Adventures in History and Romance

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I've got a shiny new website!

My brand-new website is now live! I hope you'll hop on the next carriage and pay me a visit!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Okay, I'll admit it...

I'm a total anglophile!  Well, I guess that's not really news, especially not for anyone who knows me (or reads this blog).

I'll blame at least part of it on my parents who, although born and raised in West Virginia and loving the music of the mountains, still managed to also raise me on Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and the comedy music of Flanders and Swann. What can I say, we're a family with eclectic tastes.

So it should come as no surprise that a very particular song came to mind when, while recently vacationing at a lovely Bed and Breakfast in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, I came upon this sight:

That's right, it was a song by Flanders and Swann entitled "The Bedstead Men." It starts off:

"When you're walking in the country
Far from villages or towns,
When you're seven miles from nowhere and beyond,
In some dark deserted forest
Or a hollow of the Downs,
You may come across a lonely pool, or pond.
And you'll always find a big, brass, broken bedstead by the bank:
There's one in every loch and mere and fen.
Don't think it's there by accident,
It's us you have to thank:
The Society of British Bedstead Men."

Who knew that bedstead litter was such a problem in 1950s England?

We were just standing there marveling over this "flower bed" (LOL!) when another couple pulled up to the B&B for the evening, and guess what, they were British!  A lovely couple too, and we had several chats together over the next two days, on the porch and over breakfast.

But they had never heard of Flanders and Swann. Go figure.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

Today is the day traditionally celebrated as Shakespeare's birthday, and I'm happy to be among the throng of folks blogging today in his honor. I touched on the whole was-he-or-wasn't-he-Shakespeare argument in another post last year. Today I only want to talk about Shakespeare the entertainer.

My appreciation for Shakespeare began in high school, I suppose. As a soon-to-be English major, I could appreciate the beauty of his language, and was beginning to have an inkling of the power of his works. But I can recall vividly the moment when I began to love Shakespeare. It was when I attended a performance of The Merchant of Venice at the Folger Theater in the late 1980s. Kelly McGillis played Portia, and she was fantastic, as were all the cast. But what stands out the most for me was the man who played the clown, Launcelot. I remember him specifically because his delivery of his lines was so natural, so easy, that I actually understood every word, every nuance. That's no easy thing to pull off when acting Shakespeare. To think that Shakespeare can actually be understood -- by a casual audience member! (I had not read the play before seeing the production.) And it was entertaining, too. For me, this was an absolute revelation.

From then on I have sought out performances of Shakespeare plays, always hoping for a great show, one where the actors truly understand and communicate their lines. I've sat through plenty of misfires, to be sure, but some great performances as well.

In September 2010 I was finally able to make it to England and do a bit of the Shakespeare "pilgrimage." I visited Stratford-Upon-Avon, naturally, and also toured the Globe Theater in London, where I paid extra for a seat (and a cushion) and took in a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor.  I loved Stratford, of course. There is so much fantastic history there, and I was impressed at everything that the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is doing. But it's always during a live performance that I feel closest to the Bard. That night at the Globe, with the stars twinkling overhead, the audience seemed as exuberant as the cast. As I was sitting in the audience, happily entertained (and marveling at the stamina of the groundlings), I thought once again how truly enthralling Shakespeare's plays can be. His works are endlessly fascinating and often amazingly profound, to be sure. But at times it tends to be forgotten that Shakespeare was primarily an entertainer. And that was surely his own desire all along.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"So what is your book about?"

That's a question I get asked a lot about my upcoming novel, An Heiress at Heart.

I'm glad you asked!

Here's a brief description:

A New Beginning

A youthful indiscretion has cost Lizzie Poole more than just her honor. After five years living in exile, she’s finally returning home, but she’s still living a secret life. Her best friend Ria’s dying wish was for Lizzie to assume her identity, return to London, and make amends that Ria herself would never live to make. Bearing a striking resemblance to her friend, and harboring more secrets than ever before, Lizzie embarks on a journey that tempts her reckless heart once again . . .
A committed clergyman, Geoffrey Somerville’s world is upended when he suddenly inherits the title of Lord Somerville. Now he’s invited to every ball and sought after by the matchmaking mothers of London society. Yet the only woman to capture his heart is the one he cannot have: his brother’s young widow, Ria. Duty demands he deny his feelings, but his heart longs for the mysterious beauty. With both their futures at stake, will Lizzie be able to keep up her fa├žade? Or will she find the strength to share her secret and put her faith in true love?

So that's it, in a nutshell. The story was partially inspired by the movie "The Return of Martin Guerre" (remade in the U.S. as "Somersby"), and also has some of the themes from "The King's Speech"--where a younger brother must take on an important title he never expected or wanted. There are also some heartfelt reflections on what it takes at times to truly put the past behind.

There's also plenty of romance and some lighthearted moments along the way. I hope you will enjoy sharing Lizzie and Geoffrey's journey.

An Heiress at Heart will be released October 30, 2012.

Friday, February 17, 2012

An Heiress at Heart

I love the energy and the industry of the Victorians, particularly in the period of 1840-1870, often known as the early to mid-Victorian era, before they settled into the ennui of the end of the decade. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were young and vigorous, and producing children at an amazing rate--9 in all! (The popular recent movie The Young Victoria is great for visualizing her as something other than an old woman in widow's clothes.)

By the way, my upcoming novel An Heiress at Heart also includes a very romantic waltzing scene!

People often think of the Victorians as stodgy and repressed. But in the early part of Victoria’s reign, a better description might be energetic, inquiring, and multi-talented. England was rising to a position of world prominence in trade, manufacturing, and colonization. Their industry and inventiveness was incredible. The worlds of science were opening up in ways never before imagined. The future seemed full of enormous promise.

Imagine a giant building made of glass.  It is the length of six football fields. Its roof is three stories high--a portion of it is arched to enclose 90-ft elm trees. When you walk inside, sunlight pours through the glass onto plants, statuary, and colorful banners. The building is filled with exhibitions of engineering marvels of all kinds, not to mention precious gems and other items from around the world. Such a place would be a marvel even today. The building I have just described was built in 1851. It was built in a matter of months with manual labor and real horsepower. The manufacture of plate glass was at that time a new technology. The photo on this blog page of the Glass House at Kew Gardens outside London gives just a tiny taste of what the Crystal Palace must have been like.

This magnificent glass building, which soon become known as the Crystal Palace, was built expressly for The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, now generally referred to as The Great Exhibition of 1851. Even today the exhibition is considered to be one of the high points for England in the 19th century. Prince Albert is often credited with coming up with the idea for this exhibition; this may not be completely true, but he was heavily involved in its planning and promotion and was vital to making it so successful.

The Great Exhibition provides a background for An Heiress at Heart which will be published in November 2012 by Grand Central Publishing. It is the first book in the Graceful Hearts trilogy. I have had such a wonderful time researching this era to bring it to life in my books. I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I loved writing them.