Friday, November 27, 2015

A History of London's Somerset House

© Cheryl Bolen
Though the Duke of Somerset was executed in 1552, the huge building still bearing his name sits in one of the most prime locations in all of London. The massive structure that was built around a quadrangle stretches from the River Thames to the Strand, adjacent to the present-day Waterloo Bridge. (See an aerial photo of Somerset House here

The courtyard at Somerset House
This is not the palatial house begun in 1549 by Edward Seymour, one of the brothers-in-law of Henry VIII. Upon Henry's death, Seymour became Lord Protector of the Realm under the reign of his young nephew, Edward VI, proclaimed himself the Duke of Somerset, and set about to build one of the finest mansions in London. Two years later he was interred, and he was beheaded in 1552.

The structure (far too large to be thought of as a house) that currently sits on the site of Somerset House was designed by William Chambers in 1776 and was extended ever further in the mid 1800s. During the Regency, a large portion of the building housed the Admiralty. An elaborate stairway within the building still is referred to as the Nelson Staircase.

For much of the 20th century, Britain's Inland Revenue was housed there. A variety of artistic societies have inhabited Somerset House over the past century, and it has also housed King's College and part of the University of London.

The quadrangle belongs to the people. During winter, it's an ice skating rink. In summer, fountains cool off hundreds. Many concerts and entertainment venues are also held in the quadrangle. Throngs of Londoners who've never heard of the beheaded Duke of Somerset still enjoy the "house" that he envisioned almost five centuries earlier. – Cheryl Bolen, whose latest installment in her lighthearted, romantic Regent Mysteries, An Egyptian Affair, releases Dec. 15.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The two wives of George IV

©By Cheryl Bolen

Before England's King George IV became prince regent (a title more identifiable with him than his eventual monarchy) at age 48 in 1811, he had taken two wives--and neither of the marriages were ever dissolved and neither woman ever truly shared his reign.

How can he have legally had two wives? He didn't. One of his wives was illegal. As a young man of 21, he fell madly in love with Maria Fitzherbert, a wealthy and beautiful widow six years his senior. The fact that she was a Catholic was not the only obstacle in their path of matrimonial harmony. There was also the Royal Marriage Act prohibiting any member of the royal family from marrying without the king's permission. As an act of Parliament, the Royal Marriage Act superseded any law of church; to violate it would be a crime.

 Maria Fitzherbert, the Prince Regent (later George IV)

For over a year the Prince of Wales courted Mrs. Fitzherbert and even resorted to a botched suicide attempt to gain her hand. Eventually she relented, and in 1785 they were secretly wed by an Anglican minister and fancied themselves married. But cognizant of the criminal act they had committed, the two never publicly acknowledged the marriage, nor did they ever live in the same residence. The prince was willing to let his brother Freddie (the Duke of York) sire children who would be heirs to the throne, and he planned to do away with the Royal Marriage Act when he became king. (Freddie, by the way, never had any children.)

Troubles precipitated by Mrs. Fitzherbert's hot temper, the prince's wandering eye, and--most of all--his vast debts sent the marriage into the skids less than a decade later. Prinny had decided to take Brunswick's Princess Caroline for his wife, an action that would increase his annual income and clear his exorbitant debts.

Caroline of Brunswick, later Princess Caroline

Though he had never met Caroline, a first cousin, the prince married her in 1795. He took such an instant dislike to her slovenly appearance he had to get himself excessively drunk in order to beget a child on her (Princess Charlotte, who died in childbirth in 1817). With that duty dispatched, he turned his back on his true wife, and they lived apart for the remainder of their lives.

Five years after his "legal" marriage, the prince persuaded Mrs. Fitzherbert to return to him. They stayed affectionate for almost a decade, parting ways because of his infidelity the year before he became regent.

Caroline died shortly after his coronation as King George IV, but he never remarried, and when he died ten years later in 1830 he wore about his neck a miniature portrait of Mrs. Fitzherbert.Cheryl Bolen's newest release is the first in the Brazen Brides series, Counterfeit Countess. Fans of her Regent Mysteries can preorder the newest installment, An Egyptian Affair, only on iBooks.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Herbs in Medieval Medicine

by Regan Walker

While doing the research for Rogue Knight, my new medieval set in 11th century England, I learned a lot about the herbs they grew in gardens or were found in the wild. They were, after all, the only medicine they had. So they used herbs and plants, individually or together, in infusions, teas, salves and other forms to treat their various illnesses and maladies.

Long before the Normans came to England, the Anglo-Saxons used herbs and plants of all kinds in remedies for things like headaches, fever, stomach ailments, pain and respiratory illnesses. Winter was especially hard on medieval society, as cold, drafty dwellings led to numerous cases of deadly pneumonia.

The earliest surviving texts that speak of herbal remedies in Old English are from the 9th century, but there is evidence that older texts were not all in Latin. Bald’s Leechbook and Lacnunga are among the most complete texts.

The Leechbook is an Anglo-Saxon medical manual made up of three books (labeled I, II and III), probably compiled in the early tenth century. It contains some of the best Mediterranean medicine from the third to the ninth centuries, so apparently they shared information. While some of the herbs mentioned in the texts were only available around the Mediterranean, some were traded from distant areas, such as frankincense, pepper, silk, ginger and myrrh.

The Lacnunga, a tenth century herbal, praises nine sacred herbs of the Nordic god Woden: mugwort, plantain, watercress, betony, chamomile, nettle, chervil, fennel and crab apple. (Thyme occurs in other lists of the “nine sacred herbs”.)

With the Norman Conquest, many Anglo-Saxon texts were destroyed and replaced with books written in Latin. Greek and Roman writings on medicine were preserved by hand copying of manuscripts in monasteries.

The monasteries thus tended to become local centers of medical knowledge, and their herb gardens provided the raw materials for simple treatment of common disorders. At the same time, folk medicine practiced in the home as well as the village supported numerous wandering and settled herbalists.

Some herbs and their uses:

Lemon Balm: Used in a drink as an aid against melancholy.

Borage: It was associated with courage: "I, Borage, Bring Courage."

Chickweed: Used to treat constipation, upset stomach and to promote digestion, also used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems such as colds. It can be used on wounds as well.
Horehound: syrups and drinks for chest and head colds and coughs.

Lemon Balm: Used in a drink as an aid against melancholy.

Borage: It was associated with courage: "I, Borage, Bring Courage."

Chickweed: Used to treat constipation, upset stomach and to promote digestion, also used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems such as colds. It can be used on wounds as well.
Horehound: syrups and drinks for chest and head colds and coughs.

Marjoram: Used in cooking, in spiced wine, in brewing beer and in medicines to treat the stomach. 

Mint: Mint vinegar was used as a mouthwash; mint sauce restored the appetite. Also used for stomach ailments, in treating fevers and wounds.

Mugwort: A charm for travellers and used in foot ointments; also used in treating women's ailments.

Nettles: Eating nettles mixed with the white of an egg cured insomnia. And nettles were used in salves. Bald’s Leechbook contains a recipe for a nettle-based ointment for muscular pain.

Rosemary. The flowers, boiled in tea, were an all-purpose medicine. Putting the leaves under your pillow supposedly guarded against nightmares. The ashes of the wood were used for cleaning teeth. Brides and grooms exchanged rosemary wreaths instead of rings; rosemary was also planted or strewn on graves. Rosemary was burned as an incense to kill or prevent infection, including the plague.

Rue: a sour-smelling perennial called “the herb of grace” because it was used as a holy water sprinkler. Also used to treat venomous bites, and poor eyesight.

Sage: The leaves were used in salads and green sauces and as a spring tonic.

St. John’s Wort: Most effective for curing fever if found by accident, especially on Midsummer's Eve.

Thyme. In addition to its use as a seasoning, it was burned as a fumigate against infection. Supposedly ladies embroidered a thyme sprig in flower, along with a bee, on favors for their favorite knights.

Yarrow: Used to treat headaches and wounds, especially battle wounds, and the bite of mad dogs. The wound treatment caused it to be associated with knights.

Willow bark: Willow bark and slippery elm, boiled, were used as a tea (sometimes with honey to make it more palatable) for fever and aches.

Some of the Flowers:

While not herbs, these flowers were used to treat ills, and the medieval folks also ate flowers.

Calendula, also marygolde or Mary’s Gold: Flower petals were used in broths and tonics, and in treatments to strengthen the heart. And they made nice garden borders and keep away pests.

Chamomile: Used for headaches. Helps to settle the stomach and soothe the nerves, which may be why it was used in fevers.

Lavender. Used in food, and in refreshing washes for headaches. It was also used extensively in soaps and baths, as a personal scent and as a moth repellent.

Linden: In tea, used for insomnia disorders and anxiety. Also used for stomach disorders and diarrhea.

Roses: there were wild roses, of course. Their petals and the distilled water made from them were widely used in food as well as for scent, and added to medical preparations to strengthen the patient generally and to bronchial infections, colds, diarrhea and anxiety.

Do you have a favorite herb you use today to treat some ailment? Comment for a chance to win book 1 in my medieval series, The Red Wolf’s Prize. And don’t forget to check out my newest medieval: Rogue Knight
York, England 1069… three years after the Norman Conquest

The North of England seethes with discontent under the heavy hand of William the Conqueror, who unleashes his fury on the rebels who dare to defy him. Amid the ensuing devastation, love blooms in the heart of a gallant Norman knight for a Yorkshire widow.


Angry at the cruelty she has witnessed at the Normans’ hands, Emma of York is torn between her loyalty to her noble Danish father, a leader of the rebels, and her growing passion for an honorable French knight.

Loyal to King William, Sir Geoffroi de Tournai has no idea Emma hides a secret that could mean death for him and his fellow knights.


War erupts, tearing asunder the tentative love growing between them, leaving each the enemy of the other. Will Sir Geoffroi, convinced Emma has betrayed him, defy his king to save her?

Excerpt… the first meeting of Sir Geoffroi and Emma of York… a bit ominous, perhaps, but remember, it led to love.

Dear God.
She crossed herself and covered her mouth, fighting the urge to spew at the sight of so much blood and so many bodies strewn about the clearing, blood congealed on their clothing, their vacant eyes staring into space. Some of the blood had pooled on the ground to catch the rays of the sun. The metallic scent of it, carried by the wind, rose in her nostrils.
At her side, the hound whimpered.
So many.
Until the Normans had come, Yorkshire had been a place of gentle hills, forests and thatched cottages circling a glistening jewel of a city set between two winding rivers. A place of children’s voices at play, some of those voices now silenced forever, for among the bodies lying on the cold ground were mere boys, their corpses cast aside like broken playthings.
At the sound of heavy footfalls on the snow-crusted ground, she jerked her head around, her heart pounding in her chest.
A figure emerged from the trees, so close she could have touched him.
She cringed. A Norman.
A tall giant of a knight, his blood-splattered mail a dull gray in the weak winter sun, ripped off his silvered helm and expelled an oath as he surveyed the dozens of dead. The sword in his hand still dripped the blood of those he had slain. He was no youth this one, at least thirty. His fair appearance made her think of Lucifer, the fallen angel of light. A seasoned warrior of death who has taken many lives.
Had he killed people she knew? Her heart raced as fear rose in her chest.
Would she be next?

Links for Rogue Knight:

Regan Walker - Author Bio

Regan Walker is a #1 bestselling, multi-published author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romance. She has been a featured author on USA TODAY's HEA blog three times and twice nominated for the prestigious RONE award (her novel, The Red Wolf's Prize is a finalist for 2015). Regan Walker writes historically authentic novels with real history and real historic figures. She wants her readers to experience history, adventure and love.
Her work as a lawyer in private practice and then serving at high levels of government have given her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown”. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.”
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, who she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Regency Household Hints & Cookbooks

     Today we buy our cleaning goods and our remedies in ready-made bottles and cans and boxes. Prior to the era of mass manufacturing, which started after the Regency, all these items were manufactured in the household. This stands out at once in the household books from the late 1700's and early 1800's.
     The variety of 'tips' is astonishing, covering everything from cookery for the sick, to making pomades, to how to blacken fire grates and clean marble, to how to keep the rot off sheep.  ("Keep them in pens till the dew is off the grass," advises Mrs. Rundell in her book, Domestic Cookery.)

     Some directions are quite straightforward. To keep a door from squeaking, "Rub a bit of soap on the hinges." Other directions can list either products not readily available today, such as the orris-root and storax listed in a recipe for pot pourri, or the spermaceti to be used to make ointment for chapped lips. Also, amounts are often inexact. For chapped lip, "twopenny-worth of alkanet-root" is also required--probably a small amount, unless alkanet-room came very, very cheep.
     Amounts are often listed as handfuls, as in the rue, sage, mint, rosemary, wormwood and lavender for a "recipt against the plague" given by Hanna Glasse in The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy. She also offers not one, but two certain cures for the "bite of a mad dog, one of which is both given to the "man or beast" bitten as well as recommending to be bound into the wound.
     Within the household, items would be made for beauty as well as practicality. Recipes are given for Hungary Water (early cologne), which took a month to actually make. There is also Lavender Water, a recipe to prevent hair from falling out and thicken it which includes using honey and rosemary tops, a paste for chapped hands, and pomades for the hair.
     The time spent on these recipes could be considerable. To make black ink with rain water, bruised blue galls, brandy and a few other items meant stirring the concoction every day for three weeks.  Other recipes, such as Shank Jelly for an invalid, requires lamb to be left salted for four hours, then brushed with herbs and then simmered for five hours. Time passed differently in the Regency era.
     Sick cookery is an item of importance, from recipes for heart burn to how to make "Dr. Ratcliff's restorative Pork Jelly." Coffee milk is recommended for invalids as is asses' milk, milk porridge, saloop (water, wine, lemon-peel and sugar), chocolate, barley water, and baked soup.
     An interesting distinction is made in that recipes pertaining to personal appearance and sick-cookery address the reader--and owner of the book. However, recipes for household cleaning and those not related to a person--such as how to mend china--are listed under "Directions to Servants." This shows clearly the distinction that the mistress of the house also acted as mistress of the still room, tending to the really important matters, and leaving the heavy work to her staff. Which kind of makes you long for those days--and the budget to have a staff.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Carriage Accidents Cliche?

Throughout most of history, travelling, especially long distance, was a dangerous undertaking. Some of the many dangers a traveler in Regency England faced included highwaymen attacks, most of which only resulted in loss of valuables but often injury and death as well. To offset this risk, the wealthy generally had armed outriders who rode horseback in front and behind the carriage to guard and protect them but not everyone could afford that and sometimes highway men attacked in alarming numbers.

Travelers also faced broken down carriages which caused delays and inconveniences and injuries, especially if their coach traveled at high speeds at the time of the malfunction. In addition, weather accounted for difficulty and danger. There are accounts of passengers riding on the top of a mail coach arriving frozen to death. But by far the most dangerous part of travel came from carriage accidents.

Now, don't roll your eyes. I've heard readers complain that it's too easy to kill off a character by arranging a convenient carriage accident so that they have become cliché. However, as cliché as it may seem, carriage accidents were every bit as common as car accidents are today. And since I've been in seven car accidents, either as a passenger or as a driver, ranging from minor fender benders to car-totaling collisions, and several people I love have suffered life-threatening injuries as a result of car accidents, I'm painfully aware how frequently that happens.
Just as there are many reasons for car accidents today, carriage accidents could be caused by any number of difficulties. Traveling at high speeds increased the likelihood of a major wipe out. (No, that’s not a Regency term J High-perched carriages such as the High-flyer phaeton were top heavy and easily overturned, especially in the hands of an unskilled driver. But carriages in general were subject to all kinds of problems and breakdowns. Maintenance was up to the coachman, but if he wasn’t especially diligent, there were any number of parts to a carriage that could break and cause accidents.

Roads were another cause of difficulty. They were poorly maintained, often muddy, rutted, narrow and windy. They were also snowy or icy. Toll roads usually fared better, but not always. Also, the horses themselves could throw a shoe or stumble over a rut or uneven ground which posed a threat to the carriage.

Other drivers were some of the greatest perils on the roads. There were no speed limits, and no driver’s licenses, and driving while intoxicated wasn’t policed. Drunk drivers or young dare devils careening around bends caused an alarming number of accidents. And since there were no seat belts or crash safety engineering, passengers could be thrown around or crushed or ejected.

It paints a terrifying picture, doesn’t it? The next time you read a book where the heroine’s parents died in a carriage accident, remember that they were an alarmingly common and therefore very realistic form of premature death. Instead of rolling your eyes and uttering the dreaded C word, nod sagely and applaud the author’s realism.

Friday, September 25, 2015

How to Learn What Regency Gentlemen Knew

©By Cheryl Bolen

It is difficult for those of us in the twenty-first century to possess the knowledge our Georgian heroes possessed. As members of the aristocracy, they had studied with private tutors since the age of four or five. They were fluent in Latin and most could read Greek. They knew the ancient scholars as well as contemporary boys know baseball and football. Regency-era gentlemen spoke French as well as they spoke their native tongue. Most of them had undertaken the Grand Tour throughout Europe, and many had ventured as far away as Turkey, India, or Egypt.

Few of us today connect with the ancient Greeks and Romans as did those in Georgian England.

But it is now possible to — without laboring for years over Greek and Roman classics — to gain a cursory understanding of the knowledge our heroes possessed. For there is a succinct “cheat sheet” readily available on the internet.
Cheryl Bolen's two different editions of Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son, one of them an 1821 edition.

This cheat sheet (actually about 90 pages) is an appendix of Lord Chesterfield’s Letters to Son, which has been digitalized by Google. The entire collection of the peer’s letters, edited by Oliver H. Leigh in 1901, is on Google. (This author prefers to track down the old books. She has two of Chesterfield's letters and has read them cover to cover.)

The letters to Lord Chesterfield’s illegitimate son and only offspring were published upon his lordship’s 1773 death and were widely read.

To compensate for the disadvantages of the boy’s birth, the father attempted to give the boy every advantage he could in education and spent years writing long epistles to the poor lad, instructing him in every phase of deportment.

What is especially useful to those of us who write about the era is the information contained in the last section of the work, the appendix, “Juvenile Section.”

These letters covered the decade ending when the boy was fourteen. In them, Lord Chesterfield provides instruction from which most of us can profit.

The Trojan Wars — which raged for ten years and which are treated in millions of words elsewhere — are encapsulated into a couple of pages by Lord Chesterfield’s ability to simplify into descriptions readily comprehensible to a young boy.                                                                      

Likewise, Lord Chesterfield explains the founding of Rome and the chronology of its early rulers. He does the same for the history of England, giving a brief paragraph to each English ruler, as well as to the island’s earliest inhabitants. For example, “The Romans quitted Briton of themselves; and then the Scotch, who went by the name of the Picts (from pingere to paint), because they painted their skins...”

The juvenile letters also list the twelve provinces of France and briefly tell what the capital city is of each and what the province is noted for. He similarly describes Asia, Germany, and many other geographical regions so that the modern reader (us) will have the same knowledge of 18th century geography that our heroes and heroines would have had, ie., “Indostan, or the country of the Great Mogul, is a most extensive, fruitful, and rich country. The two chief towns are Agra and Delhi; and the two great rivers are the Indus and the Ganges. This country, as well as Persia, produces great quantities of silks and cotton; we trade with it very much, and our East India company has a great settlement at Fort St. George.”

Here is another example: “The Lord Mayor is the head of the city of London, and there is a new Lord Mayor chosen every year; the city is governed by the Lord Mayor, the Court of Alderman, and the Common Council. There are six-and-twenty Alderman, who are the most considerable tradesmen of the city. The Common Council is very numerous and consists likewise of tradesmen...The Lord Mayor is chosen every year out of the Court of Aldermen. There are but two lord mayors in England; one for the city of London, and the other for the city of York. The mayors of other towns are only called mayors.”

Lord Chesterfield stresses that such knowledge as he is imparting to his son cannot be found in books, nor can it be studied in school. Because of his book of letters (never intended for publication), now we can profit from his vast knowledge.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dukes and Duchesses

Sir Thomas Lawrence, Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

Next to the royal family, the most distinguished and highest ranking title in England is the Duke. They are usually in possession of great wealth and power, owning vast amounts of lands, tenants, and other properties. However, the title itself is fairly recent in England’s history.
Originally from the French word Duc, the duke was first used only as a title of power and responsibility for the sons of the king. Being a mere prince suggested he was something of a wastrel who had no responsibility or power. A duke, or royal duke, meant the king trusted this son to rule on a more local level and enjoyed a higher level independence.

During the Medieval, earls and barons owned and managed their land in a feudal system. They were knights who answered the call to aid the king in war. But unlike other mere knights, these lords had vast lands and responsibilities. They provided the land that the tenants or serfs farmed, and they collected rent. They offered (ideally) protection in times of need to the serfs who fled to safety of the castle walls when enemies attacked. Local sheriffs had the charge of keeping law and order but sometimes the ruling lord took on that duty as well.

During Medieval England, earls and barons were the highest ranking lords--behind the royal dukes, of course. Later the monarchy created other titles which included marquis (a word that by Regency had the odd pronunciation of mar-kwiss). The spelling of marquis eventually changed to marquess to sound more English but for many years, both spellings were considered correct. Marquess ranked just below duke and above earl. Another newly added title was that of viscount (vi-count) which ranked below earl and above baron.
According to Debrett’s, the first British subject to receive the rank of duke who was not a member of the royal family, nor one nearly related, was Sir William de la Pole, Marquess of Suffolk, who was made Duke of Suffolk in the fifteenth century. I am mystified as to why his name was Sir William, suggesting he bore the rank of knight, when he was, in fact, a marquess, a much higher rank. According to my research, he would have been called Lord William in that era which signified he was more than a mere knight. But I digress. Anyway, the title of duke was originally awarded only for exemplary loyalty and valor to the crown, so no more than 40 dukes ever existed, the last being created during Queen Victoria’s reign. The first time that happened under her rule was when the earl of Fife Married the eldest daughter of the Prince of Wales in 1889; the second when no male heir was born to that line, the title jumped to the male heir of Fife’s daughter—not a common practice.

When a peer failed to have a son, the practice of a title going to a female heir’s husband or son occurred anciently, but by the Regency, the title either went to the closest, eldest male relative, or it reverted to the crown. At that point, it either went extinct or (in theory but not usually in practice) the monarch had the power to bestow it upon someone else.

Therefore, the need for a male heir was of supreme importance. Many wives of peers, and even wives of untitled landowners, often gave their lives in the attempt to produce a son to guarantee continuation of the line and succession of a direct descendant. If you are familiar with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, you will remember Mr. Bennett’s wife and daughters’ anxiety over the land and house all going to a distant cousin, and what that would mean to the family.
Princess Charlotte of Wales and_Duchess Caroline of Brunswick by Thomas Lawrence
Princess Charlotte of Wales and_Duchess Caroline of Brunswick by Thomas Lawrence

A duchess’s primary role was to bear at least one son, an “heir and a spare” as was the common phrase. In addition, she, at the top of the social ladder next to the royal family, had other demands. Just as we today idolize and follow celebrities, professional athletes, and the very rich and powerful who often find themselves in the news, the British adored and scrutinized the aristocracy and nobility, and even the gentry. Let’s face it, they were the beautiful people. They set the standards for dress and behavior and everyone wanted to emulate them. The Prince of Wales, the Regent who later became King George IV, was notorious for hedonistic ways which paved the way for the party lifestyle for his subjects, many of whom followed his lead. “Prinny’s” friend, Beau Brummell’ revolutionized men’s clothing as everyone hurried to adopt style of the prince’s favorite.

As a duchess is so high in rank, she, too, was constantly in the limelight either for good or ill, whether or not she wanted to be. A duchess, or any wife of a peer, was expected to throw lavish balls, dinner parties, house parties as well as support charitable organizations and sponsor musicians. And heaven help her if she wore the same gown in public or failed to have the best, most tasteful gowns, shoes, jewels, gloves, hats! Demands on her time, appearance, and favor probably led to a great deal of stress as she strove to uphold the ideal. The higher the rank, the higher the expectations, and the more subject she was to criticism from the bitter and jealous.

During that era, as today, public opinion delighted at faulting the very people the idolized. If a person of great importance slipped up, tabloids and social columns in the newspapers, as well as word-of-mouth gossips delighted in spreading the titillating news.

I can only imagine the pressure.

It is this standard of excellence, and all the burdens that go with it, that creates one of the stumbling blocks for my heroine to overcome in “Unmasking the Duke” part of Autumn Masquerade, the newest Timeless Romance Anthology, Regency Collection. This is one of three Regency romances included in this anthology.

Autumn Masquerade ebookHere are the first few pages from "Unmasking the Duke" in Autumn Masquerade:

Birthdays were overrated. People really ought to stop celebrating them after the age of sixteen. Snuggled into the featherbed of her sister’s country estate, Hannah Palmer toyed with a croissant. This evening she might very well die of humiliation. Or worse, embarrass her sister and brother-in-law, the Earl and Countess of Tarrington.
Alicia practically bounced into the room. “Happy birthday, Sis!”
Hannah smiled wryly. “I think you’re happier about it than I am.”
At odds with her rank as a countess, Alicia grinned and climbed into bed with Hannah, holding her tightly. “I am happy about it. How often does a girl get to wish her favorite sister happy eighteenth birthday?”
Hannah gave her a wry smile. “I’m so relieved to learn I’m your favorite, since I have no competition.”
Alicia laughed. “It would be sad if I claimed another for that auspicious honor.” She wound a strand of Hannah’s blond hair around her finger.
“You’re more energetic than usual today.”
“Little Nicholas actually slept all night long.” A maternal tenderness crept into Alicia’s expression as it always did when she spoke of her infant son.
When the time came—if it came—Hannah planned to keep her baby in her room, rather than follow the convention of letting a nursemaid care for her child during the night hours. She vowed to be the devoted, loving mother her sister had already proved to be. Of course, she might never realize the sweet dream of motherhood.
Alicia twisted around in bed and fixed her amber gaze on Hannah. “And I’m so happy that you’re finally letting me throw a ball in your honor.”
Hannah winced. “Yes, I just love big parties filled with rooms of people I don’t know.”
“I know how you feel about it, dearest,” Alicia said soothingly. “But this will be a good practice for you before you go to London next Season. When I’m finished with you, society will toast you as the New Incomparable.”
“I’ll be a clumsy, tongue-tied idiot, just like always.”
“You’re only clumsy when you’re nervous. More practice at social events will help you not be nervous.”
Not be nervous in public? Hardly likely.
Alicia tapped her on the nose. “You are a beautiful and accomplished daughter of a respected gentleman, and the sister of a countess. No need to fear.”
“I hear blonds aren’t fashionable at present.”
“The only ones who say blond hair isn’t in fashion are those who are jealous. Just keep your head high and smile as if you know an embarrassing secret about everyone.”
Hannah stared into the flames writhing in the hearth. “It’s not that simple.”
“It is that simple.” Alicia squeezed her. “If you say next to nothing, everyone will think you are mysterious and will be all the more fascinated with you. Besides, you’ll wear a mask tonight. Surely anonymity will lend you courage.”
“I hope you’re right.”
Spending the evening alone with Alicia and her charming husband, Cole, would be preferable to a room full of strangers. But perhaps Alicia was right; a costume mask might help Hannah find some courage buried deep inside.
Hannah put a large spoonful of lumpy brown sugar into her chocolate, followed by a dash of cream. While Alicia rhapsodized about the ball, Hannah stirred absently before wrapping her hands around the china to warm her fingers.
Alicia ended on a sigh. “Maybe you’ll meet him tonight.”
“Him?” Hannah sipped the chocolate and snuggled into her pillows to drink the hot liquid turned decadent by the addition of the sugar and cream. Why most people chose to drink chocolate in its bitter form remained a mystery.
“Him,” Alicia repeated. “The man of your dreams. Your future husband.”
Hannah said dryly enough to be impertinent had she been speaking to a lady of rank who was not her sister, “Yes, meeting him at a ball would be convenient. I am persuaded that one must have a bit of cliché in one’s life to obtain a measure of happiness.”

Hannah is younger sister of Alicia Palmer in The Stranger She Married. I thought she needed her own story, too.

My special thanks to Joyce Dipastena, author of sweet Medieval romances, for helping me with some of the early history of Dukes.
You can read more about dukes and duchesses at: