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Tales of and updates connected to the Ladies of A Heyer Love. Character information, author updates, glimpes of life in Regency London, and general happiness.

The Yuletide Countess

Alicia Quigley

It seems that in every book I write there is at least one character who demands more attention than she receives in the story. In some cases, this results in an obvious opportunity to write a sequel, such as Sense and Sensuality, featuring Caroline and Tristan from A Duchess Enraged, or the lovely Letitia, Lady Morgan in The Secret Bluestocking (Traditional) /A Lady of Passion (After Dark). Letty’s story (yet to be titled) is coming in January, 2015. In the latter case(s), Harriet Walcott, the spinster companion of Miss Isobel Paley, kept expanding her personality until it finally it became clear that Harriet and Lord Glencairn had developed an interest in one another. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really room to deal with this within the story arc of Isobel and Lord Francis’ romance, but I hated to leave Miss Walcott without the happy ending that so clearly seemed to be waiting for her in the wings.

Harriet’s story didn’t appear to be a fit for a full length novel, but as I looked at where we left her when Isobel and Francis became engaged, it seemed that a novella might work. Since the book ends in late summer, I thought that providing Harriet with a husband for Christmas would be appropriate. So, I’m letting you know that I’ll be releasing The Yuletide Countess as a Christmas novella in early December. Some stories simply don’t work as an After Dark treatment, and I think readers will agree that poor Harriet would be shocked and “very much mortified,” if I revealed anything about her relationship with Glencairn beyond a kiss! So, this book will be released in a Traditional version only (in somewhat the same way the story of Caroline and Tristan really called for just an After Dark novel).

I think of the The Yuletide Countess as a “co-quel” or “side-car” to The Secret Bluestocking/A Lady of Passion, in that the story extends to the Christmas after Isobel and Francis marry but much of it happens in parallel with the other book. However, the point of view is strictly Harriet’s. Many of the events that occur mirror those of the first story, and, for consistency, there are a few paragraphs of dialogue that can be found in both books. However, at least 95% of the novella consists of entirely new material, describing Harriet’s experience of the events.

Giving the generally neglected and disrespected character of the companion/chaperone who escapes genteel poverty in the home of a wealthier relative, a book, a voice, a romance and a happy ending for Harriet was very rewarding for me! I hope that all my readers will enjoy the story of a spinster finding her happily ever after, as told in this Christmas treat.

Cover Reveal - Sense & Sensuality!

Alicia Quigley

Here's the cover for my latest book, Sense & Sensuality: Caroline's After Dark Georgian Romance. This long-awaited book tells the story of Caroline and Gresham's romance. These two were reader favorites from my first book A Duchess Enraged. Almost immediately, I began hearing from readers that they really wanted to see Caroline and Tristan get their own book. I have to admit, the chemistry between these two "secondary" characters demanded to be explored. So, here it is! The official publication date is October 21, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon now!

Speaking of A Duchess Enraged, if you haven't already read it, now is a good time to do so! It sets the stage for Sense & Sensuality, with Caroline and Gresham's early interactions. You can get it here for 99 cents!


Thoughts on Sense & Sensuality

Alicia Quigley

I have some concerns about rather boldly naming my latest book Sense and Sensuality as some may view the title as a crass effort to trade on Jane Austen’s laurels. However, I hope that when they read the book, they will see that it genuinely reflects the nature of the main characters in the story, in a way somewhat similar to that of the characters in Austen’s classic. 

Sense and Sensibility deals with two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, who represent common ‘sense’, dedication to family and duty, and excessive ‘sensibility’ which we might refer to today as impulsiveness, romanticism, and overly emotional behavior.   Each sister has relationships that are affected by the society she lives in and her own personality that resolve in different ways due to the characters of the men with whom they interact.  Elinor and her undeclared love allow their sense of duty and societal conventions to overrule their feelings, while Marianne’s emotional turbulence leads her far astray.

In Sense and Sensuality, ‘sense’ is represented by Caroline, the calm, steady, full of common sense Countess of Eskmaine, who helped save the marriage of her brother Adam, the Duke of Gravesmere and his bride, Allegra, in my previous book, A Duchess Enraged.  ‘Sensuality’ is represented by the hero, Tristan, who appeared in the previous novel as the rake Lord Gresham, and sought to ruin their marriage to avenge a slight he believed that Adam had done him.

In my story, as in Austen’s, Caroline’s devotion to duty and good sense threatens to make her old before her time and limit her emotional life.  Her entire family depends on her to be the one to help out whenever needed, without any expectation of support herself.   Tristan perhaps most closely resembles Willoughby, the thoughtless trifler who leaves Marianne heartbroken in the Austen novel. 

Sense and Sensuality, like Sense and Sensibility, strives to show how people can change each other’s lives for the better, when as a couple, they create balance between these characteristics. It also uses the sexual relationship between Caroline and Tristan to foster the development of a deeper connection between them, leaving both characters changed.  This is where there is a real break from Austen, who only obliquely referred to such matters, as for example, in Mansfield Park.  However, her private correspondence reveals more direct and waspish commentary on the sexual mores of her time, as in a letter to her sister in which she mentioned that “Mrs. Powlett was at once expensively and nakedly dressed.”

It is important to me, as I’ve mentioned previously, that sex in my novels plays a role in a real relationship, rather than being merely an attempt to provide a titillating interlude for the reader (although let it be said that the goal is for the reader to find it hot, not boring).   As I try to make clear, Caroline and Gresham’s liaison is not particularly shocking according to the social rules of their day; few 18th century marriages were contracted for love, and often, once the “heir and a spare” were produced, even married couples went their separate ways.  A widow might take some pleasure discreetly without expecting significant social criticism.   While both Caroline and Gresham undertake their affair for very different reasons, and with no expectation of anything more than an enjoyable dalliance, they find themselves falling in love, and transforming their empty lives into a fuller future. 

They are a pair with much in common besides wealth and good breeding.  Both are intelligent, acute but amused observers of the social scene, and are private about their inner lives.  This has made Caroline a good mother, sister, daughter and wife.  She is a capable manager of her own life, and the one that her relatives and friends seek out when theirs are in disarray.  But her emotional life is nonexistent, and she feels the lack of it. 

Tristan has gone in the opposite direction, one available only to a man, by becoming a rake and troublemaker.   He indulges his every whim, whether it is for a beautiful woman or for a new coat, and causes mischief solely for the sake of alleviating his boredom.  He understands the shallowness of the society around him, but has never bothered to question his own actions.  It is only when his relationship with Caroline ventures past the physical to the emotional that he understands what he may have been missing.

In Sense and Sensibility, both Marianne and Elinor manage to find happiness, but also discover that they have to change in order for this to happen. Like them, Tristan and Caroline, the lovers in Sense and Sensuality, realize that a change in their rigid outlook, and the associated patterns of behavior, can lead to a fuller life. 

This is a rather dry discussion of an author’s thoughts about the title of her book, so in closing, I want to add that Caroline and Tristan are definitely some of my favorites among the characters. Finding a path to happiness for them, and the story of how they travel it, has been a lot of fun for me, and I hope that my readers enjoy it as well. 

An Indie Author Looks at Amazon v. Hachette

Alicia Quigley

“In vain I have struggled.  It will not do.  You must allow me to tell you” about my real feelings regarding Amazon vs. Hachette. Ok, ok, Darcy WAS asking Elizabeth Bennett to marry him, not taking sides in the current publishing wars.   But, as a new indie author, I am taking a side, Amazon’s to be specific, and I want to talk about why.

Although I wrote my first books over 15 years ago, they were never published.  I did submit the first three chapters of one to some publishing houses, and was even asked for the rest of the book.   But it wasn’t bought, and at the time, you really needed a literary agent to get in the door.  As the mother of a toddler, with a fairly demanding full time job, and a horse farm to keep going, seeking one out seemed like more than I could take on.  Not to mention, finding a literary agent in Michigan in the ‘90’s wasn’t a matter of just looking it up online and sending some emails – this was the age of the yellow pages, when AOL chat rooms were the latest thing in connectivity!

I wrote several romances, and like so many others’ works, they lay abandoned in my desk, their obsolete floppy disks gazing at me imploringly, and pushing my guilt buttons every time I tried to organize things. 

Fast forward to the modern era.   It became more and more apparent to me that e-book publishing had eliminated the enormous barriers to entry in this industry that the publishing-industrial complex had long maintained.   I bought a little drive that could resuscitate my 5 1/4 inch floppy disk-bound novels, turned them into updated Word files and proceeded to review them.  I decided that if I did some updating they might sell.  I recruited a friend familiar with promoting websites, and another to help me with the updating and editing, and we formed an LLC to publish the books. You can get very nice freelanced covers made for less than fifty dollars.   There are many, many excellent websites that help you learn how to promote your books on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, GoodReads, etc., in addition to "The Naked Truth about Self-Publishing", an amazing book by the equally amazing women of The Indie Voice, and in short order we were in business.  

Just over six months later, my first books, A Most Unusual Situation and A Duchess Enraged, were in the Kindle store.   Within seven weeks we had sold over 2,000 copies, and made the bestselling e-books list in a couple of categories.  Our first royalty checks from Amazon were for over $900.00.  I’m a historical romance writer, who publishes two versions of my Georgian or Regency period novels, one a no sex “Traditional” version, and the other an “After Dark” version with a healthy helping of sensuality.   I’ve now published two versions of three stories, and sales continue to rise.  Information on pricing, promotion, editing, cover art, etc. is all shared among authors.  My books are selling, and I’m having fun.

So what is missing in the indie publishing world?  Well, as far as I can tell it’s barriers to entry, which is anathema to bricks and mortar publishers, who rely on them to make their high cost business model work.  Literary agents, who charge you a significant percentage of your earnings to monetize their contacts in publishing, are missing.  Executives in plush offices in New York, London or Paris are missing.  So are their fancy lunches at expensive restaurants, and pricey book launch parties to be enjoyed by the select few. So too, are the elite and elitist reviewers at the NY Times, WSJ, and other major media outlets. Hachette’s offices are at 237 Park Avenue, New York, where space rents for more than $100/sq ft.   And don’t get me started on literary festivals, the incestuous relationship with Hollywood (Cannes Festival, anyone?) and the rest of it.   Bridget Jones Diary, in addition to being a fantastic book, is a great movie, and has some wonderful send ups of the book publishing world.  Watch this clip for a hysterical cut from a book launch party. 

Meanwhile, the pipeline of books available to readers is relatively narrow - due to that infamous slushpile.  Amazon.com, however, is one ginormous slushpile, and I don’t have to rely on someone to search Hachette's materials, select a “worthy” author, and eventually publish something I can buy.  Instead, I can use online searching to find the stuff I might want to read, and democratized reviewing, sample chapters, and other digital methods to decide if I want to read it, instead of a handful of reviews of a minuscule percentage of the books out there to make my decisions. Another benefit? The advent of indie e-publishing opened new, never-before-seen genres for writers and readers. Gay Regencies, anyone?

Publishing has changed a great deal for magazines and newspapers, with democratization of content preparation, and the atomization of interest areas.  I guess the moaning is over for this somewhat, and we are resigned to the fact that Instagram and Pinterest have supplanted many of our favorite fashion, interiors, and cooking magazines.  But I can lament the demise of Domino while appreciating the immediacy of online sources, which come in handy when I want a recipe for say, gluten free chocolate chip cookies, right now!

What makes the book business sacrosanct in this changing ecosystem?  There seems to be some notion that it is more high-brow and special than other print oriented businesses.  Perhaps it’s the celebrity editors, the Nobel prize for literature, not journalism, good PR, or something in the water, that makes people think that protecting the privileges of book publishing executives is more important than protecting those of magazine or newspaper publishers.  It is easy to argue that the news is far more important; it’s abundantly clear that the decline of fact-based news reporting in favor of politically influenced “opinions,” “beliefs,” or just plain bald faced lies disseminated by point of view driven “news” outlets, negatively affects public policy discourse and political decision making.  But we don’t hear too many laments about that any more.

A common theme among traditionally published authors is that “Amazon will come for you indie authors next.”  In the short term, it’s hard to worry about this, because traditional publishers won’t come for me at all, so to speak (see “barriers to entry” discussion above) and in the meantime, I’m having fun and making money. 

But, taking this seriously as a long term issue, I suppose that the main concern is that Amazon puts all the traditional publishers out of business, except for the University presses and scientific publishers like Elsevier, then tries to drive down the cut that indie authors get.   The question is, can this work for them?  There are several compelling reasons to believe that this is unlikely.

Why?  Well, take a look at the television and movie business.  The advent of cable TV and digital streaming of TV and movie content has radically changed the broadcast model as well as the Hollywood studio business.  Thanks to YouTube, Hulu, NetFlix and countless others, many, many more channels, TV shows and movies are available, and importantly, many more independent content developers are able to produce product and be paid for it than ever before. 

Viewers are happy because quality and choice have gone up, and content providers are far more empowered and on average, have the opportunity to make more money than in the days of broadcast/movie theater monopolies on content distribution.  Authors are essentially content providers in this model, and today’s publishers are lot like the 3 major networks and the big movie studios.  A few stars, agents and executives made a TON of money in the old days, and still do today. But, many people who couldn’t catch a break in the acting and production system, are being paid, and often paid well, to do what they love in the new one.  Now, the same is true for writers.

I also think that Amazon’s ability to cram terrible terms down on authors is limited, because there are  a LOT of platforms for publishing books available, and it is pretty easy and cheap to create new ones,  just as there are many video streaming channels available.  Right now, Amazon’s is the best known, has a great brand, and very, very low friction for an author to use, so it’s extremely popular.  If these things change enough to cause content providers real pain, new channels would emerge, or authors could band together to create a co-operative hosted on someone else’s platform (Azure, Rackspace, blah, blah, blah) and be up and running in weeks.  So, it’s hard to see how Amazon can squeeze the content providers too much.  No one is saying that Amazon’s Prime video and music services are threatening the video and music businesses, so why books?

So, all in all, I don’t think the apocalypse is coming for the book business.  Like Hollywood, and the music industry, it will adapt.  Maybe traditionally published authors should try to flex their pricing muscles and extract better terms from the publishers?  Because neither readers, nor writers suffer if fat cat publishing executives take a bit of a haircut on the size of their high rent offices, or their lunches at power hot spots.  Of course, I could be all wrong about this, so I should get back to my next book and continue to make money while the Amazon sun shines on us indie authors.  I’ll leave you with another happy ending; here is Mark Darcy kissing Bridget Jones, in the last scene of the movie.

Caroline and Gresham, at last!

Alicia Quigley

Many of you, my dear readers, have asked about a Caroline/Gresham follow up book. Well, my dears, it's on its way! Likely out in September (stay tuned!) I think it's a really fun read and hope you'll think so, too. Here, for your enjoyment, is a sample:

Caroline Ansley, Countess of Eskmaine, sat on a satin-covered, spindle legged chair against one wall of the ball room at Devonshire House, fanning herself  and gazing with a hint of scorn at the assembled crowd.  Despite the beauty of the room and the elegance of the throng, she was bored.  Perhaps, she reflected, she had spent one too many Seasons in London.  Surely there was something more amusing to do than dance, pay afternoon calls, and ride in the park. 

Out of the corner of her eye she saw someone approaching, and turned her head to see Viscount Barford hovering nearby, a determined look on his face.  She sighed.  While he was a perfectly pleasant young man, Lord Barford’s pursuit of her over the past few weeks had left her cold.  He was several years younger than her, and clearly found Caroline, an attractive and wealthy widow, intriguing.  Caroline, however, had no desire to listen to his juvenile platitudes. 

“Lady Eskmaine, I am delighted to find you here,” said Lord Barford.  He bowed low, and availed himself of the opportunity it offered to eye the neckline of her gown, which revealed the swell of her breasts.  “Would you honor me with this dance?”

Caroline hoped she didn’t look as impatient as she felt.  “I’m sorry, my lord.  I am not dancing tonight.  I—I have a headache, and am only waiting for my brother and his wife to be done, so that we can return home.”

Disappointment was reflected in the young man’s eyes, but he bowed politely.   “Some other time soon, I hope,” he said.

“Perhaps,” said Caroline repressively. 

Lord Barford moved away, and she looked after him with a tinge of regret.  She could have been more pleasant, but he clearly was enamored of her, and she had no wish to encourage him.  She was not a heartbreaker, and had no desire to entangle someone so susceptible.  If she had danced with him, no doubt there would be gossip the next day of a possible match.  A young widow needed to be careful of the watchful eyes of Society.

There was movement next to her, and, with a flurry of turquoise silk, her sister-in-law, Allegra, Duchess of Gravesmere, sat down in the adjoining chair.  

“Good heavens, Caroline, why are you sitting here alone? “ she demanded.  “It is a lovely evening and so many amusing people are present.  I know I just saw Lord Barford asking you to dance; surely you can’t want to mope the entire evening away.”

Caroline shook her head at her irrepressible sister-in-law.  No one would know to look at Allegra that she was a duchess and the mother of a one-year-old son.  The woman fairly glowed with energy, her deep blue eyes shining against her porcelain skin, out-competing even her enormous powdered coiffure for attention.  

“I’m sorry, Allegra.  I’m bored, though I don’t know why.  As for Barford, I have no desire to encourage him to think that I have an interest in him.”

“Why not?”  Allegra sounded exasperated.  “You’re young and beautiful, Caroline.  You act as though you are one hundred years old, hunchbacked and lame, and have no desire to ever talk to a man again.”

“I’m not sure I do,” responded Caroline.  “I have plenty to do taking care of the estates for Jonathan, who won’t inherit for many years.  Why would I want a man hanging about?”

“Surely you miss….well, surely you miss—intimacy,” said Allegra.

Caroline raised her eyebrows. “Intimacy?” she asked, though she knew precisely what Allegra was talking about.

“Yes, intimacy.”  Allegra’s eyes searched the ballroom and came to rest on her husband, Adam, Duke of Gravesmere.  A spark lit in her eyes as she gazed at his slender figure and handsome face.  “I know I would miss it dreadfully if I were deprived of Adam’s….attentions.”

“Yes, well, you and Adam are quite an unusual couple,” said Caroline.  “Not all of us are as lucky as you.”

“I know you were very fond of your husband; Adam has told me, so don’t try to convince me otherwise.”  Allegra put a gentle hand on Caroline’s arm.  “Truly, I wish you would have the same happiness Adam and I have.  You must promise me you will try harder to meet people and be pleasant to gentlemen who have an interest in you.  I hate to think of you wasting your youth and beauty.  Besides, there are so many men in desperate need of your undoubted management skills.  They will be happier and wealthier, if none the wiser, and you will not be bored. “

Caroline laughed at the truth of Allegra’s final remark, and smiled warmly at her sister-in-law.  It was odd to have Allegra counseling her; the younger woman had, over the years, needed a great deal of advice from Caroline. 

“I know you have my best interests at heart, my dear, but you must allow me to make my own way,” Caroline answered.  “But I will try my best to follow your advice; you may be right that I am not being fair to myself.”

“Then promise me you will dance with the next gentleman who asks you!” Allegra challenged her. 

“I can’t do that,” protested Caroline.  “I have no idea who that might be.”

“That is why you should do it!  You have become far too staid, Caroline.  I never before thought of you as dull.”

“I am not dull!” protested Caroline, though she privately wondered if Allegra was right.

“Then dance with the next man who asks you!” repeated Allegra.  “For me?  Please?”

“Very well, you tiresome child.”  Caroline laughed.   “If that means you will leave me alone.”

Allegra smiled warmly.  “Since I have won, you have earned your solitude.”  She looked up and saw Adam was looking around the room.  He saw her, and their eyes locked across the vast space.  She flushed slightly.  “Adam wants me, I must go.  But remember, the next man who asks!”

Caroline sighed.  “Yes, I remember.  Now, go to your husband.  Really, the two of you are positively tiresome.”

Allegra hugged her briefly and rose, her skirts again billowing about her.  “We are, aren’t we?”  She disappeared and was next seen going down a reel with her husband, hands locked, and a smile on both of their faces.  Caroline shook her head, but allowed a smile to cross her lips.  It was good to see them so happy after the trials they had been through.

A deep voice cut through her thoughts.  “How pleasant to see you again, Lady Eskmaine.” 

Caroline hesitated.  The voice was familiar to her, but she couldn’t quite place it; it made her both uncomfortable and oddly excited.  She turned her head, and her eyes widened as they took in the tall, slim man standing over her, exquisitely garbed in a coat of burgundy silk, with breeches of the most delicate beige, an amused expression on his handsome face.

                “Lord Gresham,” she breathed as her fan slipped from her suddenly nerveless fingers and fell unheeded to the floor.

                “The very same.”  The man bent gracefully and picked up her fan, returning it to her with a bow.   “Your fan, my lady.”

                “Oh.  Thank you.”  Caroline took the fan, being careful not to touch his fingers.  She gazed up at him again and he smiled, his amusement at her befuddlement apparent. 

                “What are you doing here?”  Caroline asked as the silence between them lengthened.  “I thought you were on the Continent.”  Even to her own ears her voice sounded peevish.

                “I was.  But I found my heart yearned for England’s shores,” Lord Gresham responded.  He waved one hand.  “My home, my family, that sort of thing.”

                “Nonsense,” snapped Caroline.  “As long as you can drink, gamble, and wench, you are doubtless happy anywhere.”

                The insult left him unfazed.  “Perhaps.  But it had been so long since I had drunk or gambled in England, that I felt the need for change—and for an English wench.”  He smiled at her, a slow smile that made her uncomfortable, and his eyes lingered on the neckline of her dress.  For the second time that evening Caroline cursed her modiste for talking her into such a low-cut gown.

                “Don’t let me stop you from finding one,” said Caroline tartly.  She gestured at the glittering throng.  “I’m sure there are at least a dozen women here who would gladly succumb to your renowned, if somewhat shopworn, charms.”

                “Ah, yes.”  Lord Gresham nodded.  “I saw your delightful sister-in-law is here.”

                Caroline’s hand tightened on her fan.  “I’m afraid she will be impervious to you, so you needn’t waste your time.  Adam and Allegra are more in love then ever.”

                “Are they?  How tiresome of them.  And so unfashionable.  But then, she always preferred her husband to me, something I never understood.”

                “A blow to your pride?” asked Caroline.

                Lord Gresham bowed slightly.  “A blow indeed.”

                “You deserved it.”

                “Probably.”

                The silence between them once again grew thick, and Caroline hunched one shoulder impatiently.  “Pray, don’t let me keep you from finding your wench,” she said.  “I have no idea why you persist in hanging about me.”

                Lord Gresham smiled warmly, making his face breathtakingly handsome.  Caroline blinked in surprise. “I came to ask you to dance,” he said.  “ I saw you reject poor Barford a few minutes ago, but perhaps he was too young for you.  I thought you might be convinced to accept a gentleman closer to your own age.”

                “Closer to my age?” snapped Caroline. “Barford is three and twenty, and I am barely five years older than he.  You must be at least five and thirty, my lord.”

                “I am corrected,” he replied meekly.  “Then perhaps you, as a young woman, would take pity on an elderly person such as myself and dance just once with him?”

                Caroline glared up at him, exasperated.  What made a rake of Lord Gresham’s caliber imagine that a respectable widow would expose herself to the gossip that would inevitably arise if they were seen dancing together?  She opened her mouth to give him a sharp set-down, but then an impish thought occurred to her.  Allegra had made Caroline promise to dance with the next man who asked her.  It would teach her sister-in-law not to tease her if she did exactly what she had promised.

                She mustered a winning smile.  “I would be happy to dance with you, Lord Gresham,” she said.

                A hint of surprise crossed his formerly impassive countenance.  “How delightful--and unexpected,” he said and held out his hand.

                Caroline hesitated a moment, then placed her fingertips on it.  His skin was warm and his grasp firm as he raised her to her feet.  She felt a tiny shiver run down her spine.  Had she just made a great mistake?

                Lord Gresham seemed to have some inkling of her emotions, for he squeezed her hand gently as he led her toward the center of the room.  “Don’t worry, I won’t ravish you.  It’s far too public a spot,” he murmured.

                “My lord,” she protested, trying to snatch her hand away.

                “Hush,” he said softly.  “It was a jest.  I know you have a sense of humor somewhere.  Perhaps if you search a bit you can retrieve it.”

                Caroline glanced around.  They were about to join the dancers; it would be noticed and remarked on if she were to flee now.  She satisfied herself with shooting Lord Gresham a furious glance. 

                “Come, try to enjoy yourself,” he whispered.  “It’s not so very hard.”

                He grasped her hand more firmly as they moved into the dance.  It was a formal measure, and Caroline was surprised at how gracefully he moved and how well he knew the ornate steps.  Of course, she reflected dryly, he was a renowned seducer of women, and what better way to make a good impression than by excelling on the dance floor?

                “What are you thinking about?” asked Lord Gresham.  “You look as though you are sucking on a lemon.  Surely dancing with me isn’t actually painful.”

                Caroline started.  She had been so intent on her thoughts that she had not realized the steps had brought them close enough for conversation.  Lord Gresham reached out and took her hand, and she resolutely ignored the tingling sensation this caused.

                “Of course not, “ she replied.  “I was minding my steps.  I dance so little these days.”

                Lord Gresham laughed at that.  “No, do try to think of another lie to tell me.  I must suppose you have known these steps since you were a babe.  You dance beautifully.”

                Caroline flushed at the compliment and mentally berated herself.  She was letting Lord Gresham’s practiced blandishments upset her.  Perhaps Allegra was right, and she needed to be out in Society more, so that the admiring compliments of gentlemen weren’t so unfamiliar to her. 

                “Thank you,” she said repressively.  “I might say the same of you.”

                “An excellent partner always makes me appear at my best,” responded Lord Gresham, and Caroline was grateful that the steps of the dance moved them too far apart to talk.  Really, the man was too annoying.

                Lord Gresham made unexceptional conversation through the rest of the dance, but Caroline answered monosyllabically, hoping to dampen his interest.  To her chagrin, she noted that he seemed to be increasingly amused by her attempts to block his conversational gambits. 

                “Why ever did you agree to dance with me?” he asked finally.  “You look acutely uncomfortable.  The ton will think I’ve lost my social graces.”

                Caroline decided to make a clean breast of the matter.  “I’m sorry if your reputation is suffering, my lord.  If you must know, I agreed to dance with you because Allegra made me promise to dance with the next man who asked me.”

                “Oh.”  Gresham’s eyes twinkled.  “So this is to solely to teach your meddlesome sister-in-law a lesson, is it?”

                “I thought it might stop her from pestering me in the future,” Caroline admitted.

                “I hope you may not come to regret your rashness.”  His voice was teasing.  “It seems to me you are being very adventurous tonight.”

                “Don’t mock me,” said Caroline crossly.  “You have no idea how eager the gossips are to find fresh topics of conversation.”

                “On the contrary, I have vast experience with them, as you certainly know.  I usually ignore them.” 

                “But you are a man, and gossip only enhances your reputation,” responded Caroline.  “As a woman, mine would be ruined.”

                “If you do nothing you are ashamed of, then you needn’t fear what the gossips say,” countered Lord Gresham. “They will talk anyway.  The only person you need to please is yourself.”

                “And so you have done nothing of which you are ashamed?” asked Caroline, thinking of the countless stories she had heard of his exploits.

                “Perhaps one or two things,” he responded.  “I have not always been kind, and I have frequently been selfish.  But I didn’t say I took my own advice.”

                The music stopped as Caroline’s blue eyes met his gray ones.  The mocking look was gone from his face and for a moment the chatter in the room seemed to fade away.

Locking a Safe, Unlocking a Heart

Alicia Quigley


My two new books, “A Collector’s Item:  Rowena’s After Dark Regency Romance (just released) and “A Pearl Beyond Price:  Rowena’s After Traditional  Regency Romance (coming soon)  feature a safe with a combination lock that plays an important role in the tale of Alaric and Rowena’s romance. Since I’m a bit of geek with regard to historical accuracy, I had to look into the details of lock technology in the early 19th century. 

Interestingly, this was a time of transition in lock technology.  As steam power, and particularly the fabric mills driven by it, became major factors in industrialization, the machine tool and manufacturing technologies that would really drive industrialization in the second  half of the century were emerging. But, they had yet to significantly impact things like locks, although guns were already becoming more and more precise.  The earliest combination lock the modern reader might really recognize is said to have been developed in the 1870’s by Joseph Loch for the famous jeweller Tiffany’s.

However, the earliest known combination lock was excavated in a Roman period tomb on the Kerameikos, Athens. Attached to a small box, it featured several dials instead of keyholes. In 1206, the Muslim engineer Al-Jazari documented a combination lock in his book al-Ilm Wal-Amal al-Nafi Fi Sina'at al-Hiyal (The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices).  Muhammad al-Astrulabi (ca. 1200) also made combination locks, two of which are kept in Copenhagen and Boston museums.  The two locks shown here are good examples of the types of locks in use in the Middle East during this period.

Although well known in the Middle East, it took several centuries for the idea of combination locks to reach Central Europe.  Such locks involved a variety of mechanisms, such as the ring, and roller locks shown, as well as wheel, puzzle,  letter, number or word locks. Italian engineer Giovanni da Fontana was the first European to make a sketch of the Arab lock idea, in 1420. According to author Jon Millington, master locksmith Hans Bullmann (d. 1535) invented the letter lock, and a variant of it was invented by another master locksmith, Hans Ehemann (d. 1551). Both worked in Nuremberg, Germany.

Locks of this general type were also used in England.  Fairly recently, a simple combination lock of this type, dated to between 1550 and 1650 was found in the parish of Hatton in Lincolnshire.   Made of a bronze alloy of some sort, it uses symbols rather than letters or numbers to identify the wheels.   The heavily corroded lock as excavated is shown at left.     An X-ray image makes the symbols used on the lock wheels clearer, right. The sketch below shows all of the symbols used by the locksmith, and the design of the tongue of the lock that retracted to open it.  

In the next 300 years, not much changed in the original design, and the locks of the 16th and 17th centuries generally used the same kind of hinged shackle lock depicted above. It was the contribution of a French mechanic, Edme Regnier, who died in 1825, that really made this kind of lock interesting. He doubled the number of rings, as shown in the illustration below, making it possible to change the combination.  Usually, this type of lock has 2–5 freely adjustable rings or other elements that release the shackle only when all of them are set to a specific position. 

Since my “Rowena books” take place in the working life of Regnier,  it is probably the kind of lock that Alaric Montfort, the Earl of Brayleigh, would have used to protect the contents of his safe.   The modern reader will certainly recognize it as the precursor of many of today’s bicycle and ski locks. 

Although the symbols used on the 16th century English lock shown, and its craftsmanship are very attractive, it’s likely that Alaric’s lock would have followed the more modern, and secure design of M. Regnier. However, I enjoy the mysterious feeling of symbols instead of letters or numbers for the lock Brayleigh uses to protect his greatest treasures; so although his lock probably looked like a Regnier design, I gave it the symbols of the 16th century lock found in Lincolnshire.

 

News, news & more news!

Alicia Quigley

Hello, my dear readers! I hope you've been well and are enjoying a beautiful day (or night). I've been quite busy lately, but I'm finally able to share what I've been up to!

My latest novel, A Collector's Item: Rowena's After Dark Regency Romance, will be available on Amazon later today (7/3/14)! I'm so excited about this one, my dears! It's fun, steamy, and even has a mystery to solve. I hope you enjoy it!

In honor of it's publication, I'm running a sale! A Collector's Item is $0.99 for the first 500 readers! After that, it goes to $2.99. But wait, there's more! ;)

A Lady of Passion: Isobel's After Dark Regency Romance is on sale at $0.99 from July 4 through July 8! But wait, there's more still!

If my inexpert clicking worked, A Most Unusual Situation will be FREE from July 4 through July 8!

My other titles will be going to $2.99.

My dear readers, I'm having so much fun writing these stories for you; I really hope you enjoy them! If you do, would you be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon? They're amazingly helpful, both to me as an author and to your fellow readers. I great appreciate your contributions!

I haven't forgotten those of you who like sweet, Traditional romances. The no-sex version of A Collector's Item will be out soon. It's titled "That Infamous Pearl" and tells the same wonderful story of Rowena and Alaric's adventures without the steamy bits. :)

Have a great day and happy reading!

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Thinking and Writing About Sex in Romance Novels

Alicia Quigley

Georgette Heyer was the first romance author I ever read, and I was as enthralled by the history, glamour, clothing, and witty drawing room comedy as I was with the beautiful heroines and handsome heroes.  I started enjoying these novels when I was in junior high school, and it bothered me not a whit that while they definitely included sexual tension (Bath Tangle, Devil’s Cub and Faro’s Daughter are reeking with it, to give a few examples), there was absolutely no sex.  Even married characters didn’t enjoy marital relations "on screen", so to speak.  But I still loved them. 

A few years later, the mother of a high school friend subscribed to Harlequin Presents with the very first book, and I was also intrigued by the masterful men, and the heavy kissing that went on.  Looking back, I realize that most of Anne Mather’s heroes, with their controlling, bad-tempered behavior and habit of hitting on underage girls, would be at risk today of ending up in a sexual predator database, but in that era that sort of male behavior was a standard romance trope.   The arrival a few years later of actual sex scenes in books like “The Flame and The Flower,” or my favorite, “The Wolf and the Dove,” was an eye opener for me, to say the least. 

Over the following decades, sex in the romance genre in general, and in historical romances as well, has become increasingly important, while historical and period detail, and sadly, characterization, have receded.  I admit upfront to being a cranky woman, so I’ll say right now, this troubles me.  I like a good sex scene, or better yet, several of them, as much as the next person.   But I want them to add to, or at least be relevant to, the story and not detract from it due to inappropriateness to the lovers’ personalities and the period. 

I’d like any sexual content to tell me something about the characters, address the arc of their relationship, and be plausible in the historical context.  It’s also important to me that the lovers have some sort of emotional connection that is not driven solely by sex, and that there is a reason that they care for each other besides the purely physical.  In far too many romance novels the sexual relationship seems to be the only connection the lead characters have; when the heroine decides she loves the hero, I often have no idea why she might feel that way, outside of his physical endowments.  I want to think that these people might be together forever, not just until they have recovered from the first fire of infatuation. 

In reaction to this, I decided to write some romance novels that I would like to read, in the traditional style.  I wrote these more than a decade ago, and didn’t have the time or energy to pursue publishing via the traditional route, with its huge barriers to the entry of new authors.  Recently, the ease of publishing on Kindle made me dust these off, update them, and publish them.  Since I still have a love-hate relationship with sex in historical romance novels, I decided to publish two versions – one a “Traditional” version in which there is no sexual content, and the other with plenty of sex, the “After Dark” version. 

This has been a very interesting exercise for me, because both adding sex to a plot and subtracting it have their own challenges.  My first book, The Secret Bluestocking, was written without it, and coming up with a way to make the heroine plausibly interested in an affair while remaining true to her character, given the historical setting in the Regency and her circumstances, required some ingenuity.   I balked at the idea of Isobel, who is supposedly intelligent and independent, putting her way of life in danger for physical infatuation.  Eventually, I found a motivation that made me comfortable with her taking that step, but it was something I thought long and hard about.

At the moment, I’m writing a much-requested-by-Amazon-reviewers sequel to the first books I published, A Duchess Enraged: Allegra’s After Dark Georgian Romance and A Most Amusing Situation: Allegra’s Traditional Georgian Romance.  My heroine is a widow, and thus has more social and sexual freedom than an unmarried girl, and the thesis is that she’s famed for her common sense, sterling reputation, and charm, but is secretly worried that she will never have any fun again. Hence, she takes a secret lover, who is a well-known rake. 

But telling her story without this element is much harder, because she has entered into the sexual relationship with a sense of both excitement and mischief.  Without it, there’s no dynamism or conflict in the relationship. I am currently thinking about how to provide the main characters with plausible motivations and conflicts for a sexless version of the novel, but it will require a great deal of rework, and if it is written at all,  will probably be published almost a year after the first version.

Creating two versions of a novel is “easiest” when using the scenario in which a young woman is somehow forced, tricked, manipulated, or pushed into marriage.  In this case the conflicts arise from the circumstances of the marriage, and the “I need more time to get to know you” plot device often comes in handy.   For the traditional version, I can just draw the curtains around the 18th or 19th century marital bed, and move on.  My soon to be published Regency novels, A Collector’s Item: Rowena’s After Dark Regency Romance and That Infamous Pearl: Rowena’s Traditional Regency Romance make use of this narrative.

While I now have a much better understanding of the difficulties associated with writing sexual relationships in historical romances, I remain impatient with stories that are little more than a series of sex scenes dressed up (or undressed) in fancy clothes.  A good work of fiction requires us to suspend our disbelief and enter deeply into the characters’ lives and feeling.  Stories that fail the historical relevance test make this impossible for me.  I hope that when I do introduce physical pleasures into my writing the plot provides a good justification for them, and also that the sex moves the plot along, rather than merely serving as a steamy, but irrelevant, episode.  And I also hope that in the more traditional versions of my novels, the lovers’ physical attraction is still apparent, though the reader does not follow them into the bedroom. 

As a parting note: If any of you, dear readers, have thoughts on how to "de-sex" the sexy sequel I mentioned above… Please share them here! Who knows? Your idea may be the one that gets that story written! Of course, you'll be mentioned in the dedication and I'll arrange for you to receive a free copy of the book. I may just name a character after you, if you wish. ;)

A Little Spring Cleaning

Alicia Quigley

Hello my dears,

I wanted to update you on a couple small changes here at A Heyer Love, both the website and my writing. Never fear! I'm not fleeing to the Continent or any such thing; I'm merely putting things in better order for us all.

You'll see that the Homepage looks a wee bit different and, if you search my titles on Amazon, that one is missing. What's missing? you may ask. I shan't make you go see for yourself (though please do, if you've a mind to it). I've removed the "Modern Regency Romance" category from the Homepage and taken its lone book, "London's Latest Rage", down from Amazon.

Why am I going on about it? Simply, my dears; I abhor changes of this sort when not accompanied by an explanation. It sets the more imaginative among us (myself included) to thoughts of conspiracies. While it may be fun to write them (thank you, Lady Manning) it's not fun, for me at least, to think that I'm the victim of one.  That said, I prefer transparency, whenever possible, with regard to such matters.

You see, dears, I listen to you; your suggestions and your opinions. And yes, those that are expressed by your purchasing choices, too. Over the past two months (has it really only been that long since we started together?!), I've noticed that some of you were a bit confused by my unorthodox manner of publishing. Quite understandable, since it's not often done this way.

I want to give all of you a chance to read at your comfort levels. If you don't want what my lovely sister calls WHML (wet hot monkey lovin') then why should you be forced to skip over such parts in a story you might otherwise enjoy? Likewise, if you're a fan of a little WHML (I promise I won't tell your Mum - or your kids, dears!), why give up such delights when you can have them?

However, having "Traditional" (no sex), "Modern" (some sex) and "After Dark" (more detailed sex) didn't quite work the way I'd intended. The "Modern" book, it seems, generated two things that became quite noticeable to me:

1) Confusion amongst my dear readers. Some told me that the heat level between Modern and After Dark (or AD, as I call it) wasn't as striking as I'd intended and that the stories were too similar. Granted, each version is a retelling of the same story, but I was aghast when I saw that some of my readers thought I was deliberately trying to confuse them. Perish the thought! Without you, my dears, I'd have to give up writing!

2) Lack of sales. You are, my dears, imminently practical and I love you for it. Allegra's Traditional story (A Most Unusual Situation) and her AD story (A Duchess Enraged) are your favorites, if one is to judge by numbers alone. One doesn't, of course, see #1 above. However, her Modern tale (London's Latest Rage) didn't seem to excite anyone to anything other than confusion, again see #1.

One couldn't consider oneself (as one does) to be an astute woman capable in the matters of business if one didn't notice both of these items and do something about it.

I am prattling on now, forgive me, do. I want to let you know, my dears, that henceforth, beginning with my soon-to-be-published The Secret Bluestocking (Traditional) and its yet-to-be-titled twin, the AD version, there will only be two versions of my heroines' stories. Traditional will remain without WHML and AD will satisfy those who like WHML. Pray forgive me for the earlier confusion, won't you?

Speaking of the yet-to-be-titled After Dark version of The Secret Bluestocking... My dears, I've yet to choose a title! Would you care to lend a hand? If you suggest the perfect  title, I shall give you a copy of the book (Kindle e-book) as a token of my gratitude. I would so love to hear your ideas! I'll be taking suggestions here or via Twitter (@QuigleyAlicia) until Saturday, May 10.

Be good to yourselves, my dears! You the only you you've got!

~Alicia

Love and Marriage, Regency-style

Alicia Quigley

I’m delighted when my readers care enough about the characters in my stories to share their opinions of them.  I’ve noticed that a number of you feel that Adam, the Duke of Gravesmere, in “A Most Unusual Situation/A Duchess Enraged”  is not good enough for lovely and charming Allegra.  There have been comments along the lines of “Why did she take him back?” and recommendations that she leave him.  I’m now about to publish my second book.  The title of the Traditional version is “The Secret Bluestocking,” and I have yet to settle on a title for the Naughty version, so your suggestions are welcome!  In it, the heroine, Isobel refuses her charming, handsome and eligible suitor Francis, not once, but several times.  I expect that readers may wonder why he doesn’t just give up on her.

 Lady Sarah Cadogan and the Duke of Richmond; A Duchess Enraged is based on the true story of how they came to marry.    
  
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Lady Sarah Cadogan and the Duke of Richmond; A Duchess Enraged is based on the true story of how they came to marry.

Well, of course, the HEA demands that neither pair of lovers throw in the towel.  But in addition, a historical romance needs to take into at least some account, the attitudes of the time it is set in towards marriage.   Allegra and Adam are creatures of the 18th century.  Their marriage was arranged by their fathers, and implemented without the consent of either, with the ceremony being their first meeting.  This is based on actual events, and just as these circumstances are unthinkable today, in Allegra’s time, her need to resolve her difficulties with Adam would have been much higher than we can easily conceive of in our era.  Thus we see her learning to love her somewhat immature husband.  When they return in Caroline’s book, I expect we’ll find that her confidence in his potential was justified.

Even though “The Secret Bluestocking” is set only about 30-40 years later, Francis and Isobel live in a time in which significant change has occurred in societal views of marriage.  While still largely a business transaction in the upper classes, the importance of at least affection and mutual respect was more regarded.  This is evident in Jane Austen’s novels; think of Charlotte Lucas who marries the unappealing Mr. Collins to avoid poverty.  Austen does not really approve of this choice, rather than holding out for something better as Lizzie Bennett does.  Romantic love was still regarded with substantial suspicion, but was much written of in the popular fiction and poetry of the day.  Since attitudes had changed a great deal by then, and Isobel Paley is independently wealthy, she has considerable ability to choose her own path. 

In addition, a revolutionary fervor had swept not just the New World, but was also impacting the Old one at this time. The French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man had Tories in England worried about the stability of the political order.  Mary Wollstonecraft had written her wonderful book about women’s rights, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. 

 

A fairly strong undercurrent of “free thinking” was going on, which included a healthy dose of sexual liberation.  This, combined with a fairly general upper class view that once an heir and a spare had been delivered the partners could (discreetly) go their own ways, fostered a climate of greater sexual freedom. Isobel’s Naughty story, in particular, is animated by some of these considerations. 

The Secret Bluestocking is the first novel I wrote; the traditional version was originally a straightforward effort to write a somewhat modernized Georgette Heyer style tale.  There is a lot of dancing, and discussion of dancing in this book, which I will use to draw an analogy about Isobel’s story in comparison to Allegra’s and to the tale of my next heroine, Rowena.  I think of Allegra as a waltz, Isobel as a minuet, and Rowena as a lively country dance or reel!