Saturday, March 17, 2018

Book Signing!

If you happen to be in the Albuquerque, NM area, I will be signing Santa Fe Mourning at Page One Bookstore tomorrow at 3:00!  Come by and say "hi"--there will be bisochitos (though probably not quite as good as Juanita's...)

Info here!

Thursday, March 15, 2018


One of the reasons I wanted to write about the 1920s period for my new mystery series is a very shallow one--I LOVE the clothes!  I keep a Pinterest board of all dresses/hats/shoes of the period I think Maddie might wear (must be fashionable but also artsy, just like her), and it's a lot of fun to imagine her wardrobe.  (I also love Pinterest in general because it's an excuse to procrastinate when I'm meant to be writing or exercising.  It's Very Important Research!)

Here are a few of Maddie's fantasy outfits:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Launch Day!!!

Today is that most exciting of author days--a new book is toddling its way out into the world!  I'm particularly excited about this new series, written as my Amanda Allen self, because it has to of my favorite things--my hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the 1920s.  My friend and fellow Crooked Lane Mysteries author Dorothy McFalls is joining me to talk about her own book release, and a town that holds her heart.  Comment on this post (or any for the rest of the week, where I'll be talking about the history and characters behind my book!) for a chance to win signed copies of either book (Dorothy will be giving away the first in her series, Asking for Truffle....)

From Amanda:

I've lived in Santa Fe with my husband, dog, and cat for just a few years, but I feel like I've been here my whole life!  My family started visiting Northern New Mexico (mostly Santa Fe and Taos) since I was about 3, and the place has been in my heart ever since.  It's a special land, with many different kinds of natural beauty (mountains, deserts, forests) and endless, bright blue skies.  It's filled with history, as well, the blending (harmonious and sometimes distinctly not so) of Spanish, Native American, and Anglo culture.  It's also a mecca for artists and writers, creative people of all sorts.  In the summer, I'm constantly going to the opera, chamber music concerts, and free music on the Plaza (which my dog Abigail also enjoys!0, as well as enjoying the great restaurants.  For a town of less than 70,000, it's a lot in a little.

I've also always loved the 1920s.  10 short years full of astonishing change!  New fashions, new haircuts, innovative music, cars, bootlegging.  Coco Chanel!  Phryne Fisher!  (okay, she is fictional, but I love her).  What's not to love??  But as I looked deeper, I saw it had a dark side, too.  The war, a terrible war that claimed millions of lives and left families devastated, was just over, along with a flu outbreak that killed millions more.  The certainties of old ways of life were gone forever, and no one knew what was going to replace them yet.  A person couldn't even get a legal cocktail to forget the pain!  (though there was always laudanum...)  It seemed like the perfect time for a murder mystery, and so I switched from my Elizabethan Mysteries series (another time period of enormous change and progress, which I also love) to 1922.

Maddie Vaughn-Alwin is a young woman, but she's seen upheaval for herself.  Born into a wealthy New York family, she always felt different.  She wanted to be an artist, not a society matron, and to marry her childhood sweetheart.  Her husband killed in the war, she leaves NYC for a new world, a world where she can find new freedom--Santa Fe.  Far from the culture mecca it is now, with million dollar vacation homes and tony shops, it's a dusty small town with great natural beauty (and cheaper lodgings--I often wished I had a time machine to go back, scoop up a place on Canyon Road, and then come back to the present with deed in hand, LOL).  It's also full of free spirits just like her, artists, writers, and family black sheep who feel they've found a new home where they can be themselves.  And Maddie does, too--until her housekeeper Juanita's husband is killed at La Fonda, the nicest hotel in town, and his teenaged son is accused of the crime.  Then she glimpses the darker side of her new home.

I hope you'll enjoy Maddie's journey as much as I have!  For the next week, I'll be posting about the history of some of the real-life places I've used in Santa Fe Mourning--La Fonda, the Museum of Art, Canyon Road, even my favorite grocery store, Kaune's (still in business!)

From Dorothy:

Back in the early 1990s, my husband and I designed and built a small one-bedroom beach house on the somewhat overlooked, artsy island of Folly Beach in South Carolina. We made our home there for the next twenty years. When we moved there, the town was still attracting those who saw the world a little differently. It was a hotspot for surfers, artists, and those who simply didn’t want to subscribe to society’s norms. It’s also a place for vacationers to flock to in the summer. Most of the houses around us were vacation rentals. Our joke to ourselves was always, “Don’t like your neighbors? Wait a week. You’ll get new ones.” It’s been quite a shock to move into a neighborhood and have to learn to deal with neighbors who aren’t transient.

I love this little island town with its downtown that spans just a few blocks. I love that it’s not a perfect resort community. There are still shacks interspersed among the newly built beachfront mansions, although those are rapidly disappearing. One this island you can find a house that was built around an old ship. You can also find the house where Gershwin stayed while writing Porgy and Bess. It’s not a fancy mansion, but a modest island home.

There’s a wildness to the island. The lawns aren’t neatly manicured. There’s a time in the spring when the islanders know to stop mowing in order to let the wildflowers grow and bloom. Bobcats, minks, raccoons, otters, and eagles have all visited our tiny yard.

When I set out to write my latest mystery series, the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series, I knew I wanted to feature this town and the quirky residents it’s attracted over the years. But I couldn’t really set it on Folly Beach, because the town I’d moved to and fell in love with twenty years ago is rapidly changing. As pressure to develop the coastline increases, the specialness and the undeveloped nature of the island is slipping away. So I decided to set the series on Camellia Beach, which is inspired by my experiences on Folly Beach. But it’s an island caught in the net of time. It’s more like the Folly Beach that existed in the past instead of even the Folly Beach that I left three years ago after my daughter was born.

At first glance, my main character Charity Penn, sees Camellia Beach as many viewed Folly Beach for years—a shabby community with very little value. But the more time she spends in this special little town, the more she comes to value the untouched and unpolished nature of the community. Within the confines of this series, I hope to capture and preserve a piece of Main Street Americana that is slowly disappearing from our nation’s landscape.

In Playing with Bonbon Fire, the second book in the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series, Penn is at it again—cooking up treats while working to keep everyone town of Camellia Beach safe. A threatening note, a dead musician, and decades of secrets put the town’s first beach music festival and its band members in grave danger. With the help from her meddling half-sister and a new flavor of chocolate sweets to ignite the senses, Penn follows the shifting tide of evidence to uncover a long-buried secret.

Dorothy St. James, known for the White House Gardener Mystery series, has gone back to her roots and setting a mystery series in a Southern beach town much like the one she’s called home for the past 20 years. The Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries combine her love of fine chocolates, quirky Southern charm, with a dash of danger. Asking for Truffle is the first book in this exciting new series. Playing with Bonbon Fire came out in March 2018 and In Cold Chocolate is scheduled to release September 2018.

What are some places that have been special in your life?  And most important--what kind of chocolate is your favorite???

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Royal Wedding of the Weekend

(Next week, my newest mystery, Santa Fe Mourning, first in my 1920s series, will be out and about at last!!!  I am so excited.  To celebrate, I'll start things off with a giveaway on Tuesday, and a few posts about the history of my hometown, Santa Fe, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, today's royal wedding...)

Today we'll take a look at the grandparents of last week's bride, Princess Mary, on their anniversary (March 10, 1863), Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

Alexandra's early life sounds something like a Cinderella tale.  Even though she was the daughter of the Danish king, and enjoyed a very close-knit family upbringing, the Danes were an obscure and not very wealthy royal family, especially compared with the might of the British Empire and Queen Victoria.  But the queen and the late Prince Albert had always despaired of their eldest son, thinking him debauched and not serious, and they were sure marrying and settling down early would do him good.  After Albert's death, Victoria turned to her eldest daughter Princess Vicky, now settled in Prussia, to find the right bride for Albert Edward (Bertie).  The queen wanted a German bride, but none were deemed pretty enough.  In fact, the only one who would do was the gorgeous Alexandra, then 16 years old.  A meeting was arranged, and a betrothal swiftly followed.

The wedding took place at St. George's Chapel, Windsor (which we will see again this May!), but the venue wasn't a popular choice.  It was outside London, so crowds wouldn't get a glimpse of the couple; it was small, so invitations were scarce; and it was inconvenient to get to.  The princess's elaborate gown (the first royal wedding dress to be photographed at the occasion; Victoria and Albert were photographed in their wedding clothes, but years after the event) was very fashionable.  Made of white Spitalfields silk satin, it was trimmed with wreaths of orange blossoms, myrtle, swaths of tulle, and Honiton lace, with a matching lace veil depicting English roses, Irish shamrocks, and Scottish thistles.  It was created by a Mrs. James of Belgravia, lace done by Messrs Julius Tucker and Co.

Alexandra was Princess of Wales until 1901, the longest to ever hold that title, and proved to be a very popular and stylish royal.  Despite Bertie's constant infidelities and her own health troubles (including growing deafness), they had 6 children and a relatively harmonious life together.  Bertie died in 1910, after a mere few years as queen, and Alexandra in 1925.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Royal Wedding

So, it's not the weekend, but since I was tearing my hair out with deadlines, we have our royal wedding today!  I thought, since their anniversary is just past, we could look at Princes Mary, the Princes Royal, and Viscount Lascelles.  They are little known today, but at the time their wedding was a source of much fashionable fascination.

Princess Mary was born Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary (but always called Mary) in 1897, the only daughter and third child of George V and Queen Mary, at the time the Duke and Duchess of York.  (it was the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, and she suggested the baby be called "Diamond."  Luckily, this was ignored).  She became Princess Royal in 1932.  All her life she was an enthusiastic patron of charities, especially hospital and the Girl Guides, who she led from 1920 until her death.

She was the first of her siblings to marry.  In November 1921, she became engaged to Henry, Viscount Lascelles, son of the Earl of Harewood, who was 15 years older than herself, and who it seems she hadn't really known very long.  (There were later rumors the marriage was not very happy, but their son declared they "got on well together, and had a lot of friends and interests in common").  Queen Mary wrote after the engagement:

 “At 6.30 Mary came to my room to announce to me her engagement to Lord Lascelles! We then told G. (King George V) & then gave Harry L. our blessing. We had to keep it quiet owing to G. having to pass an order in council to give his consent. Of course, everybody guessed what had happened & we were very cheerful & almost uproarious at dinner. We are delighted.”

They were married at Westminster Abbey on February 28, 1922, the first marriage of the child of a monarch there since 1290.  Her gown was quintessentially 1920s, dropped waist, bandeau headpiece, pearl beadwork, created by Reville LTD of Hanover Square.  Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons, a few years later to be the princess's sister-in-law, was one of the bridesmaids.

The couple, later Earl and Countess of Harewood, had two sons.  The earl died in 1947, and Princess Mary in March 1965.

You can see a list of her truly eye-popping collection of wedding gift jewels here
There is also a fascinating story of the journey of Queen Victoria's sapphire bandeau (one of those gifts) here


The first book in my "Debutantes in Paris" series, Secrets of a Wallflower, is available now!!!!  I always love the beautiful covers at Harlequin Historicals, but I think this one is my favorite (because of the Eiffel Tower, of course!)

A secret shared…

But can she trust him?

In this Debutantes in Paris story, Diana Martin is thrilled to be a writer covering the Parisian Exposition. But her new role must be kept quiet—her parents would never allow it! When enigmatic Sir William Blakely discovers her ruse, he knows it could lead her into danger. With the sparks igniting between them, William realizes the only way to protect Diana is by staying as close to her as possible!

Debutantes in Paris miniseries

Book 1 — Secrets of a Wallflower 

Look out for the next book, coming soon!

“McCabe sets the perfect tone, complete with all the elegant trimmings and sparkling warmth such genre fantasy can capture” — RT Book Reviews on The Wallflower’s Mistletoe Wedding

Out in June, but you order anytime here....

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Royal Wedding of the Weekend

Hello, everyone!  We continue our celebration of all things royal wedding (since 2018 will bring is not one but two royal nuptials in England!) with a look at one of the most famous royal unions of all time, Victoria and Albert, who celebrated an anniversary this week (178 years!), and also because I am avidly watching "Victoria" on PBS. :)

Queen Victoria married her Prince Albert on February 10, 1840.  When she first met her cousin (her mother was his father's sister, and the match was long schemed about amongst the Coburgs), in April 1836, Victoria wrote to her Uncle Leopold to thank him for "the prospect of great happiness you have contributed to give me in the person of dear Albert!"  But she became busy being queen, and the match didn't happen until 1839, when Albert was summoned to England and Victoria proposed (as per protocol).  In her diary, she declared "To feel I was, and am, loved by such an Angel as Albert was too great a delight to describe!  How I love and adore him I cannot say."  Preparations were not all smooth, as not everyone wanted a foreign prince, and there was wrangling over incomes, titles, and precedence.  But at last the day was set--February 10.

The wedding was the first marriage of a queen regnant since Mary I, and the country was soon caught up in wedding fever.  The day was a cold, rainy one, but it didn't stop crowds from gathering to watch the royal carriages go by on their way to the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace.  The queen wore a gown of white English satin (an unusual but not unique choice, which set a new trend that lasts to this day) trimmed with Honiton lace flounces, a matching lace veil (which she would later be buried with) held with a wreath of orange blossoms, a diamond necklace and earrings, and a sapphire brooch that was Albert's gift.  (She described it as "I wore a white satin dress with a deep flounce of Honiton lace, in imitation of an old design").  Albert wore an English field marshal's uniform, and walked down the aisle to Handel.  Victoria was given away by her uncle, the Duke of Sussex, and 12 bridesmaids carried her 18 foot train.

A wedding breakfast was held at Buckingham Palace, the queen's newly renovated home, complete with a 300 pound cake iced in white.  "The happiest day of my life," she declared, and after the wedding night sighed, "I never, never spent such an evening."  Two months later she was pregnant with the first of 9.

The very happy, if sometimes stormy, marriage, a true partnership, sadly only lasted 21 years, when Albert died at age 42 in 1861.

A couple of great sources about the royal marriage are:
Julia Baird, Victoria: The Queen (2016)
Gillian Gill, We Two: Victoria and Albert (2009)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Royal Wedding of the Weekend

And, back from a winter hiatus of holiday festivity followed by "fun" illness, we have another look at a royal wedding in history!  (to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and now Princess Eugenie and her beau!  TWO royal weddings in one year!  I am much too excited)

Today's wedding was neither fun nor very festive.  On June 3, 1937, the ex-King Edward VIII turned Duke of Windsor finally married his longtime love, American divorcee and fashionista Wallis Simpson.  It had been a rocky road of illicit romance and a shocking abdication, a match that nearly ran off the rails several times, but Edward couldn't live his life without "the woman I love."  (Luckily for England, facing a grueling war, they got the exemplary King Georve VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother).

The wedding was completely lacking in royal pomp, and was short and simple.  It took place at the Chateau de Cande in Monts, France, performed by the mayor of Monts for the required civil ceremony, and Reverend R. Anderson Jardine for the Anglican rites.  (It was very hard for them to find a priest to perform the marriage, and poor Jardine paid the price in his career thereafter).  There were only a few guests, including Randolph Churchill (whose father secretly liked and supported the prince, until it became impossible), and best man "Fruity" Metcalfe.  Herman Rogers, husband of one of Wallis's old friend, a couple who gave her shelter during the abdication, walked her down the aisle to Handel.  The ceremony was held in the music room, with a makeshift altar of an oak chest covered with a tablecloth and laid with a gold cross and candles.

The bride's gown was from Mainbocher, described by Time magazine as "soft blue crepe with a tight, buttoned bodice, a halo-shaped hat of the same color, shoes and gloves to match.  At her throat was a tremendous diamond and sapphire brooch."  It's an elegant, clean-lined gown, free of any of the usual bridal fripperies of the time--a serious gown for a serious third marriage.  (Cecil Beaton hated the hat, and I can't say I think he was wrong)

The short ceremony was followed by champagne toasts, some photos on the terrace, and a ride to their honeymoon at Wasserloenberg Castle in Austria, where he carried his bride over the threshold.  They were married until his death in 1972, long years of scandal, wandering, and cafe society.  Maybe a sort of HEA for them.

For a romanticized view of the couple, I enjoy the duchess's own book, The Heart Has Its Reasons, and Diana, Lady Mosley's The Duchess of Windsor: A Memoir.  I also liked Anna Sebba's recent bio That Woman