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Guest Author: Leigh LaValle

I have a debut author guest blogging with me today, and that’s always an exciting event.  She’s historical romance writer Leigh LaValle, and her first book, The Runaway Countess is now out.  This is the book that USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare called “an enchanting tale of passion and deception, laced with charm and wit.”  Hooray!

Without any further ado, I’ll turn the blog over to Leigh.

Virtual Shopping Historical Style

It’s Friday! Time to kick up our feet and do something fun and extravagant, like virtual shopping historical style.

Empire waists, corseted waists, drop waists… there is much to explore. Let’s begin with a little fashion show, shall we? Unfortunately, I have to limit my selections to the 19th century; otherwise we would be here all weekend!

To begin, the classic early Regency muslin that molded to the natural female form.

 1802 Morning Dress

Look at those lovely legs!

1808 Evening Dress

Some daring Regency cleavage. Always good for the heroine.

 1815 Walking Dress

I love this walking dress! I am going to ditch my fleece and spandex and go for this style on my next outing.

  1820 Evening Dress

My debut novel, THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS, takes place during the late Regency (1821 to be exact). My heroine, Mazie, might dress in something like this. Notice the waist is dropping and sleeves are puffing out for an exaggerated figure.

 1831 Ball Gown

The 1830’s were a crazy time in fashion. Let’s call it the 1980’s and move on before someone gets hurt, shall we?

  A toned down hourglass figure is all the rage during the Victorian era.

 1849 Ball Gown

Waist courtesy of the Victorian corset.

 Fashions keep getting narrower and wider at once.

 Ball Gown 1865

Scarlett O’Hara would shop from this fashion plate.

 Later in the Victorian Era, gowns take a new shape.

Skirts come in, patootie’s stay out.

 Always a favorite. The infamous bustle:

1876 Dinner Dress

 

1880 Ball Gown

I love these dresses myself. The hairstyles, too.

 We shall end our fashion show today with the beginning of La Belle Epoque:

 1893 Ball Gown

 

What about you, Dear Reader, which is your favorite style? Comment and enter to win a digital copy of THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS, which features lots of interesting fashion choices!

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THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS

“Exciting and action packed, with a hero and heroine who play well off each other.”RT Book Reviews 4 stars

“The characters are, indeed, so empathetic, with shifting first-person throughout the story, that you honestly feel like you are watching your two best friends fall in love.” TOP PICK Night Owl Reviews

Once the darling of high society, Mazie Chetwyn knows firsthand how quickly the rich and powerful turn their backs on the less fortunate. Orphaned, penniless and determined to defy their ruthless whims, she joins forces with a local highwayman who steals from the rich to give to the poor.

Then the pawn broker snitches, and Mazie is captured by the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. A man who is far too handsome, far too observant…and surely as corrupt as his father once was.

Sensible, rule-driven Trent Carthwick, twelfth Earl of Radford, is certain the threat of the gallows will prompt the villagers’ beloved Angel of Kindness to reveal the highwayman’s identity. But his bewitching captive volunteers nothing—except a sultry, bewildering kiss.

And so the games begin. Trent feints, Mazie parries. He threatens, she pretends nonchalance. He cajoles, she rebuffs. Thwarted at every turn, Trent probes deep into her one vulnerability—her past. There he finds the leverage he needs and a searing truth that challenges all he believes about right and wrong.

Leigh, Thanks so much for joining us.  Your book sounds fantastic, and I can’t wait to read it!  Readers, you can find Leigh at Facebook and Twitter, or visit her website at LeighLaValle.com.

And which is your favorite style of the 19th century?  Tell us which picture appeals to you the most.  One person who comments will win a copy of Leigh’s debut.

 

William And Kate, It Was Worth The Wait!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you know that the newest royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, just wrapped up their two week tour of Canada and the U.S.  As someone who lives in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, I couldn’t have avoided the Niagara Falls of news coverage about Will and Kate even if I’d wanted to.  But I actually enjoyed most of the coverage and thought the young newlyweds conducted themselves with grace and good humor, genuinely coming off as two interesting, intelligent people interested in real people and real issues.  Quite a tribute to them, given how carefully managed these royal tours tend to be.

Of course, a great deal of interest revolved around Kate and her clothes.  And, yes.  I’m shallow enough to admit that I really enjoyed most of that coverage too.  She’s a beautiful girl who looks great in clothes, so that’s fun.  But even more important, Kate seems happy and totally in love with her new husband, and he with her.  That, of course, is in marked contrast to Prince William’s parents and especially his mother, Princess Diana, who often looked miserable as Prince Charles dragged her from one end of the planet to the other.  So here’s hoping Will and Kate avoid the mistakes of the earlier generation and have a happy life together.

But back to those clothes!  One of the best sites to follow Kate’s fashion happenings is What Kate Wore.  It’s incredibly detailed – mind-boggling so at times, but I actually learn quite a bit about contemporary fashion and fashion designers whenever I visit the blog.  If you like Kate and you love fashion, you might want to check it out.

Although William and Kate finished off their tour in Hollywood, they spent most of their time in Canada.  Kate and her handlers, of course, were very savvy about adding references to the relationship between Canada and the Crown.  That lovely red coatdress pictured at the top of the blog is what she wore on the day she departed Canada.  Red, of course, is the color of the Canadian flag, and Kate accented it with a brooch in the shape of a maple leaf (Canada’s official symbol), borrowed from her mother-in-law.

Of course, Kate wore lots of informal outfits too, like this one to the Calgary Stampede, which is a celebration of all things cowboy.

They both look pretty darn cute in those white cowboy hats, don’t they?  Just like a couple out of a western romance novel!

Speaking of romance novels, for all you Regency romance readers out there, have you ever wondered about all those primrose gowns Regency heroines tend to wear?  What the heck is the exact shade of that color anyway?  Well, wonder no more, because here is Kate in a lovely little primrose number.

And speaking of color, Kate seems to have a particular fondness for the color blue.  Two of my favorite dresses were in gorgeous shades of blue with lots of lace overlay.

Here’s a closeup shot of some of that beautiful lace:

Of course, no discussion of the Royals would be complete without fascinators, and here’s the really fun Maple Leaf Fascinator Kate wore for the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill.

That outfit went over very well with Canadians, I can assure you.

The royal tour is now over.  Will and Kate have returned to England and whatever passes for normal life for them.  They came, they saw, they conquered, and they did their grandma proud.  And as for Kate’s fashion sense, I think she knocked it out of the ballpark!

Guest Author Monica Burns & Giveaway!

I’m so pleased to feature one of my favorite romance authors today, Monica Burns.  Monica is not only a talented writer, she’s a strong, intelligent, and wonderful person – one of my favorite in all of romancelandia.  I met her several years ago at a Romance Writers of America conference, and I was immediately struck by her combination of wit, maturity, and heart, which shines through in her writing.  The first book I read of hers was Kismet, and I adored it.   It’s the story of a courtesan and a sheikh, which is totally cool to begin with, but it also has some interesting twists and a deeply sexy, emotional story.

Kismet won a CAPA in 2010 from The Romance Studio for Best Erotic Historical Romance, and garnered wonderful reviews, including this one from the Sacremento Book Review:

“Kismet is a strong debut, and a strong historical romance in general, and Burns has a charismatic and confident writing style.”

You can check out all of Monica’s earlier books on her Wicked Bookshelf. 

Monica’s latest book is Pleasure Me, and it’s another passionate, deeply emotional love story with an unusual heroine and hero.  And that’s one of the things I love about Monica – she always brings something new to the table.  She writes great love stories, fulfilling all the conventions of the genre, but with incredible intelligence and sensitivity, and with striking characters or settings.

Here’s the cover for Pleasure Me, which is truly beautiful.

Pleasure Me has been garnering wonderful reviews, including the coveted Desert Island Keeper status from the review site, All About Romance.  You can check out all of  Monica’s great reviews for the book on her website.

Here’s the blurb for Pleasure Me:

Youth and beauty are a courtesan’s greatest assets. At forty-one, Lady Ruth Attwood appears to have lost both, as her latest lover just abandoned her for a younger mistress. Struggling with the knowledge that she’s no longer considered desirable, she’s uncertain whether to be offended or flattered when a younger man makes her an unusual offer. In need of funds, she agrees. But then she does the unthinkable. She falls in love.

Despite his reputation as a man’s man, Baron Garrick Stratfield has never been with a woman. His physical impairment is such that he knows not even a whore will touch him, and he needs a mistress who’s willing to be kept without sharing his bed. But passion is just a delicious kiss away because his new mistress is wreaking havoc with his senses.  Worse yet, someone is not only out to ruin his reputation, but frame him for murder. 

Doesn’t that sound like a FABULOUS story?  You know you want to read this one!  Pleasure Me is now in bookstores, and available from Amazon and other on-line retailers. And you can read an excerpt on Monica’s website.

And we’re giving away a copy of the book!  Let’s talk about unusual settings.  Just tell me what kind of unusual settings you like, or would like to see, in historical romance.  One person who comments will win a copy of Pleasure Me.

 

 

Regency Friday Fun

It’s Friday so it’s time for some Regency fun, this time of the fashion kind.  I love the clothing from the Regency period, although styles did change considerably from the end of the Georgian period to the end of the extended Regency.  Here’s a formal portrait of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, who was a leader of both society and fashion during the 18th century.

As you can tell, there’s a lot of fabric and elaborate draping in this beautiful dress, and the headress is very structured.  During the Regency the fashions were greatly influenced by Classical Greece, leading to an era of great simplicity in dress.  Waists moved higher in the Empire Style, and thin, flowing fabrics like muslin were used.  Here are a few lovely dresses I came across in my internet searches, from the Digital Collections of the University of Washington Libraries.  I love this white day dress from 1812:

And here’s a gorgeous, straw-colored evening dress from 1813, although I’m not totally sold on the lace trim for the shoulders:

And I’m always a sucker for a good riding habit:

Things did start to get a little crazy around the end of the Regency period, though, as you can see with these walking dresses from 1828:

These dresses are so elaborately insane they make Georgiana’s dress look like a simple nightgown!  Even worse, take a look at what happened to some of the men’s clothing toward the end of the Regency period:

Can you imagine your average Regency hero decked out in that?  No, thank you.  I’ll stick with the breeches and cool leather boots instead!

Regency Friday (and Saturday) Fun And Giveaway!

As you know, every Regency lady of fashion needed several good pieces of jewelry to set off her stunning ensembles.  I am definitely down with that attitude!  So to celebrate the release this week of my novella in the anthology, An Invitation To Sin, I’m giving away some lovely jewelry by a very talented young woman name Bri Broken.

As you can see from her website, Brighde’s Baubles, Bri crafts jewelry that is both creative and very pretty.  I’m giving away two pieces – a bracelet and a pair of earrings, made with fuchsia freshwater pearls.  Bri made up these lovely pieces just for my giveaway, and she’s calling them “Miette.”

And in honor of this giveaway and of the release of my book, Bri is running a special promotion.  If you see anything on her blog that you like, just use the special promo code – vkbloggiveaway – and she’ll take 15% off the item total for any purchases in her Etsy shop. Even if you’re not in the buying mood, just have a look around Bri’s site to see all the pretty pieces on display.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Regency ladies of the ton did love their jewelry.  And who could blame them, with pieces like this lovely pair of earrings to choose from?

One of the most famous jewelers of the Regency period was Rundell and Bridge.  The store, located at 32 Ludgate Hill, provided jewelry to the most fashionable women in England, as well as being the official jeweler to the Crown.

Phillip Rundell and possibly irate customer

To be eligible to win the freshwater pearl earrings and bracelet, just tell me what kind of jewelry you like to wear.  I’ll be running this special contest through today and Saturday, so plenty of time to enter!

Regency Friday Fun and Giveaway!

One of the best things about writing historical romance is that I get to do research about the clothing of the period.  By the strictest definition, the Regency period coincided with the tenure of the Prince of Wales as Regent while his father (George III) was deemed unfit to rule.  But in terms of cultural and social definitions, most of us recognize the Regency as spanning the years between the 1790′s all the way up to 1830. Fashions changed pretty drastically during that time and there’s lots of research fun to be had when setting a book during the Regency.

I stumbled across a very entertaining website that allows you to dress up your Regency hero and heroine like paper dolls.  There’s everything from undergarments to accessories, including a gentleman’s pistol and a lovely bouquet of flowers to give to his latest flirt.

Two other great stops on the web to learn about clothing of the Regency period are Candice Hern’s lovely and hugely informative website and Loretta Chase’s Two Nerdy History Girls blog, which she writes with historical fiction author, Susan Holloway Scott. If you love the Regency period as much as I do, I guarantee you’ll really enjoy following both Candice and Loretta.

So, what’s your favorite historical period for clothing?  Is it the Regency period with it’s beautiful, flowing dresses, the Tudor and Elizabethan eras with dresses that were more like works of art, or do you love the changing fashions of the Victorian Age?  One commenter will win a copy of my novella in the upcoming anthology, An Invitation To Sin.