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Today I’m so excited to welcome my friend and fellow Harlequin author Nicola Cornick back to the blog so we can chat about our December books! My own release is my second Laurel McKee book, Duchess of Sin, Anna’s story, and Nicola’s is the third of her back-to-back releases, Scandalous Women of the Ton! I’ve been waiting for Merryn’s story ever since the first book came out, and now it’s here in Mistress by Midnight. We sit down to tea and cakes to chat about hunky dukes, intelligent heroines, and history….

“A one-of-a-kind read! Truly an amazing tale, a love to warm the heart and an adventure that never ended. I found myself enraptured by Conlan and Lady Anna, by the surprising love I felt for the Angel of Kildare, and the strong desire for the next story.” –Fresh Fiction, on Duchess of Sin

“(An) emotionally charged romance and a powerful love story!” –RT Book Reviews on Mistress by Midnight

Amanda (pouring the tea and helping herself to a chocolate cake): Welcome to the Riskies today, Nicola! I’m so excited to see the last book of your new trilogy on the shelves. Tell us about it!

Nicola (sipping tea, and trying to ignore that Amanda took the only chocolate cake): Thanks for having me here today! Well, my new series, The Scandalous Women of the Ton, is all about heroines doing outrageous things–traveling to the far-flung corners of the globe, working for a living, marrying five times. Each of my heroines manages to shock society’s sensibilities in a different way.

Merryn, the heroine of my December book Mistress by Midnight, is a bluestocking, very unfashionable, with total scorn for everything she sees as superficial about society. She prefers to attend lectures rather than balls and even has a job, although she has to keep this a secret. Merryn is a sweet girl but she does tend to see everything in black and white and a lot of the book is about how she learns that often the truth is nowhere near as straightforward as she thinks. She’s on a mission to ruin Garrick, Duke of Farne, because she holds him responsible for her brother’s death. But she hasn’t taken into account her raging attraction to Garrick or that fact that he’s out to stop her from revealing the truth!

Amanda: I do love scandalous heroines! Anna Blacknall, heroine of Duchess of Sin, doesn’t have a job like Merryn, but she does like a good party–a lot. She likes to dance, ride her horse fast, and find places she’s not meant to be. She also likes to sneak out of the house and look for adventure, something different from her constrained life as belle of the Dublin social season. But she’s also trying to cover up her deep-seated fears and some bad memories from the Uprising of two years ago. She’s looking for acceptance for who she really is, and she wants to find something useful in life beyond being a Diamond. She’s also looking for a strong man to match her, though she doesn’t know at first that she’s already found him…

Nicola: Oooh, a yummy dark hero! My hero Garrick, is a total sweetie to my mind (I do admit to a bias!). He’s a very honorable hero. I love heroes who are strong protectors and Garrick has made it his life’s work to protect those who are weaker than he is and who need him. When he meets Merryn he has a terrible conflict because she threatens to reveal all the secrets he has kept for years as part of his role as defender. He is very attracted to Merryn and he wants to help her too, but he cannot tell her the truth without betraying others. He’s completely torn.

Amanda: He sounds so much like my own hero, Conlan, Duke of Adair! Besides both being dukes, that is. Conlan’s whole life is dedicated to protecting his people from all the dangers of Irish life, and he’ll do anything to fulfill that responsibility. The last thing he needs is a beautiful Ascendancy lady finding out all his secrets! But Anna needs him too–and he needs her. They’re true soul-mates, it just takes them a while (and several dangerous adventures) to find that out! It doesn’t help that Anna is being courted by Conlan’s villainous cousin, either.

One thing I love to do is find actors or models that look like my idea of my characters, and then I make character collages. (It’s not time wasting procrastination, it’s Very Important Research!). Conlan looked to me like a dark manly-man, like Richard Armitage or Gerard Butler (sorry, Diane! I borrowed him for a bit…). Anna is an aristocratic blonde, like Gywneth Paltrow or Diane Kruger. What about your characters? Who did you “see” while you were writing?

Nicola: Well, one of the things I love about Garrick is that he has auburn hair. I know red-haired heroes aren’t every reader’s cup of tea, but I think a man with red hair can be very sexy. My inspirations for Garrick were Damian Lewis, Prince Harry, and Toby Stephens in his Mr. Rochester guise! If I was to cast Merryn, I think Kate Winslet would be a good choice to play her.

Amanda: Yummy inspirations all! I know that, like me, you enjoy doing research and finding historical tidbits to put into stories. What can we look for in this book?

Nicola: Mistress by Midnight is set against the background of the London Beer Flood of 1814, a real event in which 7 people died. It was a freak accident. the vat on the top of the brewery in Tottenham Court Road exploded, setting off a chain reaction from the other vats and releasing a tidal wave of beer that swamped the surrounding streets. Several people drowned, some were crushed by falling masonry, and one died from drinking too much alcohol. It was all reported in The Times newspaper of the day.

Amanda: OMG, how have I never heard of this??? A real beer flood? There’s no flood of booze in my book, but there is a visit to a pub. I set Duchess of Sin around the upheaval concerning the Act of Union of 1801. Things had calmed down (though the atmosphere was still very tense) after the Uprising of 2 years before, but this political act was like setting a match to gunpowder again. Conlan is right in the middle of the fray, of course, and Anna finds herself embroiled in it as well. I talked about the historical background last week on your own Word Wenches blog!

Nicola: I love how your Daughters of Erin trilogy captures the wildness and spirit of Georgian Ireland. What inspired you to write a book there?

Amanda: I’ve always wanted to do an Irish book, but I just had to find the right characters! You’re so right that Georgian Ireland was full of a wild spirit. It was a place of contrasts, between high fashion and gorgeous architecture (much of which can still be seen), and hot tempers and a love of partying. There’s also so much conflict, it’s ideal for a book! And I also love an Irish Christmas, so I was excited to find out this was to be a holiday release.

Nicola: Did you have an idea of what your heroines were going to be like when you started writing? The Blacknall sisters are all strong characters, but very different from each other.

Amanda: I was so lucky! Each sister kind of sprang into the story fully-formed. Eliza is the eldest sister, very strong and sure of herself, very protective of the others, but also idealistic and strong-minded. Anna was the middle one, the beauty, whose intelligence was sometimes disregarded as she grew up. She feels she has something to prove, to the world and to herself. And Caroline is my bluestocking, the quiet one who prefers reading to dancing. But she finds herself embroiled in quite an adventure with an unlikely hero in her own story, Lady of Seduction (June 2011)! I love each of them, by this point they feel a bit like my own sisters.

Nicola: I feel the same about my Scandalous Women! After all this time, I feel as if I know them so well.

Amanda: And what’s next for you?

Nicola: Next is the fourth book in the Scandalous Women of the Ton, Notorious, in August 2011!

Amanda: Wonderful! Have some more tea. We can toast to gorgeous heroes and the scandalous heroines who love them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little tea-table chat today! Comment or ask a question for a chance to win both Duchess of Sin and Mistress by Midnight, and be sure to visit our websites for excerpts, more historical background, and contests. You can find me here, and Nicola here!

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It’s the British invasion! Here’s the second appearance of the ladies of the Historical Romance UK Blog, so sit down on the comfy chair, pour yourselves a nice cuppa, and butter that bun…

Hi! It’s great to be here on the Risky Regencies blog again. We’re a group of British Regency writers and we got together a few years ago. We run the Historical Romance UK blog so please drop by and visit us! And if you sign up for our monthly email newsletter, you can enter more competitions to win books and goodies. Just send a blank e-mail here and we’ll do the rest!
Competitions have a closing date of 28th March unless otherwise stated!

Nicola Cornick: Like some of the other authors who belong to the UK Regency Authors’ Group I have dual publication in both the US and UK and so have a great interest in the market on both sides of the Atlantic.
My most recent Regency historical, Unmasked, was published in the US last summer by Harlequin’s HQN Books imprint and is coming out here in the UK this month.

When I started reading Regencies many, many years ago (!) I think that the markets were quite different. Many of the UK books were drawing room Regencies, charming, traditional, but without the robustness and vitality that characterised some of the US writing. I’m generalising here, of course! In recent years I think that the two markets have moved much closer together in style with books by more US based romance authors appearing in British bookstores and vice versa. There are still some ideas that UK print publishers have not yet embraced: Regencies with paranormal or time travel elements in them, for example, although I was thrilled to see the TV programme Lost in Austen leading the way in this last year.

My Regencies take contemporary themes such as winning the national lottery, or being a celebrity, and look at them in a Regency context. My website gives details of books, contests, extra snippets on historical research, free stories and out-takes.

Wendy Soliman: Hi, I´ve written five novels for Robert Hale in the last three years. All of them are set in the Regency period – post Napoleonic wars. These romances all feature a mystery that keeps the reader guessing until the last chapter and, inevitably, a nare-do-well out to exploit the heroine. This, of course, offers the hero the opportunity to to act as her protector, if she´ll let him!
My sixth Regency based mystery-romance, A Reason to Rebel, is being published on 21st April by Samhain, firstly as an e-book and then ten months later as a paperback. This is an exciting departure for me and I´m greatly enjoying the challenge of dipping a toe in the US market. I found the American market requires a fast moving story, which they helped me to create by requesting shorter, sharper sentences. It was difficult always to get my point across in this way at first but when I got used to the concept I found I was cutting out unnecessary repetitions and not making points which ought to have been obvious. In my Hale books I might say, for instance, Julia looked up from her work and glanced out of the window, wondering what was causing all the commotion..´´ Samhain would split that in two. ´Julia looked up from her work and glanced out of the window. She wondered what was causing all the commotion.´ The former is more leisurely but perhaps encourages my tendancy to ramble. The latter is sharper and to the point. As far as I´m concerned, both styles work!

Samhain allowed me total freedom with the development of my characters and I was at liberty to make the book as sexy as I wanted to. In that respect it differs very little from my Hale books, published in the UK, since I prefer to leave quite a lot to the imagination and concentrate on driving the plot forward instead.

Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory

Hi everyone – it’s great to be here! Romance in the Motherland. Hmm, is it so different from across the pond? When I was working with my editor at Samhain on my e-book, Moonshadows, I wondered how much she would want to change – after all, I think of myself as a very English writer and I am aware of the subtle differences in our common language! I needn’t have worried: very few alterations were required and I have come to the conclusion that, to paraphrase Shakespeare (who had a couple of good plots himself) the story’s the thing.

Moonshadows is the tale of two women – one in the modern day, one in Georgian England, both pursued by rich, powerful men (one of my own particular fantasies!). They are both strong-willed women, but their actions are influenced by the society they inhabit. Can the modern day heroine learn from the mistakes of her ancestor?

I loved writing Moonshadows, which is what I would call a romance with a spooky twist, and I have an e-copy to give away if you can tell me the name of the two women featured in the book (a quick visit to my website should provide the answer.) e-mail me with the answer and the first correct answer out of the hat on 28th February 2009 will receive a free e-copy of Moonshadows.

Fenella-Jane Miller: I live in East Anglia and all my Regency books are set here. It makes it so much easier to get the scene right when you know the area well. I actually live in Essex near Colchester which is the oldest recorded town in United Kingdom; I’ve set a book in Great Bentley which has the largest village green in England and another in St Osyth’s Priory, which is the finest example of mediaeval architecture still in existence. The House Party, published by Robert Hale, is set in Suffolk, a pretty county adjacent to Essex. Here you can still drive through villages and countryside that has hardly changed since the 19th century. All my books are more historical romantic suspense than a comedy of manners with a strong plot and plenty of action, however you can be sure he and heroine always finds a happy ending. The villain is often not so lucky!

Gothic romances, along the lines of books like Jane Eyre and Victoria Holt’s novels, are also still popular in the UK. The Ghosts at Neddingfield Hall has a ‘Gothic’ feel to it. The book is set in mid-winter, in a snow storm, and the house the hero and heroine are tapped in has been inexplicably deserted by the staff and Aunt Agatha has gone missing too!! The locals stay away believing the floating lights, ghostly howls and clanking chains to be ghosts – but our intrepid hero and heroine, Hester and Ralph, battle on realising the attacks are very real. I don’t know of any US equivalents to this genre, but I’d love to know if there are any.

Joanna Maitland: Hello. I’m Joanna Maitland, a Scot living in England, just a few miles from the Welsh border. I love having access to the history of three countries as background for the Regency historical romances I write for Harlequin Mills & Boon. There are eleven so far, and they are getting more adventurous, both in their settings and in their plots, which is great fun for the author! I hope that the readers are also enjoying my spirit of adventure.

I agree with Nicola that British Regencies have become more robust and vibrant, like the US ones, but I have the impression that US publishers tend to be looking for Regencies set in England (mostly London or Bath) or perhaps in Scotland. I’m not sure that a US publisher would be totally comfortable with the kind of unusual locations I’ve chosen lately. For example, The Aikenhead Honours trilogy (to be published March-May 2009) wanders all over Europe. It features the intrigues of the Russian Emperor’s visit to London in 1814 and his return to St Petersburg (His Cavalry Lady), spies at the Congress of Vienna (His Reluctant Mistress), and the hazards of the Hundred Days in France, prior to the battle of Waterloo in 1815 (His Forbidden Liaison). There will also be a follow-up Harlequin Undone! e-book in July — His Silken Seduction — which is set in France (in Lyons) during the Hundred Days. Not a Bath drawing room in sight!

On this side of the pond, British readers can be very picky about Regency detail that US readers probably would not notice. Scots are particularly finicky (fykie in Scots) about misuse of Scots dialect, which can jar horribly. It may not be helped by factors introduced by the editorial process, such as whiskey (Irish) instead of whisky (Scotch) — not that whisky was drunk by Regency notables anyway — and the ubiquitous tartan on the covers of Regencies set in Scotland.

I admit I’ve learned to accept the tartan. I’ve been told that books set in Scotland have to have tartan on the cover if they’re to sell, even though clan tartan was illegal from 1746 to 1782 and not generally readopted afterwards, partly because of poverty, and partly because many of the weaving and dyeing skills had been lost. People is the border country, where my story The Bride of the Solway is set, never were Gaelic-speaking wearers of tartan anyway, but I think there will be some tartan on the cover when it comes out early next year.

However, like my US counterparts, I’m writing escapist romance set in the Regency period, so maybe it doesn’t matter if some of my detail is wrong, as long as I get the romantic content right. I’ll be happy as long as my readers, wherever they’re from, identify with my heroine and fall in love with my hero. I certainly do!

Anne Herries: As a writer I probably wouldn’t see much difference at all between UK / US Regencies because there are good books on either side of the Atlantic. However, as a reviewer I read quite a few and I have found distinct trends in both English and American novels. As far as the American authors go I find that the good writers often go to extreme lengths to uncover obscure facts about the period and work them into their books. Indeed, in general I find that there is often more historical content in American books than in English.

I also think that sometimes both the hero and the plots of American books are more dangerous and therefore more exciting than some English, though there are exceptions here. However, the American use of the English spoken word is not always good and can be irritating.The English authors rely on accurate period flavour and the spoken word is in most cases perfect, also the manner in which both heroine and hero behave is more accurate to the period, which in my opinion makes the book more believable.
So good and bad on both sides but everything is relative. As Anne Herries I have good and bad reviews on the same book. Some people think my books are wonderful, some think I can’t write at all. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. I have written over one hundred books of various types, fifty for Harlequin Mills and Boon.

If you’d like to buy any of the UK published books and can’t find them in the US, The Book Depository delivers them free worldwide.

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