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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Like the Queen - A Christmas Message from Ms. Stuart

Dear friends...

And so 2014 draws to a close. My fridge is groaning with enough food to survive the worst Zombie Apocalypse (by the way what IS a zombie apocalypse?). The Christmas tree lights up my life every evening and it is time for a little introspection to reflect on the year that was.

As I publicly declared my New Year Resolutions back in January, here is the score card:

  • Continue the weight loss journey (family wedding in November and I don’t want to be the short tubby one on the end of the row in the photographs!): Total fail... I WAS the tubby one on the end of the row in the wedding photographs.
  • Keep up the exercise. 4 days minimum. I have been rather injury prone this year which has slowed me down but I did enter Run Melbourne (with my work colleagues) and managed a respectable time in the "old chook" category.
  • Make more time for my needlework. Yes! I finished two quilts and nearly finished a huge cross stitch project. Biggest hindrance to this resolution are my too friendly cats who view my lap as there personal domain in the evening. 
  • Make space in the schedule for quality time with my husband (who after working hard all his life is taking a "gap year") and family. There is more to life than writing! Hubby worked interstate for 4 months this year so this was a hard ask.

  • Drawing on my corporate background, I have written a "business plan" for 2014 so my goal is to stick to it! All your theory is good but the tree of life is still green... 
  • Better balance of the need to write with the "busyness" side of being a writer which can mean way too much time on social media.  Rolling on the floor laughing...

Oh well - looks like a bit of work to do in setting next year's goals but none the less it has been a fun year:
  • I published 2 books (my first indie CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART) and my first Escape Publishing title (LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR). Both books have earned some wonderful reviews so I can't complain!
  • I signed a 3 book contract with Escape for my Guardians Series coming out in 2015.
  • I finished the first of my cosy mystery series set in Singapore in 1910 - not that it is going anywhere at the moment. It needs a good spit and polish before I send it out into the big wide world.
And on a personal note, I experienced:
  • The joy of sharing my son's wedding in November and welcoming a new family member (daughter in law).
  • The pleasure in my youngest son's engagement.
  • Celebrating my own 30 years of marriage.
  • Crossing the lifetime dream of visiting the ancient classical sites of Greece and Turkey.
  • And only one tiny little sniffle of a cold...
So lots of blessings to count and a life to be thankful for, particularly the many readers and friends who have travelled with me during the year!

A safe and happy Christmas, Hannukah, Holiday season to you all (whatever your beliefs may be!)

Much love
PS... In case you're wondering the cat in the Christmas tree is Mr. Oliver Kat.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Merry Christmas from Mr. Cromwell...

Of all the heinous offences laid at the feet of the puritans (or "fun police") during the time of the Interregnum (1649-1660), the banning of Christmas raises the most interest. Oliver Cromwell is generally credited with this decision but the fact is that the abolition of Christmas (or “Christ’s Mass”) as a feast day and holiday predated Cromwell’s rise to power and was the outcome of the puritan domination of Parliament in the 1640s.

Oliver Cromwell aka the "Grinch"

Christmas had always been celebrated in England with traditions predating Christianity itself eg the “holly and the ivy” goes well back into pagan times. The traditions of wassailing, carols, feasting, mummers, plays and the resultant general drunkenness, frivolity and idleness were not looked on favourably by the puritans who believed that not only was it pagan but also resounded with Roman Catholic undertones. The puritans believed in a pure (hence the name) form of worship and devotion, based on the scriptures and felt that even the reformation had not gone far enough.

In 1645, a “Directory of Public Worship” was produced in Westminster to replace the prayer book and in 1647 the parliament passed an ordinance abolishing the feasts of Christmas, Whitsun and Easter. In the 1650s this was taken further with a specific ordinance ordering shops and businesses to remain open on 25th December. Despite the ordinances and the threat of penalties (that included fines and being placed in the stocks) many people continued to covertly celebrate Christmas behind closed doors.

For an account of one family’s perilous decision to continue the practice of Christmas, see the diaries of William Winstanley. Winstanley was an Essex farmer who “believed it was the duty of all Christians to celebrate the birth of their Saviour, with joyous festivity and open-handed generosity towards friends, relations and more especially the poor." (Alison Barnes, author of William Winstanley: The Man Who Saved Christmas ).  See my post on William Winstanley on HISTORICAL HEARTS- Click HERE.

In 1660 the monarchy was restored and the Christmas ban was lifted, although, not surprisingly, after 18 dour years it took some time for it to return to the familiar carousing and good cheer.

As we contemplate the “stress” of Christmas, is there, perhaps a pause for consideration that perhaps the puritans were not all that wrong and that a purer form of worship and remembrance of Christ’s nativity should have a place in modern society? Just a thought... 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gambling in the Regency- Alanna Lucas

I have just returned from a 10 day camping trip and as Christmas roars up at me at the speed of light (got to get the camping gear away before the tree can go up!), this will be my last Friday guest poster for the year and what a lovely, seasonal finish to a year of fabulous guests and interesting facts.

Here in Australia a Christmas of snow and mistletoe seems very far removed from a baking northerly wind and what is more evocative than the thought of Regency England... under a covering of snow. So thank you to Alanna Lucas for bringing me that thought... 

Traveller, rev head and dark chocolate lover, Alanna Lucas grew up in Southern California. From an early age, she took an interest in travel, incorporating those experiences into her writing. When she is not daydreaming of her next travel destination, Alanna can be found researching, spending time with family, or going for long walks. She is the author of four historical novels (3 regency romances and a Montana set historical romance). To find out more about Alanna visit her website: . You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

Alanna takes a look at gambling in the Georgian/Regency times... 


Gambling at Whites
Gambling is one of the earliest forms of entertainment dating back thousands of years to the ancient civilizations. Throughout history, gambling has been seen not only as entertainment, but also as a way to improve one’s lot in life. This philosophy had not changed during the Georgian period.

During the eighteenth century in England, gambling was one of the most sought-after forms of entertainment. In one evening fortunes were lost and won over Faro, Hazard, and various wagers, just to name a few vices.

In the betting books, the standard entries ranged from wagering on horses to wrestling, and everything in between. Men- and women- would bet on the mundane and unpredictable. Anything and everything became the subject of bets from whose father would die first, to the outcome of a race between turkeys and geese.

These bets were not for some paltry sum either. They could range upward of thousands of pounds. Lord Arlington’s wager was one such extravagant gamble. Two raindrops, a windowpane, and 3,000 pounds were the accouterments of the wager.

One evening while at White’s, Lord Arlington bet 3,000 pounds on which two designated raindrops would reach the bottom of the bow windowpane first. Needless to say, Lord Arlington’s purse was a little lighter after that bet.

Despite those who gambled before them and lost, the lure of the possibility of winning was just too great for some. So, whether watching raindrops, jumping out of a window, or tracking some geese, one thing was for certain, no bet was too large, no task too small.


Trust, patience and mistletoe must overcome a forced marriage, dark secrets, and a looming shadow that threatens all chance of Faith finding love with the Marquess of Hawthorne. 

Marcus, the Marquess of Hawthorne, vowed never to fall in love. He should have vowed never to marry. Caught in a compromising situation, he’s been forced to wed the young woman he was trying to rescue. Beautiful? Yes. But his new bride’s apprehensions seem worse than his own, and as family and friends arrive at Deer Park to celebrate Christmastide, all he wants is for Faith to play the part of a happy wife and hostess. 

She will not, however—or cannot. And when she commits yet another desperate act, this time with disastrous results, Marcus must save Faith once again. Now he must discover what drives her, what dark secrets keep her unable to trust or love, and what she truly desires. Only then will they, with the magic of mistletoe, overcome the pasts and taste the delights of the season.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Launch Day for How to Beguile a Duke: Ally Broadfield

This post is part of a book blast organized by Goddess Fish Promotions for the launch of Ally Broadfield's How to Beguile a Duke. One randomly chosen winner via Rafflecopter will receive a $25 Amazon/BN gift card.

The spirited Catherine Malboeuf has just arrived in England to reclaim her ancestral home, Walsley Manor, and a valuable missing heirloom. Nicholas Adair, the attractive and frustratingly inflexible Duke of Boulstridge, however, is quite unwilling to sell the estate back to Catherine. Unless, of course, she accepts a small wager...

Nick will sell Walsley Manor if--and only if--Catherine secures an offer of marriage from an eligible member of the ton before the end of the London season.

Of course, Nick is certain he'll win. After all, no proper gentleman would ever marry a woman who conceals a cutlass in her skirts. Yet something about Catherine's unconventional disposition seems to ignite a need deep inside him. A need that won't just cost him the wager, but the very heart he swore to never give away...
Enjoy an excerpt:

He ought not to have let her take the journal. It wasn’t appropriate reading material for an innocent. 

“If you like, I will reread the journal and make note of all of your great-grandmother’s…acquaintances so we can narrow down the possibilities.”

She clasped the journal to her chest. “Good heavens, no. I shall do it.”


“I would never be able to look you in the eye again knowing that you had read about her…exploits.”

“Catherine.” She cast a startled glance at him. Stifling the laughter threatening to erupt, he said, “I’ve already read the journal. There is nothing in there with which I am not already familiar.”

Casting her eyes downward, she said, “Well, there is much with which I am unfamiliar.”

Laughter burst forth from him, refusing to be contained. “Well I certainly hope so. It is not appropriate reading material for you. Give it back to me, and I will make a list of everyone mentioned in the journal. We must be thorough.” Casting his eyes toward the spire of a church in the distance, he attempted to dispel the images of Catherine reenacting her great grandmother’s escapades with him. His imagination was very thorough. Too thorough.

About the Author: Ally lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with three kids, four dogs, a cat, a rabbit, and several reptiles. Oh, and her husband. She likes to curse in Russian and spends most of her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She writes historical romance set in Regency England and Imperial Russia.

She loves to hear from readers and you can find Ally on her website, Facebook, and Twitter, though she makes no claims of using any of them properly.




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