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michelleDiane here, welcoming back Michelle Willingham.

Michelle has returned to the Regency for the moment (taking a little break from her scrumptious Highlanders and Irish Warriors) and comes to talk about her latest venture, her first Montlake release, Undone By The Duke.

Raves for Undone By The Duke

“Well written, aptly conveying a strong sense of family among the sisters, the quartet shows great promise.” –RT Book Reviews, 4 stars (HOT)

undonebytheduke“A tender, exquisitely romantic tale. I so enjoyed this quietly intense and richly satisfying romance.” –Connie Brockway


Michelle has four giveaways today to four lucky commenters who will be chosen at random from all the comments. One lucky winner will receive either an ebook or mass market copy of Undone By The Duke (winner’s choice), but Michelle is also giving away one ebook each of The Accidental Countess, The Accidental Princess, and An Accidental Seduction. Read some exciting new information about these books at the end of the interview!

Welcome back, Michelle!


1. Tell us about Undone by the Duke.
Undone by the Duke is the story of an agoraphobic heroine, Victoria Andrews, who hasn’t gone outside in five years and a wounded duke who ends up
stranded on her doorstep in rural Scotland. This is the first book in the Secrets in Silk quartet, and it’s a cross between Little Women and Project Runway. Instead of sewing dresses, the sisters sew corsets and chemises. And, yes, the scandalous underwear is Victoria’s secret.

2. I think this is our first Montlake book. How was it to work with Amazon Montlake?
It was wonderful! Just to clarify, Montlake is a traditional romance publisher owned by Amazon. Some of Montlake’s authors include Connie Brockway, Kendra Elliott, Melinda Leigh, and Robin Perini, to name a few. There are a few differences in working with Montlake, namely that it’s a true team effort instead of just you and your editor. There is an acquisitions editor who buys for the house (Kelli Martin was mine). Then when it was time for editing, my book was edited by Shannon Godwin, who formerly edited for Harlequin. What I liked about this system is that the developmental edits were done by one person who wasn’t worrying about marketing, scheduling, acquisitions, or office meetings. Her focus was only on making my book the very best it could be. Then it went back to Montlake, had copyedits and galleys, and publicity was done by our in-house publicist. We also have an Author Team for any questions that come up along the way. It’s like a concierge where questions not involving the book can be handled. It’s great when you have a small question and don’t know who to ask.

3. You and the book got a mention in February’s issue of RT Book Reviews. Tell us about that.
We found out that RT was writing an article about historical underwear in the February edition, and since my book was released on February 12th, the timing was perfect! One of my favorite resources regarding unmentionables was The History of Underclothes by C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington. I also visited various museums, but the best research was when I attended a Beau Monde function, wearing a Regency re-enactment gown that was laced up the back. During that process, I learned how impossible it was to dress (or undress) yourself without help*. I used this experience in The Accidental Prince, where my princess heroine is stranded without a maid and has to sleep in her clothes.

(*Diane note: I think Michelle’s modiste that night was our Riskie Amanda!)

4. What is risky about Undone by the Duke?
Definitely the naughty underwear and the risk of scandal! These are four sisters whose parents are deeply into debt and Victoria believes her sewing can lead to prosperity for their family. But when she gets the idea to make the chemises and corsets out of silk and satin (instead of gowns), she never dreamed that the garments would take London by storm. There’s an enormous risk in keeping the secret of who is making the garments, for it will destroy their reputations if anyone finds out who is responsible.

In reality, it’s unlikely that women would buy underwear out of those fabrics, because the lye soap used during that time would burn right through it. You could only wear the underwear a few times and then you’d have to discard it. But there were women during that time who were so wealthy, they could wear a gown once and never wear it again. That’s where fiction and reality could intersect–because a woman rich enough to do this with a gown could certainly afford high-end underwear. So it was a fun concept to play with.

5. Did you come across any interesting research while writing the book?
Some Regency men wore corsets! The Prince Regent and many dandies sometimes wore a Cumberland corset with a whalebone back. And no, I will never put a hero in a corset. Can you imagine a scene with the hero and heroine trying to undress each other? The horror

accidentalprince6. What is next from you?
On February 19, The Accidental Prince will release from Harlequin Historical. This book is the third in a trilogy, and it’s a Cinderella reversal where the handsome prince becomes a pauper and must marry a
princess to regain his kingdom. The previous titles in the series have been discounted online from February 13-March 13 in e-book format. The Accidental
Countess (book one) and The Accidental Princess (book two) will be on sale
for $1.99. The prequel novella, “An Accidental Seduction” will be on sale
for $0.99.

Now I have a question for your readers. Since this is February, the month of Valentine’s Day, many people give flowers to their sweetheart. What’s your favorite flower to receive?

Diane here again. Remember, Michelle is giving away one copy of Undone by the Duke (reader’s choice of ebook or paperback) and one Kindle copy each of The Accidental Countess, The Accidental Princess, and An Accidental Seduction. So answer Michelle’s question or ask of question of your own or make another comment for a chance to win. I’ll randomly pick the winners after midnight on Monday Feb 19.

WLR_logoAnd if you are in the Washington, D.C., area today, Sunday, Feb 17, Michelle and I (and several other DC area Romance authors) will be attending the first ever Romance Lovers Get Together, where readers and authors can meet and chat, at Arlington Rooftop and Grill, 2:30 – 4:30 pm. If you can come, be sure to introduce yourself to me and tell me you read Risky Regencies!

Amanda is taking Tuesday off for a little pre-4th of July picnic prep, but Michelle Willingham is filling in with a post about Scotland and her exciting new release, Tempted By The Highland Warrior!!  Comment for a chance to win a copy.  See you next week…

Visiting Scotland for Research
When I was contracted to write a Highlander series, I knew I had to visit Scotland. In my mind, I envisioned tartan-clad heroes riding across the hills, with their claymores drawn. I pictured William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and of course, the eternal Highlander as we drove on those narrow, winding roads.

It’s a stunning land, full of wild beauty. But during our days there, it rained every single day. At the time, I was a little frustrated. I had wanted to hike through the mountains of Glencoe, seeing the mountains in all their glory. Instead, I saw fog and clouds, blocking our view. Our windshield wipers got a great workout, and every time we stopped the car to take a picture, both of us were fighting off the rain.

But when the rain stopped and the mists rose, the landscape left behind was breathtaking. It was a haunting place where I could feel the stories. We visited the infamous Loch Ness (and yes, I did look for the Loch Ness Monster like everyone else), but what drew my eye was Urquhart Castle. Although there were fortifications there as early as 460 AD, the first castle was likely built in the 13th century. It was there during the time of William Wallace and it provided the perfect research location on what a castle might look like during the era I was researching.
As you approach the main gate, there was once a portcullis to counteract the effects of a battering ram. Two guard towers were on either side, and a small deck made of timber allowed the defenders to pour hot oil on the invaders or attack from above.
Inside, although the floors have all rotted away, you can see the upper floor was divided into several rooms, one of which was used as a banquet all to serve honored guests. Music and feasting were part of the tradition of Urquhart Castle, which were held by the Comyn, Durward, Gordon, and Grant families. Boats could travel along Loch Ness, bringing news to the castle inhabitants or bringing items to trade.
The castle was captured by Edward I of England in 1296 and was transferred through different families until it was almost destroyed in 1609 by Williamite forces who were holding the castle against the Jacobites. By destroying it themselves, they ensured that it wouldn’t fall into enemy hands (a strange move, but one that worked). It remained a ruin and is now owned by the state.
When I was writing my MacKinloch Clan series, Urquhart Castle provided a wonderful inspiration for the settings of the different books. My newest release, Tempted by the Highland Warrior features a mute Highlander who grew up as a prisoner-of-war. He’s in love with Lady Marguerite de Montpierre, the daughter of the Duc D’Avignois. It’s a Romeo and Juliet story of two lovers who are worlds apart and try desperately to be together.
Today I’m giving away a signed copy of the book (or Kindle if you prefer) to one lucky commenter. Just tell me— what’s the weather like in your part of the world?
Learn more about Michelle Willingham’s books by visiting her website at: http://www.michellewillingham.comor interact with her on Facebook ( or Twitter (

Welcome back to Risky Regencies, Michelle! Tell us about your new book Seduced By her Highland Warrior…

Seduced by Her Highland Warrior is the second book in my MacKinloch Brothers series. It features the clan’s chief, Alex MacKinloch, who is fighting to rebuild his clan’s fortress after they survive a battle with the English during the Scottish Wars of Independence. He’s estranged from his wife after they lost their infant son. In grieving, they grew apart and though they love each other, they’ve become virtual strangers. Laren found solace for her grief in making stained glass, and it’s a secret she’s kept from her husband. Alex tried to remain strong and focus his efforts on keeping the clan together, and he’s never faced the grief over losing their child. Together, they must work through the past to rebuild their childhood love.

I love the idea of a heroine who works with stained glass–what was the research like for that?

The research was fascinating! I visited a glass studio in Damascus, Maryland, called Art of Fire ( Bruce taught me how hot the furnaces needed to be to melt the sand, ash, and lime together and how to blow glass (it took around eight hours for the fire to be hot enough). It meant that I had to create a secondary apprentice character to keep the fires tended for the heroine. I also used On Divers Arts, a medieval treatise written by Brother Theophilus, a monk who lived during that era and documented the procedures for making glass. The ash used in the sand and lime mixture was typically from a beechwood tree. Brother Theophilus describes that when melting the glass, it is first clear, then a flesh tone several hours later, and finally, a purple color hours after that. Oxidation helped achieve the colors, and they later discovered that minerals such as silver, iron, and manganese could be added to the raw materials to bring out the various tints.

My heroine, Laren MacKinloch, became their clan priest’s apprentice in secret, and when the priest died, she continued his craft with an apprentice of her own. In glassmaking, she finds her own worth. She also builds her own stained glass windows, from the colored glass she’s made.

What were some of the challenges of a story that starts in the middle of a broken relationship?

Since the hero and heroine were already married and had children together, some of their story is told in flashback sequences, so the reader can learn how their marriage broke apart after the death of their son. I wanted to write about characters who genuinely loved one another, but who had grown so far apart, they didn’t know how to rebuild what was lost. Laren’s shyness makes it hard for her to be the wife she thinks a clan chief needs—a “take-charge” heroine. She loves her husband but doesn’t know how to bridge the distance. Alex is frustrated because she’s kept secrets from him, but when a greater enemy threatens them, Laren’s glass holds the key to helping them all.

And what’s next for you???

I wanted to return to my Victorian series, to write the third book in the trilogy—The Accidental Prince. It’s set in my fictional kingdom of Lohenberg and it’s a Cinderella reversal, where Prince Charming loses his throne and has to live like a commoner while he tries to win the heart of his own princess. It releases in June of 2012. In the meantime, I’m currently finishing another Scottish medieval for the MacKinlochs. The hero of this book, Callum MacKinloch, lost the ability to speak while he was a prisoner of war, and it’s been quite a challenge to handle the “dialogue!”

I’d love to offer up a signed book or a Kindle copy of Seduced by Her Highland Warrior today. Have you ever worked with stained glass before? What’s a hobby you enjoy? Just tell me what you love to do in your spare time, and we’ll draw a winner from the comments.

About the author: Michelle Willingham is the author of over a dozen historical romance novels and novellas. Visit her website at: for more information about her books and excerpts or interact with her on Facebook at: .

Diane here.
Michelle Willingham and I both have Harlequin Historicals arriving in bookstores by Sept 1, if not a few days before (check your favorite store!). We’re each giving away one copy of the September books, so be sure to leave a comment!

Michelle’s September release is Surrender to an Irish Warrior.

Praise for Michelle’s RITA nominated, Taming Her Irish Warrior:
“Kudos to Michelle Willingham….Always true to her characters, Michelle Willingham writes an ending that will steal the heart with its imagery, emotion and romance”–Medieval Book Reviews

My September release is Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress.

Praise for Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress:
“Engaging characters,
action/adventure and sweet love add to the depth of these stories, which
demonstrate how war changes people — and the world.”–RT

Michelle, it is so good to have you back with the Riskies! Tell us about Surrender to an Irish Warrior.

Michelle: Surrender to an Irish Warrior is the last book in my MacEgan Brothers series. It’s about an Irish warrior, Trahern MacEgan, who wants to avenge the death of his betrothed wife. Along the way, he rescues Morren O’Reilly, a woman who was attacked by the same Viking raiders. In Morren, he finds healing and redemption.

Diane: Oh, I love a rescue story. In Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress, Book 2 of my Three Soldiers Series, Allan Landon and Marian Pallant meet when he rescues her on the battlefield of Waterloo and takes her to Hougoumont for safety, only to have to rescue her again when the French set fire to the Hougoumont chateau. But, after that Allan and Marian take turns rescuing each other.

We always ask this. Was there anything risky about your book?

Michelle: Definitely! This was one of the most frightening books I’ve ever written, because I tried to keep it true to the time period. Vikings were known to attack women, and Morren was one of their victims. It’s the first time I wrote about a rape survivor, and although the opening is dark, it left me the chance to give them both of them an incredibly happy ending. It also gave me the chance to do a “family reunion” of all the MacEgan Brothers at the end.

Diane: Each of my Soldiers Series starts out with an almost-rape at the pillaging of Badajoz; I suppose it was risky that the perpetrator goes unpunished (Allan hates that) in this book. Instead he just causes more trouble for everyone. What I felt risky about, though, was making up a fictitious protest demonstration that Marian organized and Allan must prevent. Did I make it credible? I guess the readers will tell me.

What interesting research did you come across while writing this book (maybe we can contrast the different time periods here)?

Michelle: The Viking system of justice was fascinating. I learned that men convicted of a serious offense, like murder, were made into outlaws and could be killed by any member of their tribe with no consequences.

Diane: I learned a lot about the British system of justice during that post-Napoleonic war period. In its way it was also brutal. Habeas Corpus was suspended and anyone could arrested with no reason given. Any protest against the government was seen as a treasonous act. In a way, government could do what it wanted with protesters and have no consequences for it.

What’s next for you?

Michelle: I am starting a Scottish medieval series, set around the Braveheart era (Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, etc.). The first book, Claimed by the Highlander will be released in the spring of 2011.

Diane: Oh, I so admire you for taking on the challenge of yet another historical era. I’m sticking with the Regency, though. What’s next for me is the last book in the Three Soldiers Series, Gabriel’s story, as yet untitled and unscheduled, but probably due out in the spring of 2011. Maybe both our books will be released the same month then, too!

Now, a question from both of us. If you could be rescued by any sort of hero, what kind of man would it be? Medieval warrior? Handsome English soldier? Ruthless billionaire? (Or ask us whatever you want!) Post a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Surrender to an Irish Warrior or Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress.

Michelle and I are together again for Male On Monday at the Pink Heart Society, tomorrow, Aug 23, when, I, of course will be back here at Risky Regencies. Thursday, I’m at Diane’s Blog!

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When I was researching my novella “Innocent in the Harem,” I’ll admit it came out of my own fascination with the secret world of the harem. What sort of world allowed a man to keep hundreds of odalisques, and what would it be like within the forbidden interior?

I used the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, as my setting, and when researching potential sultans, I found that Suleiman the Magnificent (also spelled Süleyman, 1494-1566) was the best candidate. He had several sons, whom he sent off to various provinces within his kingdom, in order to avoid rivalry between the heirs. When one of his sons posed a threat by allying with an enemy, Suleiman had him killed. Palace life was not for the faint of the heart, and sons of royal blood could easily be caught within intrigues and murder plots. The blood of princes could not be spilled, so poisoning and strangling were the preferred methods of execution. I created a fictional son for Suleiman, based on what I learned about the princes (in reality, Suleiman had eight sons by his wives).

In “Innocent in the Harem,” Prince Khadin’s life is in danger because Suleiman sees him as a threat to his heir. When Khadin rescues the beautiful Laila Binte Nur Hamidah from a slave market, he knows he may only have days left before his own execution. He takes her within the world of the harem, and Laila is awakened to the sensual environment.

Within the harem, bathing within the hamam was a popular pastime. The walls and floors were made of tile, and women would wear special sandals called pattens to prevent their feet from being burned from the heated marble. Body hair was considered sinful, and depilatory creams were used, the hair being scraped away with sharp shells. Slaves scrubbed the odalisques with loofahs and rinsed them off with water poured from gold and silver bowls. The women were massaged and perfumed daily, and after bathing, the women would recline in the tepidarium, where they would drink coffee and listen to stories.

The harem was strictly governed by the valide sultana, who was typically the sultan’s mother. The valide sultana would choose which women would share the sultan’s bed, and the women took turns. One unfortunate woman tried to trade her turn on the royal couch and was executed for it. And yet, the harem environment was one where women were treated as valuable, exquisite creatures. The concubines were well-educated, versed in music, languages, writing, sewing, and other arts. If an odalisque pleased the sultan, and particularly if she became pregnant, he might elevate her to the status of his wife.

Eunuchs protected the women and held valuable positions within the harem. Although they were castrated, some would still risk having illicit affairs with the women. The chief black eunuch, the kizlar ağasi held a political position and was often the foreign minister.

“Innocent in the Harem” follows the journey of Laila, a Bedouin horse whisperer, after she enters the harem and is brought to Prince Khadin. They share sensual nights together, even knowing that each night may be their last. And though Laila longs for her freedom, the longer she remains with her prince, the more she longs for both of them to escape the dangers of the palace.

(photographs courtesy of Michelle Styles)

You can read an excerpt from “Innocent in the Harem” at . I’ll be giving away a free download of “Innocent in the Harem” to one lucky commenter.

Any questions about life within the harem? I’ll do my best to answer!

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