Novellas and Other Short Things

I’ve been putting together another release (I know, it feels like a flood), so I thought I’d talk for a moment about short fiction. Shorts are very popular right now, and while many think it’s because they’re faster to write, honestly, a good novella or short story can take a really long time to produce. A friend who can write a hundred thousand word novel in six weeks once complained that it took her twice that long to write a novella.

Cover by Jessica T. Cohen

I have a short that I wrote years ago for Arabella Magazine (anyone else remember that short-lived publication?) They published one original piece every month, and the novelette I wrote for them was the first thing I ever sold. When they folded before it came out, I was crushed. But then Kindle Shorts was a thing, and I thought I could get into that. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but it didn’t work out.

So I stil have this little novelette (shorter than a novella, longer than a short story)…I put it up on my website as a freebie. I have no idea how many people ever read it. But it seemed reasonable to put it out now that I’m self publishing and shorts are popular and accepted.

I also have an honest-to-god short story laying around. It was written for a Christmas blogathon based on the Twelve Days of Christmas (I got Three French Hens). It’s long since disappeared from the web, and it’s fun, so I added it in as a bonus.

It should be up for pre-sale any minute now…when Amazon gets the link up, I’ll come back and add it. And it’s a pre-SALE. 99-cents and then it goes up to $2.99.


A beautiful viscount falls for his best-friend’s mannish sister. Yes, it’s classic me.

An impossible challenge … Eleanor Blakely is all too aware that her reputation dangles by a very slender thread, unfortunately, she’s found herself in the midst of a delicious series of wagers with a consummate charmer, and she can’t seem to stop herself from saying yes to every wicked proposition. Whatever twist of fate has kept his best friend’s sister on the shelf is a mystery to Viscount Wroxton, but when the inveterate little gamester suddenly catches his attention, she’s entirely is too fascinating to ignore. The fact that she has five enormous brothers is hardly worth thinking about—she’s thrown down the gauntlet, and he has no intention of losing, whatever the cost…

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To Autumn

We are just starting to see the beauty of autumn here in Virginia with brisk, sunny days. Soon the leaves will turn their reds, yellows, and oranges and get ready to fall.

Here, again, is my Regency homage to autumn, because the season and the poem are so beautiful. 

On 19 September 1819, John Keats took an evening walk along the River Itchen near Winchester and was inspired to write one of the most perfect poems in the English language:

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

The poem was included in volume of Keats’ works printed in 1820 to better reviews than his earlier works. A year later, Keats died.

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Celebrations by Light

Do you think overblown “holiday light displays” (or the desire to ride around viewing them) are a phenomenon of our modern age? Step back into the Regency with me for a moment.

The trail of research we authors do as we work on our stories often leads into interesting nooks and crannies, if not right down infamous “rabbit holes.” Researching the events of April 1814 for my current wip (reading the newspapers of the time, one of my favorite ways to research) led me to chase down information about the celebratory “illuminations” that were hurriedly put up once the news of the Allies’ victory in France and the abdication of Napoleon became officially announced in London. While the references to them in my wip are just casual conversation, I wanted to know what, exactly, my characters had seen!

The news of peace in Europe broke over the 9th-10th, which was Easter weekend of that year. Descriptions of many of the more prominent displays are given in both The Times and The Morning Chronicle, April 11-13, which is just when my story begins. Many of the displays are described as “transparencies” –colorful paper or cloth images which were illuminated by placing a light source behind them. The first two excerpts are from The Times, while the third is from the Morning Chronicle (and went on for two full-page columns on that day):

Advertisements for purchasing ready-made “transparent” illuminations and lighting can also be found in these papers. They tell us so much: glass and ceramic lamps in colors could be purchased or simply rented for a single night’s display, and transparencies were made ready very quickly (kind of like commemorative T-shirts are today when breaking news happens)! You could hire someone to design and come put up your display (just as some people do for the holidays today). And we see these displays were also popular for special events, not just national celebrations of major news events, and not just in the city.

Even though Jane Austen describes illuminations (presumably home-made transparencies simply for decoration) in Mansfield Park and also refers to some in her letters, I hadn’t paid attention to this aspect of Regency celebrations until now. I think the evolution of the form seems a natural one, given the ancient interest in the art of stained glass. People have been intrigued by the play of light shining through color as a decorative art for a long time! Transparencies were a way to achieve a similar effect on a temporary basis and at a fraction of the cost.

Stained & painted glass

Of course, one of the wonders of Internet research these days is the bountiful yield of posts that have been written by others also fascinated with the same subjects. But what also interested me was the perfect illustration of how the wealth of material on the Internet continues to expand over time.

Kathryn Kane’s blogpost (from 2012) is fabulous in describing the process of how transparencies were made, including the fashion for making them from prints or original artwork on a small scale by ladies at home. She also leads into this with some background history on illumination. (I wrote a post about street lighting myself, here). The word “illumination” seems to have evolved to refer both to the displaying of lights themselves as part of a celebration and also the display of so-called “transparent” art set in front of such displays of lights. But at the time of Kathryn’s blog, no one had uncovered, or at least posted, any pictures to illustrate what she was talking about.

By 2016 when Shannon Selin wrote an excellent post in this topic (here), she had discovered a Gilroy cartoon at the Yale Center for British Art, showing a decidedly political use of transparency art, not quite what we’re talking about here, but still giving an idea of the form. The pictures are mounted in a wooden frame, placed in front of the light.


Selin, author of the alternate history novel Napoleon in America, offers more details than Kane about the “how-to” books and designs that were published for the home craftsperson. She says Rudolph Ackermann “published 109 transparent etchings between 1796 and 1802,” and also cites a book, Instructions for Painting Transparencies (1799). She writes: “British engraver and publisher Edward Orme encouraged the fad for transparencies in both England and France with his bilingual manual, An Essay on Transparent Prints and on Transparencies in General (1807).” She includes a description paraphrased from Orme on how to turn an etching or engraving into a transparency. She writes: “This involved painting large areas of color on the back of the print (corresponding with the outlines of the illustration), and then adding varnish to specific areas to give the paper a see-through effect when held up to light. Scraping or cutting away small sections of the surface was another way to enhance the transparency.”

Finally, I found a blogpost from 2018 that shares the writer’s discoveries while delving into the Georgian Papers collection in the British Royal Archives under a fellowship grant. The illustrations she found are delightful and I direct you to Cassandra Good’s post (here) to see for yourselves, because copyright permissions don’t allow me to share them in this post. I hope you will particularly study the 1763 design by architect Robert Adam for what he called a “transparent illumination” to celebrate the King’s birthday. It appears to show huge transparencies erected on portions of the building, which would have been quite spectacular to see, especially lit from behind. These are a far cry from the small, window-pane sized illuminations described in Kathryn Kane’s post and most likely would have been painted on fabric rather than made of paper.

My conclusion is that “transparent illuminations” (to distinguish them from the illuminations made only with candles, lamps or other light sources) could vary in size from the spectacular displays mounted on buildings to the small displays in household windows, and the elaborateness of the design as well as the size and artistry would reflect on the financial resources and inclination of the displayer. This helps me to put some of those newspaper descriptions into perspective.

I think the social ramifications are interesting to speculate about. If you purchased ready-made illuminations destined for your front windows, would you be worried your neighbor might have purchased the same one(s)? Would families have been conscripted to spend their evening hours in those same front rooms to keep an eye on the illuminations for safety reasons? Lamps or lanterns might supply some degree of safety, but open candle flames were always a hazard, then as now, and paper (even the linen-rag paper of the Regency) soaked in varnish or oil would have been very flammable.

Was there also a risk that drunken revelers in the streets might take offense at the chosen designs on display? There are early accounts of destruction and broken windows when illuminations were done in support of partisan ideas or unpopular causes, or were just deemed “inadequate” by fickle mobs. And not just in England. Illuminations were part of special celebrations in America and France in this period as well.

Certainly at least the efforts by the high and mighty were just as subject to censure as they are today. The Morning Chronicle was quick to point out an error in the illuminations mounted by the Prince Regent in April, 1814. The defeat of Napoleon was celebrated as a restoration of the House of Bourbon, the French monarchy (even though in a new “constitutional” form), and many illuminations featured congratulatory slogans in French. The Chronicle greeted the elaborate design shown by the Regent with the snidely oblique criticism:

I suspect that the political leanings of the Morning Chronicle might have been showing a bit, but OTOH maybe it only proves that “you just can’t get good help” even if you’re the Prince Regent. Or at least that the “grammar police” have been around for a really long time!

What do you think? Did you know about these elaborate displays of lights and art during the Regency? When the holidays roll around again this year and you see the displays on people’s homes, will you think about the historical roots behind the tradition? Please leave me a note in the comments! And thanks so much for reading.

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Kalen Hughes is Back (sort of)

I have what is very big news for me: I finally got all my ducks in a row, and my old Kalen Hughes books, which have been out of print for several years now, are available again! The eBooks are up on Amazon and enrolled in KU for the first 90 days. The print books are also there, but I’m having a bit of trouble linking them up.

I have spiffy new covers, by Jessica T. Cohen (one of my best friends, who happens to be a professional illustrator). I’m gonna give her a plug here, because she’s really amazing and you should check out her work. She’s got covers coming for Pam Rosenthal soon, and they’re pretty spectacular. She’s open for bookings and she can do fine art styles in a host of different styles and mediums as well as the style you see here. She even did custom “dingbats” for my chapter headings and scene breaks.

Sin Incarnate

Formally Lord Sin

I knew I wanted to try illustrated covers (who knew they’d suddenly be big again and I’d be on trend for the first time in my professional life?!). Jess and I put our heads together and decided on a clean “paper cut” look for them, with additional embellishments. I was blown away by what she came back with. I simply adore the arches. And the putti. Everything is better with putti.

Scandal Incarnate

Formally Lord Scandal

They’ve been brought over to my Isobel Carr pen name, and given new and infinitely better titles (IMO). And look, my half-Turkish hero isn’t BLOND AND HAIRY on the cover this time around. *roll eyes*

I had a ton of fun doing the typography layout on top of Jessica’s amazing art. There was just something really rewarding about combining our two skillsets and making someone beautiful and functional. And yes, the “sexually aggressive heroines” was a theme we’d consciously gone with long before that horror movie poster hit Twitter, LOL! And we’ll be sticking with it.

The whole experience has been very enlightening, and I have to give major thanks to Carolyn Jewel and Zoe York for all their help and advice and handholding. I’ve been a complete wreck trying to figure all this self pub stuff out. It’s actually really hard to find all the basic info on format and size and file type. Every time I thought I had what I needed, I’d get an error message informing me I was wrong. Hopefully things will go smoother from now on … though I’m waiting for the plagiarism notification email from Amazon. You think by now they’d just have a place for you to upload your reversion letter when you’re setting up the book.

There’s a third cover in the works, for my previously “self-published only on my website” novelette, which I’m going to call Temptation Incarnate. I’ll have it up hopefully in the next week or two. And best of all, I finally have my writing mojo back! While I’ve been working on all of this, I have been noodling about (which is as close as I get to plotting) with ideas for then next Incarnate book, and low and behold it’s going to be F/F. My dashing lady rake popped into my head and announced that while she likes men fine, women are where it’s at for her. So the duke that was her destiny will get kicked to the curb early on and she and her lady-love with get their HEA.

Ok, Sapphic muse, let’s roll…

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What We “Know” about Regency Weddings

Why write another post about Regency weddings? If you search this site, you’ll find a whole collection of fun & fact-filled wedding-related posts written by various Riskies over the years. But the book I’m currently working on is set against the background of a Regency wedding, and I’m reviewing everything I know about such events. I’m looking at how we know what we know as much as the “what we know” both in this post and in my research. As a former journalist, I always remember to “consider the source” when collecting information.

Pride & Prejudice Wedding

As romance writers, we authors can find it a bit disappointing to hear that Regency weddings were not as big and special as they tend to be today. It’s true that many of our revered traditions developed during Victoria’s reign or later. One of the oft-cited sources for documenting the “low-key” Regency approach is a remembrance by Jane Austen’s niece Caroline (b. 1805), describing her half-sister Anna’s marriage to Benjamin Lefroy on November 8, 1814.

Note the following from her recollection: “The season of the year, the unfrequented road to the church, the grey light within… no stove to give warmth, no flowers to give colour and brightness, no friends, high or low, to offer their good wishes, and so to claim some interest in the great event of the day – all these circumstances and deficiencies must, I think, have given a gloomy air to the wedding…” She adds, “Weddings were then usually very quiet. The old fashion of festivity and publicity had quite gone by, and was universally condemned as showing the bad taste of all former generations…. This was the order of the day.” (my added emphasis)

Genre painting by Henry G. Schlesinger

I haven’t found the date when Caroline wrote this reminiscence, but I note that she was all of nine years old at the time of the actual wedding. I find her insistence that “this was the order of the day” a bit suspect. How would she know this? She was not then at an age to be attending any other weddings. Also, it was November. I’m sure hothouse flowers were not in the budget!

She continues: “No one was in the church but ourselves (she had listed six men and four females, all relatives in the two families), and no one was asked to the breakfast, to which we sat down as soon as we got back…The breakfast was such as best breakfasts then were. Some variety of bread, hot rolls, buttered toast, tongue, ham and eggs. The addition of chocolate at one end of the table and the wedding-cake in the middle marked the speciality of the day.”

Isn’t it possible that, looking back in her later life, she might have been tempted to justify the extreme austerity of this family wedding by claiming it was the norm? Both Anna and Ben Lefroy were the offspring of clerics, and the groom was a cleric himself, as yet without a living. An expensive wedding was doubtless not an option for the family (and probably not considered suitable for clerics, anyway). A longer version of the same quote begins, “My sister’s wedding was certainly in the extreme of quietness: yet not so much as to be in any way censured or remarked upon….”  Caroline sounds defensive to me, as if she feared people would judge her family against the more elaborate Victorian wedding customs that became the fashion later in the century when she was looking back.

The Village Wedding by Fildes

Just eight years before Anna Austen’s minimalist wedding, we have another oft-quoted wedding example from the opposite end of the continuum that I propose existed as much then as now. The Annual Register for 1806 includes this description of a very elaborate wedding clearly designed to show off the extreme wealth of the bride:

“Sept. 9.  This day was married at Slinsford Church, Dorset, Viscount Marsham, son of Earl Romney, to Miss Pitt, only daughter and heiress of William Morton Pitt, esq., with a fortune of 60,000 pounds and an estate of 12,000 pounds per annum, independent of the estates of her father.” (There follows a list of the witnesses, seven of whom were prominent enough to be named, in addition to the bride & groom and family members, plus one “officiating” attendant each for bride and groom.)

The astronomical expense lavished on this wedding would be almost unimaginable if you didn’t take into account that the ultra-wealthy aristocrats were the rock star celebs of their day. “In the early part of the morning the whole of the unmarried female branches of the neighbouring tenantry and villages attended at Kingston-house, the seat of W.M. Pitt, esq., each female attired in an elegant white muslin dress, provided for them, as a present on the occasion, by Miss Pitt. After refreshments, about 40 couples proceeded, two and two, before the procession to the church, strewing the way (before the happy couple), in the ancient style, with flowers of every description. After the ceremony they returned in the same order, attended by nearly 300 spectators, where a dinner, consisting of English hospitality, was provided on the occasion in booths on the lawn; and the festive eve concluded with a ball on the green, in which the nobility present shared in the mirth. At an early hour in the evening, the happy couple and suit set off in post chaises to pass the honey-moon at the lady’s own seat, Enchcome-house, Dorset.”

Health to the Bride, genre painting by Sadler

It makes me a little bit crazy when I hear people now try to characterize the behavior of people in the past as being all one particular way. I’m not saying fashions and trends didn’t exist, but individual people and families still followed their own traditions and were limited (or not) by their incomes and situations, just as we are today.

Knowing this makes me comfortable designing the wedding in my new book the way that fits my characters and their specific situations, within a good grounding in what we do know about Regency weddings. Since they’re not using a Special License, the wedding has to be in the morning, and at church. This was a matter of law, not choice, as was the presence of an officiating clergyman and a clerk to record the proceedings. There will be no white dress, veil, or assemblage of bridesmaids. Her dress could be white, but since in this period it could be any color, I think it’s more fun to go there. And while fashion prints start to show veils in the late Regency (see an interesting post here), my 1814 wedding is too early for that. A wedding “breakfast” will follow, as was customary. It makes sense that you need to feed your guests! As my groom’s family is wealthy, the breakfast will be more elaborate than the one Caroline Austen described, but nothing so grand as Miss Pitt’s! And as my bride has almost no family near her, her relatives will travel a distance to attend.

If you married, how big or small was your wedding? Or weddings you’ve attended? How big or small is your family? I’ve been to intimate weddings with less than 30 people and one huge wedding with 500 guests where I didn’t even know the bride or groom.

It’s just one more very sad ripple effect of the Coronavirus pandemic that weddings since March of 2020, if happening at all, have to be small, intimate celebrations, and preferably held out-of-doors. Circumstances require adaptation. That was as true back in the Regency as it is now, so I think assuming Regency weddings were only done in one particular way is a false view of the times. Sorry, Caroline Austen!

Wedding Couple, 1826

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It’s No Picnic!

Happy Labor Day!

This US federal holiday celebrates the economic and social contributions of the American worker. It was first observed in New York in 1882 and became a federal holiday in 1894. Today it has also become the traditional end of summer and the traditional way to celebrate is to have a picnic.

Of course Labor Day 2020 is like no other. Many of our work force are unemployed or underemployed due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and many of the employed cannot go into work, but must stay at home. Still others, especially our doctors, nurses, and other health providers, are on the front lines, risking their lives for the rest of us. Still others are protesting in the streets, because it is time to for all men (women and children) to be created equal.

So life is no picnic right now. Many of us are hunkering down in our homes, but others are trying to celebrate this holiday as we used to — with a picnic outdoors.

Today’s picnic, albeit a socially distanced one, is a leisure pastime for ordinary people, a chance to grill hot dogs and play outdoor games, but during the Regency, a picnic was a fancier affair, and the working people of the period may have experienced it much differently than we do today.
In the early nineteenth century, picnicking was a way for the privileged classes to commune with nature, all the while consuming a feast assembled to minimize inconvenience and to enhance the outdoor experience. A beautiful site was selected some distance away. Each guest might have provided a dish to share or the host provided all the food. Entertainments were provided. The idyllic interlude was a pleasurable respite from day to day life.

Except for the servants, for a Regency picnic required a great deal of work.Servants had to prepare, pack, and transport the food, the furniture, the plates, serving dishes, cutlery, and linens. The whole lot would be loaded on wagons but the wagons often could not reach the exact site of the picnic, so that the food, furniture, etc. would all have to be carried the rest of the way by servants, who would then have to set up everything, serve the food, and attend to the guests in any way they required. When the picnic was over, the servants had to clean up, repack everything, and carry it back.

It wasn’t until later in the Victorian period, with the rise of the middle class and the ready train transportation that picnics became a less exclusive leisure activity. So on this day, while we celebrate our very unique Labor day, let’s also remember the labor that used to go into a picnic. And let’s remember that times do get better!

(an earlier version of this blog post appeared on September 5, 2011)

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What We Know about Regency Weddings

I’m starting with an apology, because I’ve been working on this post but it isn’t finished yet, and I was offered a chance to go to the beach today, the day I should have it completed and posted. Thanks to the pandemic, I haven’t been to the beach yet all summer, and in normal summers I go every week. Jones-ing for my beach fix! So I’ll give you the basis, and will post the article later this weekend, or early next week.

What caught my interest is simply the disparity between the sources you usually find quoted in material about Regency weddings. Were they elaborate affairs with lots of attendants and a huge wedding breakfast afterwards? Done quietly at home with only close family and friends? Or a very simple affair at the local church, no flowers, no fuss, and maybe one or two special items on the breakfast menu afterwards, shared with only a handful of family and maybe a friend or two?

Searching out the truth behind these could be someone’s master thesis. If I were younger and still pursuing a degree, I would dive into that research with glee. I think it would require reading a very large number of period newspapers, and perhaps correspondence that would first have to be discovered. But we can still draw some conclusions, by looking at the context of the limited sources that are readily available.

Sorry to tease you with this “starter”! I hope the topic interests you as it does me. More coming! Meanwhile, I’m off to the beach. Summer is fleeting and it’s almost over!

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A charming village, a struggling hero, a woman who risks heartbreak for a second time….

Some stories write themselves. Some stories fight you.  I posted about this back in April (here) as I struggled with reworking LORD OF HER HEART. Optimistically, I hoped then the book would be out in June. Ha. Even after I revised it, it still needed so much editing! Yikes, I began to think it would never make it out into the world. But as of today –it’s out!!

LORD OF HER HEART is the start of my new “Tales of Little Macclow” series. “Book Two” in the series is already out—my Christmastide holiday story, LORD OF MISRULE, inspired readers to ask for a series set in the fictional village where there may (or may not) be a bit of magic. The story actually takes place eight months after the action in the new book, so if you haven’t read LOM yet, I would say you’ll enjoy it even more if you read the new one first!  The stories stand alone, but there is a continuing chronology that is going to link the series together.

Here is the blurb for LORD OF HER HEART:

An unexpected return. A new risk for old friends.

As Little Macclow prepares to celebrate May Day, Tom Hepston’s arrival stirs expectations and speculation. Tom left the village fourteen years ago. Now he is back, but he hasn’t come willingly and he has no plans to stay. While he’s proud of the naval career he has left behind, he believes the physical and mental wounds that ended it have made him a madman no woman could—or should—love. Can he leave again before everyone sees the broken man he has become?

Sally Royden’s young heart broke when Tom left the first time. After years of hoping for his return, she now leads a full life caring for her sister and serving as the village seamstress. Tom’s experiences have changed him. Can Sally dare hope for renewed friendship? Or more? Or will her heart be broken twice—by the same man?

Little Macclow—tucked away and maybe touched by magic…. Village tales of love’s triumphs.

I’ve done “wounded heroes” before and bad memories are necessarily a part of them. (If you love this trope, I hope you’ll love Tom Hepston!) But I’ve never attempted one struggling with true PTSD before, which is so much more and can be so complex. I took an entire course on PTSD and did a lot of additional research in order to attempt writing Tom’s character. I had to learn some of the ways it is treated now—so I could figure out ways Tom might recover in a time period when the disorder didn’t even have a name, never mind any sort of therapy. Part of the proceeds from sales of LORD OF HER HEART will be donated to the Wounded Warriors Project and other non-profit organizations that support those struggling with the challenges of PTSD.

Do you like the wounded warrior trope? How about second-chances, and friends-to-lovers? One thing that makes this book different is that the main characters are not aristocracy. They’re not even gentry. Are you willing to read about characters who aren’t wealthy, and never will be? Tom & Sally are at the opposite end from those millionaire dukes who are so popular. I hope you’ll see that their HEA future is just as solid as those earned by those wealthy, high-ranked kinds of characters. And I hope you’ll want to visit Little Macclow again for more books in the series!

The book is available for Kindle and in print through Amazon and in other ebook formats through Smashwords.

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Sorry this post is late, but in the fog that is our current existence, I hadn’t processed that my post day was Juneteenth until last night. So I scraped the “historical tea” post I had planned and got up to write up something new today.

The Emancipation Proclamation

I think we’re all familiar with the Emancipation Proclamation. I was always taught that by this act, Lincoln freed “the slaves”. But this was not true. He freed only the enslaved people in the Confederacy, and there were slave states that stayed in the Union or were under Union control at the time. Enslaved people in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, parts of Louisiana, and those counties of Virginia that were soon to form the state of West Virginia were not freed January 1, 1863, but had to wait until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December of 1865.

In the District of Columbia, compensated emancipation had been enacted in April of 1862. The District’s 900-odd slaveholders were forced to free their slaves, with the government paying owners an average of about $300 for each (it also paid each emancipated slave $100 if they agreed to immigrate to Haiti or Liberia), so the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply there, either (which is important it terms of the Fugitive Slave Act still being enforce for those still enslaved in the Union states and controlled territories).

And as we know, the proclamation was unenforceable in the states that seceded, leading to enslaved people to remain in bondage until the Union gained control. In Texas, General Gordon Granger announced federal orders on June 19, 1865, proclaiming that all people held as slaves in Texas were free. And today we celebrate that delayed justice.

So Happy Juneteeth. May you and yours be safe in these uncertain times, and may justice prevail in the many cases of state-sanctioned violence against black citizens that we’re still seeing today. If you’d like to support a black author and read a great Juneteeth story, I highly recommend Kianna Alexander’s historical novella Drifting to You.

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Black Lives in Regency England

This week has been one of drama, tragedy, and protest following the death of George Floyd from the choke hold of a Minneapolis policeman. Floyd’s last words were, “I can’t breathe” and they became a rallying cry all over the nation and the world while thousands of people demonstrate to show, once and for all, that BLACK LIVES MATTER. To acknowledge this important piece of history in the making, I am going to tell about some Black lives in the Regency.

If you read our books, it is sometimes easy to imagine that the Regency was inhabited by a homogenous group of White people. That was not the case. Especially in the cities, the population was diverse. Some articles estimate as many as 15,000 Black people in England at that time. Most were servants, but they could also be tavern owners, tradespersons, businessmen, sailors, musicians–all walks of life.

Joseph Antonio Emidy, sold into slavery as a child, eventually became a virtuoso violinist who performed, taught music, and composed many works. He lived in Cornwall, had been married, and fathered eight children.

Dido Elizabeth Belle was the topic of the 2013 movie, Belle. Her mother had been a slave; her father, the son of a baronet. As a baby, her care was entrusted to her uncle, the 1st Earl of Mansfield and she was brought up as a member of the family and inherited enough money from the earl to see to her comfort for life. The earl’s will also specifically documented her freedom. She married a Frenchman who might have been a gentleman’s steward. They had two sons.

William Davidson was the natural son of the Attorney General of Jamaica and a Black woman. At 14 he traveled to Scotland to study law, but after being apprenticed to a Glasgow lawyer, he was press-ganged into the Royal Navy. After his discharge, he started a cabinet making business which eventually failed. He eventually became involved in radical politics and was one of the Cato Street conspirators. He was executed for that crime.

Tom Molineaux and Bill Richmond were both former slaves who had success as professional boxers.

Cesar Picton was enslaved from Africa at about 6 years old. He became an exotic page boy to Sir John Phillips a baronet and became a favorite of the family. With a legacy of one hundred pounds from Lady Phillips, Picton set himself up in business as a coal merchant. He became wealthy and died a gentleman.

These are only a few of the diverse Black people who lived during “our” time. I found several examples of others. Most were once slaves or were born to slaves, but against great odds developed successful lives and deserve their place in history.

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