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Author Archives: susanna

So, I’m between projects at the moment, finishing up my blog tour for Freedom to Love and planning for my big Waterloo bicentennial trip to Europe this summer. I decided it might be a good idea to put a free short story or two up on my website in the meantime, and I’m planning to start by pairing off my characters’ next generation–Charles Farlow, son of Henry and Therese from Freedom to Love, with Lucy Atkins, daughter of Will and Anna from The Sergeant’s Lady.

Pairing Charles and Lucy will require me to venture into unfamiliar territory: the 1840’s. So in the next month or two I’ll be giving myself a crash course on early Victorian Britain–all the important political, technological, scientific, and cultural trends that will make their world different from the one their parents knew as young Regency lovers. But the very first thing I looked up was the fashions. I’ve already decided that Lucy is going to have her father’s chestnut-red hair with her mother’s Scottish looks. If I was the kind of author whose books became movies, I’d want her to be played by someone like Karen Gillan:

Karen Gillan

To complete my mental picture, I needed to know what sort of dress she’d wear to a ball, and how she’d arrange her hair. I hurried off to Wikipedia to check out 1840s in Western Fashion. The dresses are quite pretty, though I don’t like them as much as Regency or Edwardian fashion. At least the exaggerated puffed sleeves of the 1830’s were gone, and skirts hadn’t reached the crinolined extremes of the 1850’s or 60’s.

But then I saw the hair.

Spaniel Curls

“Spaniel curls” were all the rage.

Spaniel Curls 2

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like an unfortunate look.

Spaniel Curls 3

On the other hand, authors who live in glass houses should be careful how they throw stones. Here’s me as a teen with 80’s hair:

80's hair

I used to hate my naturally straight hair and envy the girls who could effortlessly achieve the desired Big Hair SO MUCH. And my teenaged self would be boggled to learn that in 2015 I wouldn’t even own a bottle of hair spray.

So, how do you feel about 1840’s fashion? Are spaniel curls due for a comeback?

Freedom to Love, my newest historical romance–and my first full-length release in over two years!–comes out tomorrow. It has what I think is an unusual and somewhat risky setting for a Regency–most of the story takes place in America in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of New Orleans.

FTL cover

I specifically asked for this release week because Thursday is the 200th anniversary of the battle. Even though all the story action is after the fighting ends–the first scene is the hero waking up on the battlefield, wounded and dazed–I did a fair amount of research just to know what he’d gone through before the story started. Most of that research involved books that have long since been returned to the University of Washington library (my day job employer and go-to source for dry academic tomes, access to 200-year-old newspapers, and the like), but here are five things I learned about the War of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans that I didn’t know going in.

1) I’d always been told that the British were so confident of victory and eager to get at the wealth and famously beautiful women of New Orleans that on the eve of battle their sentries’ sign and countersign were “beauty” and “booty.” Turns out that isn’t true–while the British knew they outnumbered the Americans and with some justification believed their regiments to be of superior quality, they also knew they were attacking a well-fortified position across open ground. Also, no matter how much they were looking forward to the pleasures and treasures of New Orleans, “beauty” and “booty” sound far too much alike to be an effective sign/countersign, and the British commander, Sir Edward Pakenham, was an upstanding, upright gentleman who would’ve been unlikely to approve its use.

2) Andrew Jackson employed slave-catchers to try to prevent American slaves from escaping to the British (who promised–and delivered–emancipation to any who came to them). However, he also accepted the city’s free black militia into his cobbled-together army over the objections of many officers and civilian officials. This would not be the first or last time Jackson proved himself a pragmatist above all, IMHO.

3) British soldiers too severely wounded to join the retreat were cared for by Ursuline nuns–though my plot required a different fate for my hero, Henry Farlow.

4) Back in elementary and high school, we were taught that the main cause of the war was the British navy’s impressment of American sailors. While that was certainly a cause, the reality, as it often is, was More Complicated Than That. In fact, it was so complicated that I’ll simply recommend that anyone interested read Robin Reilly’s The British at the Gates.

5) Wellington was offered command of British forces in America after Napoleon’s initial abdication, but he politely refused, preferring a diplomatic role as ambassador to France and at the Congress of Vienna. It’s intriguing to imagine how different history might’ve looked if he’d accepted. He might not have been back in time for Waterloo, for starters. While I think Napoleon would’ve ultimately been defeated regardless, the 19th century would’ve looked different if, say, the Russian army rather than the Anglo-Dutch and Prussian forces claimed credit for his downfall. Also, there is simply no way Wellington would’ve attacked Jackson’s fortifications from such a position of weakness. Even Pakenham knew it was a bad idea, but he was pretty much goaded into it by the naval commander, Admiral Cochrane. Since Wellington was as stubborn and confident as anyone living at that time not named Napoleon, he would’ve stood up to the pressure. And if the Battle of New Orleans hadn’t been fought, or it was fought at a different place or time as a British victory…let’s just say we’d almost certainly have a different face on our twenty dollar bills.

Freedom to Love

Louisiana, 1815

Thérèse Bondurant trusted her parents to provide for her and her young half-sister, though they never wed due to laws against mixed-race marriage. But when both die of a fever, Thérèse learns her only inheritance is debt—and her father’s promise that somewhere on his plantation lies a buried treasure. To save her own life—as well as that of her sister—she’ll need to find it before her white cousins take possession of the land.

British officer Henry Farlow, dazed from a wound received in battle outside New Orleans, stumbles onto Thérèse’s property out of necessity. But he stays because he’s become captivated by her intelligence and beauty. It’s thanks to Thérèse’s tender care that he regains his strength just in time to fend off her cousin, inadvertently killing the would-be rapist in the process.

Though he risks being labeled a deserter, it’s much more than a sense of duty that compels Henry to see the sisters to safety—far away from the scene of the crime. And Thérèse realizes she has come to rely on Henry for so much more than protection. On their journey to freedom in England, they must navigate a territory that’s just as foreign to them both—love.

Freedom to Love is available wherever ebooks are sold, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, All Romance Ebooks, and Carina Press.

It’s that time of year again, when everyone makes their Best-Of lists, and who am I to buck a trend? So here are some of my favorite discoveries from the many hours I spent reading, listening to podcasts, or watching TV this year. Note that they’re not necessarily from 2014–I’m always behind on my TBR or belatedly jumping on a TV bandwagon–but they’re all still available for download and waiting to become your 2015 discovery!

My 5 Favorite Romance Reads

  • The Stolen Luck (Shawna Reppert, 2013) – m/m fantasy romance with excellent character development and world-building.
  • Stolen Luck

  • The Lucky Charm (Beth Bolden, 2014) – a fun sports romance that won my fangirl heart by getting the baseball right.
  • Sweet Disorder (Rose Lerner, 2014) – wherein my awesome critique partner Rose writes the freshest, most different historical romance I’ve read in ages.
  • Eleanor and Park (Rainbow Rowell, 2014) – I don’t think I can say anything about this amazing YA that hasn’t already been said. Go read it.
  • The Sharing Spoon (Kathleen Eagle, 2013) – IMHO nobody writes Native American romance better. If you’ve never read Eagle before, this holiday anthology is a great place to start.
  • 5 Favorite Fiction Reads from Other Genres

  • Hild (Nicola Griffith, 2013) – Usually books that everyone and their book club is reading don’t work for me, but this was a huge exception.
  • Hild

  • Boxers & Saints (Gene Luen Yang, 2013) – If my 10-year-old daughter weren’t so into graphic novels, I doubt I would’ve ever started reading them myself…and I never would’ve discovered this poignant, lyrical look at both sides of the Boxer Rebellion.
  • Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein, 2012) – Another book that’s already received wide praise. So, yeah, I loved it too.
  • Sparrow Hill Road (Seanan McGuire, 2014) – At the time I read it I didn’t expect this fantasy ghost story to make my best-of list–it didn’t feel big enough, somehow–but it’s stayed with me better than most of what I read this year.
  • Rilla of Ingleside (LM Montgomery, 1921) – A re-read that felt like the perfect way to mark the centennial of WWI.
  • 5 Favorite Nonfiction Reads

  • Marathon: The Battle that Changed Western Civilization (Richard Billows, 2011) – Since I’m completely fascinated by the Greco-Persian Wars AND inclined to think that Athens and the Battles of Marathon and Salamis should get some of the attention usually reserved for Sparta and Thermopylae, this book was my catnip.
  • An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America (Nick Bunker, 2014) – The three years leading up the the outbreak of the American Revolution, told mostly from the British perspective. If you’re interested in the era, I recommend this look from another angle.
  • Empire on the Edge

  • Time Warped (Claudia Hammond, 2013) – A compelling, well-written popular science book on how the human brain conceptualizes time.
  • Thank You For Your Service (David Finkel, 2013) – A tough but important read about the lives and struggles of soldiers trying to reintegrate into American society after deployment to Iraq.
  • Hyperbole and a Half (Allie Brosh, 2013) – An illustrated memoir that manages to both be hilarious and contain the most visceral and informative description of depression I’ve ever read.
  • 5 Podcasts I love
    Before this year I barely listened to podcasts. Now I depend upon them to keep my brain occupied while doing housework and when there’s nothing good on NPR during my commute.

  • The DBSA Podcast – Intelligent, insightful, and often hilarious discussion of the romance genre from Sarah of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Jane of Dear Author.
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour – Pop culture analysis, NPR-style.
  • Revolutions – History’s great revolutions. So far Mike Duncan has covered the English Civil War and the American Revolution, and he’s in the midst of the French Revolution. Witty and informative.
  • The History of Rome – A delightfully long podcast series covering Rome from Romulus & Remus to Romulus Augustulus, also by Mike Duncan.
  • Inquiring Minds – Science and what it means for you.
  • 5 TV Shows I Don’t Miss

  • Sleepy Hollow has stumbled a bit in its sophomore season (in my opinion, but I’m by no means alone in it). It’s still all kinds of crazy fun, and Tom Mison is easy on the eyes…
  • Ichabod

  • Miss Fraser and I are enjoying the Twelfth Doctor and looking forward to the Doctor Who Christmas special.
  • And she and I will mourn together after we watch the series finale of The Legend of Korra tonight.
  • One show I do NOT watch with my daughter is Game of Thrones
  • And last but far from least, I never miss a new episode of Chopped.
  • What about you? What are the favorite things you’ve read, watched, and heard in 2014?

    This coming Monday, November 24, is launch day for my latest novella release, A Christmas Reunion! is available for preorder now at all the major ebook retailers.

    ACR cover

    Gabriel Shepherd has never forgotten his humble origins. So when he discovers a war orphan at Christmastime, he resolves to find a home for her—even if that means asking help from the very family who found and raised him, only to cast him out for daring to love the wrong woman.

    Lady Catherine Trevilian has spent five years poring over the British Army’s casualty list, dreading the day she sees Gabe’s name. She’s never forgotten him, and she’s never forgiven herself for not running away with him when she had the chance, though she’s agreed to a marriage of convenience with a more suitable man.

    When Gabe returns home on Christmas leave just days before Cat’s wedding, a forbidden kiss confirms their feelings haven’t been dimmed by distance or time. But Cat is honor-bound to another, and Gabe believes she deserves better than a penniless soldier with an orphan in tow. How can Cat reconcile love and duty? She must convince Gabe she’d rather have him than the richest lord in all of England…

    Here’s an excerpt I hope will whet your appetite. Cat’s fiance Anthony has just witnessed her reunion with Gabe, and he has questions…
    “Catherine,” he said abruptly, “what is Captain Shepherd to you?”

    “What do you mean?” She strove for a light, steady voice. “He grew up with Richard and Harry, so I think of him as a cousin, even though we’re not of the same blood.”

    “No.” He huffed out a breath and stepped away from the hearth, watching her carefully. “You don’t fidget and breathe faster every time Richard comes within a yard of you. You and Harry don’t dart glances at each other and turn red every time you happen to look at the same time.”

    Cat sighed. Curse Anthony’s perceptiveness. If only Gabe had arrived an hour or two before him, she would’ve had time to school her face and body to calm in his presence. “Very well,” she said. “The reason my uncle sent Gabriel into the army is that he kissed me under the mistletoe, and we were caught at it.”

    “Five years ago. That would’ve made you eighteen and him…?”

    “Twenty. He’s a few months younger than Harry.” She wished Anthony wouldn’t loom so, but she refused to stand up, lest this conversation become even more of a confrontation.

    His eyes narrowed. “Sending him off to war for a mere kiss seems rather extreme. Surely a pretty girl of eighteen and a good-looking lad of twenty under the same roof exchanging a kiss isn’t so shocking, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.”

    His tone and a certain ironic lift of his eyebrow suggested suspicions the kiss had indeed got out of hand. Cat took a deep breath and considered her next words. She was not going to tell Anthony where she and Gabe had been when they were caught, nor how they’d been touching each other.

    Instead she turned to one of the lectures her aunt had given her when she’d wept over Gabe’s exile. “That’s just it, you see. Some of my Trevilian relations hadn’t liked it when I came to Edenwell after Papa died because there were three young men in the household. They thought it too dangerous, that I might end up compromised or maneuvered into marrying Richard or Harry whether I freely consented or not. They weren’t so very far wrong, after all. My uncle wouldn’t have gone so far as to force my consent, but he certainly used every lawful means at his disposal to try to convince me to wed Harry.”

    “He must’ve been mad. Anyone could see the two of you are entirely unsuited.”

    Cat bit her lip and traced a pattern in the rug with one slippered foot. Anthony was so alert to all the little games people played within society. If she claimed that her—call it her infatuation—with Gabe had begun as a game, would it deflect him from suspecting it had become far more? She lifted her chin and met her betrothed’s eyes. “Ah, but Gabriel was much worse in everyone’s eyes. He was entirely unsuitable.”

    Anthony studied her in silence for a moment. Then he visibly relaxed, and one corner of his mouth twitched in amusement. “Why, Catherine! You deliberately struck up a flirtation with him to defy your uncle. You did.”

    She shrugged. “Uncle Edenwell might have been my guardian until I came of age, but I wanted him to know he couldn’t rule my heart or my mind.”

    “Ha! Well done. And a lesson to me never to allow myself to become a dictatorial sort of husband.”

    “You’d do well to remember that,” she said archly, then shook her head. “Though it wasn’t well done of me at all, when you consider the consequences. Before that night my uncle had intended for Gabriel to become steward of the family properties when he was a little older. No one had ever thought of the army for him, and I’ve spent the past five years in fear of seeing his name in the casualty lists. If Uncle Edenwell had been in less of a temper, he might’ve sent Gabriel away for a few years to one of his more distant estates to practice his profession, but that wasn’t my uncle’s way. He was never one to be satisfied with merely doing enough, when a more extreme solution was available.”

    “Hmph. So Richard often gave me to understand.”

    Cat suppressed a sigh of relief. It pained her to speak so lightly of Gabe, who had been her dearest friend even before he became her first love, but at least she thought she had calmed Anthony’s suspicions.

    “But he must have meant something to you, beyond a means to annoy your uncle,” he probed, “or you wouldn’t be so—so struck by his presence now.”

    Or, perhaps not.

    Another excerpt and buy links for A Christmas Reunion are available at my website. And if you’re looking to fill your virtual stocking with festive reads, my short holiday novella from 2013, Christmas Past, is still available too.

    A quick post today, because this is shaping up to be one of the busiest falls of my life–not least because starting next month I have two new releases just six weeks apart. My holiday novella, A Christmas Reunion, releases on November 24, and I just got the cover for my January 5 release, Freedom to Love.

    FTL cover

    Isn’t it gorgeous? I think it may be my favorite cover of mine to date. That said, my first thought upon seeing it was, as always, “That’s not what they look like!” Because, you see, I can’t download the images in my brain for the art department’s benefit, and the celebrities I name on my cover art information forms as the closest approximations are unlikely to give up their lucrative careers in acting, pro football, and the like to take up romance novel cover modeling. (In this case I listed Tom Hiddleston and Rashida Jones.)

    Here’s a question for you all…if you could persuade a favorite celebrity or two to start moonlighting as a cover model, who would you pick? In addition to Hiddles, I’d want my new TV secret boyfriend, Tom Mison, and my favorite non-Seahawk NFL player Cam Newton.

    In other news, I’ve started an author newsletter, which you can sign up for here. I promise not to spam you. Other than release day announcements, it’ll be no more than quarterly. And I’m giving out signed books to randomly selected subscribers who join before Nov. 24–some of my books (I have print editions Carina printed for Rita entries) and some I’ll be picking up at the Surrey International Writers Conference later this month.

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