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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Today, Amanda launches her newest book, The Winter Queen (November ’09, Harlequin Historicals) with the help of interviewer Megan! Comment for a chance to win a signed copy, and be sure and visit Amanda’s website for more behind-the-book info…

Sent to Serve…
As Queen Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting, innocent
Lady Rosamund is unprepared for the temptations
of Court. She is swept up in the festivities of the
Yuletide season and, as seduction perfumes the air,
Rosamund is drawn to darkly enticing Anton Gustavson…

Seduced By A Master!
With the coming of the glittering Frost Fair,
they are tangled in a web of forbidden desire and
dangerous secrets. For in this time of desperate
plots and intrigues, Anton is more than just a
handsome suitor–he may have endangered the life
of the woman he is learning to love…

“A delightful holiday gift of romance and intrigue! McCabe mixes in historical fact with fiction to create a fascinating page-turner of a novel” –Fresh Fiction Reviews

Megan: First off, let me say I am absolutely blown away by your skillful interweaving of history and romance. The Winter Queen reminds me of those books I read when I was young, the ones that taught me history even as I oohed and aahed over the love story. Bravo! Next, it might be like asking which of your children (or in your case, dogs) are your favorite, but which period is your favorite to write in? What joy do you find in writing Elizabethan?

Amanda: As anyone who reads RR knows, I am a history junkie! Regency is my oldest love (thanks to all those Heyers and Regencies by Marion Chesney, Joan Smith, etc I read as a kid), but I also love the Restoration, the Italian Renaissance, and 18th century France. The Elizabethan era has a special place in my heart, since Elizabethan poetry was my specialty in school (very useful in the job market, too!). It’s an era full of such unbelivable raw, bawdy energy and high emotion, more so than any other I’ve found. England was expanding as never before, becoming a real player on the world stage, sending explorers such as Drake and Hawkins around the globe on voyages of exploration. It was also a great time for the arts, maybe THE greatest time in literature and theater (though music and painting were no slouches, either). Poets and writers who would have been giants in another, less crowded time were overshadowed by the “3 S’s” (Shakespeare, Sidney, Spenser), and almost everyone was “into” theater and poetry.

It was also a good time for women, and not just because the country was ruled by a woman. Much like salon society in 18th century France, women, while technically powerless, wielded a lot of influence “behind the scenes.” (On my own blog, each Heroine of the Weekend for November is going to be a fascinating Elizabethan woman–Lettice Knollys, her daughter Penelope Rich, the Countess of Pembroke, and Amelia Lanyer). Plus the clothes are great, especially in the time of TWQ (1564), before high Elizabethan nonsense like drum farthingales and wagon-wheel size ruffs took over! It’s just a very sexy, energetic, exciting period. And obviously I get very carried-away talking about it!

Megan: Your story is very Christmas-specific. What fun facts did you learn about the Elizabethan celebration in doing your research?

Amanda: If anyone knew how to party at Christmas, it was the Elizabethans! I’ll have a longer post tomorrow on some of the celebration traditions, but for the 12 Days of Christmas there were endless celebration. Banquets, masquerades, dances, plays, fox hunts, lavish gift-giving (the courtiers all tried to outdo each other with fancy presents to the Queen, of which detailed inventories still exist!). There was also a great deal of general, and probably drunken, silliness. One popular holiday game was called Snapdragon, which involved a bow of raisins covered with brandy and set alight. The players had to pull out the raisins and eat them without burning themselves. (We won’t be doing this around my house for the holidays…)

There are several good sources for the parties and holidays of the period, including Maria Hubert’s Christmas in Shakespeare’s England; Alison Sim’s Food and Feast in Tudor England; and Hugh Douglas’s Right Royal Christmas.

Megan: What made you cast a Swede–and a dark-haired one at that–as the hero?

Amanda: Well, he had a very unusual inspiration–Dancing With the Stars! I always knew my love of that show’s ridonkulous costumes and hilariously inappropriate music would be useful someday. A few seasons ago the winner of the mirror ball trophy was Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno. I had really liked him in the Olympics, but on DWTS he was so cute and charming, and also so fiercely determined to win that fugly trophy. I couldn’t figure out how to get a skating hero into an historical romance, until someone said, “Maybe he could be Dutch or something? Didn’t they skate?”

That’s when I remembered two things: 1) The winter of 1564, when Queen Elizabeth had been on the throne for 6 years, was the coldest in memory. The Thames froze through, and at Christmas there was a Frost Fair on the river, complete with booths for food and merchandise, sledding–and skating! 2) In this time period, every eligible bachelor in Europe was after Elizabeth’s hand in marriage, including King Eric of Sweden (who later went insane and was deposed by his brother, but that’s another story…) He sent delegations to London to woo Elizabeth. And Swedes skate, right? So Anton Gustavson was born. (And since he was half-English, he has dark hair. I didn’t know Alexander Skarsgaard then…) Anton is also a soldier, a spy, and a man with secrets.

Megan: The heroine, Rosamund, is a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. Would you have wanted this job?

Amanda: No way! From everything I read, Elizabeth was very strict employer with a fiery, uncertain temper. (She regularly threw things at her ladies if she was impatient, and used her fearsomely witty tongue to make fun of them). If one of her ladies dared to fall in love or want to get married, they usually found themselves in trouble (The queen’s cousin, Katherine Grey, even went to the Tower for secretly marrying!).

On the other hand, positions at Court were really the only way ladies of the upper classes could wield a measure of influence or make any money of their own (the stipends were not much, but bribes from those who wanted the ear of the Queen were always possible, and they often had gifts of cast-off, very valuable clothing and furnishings). There was travel and exotic visitors from other countries. And the Court was the center of everything–culture, power, gossip, etc. (Plus, again, the clothes…) (A good source for the life of the Queen’s ladies is Anne Somerset’s Ladies in Waiting: From the Tudors to the Present Day)

Megan: Who would you cast as Rosamund and Anton?

Amanda: Well, we already talked about Anton! I kind of pictured Rosamund as looking like Abbie Cornish in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (a big, dull snooze of a movie, but beautiful costumes!)

Megan: Do you know how to skate? What would you have wanted to do at the Frost Fair?

Amanda: I’ve tried ice-skating, but more often than not end up on my backside on the ice! Plus it’s cold. If any hunky Swedes wanted to teach me, though…

I think I’d like to have some hot apple cider to drink, ride in a sleigh, and buy some satin ribbons! All things Rosamund gets to do.

Megan: And what are you working on now?

Amanda: I just finished writing my second Laurel McKee book for Grand Central Publishing! Its title is Duchess of Sin, the sequel to the February ’10 release Countess of Scandal, and it will be out next December. (It also features Christmas, though this time in Ireland 1799). Now I have to dive into the next Harlequin book, a Regency spin-off from the Diamonds of Welbourne Manor anthology, and start researching an Elizabethan theater book where we move into seamier environs than the royal Court.

Megan: In your writing, do you feel like you’re taking risks? How?

Amanda: I don’t feel like I’m being “risky,” though I guess by stepping into a lesser-used time period (for romances, anyway–historical fiction is chock-full of Tudors!) that is a bit risky. I also like characters who are a bit out of the ordinary, both as a writer and a reader. And I’m currently working on a proposal for a book set in World War II Paris, possibly the riskiest thing I have yet attempted! 🙂

BTW, TWQ is available in the UK in a two-in-one called Christmas Betrothals (along with Sophia James’s Mistletoe Magic).

And I have another “Undone” short story coming out in December called The Maid’s Lover, which is connected to The Winter Queen! We get to see what’s really going on with Rosamund’s friend Anne Percy and her suitor Lord Langley (hint: it involves nookie in the snow, and maybe a little light bondage, LOL!). I just got the cover and I love her purple velvet gown…

The book is now available at, and my mother reports it was on the shelf at Wal Mart yesterday!

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Now, this morning I thought I might write about the insights I gleaned at last week’s New Jersey RWA Conference; or, I thought, maybe I’d talk about reading the third book in a trilogy that had a huge build-up of a relationship without a satisfying resolution (they got together, I think, but I didn’t get to read about the whole event. Ahem. I like reading about events).

But then I thought boring and decided to talk about Halloween! I love the holiday; our house is decorated with skulls, black velvet, mirrors, pumpkins and spiders. My son has a distinct flair for picking Halloween costumes. Last year he was Gene Simmons (that’s him in the pic; the second pic includes my husband, who dressed as a roadie) and this year, he decided he would be a . . . giant eyeball. My mother-in-law is a costuming genius (she made the Simmons outfit, I did the make-up), and this year, she has outdone herself. This pic below is the inspiration for his costume; there’s a very obscure musical collective called the Residents who perform in these outfits and have never shown their faces. And can I say? His costume looks almost exactly like these guys. I’ll post pix at my own spot next week.

My only issue with these costumes is that it looks like we’re trying to be those lame pushing their kids into coolness parents. And we’re not! He thought of these by himself, we had no input; can we help it if he is cool on his own?

So Happy Halloween, everyone! Some burning questions: Do you still dress up? What’s your most and least favorite Halloween candy? What are your kids going as for Halloween? What was your favorite costume when you were growing up?


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Thank you for calling the Regencyland Hotline. Please listen carefully as our options have changed.

If you are a debutante about to embark upon your first London season, please press 1 for a hot seduction in the conservatory at your first ball, 2 for an embarrassing episode at Almacks, 3 for the invasion of your bedchamber by a stranger whose identity you cannot discover, 4 for a secret baby.

If you are a gentleman spy, please press 1 for your next assignment, 2 to report on your last, 3 for an application to the Spies’ Club of your choice, or 4 for a secret baby. You will be required to enter your ID and password. If you have forgotten your password, you will be asked to enter your ID and the answer to your secret question. If you have forgotten your ID, you will be asked to enter your ID and the answer to yet another secret question. If you have forgotten both your ID and your password you’re screwed and you might as well give yourself up to the Frenchies immediately, because frankly all that sex has ruined your memory and we’re not particularly bothered about you giving away any state secrets.

If you are an experienced woman of a certain age, please press 1 for the availability of any Dukes looking for a mistress (please be patient; there are more than enough Dukes for everyone), 2 for any naive young men of the ton seeking sexual initiation, 3 for any of your younger siblings whom you selflessly and tirelessly support, 4 for a secret baby.

If you are a Duke, please press 1 for the availability of a suitable mistress, 2 for spy opportunities (you will be asked to create an ID and password. Even though you are horribly inbred and not the sharpest knife in the ducal drawer you must try and remember them and do not use something easily remembered like the name of your dog) 3 for any recent challenges to your title, 4 for a secret baby.

If you are a commoner and male, please press 1 for a current list of dukedoms inherited under mysterious circumstances that may be open for dispute, 2 for current opportunities as minor characters with the possibility of advancement to your own book later in the series, 3 for opportunities for emotional damage and/or interesting scars if you have already filed your minor character application, 4 for opportunities to beget secret babies.

If you are a … OK, it’s your turn.

Janet, who has spent most of the morning on the phone but is pleased to announce that A MOST LAMENTABLE COMEDY has gone into a second printing and that you can see the very pretty cover of her next book IMPROPER RELATIONS (with incorrect tag line) here.

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By the time you read this, I hope like heck this is how I feel about my manuscript.

My Star

All that I know
    Of a certain star
Is, it can throw
    (like the angled spar)
Now a dart of red,
    Now a dart of blue;
Till my friends have said
    They would fain see, too,
My star that dartles the red and the blue!
Then it stops like a bird; like a flower, hangs furled:
    They must solace themselves with the Saturn above it.
What matter to me if their star is a world?
    Mine has opened its soul to me; therefore I love it.

But I might feel more like this.

My Last Duchess


That’s my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
That depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ‘t was not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:” such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart — how shall I say? — too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed: she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ‘t was all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace — all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush,at least. She thanked men — good! but thanked
Somehow — I know not how – as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech — (which I have not) — to make your will
Quite clear to such a one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss
Or there exceed the mark”– and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse
— E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will ‘t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me.

P.S. These are by Robert Browning. Quite the poet.

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