Friday, December 19, 2014

Historical Romance Guest Author: Gina Danna

I'm so thrilled to have Gina Danna at Romancing the Victorians today! Thank you for visiting, Gina! 

A USAToday Bestselling author, Gina Danna was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and has spent the better part of her life reading. History has always been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, always dreaming of writing one of her own. After years of writing historical academic papers to achieve her undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, and then for museum programs and exhibits, she has found the time to write her own historical romantic fiction novels.

Now, under the supervision of her three dogs and two cats, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream —her Arabian horse—With him, her muse can play

Twitter: @GinaDanna1
Gina's new book, Great and Unfortunate Desires, is set during the Victorian era. I'll move over and let her explain what drew her to the period.

Writing a Victorian-era story....

A couple of years ago, I had finished my novel on the American Civil War – Victorian America. It is an era I’m very familiar with, being a historian and a Civil War reenactor. I’ve done a ton of research in the lifestyles of the era, social mores, societal events and of course, the War itself, especially on the impact it had on the American people. I was pleased with my manuscript and sent it to the agent I had at that time, who promptly told me I should return to writing about lords and ladies.... My first manuscript, which got her attention to represent me, was on Regency England, and with the Civil War not a topic she was thrilled about, she hoped I’d return to the popular era of Jane Austen.

Problem was, I didn’t want to go back there. So I mulled it over and since I was comfortable with America’s Victorian era, I went to England at the same timeframe. The recent movies on Sherlock Holmes had my attention and with a comment made about Dr. Watson and his military service during the Afghanistan. So with doing research, discovered about the Great War with Russia and the beginning of my story took hold.

Writing about the Victorian era is fascinating. A time when the bustle was in, corsets still worn, manners improving, and technology picking up speed. It was the industrial revolution with factories and machines, gas lighting, the beginning of electricity, trains the fastest means of transportation plus many more inventions, modernizations that open the doors to new plots, twists in people’s lives and events, and so much more!
Welcome to the Victorians and Great & Unfortunate Desires!
~ Here's a little more about Gina's delicious novel ~

Great & Unfortunate Desires

Victorian England c. 18701

Operating as a British spy, Tristan St.James, the new Marquis of Wrenworth, barely escapes Afghanistan with his life in the spring of 1869. He plans to seek vengeance against the traitor who exposed him and for the agent he’s forced to kill. Returning to England, as a lord, he must marry. Haunted by guilt from the horrors of war, he avoids love at all costs, but finds himself drawn to the only woman who is disinterested in him.

Lady Evelyn Hurstine has waited over two years for the return of her love, a man who left for war in the East. But during that time, she suffered a brutal assault, resulting in a child and fear of any man touching her except for the man she once knew. The pursuit by the marquis scares her but her excuses against his proposal dwindle.

Their marriage strengthens into love until she discovers her husband isn’t the safety she believed but the one who killed the man she once loved. Caught in a world of intrigue and mayhem, Tristan must prove his love to her before the traitor destroys them both.

Grab your copy at any online ebook retailer!

Comment on this post and let Gina know what you like best about Victorian romance. If you haven't read historical romance set during the era, tell us why. 

Include your email address for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Romance Writers Weekly: Character Wrangling

Thanks for joining the Romance Writers' Weekly blog hop! Today we're talking about wrangling and developing characters, one of my favorite part of the writing process.

I hope you joined me from Victoria Barbour's page, and big huge thanks for this week’s questions from Eden Ashe!

1. How much free reign do you give your characters during a story?

I am a plotter, so I generally have a strong idea of what my characters are going to do, what they
need, and where they are going, but sometimes they surprise me. Sometimes minor parts of their story, which I only intended to include as backstory, turn out to be much more important. It's as if they need to work that problem out, even if I wasn't terribly bothered about at all. 

In my current work in progress, Reckless Wager, my hero, Detective Sergeant Benjamin Quinn wants to resolve his family issues, yet all I intended was to have him hunt Jack the Ripper. And fall in love with my heroine, Kate, of course! Ben's need to resolve matters with his family is now a bigger part of my story than I ever intended, but it's where he's led me, time and time again.

2. Have your characters ever done something so out of the blue that not only changed your story, but changed the tone and maybe even the genre you were originally going for? (Like your contemporary romance turned into a spicy paranormal)

I haven't had that happen yet, but I'd be open to it! I know that sometimes my characters lead me down rabbit holes I didn't expect to travel, but they usually stick firmly in their late Victorian world. :)

3. Do you have one character in your head that is sort of boss over all the rest? Or do you decide who to work on and when?

Ben is dominating a bit in Reckless Wager, I must admit. I started out thinking of this as chiefly the heroine's happy ending story, but Ben definitely wants his time on the page too. Kate is a secondary character from a previous novella, so she was a priority, but Ben is going to get equal time. 

In most cases, however, my characters allow me to the tell their story much as I had intended. It's actually the stories I haven't written yet, the characters that are just faint sketches in my mind, who are the loudest and most eager to have their stories told. And I can't wait to flesh out every single one of them. 

Now, join me at the fabulous Sarah Hegger's blog to find out how she answered the same questions!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Romance Writers Weekly: Unexpected Writing Paths

Do you like to read romance novels? Wouldn’t you like to know more about your favorite authors?

Well you came to the right place! Join the writers of Romance Weekly as we go behind the scenes of our books and tell all... About our writing of course!

Every week we’ll answer questions and after you’ve enjoyed the blog on this site we’ll direct you to another. So come back often for a thrilling ride!

I hope you joined me from Ronnie Allen's page, and big huge thanks for this week’s questions from JJ Devine!

Here we go!

1. You’re moving right along with a storyline and suddenly it takes an unexpected twist. Do you go with the flow and follow where the twist leads you or do you conform your story to your way?

Though I have become a detailed plotter over the last year, my stories still take their own lovely paths, and I'm happy to follow. As I write, the story continues to unfold in my head, like a train that I am always trying to catch up with. I view my plotting efforts, notes, research, etc. as the tracks that I'm following, but there are always bends and bridges ahead that I can't quite see when I start.

My second Whitechapel Wagers novella, Wanton Wager, took an unexpected turn early on when Lord Ashdowne, who I expected to be a minor character who would only appear in one chapter, turned out to be a menacing presence throughout much of the story.

2. What time of year is your best time for writing? Winter, Summer, Fall, Spring?

I am not sure I have a best time of the year for writing. I try to write everyday or every week at a bare minimum, so I need to be productive all year round. I've gotten to the point that I can write anywhere or anytime, since I need to meet deadlines and publication goals.

However, I certainly have favorite seasons or those that most inspire me. Fall is my favorite season. When I the calendar turned over to the fall season a couple of days ago, it gave me a little inner thrill and sense of relief. I knew cool breezes, gorgeous colors, and heavenly scents were on their way. I love fall leaves, plump pumpkins, apple pies, and all the beautiful sights and scents of fall. I also love the light during autumn. It seems to take on a bluer, almost grey hue, and I find it soothing after the bright rays of summer. 

3. When looking for a publisher do you chose a traditional press, indie route, or one that does both ebook and print?

My goal as an author is to be published in as many formats and via as many pathways as possible. I am currently indie published, but I will soon be submitting a manuscript to a traditional press and another to a smaller e-publisher. However, I will never stop publishing my own work, and I will always offer short stories free. I currently have a few free short stories online at Free Reads from the Genre-istas

It's an exciting time in publishing, and being the curious sort, I want to learn about and experience all the opportunities I can. I think it's worth considering every option.

Want to find out how Xio Axelrod answered these three questions? I do! Join me at her blog next.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

I was tagged by Paty Jager to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Be sure to stop by her blog to find out how she answered these questions! She posted on her blog last Wednesday and answered the four following questions and then I'll tag at least
one more author to post next Wednesday, September 24th.

Here are the questions:

​1. What are you working on now?

I am currently working on the next novella in my Whitehchapel Wagers series. This one's called Reckless Wager and features Kate Guthrie, the sister of my hero from the second novella, Wanton Wager. Like the other stories in the series, this one's set in Whitechapel in 1888, during the period of the Jack the Ripper murders. The story's hero, Detective Sergeant Benjamin Quinn is obsessed with catching the Ripper, even months after the murders seemed to have stopped late in 1888.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I think this particular series differs from others in the historical romance genre because of the setting. This series was conceived as being set in Whitechapel at a very specific time, and I knew some of the characters would be involved in the Ripper investigations. Though these aren't mysteries per se, the mystery of the unsolved Ripper crimes does provide—I hope—a tense and interesting background for the stories.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I write historical romance because I love historical romance. I have been reading historical romance for years, and there are few genres that are as near and dear to my heart. Perhaps it's because I love studying history, and the 19th century has always held a special fascination for me. 

4. How does your writing process work?

My process always starts with an idea that strikes me. I will often envision it like a scene from a movie. I'll see a character and know their core desire, their motivation, and sometimes their conflict. Then I start building their story. I am becoming more and more of a plotter as time goes on, as it truly helps me to be more productive when I sit down to write. So lately I have been filling out charts and spreadsheets and creating copious notes about my story before I actually begin writing. Once I start writing, things always change a bit, but I am happy to have a clear road map (my plotting notes) along the way.

Your next stop on the Writing Process blog hop should be Judith Ashley's blog. Judith writes wonderful women's fiction in her Sacred Women's Circle series. She'll post next Wednesday, September 24th, so be sure to stop by!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Romance Writers Weekly: Six Word Memoir

Do you like to read romance novels? Wouldn’t you like to know more about your favorite authors?

Well you came to the right place! Join the writers of Romance Weekly as we go behind the scenes of our books and tell all... About our writing of course!

Every week we’ll answer questions and after you’ve enjoyed the blog on this site we’ll direct you to another. So come back often for a thrilling ride!

I hope you joined me from Raine Balkera's page, and big huge thanks for this week’s questions from Beth Carter!

Here we go!

1.What’s your favorite aspect of novel writing? Dialogue? Setting? Conflict?Narration? Explain.

You know, I have always had a hard time deciding. Even when I'm choosing between two blouses or two different candle scents, etc., I struggle to chose. Believe me, this character trait drove my parents
and grandparents crazy when I was a kid!

My initial response to this question is that I love all aspects of novel writing, and it's completely true. However, if forced to choose, I'd have to say that developing my characters is the best part. My ideas for a story usually start with a character who comes into my mind as a living, breathing human being with a complicated history and a burning desire for something. In other words, they usually come to me with their motivation and conflict set. And the more I listen to them, the more they "tell" me. I complete character questionnaires and detail information about their childhood, preferences, dislikes, and beliefs that often don't even make it into their story. However, knowing my characters in depth makes them easier to write, and easier for me to fall in love with each and every one of them.

One little revelation about my writing inspiration is that often I will see an actor's performance in a movie or television show, and their looks or mannerism will spark a character idea for me. Recently I watched a British television series called Breathless on PBS, and was completely enamored with English actor Jack Davenport's performance. I'd seen him in other films, but something about his performance in Breathless sparked a story idea, a character, who I've been thinking about for days. I have to get the story idea written down or it will distract me so much I won't be able to work on my current work in progress. New characters are so persistent!

2.How do you choose the setting for your plot? Are they always similar settings or does it vary? (i.e., small town, big city, castle, etc.)

Setting usually comes when that character shows up in my head. He or she know exactly where they live, and, for most of my stories, that's in England. My current historical romance series, Whitechapel Wagers, is set in the East End of London in 1888. I have spent lots of time researching the history of the area and have a map of 19th century Whitechapel tacked to the wall next to my desk. Grounding myself in the geography of the setting I'm writing about is important to me, and I never mind devoting time to researching setting. One of my favorite aspects of writing historical romance is the notion of transporting readers (and myself!) to another time and place.

In future stories, my settings will vary. One of my current projects is a historical romance that is mostly set on an estate in Berkshire, England. Another future project is a historical mystery series set in Gilded Age Chicago. I love researching the 19th century, whether it be on the U.S. or British side of the pond.

3.I’m a big six-word memoir fan. (Hemingway even wrote one.) Describe your writing day using just six words.

Ugh! Six words? Seriously? Challenging!

Okay, here goes...

Amid quiet and coffee, characters meet writer.

I can't wait to see Ronnie Allen's six-word memoir. Follow me to her blog!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Romance Writers Weekly: Editing and Writing Process Questions

Do you like to read romance novels? Wouldn’t you like to know more about your favorite authors?

Well you came to the right place! Join the writers of Romance Weekly as we go behind the scenes of our books and tell all... About our writing of course!

Every week we’ll answer questions and after you’ve enjoyed the blog on this site we’ll direct you to another. So come back often for a thrilling ride!

Thanks for clicking on my link from the wonderful Jo Richardson's page, and big huge thanks for this week’s questions from Ronnie Allen.

Here we go!

1. When do you decide that you've done enough editing and changes would now be making
your story different, not better, and it's the time to submit?

My personal process is to write through a rough draft, set it aside for a short while, and then go back through and complete a first edit. Afterwards, I share my work with a beta reader and/or critique partners I trust. A second round of edits result from that feedback, and then I'll take a small break (even 24 hours works for me) and go through the story for another overall read. 

When I do this read I am looking for overall flow, that all plot elements are tied up, and that the story comes together as a whole.

More edits might be needed, depending on the manuscript, but it could also be the perfect time to submit.

2. When and how do you accept change advice by rejection letters and critique partners?

I like feedback after my own first initial edit, and I like various kinds of feedback. Some critique partners are very detailed and make comments on the manuscript via Microsoft Word's Track Changes features. 

Other feedback comes from beta readers who give overall feedback about how the story flowed, whether the characters were likable, and if there was enough tension to make them eager to turn the pages. I value both types of feedback. Actually, any feedback on my manuscript is valuable, even if I don't incorporate it. It's always helpful to allow me to see my work my objectively. I compile feedback and sort it out before diving into a second thorough edit on a manuscript.

3. When you're not writing, how do you spend your day or do you create your day around your writing?

I wish I could create my day around my writing! :) My dream is write full-time and work part-time. That's the goal I work toward, though right now I have a full-time job and carve out time for writing in the morning and evenings.

However, I do enjoy how I spend my day. I am a full-time cover designer and also do freelance editing for a couple of small publishers and independently published authors.  Most of the work I do is related to publishing, and I learn skills that I can apply to my own writing career. For instance, I created my own covers for my current Whitechapel Wagers historical romance series. 

I am blessed to have a job that has a positive impact on my writing career and goals. 

Now follow me over to J.J. Devine's blog to find out how she answered the same questions.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Romance Writers Weekly: Creativity Questions

Do you like to read romance novels? Wouldn’t you like to know more about your favorite authors?

Well you came to the right place! Join the writers of Romance Weekly as we go behind the scenes of our books and tell all... About our writing of course!

Every week we’ll answer questions and after you’ve enjoyed the blog on this site we’ll direct you to another. So come back often for a thrilling ride!

Thanks for clicking on my link from the wonderful Collette Cameron's page, and big huge thanks for this week’s questions from Fiona Ripley.

Here we go!

1.Does humor help or hinder you in your creative process?

I don't necessarily set out to write funny characters, but sometimes they just turn out that way. :) And humor as part of my life—being able to laugh at myself or a situation—is essential. I'm lucky to have married a man with a great sense of humor, and I consider laughter a necessary part of our daily life. 

Humor helps you unwind and release tension, so it's definitely useful during my creative process.

2.What is a favorite go-to book or movie you use to unblock a problem in your writing?

Penny Dreadful's Reeve Carney and Eva Green.
Hmm, this is a great question and there are probably too many films and shows to list. However, as a historical romance author, I'd have to say that watching costume drama gets me into a sense of the history and the setting and sometimes inspires me. Any Jane Austen novel adaptation will do. :)

With my current series, Whitechapel Wagers, watching anything set in London during the late 19th century is useful, so I love watching shows like Ripper Street and Penny Dreadful.

3.What’s the most inspiring book you’ve read this week or month that’s generated a new idea?

So this might sound odd, but I really love reading outside my genre for inspiration. Alternately, I love reading nonfiction history books about the period, though they usually aren't directly related to my current plot line.

For instance, I recently finished reading Thomas Harris's Red Dragon, which is about as far from historical romance as you can get. I loved his spare style of writing, and he inspired me with his ability to sketch a character quickly yet thoroughly by giving them idiosyncratic quirks. 

I'm also reading a nonfiction book called The Fasting Girl by Michelle Stacey about a young woman during the Victorian era who claimed to live for years without consuming any food. The book has given me insight into late 19th century history and women's roles during that era. 

Now follow me over to Leslie Hachtel's blog to see how she answered these questions. :)

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Inspiration: Sherlock's Watson and Wanton Wager

What inspires you?

I'm often asked what gave me the idea for a given story, and I love reading about what inspires other writers. Ideas can come from anywhere, but most stories have a nugget—something the author read, saw, experienced, or overheard. That nugget and the kernel of a story it inspired might linger in a writer's head for years before they get the story out. We all need a little inspiration on Mondays, so on some Mondays at Romancing the Victorians, we'll find out what inspired writers to tell the stories they do, and I'll share my inspiration for my published stories and works in progress.

My hero, William Selsby, in Wanton Wager is training to be a doctor when he enters the British Army and goes to fight in the Second Afghan War, from 1878 to 1880. Injured in that conflict, he returns to England to find his fiance has abandoned him for a much better catch and falls into years of painful recovery, haunting memories of battle, and a bit of self pity. It's only when he meets the heroine, Ada Hamilton, that his true "man of action" nature is revived. 

Brilliant illustrator Sidney Paget's Watson and Holmes.
When I wrote the character of William Selsby in Wanton Wager, I had another literary character in mind. He too was a veteran of the Afghan War and a medical man, and he was one half of one of the most famous crime-detecting duos in literature. In his own way, Dr. John Watson has become as beloved as his friend, Sherlock Holmes. After all, as the recorder and narrator of Sherlock's deeds, we're reliant as readers on his observations in order to follow along as Holmes untangles one mystery after another. 

The Battle of Maiwand - Second Anglo-Afghan War
Watson's war veteran back story has always fascinated me, as it gives insight into the history of the period. Great Britain was involved in several conflicts during the Victorian era. In fact, from the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign in 1837 until its end in 1901, British troops were engaged in almost constant combat, whether in Africa, Asia, or the Arabian peninsula (Farwell, 1). Most Britons viewed such military actions as the price of maintaining a vast empire and the success of Britain's military was a source of national pride. However, it also created a generation of war veterans, some of whom—like ficitional Dr. Watson and my hero, Will Selsby—returned from these foreign conflicts with physical and emotional scars. The question of how their experiences might have affected the rest of their lives, particularly against the backdrop of the complex and changing world of Victorian London, intrigues me.'

Martin Freeman as John Watson in Sherlock.
My favorite recent performances of Dr. Watson, by Martin Freeman in the BBC Sherlock series and Jude Law in the two Sherlock Holmes films of the last few years, capture the "man of action" aspect of Watson. At times, Watson may seem more interested in women or food than Sherlock, but he is at heart a man of action and is ready to defend and assist those he loves. Fiercely loyal, he is also dependable, honorable, and more patient and sympathetic to the faults of others than the brutally insightful Holmes.

Jude Law as Dr. John Watson.
I wanted my hero, William Selsby, to reflect the best aspects of a character such as Watson, a solider with a heart of gold. He's no bad boy with dark secrets, but he is man who will do the honorable thing if given half the chance. And though he's been hiding away from life and emotion for years, he is willing to embrace both when the opportunity presents itself, despite whatever challenges he may encounter along the way.

Wanton Wager is a sensual novella and is available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo for 99 cents.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Romance Writers Weekly: Quick Dinner for the Busy Writer

Do you like to read romance novels? Wouldn’t you like to know more about your favorite authors? Well, you came to the right place! Join the writers of Romance Weekly as we go behind the scenes of our books and tell all…… About our writing of course! Every Tuesday we’ll all answer the same questions and after you’ve enjoyed the blog on this site, we’ll direct you to another. So come back often for a thrilling ride. Tell your friends and feel free to ask us questions in the comment box.

This week is a little different. We're not answering questions but offering a quick recipe that helps us to keep the family happy and fed while allowing us to get back to our writing as soon as possible.

Maybe you've found your way to my blog today by linking from my friend and wonderful Regency romance author, Collette Carmeron. Welcome!

The recipe I'm sharing is one of my husband's favorites, and I'm thrilled every time he asks for it because I know it will taste good, provide some leftovers, and yet take me only a little bit of time in the kitchen. We've just refer to it unfussily as Mac and Meat.

Mac and Meat


  • About 1/2 box of elbow macaroni (you can substitute another pasta like rotini or ziti, if you like)
  • 1 jar of delicious pasta sauce (I love Paul Newman's Sockarooni, but a sweeter Marinara works well too)
  • 1 lb. of ground beef (ground turkey could work too)
  • 1 cup grated or shredded cheddar cheese (or more, depending on your preference)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (I've made it sans onion for those who are sensitive and it's just as tasty)
  • cooking spray, as needed
  • Salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning or basil to taste

1. Bring 2-4 quarts (depending on how much pasta you'll make) of water to a boil. I usually add a dash of olive oil to the water to prevent the pasta from sticking.

2. Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente (not too firm, not too soft). Set aside.

3. Add cooking spray to a heated skillet and then add ground beef and chopped onions.

4. Saute onions and beef until browned, adding salt, pepper, and/or Italian seasoning or basil to season the beef as it cooks.

5. Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare a casserole dish by spraying lightly with cooking spray.

6. Once your beef is browned and pasta is cooked, combine together and add your jar of pasta sauce to the mix, stirring to coat all pasta thoroughly.

7. Spread mixture into your greased casserole dish and sprinkle shredded cheese over the top.

8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until mac and meat is heated through and cheedar cheese is thoroughly melted.

I usually serve Mac and Meat with a bit of garlic bread or a small side salad (using pre-prepped salad mix, of course!).

Enjoy! And if you've tried the recipe or have a variation on it, be sure to let me know in the comments.

Now let's see what my fellow Romance Writers Weekly author J.J. Devine is cooking up today.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Victorian Nurses and Celebrating the Release of Wanton Wager!

My newest Whitechapel Wagers novella, Wanton Wager, is available now from most ebook retailers. Like my debut release, Scandalous Wager, this one is set in Whitechapel in 1888 during the time of the Jack the Ripper murders. None of Wanton Wager's characters are directly involved with the events, but the fear and anxiety related to the crimes touches their lives, especially when my heroine's sister goes missing.

The story features a probationary nurse, Ada Hamilton, who lives and works in Whitechapel above her family's pub, The Golden Bell. The eldest of three daughters, Ada takes her responsibility to her family as well as her nursing career seriously, to the point of accepting the hospital mandate that female nurses must remain unmarried for the duration of their employment. When Ada's sister goes missing, she becomes obsessed with finding her, even if it means tangling with a cruel and possibly dangerous nobleman.

My hero, William Selsby, is an aspiring medical man himself and was a captain in the British Army. He saw action at the Battle of Kandahar during the Second Afghan War and was wounded in that conflict. The pain of those wounds and the resulting betrayal by his fiance still haunt him eight years later. His connection to a debauched nobleman leads him to Ada Hamilton, a woman who overturns all of his expectations.

While researching the story, I learned a good deal about the nursing profession in Britain in the Victorian era. I also spent some time reading about the history of hospitals during the era. In fact, I used the London Hospital, now called the Royal London Hospital, as a model for Samaritan Hospital. I became interested in that particular hospital, still located in Whitechapel, after watching an excellent but short-lived BBC television series called London Hospital (but called Casualty 1900s when it aired in Britain), based in part on its history. The show gave me some notion of the challenges faced by nurses and doctors during the 19th century, yet it also highlighted the advances in terms of cleanliness, treatments, and technology.
Any study of nursing in Britain necessarily involves mention of Florence Nightingale. It is said that Nightingale laid the foundation for nursing as a profession, and she was undoubtedly responsible for advancing the cause of nursing, women in the workplace, and spreading medical knowledge during her lifetime. She founded a nursing school at St Thomas's Hospital in London and continually campaigned for sanitary conditions in medical environments. Known as the Lady with the Lamp, Nightingale was renowned for continuing to make her rounds, particularly when working with wounded soldiers in the Crimea, late into the night.

Another interesting nurse I encountered during my research was Edith Cavell. She trained at The London Hospital in 1896 when training and work for nurses was grueling, with work hours from 7am to 9pm and an annual salary of ten pounds. Edith stuck with it and the following year she was seconded with other nurses to assist during a typhoid epidemic in Maidstone. She received a medal for her efforts. Later she was recommended for private nursing and later worked in various infirmaries. In 1907 she was recruited to become matron of a Belgian nurse training school and eventually became a training nurse for multiple hospitals and schools. When World War I broke out in 1914 and the Germans occupied Brussels, Cavell began sheltering British soldiers and funneling them out of occupied Belgium. She was arrested in 1915 and charged with harboring Allied soldiers. The Germans executed her that same year.

Eva Luckes was Edith's matron at The London Hospital during her training. She of all women must have understood the challenge of nursing work, as she herself initially dropped out of training in 1876, finding the duties too strenuous. She went back, however, and tried again, completing her training in 1878. In 1880, at only 26, Luckes applied for and won the position of matron at The London Hospital, despite the concern by some committee members that she was too young and pretty. Though Luckes was not a Nightingale trained nurse, she did seek advice from the nursing pioneer and she set about instituting reforms at The London Hospital related to nurse training, hoping to educate and maintain a higher caliber of nurses.

These three women were among many who chose to commit themselves to a changing and almost unbelievably challenging profession during the Victorian era. The sacrifice of marriage and a family was one that hospitals required of nurses until the 20th century. Not only was this a personal sacrifice, but it also left older nurses without children or husbands to care for them in what we might consider retirement years. One bit of research I read mentioned a nurse who worked into her eighties, as she had no other means of support and no family to assist her.

To read about my probationary nurse heroine, Ada Hamilton, buy Wanton Wager for 99 cents at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Gumroad

Here's an excerpt! 

Will did not expect to find Miss Hamilton living above a taproom in Whitechapel. He directed the hansom driver to the address Ashdowne gave him and was surprised to be dropped at the doorstep of a rather noisy, ramshackle public house. He knew he looked a fool to all those who spared him a glance, dressed in his best clothes and bearing gifts for a lady. The barkeep turned out to be the least welcoming Will had ever met in his life. When Will asked for Miss Hamilton, the giant of a man turned an alarming shade of red before begrudgingly pointing to a dark stairwell near the bar.

Now, waiting in a modest yet homey room that looked to serve as the family’s living area, dining area, and makeshift kitchen, Will fought the urge to leave, to seek another hansom and return to his lonely, eventless life. To forget about this business of Ashdowne’s kept woman and the crime-ridden East End district where she lived. 

What would he say to her? What could he say? He had been sent by her lover to see if he might be her next? The whole business was dishonorable, and yet he could not resist the desire to at least meet her. To see the red-haired beauty who gave men comfort. A shiver ran down his spine at the thought, and his leg and arm began a slow burning ache. Perhaps they had already been aching. He had learned not to notice and usually ignored his body, trying to drone out sensation. But thoughts of Miss Hamilton brought nothing but sensation.

And then she walked into the room. 

Ashdowne had said her hair was red, but it was nothing like the tame amber shade of Emilia’s hair. Miss Hamilton’s hair was fiery, a most striking shade of true, rich red. It swept down over her shoulders in jumbled waves, and the sheen in her blue eyes and bee-stung plumpness of her full mouth suggested he’d woken her. 

He was a cad, an utter wretch for disturbing this woman and expecting anything at all from her. 


Could she not see clearly he was not Ashdowne? They might both be wanton wretches, but their outward appearance was not similar at all. Ashdowne was dark, with black hair and nearly black eyes. Will knew everything about his own looks was light, from his blonde-brown hair to his grey eyes. 

“No, Miss Hamilton. I’m sorry. As you can see, I am not Frederick. My name is William Selsby.” 

Disappointment was plain on the woman’s lovely face, and Will wished he’d taken that cab back to his lodgings on Moreton Terrace after all.

She rubbed her finger across the arch of her eyebrow and closed her eyes for the briefest of moments before speaking. “Forgive me, Mr. Selsby. I do not wish to be rude, but it is quite late, and I do not believe we are acquainted.”

“No.” How to begin? How to explain the reason he had burst into her life?

When he made no further reply, they stood and stared at each other for a moment. Will savored the opportunity to study her. He had never seen a young woman stand so stock straight and confident. No debutante he had ever met could manage such a feat. The diminutive woman before him would put many of his own soldiers to shame. 

But her stance and air of self-possession was a striking contrast to her delicate beauty—wide, full lips and strikingly beautiful blue-green eyes together with her small frame and lush curves made her seem more a manifestation from a fairy story than a flesh and blood woman he had roused from her bed in a cramped room in Whitechapel.

She let out a sigh. “Then why are you here, Mr. Selsby? What business could you have with me at this hour?”

She studied him then, skimming her gaze down his body in an assessing manner that made his skin burn beneath his evening wear. She focused her gaze on the items in his hands. Ashdowne had advised him to bring flowers and a small gift to encourage amity with Miss Hamilton.

“You come bearing gifts, sir. Who do you expect to woo?” 

Every irrational urge inside of him wanted to woo her, this petite woman with such exotic beauty and the backbone of a soldier. But the look in her eyes, the slight grimace on her face when she looked his way, told him she had no interest in furthering their acquaintance.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Victorian Women Wednesday: Isabella Beeton

Isabella Mary Mayson Beeton, known most famously as Mrs. Beeton, was the household management guru of the Victorian era. It's tempting to compare her to modern homemaking mavens like Martha Stewart, but Mrs. Beeton's life and experience were unique, her success unequaled at the time, and her legacy perhaps more indelible than any modern example.

Isabella was born in 1836 in Cheapside, London. She was the first of four children born to Benjamin and Elizabeth Mayson. Unfortunately, Benjamin died when Isabella was young and her mother remarried. Her step-father, Henry Dorling was a widower with four children of his own, and Elizabeth and Henry would go on to produce thirteen more children, making Isabella the oldest of twenty-one children. It's easy to imagine that she learned some of her homemaking and care-taking skills from her early experiences.

Isabella had a good education, including a period of study in Germany, where she became an accomplished pianist. When she returned to London, she met Samuel Orchart Beeton, a rich publisher of books and popular magazines, who had grown up on the same street she had in Cheapside. Their mothers had kept in touch over the years, so their connection is not surprising. In 1856, the couple married, though Isabella's step-father did not approve of the match and refused to attend their wedding.

A plate from the
Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine
Over the next few years, Isabella and Samuel experienced personal tragedy as they lost two children to illness soon after they were born and Isabella experienced several more miscarriages and stillbirths. However, they made a productive and successful publishing team. Isabella edited and wrote for his publications, and eventually completed her famous The Book of Household Management, which was originally part of a monthly supplement in Samuel's publication, "The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine"
but was collected into one volume in 1861.

Isabella's book was an encyclopedic guide to running a Victorian household, touching on issues related to servants, child care, taking care of livestock, all manner of foodstuffs, including hundreds of recipes, and even venturing out into science, religion, history, and advice about productivity. Of the 900 recipes in the collected volume, many were decorated with colored engravings, an innovation that we expect as a veritable necessity cookbooks today.

Sadly, Isabella died at the age 28, just one day after giving birth to her fourth child, a son named Mayson. Mayson followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a publisher and journalist. He was also an entrepreneur and set up a paper mill in Newfoundland, which eventually became a key supplier of newsprint to the Daily Mail during the war years.

Considering the wide ranging influence of her books and articles, and the amazing success of her Book of Household Management, one can't help but wonder what else she might have written and accomplished if she had lived longer. In the first year of its publication The Book of Household Management sold 60,000 copies. Within seven years, it had sold nearly 2 million copies. Astounding sales figures, even by today's standards.

Few Victorian women after the 1860's would have been unaware of Mrs. Beeton. Indeed, her name, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, became synonymous by 1890 as an authority on all things domestic and culinary. If you're interested, you can obtain a free e-copy of The Book of Household Management at Project Gutenberg.

Monday, February 17, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Hop

I was asked to take part in this blog hop by author, blogger, and book reviewer Jane Hunt. Her first book, The Dragon Legacy, is available now. I was lucky enough to be able to design the cover for her and Crimson Frost Books. 

Find out more about Jane at her blog: Jane Hunt - Writer
And be sure to pick up a copy of her sensual paranormal romance The Dragon Legacy.

You can see how Jane answered the questions about her writing process last week here:

So, here goes. Everything you ever wanted to know about my writing process but didn't know you wanted to know.

What Am I Working On At The Moment?

I'm currently working primarily on two stories. One is the start of a new series and is tentatively titled The Worth of a Kiss. The start of this novel won a contest last year and placed second in another. I plan to have it finished and polished by the end of February (despite being in the middle of packing for a cross country


This one features a debt-ridden book shop owner who will do anything to save her failing business, including accepting a "gift" of one hundred pounds to kiss a viscount in public. Her shocking actions might just be the thing to shake the cool, emotionless facade Lucien, Viscount Grimsby works so hard at keeping in place. 

I'm also working on the next title in my Whitechapel Wagers series, Dangerous Wager. I plan to have it finished, polished, and available to readers in March.

Both stories are set in Victorian London—my home away from home.

How Does My Work Differ From Others Of The Genre?

I like happy endings as much as the next romance reader and writer, but I also look for grit in each character and situation. You'll find that my heroines are never the perfect beauties, nor my heroes the perfect gentlemen. Though suspension of disbelief may be necessary to accept that every dilemma can be resolved in the space of a few pages, I love the dilemma as much as the romance. I fall in love with the characters in difficult, even impossible, circumstances. Those are the characters that I want to write all the way to their happy ending. Isn't a happy ending sweeter when you've struggled for it all the way?

I hope that my romances are different because they focus on the struggle as much as the romance.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

I write romance because I love reading romance. I don't seem capable of writing a story that doesn't include that attraction and passion and vulnerability of the romantic relationship. Frankly, I wouldn't want to. Even as a reader, I am always looking for the love. 

I set my stories in Britain and the Victorian era because I am a hopeless anglophile and love history, particularly 19th century history. I've always said that I would take a time machine (if anyone ever figures that whole time-space continuum thing out) straight back to 1880's London. Since I spend so much time reading about the era, it seems only natural to see my characters in that world. 

How Does Your Writing Process Work?

I wish I could say I get up at 5am, sit down, and write 2000 words before doing anything else. That's my goal, but life often intervenes. So the reality is that I grab writing time whenever I can. I have notepads with me all the time and scribble notes about characters, scenes, even character names, in it whenever an idea strikes. 

I find that setting deadlines for myself is key. I have a publication plan for the coming year, and I am on track so far. Yay! I've also learned, through trial and error, that I am a plotter with a bit of pants-ing thrown in as I write my first draft. As long as I have a road map of scenes written and thought out, I can sit down and get thousands of words out in a couple of hours. 

And now to the lovely writers I am inviting to the next stage of the My Writing Process Blog Hop:

Annabeth Albert
Annabeth's Website
Annabeth's Blog

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two toddlers.

Leanne Tyler

Leanne Tyler lives in the South and her writing reflects her heritage. Leanne writes sweet and sometimes sensual Southern romances whether historical or contemporary. She's a member of Romance Writers of America® and the founding member of Smoky Mountain Romance Writers. She is currently published by The Wild Rose Press.

I designed this cover for Leanne! 

Lexi Witcher

I designed this cover for Lexi!
Lexi's Website
Lexi's Blog

Lexi Witcher is a published author of young adult contemporary paranormal romances. She’s always enjoyed stories about falling in love for the first time and watching program geared toward teens like Pretty Little Liars,Ravenswood, Twisted, The Lying Game, Jane By Design, and Switched at Birth. This is her first young adult series