Thursday, 25 February 2016

Exhibition: The Lavish Prince Regent

The Lavish Prince Regent
5th March – 31st July 2016 at Rienzi, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Prior to his accession to the British throne in 1821, King George IV served as Prince Regent of the nation during the mental illness and incapacitation of his father, George III. The prince led an extravagant lifestyle before and during his regency that held great sway over the fashions of the day, and he advocated new forms of leisure, style, and taste.

During this period, he built the famous Royal Pavilion in Brighton, which was an Orientalist fantasy in architecture. As with the pavilion, the “Regency Style” that the prince created was a mixture of the Antique and the exotic, the gilded and the decorated—and with an interest in elegant innovation.
The Lavish Prince Regent presents a survey of this most sumptuous of historical styles.
Rienzi’s exhibitions, presented biannually, explore elements of the house museum and 18th- and 19th-century European decorative arts in depth, actively engaging visitors in a dialogue with the Rienzi Collection. Free with Rienzi admission.

Themed Talk

Christine Gervais discusses a miniature painting of George IV on view in the exhibition on 17th March and 21st April. 

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Embargo Act of 1807

There's an awful lot of research involved in writing a historical novel and I'm thrilled to welcome Vikki Vaught with news not only of her latest release, but of how the Embargo Act of 1807 plays a vital part in the story...
I want to thank Madame Gilfurt for having me on her blog. I’m very exciting about my recent release, Lady Overton’s Perilous Journey. This is the first book in my Honorable Rogue series. The story is set in early 19th century England & America, and I loved delving into a bit of American history for my novel. I would like to discuss some of the fascinating research I did for my book. 
I originally set this story in 1809, but after further research I discovered Thomas Jefferson convinced the U.S. congress to pass the Embargo Act of 1807, which stopped foreign trade. While Jefferson did not want to involve the U.S. in the conflict between France and England, he needed to put financial sanctions in place that could possibly hurt these countries economically. This act devastated the U.S. economy. American ships literally remained in port rotting in the harbors. Illegal trade became the only means of getting goods from foreign shores. Many of the items needed by Americans were brought in through Canada and prices sky-rocketed.
Here is some background history that led up to the embargo. Britain and France resumed their war in 1803, causing relations to become strained between any countries deciding to remain neutral. In 1806, France passed a law against trading with neutral countries, and since America did not take sides in the conflict between the two countries, the French began plundering U.S. ships. In 1807, Britain passed a bill prohibiting trade between France and neutral countries. The Royal Navy began waylaying American vessels and demanded that the ships pull into their ports before they were allowed to trade with other countries.
 The British also started boarding American vessels and began seizing sailors they deemed were deserters from the Royal Navy. This infuriated the U.S. and thousands of American sailors were unlawfully impressed into serving on British ships, leaving destitute families behind.
During the last sixteen days of Jefferson’s presidency, a bill was passed replacing the Embargo Act with the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809. While this act opened up trade again, it did not allow trade with Britain. Since my story has my heroine fleeing England on an American vessel, I needed to move it to a different year, prior to the escalating issues between the two countries. Since 1802 was the only year that England and France were not at war for more than twenty years, I decided to place my story in that year.
This was by no means the only research I did for Lady Overton’s Perilous Journey, but was certainly the most important. While this is a novel of fiction, I wanted to ensure that the happenings within the story were possible. 
I’m very excited about my new release, Miss Kathleen’s Scandalous Baron, Book 2 in my Honorable Rogue series. It is set in 1803 and is the story of Alex’s sister, Kathleen and Lord Billingsley. It is a light-hearted read with another honorable rogue. Albeit, Andrew, Baron Billingsley, is a bit scandalous. I hope you will enjoy the romance between Kathleen and Andrew as much as I enjoyed writing their love story. Happy reading!
About the Book
When the young American debutante, Miss Kathleen Hawks, arrives in town for the London season, the last thing she expects is an attraction to the scandalous Lord Billingsley. He’s the kind of aristocrat she detests, one who only cares for his pleasures.
Andrew Grainger is handsome, young and very wealthy. He loves carousing with his pack of friends from his school days. When he stumbles across the prim, yet charming Miss Hawks, he should avoid her at any cost. After all, she’s an innocent young miss, barely out of the schoolroom. But…there’s just something about her he finds irresistible.
When a chance encounter leads to scandal for the pair, they must choose to brave the Beau Monde, or give into its dictates. Is there any possibility that what appears to be a match made in Hades, could turn into a match made in heaven instead?   
Buy the Book

Kathleen Hawks fumed all the way to her brother’s study. Alex must have talked to their mother. Again, she had allowed her emotions to overrule her actions. When she arrived at the door, her heart fluttered, but knowing she had to get this over with, she tapped on the door.
Her brother’s voice bade her enter. She purposefully turned the knob and opened the door as she inhaled and exhaled slowly to prepare herself for what she suspected would be an unpleasant conversation. “Good morning, Alex. You wanted to see me?”
Her brother moved behind his desk. “Please, take a seat.” His set features shouted his displeasure.
Once she settled back in her chair, Alex sat in the chair behind his large desk. “Kathleen, I spoke with Ma and she told me the two of you argued at breakfast. She’s concerned over your defiant attitude, and she feels I may have made a mistake regarding Mr. Jones.”
Oh, dear, when will I learn to control my tongue? “I’m sorry I was disrespectful, but she made several derogatory comments regarding my betrothed. I let my temper get the best of me.”
 Her brother’s stubborn expression did not bode well, and she waited for the proverbial axe to fall. “I agree with Ma. I want you to reconsider your betrothal to Mr. Jones. You’re only eighteen, and he’s ten years older than you. I don’t believe you are well-suited. Your temperaments are vastly different. His only concern seems to be his responsibilities at his father’s bank. You were always so playful and vivacious. You’ve changed since you began spending more time with him, and I do not like it.”
She gripped the arms on the chair. The last thing she needed to do was agitate her brother, but she couldn’t sit passively by while another member of her family spoke ill of William. “You’re wrong, Alex. So what if we have a few differing interests? We love each other and that is what is important. You gave William your permission for the marriage before we left last fall.”
Alex stared her down. “I realize that. However, I should never have given it. As you well know, I had quite a few grave issues to deal with at the time. I should have taken more time to consider a decision that involves your future happiness. I’m seriously contemplating sending him a letter telling him I am withdrawing my consent.”
She clasped her hands together to keep them from trembling. It was all she could do to remain seated. “Please, you can’t do this to me. I love William, and he loves me.” Then, throwing caution to the wind, she stood and shouted, “I. Know. My. Own. Mind!”
“Kathleen.” Alex’s flushed face resembled a storm cloud as he stood and placed his powerful hands on his desk. “I will not tolerate your disrespect, young lady. Ma is ashamed of your behavior, and so am I. When you arrive in London for the season, you either promise to take full advantage of this opportunity the Barringtons are offering you, or I will write the letter withdrawing my consent today.”
Her stomach clenched as she tried to rein in her anger. Alex was serious, and if she was to have any hope of continuing with her plans to marry William, she had to placate him. “Please, don’t write the letter. I’ll go to London, and I promise I will participate fully in the parties. I’ll even keep an open mind.”
Alex resumed his seat. “Good. That’s more like it. I do have your best interests at heart, Darlin’. I want you to be sure Mr. Jones is the right man for you. He’s the first man to show you any attention. Please take this time to be sure of your love for him. That’s all I ask.”
Whenever her very American brother grew angry, their mother’s strong Virginian upbringing took over, and his southern drawl came through. Now that he had to spend much of his time in England, he had worked hard to minimize it. 
“I suppose it can’t hurt, but I will not change my mind. Now if you will excuse me, I’ll return to my packing, so I will be ready when the duke and duchess arrive tomorrow.” She stiffened her spine, turned, and left his study.
About the Author

Vikki Vaught started her writing career when a story invaded her mind and would not leave. Ever since then, the stories keep coming and writing is now her passion. Over the last five years, she has written well over a half dozen romances and is presently working on her next, while fighting off the other future characters shouting my turn!
Vikki loves a "Happily Ever After", and she writes them in her stories. While romance is the central theme of all her books, she includes some significant historical event or place in her Regency novels.

While all her books are love stories, she has also written contemporary sweet romances as Vikki McCombie and erotic romances using the pen name of V.L. Edwards. 

For the last decade, Vikki has lived in the beautiful foothills of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with her beloved husband, Jim, who is the most tolerant man in the world to put up with her when she is in a writing frenzy. When she is not writing or working her day job, you’ll find her curled up in a comfortable chair reading her Kindle, lost in a good book with a cup of tea at her side. 

Written content of this post copyright © Bernard Wilkin, 2016.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

An Evening with Charlotte Brontë

As you may know, my country seat is just a short hop from the Brontë parsonage in beautiful West Yorkshire. When I learned of a new theatre project, An Evening with Charlotte Brontë, that Prue Edwards is intending to stage in the village, I was so excited to learn more and I'm pleased to welcome Prue to share more details of her crowd funding campaign with you!


The parsonage
Little Red Hen Theatre is bringing one-woman show An Evening with Charlotte Bronte to Haworth on 15th &16th July at Howarth Baptist Church, 2016.  

Our theatre comapny is as yet unfunded and we have created a crowd-funding campaign to make our dream of bringing the show to Bronte Country true. So far we have received sponsorship from a Haworth based business, and we are continuing to promote our campaign through twitter. 

Here is a link to our campaign

Here are more details about our production.

The Show

An Evening with Charlotte Bronte
This one-woman show brings to life extracts from the works of Charlotte Bronte; her poetry and fiction, including her masterpiece, Jane Eyre; and gives the audience a glimpse into the mind of a genius.

The History
First devised and performed in 2006, An Evening with Charlotte Bronte, has been performed many times over the years and received wonderful responses from audiences of all ages, in and around the north-west of England.
In 2013, we founded Little Red Hen Theatre, packed our suitcases and headed to The Buxton Festival Fringe in Derbyshire, bringing the show to a wider audience, again receiving touching and humbling responses to the piece.

The Dream
2016 mark 200 years since Chrlotte Bronte's birth, and it is a perfect opportunity to bring the show to Haworth, the home of the Bronte family.

Written content of this post copyright © Prue Edwards, 2016.
Photographic content of this post copyright © Catherine Curzon, 2016.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Jane and the Waterloo Map

It's my pleasure to welcome Stephanie Barron to the salon today to tell the tale of the London Jane Austen would have known in 1815. Stephanie is the author of Jane and the Waterloo Map, the thirteenth novel in her delightful Regency-era mystery series.

A fabulous giveaway contest, including copies of the book and other Jane Austen-themed items, will be open to those who join the festivities - you can find all the details below.   

Jane and the Waterloo Map


Well—we were very busy all yesterday; from ½ past 11 to 4 in the Streets, working almost entirely for other people, driving from Place to Place after a parcel for Sandling which we could never find, & encountering the miseries of Grafton House to get a purple frock for Eleanor Bridges.

So Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra on Sunday, November 26th, 1815, from her brother Henry’s home in Hans Place. It is one of the newsiest scraps that survive from her London visit that autumn, probably because her niece, Fanny Austen Knight, had arrived from Kent and was distracting Jane from the two absorbing concerns that demanded her attention: Henry’s dangerous illness and the printing of her fourth novel, Emma. (Sandling was the home of Fanny’s cousins, the Deedes, in Kent; she would have been searching for a London parcel they expected, in the hope of saving them the postage to Canterbury.) 

Henry had taken sick in late October, alarming his surgeon and his sister enough that three of his other siblings had flown to London to watch by his bedside. A month later he was on the mend, following the intervention of no less a personage than the Prince Regent’s Court Physician, Dr. Matthew Baillie. 

Emma had almost expired as well. Austen’s previous publisher, Thomas Egerton, refused it; and the faltering economy that followed the end of war on two continents had made Egerton’s rivals cautious. John Murray, who published Lord Byron and Walter Scott, took a liking to Emma and agreed to publish it “on commission.” Jane would pay the costs of publication, while Murray took ten percent of the book’s profits. A paper shortage throughout London delayed the printing process, however, so that Jane despaired of proofing the entire novel before her return to Chawton the first week in December. The intervals between the deliveries of Murray’s sheets, as she termed the double-page proofs, were perfectly suited to Fanny Knight’s distractions.

The letter from which I quoted above, along with several others written that autumn, forms the basis of my thirteenth Jane Austen detective novel, Jane and the Waterloo Map. Having followed Jane since the age of twenty-six in this series of stories, I’m always delighted when she runs off to London. The quiet routines of her usual country life are up-ended by the multitude of possibilities the city affords, by her contact with a larger social circle and a greater diversity of what she would have termed intelligence, meaning breaking news as well as intellectual topics freshly bruited in the city’s coffee houses and lending libraries. 

Jane made a habit of walking from Henry’s village, with its cattle enclosure, watch house, and militia barracks on the western edge of London (present day Knightsbridge), to Hyde Park Gate, where she would mount the slight incline and pass through the toll into the great main street of the West End, Piccadilly. It was a trek of several miles, but she preferred to brave the pavings and the mud and the crowds and the horses, rather than hire a hackney cab. Although useful for longer journeys or when a multitude of errands demanded efficiency, cabs were expensive. And it seems probable to me that Jane enjoyed surging through the London crowds. There would be so much of humanity to observe and criticize and record in memory.

Waterloo Map is fiction, of course, but many of the places Jane encounters in its scenes are ones she knew well and frequented in her visits to London.  

Hatchards bookshop—still the oldest in England, and still situated on Piccadilly Street—was one of them. Sitting across from the Albany, which let rooms only to wealthy and single gentlemen, including my fictional Lieutenant James Dunross, Hatchards was a gathering place for conversation and ideas. Daily papers were set out by the fire, and the newest novels (Jane’s included) were available for purchase.

Jane refers to “encountering the miseries of Grafton House” while driving about the streets with Fanny, in order to buy a purple frock for Fanny’s cousin Eleanor Bridges—a quick phrase worth unpacking for the modern reader. Grafton House was in fact a complex of smaller businesses, rather like a present-day urban mall. Women flocked to the corner of Grafton Street and New Bond Street for the bargains in millinery that were supposedly available there. Within Grafton House was Wilding & Kent, a linendraper’s the Austens frequented. So did the rest of female London—which is why Jane termed the crush, heat, and tedious wait for a clerk’s attention the “miseries” of Grafton House.

Regency womanThe purple frock would not, of course, have been purchased readymade; the ladies would be searching for about six yards of muslin or silk in an approved shade at a good price. Purple was the fashionable color in England during the winter of 1815 for obscure reasons young Eleanor Bridges almost certainly did not understand. Purple is the color of violets, which appear suddenly in the spring. It is also a symbol of royalty. More than a year before Jane Austen went looking for it at Wilding & Kent, purple became a mark of political defiance among Bonapartists in France. Napoleon had been exiled to Elba in April, 1814, but his loyal supporters believed he would return “with the violets” to power. Frenchwomen who supported the  deposed Emperor wore purple as a sign of their faith. Sure enough, Napoleon escaped from Elba and invaded France in the spring of 1815. But by the time the purple fad crossed the Channel to England and was all the rage among Fanny’s friends in Kent, Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo and banished for good. 

In Jane’s latest adventure, I send her to several public places she knew and others she probably never entered. One is Somerset House, home of the Royal Academy, where the aging Anglo-American artist Benjamin West presided over a school of young painters, and yearly exhibitions were eagerly attended by Fashionable London. Jane certainly went there in May of 1813, when she humorously described finding a supposed portrait of her character Jane Bingley hanging among the one thousand paintings that lined the walls. The Royal Academy later moved from Somerset House, but the image below is very much as Jane would have known it.

Royal Academy

Similarly, Jane visits Benjamin West’s home and gallery in Newman Street, which might be considered an extraordinary stretch of the imagination but for the fact that she mentions having done so in a letter a year prior to the events of the novel. West was known for opening his ground-floor studio to the public and charging admission when he wished to exhibit a new painting. Jane describes having viewed his Christ Rejected by the Elders in a letter written to her friend Martha Lloyd in September 1814, when the painting was on display. The façade of No. 14 has changed, but the neighborhood—known as Fitzrovia—remains trendy and populated by art galleries.

As any Janeite will tell you, November 1815 is notable chiefly for one thing in Austen’s life: She was invited to Carlton House, the Prince Regent’s cozy London palace, by the Royal chaplain, James Stanier Clarke. She was also ordered to dedicate Emma to the Prince—a task she abhorred—but no record of her Carlton House visit has come down to posterity, other than a note of thanks she sent to Clarke a few days later. 

Carlton House has since been demolished, but in Waterloo Map, we walk with Jane through the extraordinary spaces: the austere and classical Main Hall; the Rose Satin Room, where the Prince set out his card tables at night and the hue of the walls brought aging female complexions to a glow; the Blue Velvet Room, where Jane stumbles on Wellington and his latest Flirt, the twenty-four year-old Lady Fanny Wedderburn-Webster. Carlton House was unusual in Londoners’ experience for several reasons: the excellence of its coal-fired stoves on a multitude of hearths; its principal salons set on the ground, rather than the first, floor; and its opulent state rooms and library, which were a full floor below ground—a space usually occupied by the service wing. The subterranean spaces had full-length windows allowing light to flood in from “areas” lined with Portland Stone, and landscaped with plants in tubs—another modern idea.

During the course of Waterloo Map—which involves military intrigues, a whiff of romance, secret codes and a hunt for illicit treasure--I also send Jane to No. 1 London, a place she passed often at Hyde Park Gate but probably never entered. This was the nickname for Apsley House, the home of the Marquess of Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington’s elder brother. Wellesley was a notable statesman and a notorious rake whose finances were always precarious and whose spending was legendary. He had married his former mistress, Hyacinthe, a French opera dancer who was not received in Society. His brother Arthur (the Duke of Wellington) stayed at No. 1 when he was in London. In the autumn of 1815, Arthur was posted to Paris as head of the Occupying Forces; he had been there, off and on, ever since Waterloo, but he returned on occasion to consult with the Regent. Jane meets him at Apsley House during one of his flying visits home. 

I left Jane standing at the door of Henry’s townhome in Hans Place with something like regret. Exhausting as her tour of London was—and as desperate as the circumstances she encountered—it was a rich and varied interval in both our lives. I hope that those who plunge into the pages of Waterloo Map find it to be the same.


Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

In celebration of the release of Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie is offering a chance to win one of three prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!  


To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour starting February 02, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, February 29, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Stephanie’s website on March 3, 2016. Winners have until March 10, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Jane Austen turns sleuth in this delightful Regency-era mystery

November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.

However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.

Buy the Book:


"A well-crafted narrative with multiple subplots drives Barron’s splendid 13th Jane Austen mystery. Series fans will be happy to see more of Jane’s extended family and friends, and Austenites will enjoy the imaginative power with which Barron spins another riveting mystery around a writer generally assumed to have led a quiet and uneventful life." — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Writing in the form of Jane’s diaries, Barron has spun a credible tale from a true encounter, enhanced with meticulous research and use of period vocabulary."

"Barron, who's picked up the pace since Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, portrays an even more seasoned and unflinching heroine in the face of nasty death and her own peril." — Kirkus Reviews

"Barron deftly imitates Austen’s voice, wit, and occasional melancholy while spinning a well-researched plot that will please historical mystery readers and Janeites everywhere. Jane Austen died two years after the events of Waterloo; one hopes that Barron conjures a few more adventures for her beloved protagonist before historical fact suspends her fiction." — Library Journal 

About the Author

Stephanie Barron
Stephanie Barron was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written fifteen books. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website, visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Find Stephanie online

Twitter: @SBarronAuthor@Soho_Press  #WaterlooBlogTour, #JaneAusten, #HistoricalMystery, #RegencyMystery, #Reading, #AustenesqueMystery #Austenesque #Giveaway 

Follow the Blog Tour 

February 02 My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog)
February 03 Laura's Reviews (Excerpt)
February 04 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
February 05 The Calico Critic (Review)
February 06 So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)
February 07 Reflections of a Book Addict (Spotlight)
February 08 Mimi Matthews Blog (Guest Blog)
February 09 Jane Austen’s World (Interview) 
February 10 Just Jane 1813 (Review)
February 11 Confessions of a Book Addict (Excerpt)
February 12 History of the 18th and 19th Centuries (Guest Blog)
February 13 My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
February 14 Living Read Girl (Review)
February 14 Austenprose (Review)
February 15 Mystery Fanfare (Guest Blog)
February 16 Laura's Reviews (Review)
February 17 Jane Austen in Vermont (Excerpt)
February 18 From Pemberley to Milton (Interview)
February 19 More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
February 20 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
February 22 Diary of an Eccentric (Review) 

Written content of this post copyright © Stephanie Barron, 2016.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Dinner Most Deadly

I'm delighted to welcome Sheri Cobb South with a glimpse inside her novel, Dinner Most Deadly, and an insight into the relationship between reader, author and characters!

Congratulations, Linda, on winning the giveaway and thank you to all who entered!


Last fall marked the release of Dinner Most Deadly, the fourth book in my mystery series featuring Bow Street Runner John Pickett. I’ll admit, this book made me nervous in a way the others had not. I knew from the first that I was asking readers to suspend a great deal of disbelief in accepting that a Bow Street Runner, even a young and handsome one, might become romantically involved with a widowed viscountess. In fact, I felt this scenario was well-suited for a series, as it would allow for the gradual development of a relationship that might be difficult to pull off in a single title. Not that it takes John Pickett long to succumb: he’s smitten from the moment he first sees Julia, Lady Fieldhurst, standing over the body of her husband (In Milady’s Chamber), and it’s that seemingly impossible romantic interest that makes him all the more determined to prove her innocence in the matter of Lord Fieldhurst’s murder. Over the course of the series, he pines hopelessly, while her feelings for him slowly blossom from gratitude to friendship to something more, something she isn’t quite ready to name; the difference between their respective stations is just too great. When an innocent masquerade as man and wife while in Scotland (in Family Plot) results in the possibility of their being legally bound in a Scottish marriage by declaration, Julia is horrified by what Pickett must endure in order to procure an annulment, but an actual marriage between them is out of the question—isn’t it?

And that’s what I was nervous about. As with all the books, the mystery is resolved, but the developing romance carries over—or, in this case, ends on a cliffhanger. I was braced for complaints of “sequel bait,” but to my relief, they haven’t come, at least not to any noticeable degree. Instead, I got a totally different, and unexpected, reaction from readers: They’ve been emailing me with suggestions as to how John and Julia might get together. It’s a bit overwhelming to realize that readers are that invested in the future of these fictional characters. When I told my son about this, even Trevor—who at twenty-three is utterly uninterested in his mother’s literary endeavors—was impressed. He said, “Mom, that’s the kind of thing people were doing before the release of the new Star Wars movie!”

And that scares me a little, maybe even more than the release of Dinner Most Deadly. When expectations are high, there’s a greater possibility that readers will be disappointed with the resolution, which comes this summer when the next book, Too Hot to Handel, is released. There’s always a chance that readers will prefer their own “what if” scenarios over the one I offer them. But if that’s the price of success, I’ll gladly pay it!

Excerpt from Dinner Most Deadly:
“Ah, yes, annulment of a Scottish irregular marriage,” said Mr. Crumpton, seeking recourse to his papers. “Scottish irregular marriages are perfectly legal in England, but because of their, er, irregularity, they are more likely to be challenged and, if challenged, more likely to be overturned. As you might guess, such marriages are usually disputed by the families of the bride or, less frequently, the bridegroom, usually when a fortune or, in the latter case, a title is involved. Challenges are more likely to be successful if there are other discrepancies present as well: one party being underage, perhaps, or falsifying other pertinent information—being closely related by blood, for example, or already being legally wed to another. I gather none of these applies in this case?”
Pickett and Lady Fieldhurst exchanged looks, then turned back to the solicitor and shook their heads.
“A pity, that; it might have saved us a great deal of trouble,” remarked Mr. Crumpton, consulting his papers once more. “Now, as you may not be aware, it is no easy thing to dissolve a marriage, even an irregular one. Marriages are meant to last ‘until death do us part.’ There must be grounds—compelling reasons, that is—why the marriage can and should be nullified.”
“But—but we haven’t done anything!” insisted Lady Fieldhurst, blushing. “I mean—that is—we haven’t—”
Mr. Crumpton permitted himself a smile. “It is a common misconception, your ladyship, that a lack of consummation constitutes grounds for annulment or divorce, but I fear it is rather more complicated than that.”
“Then what are the possible grounds?” she asked.
The solicitor ticked them off on his fingers. “The first is fraud, which we have eliminated. The second is incompetence under the law, which includes being underage.” He turned to look at Pickett. “I believe we have established that you are over twenty-one years of age, Mr. Pickett?”
“These three years and more,” said Pickett, perhaps understandably annoyed to have his lack of years dredged up yet again.
“Just so,” said Mr. Crumpton, nodding. “Incompetence under the law also includes insanity, which I daresay we can also rule out,” he added with an indulgent smile.
“I don’t know about that,” muttered Lady Fieldhurst. “I think I must have been insane to think of escaping to the Scottish coast under an assumed name in the first place.”
Mr. Crumpton wagged his finger at her. “I fear you gave the Fieldhursts a rare turn over that escapade, your ladyship, but that in and of itself hardly suggests an unstable mind. No, I believe we can rule out insanity as possible grounds for annulment.”
“What does that leave?” asked Pickett, weighing the wild hope that they would be forced to let the marriage stand against the bitter knowledge that his wife would hate him forever if it did.
For the first time in the interview, Mr. Crumpton’s professional demeanor faltered. “The only possibility that remains is, er, that is, it involves consummation of the union.”
“But you just said a lack of consummation did not constitute grounds,” protested Lady Fieldhurst.
“No, but if either party should prove unable to—that is, to be incapable of—” He took a deep breath and started over. “Your ladyship, I must remind you that you and the late Lord Fieldhurst were married for six years. If, during that time, it had come to light that you were—were incapable of participating in that act which might have given your husband the heir he desired so desperately, he would surely have sought such an annulment for himself years ago.” He turned to Pickett, his eyebrows raised expectantly. “Such being the case, that only leaves . . .”
As the solicitor’s implication dawned, Pickett flushed a deep red.
Lady Fieldhurst was equally embarrassed, but considerably more vocal. “You cannot ask Mr. Pickett to—to—” Words failed her. She broke off and tried again. “Mr. Pickett may not have been married, but I daresay there is a female somewhere who could destroy such a claim simply by coming forward and—and—”
“As a matter of fact,” Pickett said miserably, “there isn’t.”
“There isn’t?” echoed Lady Fieldhurst.
Pickett shook his head and prayed for the floor to open up and swallow him.
“There isn’t,” she murmured, regarding him with new eyes.
“But,” he added hastily, “that isn’t to say I couldn’t—that is, I—I have no reason to suppose that—that all my parts are not—not in good working order.”

“Oh, my.” She snatched up one of Mr. Crumpton’s legal papers and began fanning herself with it. “Oh, my.”

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About the Author

At the age of sixteen, Sheri Cobb South discovered Georgette Heyer, and came to the startling realization that she had been born into the wrong century. Although she doubtless would have been a chambermaid had she actually lived in Regency England, that didn’t stop her from fantasizing about waltzing the night away in the arms of a handsome, wealthy, and titled gentleman.

Since Georgette Heyer was dead and could not write any more Regencies, Ms. South came to the conclusion she would simply have to do it herself. After honing her craft on five young adult books for Bantam’s long-running Sweet Dreams series (the first of which, Wrong-Way Romance, is a collector's item today), she tried her hand at the genre she had loved for so long. Her first Regency romance, The Weaver Takes a Wife, was published in 1999, to critical acclaim.

In addition to her Regency romances, she is also the author of a series of Regency mysteries featuring idealistic young Bow Street Runner John Pickett, described by All About Romance as “a little young, but wholly delectable.”

A native and long-time resident of Alabama, Ms. South recently moved to LovelandColorado, where she has a view of Long’s Peak from her office window.

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Written content of this post copyright © Sheri Cobb South, 2016.