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(From Amanda–Last year, I was invited to take part in a very exciting project, a continuity series pitched as “Downton Abbey in the Regency”.  As a huge Downton fan, of course I immediately said yes, and I’m so glad I did!  It was so much fun getting to work with the other authors and watch our new world take shape, and now the hard work is paying off as the first Castonbury Park title launches next month.  Here is more info on the books in the series.  Be sure and comment to win a copy of the guidebook from Kedleston Hall, our inspiration for Castonbury…)

From the eHarlequin website:  “Are you a fan of the Upstairs/Downstairs genre made famous by the UK series Downton Abbey? Then be on the look out for the new Harlequin Historical DIGITALLY EXCLUSIVE series Castonbury Park! Now, the series is not set in the same time period as Downton Abbey, but fret not–these Regency romance novels are a great way to while away those dog days of summer, PLUS they’re written by some of the hottest Harlequin historical authors!

Marguerite Kaye’s prequel short story, Flirting With Ruin, is free here for a few more days!  Be sure and pick it up for an intro to the Castonbury world…

The series kicks off with Carole Mortimer’s The Wicked Lord Montague (August):

“Lord Giles Montague has always lived his life just the way he wants—fighting on the battlefields and fighting off the fawning ladies in London’s clubs. But after the death of his older brother in Spain, the notoriously wicked Montague is now reluctant heir to Castonbury Park!
Having grown up with the Montague family, Miss Lily Seagrove finds her least favourite by far is Lord Giles! He’s arrogant, rude and oh, so infuriatingly handsome… But she’s a girl of Gypsy heritage, and although she might be able to get under Giles’ battle-scarred skin, she can never be Lady of the Manor…”

Helen Dickson’s The Housemaid’s Scandalous Secret (September):

Ross Montague is a colonel in the East India Army. Raised at Castonbury Park in Derbyshire with his cousins the Montague children, he has come to look on the six siblings as his brothers and sisters. Ross is no celibate, but two things obsess him – India and the East India company. On receiving a letter informing him that one of his cousins has been killed at Waterloo and another – the Montague heir, listed as missing – and the Montague family in dire financial straits, bound by the ties of present and future relationship to the house of Montague, Ross has returned to England.
Having spent all her life in India, Lisette’s parents have died of cholera and she is forced to return to England to earn her keep, but her heart remains in India. Before leaving India Ross saves Lisette from drowning. Because she is disguised as a native girl, he believes that is what she is.

In London Ross again meets Lisette. Although she is familiar to him he cannot remember where he has seen her before. Intrigued and attracted by her, when he learns she is to lose her position as lady’s maid, he persuades his sister to take her on. Lisette engages his emotions at some deeper level, but Lisette is constantly reminded of her lowly position in life and that men of Ross Montague’s ilk are not for the likes of her. To protect herself from his passions – and her own, she is determined to stay out of his way, and yet there is a bond between them which tugs at her heart.

Marguerite Kaye’s The Lady Who Broke the Rules (October):

Shunned by society since she ended her disastrous engagement, Lady Katherine Montague is determined never to allow any man to hurt her again. Instead, Kate invests all her energy and emotions in philanthropy, building a village school, rescuing fallen women and supporting the abolitionist cause.
Virgil Jackson was born into slavery in Virginia, but sold into the north when he led a rebellion which had tragic consequences. Hard work, a brilliant mind and a fierce determination to succeed have earned him freedom, power and wealth, but it seems nothing will ever be enough to satisfy Virgil’s need to pay penance for his past.
 Two outcasts, two rebels, Kate and Virgil are instantly drawn to each other. But the past, for each of them, has taken a heavy emotional toll. Can they cut themselves free from its fetters, and take a chance on a love so shocking that even the most liberal of Kate’s aristocratic family will find it impossible to accept?

Anne Lethbridge’s Lady of Shame (November):

When the scandalous Lady Claire returns home to Castonbury Park with her daughter, she is determined to redeem herself in the eyes of the Duke and marry well this time, for the sake of her daughter.
Up and coming chef Andre has his career all planned out, and his employment at Castonbury is an important stepping stone. He cannot allow an alluring woman, particularly one in a position to destroy all he has worked for, to distract his purpose.
Yet how can he use his talents with food to help her catch a husband, when what he really wants is her in his bed…

Sarah Mallory’s The Illegitmate Montague (December):

Adam Stratton hasn’t seen his mother Hannah for ten years. Fiercely independent, he has overcome his dubious birth to become a wealthy manufacturer and now he returns to Castonbury to make amends. Hannah is housekeeper at Castonbury Park, where the family have their own problems and she is reluctant to leave them at this difficult time. Adam therefore has to kick his heels at Castonbury, where he meets the equally proud and self-sufficient Amber Hall.
Amber is a cloth-merchant, a successful woman in a man’s world, but she must fight to maintain her place there. Sparks fly as she and Adam realise their mutual attraction, but dark forces threaten them and when disaster strikes they are thrown into a dangerous game of passion and intrigue, where no one is quite what they seem to be…

Bronwyn Scott’s Unbefitting a Lady (January):

Phaedra Montague’s always been wild. Wagering her mother’s pearls on a desperate dream is just the beginning of the adventure. Wagering her heart on Bram Basingstoke might just be the end.
The shocking losses of the past year have sent Phaedra fleeing to the stables, her traditional place of refuge in times of trouble. It’s a place she once shared with her brother, Edward. Only now, she flees there alone. Her beloved brother, Edward, is dead. The only thing left of their childhood together is a shared dream of winning Epsom. Phaedra is determined to make that dream come true as much for Edward’s memory as for herself. Life as she knew it has changed dramatically. She can rely only on herself for securing her future. A win at Epsom would secure that future, giving her a reputation as a breeder.
Ladies have never held any charm for Bram Basingstoke….until Phaedra Montague.
Exiled to the hinterlands of Derbyshire in order to escape his latest scrape with scandal, Bram Basingstoke knows he’ll die of boredom before his six months are out. When an opportunity to work as a groom presents itself at a horse auction in Buxton, Bram takes it. It will give him something to do while he kills time and it’s the perfect revenge on his father , the earl, who’d sought to send his son out of scandal’s way. Bram will show him—his errant second son can create scandal anywhere he goes.
But Bram may have torn off more than he can handle.

Joanna Fulford’s Redemption of a Fallen Woman (February):

Elena Ruiz needs a miracle if she is to escape a life behind convent bars, and Lord Henry Montague seems heaven sent. However, he has his own reasons for returning to Spain and those certainly don’t involve her. Nevertheless, when Elena’s well-intentioned plans unravel he becomes more closely involved than either of them ever anticipated…

Amanda McCabe’s A Stranger at Castonbury (March):

The final installment of the Castonbury Saga!  Catalina lost her husband Jaime in the midst of battle in Spain, and broken-hearted she has come to his family’s home at Castonbury hoping to feel close to him just once more.  But she finds more than she ever bargained for in those palatial halls, when Jaime turns up again…very much alive…

Do you enjoy continuity series?  Are you as intrigued by the idea of “Downton Abbey in the Regency” as I was???  Comment for a chance to win!!

In case you’ve missed it, today is Valentine’s Day! The day when stores look like they’ve exploded with a red and pink bomb, there are jewelry ads every 5 minutes on TV, and local papers and magazines want to interview romance authors. It’s a cheesy, silly, goofy holiday full of chocolate…so of course I love it!!

This Valentine’s Day is also special because Signet is re-launching its Regency line as ebooks, and my very first Regency, Scandal in Venice, is the first title in the series! I am very excited about that (and hope it means new Regencies out there!), and I also love the new cover. To celebrate, I’m running a contest on my website to win a Venetian glass heart pendant on my Amanda site. You also have until tonight to enter a contest on my Laurel site

And since I am feeling contest crazy today, I am having one here at the Riskies! I have two brand-new shinny ARCs of my next Laurel McKee book (One Naughty Night, not out until June!). I will give away one copy to a commenter on today’s post!

Here are a few fun history-geek facts I found out about Valentine’s Day…

–Historians trace the origin of Valentine’s Day to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a holiday on February 14th to honor the goddess Juno (among other things the patron of women and marriage, though maybe Venus might have been a better Valentine’s Day choice!). On the following day, February 15th began the fertility festival called ‘Feast of Lupercalia,’ which often turned into a big, wild party.

An interesting custom of the Feast of Lupercalia was to bring together young men and women who otherwise were strictly separated. On the eve of the festival names of young Roman girls were written on a slip of paper and placed into jars. Each young man drew out a girl’s name from the jar and was paired with the girl for the duration of Lupercalia. Sometime this pairing lasted until the next year’s celebration, and sometimes the couple would fall in love with each other and marry.

–But it was actually due to the Christian priest and martyr St Valentine that today’s holiday got its name. The story goes that during the reign of Emperor Claudius, Rome was involved in several bloody and unpopular wars. Recruting new soliers was hard because a lot of men didn’t want to leave their wives and families to take part in such hopeless campaigning, so Claudius canceled all engagements in Rome. Saint Valentine defied Claudius’s orders. and performed secret marriages. When his defiance was discovered, Valentine was brutally beaten and put to death on February 14, about 270 AD and later became a saint.

Around 498 AD, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day to honor the martyr Valentinus and to end the pagan celebration. By the Middle Ages, Valentine became a heroic and romantic figure in England and France, perfect for the cult of chivalry. Valentine’s Day Cards are even said to have originated in medieval France. Charles, Duke of Orleans is said to have written the first Valentine’s Day card. He was captured at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and wrote a poem or ‘Valentine’ to his wife while locked in the Tower of London. This letter is still in the collection of the British Library in London, England.

–There was a popular belief in Great Britain and France during 14th and 15th century that birds begin to mate on February 14, halfway through the month of February. In the Paston Letters, Dame Elizabeth Brews writes thus about a match she hopes to make for her daughter (spelling modernize), addressing the favored suitor:

And, cousin mine, upon Monday is Saint Valentine’s Day and every bird chooses himself a mate, and if it like you to come on Thursday night, and make provision that you may abide till then, I trust to God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray that we may bring the matter to a conclusion.

–Unmarried girls in Britain and Italy used to wake up before sunrise on Valentine’s Day. They believed that the first man they glimpsed on Valentine’s Day (or someone who looked like him!) would marry them within a year. Girls would wake up early to stand by their window and wait for the right man to pass by. Shakespeare mentions this tradition in Hamlet (1603). Ophelia sings:
Good morrow! ‘Tis St. Valentine’s Day
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your valentine!

What are your plans for the holiday?? What are some of your favorite romantic reads for the day?

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I haven’t talked a whole lot about Nationals and I don’t intend to now, having had a radically different experience from nearly everyone else who’s discussed it online.

But one thing that became very clear to me was that I needed to reevaluate what I was doing and why I was doing it, and that’s what I’ll talk about today. At Orlando I found my head was entirely stuffed with … I don’t know what, but I could barely think or write. Maybe it was the a/c, maybe it was something the hotel piped in to make us spend spend spend, maybe it was the swamp trying to reclaim its own and revert us all to far off primitive sluglike ancestors.

And it got me thinking about why I write romance. Why?

Because it changes people’s lives. Nope. Abolutely not. I have never had a letter from someone telling me that I burst upon them in their darkest hour and saved them from the great black hole (and please don’t tell me if, in fact, one of my books did. I don’t want to know). What a terrible burden to have to carry in all subsequent writing. What if you don’t make the grade the next time?

Because it’s all about hot men. No way. Really. You all know what I think of most cover art (although I’m impressed that Harlequin M&B shows males that look fairly human on their historicals). I alarmed a tableful of women in the bar at the last NJ Romance Writers Conference when I told them I was really more interested in writing about women, which I was–I’d just finished Improper Relations, which is primarily about the relationship between friends. But I am not averse to the male form. Check out this site (NSFW).

Because love conquers all. I think this one is really interesting because generally in my books love gets people into trouble. It’s the catalyst for change, not the answer.

And here’s the why:

Because … what I write fits in, in a strange niche of the genre, and since I starting write to sell, that makes me very happy and I’m happy that people enjoy my books.

And because it entertains me first. And that’s what came as the big realization at Orlando, that I need to think in terms of my pleasure to be able to produce. Who else but writers get to make stuff up for a living!

Why do YOU write? As a reader, can you tell if a writer is having fun?

And in the red print, CONTESTS! Enter to win a copy of JANE AND THE DAMNED at Goodreads (and thanks to HarperCollins for giving away the books!)
The contest on my website runs until the end of the month, as does this contest at Supernatural Underground where I ask for your help in writing the next book.
Go check it out!

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This post is about everything except today (tomorrow, actually, as of the time I write this).

For example, later on I will update this post to include the winner(s) of last week’s contest. Maybe even by the time you’re reading this. I’m starting to think there really should be a Jewel Prize.

ETA:  The winners of Last Wednesday’s contest are:

  • cissikat
  • Carol L
  • librarypat

Please email me at carolyn AT and we will arrange your prizes . . .

Next Wednesday, I will be interviewing Elizabth Hoyt and asking her all kinds of Risky questions. Are there any questions I should ask her? Let me know in the comments.

Stuff that Happened on Wednesdays

Forasmuch as cleanliness will contribute to the health, civilization and good manners of our children, the Society do strictly enjoin all the Masters and Mistresses of their several Schools and Nurseries, to cause the children under their care to wear constantly shoes and stockings; to allow them clean linen twice a week, viz. on Sundays and Wednesdays ; to keep their clothes in a proper state of repair, and to be careful that the children are in all respects accustomed to that neatness and cleanliness. . .
Report, 1809-1912 By Great Britain. Commissioners of the Board of Education in Ireland

On Wednesday, February 24,1796 Trial of Patrick Hart for Treason

Here’s some interesting legal matters from The European magazine, and London review, Volumes 77-78 By Philological Society (Great Britain) This strongly suggests how people found out when legal matters could be heard.


Mr. Justice Holroyd.—Mr. Justice Richardson.
Berkshire—Monday, February 28, at Reading.
Oxfordshire—Wednesday, March 1, at Oxford.
Worcestershire—Saturday, March 4, at Worcester. ‘
City of Worcester—The same day, at the City of Worcester.
Staffordshire—Thursday, March 9, at Stafford.
Shropshire—Wednesday, March 15, at Shrewsbury.
Herefordshire—Monday, March 20, at Hereford.
Monmouthshire—Saturday, March 25, at Monmouth.
Gloucestershire—Wednesday, March 29, at Gloucester.
City of Gloucester—The same day, at the, City of Gloucester.

For anyone interested in the debate about whether births and marriages were published in our period, from the same source above:

So there. They were.

Letters from Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, to Mrs. Montagu, between the …, Volume 3 By Elizabeth Carter, Mrs. Montagu (Elizabeth), Montagu Pennington

I saw Mr. Montagu on Wednesday at Mrs. Garrick’s, and he seemed as well as it is possible for a lover to be in his condition ; fretting most heartily, at the slowness and unfeelingness of lawyers. Lord Southampton is quite reconciled to his son’s marriage with Miss Keppel, and has behaved kindly and liberally to the young people, which I am glad of, for they were much attached.

Every body is preparing for the commemoration of the birth-day, after which the town will probably grow very empty. As neither commemoration nor drawing-room form any part of my system, I propose, in all quietness and simplicity, to set out for the sea-shore on Monday next.

I am just returned from our poor suffering friend; would to God it was all over. I thought before I closed my letter, I should inform you of the conclusion of poor Mr. Vesey’s twilight of mortal existence; but it is not yet total darkness, though very near it; he is quite insensible, and cannot swallow, yet she cannot be prevailed on to quit him. She desires her love to you, and has often expressed a deep sense of your kindness in the assistance you offered her, though she is determined not to accept any from any person whatever. I hope all will turn out well; but the will is in Ireland, and I have fearful doubts. Adieu, my dear friend; if either you or Mr. Montagu want a trust-worthy servant, the man who has gone through so much, with such fidelity and affectionate care with Mr. Vesey, will soon be at liberty. AH their servants are exemplary ; but our dear friend is the charm that moves them, it is impossible to resist not only her will but her wishes; and her conduct through this trying time has been most admirable. Once more adieu.

And then this:

Sporting anecdotes: original and selected; including numerous characteristic … By Pierce Egan


From the novelty of an advertisement announcing a Cricket-Match to be played’ by eleven Greenwich Pensioners with one leg against eleven with one arm, for one thousand guineas, at the new Cricket-Ground, Montpelier-Gardens, Walworth, in 1790, an immense concourse of people assembled. About nine o’clock the men arrived in three Greenwich stages; about ten the wickets were pitched, and the match commenced. Those with but one leg had the first innings, and got ninety-three runs. About three o’clock, while those with but one arm were having their innings, a scene of riot and confusion took place, owing to the pressure of the populace to gain admittance to the ground: the gates were forced open, and several parts of the fencing were brake down, and a great number of persons having got upon the roof of a stable, the roof broke in, and several persons falling among the horses were taken out much bruised. About six o’clock the game was renewed, and those with one arm got but forty-two runs during their innings. The one legs commenced their second innings, and six were bowled out after they got sixty runs, so that they left off’ one hundred and eleven more than those with one arm.

The match was played again on the Wednesday following, and the men with one leg beat the one arms by one hundred and three runnings. After the match was finished, the eleven one-legged men ran one hundred yards for twenty guineas. The three first divided the money.

I’ll leave you to thoughts of Wednesdays.

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Jane Austen (“our” Jane Austen, not the real one) clued me in to the ArtsJournal website, which gathers interesting articles about the Arts from all over. Besides such fascinating topics as how insomnia shrinks the brain or, correspondingly, how napping makes you smarter, this article caught my eye, Why You’re Better Off Winning A Bronze Medal Than A Silver.

The logic is quite understandable. From the article:

“Third-place winners have upward thoughts (“at least I won”) that increase satisfaction, researchers have found, whereas those who come in second tend to have downward “if only” thoughts that decrease happiness.”

I think just being an Olympic athlete is a great achievement.

This got me thinking about the Romance Writing contests that abound at this time of year. Not only RWA’s Golden Heart for unpublished manuscripts and the RITA for published, but the RWA chapter contests, like my home chapter’s Marlene Contest. Does the logic fit romance contests? I actively used contests to reach my writing goals, both when unpublished and published and I’ve been successful at both, winning both of RWA’s top prizes, the Golden Heart and the RITA.

For the published author contests, like the RITA, the Holt, NRCA, Golden Quill, etc., there is typically only one winner. Reaching finalist status does feel like an achievement, like winning the Bronze. Same is true for the Golden Heart.

But when I was entering lots and lots of unpublished contests, my feelings were different. If I was lucky enough to make the finals, I always prayed that I would at least get second place. To me, the Bronze merely meant my manuscript wasn’t good enough.

Now isn’t that silly?

The more rational part of me knows that, like in the Olympics where some events are measured in fractions of seconds, there may not be much difference between first place and third. I also know that reaching the finals is some validation of one’s writing skill, but not reaching the finals does not mean your manuscript isn’t just as good. Like figure skating, there is a subjective element. If your manuscript doesn’t reach the finals, then it may mean you got judges who subjectively scored it lower than other judges might have. I know I missed the finals on some unpublished contests because judges scored me low for what they assumed were errors in research, which, in fact, were not. These things happen, just like in some events of the Olympics, where judges might make mistakes because they know only what they subjectively see.

So, have you writers out there entered any contests this contest season? What are your hopes for the contests? What have you entered in the past? Have contests made you feel encouraged or discouraged about writing?

For readers, does it make a difference to you to know a book has won a contest? Does it make it more likely for you to read it, or does it make little difference? What contests mean the most to you, if any?

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