Monday, December 02, 2013

Excerpt Monday

Running From Scandal, sequel to The Runaway Countess, is now available!  I loved writing Emma and David's story.  See it here at Amazon...)

Prologue—England, 1814
Emma Bancroft was very good at holding up walls. She grew more adept at it every time she went to a party, which was not very often. She was getting a great deal of practice at it tonight.
She pressed her back against the wall of the village assembly room and sipped at a glass of watery punch as she surveyed the gathering. It was a surprisingly large one considering the chilly, damp night outside. Emma would have thought most people would want to stay sensibly at home by their fires, not get dressed in their muslin and silk finery and go traipsing about in search of dance partners. Yet the long and narrow room was crowded with laughing, chattering groups dressed up in their finery.
Emma rather wished she was home by the fire. Not that she entirely minded a social evening. People were always so very fascinating. She loved nothing better than to find a superb vantage point by a convenient wall and settle down to listen to conversations. It was such fun to devise her own stories about that those conversations were really about, what secret lives everyone might be living behind their smiles and mundane chatter. It was like a good book.
But tonight she had left behind an actual good book at home in the library of Barton Park, along with her new puppy Murray. Recently she had discovered the fascinations of botany, which had quite replaced her previous passions for Elizabethan architecture and the cultivation of tea in India. Emma often found new topics of education that fascinated her, and plants were a new one. Her father's dusty old library, mostly unexplored since his death so long ago, was full of wonders waiting to be discovered.
And tonight, with a cold rain blowing against the windows, seemed a perfect one for curling up with a pot of tea and her studies, Murray at her feet. But her sister Jane, usually all too ready for a quiet, solitary evening at home, had insisted they come to the assembly. Jane even brought out some of her fine London gowns for them to wear.
“I am a terrible sister for letting you live here like a hermit, Emma,” Emma remembered Jane saying as she held up a pale blue silk gown. “You are only sixteen, and so pretty. You need to be dancing, and flirting, and—well, doing what young, pretty ladies enjoy doing.”
“I enjoy staying here and reading,” Emma had protested, even as she had to admit the dress was very nice. Definitely prettier than her usual faded muslins, aprons, and sturdy boots, though it would never do for digging up botanical specimens. Jane even let her wear their mother's pearl pendant tonight. But she could still be reading at home.
Or hunting for the lost, legendary Barton Park treasure, as their father had spent his life doing. But Jane didn't have to know about that. Her sister had too many other worries.
“I know you enjoy it, and that is the problem,” Jane had said, as she searched for a needle and thread to take the dress in. “But you are growing up. We can't go on as we have here at Barton Park forever.”
“Why not?” Emma argued. “I love it here, just the two of us in out family home. We can do as we please here, and not worry about...”
About horrid schools, where stuck-up girls laughed and gossiped, and the music master grabbed at Emma in the corridor. Where she had felt so, so alone. She was sent there when their mother died and Jane married the Earl of Ramsay, and Emma had never wanted her sweet sister to know what happened there. She never wanted anyone to know. Especially not about her foolish feelings for the handsome music teacher, that vile man who had taken advantage of her girlish feelings to kiss her in the dark—and tried so much more before Emma could get away. He had quite put her off men forever.
Emma saw the flash of worry in Jane's hazel eyes before she bent her head over the needle, and Emma took her other hand with a quick smile.
“Of course we must have a night out, Jane, you are quite right,” she'd said, making herself laugh. “You must be so bored here with just me and my books after your grand London life. We shall go to the assembly and have fun.”
Jane laughed, too, but Emma heard the sadness in it. The sadness had lingered ever since Jane brought Emma back to Barton Park almost three years before, when Jane's husband the earl hadn't appeared in many months. Emma didn't know what happened between them in London, and she didn't want to pry, but nor did she want to add to her sister's worry.
“My London life was not all that grand,” Jane said, “and I am not sorry it's behind me. But soon it will be your time to go out in the world, Emma. The village doesn't have a wide society, true, but it's a start.”
And that was what Emma feared—that soon it would be her turn to step out into the world and she would make horrid mistakes. She was too impulsive by half, and even though she knew it she had no idea how to stop it.
So she stood by the wall, watching, sipping her punch, trying not to tear Jane's pretty dress. For an instant before they left Barton and Emma glimpsed herself in the mirror, she hadn't believed it was really her. Jane had put her blonde, curling hair up in a twisted bandeau of ribbons and let her wear their mother's pearl necklace, and even Emma had to admit the effect was much prettier than the everyday braid and apron.
The local young men seemed to agree as well. She noticed a group of them over by the windows, bluff, hearty, red-faced country lads dressed in their finest Town evening coats and cravats, watching her and whispering. Which was exactly what she did not want. Not after Mr. Milne, the passionate school music master. She turned away and tried to pretend to be studiously observing something edifying across the room.
She saw Jane standing next to the refreshment table with a tall gentleman in a somber dark blue coat who had his back to Emma. Even though Emma was not having the very best of evenings, the smile on her sister's face made her glad they had ventured out after all.
Jane so seldom mentioned her estranged husband or their life in London, though Emma had always followed Jane's social activities in the newspapers while she was at school and knew it must have been very glamorous. Barton Park was not in the least glamorous, and even though Jane insisted she was most content, Emma wondered and worried.
Tonight, Jane was smiling, even laughing, her dark hair glossy in the candlelight and her lilac muslin and lace gown soft and pretty. She shook her head at something the tall gentleman said and gestured toward Emma with a smile. Emma stood up straighter as they both turned to look at her.
“Blast it all,” she whispered, and quickly smiled when an elderly lady nearby gave her a disapproving glance. But she couldn't help cursing just a little. For it was Sir David Marton who was talking to her sister.
Sir David—who had been visiting at Barton more often of late than Emma could like. He always came with his sister, Miss Louisa Marton, very proper and everything since his estate at Rose Hill was almost their nearest neighbor. But still. Jane was married, even though Lord Ramsay never came to Barton, and Sir David was too handsome by half. Handsome, and far too serious. She doubted he ever laughed at all.
She studied him across the room, trying not to frown. He nodded at whatever Jane was saying, watching Emma solemnly from behind his spectacles. She was glad he wasn't near enough for her to see his eyes. They were a strange, piercing pale gray color, and whenever he looked at her so steadily with them he seemed to see far too much.
Emma unconsciously smoothed her skirt, feeling young and fidgety and silly. Which was the very last thing she ever wanted to be in front of Sir David.
He nodded again at Jane and gave her a gentle smile. He always spoke so gently, so respectfully to Jane, with a unique spark of humor in those extraordinary eyes when he looked at her. He never had that gentle humor when he looked at Emma. Then he was solemn and watchful.
Emma had never felt jealous of Jane before. How could she be, when Jane was the best of sisters, and had such unhappiness hidden in her heart? But when Sir David Marton was around, Emma almost—almost—did feel jealous.
And she could not fathom why. Sir David was not at all the sort of man she was sure she could admire. He was too quiet, too serious. Too—conventional. Emma couldn't read him at all.
And now—oh, blast it all again! Now they were coming the room toward her.
Emma nearly wished she had agreed to dance with one of the country squires after all. She never knew what to say to Sir David that wouldn't make her feel so young and foolish around him. That might make him smile at her.
“Emma dear, I was just talking to Sir David about your new interest in botany,” Jane said as they reached Emma's side.
Emma glanced up at Sir David, who was watching her with that inscrutable, solemn look. The smile he had given Jane was quite gone. It made her feel so very tongue-tied, as if words flew into her head only to fly right back out again. She hadn't felt so very nervous, so unsure, since she left school, and she did not like that feeling at all.
“Were you indeed?” Emma said softly, looking away from him.
“My sister mentioned that she drove past you on the lane a few days ago,” Sir David said, his tone just as calm and serious as he looked. “She said when she offered you a ride home you declared you had to finish your work. As it was rather a muddy day, Louisa found that a bit—interesting.”
Against her will, Emma's feelings pricked just a bit. She had never wanted to care what anyone thought of her, not after Mr. Milne. Miss Louisa Marton was a silly gossip, and there was no knowing what exactly she had told her brother or what he thought of Emma now. Did he think her ridiculous for her studies? For her unladylike interests such a grubbing around in the dirt?
“I am quite the beginner in my studies,” Emma said. “Finding plant specimens to study is an important part of it all. When the ground is damp can be the best time to collect some of them. But it was very kind of your sister to stop for me.”
“I fear Emma has little scope for her interests since she left school to come live here with me,” Jane said. “I am no teacher myself.”
“Oh, no, Jane!” Emma cried, her shyness disappearing at her sister's sad, rueful tone. “I love living at Barton. Mr. Lorne at the bookshop here in the village keeps me well-supplied. I have learned much more here than I ever did at that silly school. But perhaps Sir David finds my efforts dull.”
“Not at all, Miss Bancroft,” he said, and to her surprise she heard a smile in his voice. She glanced up at him to find that there was indeed a hint of a curve to his lips. There was even a flash of a ridiculously attractive dimple in his cheek.
And she also realized she should not have looked at him. Up close he really was absurdly handsome, with a face as lean and carefully chiseled as a classical statue. His gleaming mahogany-brown hair, which he usually ruthlessly combed down, betrayed a thick, soft wave in the damp air, tempting to touch. She wondered whimsically if he wore those spectacles in a vain attempt to keep ladies from fainting at his feet.
“You do not find them dull, Sir David?” Emma said, feeling foolish that she could find nothing even slightly more clever to say.
“Not at all. Everyone, male or female, needs interests in life to keep their minds sharp,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to grow up living near an uncle who boasts a library of over five thousand volumes. Perhaps you have heard of him? Mr. Charles Sansom at Sansom House.”
“Five thousand books!” Emma cried, much louder than she intended. “That must be a truly amazing sight. Has he any special interests?”
“Greek and Roman antiquities are a favorite of his, but he has a selection on nearly every topic. Including, I would imagine, botany,” he said, his smile growing. Emma had never seen him look so young and open before, and she unconsciously swayed closer to him. “He always let us read whatever we liked when we visited him, though I fear my sister seldom took him up on the offer.”
Emma glanced across the room toward Miss Louisa Marton, who was easy to spot in her elaborately feathered turban. She was talking with her bosom bow, Miss Maude Cole, the beauty of the neighborhood with her red-gold curls, sky-blue eyes, and fine gowns. They in turn were looking back at Emma and whispering behind their fans.
Just like all those silly girls at school had done.
“I would imagine not,” Emma murmured. She had never heard Miss Marton or Miss Cole talk of anything but hats or the weather. “Does your uncle still live nearby, Sir David? I should so love to meet him one day.”
“He does, Miss Bancroft, though I fear he has become quite reclusive in his advancing age. She still sometimes purchases volumes at Mr. Lorne's shop, though, so perhaps you will encounter him there one day. He would find you most interesting.”
Before Emma could answer, the orchestra, a local group of musicians more noted for their enthusiasm than their talent, launched into the opening strains of a mazurka.
“Oh, I do love such a lively dance,” Jane said. Emma saw that he sister looked toward the forming set with a wistful look on her face. “A mazurka was the first dance I...”
Suddenly Jane broke off with a strange little laugh, and Emma wondered if she had often danced a mazurka with her husband in London. Surely even though she never mentioned her husband she had to think of him often.
“Jane...” Emma began.
Sir David turned to Jane with one of his gentle smiles. “Perhaps you would care to dance, Lady Ramsay? My skills at the mazurka are quite rusty, but I would be honored if you would be my partner.”
For a second, Jane seemed to hesitate, a flash of what looked like temptation in her eyes, and Emma felt an unwelcome pang of jealousy. Jealousy—of Jane! Loathing herself for that feeling, she pushed it away and made herself smile.
“Oh, no, I fear my dancing days are quite behind me,” Jane said. “But books are not the only thing Emma studied at school. They also had a fine dancing master.”
A horrid dancing master. Emma didn't like him intruding on every moment of her life like this. Would she ever forget him?
“Then perhaps Miss Bancroft would do me the honor,” Sir David said politely. He turned to Emma and half-held out his hand.
And she suddenly longed so much to know what it felt like to have his hand on hers. To be close to him as he led her in the turns and whirls of the dance. Surely he would be strong and steady, never letting her fall, so warm and safe. Maybe he would even smile at her again, and those beautiful gray eyes would gleam with admiration as he looked at her. She wanted all those things so very much.
She hadn't felt such romantic yearnings since—since Mr. Milne first arrived at her school. And look at what disasters that led to. No, she couldn't trust her feelings, her impulsive emotions, ever again.
She fell back a step, shaking her head, and Sir David's hand dropped back to his side. His smile faded, and he looked solemn and inscrutable again.
“I—I don't care to dance tonight,” Emma stammered, confused by old memories and new emotions she didn't understand. She had made a mistake with Mr. Milne, a mistake in trusting him and her feelings. She needed to learn how to be cautious and calm, like Jane. Like Sir David.
“Of course not, Miss Bancroft,” Sir David said quietly. “I quite understand.”
“David, dear,” Miss Louisa Marton said. Emma spun around to find that Miss Marton and Miss Cole had suddenly appeared beside from them from the midst of the crowd. She'd been so distracted she hadn't even noticed them approach. Miss Cole watched them with a coolly amused smile on her beautiful face, making Emma feel even more flustered.
“David, dear,” Louisa said again. “Do you not remember that Miss Cole promised you the mazurka? You were quite adament that she save it for you, and I know how much both of you have looked forward to it.”
Sir David gave Emma one more quizzical glance before he turned away to offer his hand to Miss Cole instead. “Of course. Most delighted, Miss Cole.”
Emma watched him walk away, Miss Cole laughing and sparkling up at him with an easy flirtatiousness Emma knew she herself could never match. She felt suddenly cold in the crowded, over-heated room, and she rubbed at her bare arms.
“I know you think Sir David is rather dull, Emma,” Jane said quietly, “but truly he is quite nice. You should have danced with him.”
“I am a terrible dancer,” Emma said, trying to sound light and uncaring. “No doubt I would trod on his toes and he would feel the need to lecture me on decorum.”
Jane shook her head, but Emma knew she couldn't really put into words her true feelings, her fears of what might happen if she got too close to the handsome, intriguing Sir David Marton. She didn't even know herself what those true feelings were. She only knew David Marton wasn't the sort of man for her.
Emma Bancroft was a most unusual young lady.
David tried to catch a glimpse of her over the heads of the other dancers gathered around him, but the bright glow of her golden hair had vanished. He almost laughed at himself for the sharp pang of disappointment at her disappearance. He was too old, too responsible, to think about a flighty, pretty girl like Miss Bancroft. A girl who obviously didn't much like him in the bargain.
Yet the disappointment was there, unmistakeable. When she was near, he was always intrigued by her. What was she thinking when she studied the world around her so closely? Her sister said she studied botany, among other interests, and David found himself most curious to know what those interests were. He wanted to know far too much about her and that couldn't be.
He had no place for someone like Emma Bancroft in his life now, and she had no room for him. She seemed to be in search of far more excitement than he could ever give her. After watching his seemingly quiet father's secret temper tantrums when he was a boy, he had vowed to keep control over his life at all times. It had almost been a disaster for his family and their home when he did briefly lose control. Once, he had spent too much time in London, running with a wild crowd, gambling and drinking too much, being attracted to the wrong sort of female, thinking he could forget his life in such pursuits. Until he saw how his actions hurt other people, and he knew he had to change.
As David listened to the opening bars of the dance music and waited for his turn to lead his partner down the line, he caught a glimpse of his sister watching him with an avid gleam in her eyes. Ever since their parents died and he became fully responsible for their family estate at Rose Hill and for Louisa herself, she had been determined to find him a wife. “A proper wife,” she often declared, by which she meant one of her own friends. A young lady from a family they knew well, one Louisa liked spending time with and who would make few changes to their household.
Not a girl like Miss Bancroft, who Louisa had expressed disapproval of more than once. “I cannot fathom her,” Louisa had mused after encountering Miss Bancroft on the road. “She is always running about the countryside, her hems all muddy, with that horrid dog. No propriety at all. And her sister! Where is Lady Ramsay's husband, I should like to know? How can the earl just let the two of them ramble about at Barton Park like that? The house is hardly fit to be lived in. Though we must be nice to them, I suppose. They are our neighbors.”
David suddenly glimpsed Lady Ramsay as she moved around the edge of the dance floor, seeming to look for someone. Her sister perhaps? Miss Bancroft was nowhere to be seen. David had to agree that the Bancroft sisters' situation was an odd one, and not one his own highly respectable parents would have understood. The two women lived alone in that ramshackle old house, seldom going out into neighborhood society, and Lord Ramsay was never seen. Lady Ramsay often seemed sad and distant, and Miss Bancroft very protective of her, which was most admirable.
David thought they also seemed brave, and obviously devoted to each other. Another thing about Miss Bancroft that was unusual—and intriguing.
Suddenly he felt a nudging touch to his hand, and glanced down in surprise to find he still stood on the crowded dance floor. And what was more, it was his turn in the figures as the music ran on around him.
Miss Cole smiled up at him, a quick, dazzling smile of flirtatious encouragement, and he led her down the line of dancers in the quick, leaping steps of the dance. She spun under his arm, light and quick, the jewels in her twists of red-gold hair flashing.
“Very well done, Sir David,” she whispered.
Miss Cole, unlike Miss Bancroft, was exactly the sort of young lady his sister wanted to see him marry. The daughter of a local, imminently respectable squire, and friends with Louisa for a long time, pretty and accomplished, sparkling in local society, well-dowered. The kind of wife who would surely run her house well and fit seamlessly into his carefully built life. And she seemed to like him.
Miss Bancroft was assuredly not for him. She was too young, too eccentric, for them to ever suit. His whole life had been so carefully planned by his family and by himself. He almost threw it all away once. He couldn't let all that down now. Not for some strange fascination.
Miss Cole, or a lady like her, would make him a fine wife. Why could he not quit searching the room for a glimpse of Emma Bancroft?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Accession Day! And Excerpt

(November 17 is the anniversary of the accession to the throne of Elizabeth I, in 1558!  The moment at Hatfield House, when she heard her sister Queen Mary had died and she herself was now queen, must have been filled with relief and bittersweet joy.  I loved recreating it for the last scene of my book Murder at Hatfield House!  I am posting it here, with the info on whodunnit taken out...)

Suddenly there was a commotion in the corridor outside their sitting room, and the sound of swift, light footsteps and the rustle of skirts.
Kate barely had time to rise to her feet before the door swung open and Elizabeth stood there. She was dressed in somber dark green, her red hair bound up in a gold knit caul. Kate Ashley, long the princess's governess and Mistress of Robes, who had been separated from Elizabeth since the Wyatt Rebellion and her incarceration in the Tower, but who was now returned to Hatfield, hurried after her to wrap a shawl around her shoulders.
“Indeed it is a warm day, Kate,” Elizabeth said. “We must not waste such a treasure after all the cold rain. Come walk with us in the garden.”
“I thank you, Your Grace, but I really should stay with my father,” Kate said.
“Nonsense,” Matthew said heartily. “You need exercise, my dear, and I need to get on with my work. I shall do very well here for a few hours.”
Kate studied him uncertainly, but he did seem well settled-in for the afternoon. And she would have to face Elizabeth sometime soon.
“Very well,” she said. “But send Peg for me at once if you have any need of me.”
“We will not go far,” Elizabeth said.
Kate took up her cloak, her old dark brown one this time and not the fine blue one ruined with blood, and followed Elizabeth out to the gardens. In the foyer, just at the base of the grand staircase, Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth's surveyor and most trusted secretary, sat at a hastily-arranged desk, busily writing out lists and documents. He had arrived just as the queen's officers left, the greatest sign yet of vast changes to come.
Elizabeth led them briskly along the pathways, Kat Ashley and a few other ladies following, but the princess was much lighter of foot then them. She took Kate's hand and drew her along, and soon they were far ahead pf the others, beyond the formal pathways and near a grove of old oak trees on the slope of a hill.
From there the red bricks of the house gleamed in the amber sunlight, warm and welcoming. A maid shook a rug out of an open window, and a dog barked. Everything looked so calm, so peaceful, as if nothing terrible had ever happened in such a beautiful place.
“Has your arm healed, Kate?” Elizabeth asked.
“Very well, Your Grace. Lady Pope's poultices worked wonders. I think there will only be a small scar.”
“Aye. Tis better to hide the scars inside, where others can't see them.”
Elizabeth paused to lean back against the tree, narrowing her eyes as she stared off over the empty fields. She twisted her pearl and ruby ring around her finger. “Your father is right, you know. You cannot blame yourself for what happened.”
Kate closed her eyes against the rush of pain. She had gone over and over those words in her own head and still she had no solution, no solace. “I should have seen it was ---- all along. I let my feelings of friendship blind me.”
“You did not.... I have been playing this dangerous game since I was three. I didn't see what -- intended. But I am only one person, Kate, as are you. A great change is coming very soon, and when it does I will need many people around me to be my eyes and ears. People I can trust.”
Kate shivered. She wanted so much to be one of those so trusted, but how could she? She wasn't sure she could even trust herself. “People such as Cecil and Mistress Ashley?”
“Aye, of course them. They have been loyal to me since I was a child. But also you. I shall need you to come with me as well.”
“But I failed you, Your Grace! I did not stop ---- when I should have.”
“You never failed me. In fact, you proved your worth. It is your great kindness I need now, Kate. Your sweetness and your steadfastness. Real kindness is rare in this world. You care about people, truly care about them, and that draws them close to you. It persuades them to confide in you, as no one ever would with a queen. And you can go places where I cannot, like kitchens and playhouses. Aye, I shall assuredly need you close to me.”
Kate turned Elizabeth's words over in her mind, along with everything that had happened since Lord Braceton stormed into Hatfield. She remembered what ---- had said, that Kate could never match the cruelty of those who sought to play games of crowns. But her heart was harder now, and her trust was cracked. She would surely never be so easily deceived again.
But maybe Elizabeth was also right, and kindness could be an asset and a weapon in itself. Perhaps, with time, she could learn to use it to protect the people she loved.
Like in music, it took many disparate strands to make a coherent whole, to make a beautiful madrigal.
“I only know one thing now, Your Grace,” she said. “I will serve you however you require, for as long as you need me.”
Elizabeth gave a strangely sad smile. “My sweet Kate. I hope you shall never regret those words, for I shall certainly hold you to them.”
One of the other ladies came dashing up the slope of the hill, the breeze threatening to sweep her cap from her head. “My lady! My lady, riders are approaching.”
Elizabeth turned and shielded her eyes with her hand. Kate peered over her shoulder to see it was indeed a large party of riders thundering through the gates, throwing up clouds of dirt. As they came closer, Kate could see that the leaders were men she recognized from court, the powerful earls of Pembroke and Arundel.
Elizabeth's face turned white and her hand trembled, but she stood very still as they galloped nearer. At the foot of the hill, Lord Arundel drew in his horse and slid to his feet. Out of breath, he climbed the hill to kneel before the unmoving Elizabeth.
“Your Majesty,” he gasped. “I bring tidings from London.”
He held up his hand, and on his gloved palm gleamed the coronation ring. The large ruby stone that never left a monarch's hand until they were dead. He did not even need to say anything else.
“This is the Lord's doing,” Elizabeth said, quietly but strongly. “And it is marvelous in our eyes.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Another giveaway....

The holidays are all about giving, right???  Well, that and reading, at least around my house.  (I love curling up under the quilt my grandmother made, with a peppermint patty drink and a good holiday story to make the cold outside go away!).  Today at the Risky Regencies, I am giving away a download of my new novella, A Very Tudor Christmas!!!  Leave a comment on the blog for a chance to win...

Risky Regencies

Friday, November 08, 2013

Happy Birthday, Musee de Louvre!

While looking for post topics for today, I found out that today is the anniversary of the opening of the Louvre as a public museum in 1793. Since I visited there on my recent trip (and got hopelessly lost in their majorly twisty corridors, but that’s another story…), I thought it would be fun to find out more about its development from palace to vast museum! (FYI, the Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects, ranging from the 6th century BC to the 19th century, with 35,000 on display in more than 650,000 square feet. It averages 15,000 visitors a day, and employs more than 2000. In 1986, with the completion of the Musee d’Orsay, objects from after 1848 were moved there and the collection was split)

The Louvre started in the 12th century, as a fortress built by Phillipe II. Remnants of the fortress are still visible in below-ground galleries. The building was then extended several times, until in 1674 Louis XIV moved his court to the Palace of Versailles, leaving the Louvre mainly as a place to display some of the royal collections. During the Revolution, the National Assembly decreed the former palace a museum of the people (“a place for bringing together monuments of the arts and sciences”). It opened with an exhibit of 537 paintings, most of them seized from royal and Church property.
The public was given free access three days a week, but the building was closed in 1796 due to “structural deficiencies,” and not re-opened until 1801, with displays now arranged chronologically and organized with new columns and lighting.

Under Napoleon, the collections expanded greatly, thanks to works sent back from Egypt, Spain, Austria, Holland, and Italy. After his defeat at Waterloo, many former owners sought their return, which the Louvre’s administrators were, er, reluctant to comply with. In response, many of the restored foreign powers sent diplomats to seek out these works and secure their return. (An echo of this was seen just before World War II, when, on August 27, 1939, a long truck convoy left Paris taking countless objects and paintings to new hiding spots. By December, the museum was entirely cleared except for items too heavy or “insignificant” to be moved. In 1945, the art came back).

The Louvre is best known for objects such as the Venus de Milo, Nike of Samothrace, the Apollo Belvedere, Michelangelo’s “Slaves” sculptures, David’s Coronation of Napoleon (I stood in front of this for a long time studying the gowns!), Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, Vermeer’s The Lacemaker, and of course Mona Lisa.
Some good sources to read more about the Louvre are Andrew McClellan’s Inventing the Louvre; Bette Wynn Oliver’s From Royal to National: The Louvre Museum and the Bibliotheque National; and Alain Nave’s Treasures of the Louvre.

What are some of your favorite museums, or works of art? What would you do if you were lost in the Louvre???

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Giveaway Time!


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Running from Scandal by Amanda McCabe



          Running from Scandal


          by Amanda McCabe


            Giveaway ends November 12, 2013.

            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.




      Enter to win

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Penny For The Guy

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, everyone!  We don’t really celebrate Bonfire Night here in the US (though we really, really should!  Just because it’s fun to go around chanting “Remember, remember the 5th of November…” if nothing else.)  I think I can probably find some leftover 4th of July sparklers tonight, though, and raise a glass to the Guy.
Guy Fawkes, of course, commemorates a failed Catholic uprising in 1605, where Fawkes, a small-time country gentryman, and 12 co-conspirators decided to blow up Parliament by storing gunpowder in tunnels under the palace and sending James I, his court and counselors sky-high.  It fizzled (ha!), and people lit celebratory bonfires around the city.  The day became an official holiday, often the focus of anti-Catholic bigotry and fervor, but now I guess it’s mostly an excuse to drink and light bonfires.  Sounds fun, though!
According to the History Timeline site:

After the plot was revealed, Londoners began lighting celebratory bonfires, and in January 1606 an act of Parliament designated November 5 as a day of thanksgiving. Guy Fawkes Day festivities soon spread as far as the American colonies, where they became known as Pope Day. In keeping with the anti-Catholic sentiment of the time, British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic would burn an effigy of the pope. That tradition completely died out in the United States by the 19th century, whereas in Britain Guy Fawkes Day became a time to get together with friends and family, set off fireworks, light bonfires, attend parades and burn effigies of Fawkes. Children traditionally wheeled around their effigies demanding a “penny for the Guy” (a similar custom to Halloween trick-or-treating) and imploring crowds to “remember, remember the fifth of November.”
Guy Fawkes himself, meanwhile, has undergone something of a makeover. Once known as a notorious traitor, he is now portrayed in some circles as a revolutionary hero, largely due to the influence of the 1980s graphic novel “V for Vendetta” and the 2005 movie of the same name, which depicted a protagonist who wore a Guy Fawkes mask while battling a future fascist government in Britain. Guy Fawkes masks even cropped up at Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City and elsewhere. “Every generation reinvents Guy Fawkes to suit their needs,” explained historian William B. Robison of Southeastern Louisiana University. “But Fawkes was just one of the flunkies. It really should be Robert Catesby Day.

Since it’s raining here today, thus not helpful for lighting fires, I guess I will settle in to working on the WIP and re-watching last night’s episode of Sleepy Hollow!  It’s good to be back at the Riskies and getting back onto a semi-normal routine…
What are you doing for Bonfire Night???

Friday, November 01, 2013

Catching Up!

I can't believe it's been almost a month since I was here!  But now the move is (almost) complete, the books are on their shelves again, and Halloween (my favorite holiday of the year!) is gone.  Now time to burrow in for the winter and get some Serious Writing done.

To celebrate the start of the holiday season, I am dipping my toe into the self-pub pool with a Christmas novella!  "A Partridge in a Pear Tree" originally appeared in 2003, in the anthology "Regency Christmas IX", and I am so excited to get it out there again, with a lovely new cover....

It's just on Amazon at the moment, (link here!) but am working on getting it on Nook asap...

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Chats and Giveaways, oh My!!!

Tonight at 8:00 CST I'll be chatting about Murder at Hatfield House on Writerspace!  Come and see me so i won't feel all alone--and there's a contest there, too...

I also found this giveaway at Bookin' With Bingo...

Monday, October 07, 2013

Excerpt Monday

Starting every Monday, since it's the day I generally have the hardest time feeling energetic, I'm going to share an excerpt from one of my stories!  This week, since I'm still feeling Elizabethan, a snippet of Murder at Hatfield House...

Chapter One—Autumn 1558
The horses’ hooves pounded like thunder on the rutted road as the two riders dashed under the low-hanging trees, still heavy from that morning’s rain. The storm was long past, leaving the lane muddy and pitted, and it was late for travelers. The night was gathering in fast, and all sensible country folk were safe by their own hearths. The wind whipped cold and quick through the branches—winter was not so far off now.

But the riders took no heed of the chill. They had important tasks to perform, for very important people indeed, and they were already delayed. They had to reach Hatfield House by that night, which was why he traveled with only one servant and ordered the rest to follow the next day.

“God’s wounds, but this is a foul place!” Lord Braceton cursed as his horse slid on the wet ground. No one should have to live in such a forsaken spot as the damned countryside. It smelled of fresh, cold air and wet leaves, of cows and pigs and peasants, and the night sounds of hooting owls seemed ominous to a man used to the constant shouts and curses of London, the pungent, heavy air of the city.

The forest to either side of the narrow road was thick, full of shifting shadows and sudden sounds. It obscured the pale, chalky moonlight overhead and hid the few houses and cottages from view. A man could be lost in such a rural thicket and never be seen again.

Aye, Braceton thought grimly as he pulled hard at his horse’s reins, making the beast whinny in shrill protest. The countryside was a God-forsaken place, fit only for animals and traitors. It was no wonder so many of them gathered here, like a filthy, buzzing hive around their whorish queen.

The only solution to such a dirty, dangerous place was to destroy it and clean it out. That was why he was here. To crush out the treason—and get back to the civilization of London as fast as he could.

He glanced over his shoulder at his manservant. Wat slumped in his saddle, his hood drawn close over his head. The man had been more of nuisance than an aid on this journey, whining and miserable every step of the way. But he was from a good, loyal Catholic family, servants to Queen Mary for a long time, and that was essential to Braceton’s task. Plus Wat was young and strong, able to carry all the baggage.

“Sit up straight, man!” Braceton shouted. “The faster we ride the sooner we’ll be safe by a fire with a pitcher of ale.”

“If you can call it safe, your lordship,” Wat shouted back. “There’s been no safe place this whole journey. One cesspit after the other.”

And Wat had failed at his task in almost every “cesspit”—he was told to make friends with the servants and listen to their gossip. Braceton himself had gotten nowhere with the stony-eyed landowners; no threats or promises could move them to do their duty to the queen. But servants were chattier, freer with their words, and they saw everything that happened in their houses. They could have been an excellent source of information, if Wat hadn’t behaved like such a pouting fool.

But Braceton couldn’t argue with Wat’s assessment of those houses. Dark cesspits of stinking treason, all of them.
And now he was on his way to the greatest pit of all. Hatfield House, the lair of the heretic serpent Princess Elizabeth.

“You’d better be of more use to me there,” Braceton shouted above the wind. “Or the queen herself will hear of your piss-poor behavior.”

The horses swung around a sharp curve in the road, and in the distance Braceton could see the faint flicker of golden lamplight, the dark outline of a roof and chimneys beyond. The gates of Hatfield at last.

But suddenly a sharp, high buzzing sound cut the silence of the night. Braceton twisted around in his saddle just in time to see an arrow arc out of the forest. It glinted silvery in the darkness, like a shooting star.

With a cry, Braceton yanked his horse to the side and the creature reared up in the air with a terrified scream. It stumbled in one of the deep ruts and sent Braceton flying off into the mud.

There was a thud on the ground, not far from where he lay in a stunned state, and he pushed himself up. His head was spinning from the fall, and bright spots danced in front of his eyes, but he could see clearly enough to make out the body of Wat sprawled in the road. The servant’s horse was galloping back the way they had just come.

The arrow had landed squarely in Wat’s chest. His eyes were wide and shocked, glowing glassily in the moonlight, and his mouth was wide open in a silent scream. He died before he could make any sound at all.

Braceton’s horse followed Wat’s down the lane, leaving him alone with the dead body—and with whoever lurked in the woods. Two more arrows flew out from the cover of the trees, landing in a tree trunk over Braceton’s head and vibrating with the force of the impact.

They could very well have landed in his chest, Braceton realized with horror. And then fury swept over his fear. He was an agent of the queen, curse it! He was here to root out the evils of treason and heresy, and those filthy beasts dared attack him for it!

He lurched to his feet and barreled into the woods as he drew his short sword. He could only see by the moonlight filtering through the branches, and it seemed as if laughing creatures lurked behind every tree and boulder. He slashed out at them, catching only leaves with his blade. Birds took flight from the treetops with terrified shrieks.

At last he saw a flash in the darkness, a whirl of a cloak as someone ran silently away. Braceton ran after that flicker of movement, crashing through the underbrush.

By the time he reached the jagged line where the trees gave way to the park of Hatfield, silent and serene beyond the low rock wall, the person had vanished. If it was a person, and not a demon or a ghost. Braceton’s bearded face stung with sweat and the blood dripping from the tiny cuts from the branches, and his lungs felt like they would burst with the labor of his breath. Golden light shimmered in the mullioned windows of the distant house, as if to mock him.

But he caught a glimpse of something shining caught on the rough edge of the wall. He snatched at it and found it was the torn, feathered bits of an arrow’s fletching. Whoever had shot at him had fled to Hatfield.
Braceton crushed the feather in his gauntleted fist. That witch Princess Elizabeth would pay for this—and pay very dearly.
Chapter Two
“Curses on it all, Kate! This leg is going to be the death of me.”

Kate Haywood smiled at her father as she helped him lower himself into his favorite chair by the fire. The red-gold flames crackled and snapped merrily, valiantly trying to drive the chill away from the small rooms at the back of Hatfield House. The wind moaned outside the window and stirred at the faded tapestries on the wall, and the ghost-like sound of it made her shiver.

“Poor Father,” she said as she tucked a blanket around his legs. “Is your gout horrible tonight? I shouldn’t wonder, with this damp, cold weather.”

“It’s bothersome all the time now, rain or shine,” Matthew Haywood answered. “Ah, Kate, it is a terrible thing to be old. Enjoy being eighteen, my dear, before your youth is done and aches and pains beset you. I am falling to pieces.”

Kate laughed and kissed her father’s gray-bearded cheek. “You are not very old, I vow. You just claim you are so you can sit here by the fire and work on your musical compositions with no one to interrupt you.”
“Would that were so.”

“It is so. You cannot fool me.” Kate turned to the sideboard where their meager plate was stored and poured out a goblet of rich, red wine. “Here, Father, this will soon warm you. The princess sent it to you herself, she says the physicians claim it will strengthen the blood.”

“Mustn’t refuse the princess, then,” Matthew said. He took the wine from her hand and swallowed a long sip. “It’s quite good. You should have some, too. We all need strong blood to survive the winter.”

“We need more than that, I fear,” Katherine murmured. She thought of the year before, when Princess Elizabeth and several members of her household were dragged away from Hatfield and tossed in the Tower on suspicion of treason in the Wyatt Rebellion against the queen. Matthew and Kate fled and took refuge at a friend’s house, waiting in daily fear for word of Elizabeth’s fate. Matthew was only the princess’s chief musician, but everyone associated with her was always in danger. The queen hated her young half-sister, the Protestant daughter of Anne Boleyn, and would do anything to see her downfall.

But at last there could be no evidence found and so Elizabeth was released to come home, under the strict watch of Queen Mary’s jailer Sir Thomas Pope and his lemon-faced wife. Matthew and Kate came back to serve her, to bring what merriment they could to the silent house. But every day felt fraught with peril, as if they all waited with their breath held to see what would happen next.

“What did you say, my dear?” Matthew asked.

Kate gave him her brightest smile, which felt tight and false on her face, and went to kneel beside his chair. Her father had enough to trouble him without knowing she worried too.

“I said I will have some wine before I go to bed,” she said. “It makes me sleepy, and I want to work on the new madrigal before I retire.”

Matthew gently patted her cheek. “You work much too hard, Kate.”

“On the contrary, Father.” Kate carefully lifted his leg onto a cushioned stool and slid the slipper from his swollen foot. She reached for the basket that held clean bandages and the jar of herbal salve. It sometimes helped the ache. “I have to find things to do to distract me, otherwise I am too idle.”

“It is very quiet here, I know,” Matthew said sadly. He groaned as Kate unwound the old bandages, but he let her do her nursing task. “Most unlike when you were a child and we were with Queen Katherine Parr. But we must not draw attention to ourselves. God willing, very soon…”

Very soon they would once again be part of a queen’s household, that of Queen Elizabeth, and life would be very busy indeed. But those dangerous words could not be spoken aloud, despite the rumors that sometimes flew to them from London. Queen Mary was ill—her pregnancy had proved to be a phantom one with no child and a tumor swelling her belly, and her Spanish husband, the hated King Philip, had left her again to war with France. Her people were angry with all the persecutions and burnings, the bad harvests and lack of work and food.
But Mary was still the monarch, and she would love nothing more than to see the end of her troublesome half-sister. Kate’s father was right—they had to be quiet and stay out of sight. For now.

“The princess will surely want some sort of revel for Christmas,” Kate said. “We could all use some holiday cheer, even if it must be of a small nature.” Elizabeth’s allowance had been curtailed so much she could barely feed and clothe her small household, let alone order elaborate masques. “I want to have the new madrigals done before then, and you must finish the church music you are working on.”

“I’m sure her grace will appreciate the music very much,” Matthew said. “But you still need your sleep.”

“I will sleep, Father, I promise.”

“Good. Now, are you quite done torturing me?”

Kate laughed and tied off the ends of the fresh bandage. “I am. You can drink your wine in peace.”

She kissed his cheek and saw the gray that flecked his beard and his dark brown hair, the same color as her own thick, heavy tresses. He had lost weight of late, and his face was pale and creased, his green eyes, also like hers in color, were rimmed with dark circles.

He did grow older in their exile, and it pained her to see that. Her mother, Eleanor Haywood, had died when she was born, and for all Kate's life it had been only her father and herself, a cozy little family. He had worked as a Court musician ever since he was a boy, and when Kate was young he was appointed to the household of King Henry’s last wife, Katherine Parr, a high and prestigious position where he also came to know Princess Elizabeth.
Matthew taught Kate his art and trade, and she loved music with all her heart. When she sat down to create a new song, the sounds in her head drove away the fears and dangers of the real world and lifted her up into her own, secret place. One where she was free.

But there were some things even music could not banish.

The wind suddenly rattled violently at the window, making Kate jump. She hurried over to secure the latch on the old glass, and a cold gust swept between the cracks and tugged at her loose hair. For an instant, she saw her own reflection there, her round face and wide green eyes fractured and wavering, as though it was a ghost.

Kate laughed at her silly fancy and reached for the old velvet drapery to drag it closed. But then she saw something else, a flash in the kitchen gardens outside. It was very late—surely no one had any errand out there now? The cook and her maids would be asleep now. Kate peered closer but could see nothing.

There was a knock at the door, and Kate yanked the draperies shut to close out the night and all its dangers. She had enough to concern her inside the house without imagining garden ghosts.

“What can it be at this hour?” her father grumbled. He reached for his walking stick, but Kate hurried over to press him back down into his chair.

“I will go see what it is, Father,” she said. “You finish your wine.”

It was Peg, one of Princess Elizabeth’s serving maids, who stood outside the door. Like Kate, Peg was still fully dressed, a shawl wrapped warmly over her gray wool dress and her silvery hair straggling from its cap.

“Begging your pardon, Mistress Haywood, but Her Grace cannot sleep.”

Kate nodded with a sigh. This had been happening more and more of late, ever since the princess returned from the Tower. Sleepless nights and bad dreams. Only music seemed to help soothe her.

“I will go,” Matthew said. Kate looked back to find him struggling to rise from his chair.

“No, Father,” she cried, and hurried over to press him back down again. “I can go tonight. You need to stay off your feet and rest.”

Matthew looked as if he was going to protest, but Kate grabbed up her faded and mended cloak and her precious lute, which had once belonged to her mother, and followed Peg into the corridor before he could say a word. She needed the cloak whenever she wandered away from the fire at Hatfield, the old halls were narrow and chilly. Wind whistled through the windows and along the wooden floors.

At least it was better than Woodstock, Kate thought as she and Peg dashed up the stairs. That house, the first prison Queen Mary sent Elizabeth to after the Tower, had literally been falling down around their ears. Chunks of the roof would land at their feet as they walked in the garden and rain would leak through into the rooms. Hatfield was a smaller, more comfortable manor house of pretty red brick and many chimneys, but it was still cold and lonely.

And the shadows that seemed to lurk in the corners were just as fearsome. Torches and candles were expensive and to be used sparingly. Nights were dark and quiet.

But the princess’s bedchamber glowed with light. Candles were set on every table and atop every clothes chest, and lined up on the fireplace mantel. A fire roared in the grate, and the draperies were drawn back to let in the night’s meager moonlight. No shadows were allowed to lurk there.

The bed, set up on a dais and draped in faded red hangings, was turned back to reveal the pale sheets and bolsters, but it was not occupied. Princess Elizabeth paced back and forth in front of the fireplace, the furred hem of her robe stirring the rushes scattered on the floor with every turn. Her red-gold hair spilled down her back, and she held a book in her long, elegant white hands even though it wasn’t open. Even study couldn’t distract her tonight.

Two of her ladies sat in the recessed window seat, also wearing bed robes over their chemises, with their heads bent over sewing. One was Lady Pope, the jailer’s wife and the new Mistress of the Robes since Elizabeth’s faithful Kat Ashley, companion from her childhood, had been banished. The Popes were the queen’s lackeys through and through, always watching, watching, waiting for any small, fatal misstep. Lady Pope looked most harried to be kept awake so late again.

The other was Kate’s best friend at Hatfield, the young widow Penelope Bassett. She glanced up from her sewing and gave Kate a quick, conspiratorial smile. Her pretty, fashionably slanted, distinctive violet-blue eyes seemed to laugh at some secret, as they always did, but she sat quietly and decorously. She tucked a stray lock of blonde hair back in her cap and went on with her embroidery.

Princess Elizabeth swung toward Kate and Peg as the door clicked shut behind them. Her dark eyes glittered in her pale, pointed face, as if from some fever, and Kate knew it would be a long night. The princess’s vast energy always burned bright, even pent up here in her rooms, and she could outlast everyone.

“Kate, by God’s wounds but I am glad you are here,” Elizabeth said. “This wind is driving me mad. I need your music to drown out its moans and sooth me to sleep.”

“Of course, Your Grace,” Kate said. Her music was all she had to offer Elizabeth for all the princess had done for the Haywoods. It was certainly little enough, but Kate was glad if she could help at all.

Even if it meant she got little sleep!

Elizabeth sat down in the carved x-back chair close to the fire and drew the heavy folds of her robe around her slender body. She gestured Kate to a stool across from her, and Peg came to take the book from her hands. Elizabeth tapped her long fingers on the wooden chair arms, a light, constant pattering rhythm like rain. Her ring, a ruby surrounded by pearls said to have once been her mother’s, flashed in the firelight.

Kate tuned her lute, her head bent low over the strings. “What would you like to hear tonight, Your Highness? A lively volta or pavane to lift the spirits?”

“Nay,” Elizabeth answered. “I am in no dancing mood tonight. An old ballad, I think. Something sweet and sad. Aye, that would suit the mood.”

Kate feared “sweet and sad” was the last thing they all needed on such a night. The cold darkness seemed full of memories and longings, and old fears just lurking around every corner.

But her music was the princess’s to command. Kate lightly strummed a chord and launched into one of the old songs of King Henry’s day, a tune her father said had once been a favorite of Kate’s mother.

“Was I never yet of your love grieved, nor never shall while that my life doth last; but of hating myself, that day is past, and tears continual sore have me wearied,” she sang.

And as she sang, Kate fell down into the music and it was like diving deep into a summer pool. All other sound was completely closed away. She didn’t hear the wind or the whispers of the other ladies. Even her own worries were gone. She knew only the song.

“I will not yet in my grave be buried; nor on my tomb your name fixed fast, as cruel cause that did the spirit soon haste from the unhappy bones, by great sighs stirred…”

Kate glanced up to see Princess Elizabeth had ceased tapping on the chair. She sat perfectly still, her head turned to stare into the fire. Her white profile was sharply etched against the bright flames. The corner of her thin, pink lips quirked in a slight smile. The music worked its magic again, and peace slowly descended on Hatfield House like a soft, gray cloud obscuring the ugly world outside.

Until a crashing sound in the corridor outside tore that fragile peace asunder.

Kate’s fingers faltered on the lute strings and the princess sat up straight in her chair. Her hands tightened on the chair arms, and she looked to the door like a tense bird ready to take flight. A woman screamed, and Penelope dropped her sewing to the floor.

A thunderbeat of footsteps rang on the wooden floor outside and someone pounded on the door. Even Lady Pope turned pale.

“Lady Elizabeth!” a man shouted hoarsely. “Open this door at once.”

“Her Grace has retired for the night,” a maidservant’s nervous voice said.

“I care naught for that,” the man answered, still shouting despite the quiet of the house. “I come from the queen, and I will see the Lady Elizabeth at once, even if she’s naked in her bed.”

The queen! Kate clutched at her lute, feeling her hands shake and turn suddenly icy cold. This could mean only ill.
Elizabeth slowly rose to her feet. Her face had gone even whiter, but she was as still and calm as a statue.

“Peg, would you open the door, please?” she said softly.

“Are you sure, Your Grace?” Peg asked. “It is very late…”

“You heard the man. We must not keep my sister’s emissary waiting,” Elizabeth said, as the barrage of knocks went on pounding at the door. “No matter how unexpected he might be.”

Peg swallowed hard and nodded. Kate saw that she shook as if in a hard wind as she made her way slowly to the door. Peg drew it open and a giant of a man in a swirling black travel cloak pushed past her. He glared at them above his tangled black beard, taking in the warm, domestic scene with one contemptuous glance. Mud and wet leaves trailed onto the floor in his wake, making Lady Pope, always a careful housekeeper, wince.

But Elizabeth refused to back away. She glared in return, equally contemptuous of such rude behavior. “I trust my sister is well?” she said. “Surely there is not some crisis in London that requires my attention at such an ungodly late hour, sir. I fear we are little accustomed to receiving guests and are ill-prepared.”

The man gave a snort. He tugged off his dirty black leather gauntlets and slapped them against his palm. The loud sound made Kate flinch, but Elizabeth moved not at all.

“I am Lord Braceton, sent by Her Majesty to examine this household,” he said. “And I was greeted in your lane by a murderous villain, whose cowardly attack has left my manservant dead…”

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Elizabethan Week, Day Six: Heroine of the Weekend

For our heroine this weekend, I had to look to the Elizabethan era, which is chock-full of strong, inspirational women!  I used many of them in my research and my Kate Haywood novels (trying to weave as many of them as possible into the stories), and one that I found really fascinating (and very elusive) was Emilia (or Amelia) Lanier (1569-1645).  Since Kate is a musician at the queen's court, I've been reading everything I can find about music in the Tudor period.  The Bassano family of Venice held high places in the queen's musical consort, and Emilia was one of them.  She was also (perhaps) the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's poems, and one of the first female professional poets in her own right.

Emilia was born the daughter of court musician Baptiste Bassano, baptized at the church of St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate, on January 27, 1569.  Her father died in 1576, and she was sent to be educated in the household of the Countess of Kent, where she learned Latin among other subjects.  Once launched into the world, she became the mistress of one of the most powerful men at court, the queen's cousin Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon, a patron of the arts (he was the Lord Chamberlain in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, where Shakespeare got his start).  He was also 45 years older than her.  When she became pregnant in 1592, she was married off to her cousin, Alfonso Lanier, a musician at the royal court, who claimed her son Henry as his own (though the marriage was said to be unhappy in the long run!).  According to the diaries of astrologer Simon Forman (who may have made a pass at Emilia and was rejected, so his gossip should always be taken a bit doubtfully!), "...and a nobleman that is ded hath Loved her well & kept her and did maintain her longe but her husband hath delte hardly with her and spent and consumed her goods and she is debt."

She became one of the first Englishwomen to publish her own work in 1611, with her volume of poems Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, considered radically feminist for the era.  Her husband died in 1613, and little is known of her from 1619-35.  She sued her brother-in-law, and may have run a school.  She died in 1645.

For more about the Dark Lady controversy....
Was Shakespeare a Woman?

Some good sources for the history of Emilia and music in this era:
Kari Boyd McBride, Biography of Aemilia Lanier (2008)
David Lasocki, The Bassanos: Venetian Musicians and Instrument Makers in England, 1531-1685 (1995)

Friday, October 04, 2013

Elizabethan Week, Day Five: Friday Fantasy Real Estate

Every Friday, I waste time, er, do Important Research, searching out fantasy houses I would love to live in.  For Elizabethan Week, in order to make all our Tudor fantasies come true, I found St. Clere's Hall!  A Grade I Listed house, it was mostly built between 1340-60 but includes Tudor additions (including a library from 1500!), a moat, a stable, and 18 acres.  What do you think??  Would we have to wear our ruffs if we lived here?

Listing here

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Elizabethan Week, Day Four: Secondary Characters

One of the most fun parts of writing historical fiction (for me, anyway!) is finding ways to weave real events and real people into the stories.  I am a history geek, and have been ever since I was a kid, so stepping into a library and diving into a pile of research books is a raucously fun day to me!!  They start to really come alive for me when I "see" them in the middle of my own world...

Book two of the Kate Haywood series (Murder at Westminster Abbey, out in April 2014!) centers around Queen Elizabeth's coronation, so it involves lots of historical figures--Robert Dudley, Lady Catherine Grey and her mother Frances, Duchess of Suffolk, the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, etc.  Book one, Murder at Hatfield House, is set in a quieter place, with everyone keeping their heads down in the dangerous, dark last days of Queen Mary, waiting to see what will happen next.  There aren't many "real" characters (though I would count Queen Mary among them--she never makes an appearance, but she is in the middle of everyone's thoughts!).  Here are a few people I did use:

--Jane Dormer, future Duchess of Feria (1538-1612), a lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary, beautiful, betrothed to a Spanish count, future center of the Catholic English opposition abroad.  She only makes a brief appearance here, but her arrival at Hatfield signals that things are about to change in a major way....

--Her fiance, the Duke of Feria (1520-71), King Philip's ambassador to England until 1559.  He does make an appearance in the story, a dinner at Brocket Hall, the home of Elizabeth's friend--an event that actually occurred!

--At the end we see William Cecil and Kat Ashley, Elizabeth's chief secretary and lady-in-waiting respectively, who had both already served her for many years!  We'll see more of them in book 2....

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Elizabethan Week, Day Three: Palaces

If I listed all the Tudor-era palaces and castles, I think we would be here all day!!  There are so many, each with their own fascinating history and legends.  So I will stick to places I've actually used so far in my Kate Haywood books, with links where they're available.  (A great source for these places is Simon Thurley's The Royal Palaces of Tudor England.  I also keep lots of pics on my Pinterest boards for the mysteries--I am a Pinterest addict!)

First up: Hatfield House, where Elizabeth lived most of the time as a princess!  (There is only a smallish section of her house left, called Hatfield Old House, but the newer palace, built by the Burghleys in the next century, is also worth a look!)

Link to Hatfield House

The Tower!  (I love visiting The Tower, even though I always get a creepy, shivery feeling when I'm there, and am sometimes prone to crying just a little bit.  I freaked my mom out the first time she went there with me, when i started crying over things that happened in 1536...)

The Tower of London site

Whitehall!  Of course, the massive complex of Tudor times is almost completely gone, except for the Banqueting Hall and a few archaeological remains...

Whitehall Site

Hampton Court (I love visiting Hampton Court!!  It just "feels" so Tudor, and I am a sucker for costumed tour guides.  I dream of being able to attend one of their banquets or jousts someday.  I am also hoping for a tiny glimpse of Katherine Howard's ghost...)

Hampton Court

Westminster Palace & Abbey

This is the Great Hall where coronation banquets took place (I loved writing about the lavish coronation festivities for book two, Murder at Westminster Abbey!)

Westminster Abbey

And the book I am working on now takes place at the long-gone Nonsuch Palace!

The Wikipedia entry for Nonsuch...

Which is your favorite??  Do you have any good palace-visiting stories???