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Not long ago, I heard the good news that Laura Kinsale has completed a new book.

For anyone who doesn’t already know, Laura Kinsale writes superb historical romances, many of them featuring amazingly tortured heroes. In fact, no one does dark heroes better, as the judges of this year’s Romance Writers of America RITA contest recognized in selecting her last release, SHADOWHEART, as Best Historical Romance. My critique partners and I sometimes refer to her as the Goddess. When we analyze her scenes, as a writing exercise, we usually find ourselves genuflecting and mumbling, “We are not worthy, we are not worthy…”

OK, I could rhapsodize for a while longer, but you get the picture.

I read on her website ( that Laura decided to do a lighter story after all the angst and turmoil in SHADOWHEART. It’s going to be more like her other lighter book, MIDSUMMER MOON.

As presumptuous, not to say blasphemous, as it is to say this, I think I understand. Some of my earlier Regencies were on the light side, but LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE has darker elements than I’ve tackled before (still Little League compared to SHADOWHEART, of course). I found myself suffering along with my characters, which can be a draining experience. When I started another angsty story it was like wading through an ever-deepening snowdrift. Now I’m doing a lighter one and finding that the ideas are coming a little more quickly (though first drafts are never easy). So for me, changing up was a creative necessity.

However, switching gears feels like yet another creative risk.

I think Laura Kinsale’s devoted fans will buy her next book. I certainly will. But do some readers feel cheated when an author of an angsty (or funny, or sweet, or sexy… you name it) book does something radically different in her next?

I wonder.


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Like many other historical romance authors, I have a fondness for outdoor love scenes and put one in my new Regency novella, LADY EM’S INDISCRETION. Maybe real Regency folk didn’t spend as much time cavorting around gardens as the fictional ones. But they could have, and based on human nature, I bet some did.

Some of my favorite fictional spaces for outdoor romance: mazes, bowers, and what appears to be another of my fetishes (along with the chaise longue): the classical folly. One of my critique buddies asked when a Grecian temple is going up in my backyard. Maybe after I buy a chaise longue. 🙂

I enjoyed the use of Stourhead Gardens as the setting for the famous rejection scene in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, with Keira Knightley and Matthew McFadyen. They don’t quite kiss, but I find this scene very sexy.

As for favorite outdoor love scenes in fiction, I have many. There was a fun scene in a fountain in Laura Kinsale’s MIDSUMMER MOON. I loved the ending of ILLUSION by Jean Ross Ewing (aka Julia Ross), in which the hero ties up the heroine in chains of daisies.

What are some of your favorite romantic outdoor scenes, whether from books or films?

From comments on this post, I’ll draw five names to receive a Kindle edition of LADY EM’S INDISCRETION. If you win, you can also suggest a friend who will receive one as well. Comment through Friday (one entry per person) and I’ll announce the winners next Saturday.

Elena’s Facebook Page

I recently visited the MOST (Milton J Rubinstein Museum of Science and Technology) in Syracuse, NY, where there was an exhibit on the history of human flight. It began with some information on early ballooning, interesting though familiar since I’ve read a lot of books on the subject. But there was also a section devoted to Sir George Cayley (1773-1857) who invented what was said to be the first glider in 1804.

Sir George Cayley has been called the Father of Aviation. He was the first to identify the four forces that influence flight: weight, lift, drag and thrust and designed (though never built, of course) the first airplane. The picture here is of his 1804 glider. He continued to work with gliders, designing a biplane with “flappers”, which was flown in 1849 and the first manned glider, which was flown in 1853. There’s a story that the pilot was Cayley’s coachman, and that afterwards he said, “Please, Sir George, I wish to give notice, I was hired to drive and not to fly.”

This all made me think of Laura Kinsale’s MIDSUMMER MOON, in which the heroine invents a manned glider. I can’t locate my copy (I think I loaned it to a friend) and I can’t remember if there was an author’s note. In any case, what I learned at the MOST confirms that the heroine’s invention was not out of line with what real inventors were working on during the general time period.

I love when things like this are used in books, such as the blood transfusion in Mary Jo Putney’s SHATTERED RAINBOWS (which does have a useful historical note). IMHO it’s important that the cool bit of research support the overall story, which in both these cases it does.

Have you learned anything new or unusual recently through reading historical fiction? Through visiting a museum or exhibit? Any interesting bits of research you’d like to see used in fiction?


The recent awards season makes me think about famous eccentrics, what makes them eccentric and why we find them entertaining.

I have a theory. I think many of us secretly wish we could do something a little outrageous once in a while. For instance, I love some of the crazy clothing in the Harry Potter movies but would never dare to wear anything like that except to a costume party. Maybe that’s why we love eccentrics, because they appear to be genuinely having fun living an extraordinary life without concern for appearances.

Some eccentrics ring more true to me than others. I might be wrong, but I think people like Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp are the real deal, genuinely a bit mad, and in a good way. Celebrities like Madonna and Lady Gaga (again I could be wrong) come across as more calculated, though they are entertaining in their way.

Many famous figures from the Regency could be considered eccentrics, from Prinny himself to Beau Brummell and other dandies like Poodle Byng. It’s harder for me to tell whether some of these characters donned their idiosyncrasies to get attention or whether they were as eccentric in private.

I think that many of Brummell’s shocking sayings (“Who’s your fat friend?”) were a calculated risk. However, his friend the Princess Frederica Charlotte, Duchess of York, “Freddie” to her friends, seems more of a genuine eccentric. Her marriage was unhappy and she lived in the country, at Oatlands in Surrey, lavishing affection on her pets, which included cats, dogs, birds and monkeys.

“The Duchess’s life is an odd one; she seldom has a female companion, she is read to all night and falls asleep towards morning, and rises about 3; feeds her dozens of dogs and her flocks of birds, &c., comes down two minutes before dinner, and so round again.” – Right Honourable John Wilson Croker, LL.D. F. R. S., Secretary to the Admiralty, 1818

Eccentrics in romance novels are usually secondary characters, the weird great aunt and the like. I’ve tried to think of major characters who are eccentric and came up with a few. Merlin Lambourn, the heroine from Laura Kinsale’s MIDSUMMER MOON is a brilliant inventor but seriously unworldly. I’d call Charles Harcourt, the hero from Judith Ivory’s BEAST, something of an eccentric as well.

Do you enjoy eccentrics? Which are your favorites, real, historical or fictional?


One of the most beloved writers of romance is back…. She’s better than ever, and she’s worth the wait! Her wit is laugh-out-loud funny and her poignant moments are so heartwarming. I’m glad she is back, and I do believe she is better than before and I know, like me, all her fans will be saying her new book was worth the long wait!

Amelia Gray, author of A Duke To Die For.

There is such intelligence and wit behind the perfectly English dialogue and French innuendos that the characters fairly crackle with energy and life. … Callie and Trev are tremendous champions for each other. I adore their story, and am quite sure they will find a place in your heart as well.

A big Riskies welcome to Laura Kinsale, who is here to chat about her new release Lessons in French. She’s offered a signed copy to one person who makes a comment or asks a question. So come on in and chat!

RR: Welcome, Laura, it’s great to have you visit. Let’s jump straight into the interview: What’s your favorite part of writing?

LK: That deep sense of flow and concentration, when I’m living in the story with the characters. It doesn’t come on demand, but when it does, it makes it all worth doing.

RR: What do you think the key to writing comedy is?

LK: Putting an unexpected twist at the end of a sentence or paragraph.

RR: If Lessons in French were made into a movie, who would play the leads (can be any actors at any time; mix and match, if you want)?

LK: I’m a fan of USA’s White Collar at the moment. Matt Bomer would be perfect for Trev, just that sense of devil-may-care elegance and mischief.

Callie, hmmm–maybe a very young Julie Andrews.

RR: Why do you love Heyer so much? What is your favorite book?
LK: My favorite Heyer is Sylvester, for the hero’s intense low moment and grovel. I love Heyer’s dry wit, mixed with a little craziness. It’s hard to top the Baluchistan hound in Frederica for finely-tuned character comedy.

RR: What’s your favorite part about Twitter? What’s the funnest experience you’ve had there?

LK: I secretly enjoy tweeting animals. My dog Ventoux (who tweets as me, oddly enough!) has a couple of particular friends, a great dane, @dooleybug8 and a horse in New Zealand, @stationbred . They keep life in perspective, tweeting back and forth about visits to the vet, opening gates, and how to get under Mom’s skin.

RR: (Aaaaw) (And the standard Risky question) What’s “risky” about Lessons in French?

LK: From a writing standpoint, the conflict. Callie and Trev are in love from the start, thought they don’t admit it to themselves, much less to one another. So the things that keep them apart have to be something the reader can comprehend as real obstacles that are true to the characters. I had to be very convincing in developing the characters, their beliefs about themselves and the world, because it’s largely those self-concepts that drive the conflict. That’s a fairly difficult writing challenge. But worth it. Readers seem to really like both the hero and heroine.

Thanks for having me on the Riskies!

Your question or comment? Ask away …

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