Happy Valentine’s Day

For a romance novelist, Valentine’s Day is a special day. To make it extra special this year, I’ve teamed up with twelve fabulous historical romance authors in a Valentine’s Day Scavenger Hunt and Giveaway on our group website www.lovehistoricals.com.

All day, we’ll be posting articles particularly appropriate today – memories, recipes, romantic scenes from our novels, etc. Check in often, and be sure to enter the fantastic Rafflecopter giveaway.


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The Valentine Controversy (and a giveaway) with Sydney Jane Baily

author_en_crop2Did you know there was a controversy around the origins of Valentine’s Day cards in the US? No? Well, you’re in luck. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome a new friend and fellow historical author, Sydney Jane Baily, to my blog. She has the scoop.

Welcome Sydney. The blog is yours. Take it away.

Good morning on this 43rd day of the Georgian calendar—a day that will live in infamy, February 12, the day that Lady Jane Grey was beheaded nine days after taking the throne in 1554. Not marked in red on your calendar? No, perhaps not. We are so close to Valentine’s Day, let’s talk about a Valentine controversy instead, a dispute from a much more recent century over which no one lost their pretty heads, only their hearts: Who created the first American valentine?

However, first the niceties. How rude of me not to introduce myself! My name is Sydney Jane Baily, and I write Americana historical romance. As you can tell, I love to do research. I have a B.A. in English literature and in history, and an M.A. in English literature with a concentration in Romanticism. (That’s the Shelley, Keats, Byron-type of romanticism, not the bodice-ripper type.) I live in New England and have worked in publishing for a couple decades on the other side of the desk as an editor. I’ve recently fulfilled my writing dreams (October of 2012). My latest release is a boxed set of the first three books in my 1880s Sanborn-Malloy series, set in fictional Spring City, Colorado, as well as Boston, San Francisco, and a few points in between.

Thank you, Margery, for having me guest on your blog. Let’s pour some tea. Delicious! Yes, I’ll have a shortbread cookie. Mm. Now I’m ready to dive in to our Valentine controversy.

In the middle of the 19th century, two people started creating Valentine cards in America, and both, as it turns out, were in the historic state of Massachusetts: Esther A. Howland and Jotham W. Taft. Both claimed the first Valentines. It seems that young Jotham went on a buying trip to Europe and ended up in Germany. There, he saw and admired Valentine cards, which were already popular all over Europe. He brought back the necessary essentials to make cards in America: pieces of lace, tiny paper birds, small pressed flowers. Despite a disapproving Quaker mother, he started making Valentine cards in his home, and by 1844 had a factory in North Grafton, MA.

Esther Howland lived in Worcester, MA, and her father owned a stationery store, so she certainly had the supplies. However, she was still quite young and in Mount Holyoke college in 1847, though she may have already started making cards. One of her father’s associates gave her a European Valentine though we have no knowledge whether that gentleman became the love of her life. In any case, she copied the idea and sold cards in her father’s store. She, too, moved her operation into a factory, and rumor says she developed a $100,000 business.

Both her cards and Taft’s are in museums, but the weight of evidence goes to Mr. Taft as the earlier creator of the Valentine card in America. Huzzahs for Mr. Taft!

Boxed Set blurb:

sanbornmalloyboxedset2This boxed set contains Book One: An Improper Situation, Book Two: An Irresistible Temptation, and Book Three: An Inescapable Attraction in my Sanborn-Malloy Series of historical romances set in 1880s America. Currently, it’s available exclusively at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Boxed-Set-Sanborn-Malloy-Historical-Romance-ebook/dp/B00HL446BC/) and is in digital format only.

If you like Americana romance that takes you from the rugged terrain of Colorado to the civilized, old world city of Boston and the burgeoning city of San Francisco with its wild Barbary Coast, then you will enjoy these stories. Not exactly trains, planes, and automobiles, but steam trains, loyal steeds, and a variety of carriages transport my characters hither and yon as they battle evil men, encounter scheming, jealous women and packs of wolves, run for their lives from flying bullets and runaway carriages, and save each other with selfless disregard for their own safety. Through it all, the heroes and heroines of these stories love each other with a fiercely bold and enduring passion.

Excerpt from Book One of the Boxed Set: An Improper Situation

“I am a ninny,” Charlotte muttered to herself, turning around and heading past Boston’s oldest burial ground where the rich and famous enjoyed their eternal slumber. With her head down, feeling as though she wanted to turn off her brain for just a little while, she had barely gone five steps when she bumped into the very man himself.

“One thing I should tell you about living in the city,” Reed said, crossing his arms as he stopped to look at a flustered Charlotte, “is that you have to look where you’re going.”

She thought of his proposal. She thought of Helen. She thought of the unknown Celia. She touched her bonnet to make sure it was still in place, giving her a moment to stay the words that wanted to start bubbling out of her mouth like water from a fountain. Don’t babble, she warned herself.

“I apologize for treading on your foot, Reed.”

He didn’t smile. “I’ve sustained no injury. But I’m surprised to see you walking. You have a penchant for a certain ridiculous violet-colored vehicle, don’t you?”

Charlotte colored. So he had seen her get into Jason’s carriage. And it had irritated him as she’d suspected.

“I needed a ride. Mr. Farnsworth was kind enough to give me one.”

“I offered you a ride. Surely, you don’t think your aunt would find it any less improper for you to be driving around unchaperoned with Farnsworth than she would with me.”

“I guess that depends on the chaperone. And I didn’t particularly care for the one you’d chosen.”

Reed narrowed his eyes. “What are you talking about, Charlotte?”

“The ever-present Mrs. Belgrave.” She wished she didn’t sound so peevish whenever she mentioned the woman.

He shrugged. “You are talking in riddles. It is always back to Helen, no matter how many times I tell you that she means nothing to me. I have not had the same assurance from you regarding Farnsworth. I know he has kissed you.”

She blanched.

“Yes, that’s the exact look that told me so. Was he familiar with you yesterday in his carriage?”

Her mind went immediately to Jason’s hand across her ankles. Her eyes widened.

“Damnation, Charlotte,” Reed swore. “I am not a man to give up, but I am being sorely tested.”

He walked past her, not looking at her again. Not even saying goodbye. She watched his tall figure moving rigidly away and she felt physically sick. Disregarding the other people strolling the path, she called out to him.

“Reed Malloy, don’t you walk away from me.” Please.

He stopped in his tracks but didn’t turn around. Perhaps he was weighing his options, she thought. Was it worth it to turn and face her? Was she worth the trouble? He had offered her his hand in marriage. She could certainly take the first step. She took one, then another.

“Reed,” she said again, more steadily.

He turned, but his face was still forbidding. Charlotte walked closer until she was only an arm’s length away, and then she looked up into his blue gaze and struggled to find the right words—words that would erase the distant look from his dear face and replace it with the loving one she was used to.

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment and tell me your favorite period of history to win a digital copy of my first book, An Improper Situation.

Only one? For me, it would be a tie between the Old West and the Civil War South.

The Sanborn-Malloy Historical Romance box set is available in print and digital on Amazon

Learn more about Sydney and her books on her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Can’t wait to read this series, Sydney. Thanks so much for visiting, and please come back soon.

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Mid-winter blahs

Clipart provided by Classroomclipart

Clipart provided by Classroomclipart

Ever had a day – or a few days – when you just can’t get motivated? When even getting dressed requires more get-up-and-go than you can muster up? This past weekend was like that for me. I think I have the mid-winter blahs.

Now, to be honest, every day is a weekend in that I don’t have a day job that requires me to leave the house. I am a writer, though, so I do work. Every day. And I had big plans for the weekend. I like to work on a household project on the weekends as well as tending to the writing business-y chores, although I was behind on my word count for the week so that had to be rectified first. My schedule is so tight this year that I can’t afford to squander my days. Yet I wasted an entire weekend. Just because.

Weather? Possibly. I’m so not a winter person. Grey skies and snow suck out all my energy and by this time of year, I’m not fit to live with. Lack of sleep? Probably. I’ve had a bad case of middle-of-the-night insomnia for a while now, so by noon, I’m exhausted. But more than likely, I just needed a break from my regular routine.

So I spent most of the weekend curled up on the sofa, Kindle in one hand, TV remote in the other, food and beverages at my side and a roaring fire in the fireplace, and caught up on the shows I’ve missed lately, finished reading a cozy mystery on my Kindle, napped.

And you know what? I realized it’s okay to take a day or two to just be. To relax, kick back and do nothing. To laugh at silly TV sitcoms, to immerse yourself in another world between the pages of a book, to sleep and eat when you feel the need rather than because the clock says it’s time.

As Leonardo DaVinci says: “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.”

Who am I to argue with Leo?

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Spotlight Saturday: Hot Property, by Susanne O’Leary

Welcome to another Spotlight Saturday. This week, I’m reading a Hot Property by a new-to-me author, Susanne O’Leary.


Title:      Hot Property
Author:   Susanne O’Leary
Genre:   Irish romantic comedy


When Megan O’Farrell inherits her uncle’s house in a remote part of the windswept Atlantic coast of Ireland, she imagines it will be a romantic hideaway where she can recover from her recent divorce. But the house is a wreck that requires a fortune to restore, and she decides to sell it. An easy choice, were it not for the discovery of an old family scandal and a budding love affair with both the beautiful landscape and a handsome Kerryman. Catapulted into country life and faced with the less romantic side of farming, she also has to deal with a conspiracy to make her leave.

Buy links:     Amazon        Barnes&Noble     
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Bronwen Evans and A Kiss of Lies

Bron_300x421-2Please help me welcome historical author Bronwen Evans to my blog today. She’s visiting all the way from New Zealand to tell us a little about herself and about her latest release, A Kiss of Lies.

Hi, Margery. Thanks so much for inviting me to guest blog today.

I haven’t been on your website before, so I’ll tell you a little bit about me. I live in New Zealand and I’m a romance author. I’ve been writing for a little over five years, my first book, Invitation to Ruin was released in March 2011. It went on to win the RomCon Readers’ Crown Best Historical and was a RT Reviewers’ Choice Best First Historical Nominee.

I’ve just released my eighth book, A KISS OF LIES, book #1 in my Disgraced Lords Regency series. I had so much fun writing this book because the characters were such survivors, and who doesn’t love to root for the underdog.

A-Kiss-of-Lies-B.EvansTRRMy hero, Christian Trent, Earl of Markham, was badly burned at Waterloo (read a FREE prequel on my website) and his life changed overnight. He was no longer the sought after rake with the world at his feet. He became an embarrassment to Society. The grand dames did not want his badly burned face at their balls, but they couldn’t overlook the war hero. His mistress deserted him, and the mothers who used to throw their daughters in his path now humiliatingly avoided him.

To top all that, one morning, he wakes in a brothel accused of raping the Duke of Barforte’s daughter. The Duke and his son, Simon, shanghai Christian to Canada leaving him in a strange winter-land with no money and no proof of identity.

My heroine, Sarah Cooper, is basically sold into marriage to pay her father’s gambling debts. Once she signs the marriage register, her husband steals her off to Virginia. She has no idea that the man she married is a cruel and sadistic plantation owner, who treats her little better than the slaves he forces to work his land.

How do they meet up? Christian’s in York, Canada, and Sarah’s in Virginia. Sarah manages to escape north to York, and sees an advert for the role of governess to the Earl of Markham’s ward. Sarah believes fate has brought her to Christian. She remembers Lord Markham from home, England. She knows she’s found a safe haven, a place to hide and lick her wounds, but then the passion between these two wounded people ignites, and suddenly their world is not so safe…

Here’s the blurb:

A pair of damaged souls ignite each other’s deepest passions—even as they tempt fate by deceiving the world.

Desperate to escape her abusive past, Sarah Cooper disguises herself as a governess in the employ of Christian Trent, Earl of Markham, the man who, long ago, she fantasized about marrying. Despite the battle scars that mar his face, Sarah finds being near Christian rekindles her infatuation. A governess, however, has no business in the arms of an earl, and as she accompanies Christian on his voyage home, Sarah must resist her intense desires—or risk revealing her dangerous secrets.
One of the renowned Libertine Scholars, Christian Trent once enjoyed the company of any woman he chose. But that was before the horrors of Waterloo, his wrongful conviction of a hideous crime, and his forcible removal from England. Far from home and the resources he once had, Christian believes the life he knew—and any chance of happiness—is over . . . until his ward’s governess sparks his heart back to life, and makes him remember the man he used to be. Now Christian is determined to return to England, regain his honor, and win the heart of the woman he has come to love.

Here’s a snippet:-

Mrs. Sarah Cooper, although ushered into Lord Markham’s study by invitation, immediately felt the waves of animosity rolling off him. Gone was the fun-loving, handsome, and jovial rake she remembered spying on in her youth. Instead, she found a man whose love for life seemed as snuffed out as last night’s candle.

She couldn’t miss his scars, and saw that life had hurt him, marked him . . . as indeed it had her. He was badly burned over the right side of his face.

His once sensual lips appeared to curl at the corner as if he were permanently sneering. Lord Markham had let his hair grow longer than was fashionable and allowed it to hang about his face, probably in an attempt to hide the worst of his scars. As he swung round to greet her, she glimpsed his puckered cheek. The skin was pulled so taut, surely it must hurt to talk or eat. However, God had been slightly merciful, because his eye had not been damaged, nor much of the skin around it, he even had part of his eyebrow. She’d always loved the green of his eyes, as warm and welcoming as a summer meadow.

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been free to run through tall grass. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been free, period.

Life hadn’t transpired as she’d thought or hoped.

They had that in common.

Even though she’d heard of his injuries, when she saw them her feet tripped in shock. His burns made her think of pain. Her heart welled with pity as she took in his scars. Gone was the smile that had had women forgetting everything, including propriety. Instead, the scars spoke of excruciating pain.

With her newfound inner strength, she steeled herself not to show any emotion. Besides, life on a slave plantation had introduced her to worse injuries.

Lord Markham, she was sure, would not appreciate pity. She needed to hide the fact that she’d seen him when he still looked like every woman’s fantasy. If he thought she recognized him, it might prompt his memory, and she needed to remain anonymous. She’d never been formally introduced to the Earl, and therefore felt a modicum of safety.

Since she was pretending to be a governess, normally they should never have crossed paths. For in which world would a governess ever mix with a bachelor earl? Nowhere respectable, certainly, and this position called for respectability. She’d seen the type of women he’d been interviewing before her, and seen them being shown the door.

Sarah prayed that the battle-scarred war hero sitting behind the imposing desk would remain unaware of how desperately she needed this position. Lord Markham—“Devil Scarface,” as the local Yorkers cruelly named him—was not renowned for his sweet temperament. If he saw through her deception, there was no telling what he might do.

I hope you read A KISS OF LIES and follow the journey Christian and Sarah take to their Happy Ever After. If you do, email me and let me know what you think of their story.

Thanks for having me over today. Happy reading…

A Kiss of Lies is available on: Amazon B&N Kobo iBooks

About Bron:

Multi-award winning, and best-selling author, Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes. Her debut Regency romance, Invitation to Ruin won the RomCon Readers’ Crown Best Historical 2012, and was an RT Reviewers’ Choice Nominee Best First Historical 2011. Her first self-published novella, To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield, was a TOP 5 FINALIST in the Kindle Book Review Indie Romance Book of the Year 2012 and a finalist in the RomCon Readers’ Crown Best Historical 2013. Her first contemporary released December 2012, The Reluctant Wife, won the RomCon Readers’ Crown Best Category 2013.

Bronwen loves hearing from avid romance readers at romance@bronwenevans.com

You can keep up with Bronwen’s news by visiting her website www.bronwenevans.com

Thanks so much for spending this time with me, Bronwen. I hope you’ll come back and visit again. Best of luck with A Kiss of Lies.

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Spotlight Saturday: Louisiana Longshot, by Jana DeLeon

Welcome to another Spotlight Saturday. This week, I’m reading Louisiana Longshot, book #1 of the Miss Fortune mystery series by Jana Deleon. I’ve just started it, and I’m really enjoying it so far.
Louisiana Longshot

Title:      Louisiana Longshot (Miss Fortune mystery series, book #1)
Author:   Jana DeLeon
Genre:    Cozy mystery


It was a hell of a longshot…

CIA assassin Fortune Redding is about to undertake her most difficult mission ever – in Sinful, Louisiana.

With a leak at the CIA and a price on her head by one of the world’s largest arms dealers, Fortune has to go off grid, but she never expected to be this far out of her element. Posing as a former beauty queen turned librarian in a small, bayou town seems worse than death to Fortune, but she’s determined to fly below the radar until her boss finds the leak and puts the arms dealer out of play.

Unfortunately, she hasn’t even unpacked a suitcase before her newly-inherited dog digs up a human bone in her backyard. Thrust into the middle of a bayou murder mystery, Fortune teams up with a couple of seemingly-sweet old ladies whose looks completely belie their hold on the town. To top things off, the handsome local deputy is asking her too many questions. If she’s not careful, this investigation may blow her cover and get her killed.

Armed with her considerable skills and a group of old ladies referred to by locals as The Geritol Mafia, Fortune has no choice but to solve the murder…before it’s too late.

Buy links:     Amazon        Barnes&Noble      iTunes     Kobo
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Jill Hughey

I’m thrilled to welcome loop-mate Jill Hughey back to my blog today. Jill has visited twice before. You can read her posts here and here.

Thanks for visiting again, Jill. The blog is yours. Take it away.

Thank you, Margery, for inviting me to your blog.

Sass250x400I write historical romance. Most of my stories are set in the medieval time period, but today I’m going to talk about my one and only sweet American historical, Sass Meets Class, in which an English aristocrat, Alexander, finds himself unexpectedly drawn to Susan, an unsophisticated American girl, in 1880s Arizona Territory. (One reviewer called it “Mr. Darcy in the Wild West.) The story was partly inspired by a visit my husband and I made to southern Arizona, to a very real town called Portal, and a neighboring, defunct mining town called Paradise. In the book, I decided to change the names because my timeline didn’t quite fit the facts of the towns.

Alexander and Susan develop an unlikely friendship — to his snooty mother’s horror — as he initiates her in the world of literature and she introduces him to working-class America. We meet Susan’s inquisitive father and pretty sister, as well as an old coot who takes up residence on the front porch of their general store. Despite the growing affection, Alexander is compelled to stick to his plan to return to England. Susan is broken-hearted and angry, and is not afraid to tell him so in this excerpt.


“Hang your chivalry!” Susan shouted in his face. “Hang it until it turns purple and its eyes bulge out. Chivalry and all your other rules are just an excuse, an excuse to treat women like they can’t think for themselves, like they can’t sort out their own feelings and see the truth. I see the truth.” Susan scrambled to her feet to tower over him. “You want me. You said it in your oh-so-uppity way and you meant it. You meant it from here.” She poked her chest. “You’ve never said you want Furnivall with a spark in your eyes like when you look at me. I’ll bet you never sat around the dinner table there and laughed as hard as you did when Pa told us about meeting up with that skunk. How can you choose a life centered on what you should do instead of what makes you come alive?”

He leaped to his feet too. “That you make me feel vital and invincible is irrelevant. I cannot have you.”

She stepped forward to stand toe-to-toe with him. “I am telling you that you can. But you aren’t choosing me. The only salve I’ll have on my soul is that when you are married to a woman as cold and flat-faced as your marble floors then you’ll know it is because you didn’t believe enough in either of us to choose me.” A fierce wind blew down the valley. Her hair streamed around her face, battering them both with whipping strands.

He grabbed it harshly, collecting the locks and wrapping the rope around his hand until her head tilted back on her
neck. “Curse this hair.” His eyes fixed on her mouth. “Curse it.” He covered her lips with his own, the wet heat clinging and taunting until she clutched his shirt to keep standing. He slid his free hand to the small of her back, pulling her tight against him. She couldn’t breathe, she didn’t want to breathe, she had to breathe as her heart threatened to burst from her chest. This was a life-changing event! Here and now, he’d finally accepted the two of them as they should be. Together.

When he pulled away, his eyes seared into hers. But then, slowly, in a nightmare from which she could not awaken, they frosted to ice blue, flat, frozen and harder than she’d ever seen them, harder than any stone floor could ever be. “Goodbye, Susan,” he said as he turned resolutely away, leaving her alone at the cypress tree.


As you can see, conversation gets pricklier than a cactus and desert temperatures are bound to rise in Sass Meets Class. Never fear. Time and distance and secrets cannot end a friendship that is meant to be love.

You can find Sass Meets Class at the following links:
AMAZON (Kindle and print) http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0089NLLBC

BARNES AND NOBLE http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sass-meets-class-jill-hughey/1111451835?ean=2940014774970

iTUNES https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/sass-meets-class/id549329677?mt=11

KOBO http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/sass-meets-class

SMASHWORDS https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/169732

CREATESPACE (print) https://tsw.createspace.com/title/3817394

The most interesting fact about Jill Hughey is that she can sing really, really high. As in opera-singer high. But she only does that when she is not writing, working part time as a business administrator, running her two teenaged sons around, and enjoying the support of her wonderful husband. Her ideal afternoon is spent sitting on her front porch with an iced coffee as she moves the characters in her head into her laptop.

Happy reading!

If you’d like to keep in touch with her, you can find her on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.