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I received the author copies of A Not So Reputable Gentleman? last Friday, and there is nothing like seeing the book in its tangible form. Even ebook-Kindle-loving me savors holding the book in my hands and flipping through its pages.

I’ll do an “official” introduction to the book near its release date of July 24, but revisiting the book after several months reminded me of some of the essential elements of the story.

My hero and heroine were secretly betrothed before the book begins. Secret betrothals, while favored in fiction (e.g. Edward Ferrars and Lucy Steele in Sense and Sensibility; Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax in Emma), were frowned upon in the real Regency world. In fact, it was considered a serious moral lapse.

Unmarried men and women in society were not permitted to be alone together and were expected to meet only in carefully chaperoned circumstances, like balls and other society parties.

Before a betrothal, young men and women were forbidden to use each other’s Christian names. They could not correspond by letters. They could not exchange gifts. They could not touch in any kind of intimate way and certainly could not kiss.

My hero and heroine had broken nearly all these taboos, although they, of course, considered themselves betrothed. In public, however, any show of particular attention or lapse of correct behavior would have given them away. Society was quick to assume a serious attachment on any sign of particular attention between a couple.

A secret engagement typically meant that there were reasons parents would not approve of the match. During the Regency a parent’s approval was expected if the child was under 21 years of age. Parents naturally wished for socially and financially secure marriages for their children. At the time of my book’s beginning, my hero was neither financially secure or socially acceptable.

By the 1800s a betrothal became more of a gentleman’s word than a contract between families. Even though suing for breach of contract was no longer the norm, a gentleman was expected to keep his word if he asked a woman to marry. A gentleman was disgraced if he broke an engagement and his fiancee was considered damaged goods. The lady was the only one who could “cry off” but then she was considered a jilt.

This, of course, makes great fodder for Regency Romance Novels. In reality, it is what led Wellington to marry Kitty Pakenham. When Kitty had been young and vivacious Wellington had courted her, but his suit was not accepted by her family. When he returned from India, Kitty had become pale and sickly, but Wellington realized that she had considered them betrothed all that time. He felt duty-bound to marry her as a result.

A secret betrothal held no such protections for the couple. By its secrecy, words–and hearts–could be broken without any social cost, although the emotional cost could be enormous.

In matters of marriage, the Regency was, like in so many areas, a time of change. In the 17th and 18th century society marriages were arranged by the parents and were secured for financial gain or rise in social status. By the Regency, couples wished to marry for love. Some blamed this foolish notion on the reading of novels.

Do you like secret betrothals in Regency romances? What about arranged marriages?

If you would like a chance to win a copy of A Not So Reputable Gentleman?, enter my part of the Harlequin Historical Authors Summer Beach Bag Giveaway. For more chances at other prizes and the grand prize of a Kindle Fire, enter daily. See details here.

Tomorrow is the Release Day for A Not So Respectable Gentleman?
It should appear in bookstores and can be ordered online. (ebook versions is out Aug 1, and the Mills & Boon version is out Aug 3)

I’m both excited and a little sad that the book is finally here (almost). A Not So Respectable Gentleman? is the last book in the series that began with the anthology, The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor.

In 2007 the adventure began when Harlequin Mills & Boon editor Maddie Rowe invited Deb Marlowe, fellow Risky Amanda McCabe, and me out to dinner during the Romance Writers of America conference in Dallas, Texas. We thought she was just being nice. The Mills & Boon editors always do nice things like that for their authors during the conference. Turns out she offered us a Regency anthology and each a book connected to the anthology.

Deb, Amanda and I were already friends. We’d become especially close on the Regency tour of England in 2003. So this was a fantastic treat. Our only instructions were to set the anthology in the Regency.

When we later met in Williamsburg, Virginia, to plan the anthology, we decided to create connected stories about a scandalous family created by the love affair between a duke and a lady who left her husband, an earl, to live with him. Their children – his, hers, and theirs – became known as the Fitzmanning Miscellany.

The anthology was about the three daughters. Deb’s and Amanda’s books were about the Duke’s legitimate sons, and A Not So Respectable Gentleman? is about the illegitimate son.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Since Leo Fitzmanning returned to London, he’s kept his seat at the card table warm, his pockets full of winnings and his mind off a certain raven-haired heiress.
Until whispers at the gaming hell reveal that Miss Mariel Covendale is being forced into marriage with an unscrupulous fortune hunter!
Leo must re-enter the society he detests to help her before returning to his clandestine existence. But he hasn’t counted on Mariel having grown even more achingly beautiful than he remembered. Soon Leo realizes that there’s nothing respectable about his reasons for stopping Mariel’s marriage.

Here’s what the reviews are saying:

a lovely romance with a bit of suspense and the power and strength of a family….Gaston’s talents for evoking the era hold true to form….–Kathe Robin, RTBook Reviews

What made this book such an enjoyable read was the quick pace of the story, with characters that were allowed to be intelligent and practical people, while also being flawed…the romance that Leo and Mariel find again in one another kept my attention from beginning to end, and I closed the book with a smile for their future together.–Sara Anne Elliot, Rakehell

It was great fun revisiting the family we created together. Because this was the last book, I made it a point to bring all the Fitzmanning Miscellany back. They play important roles in Leo’s story. In fact, what Leo must learn in this story is that he can rely on his family when all else fails.

In celebration of the A Not So Respectable Gentleman?’s release, I’m giving away one signed copy of The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor and one signed copy of A Not So Respectable Gentleman? to one lucky commenter, chosen at random. I’ll announce the winner on July 25.

A question for you. If a book is part of a series, do you have to read all the earlier books first? Or do you not mind if you don’t know all the details that came before?

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