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Today the Riskies welcome guest author, Camille Elliot. She’s offering a giveaway, too, so be sure to check the details at the end of her post.

Hello! My name is Camille Elliot and I’m a relatively new Regency romance author.

Camy selfieI’ve been reading Regencies since I was thirteen years old, but didn’t start writing them until a few years ago. For my 40th birthday, I decided to take a “bucket list” trip to England rather than throwing a big party, and I’m so glad I went! It was the most wonderful experience I’ve ever had and it inspired some scenes in my latest Regency, The Spinster’s Christmas.

I was able to visit Lord Byron’s estate, Newstead Abbey, and it absolutely captivated me from the first sight of the ruined chapel front attached to the house.Abbey front

The grounds are absolutely stunning—not as extensive as, say, Chatsworth, but beautifully cultivated. Most of the gardens were developed in the late 1800s but some of the gardens nearer to the house had been there when Lord Byron lived at Newstead.

Two of the gardens that really captivated me were the Small Walled Garden and the Rose Garden. They were originally the kitchen gardens, but were developed, I believe, in the late 1800s. The Small Walled Garden is especially beautiful with arches made of trained pear trees, and the high walls make it seem like it’s cut off from the rest of the world.Small Walled Garden 1Small Walled Garden 2


The Rose Garden is gigantic and I could see it as a wonderful place for children to play hide and seek. What was rather funny was the way the trees were sculpted. My friend, Liz Babbs, said they looked like Hershey’s kisses, but I thought they looked like giant turds.Rose Garden 1-cropped


Rose Garden 2When I wrote The Spinster’s Christmas, I went back to my memories of Newstead Abbey for a key scene in the book (in other words, a major kissing scene). The children are playing Hide and Seek in the Rose Garden, which I named the Lower Gardens, and my heroine speaks to my hero in the Small Walled Garden, which I named the Upper Gardens.

When writing the scene, I almost felt like I was back at Newstead. Sigh. I hope to go back to England soon, and back to Newstead again!

Thanks so much for visiting with us today and sharing this adventure, Camy!

Camy writes Christian romantic suspense as Camy Tang and Regency romance as USA Today bestselling author Camille Elliot. She lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious dog. She is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads one of the Sunday worship teams. The Spinster's ChristmasHer latest novel, The Spinster’s Christmas, is now available for pre-order:

This story is the first in Camy’s new series.

The Lady Wynwood series:
The pain and suffering of her short marriage eventually brought widowed Lady Wynwood emotional and spiritual peace. She is able to help her extended family members find love and happiness, but what about herself?
The Spinster’s Christmas:
Miranda Belmoore has never felt attuned to the rest of society. Her family has never understood her blunt speech and unwillingness to bow to conventional strictures, and so they have always made her feel that there is something wrong with her. Now as a poor relation in her cousin’s house, she makes plans to escape a life of drudgery and disdain from her own family members.
Naval Captain Gerard Foremont is having difficulty adjusting to life back on land, frustrated that his career has been cut short by his severely injured knee. Guilt haunts him as he sees the strain his long convalescence has had upon his parents. As they spend Christmastide with the Belmoores, he wants to help fulfill his mother’s wish to have her orphaned niece come to stay with them.
However, an enemy has infiltrated the family party, bent on revenge and determined that Twelfth Night will end in someone’s death …

Camy is offering three copies of The Spinster’s Christmas when it releases (please note it is not available yet!!) to three lucky winners who will be chosen randomly from among those who comment below. Do you have a favorite place in England you would most like to go back to visit again? If you haven’t been there, what one place is highest on your “wish to see” list? Writers, what real places have inspired scenes in your stories?

TheProposal400x600Today the Riskies welcome guest Margaret Evans Porter! Margaret and I have been friends since early days in my career, and I was a huge fan of her work even before that. The Proposal is one of my absolute favorites among her books, so I am very excited that a new edition will be released tomorrow!! Margaret is offering a print copy of The Proposal to a randomly chosen winner among those who comment by the end of this week, so please share your thoughts with us below after visiting here. And read on to find out about a new project she has coming out next month, as well!


Margaret Evans Porter

Margaret is the author of 11 novels and 2 novellas published in hardcover, paperback, digital editions, and in translation. She earned the Best New Regency Author award from Romantic Times Magazine with her first book, and later novels received multiple award nominations. She has also published nonfiction, poetry, and her photography, and is a trained actress who has worked on stage and in film and television. All this and she is also a historian and an avid gardener! But I should let HER tell you.

What’s the premise of The Proposal?

A: In 1797, Sophie Pinnock, a botanical artist and the widow of a famous landscape designer, is employed by the Earl of Bevington to alter the ground of his newly inherited castle in Gloucestershire. She would much prefer to restore the gardens to their original state than replace them. After many years living in Portugal, her employer has returned to England to claim his title.

Where did the idea for this particular story come from?


Margaret’s garden

A: It was the dead of winter in New England, the world was buried under snow–much like this winter! My coping mechanism was to design new rose beds that would feature historic period roses from Medieval times to the Regency and Victorian eras. I had recently spent time at a Gloucestershire castle. I ended up with a 2-book contract as well as an expanded garden!

Where did you turn for research?

A: I had already amassed a collection of historic gardening guides and price lists from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuties. My mother is a rose gardener, so I was raised with historic roses and books about them. On trips to England I visited intact gardens from earlier times.

What aspects of the research itself most intrigued you?

A: There was a raging debate about landscape design at that very time, when Humphrey Repton was altering many formal gardens to conform with his more “natural” style–popular with some people, and criticised by others. I was able to rely on primary sources, like the Red Books that Repton created for his clients (Sophie provides her clients with Blue Books!) And I’m always happy when I can wander through English gardens, so that was particularly appealing to me.

Do you have a favorite scene in this book?

A: I managed to include a scene in which Sophie debates Humphrey Repton himself, because–quite conveniently–he had clients in the neighborhood.

What would you say is “risky” about this book?

A: It seems “risky” to us nowadays, the concept of a female businesswoman in the late 18th century or Regency. But there is so much precedent! Many a widow, through financial necessity or entrepreneurial desire, took on responsibility for her late husband’s businesses. I think it’s a disservice to these women to bury the record of their achievements, and in some cases their innovations–Mrs. Eleanor Coade, who developed Coade stone, Hester Bateman the Silversmith, Rolinda Sharples the artist, Mrs. Sarah Baker the theatre proprietress who developed the theatres of southeast England. These are the notable names, but how many more must there have been that we do not know?

Another aspect of “risk” concerns opium addiction, and to a lesser extent, attitudes and suspicions about sexual orientation. Both of which have an effect upon the secondary mystery plot.

How long have you been writing?

A: I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a crayon in my fist. I became a publisher-editor-author at age 9 or 10 when I founded a class newspaper. My family is packed with writers, so it wasn’t an unusual path for me to follow. My mother, who taught me to read quite young, says she always knew I would be a writer.

What aspects of your own personality show up in your stories?

Rose from Margaret's Garden

Rose from Margaret’s Garden

I’m everywhere. I create gardens and grow roses–so does Sophie in The Proposal. I performed on stage for many years, and studied dance–I’ve written novels featuring an actress, a dancer, and an opera singer. Like Oriana in Improper Advances, I play the mandolin. I mine the places in Britain or Ireland where I’ve studied, lived and/or travelled and use them as settings for my stories. My dogs turn up in books as members of my characters’ households.

Do you find that your training in theater is helpful to you as a writer?

A: It’s immensely helpful, in a variety of ways. Performing period plays immersed me in the idiom of past times, I was speaking dialogue uttered by the people who lived in the eras about which I write. From a very young age I was required to do intensive character biographies, creating backstories for the people I was portraying–this often required in-depth research into social customs, education, upbringing, styles of speech, popular books and music. And of course I was wearing costumes–corsets, petticoats, full skirts, strange shoes–and carrying fans and having my hair dressed and so on. Those experiences were extremely valuable, as you might imagine!

Which book, if any, was the most difficult for you to write, and why?

I would say my new historical biographical novel, A Pledge of Better Times, for several reasons. It is entirely fact-based, all the characters were real people of the late Stuart court–monarchs and aristocrats. PledgeCover400x600Historical events provided the structure, the research was intense and took place over many years between other commitments. (For example, my productivity suffered a little during my 2 terms in the state legislature. But some sections of the novel were written surreptitiously during boring floor debates!) I don’t remember that any of my Regencies or historicals were difficult to write, although I did have to manage a very quick turnaround on an option book proposal while visiting friends in England. Almost every character in that book, Improper Advances, except the hero and heroine, were historical persons, so my fictional story needed to tie in with historical reality.

You now have a second website ( for your mainstream historical novels, featuring real people from history. Your April release, A Pledge of Better Times, is the first of these. Tell us a little bit about this new direction in your writing?

A: In my youth I read many YA biographical historical novels, and my ambition to write mainstream historical novels dates from that time. It took a long time for the right story to find me–that of Lady Diana de Vere, and of Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St. Albans (bastard son of King Charles II and actress Nell Gwyn). It was sparked by some genealogical research, and caught fire after I became acquainted with a direct descendant of theirs. I spent years carrying out the research all round London–at Kensington Palace and Hampton Court and the Tower–as well as in Holland at The Hague and Paleis Het Loo. And Versailles. This book also features the development of formal gardens!

A Pledge of Better Times, will be available in print and as an ebook in April. It has just been named one of the “Books to Read in 2015” by the Book Drunkard blog–very exciting.

Where can readers go to get in touch or learn more about your books?

@MargaretAuthor on Twitter.

Risky readers, don’t forget to post a comment if you’d like a chance to win a print copy of The Proposal! Margaret Evans Porter, thanks so much for visiting with us today!

The Proposal:

When a lonely young widow and a mysterious earl clash over a neglected castle garden, suspicion and secrets threaten a blossoming love.
“Part romance, part mystery, a highly entertaining read.” –M.K. Tod, author of Lies Told in Silence
“Very sensual…lush in detail. Her characters have as much depth as the settings, and the gardens provide a wonderful backdrop for a tender love story.” –Affaire de Coeur
“Decidedly different…totally believable and deeply heartfelt.” –Rendezvous

Print on Amazon:

Kindle on Amazon:

A few minutes ago, I went out into my front yard to take a picture of the blooms on my tree peony, somewhat battered with rain. It’s been pouring with rain for several days here and consequently everything is lush and green, with, in my case, the promise of bumper crops of dandelions and poison ivy to come.

I’m contemplating paying huge amounts of money to get my large and overgrown back yard cleaned up because I don’t have the time to do anything about it. Before I wrote, I used to garden. I enjoyed it. Most of the gardening that has to be done, here, however, is of the defoliation variety and after that I want things that will look after themselves. I’ve pretty much tamed the front but the back is a disaster.

I harbor sentimental feelings about gardens and particularly English gardens that have been cultivated for centuries. Here’s a shot of the gardens at The Vyne, a National Trust property I visited on my visit to England last month. It all looks so beautifully harmonious, the yellow of the daffodils floating above the blue of whatever the other flowers are. I believe the building in the background is a Tudor summer house.

So it’s something of a regret to me that I no longer have time to garden, other than the odd bit of mowing or pruning, maintenance that absolutely has to be done. I enjoy seeing the bulbs I planted come up and one day I hope to be able to look out onto the back yard without wincing.

One day, even, to go out into the back yard and not be bitten by rabid mosquitoes and without the fear of poison ivy. If only I had a sunny spot to grow tomatoes and basil. I’m ready. Here’s my pedicure, ready for summer living. Note the impeccable tidiness of my desk.

So what’s going on in your garden? Do you have time to garden and what are you growing? Go on, make me jealous.

And please come on over to Lucienne Diver’s blog where today I’m blogging about the judicial use of history in historicals.

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Megan got me started with this talk of “The Februarys” and pining for Spring, and Andrea Pickens didn’t help by talking about traveling to Scotland and Ireland.

I’m yearning for Springtime in England. It has been three years since I’ve seen England and that is way too long. I won’t be there this year, though, but I went so far as to do a search on Garden Tours of England.

The first up is Coopersmith’s One of a Kind Tours
British Isles
Springtime in the Cotswolds
the Malvern Gardening Show
Scottish Highlands & Islands
the Chelsea Flower Show
Springtime in Ireland: Gardens, Castles & Landscapes (This one is their special of the month)
North Yorkshire Gardens, Country Inns & Stately Homes & Gardens
Haunts of English Artists, Writers and Horticulturists

Next is Lucas and Randall Tour the Gardens of Europe.
Alas their website says “Lucas and Randall is no longer accepting reservations for the 2008 season.” Now I think I’ve missed something!

There is plenty to select from Lynott Tours, though. The one that interests me most is “Chelsea Garden Show with Visits to Kent and Sussex,” but that is because they say there is only one space left!

I think I’ll go on a virtual tour, revisiting gardens we saw on my 2005 visit to England, the Romantic Road North Tour. Wanna come with me?
(I may not have the correct garden attached to the correct estate, so feel free to correct me)

Buckingham Palace – we started our tour in London, naturally. On our walk past Buckingham Palace we saw Prince Charles and Camilla leaving in a limo. Prince Charles waved to us.

Grimsthorpe Castle – this is a view from a window of the castle

Knebworth House – so many beautiful flowers here

Chatsworth – again a view from a window. Indescribably beautiful!

Haddon Hall – this medevial house was a big contrast to Chatsworth, but its gardens were wild and gorgeous

Beningbrough Hall – lots of gardens here

Norton Conyers – one of my favorite places on the tour. Still a private house, it is thought to be Charlotte Bronte’s model for Thornfield. It is known that she visited the house and the family recently discovered a windowless room in the attic where a madwoman might have lived.

Duncombe Park – a view of a very formal garden

Floors Castle – lots of beautiful flowers here

Edinburgh – no garden but a beautiful view!

Where in the world would you like to be this Spring?
Are you planning a garden this year? What will you plant?

There is still time to enter my contest to win a copy of Kathryn Caskie’s How to Seduce a Duke and my The Mysterious Miss M. Enter Here

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