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One of my favorite parts of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Annual Conference is that the Beau Monde chapter of RWA holds their annual conference the Wednesday before. I try always to attend. It is a great chance to see old friends and to hear great presentations on my favorite topics–anything about the Regency era!

IMG_0082This years conference keynote speaker was Miranda Neville, who honored her recently deceased father in her speech. Her father nurtured Miranda’s interest in history and took her and her sister to museums throughout Europe as a result. If that wasn’t enough to envy, she also had an idyllic childhood on a farm in Wiltshire and went on to work for Sotheby’s, writing catalogues of rare books and original letters and manuscripts. This meant she was paid to read the personal correspondence of historical figures, including those of “our” time period. Needless to say, Miranda likes to get the history correct in her books!

Our Risky Janet Mullany presented a workshop on servants, but I won’t say much about that, because she may be telling you herself. She told us about Black servants who were in England for many years. She mentioned one of the duties of footmen was to deliver messages for the lords and ladies for whom they worked. I thought it a clever fact to use in a future story that the footmen might take hours to deliver such messages, even though the distances might be nor more that a mile away.

Another Risky who presented a workshop was Isobel Carr, who spoke about the fabrics of the time period, about the different weaves of fabrics and the different materials from which they were made. Isobel has so much expertise to share on this topic, it is much too extensive for me to repeat. One interesting fact, though. We all believed that Scottish clans each had their own tartans. I imagined the clans rushing into battle at Culloden each wearing their clan’s plaids. It turns out that, in the late 18th century, a man named William Wilsons published a pattern book in which he assigned clan names to different tartans. The clans themselves had nothing to do with it.

Edmund_Blair_Leighton_-_Singing_to_the_reverendRisky friend Louisa Cornell talked about The Musical Education of a Regency Young Lady. I’ve heard Louisa speak on this topic before and I was so happy to hear Louisa, formerly a professional opera singer, sing some of the examples. She showed us what (and how) a sweet young might sing at a recital, what a talented young lady might sing, and what selections would be scandalous for a young lady to sing. Turns out, singing scandalous songs was acceptable in society.

Jackie Horne spoke about The Material Culture of Childhood and showed how the different cultural views on childhood were reflected in their toys, furniture, and clothing. Before 1750, children were rushed to adulthood, so their furniture, clothing, etc. reflected that. 1750 to 1830 was the era of the Natural Child, the belief that childhood was a special time requiring more freedom of movement than children had experienced previously. One interesting fact Jackie told us. Baby carriages were not invented until 1830, so don’t have your Regency characters pushing one!

Cheryl Bolen shared tons of information on the interiors of Regency houses, both in Town and in the country. She showed us slide after slide of wonderful Regency interiors, including some beautiful Adams rooms. You can see these images on her Pinterest Boards. An interesting fact–her floorplan of a typical Regency town house showed that the master’s bedroom was on the ground floor behind the dining room.

georgette-heyer-biographyThe Beau Monde was honored to have Jennifer Kloester, author of the recent acclaimed biography of Georgette Heyer. Ms. Kloester gave us a lovely picture of Heyer, including many of the insider tidbits she’d learned doing her research. She showed us a photograph of Heyer in her 20s by a then famous photographer. She looked like a 13 year old. Another photo the next year was more like the one on this book cover.

I missed the last workshop, because I needed to get ready for RWA’s huge Literacy Book Signing, but I heard it was wonderful, too. It was about Regency dance and was intriguingly titled Rethinking the Regency Ballroom with special guest Susan de Guardiola.

Miss Guardiola also led us in dance later at the evening soiree, where I joined other Beau Monde members, many in period costume, dancing the dances of the Regency. My dance partner was Joanne Grant, Senior Executive Editor at Harlequin UK. She and I have danced at previous soirees and it was a delight to have her attend this year’s and dance with me again!

It was a wonderful Beau Monde conference. Special thanks to Janna MacGregor, the coordinator of the conference. She did a marvelous job! And has become a great friend of mine, as well!

What topics would you like to hear presented at a Beau Monde conference? I’ll pass on your ideas!

Welcome Miranda Neville to the Riskies! She’s giving away two copies of her novella P.S. I Love You. See below on how to enter.

Savinien_de_Cyrano_de_Bergerac  Borrowing from history, myth, fairy tale, or other authors’ works is a time-honored tradition. The Greeks and Romans did it. Shakespeare did. And I have done it.

Cyrano de Bergerac was a seventeenth century French soldier and writer. Judging by the portrait shown here he did, indeed, have a big nose. He is best known through the 1897 drama by Edmond Rostand. The love story in the play is invented, though based on real people.

In case you need reminding, Cyrano loves Roxane but believes he his so ugly she can never love him. She confides that she loves Christian. Christian, his handsome BFF, is bit of a boob and quite inarticulate. Expected to woo his lady by letters, he had Cyrano write them for him. Roxane falls in love with the letters and marries Christian, though she has found his conversation a little disappointing in the flesh. When the latter is killed in battle Cyrano doesn’t tell the truth but preserves the memory of his friend in Roxane’s heart. Only on his deathbed does her reveal that he was the author of the letters and thus the man she loves.

The play has been translated, revived, and filmed numerous times. Roxanne (with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah) and The Truth About Cats and Dogs are movies based on the plot. According to Wikipedia the story has been adapted as an Indian musical, a porn movie, and numerous other iterations.

MirandaNeville_PSILoveYou800I therefore make no apology for appropriating Cyrano for my novella P.S. I Love You, part of a quartet of connected stories in At the Duke’s Wedding with Caroline Linden, Maya Rodale, and Katharine Ashe.

The thing that always annoyed me about the original story is that Cyrano and Christian are so bound up in their bromance it never occurs to them that Roxane deserves to know the truth and make up her own mind which man she prefers. (Mind you, Rostand’s heroine is a bit drippy. Sign of the times, perhaps.)

In my Regency version the protagonist is the badly scarred Christian, Earl of Bruton (Cyrano not being a likely name for an English aristocrat), Christian became Frank (secondary character name), and Roxane was Anglicized to Rosanne.

Handsome, dumb Frank fell for Rosanne at a hunting party and received permission from her father to write to her. Panic-stricken, he has his cynical cousin Christian dictate the letters. Rosanne and Christian fall in love through correspondence and they all meet at a ducal house party where complications ensue. Where I depart from the original is the way Rosanne, smart girl, figures out the deception and takes control.

What are your favorite romances that steal from the classics? Do you know of another romance version of Cyrano de Bergerac? I feel sure mine was not the first.

You may read an excerpt from P.S. I Love You here. The novella is currently 99ç at Amazon, Nook, iBooks and Kobo. AtTheDukesWedding-Cover2The full anthology At the Duke’s Wedding (which I highly recommend: the other stories are great) is at the same retailers. (Amazon, Nook, iBooks and Kobo)

Miranda Neville is the author of nine Regency historical romances and several novellas. Her next book is Christmas in Duke Street with Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, and Shana Galen, coming in October. WebsiteFacebookTwitter
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Baltimore is a strange, quirky sort of city. It’s the birthplace of Betsy Bonaparte who married Napoleon’s brother Jerome. Napoleon was not amused. Poor Betsy never got a crack at being a European bigwig though her extremely French ooh la la fashion sense appalled the fashionable set of Washington. I blogged about it here.

Baltimore brought us the Star Spangled Banner (which I blogged about very recently), Edgar Allen Poe, John Waters, the endearment hon (pronounced in the very odd regional accent), The Wire, and many other strange and wonderful things. And every year it brings the Baltimore Book Festival and I’ll be talking and reading there tomorrow on the Maryland Romance Writers’ Stage. It’s a huge three-day event which takes place in the Mount Vernon district. Lots and lots of books, beer, writers, kids’ activities, readings, food, and many good things.

I’ll be on panels talking about vamps, erotic romance, and keeping the history in historical fiction. We have some terrific guests including local writers like Stephanie Draven, Laura Kaye, and Christie Kelley. My out of town friend Miranda Neville will be there with me tomorrow and my other buddy Pam Rosenthal will talk on Saturday evening. We’ll all read from our books which you’ll be able to buy on the spot courtesy of Ukazoo Books (Baltimore is also rich in indy book stores).

There will also be drawings and giveaways and a bunch of us who are talking about vampires on Friday are doing a gift basket that has various treasures packed into a True Blood lunch bag (I think it would put me off my lunch, but there you go)–books, chocolate, jewelry, and one of my Austen mugs. I hate being involved in chocolate-heavy events. I just know I’m going to absent mindedly eat it.

So if you’re in spitting distance of Charm City, please visit the Baltimore Book Festival. You’ll have a lot of fun.

If you had to plan a book festival, who would you invite?


We’re delighted to welcome back to the Riskies today smart and funny Miranda Neville, talking about her latest book, Confessions of an Arranged Marriage. And yes, there’s a contest. Here’s her book blurb ….

They couldn’t be more different, but there’s one thing they agree on.

In London after a two-year exile, Lord Blakeney plans to cut a swathe through the bedchambers of the demimonde. Marriage is not on his agenda, especially to an annoying chit like Minerva Montrose, with her superior attitude and a tendency to get into trouble. And certainly the last man Minerva wants is Blake, a careless wastrel without a thought in his handsome head.

The heat and noise of her debutante ball give Minerva a migraine. Surely a moment’s rest could do no harm … until Blake mistakes her for another lady, leaving Minerva’s guests to catch them in a very compromising position. To her horror, the scandal will force them to do the unthinkable: marry. Their mutual loathing blazes into unexpected passion but Blake remains distant, desperate to hide a shameful secret. Minerva’s never been a woman to take things lying down, and she’ll let nothing stop her from winning his trust … and his heart.

Welcome back to the Riskies, Miranda! Did you always plan for Minerva and Blake to have their own book?

I think I decided to bring them together when I was doing copy edits for The Dangerous Viscount. Minerva was the cute little sister with a gift for snark and a desire to be a diplomatic or political hostess. Blake was the guy who didn’t get the girl. I realized I wanted to write Minerva’s book and I had this perfectly good (and hot) heir to a dukedom lying around the place. They loathed each other and were patently ill-suited, in other words a perfect match.

In modern terms Minerva is the over-achieving star of the debate team with 1600 on her SATs and a life plan. Blake is the captain of the football team who doesn’t even need a sports scholarship because Daddy is loaded. I had to figure out why they were, in fact, right for each other and hope I succeeded.

Are either of them based on a real historical character?

Blake’s family is loosely based on the Dukes of Portland, one of the great eighteenth century Whig dynasties. I wanted to show how dukes actually got to be rich and powerful and how they stayed that way.  Minerva is a bossy, over-ambitious girl who thinks she’s always right. No one like that has ever existed in the history of the world.

What research did you turn up during this book? (Yes, now is your chance to go to town on rotten boroughs.)

I’m sure you’ll be fascinated to know that the rotten borough in the book was inspired by Old Sarum. This Anglo-Saxon fort was pretty much abandoned when the cathedral was rebuilt in nearby Salisbury. Until 1832, though inhabited mostly by sheep, it sent two members to Parliament. I’m not sure I’ll ever write another romance with a political background. The day-to-day conduct of political life is so complicated and I offer only a totally watered-down, over-simplified version of the era’s political culture.

I had fun when I sent Blake and Minerva to Paris on their honeymoon. Guidebooks of the period are full of great detail about travel, inns, and restaurants. I was particularly thrilled to learn that it was perfectly normal in Paris for ladies to eat out. I discovered a café converted from an old theater and sent my couple on a date there. The English (and Americans, too) have a long tradition of going to Paris to misbehave.

What do you like about the 1820s?

The decade feels modern. The middle class is growing in size and influence. There’s a sense that progress will not be held back, despite some King Canute rearguard action by conservatives like George IV and the Duke of Wellington. Even they had to agree to Catholic Emancipation by the end of the decade, and Parliamentary reform was inevitable, though the reformers were still in the political wilderness. That said, I didn’t choose to set Confessions in 1822. Since it’s the fourth in a series it just turned out that way. The issues – and the way the politics worked – would have been different if the setting was twenty years earlier.

What’s your favorite scene?
My favorite scene is probably when Blake finally embraces his political heritage and Minerva finds it incredibly hot. However, it’s near the end of the book and a bit spoilerish. Since this is the Risky Regencies, I’ll chose the passage where Minerva decides to spy on some Bonapartists (or so she thinks) in a Paris mansion.

….She dodged him, closed the door into the corridor, and fixed her ear to the door into the next room. Holding Blake off with the flat of her hand and a ferocious glare, she heard two voices this time, one of them male, still speaking in German. Agog with anticipation she tried to make sense of the words coming through the solid panels.
“You are a very bad dog.” At least, that’s what it sounded like.
Then a noise like a woman imitating a bark, and a shuffling sound. Minerva shook her head in bafflement and put her finger in her ear, to make sure it wasn’t blocked with wax.
“Lick my boots!”
“What?” Blake had reached her side and was crowding her in the door embrasure.
“Ssh!” She got down on her knees and peered through the keyhole. It was a large one and she could see quite a lot of the adjoining bedroom. In her view was the lower half of a gentleman’s body, from waist to boots, and she had no difficulty recognizing the somewhat stout figure of the Duke of Mouchy-Ferrand, even without a sight of his florid complexion and heavily pomaded curls. The shuffling noise resolved itself into Princess Walstein, on hands and knees and wearing only her undergarments, crawling into view and preceding to obey her master’s command. She really did lick his boots.
Minerva slumped back onto her heels. She considered herself hard to astonish, but this did it. When Blake pushed her aside she put up no resistance. He took her place at the keyhole, let out a ghost of a whistle, and began to shake with silent laughter.

Brilliant! What’s next for you?

I’m starting a brand new series set in 1800, technically pre-Regency but in the era of high-waisted gowns so I guess it counts. Since I don’t seem to be able to write about men with manly occupations like spy, pirate, or soldier, the heroes (and one heroine) are art collectors. The first is called THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED and will be released November 27, 2012.

I’ve discovered some readers really don’t like politics in their romance. In fact I think a used carriage salesman would be more popular. However, characters need to have something to do when they’re not being–ahem–romantic. What are the best and worst occupations for a Regency hero and/or heroine?

Your comment or question for Miranda will enter you into a contest to win a copy of Confessions, your choice of print or ebook. 18 and over, void where prohibited, etc. etc.  Winner will be announced Monday and please leave a safe version of your email so we can contact you.
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