color changes depended on not only time of day but weather. These painters had always understood that, but now it was much easier to capture because they painted those changes while actually witnessing them. That’s why so many quit worrying about showing a scene in three dimensions. Instead they wanted to show those shadows and changes in color. Mood became more important than technicality of realism.

Now, with this new method of painting outside a new problem arose. In order to catch the changes of day these artists had to paint quickly. How does one paint quickly when oils take a lot of time to dry between layers? Never being the type to give up, they adapted and changed the way they handled paint. They simply began to paint alla prima (wet on wet) most of the time. This technique wasn’t new in oil. However, using it the majority of the time certainly was something artists in the past hadn’t done. Applying wet paint over wet paint not only allowed these artists to work faster, it demanded they do so. It was essential to get the layers on before the first layer dried.

Place du Tertre in the old days

Now Place du Tertre has become a tourist trap. Artists rent small spaces along the square and halfway through the day, the morning artists leave and the afternoon artists take their place. I imagine one can still find interesting paintings done at this famous locale, but for the most part they are overpriced and underwhelming.

Times change. I’m well aware of it. And, to be fair, I suppose the city had to start renting space or it would be a constant struggle to get one’s easel up before another tried to encroach on your small space. Still, it would be nice if these artists of today used some creativity to find other places to make their own history. After all, those bohemians were brave enough to start their own style and their own locales to create history. It would be difficult to ever top what these nineteenth century artists did, but it’s not so much a competition as a never-ending saga to find the next, new way to show color, texture and shape; to show mood, light, and time. At least, it should be.

Historical Fiction by Caddy Rowland: 

Contact and Social Media Info. For Caddy Rowland:

Author Email: caddyauthor@gmail.com
Twitter: @caddyorpims

October 20, 2014

Deanna Raybourn's Night of a Thousand Stars - Excerpt and {Giveaway}


Chapter One

March 1920

“I say, if you’re running away from your wedding, you’re going about it quite wrong.”

I paused with my leg out the window, satin wedding gown hitched up above my knees. A layer of tulle floated over my face, obscuring my view. I shoved it aside to find a tall, bespectacled young man standing behind me. His expression was serious, but there was an unmistakable gleam in his eyes that was distinctly at odds with his clerical garb.

“Oh! Are you the curate? I know you can’t be the vicar. I met him last night at the rehearsal and he’s simply ancient. Looks like Methuselah’s godfather. You’re awfully young to be a priest, aren’t you?” I asked, narrowing my eyes at him.

“But I’m wearing a dog collar. I must be,” he protested. “And as I said, if you’re running away, you’ve gone about it quite stupidly.”

“I have not,” I returned hotly. “I managed to elude both my mother and my future mother-in-law, and if you think that was easy, I’d like to sell you a bridge in Brooklyn.”

“Brooklyn? Where on earth is that?”

I rolled my eyes heavenward. “New York. Where I live.”

“You can’t be American. You speak properly.”
“My parents are English and I was educated here—oh, criminy, I don’t have time for this!” I pushed my head out the window, but to my intense irritation, he pulled me back, his large hands gently crushing the puffed sleeves of my gown.

“You haven’t thought this through, have you? You can get out the window easily enough, but what then? You can’t exactly hop on the Underground dressed like that. And have you money for a cab?”

“I—” I snapped my mouth shut, thinking furiously. “No, I haven’t. I thought I’d just get away first and worry about the rest of it later.”
“As I said, not a very good plan. Where are you bound, anyway?”

I said nothing. My escape plan was not so much a plan as a desperate flight from the church as soon as I heard the organist warming up the Mendelssohn. I was beginning to see the flaw in that thinking thanks to the helpful curate. “Surely you don’t intend to go back to the hotel?” he went on. “All your friends and relations will go there straight away when they realise you’ve gone missing. And since your stepfather is Reginald Hammond—”

I brandished my bouquet at him, flowers snapping on their slender stems. “Don’t finish that sentence, I beg you. I know exactly what will happen if the newspapers get hold of the story. Fine. I need a place to lie low, and I have one, I think, but I will need a ride.” I stared him down. “Do you have a motorcar?”

He looked startled. “Well, yes, but—”

“Excellent. You can drive me.”

“See here, Miss Hammond, I don’t usually make a habit of helping runaway brides to abscond. After all, from what I hear Mr. Madderley is a perfectly nice fellow. You might be making a frightful mistake, and how would it look to the bishop if I aided and abetted—”

“Never mind!” I said irritably. I poked my head through the window again, and this time when he retrieved me he was almost smiling, although a slim line of worry still threaded between his brows.

“All right then, I surrender. Where are you going?”

I pointed in the direction I thought might be west. “To Devon.”

He raised his brows skyward. “You don’t ask for much, do you?”

“I’ll go on my own then,” I told him, setting my chin firmly. Exactly how, I had no idea, but I could always think of that later.

He seemed to be wrestling with something, but a sound at the door decided him. “Time to get on. My motorcar is parked just in the next street. I’ll drive you to Devon.”

I gave him what I hoped was a dazzling smile. “Oh, you are a lamb, the absolute bee’s knees!”

“No, I’m not. But we won’t quarrel about that now. I locked the door behind me but someone’s rattling the knob, and I give them about two minutes before they find the key. Out you go, Miss Hammond.”

Without a further word, he shoved me lightly through the window and I landed in the shrubbery. I smothered a few choice words as I bounced out of his way. He vaulted over the windowsill and landed on his feet—quite athletically for a clergyman.

“That was completely uncalled-for—” I began, furiously plucking leaves out of the veil.

He grabbed my hand and I stopped talking, as surprised by the gesture as the warmth of his hand.

“Come along, Miss Hammond. I think I hear your mother,” he said.

I gave a little shriek and began to run. At the last moment, I remembered the bouquet—a heavy, spidery affair of lilies and ivy that I detested. I flung it behind us, laughing as I ran.
“I shouldn’t have laughed,” I said mournfully. We were in the motorcar—a chic little affair painted a startling shade of bright blue—and the curate was weaving his way nimbly through the London traffic. He seemed to be listening with only half an ear.

“What was that?”
“I said I shouldn’t have laughed. I mean, I feel relieved, enormously so, if I’m honest, but then there’s Gerald. One does feel badly about Gerald.”

“Why? Will you break his heart?”

“What an absurd question,” I said, shoving aside the veil so I could look the curate fully in the face. “And what a rude one.” I lapsed into near-silence, muttering to myself as I unpicked the pins that held the veil in place. “I don’t know,” I said after a while. “I mean, Gerald is so guarded, so English, it’s impossible to tell. He might be gutted. But he might not. He’s just such a practical fellow—do you understand? Sometimes I had the feeling he had simply ticked me off a list.”

“A list?” The curate dodged the little motorcar around an idling lorry, causing a cart driver to abuse him loudly. He waved a vague apology and motored on. For a curate, he drove with considerable flair.

“Yes. You know—the list of things all proper English gentlemen are expected to do. Go to school, meet a suitable girl, get married, father an heir and a spare, shoot things, die quietly.”

“Sounds rather grim when you put it like that.”

“It is grim, literally so in Gerald’s case. He has a shooting lodge in Norfolk called Grimfield. It’s the most appalling house I’ve ever seen, like something out of a Brontë novel. I half expected to find a mad wife locked up in the attic or Heathcliff abusing someone in the stables.”

“Did you?”

“No, thank heaven. Nothing but furniture in the attic and horses in the stables. Rather disappointingly prosaic, as it happens. But the point is, men like Gerald have their lives already laid out for them in a tidy little pattern. And I’m, well, I’m simply not tidy.” I glanced at the interior of the motorcar. Books and discarded wellies fought for space with a spare overcoat and crumpled bits of greaseproof paper—the remains of many sandwich suppers, it seemed. “You’re untidy too, I’m glad to see. I always think a little disorder means a
creative mind. And I have dreams of my own, you know.” I paused then hurried on, hoping he wouldn’t think to ask what those dreams might be. I couldn’t explain them to him; I didn’t even understand them myself. “I realised with Gerald, my life would always take second place. I would be his wife, and eventually Viscountess Madderley, and then I would die. In the meantime I would open fêtes and have his children and perhaps hold a memorable dinner party or two, but what else? Nothing. I would have walked into that church today as Penelope Hammond and walked out as the Honourable Mrs. Gerald Madderley, and no one would have remembered me except as a footnote in the chronicles of the Madderley family.”

“Quite the existential crisis,” he said lightly. I nodded.

“Precisely. I’m very glad you understand these things.” I looked around again. “I don’t suppose you have a cigarette lying about anywhere? I'd very much like one.”

He gestured towards the glovebox and I helped myself. As soon as I opened it, an avalanche of business cards, tickets, receipts and even a prayer book fell out. I waved a slip of paper at him. “You haven’t paid your garage bill,” I told him. “Second notice.”

He smiled and pocketed the paper. “Slipped my mind. I’ll take care of it tomorrow.”

I shoveled the rest of the detritus back into the glovebox, and he produced a packet of matches. I lit a cigarette and settled back then gave a little shriek of dismay. “Heavens, where are my manners? I forgot to ask if you wanted one.”

He shook his head. “I don’t indulge.”

I cocked my head. “But you keep them around?”

“One never knows when they’ll be in demand,” he said. "How long have you had the habit?"

"Oh, I don't. It just seems the sort of thing a runaway bride ought to do. I'll be notorious now, you know."

I gave the unlit cigarette a sniff. "Heavens, that's foul. I think I shall have to find a different vice." I dropped the cigarette back into the packet.

He smiled but said nothing and we lapsed into a comfortable silence.

I studied him—from the unlined, rather noble brow to the shabby, oversized suit of clothes with the shiny knees and the unpolished shoes. There was something improbable about him, as if in looking at him one could add two and two and never make four. There was an occasional, just occasional, flash from his dark eyes that put me in mind of a buccaneer. He was broad-shouldered and athletic, but the spectacles and occupation hinted he was bookish.

There were other contradictions as well, I observed. Being a curate clearly didn’t pay well, but the car was mint. Perhaps he came from family money, I surmised. Or perhaps he had a secret gambling habit. I gave him a piercing look. “You don’t smoke. Do you have other vices? Secret sins? I adore secrets.”

Another fellow might have taken offence but he merely laughed. “None worth talking about. Besides, we were discussing you. Tell me,” he said, smoothly negotiating a roundabout and shooting the motorcar out onto the road towards Devon, “What prompted this examination of your feelings? It couldn’t be just the thought of marrying him. You’ve had months to accustom yourself to the notion of being the future Viscountess Madderley. Why bolt now?”

I hesitated, feeling my cheeks grow warm. “Well, I might as well tell you. You are a priest, after all. It would be nice to talk about it, and since you’re bound by the confessional, it would be perfectly safe to tell you because if you ever tell anyone you’ll be damned forever.”

His lips twitched as if he were suppressing a smile. “That isn’t exactly how it works, you know.”

I flapped a hand. “Close enough. I always had doubts about Gerald, if I’m honest. Ever since he asked me to dance at the Crichlows’ Christmas ball during the little season. He was just so staid, as if someone had washed him in starch rather than his clothes. But there were flashes of something more. Wit or kindness or gentleness, I suppose. Things I thought I could bring out in him.” I darted the curate a glance. “I see now how impossibly stupid that was. You can’t change a man. Not unless he wants changing, and what man wants changing? The closer the wedding got, the more nervous I became and I couldn’t imagine why I wasn’t entirely over the moon about marrying Gerald. And then my aunt sent me a book that made everything so clear.”

“What book?”

“Mrs. Stopes’ book, Married Love.”

“Oh, God.” He swerved and neatly corrected, but not before I gave him a searching look.

“I’ve shocked you.” Most people had heard of the book, but few had read it. It had been extensively banned for its forthright language and extremely modern—some would say indecent—ideas.

He hurried to reassure me. “No, no. Your aunt shocked me. I wouldn’t imagine most ladies would send an affianced bride such a book.”

“My aunt isn’t most ladies,” I said darkly. “She’s my father’s sister, and they’re all eccentric. They’re famous for it, and because they’re aristocrats, no one seems to mind. Of course, Mother nearly had an apoplexy when she found the book, but I’d already read it by that point, and I knew what I had to do.”

“And what was that?”

“I had to seduce Gerald.”

This time the curate clipped the edge of a kerb, bouncing us hard before he recovered himself and steered the motorcar back onto the road.

“I shocked you again,” I said sadly.

“Not in the slightest,” he assured me, his voice slightly strangled. He cleared his throat, adopting a distinctly paternal tone in spite of his youth. “Go on, child.”

“Well, it was rather more difficult to arrange than I’d expected. No one seems to want to leave you alone when you’re betrothed, which is rather silly because whatever you get up to can’t be all that bad because you’re with the person you’re going to be getting up to it with once you’re married, and it’s all right then. And isn’t it peculiar that just because a priest says a few words over your head, the thing that was sinful and wrong is suddenly perfectly all right? No offence to present company.”

“None taken. It does indeed give one pause for thought. You were saying?”

“Oh, the arrangements. Well, I couldn’t manage it until a fortnight ago. By that time I was fairly seething with impatience. I’m sorry—did you say something?”

“Not at all. It was the mental image of you seething with impatience. It was rather distracting.”

“Oh, I am sorry. Should we postpone this discussion for another time? When you’re not driving perhaps?”

“No, indeed. I promise you this is the most interesting discussion I’ve had in a very long while.”

“And you’re still not shocked?” I asked him. I was feeling a bit anxious on that point. I had a habit of engaging in what Mother called Inappropriate Conversation. The trouble was, I never realised I was doing it until after the fact. I was always far too busy enjoying myself.

“Not in the slightest. Continue—you were seething.”

“Yes, I was in an absolute fever, I was so anxious. We were invited to the Madderleys’ main estate in Kent—a sort of ‘getting to know you’ affair between the Madderleys and the Hammonds. It was very gracious of Gerald’s mother to suggest it, although now that I think about it, it wasn’t so much about the families getting to know one another as about the viscount and my stepfather discussing the drains and the roofs and how far my dowry would go to repairing it all.”

I stopped to finish unpinning the veil and pulled it free, tearing the lace a little in my haste. I shoved my hands through my hair, ruffling up my curls and giving a profound sigh. “Oh, that’s better! Pity about the veil. That’s Belgian lace, you know. Made by nuns, although why nuns should want to make bridal veils is beyond me. Anyway, the gentlemen were discussing the money my dowry would bring to the estate, and the ladies were going on about the children we were going to have and what would be expected of me as the future viscountess. Do you know Gerald’s mother even hired my lady’s maid? Masterman, frightful creature. I’m terrified of her—she’s so efficient and correct. Anyway, I suddenly realised that was going to be the rest of my life—doing what was perfectly proper at all times and bearing just the right number of children—and I was so bored with it all I nearly threw myself in front of a train like Anna Karenina just to be done with it. I couldn’t imagine actually living in that draughty great pile of stone, eating off the same china the Madderleys have been using since the time of Queen Anne. But I thought it would all be bearable if Gerald and I were
compatible in the Art of Love.”

“The Art of Love?”

“That’s what Mrs. Stopes called it in Married Love. She says that no matter what differences a couple might have in religion or politics or social customs, if they are compatible in the Art of Love, all may be adjusted.”

“I see.” He sounded strangled again.

“So, one night after everyone had retired, I crept to Gerald’s room and insisted we discover if we were mutually compatible.”

“And were you?

“No,” I said flatly. “I thought it was my fault at first. But I chose the date so carefully to make sure my sex-tide would be at its highest.”

“Your sex-tide?”

“Yes. Really, you ought to know these things if you mean to counsel your parishioners.

The achievement of perfect marital harmony only comes with an understanding of the sex-tides—the ebb and flow of a person’s desires and inclinations for physical pleasure.”

He cleared his throat lavishly. “Oh, the sex-tides. Of course.”

“In any event, Gerald and I were most definitely not compatible.” I paused then plunged on. “To begin with, he wouldn’t even take off his pyjamas when we were engaged in the Act of Love."

The curate’s lips twitched into a small smile. “Now that shocks me.”

“Doesn’t it? What sort of man wants a barrier of cloth between himself and the skin of his beloved? I have read the Song of Solomon, you know. It’s a very informative piece of literature and it was quite explicit with all the talk of breasts like twin fawns and eating of the secret honeycomb and honey. I presume you’ve read the Song of Solomon? It is in the Bible, after all.”

“It is,” he agreed. “Quite the most interesting book, if you ask me.” Again there was a flash of something wicked as he shot me a quick look. “So, was your betrothed a young god with legs like pillars of marble and a body like polished ivory?”
I pulled a face. “He was not. That was a very great disappointment, let me tell you. And then it was over with so quickly—I mean, I scarcely had time to get accustomed to the strangeness of it because, let’s be frank, there is something so frightfully silly about doing that, although you probably don’t know yourself, being a member of the clergy and all. But before I could quite get a handle on things, it was finished.”

“Finished?” he said, his hands tight on the steering wheel.

“Finished. At least, Gerald was,” I added sulkily. “He gave a great shudder and made an odd sort of squeaking sound.”

“Squeaking sound?”

“Yes.” I tipped my head, thinking. “Like a rabbit that’s just seen a fox. And then he rolled over and went to sleep just like that.”

“Philistine,” he pronounced.

“Then you do understand! How important the physical side of marriage is, I mean. Particularly with a husband like Gerald. One would need a satisfactory time in the bedroom to make up for—” I clapped a hand to my mouth. He smiled then, indulgently, and I dropped my hand, but I still felt abashed. “Oh, that was unkind. Gerald has many sterling attributes. Sterling,” I assured him.

Sterling is what one wants out of one’s silver. Not a husband,” he said mildly.

I sighed in contentment. “You are good at this. You understand. And you haven’t made me feel guilty over the sin of it, although you mustn’t tell anyone, but I don’t really believe in sin at all. I know that’s a wicked thing to say, but I think all God really expects is a little common sense and kindness out of us. Surely He’s too busy to keep a tally of all our misdeeds. That would make Him nothing more than a sort of junior clerk with a very important sense of Himself, wouldn’t it?”

“I suppose.”

“Oh, I know you can’t agree with me. You make your career on sin, just as much as anybody who sells liquor or naughty photographs. Sin is your bread and butter.”

“You have a unique way of looking at the world, Miss Hammond.”

“I think it’s because I’ve been so much on my own,” I told him after a moment. “I’ve had a lot of time to think things over.”
“Why have you been so much on your own?” he asked. His voice was gentler than it had been, and the air of perpetual amusement had been replaced by something kinder, and it seemed as if he were genuinely interested. It was a novel situation for me. Most people who wanted to talk to me did so because of my stepfather’s money.

“Oh, didn’t you know? Apparently it was a bit of a scandal at the time. It was in all the newspapers and of course they raked it all up again when I became engaged to Gerald. My parents divorced, and Mother took me to America when she left my father. I was an infant at the time, and apparently he let her take me because he knew it would utterly break her heart to leave me behind. He stayed in England and she went off to America We’re practically strangers, Father and I. He’s always been a bit of a sore spot to Mother, even though she did quite well out of it all. She married Mr. Hammond—Reginald. He’s a lovely man, but rather too interested in golf.”

“Lots of gentlemen play,” he remarked. His hands were relaxed again, and he opened the car up a little, guiding it expertly as we fairly flew down the road.

“Oh, Reginald doesn’t just play. He builds golf courses. Designing them amuses him, and after he made his millions in copper, he decided to travel around the world, building golf courses. Places like Florida, the Bahamas. He’s quite mad about the game—he even named his yacht the Gutta-Percha, even though no one uses gutta-percha balls anymore.”

He shook his head as if to clear it and I gave him a sympathetic look. “Do you need me to read maps or something? It must be fatiguing to drive all this way.”

“The conversation is keeping me entirely alert,” he promised.

“Oh, good. Where was I?”
“Reginald Hammond doesn’t have gutta-percha balls,” he replied solemnly. If he had been one of my half-brothers, I would have suspected him of making an indelicate joke, but his face was perfectly solemn.

“No one does,” I assured him. “Anyway, he’s a lovely man but he isn’t really my father. And when the twins came along, and then the boys, well, they had their own family, didn’t they? It was nothing to do with me.” I fell silent a moment then pressed on, adopting a firmly cheerful tone. “Still, it hasn’t been so bad. I thoroughly enjoyed coming back here to go to school, and I have found my father.”

“You’ve seen him?” he asked quickly.

“No. But I made some inquiries, and I know where he is. He’s a painter,” I told him. I was rather proud of the little bit of detection I had done to track him down. “We wrote letters for a while, but he travelled extensively—looking for subjects to paint, I suppose. He gave me a London address in Half Moon Street to send the letters, but he didn’t actually live there. You know, it’s quite sad, but I always felt so guilty when his letters came. Mother would take to her bed with a bottle of reviving tonic every time she saw his handwriting in the post. I didn’t dare ask to invite him to the wedding. She would have shrieked the house down, and
it did seem rather beastly to Reginald since he was paying for it. Still, it is peculiar to have an entire family I haven’t met. Some of them kept in touch—my Aunt Portia, for one. She sent me the copy of Married Love. When I came to England for the little season, I asked her where Father was. She promised not to tell him I’d asked, but she sent me his address. He has a house in Devon. He likes the light there, something about it being good for his work.”
“I see.”

“It’s very kind of you to drive me,” I said, suddenly feeling rather shy with this stranger to whom I had revealed entirely too much. “Oh!” I sat up very straight. “I don’t even know your name.”

“Sebastian. My name is Sebastian Cantrip.”

“Cantrip? That’s an odd name,” I told him.

“No odder than Penelope.”

I laughed. “It’s Greek, I think. My mother’s choice. She thought it sounded very elegant and educated. But my father called me Poppy.”

Sebastian slanted me a look. “It suits you better.”

“I think so, but when I was presented as a debutante, Mother insisted on calling me Penelope Hammond. Hammond isn’t my legal name, you know. It gave me quite a start to see the name on the invitations to the wedding. Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Hammond cordially invite you to the wedding of their daughter, Penelope Hammond. But I’m not Penelope Hammond, not really.” I lifted my chin towards the road rising before us. “I’m Poppy March.”

About the book
Publication Date: October 1, 2014
Harlequin MIRA
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction

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New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn returns with a Jazz Age tale of grand adventure…
On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat’s wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father’s quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.

With only her feisty lady’s maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.

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About the Author
A sixth-generation native Texan, Deanna Raybourn grew up in San Antonio, where she met her college sweetheart. She married him on her graduation day and went on to teach high school English and history. During summer vacation at the age of twenty-three, she wrote her first novel. After three years as a teacher, Deanna left education to have a baby and pursue writing full-time.

Deanna Raybourn is the author of the bestselling and award-winning Lady Julia series, as well as, The Dead Travel Fast, A Spear of Summer Grass, and City of Jasmine.

For more information please visit Deanna Raybourn’s website and blog. You can also find her onFacebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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October 17, 2014

Andrea Zuvich's The Stuart Vampire - Guest Post

How strong was superstition and the belief in the supernatural in Restoration England?

It’s important to know the political situation of the country before we delve into matters of superstitious beliefs. The Restoration is named thus because it followed a period when England had abolished the monarchy and was a republic. This political experiment failed following Oliver Cromwell’s death and the monarchy was ‘restored’ in 1660 and the Stuarts were back on the throne. But in order to fully understand the superstitious beliefs of the Late Stuart era, it is very important to first become acquainted with the particulars surrounding the supernatural earlier in the century.

Witchcraft, particularly in the early 17th-century, was a very real concern for many people. This was a time in which people were much more attuned to nature and much more religious than many are in the 21st-century. There were several notable witch trials, including the Pendle Witches, the Samlesbury witches, both in 1612. Even King James wrote Daemonologie in 1597, in which James set out to prove that 'the assautes of Sathan are most certainly practized, & that the instrumentes thereof, merits most severly to be punished.’

The preface to Daemonologie begins as follows: “THE fearefull aboundinge at this time in this countrie, of these detestable slaues of the Deuill, the Witches or enchaunters, hath moved me (beloued reader) to dispatch in post”.

Yes, this was the same King James who commissioned the King James Bible, in which you’ll find:
Exodus 22:18 (KJV): 18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

It was this line that had a direct impact on many trials. But the concern over witches and daemons were by no means just a source of concern for the nobles. The self-proclaimed “Witchfinder-General” was one Matthew Hopkins, who was the author of The Discovery of Witches, which I used as a source when writing my witch trial scene. This fellow went around the country trying people for witchcraft using some really horrible methods. No one could really stop him because he was operating during the chaos of the English Civil Wars. Generally, if you were accused of witchcraft, you would die proving your innocence. I gave him a cameo in The Stuart Vampire because he was so genuinely frightening.

In the Restoration, the puritan influence, which had been so dominant in earlier decades, decreased and whilst the strong fears of witchcraft had reduced considerably, they had not altogether vanished. The most infamous late flare-up was the Salem Witch Trials, which occurred in the colonies in 1692. (On a side note, films often portray witches being burnt, but in the 17th-century, most ‘witches’ were hanged). If we consider a country from the top down, we’ll find that King Charles II was very different from his grandfather, James I. Charles was, in comparison, rather skeptical and not bogged down with thoughts of evil and daemons. I think this had a trickle-down effect at the time in England, and people started thinking more about enjoying
themselves. But even the rational Charles took part in touching for the King’s Evil - which was a very superstitious practice wherein it was believed the touch of a king could cure certain diseases, such as scrofula.

In writing historical fiction set in the 17th-century, it is my duty to portray the characters with ideas that would have been common at the time. What we can never do, looking back at these people, our ancestors, with our modern ideas, is judge them as being weird, backward, crazy, or ignorant.They believed they were right, as people always do.

The 17th-century as a whole was a period in history in which people seemed to have been rightened and confused. I say this because, on the one hand, they were thoroughly entrenched in superstition and deeply religious, but on the other hand, scientific endeavour was beginning to take off. In that century, we had Galileo, Newton, Leibniz, Cassini, Descartes and more. Newton was a very interesting person. He, as we all know, was a brilliant scientist and mathematician, but he believed in God as most people did then. To have great leaps in science and industry whilst simultaneously maintaining religious and superstitious beliefs must have been difficult for some people. One can only imagine what it must have been like.

About the book
Publication Date: October 31, 2013
eBook; 215p
Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror/Paranormal

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Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest brother of King Charles II is a handsome man with sound principles. When the twenty-year-old prince contracts smallpox in 1660, however, his life takes a decidedly sinister turn. Obsessed with Henry from afar, Contessa Griselda di Cuorenero – one of the Devil’s concubines – turns him into a vampire and plunges him into the world of night. But Henry soon discovers that not all horrors are of the paranormal kind…

In the unnaturally close village of Coffin’s Bishop, Henry encounters a severely abused young woman – a woman who has suffered under humans who are more monstrous than vampires. Could love save them from the evil they have known? And at what cost?

Henry must choose between his humanity and his monstrous, insatiable desire for human blood.

From the author of “His Last Mistress,” The Stuart Vampire is a dark gothic tale in the vein of The Monk.
Praise for The Stuart Vampire
“An intriguing historical with a darkly gothic twist, I enjoyed The Stuart Vampire and would recommend it to anyone with a taste for period horror.” – Erin Davies.

“Once again Ms. Zuvich brings the setting to life, she paints a vivid picture of the Restoration period – intertwined with drama & romance.” – (Amazon Review)

“A great mix of historical fiction and vampires -what’s not to love?! I really enjoyed this book,I liked the unique blend of fact and fiction!
A fascinating time period anyway,with the added bonus of introducing vampires into the Stuart line it kept me hooked until the end! The author obviously knows her Stuart and 17th Century history and facts were woven in amongst the drama of a secret darker world of evil,all happening during the time of the plague in London.The book was full of great descriptions of this time,I could almost smell it!! Would definitely recommend this book.” – (Amazon Review)
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About the Author
Andrea (aka The Seventeenth Century Lady) is a 17th-century historian, historical consultant, and historical fiction authoress. His Last Mistress – a biographical fiction novella about the Duke of Monmouth and Lady Henrietta Wentworth was published by Endeavour Press, London in 2013. She received double BA degrees in History and Anthropology from the University of Central Florida, and continued her History studies with the University of Oxford and Princeton University. Zuvich has been filmed for NTR television in The Netherlands, talking about William III, and was recently on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour discussing Queen Anne. She was one of the original developers and leaders on The Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace, London. Zuvich lives in Windsor, England.

For more information please visit Andrea’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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October 15, 2014

Greg Michaels' The Secrets of Casanova - Guest Post

“Writing the Sexy”

(or “Channeling and Journaling”)

“THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA,” you say. “It must be one-hundred percent X-Rated. Casanova? Seductioneer! Fiendish heartbreaker. Why, even Merriam Webster uses ‘promiscuity’ and ‘unscrupulous lover’ to describe Casanova.”

“Well, I agree that seduction was often a preoccupation for Jacques Casanova but—“

“But what?”

“I’m not defending him but he did manage to do a few other things with his life. . .get a degree in law, study medicine, and early on—enter the priesthood. (Short-lived, as you might guess!) And yes, he was a charlatan, an author, a diplomat, duelist, spy, entrepreneur, a musician, gambler, librarian—and hold on, let me take a gander at my Casanova Action Figure—I actually own one (!)—he was also a soldier, alchemist, journalist, and cross-continent traveler (in a century when most people strayed less than ten miles from their home). In addition, the man achieved celebrity status throughout Europe when he escaped an inescapable prison in November, 1755.

“So you see, with my historical fiction I felt I had the luxury of being able to pick and choose from different parts of Casanova’s intriguing life. But back to the sexy, and to briefly digress, here’s a short example of how Casanova chose to write about his bedroom exploits: ‘Never have I undressed so quickly. Then it was her turn blindly to obey the promptings of instinct. She did not interrupt her transports and her ardors except to ask me if it was really true that I belonged to her. I spend two whole hours without ever separating from her. Her continual swoons made me immortal.’ If you ask me, a rather gentlemanly tone.

“Casanova writes about his romantic exploits in this way throughout his autobiography but, obviously, for my book, it had to be my voice. A voice that was authentic, one that would allow me to write vivid scenes, scenes that would keep the reader panting—and not laughing.

“It’s said that authors should write what they know. But what did I know about “...two whole hours...without ever separating”? About carnal gymnastics in a canopy bed? What first-hand experience did I have of
seducing a maid in a bathtub? How might I write a ménage a trois when I’d never done that, or even had that fantasy? (Yes, lots of guys do. I don’t.)

“Bottom line? To construct erotic scenarios for the most notorious womanizer in western civilization—Casanova—who was I to create exploits for this sensual connoisseur?

So, Dear Reader, here is the “Channeling and Journaling” Recipe that I ultimately adhered to when “writing the sexy.”

Step 1: Do thy homework. Tons of it. Read Casanova’s personal stories of romance and seduction. Flood your mind with his boudoir

Step 2: Go to bed. (Just to sleep, please.)

Step 3: While you sleep, let the “channeling” begin; trust that Big Forces in your brain are at work. (I love Stephen Stills line from the song “Southern Cross:” “Spirits are using me, larger voices callin’.”)

Step 4: Journal. Wake up and Journal! Even it’s the middle of the night, write down every single graphic detail, no matter how wacky, no matter how naïve, no matter how implausible the sexual position.

Step 5: Trust that you’re the best author to REWRITE and REFINE.

Step 6: Show your written work to a reader and ask: “Whatdaya think?"

Do the sex scenes elicit a snicker? Or is her face flushed, her eyes passionately plumped, and her hair on fire? There’s your answer. You passed the audition! You’ve written the sexy.

Some people might say that the sensual scenarios I dreamed up are strictly wishful thinking. I don’t think so. It’s just good, ol’ Mother Nature helping out a desperate author.

So the Channeling and Journaling Recipe is pretty simple, isn’t it? Just wish that method would allow me to write a whole novel. Maybe some night it will.

And maybe that’s already happened for you. Please, let this author know.

About the book
Publication Date: October 21, 2013
Booktrope Editions 
Formats: eBook Paperback; 334p
Genre: Historical Fiction

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2014 Nancy Pearl Award Winner for Fiction.

Loosely based on the life of Jacques Casanova, The Secrets of Casanova is a rich, lush novel of love, sex, family, ambition, intrigue, and adventure. Set in Paris of 1755, Casanova's luck is fading and his past is shoving up against his present with potentially disastrous consequences. What price must he pay to uncover a treasure of inestimable value? What hearts must he break along the way? Casanova's will and destiny collide again and again in this riveting historical fiction that brings to light a man of great passion and not a few secrets.

Praise for The Secrets of CasanovaA Shakespearean actor with a flair for the dramatic and a superb ear for dialogue, Michaels's debut novel puts a brilliantly original spin on an historical figure whose very name is a clich. This Casanova must wrestle not only with falling hopelessly and passionately in love, but embarking on a mysterious quest that is as much a spiritual awakening as a swashbuckling adventure. The Secrets of Casanova is so erotic and so sensitively written, I found it difficult to believe its author was a man. -Robin Maxwell, national best-selling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn

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About the Author03_Greg MichaelsAfter receiving his B.A. in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, a chance experience thrust Greg into a career as a professional actor and fight director. To date he's acted in over fifty theater productions, more than forty television shows, and choreographed dozens of swordfights for stage and screen. In THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA, Greg again proves his skill at telling a theatrical story. He lives with his wife, two sons, and Andy the hamster.

For more information please visit Greg Michaels's website. Like The Secrets of Casanova Facebook Page. Follow Greg Michaels on Twitter.

The Secrets of Casanova Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 13
Review at Bookish

Tuesday, October 14
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at With Her Nose Stick in a Book
Spotlight & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, October 15
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession

Thursday, October 16
Review & Interview at Carpe Librum
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry

Friday, October 17
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Monday, October 20
Review at A Book Geek
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 21
Review at A Bibliotaph's Reviews
Spotlight & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, October 22
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Review at Good Friends, Good Books and a Sleepy Conscience
Guest Post at Mina's Bookshelf

Thursday, October 23
Review at Beth's Book Reviews
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Friday, October 24
Review at Book Nerd
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

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