Category Archives: Research

Throwback Thursday: A Masquerade at Vauxhall Gardens with Susana Ellis @susanaauthor

Today, I’m thrilled to have Susana Ellis here on the blog, sharing a fabulous historical tidbit with us!

author photoA Masquerade at Vauxhall Gardens

On 26 August 1812 at Vauxhall Gardens was held an elaborate masquerade in honor of the military victories on the Peninsula. Featured at this event was a spectacular transparency of a Chinese Temple, several illuminations, and both Turkish and military music.

Masquerades were popular at Vauxhall, not least because the fancy dress and masks enabled visitors to conceal their identities and engage in bolder and perhaps even scandalous behavior behind the tall hedges of the Dark Walk. Dominoes and masks could be purchased across the street from Vauxhall’s entrance, although the more well-heeled guests tended to have their costumes custom-made.

A memorable character at Vauxhall was C.H. Simpson, who served as Master of Ceremonies from 1797 to 1835. Simpson, who wore a top hat and silver-mounted cane was best known for his elaborate bows and over-the-top politeness. His comical manner was also useful in diffusing quarrels and other difficult situations among inebriated visitors.

The appearance of this gentleman was in keeping with the oddity of his character. He was a short man, with a large head, a plain face, pitted with the small-pox, a thin thatch of hair plastered with pomatum and powder. His body and limbs were encased in black cloth of antique cut, and occasionally his head was covered with a hat as heavy as a coal-scuttle, or a life-guardsman’s helmet. This awkwardly constructed piece of felt was more often in his hand than on his head. He was continually bowing to everybody he met — he was the very climax of obsolete politeness; the most obsequious and painstaking man to oblige everybody and express his gratitude for their condescension in giving trouble, that I ever remember to have met with.*

Vauxhall Gardens had always been known for its patriotic spirit through its music, (Thomas Arne, composer of Rule Britannia, was music director for more than thirty years), paintings, oratory, and elaborate pageantry, but military fetes were particularly fervid. In one case, this included a dinner for twelve hundred in the Rotunda with trumpeters in state livery with silver trumpets and a grenadier of the Guards holding a standard of the 100th French regiment. The revels would continue through the early morning hours, often until four in the morning.

Three stories from the Bluestocking Belles’ Holly and Hopeful Hearts include scenes from the Vauxhall masquerade on 26th August 1812.

*The Reverend J. Richardson, Recollections, 2 vols (London: C. Mitchell, 1856), I, 230-31.

book image

What was the hardest part about writing this story?

Weaving our stories together proved to be more challenging than expected. Ending up together at the duchess’s house party was easy compared to sharing characters and writing scenes with other members of the Bluestocking Belles. But it was a good experience and I hope we get to do it again soon.

How much research do you do?

I travel to England every year and come back with all sorts of inspiration. In my story, Valuing Vanessa, I included information I learned from visiting the Foundling Hospital in London. Although Vauxhall Gardens no longer exists, I did a blog series on it last year so I could write about it knowledgeably, and it was fun to include some of my findings in the story.

What are your favorite historical romance tropes?

friends to lovers, arranged marriage, secret/lost baby, enemies-turned-friends, disparity of class, wallflower

book coverHolly and Hopeful Hearts

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

Genre: Regency Romance
Heat level: Closed-door sex
ISBN: 9781370533190

Grab your copy at:
Apple iBooks (iTunes/iPhone/iPad)
Amazon USA | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble Nook
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$0.99 USD – $1.34 CAN – £0.99 GBP

Find Susana Ellis at: Facebook | Twitter | Website

We want to hear from you!

If you could drop in at a Vauxhall masquerade, what would you like to do there?

Leave a comment below!

Throwback Thursday: Arabella Churchill’s Sensuous Legs with Anna D. Allen

Today, we have Anna D. Allen here on the blog, sharing a humorous historical tidbit with us!

Arabella Churchill’s Sensuous Legs

My sister’s into the Restoration period, when Charles II returned to Britain after decades of Puritan rule. Not my cup of tea. Can’t get past the wigs. Plus the Stuarts never seem like the brightest crayons in the box. But my sister loves it, and since I know all the characters, she jabbers to me about it. One story she told me lay dormant in the back of my mind for years… until last winter, I felt compelled to write a romance novella inspired by a footnote to history.

Arabella Churchill was the sister of John Churchill (later the Duke of Marlborough). John was a national war hero, the builder of Blenheim Palace (frequently used in movies), and most famous today as the ancestor of Sir Winston Churchill and Princess Diana.

At court, Arabella served as a lady-in-waiting to Anne Hyde, the king’s sister-in-law, whose husband, James Duke of York, would go on to become King James I–infamously losing his crown in the Glorious Revolution.

Arabella, however, was not a beauty. She was tall and skinny, very pale, and openly called plain.

At this point, the accounts vary. Either everyone went hunting on horseback or James took it upon himself to teach Arabella to ride. In any event, Arabella was thrown from her horse. When James reached her, he discovered her skirts in disarray, leaving her legs completely exposed. And he was shocked that such a plain girl could possess such incredible limbs. He, supposedly, fell in love with her on the spot, and she soon became his mistress, eventually giving birth to four of his children.

I couldn’t resist a bit of thievery… but set in the Regency Period. With snow. And a really hot hero. The result: Magdalena’s Christmas Rake.

What was the hardest part about writing this story?

The kiss! I always end up writing the last kiss I wrote. So I have to go back and makes sure I don’t do that. And then there’s my inner 5-year-old going "ooh, cooties" or pulling a Rainman– "It was wet."

Have you ever based a character on a real person?

Several times. The best one, though, was Bob in "Mrs Hewitt’s Barbeque." The man was a greeter at the local Meijer’s (think Super-Walmart in the Mid-West). He was in his 60s, from Northern England with the corresponding accent, but he looked like the Crocodile Hunter, down to his khaki shorts. And he had a short queue and an earing. I had to write him.

What are your favorite historical romance tropes?

I love Regency romance, but a trope? My sister jokes that I like stories with "a plot." I laughed when she said this, but I knew what she meant– those tales with smugglers or French spies. I like soldiers. I like heroines who are "older"– that is, not debutantes with little experience of the world. Variations of Cinderella– but always always always, intelligent women. And intelligent men, too.

book coverMagdalena’s Christmas Rake

When days turn dark, Christmas brightens the way… Come Revel with us again!
Magdalena’s Christmas Rake – Thomas Eddington comes home for a family Christmas to discover his mother in a matchmaking mood. Worse, she has invited his childhood nemesis, "Mad Maddie" Winslow, to act as chaperone to the eligible debutantes. For her part, Magdalena Winslow hopes to go unnoticed. She certainly wants nothing to do with a London rake, and she’s not afraid to let him know it.

Series Name: Christmas Revels III
Genre: Regency Romance
Heat level: No sex
ISBN: 9781942470021

Grab your copy at:
Apple iBooks (iTunes/iPhone/iPad)
Amazon USA | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble Nook
Kobo

$2.99 USD – $3.91 CAN – £2.99 GBP

Find Anna D. Allen at: Facebook | Website

We want to hear from you!

Not including Mr. Darcy, who among Jane Austen’s male characters would you want as a husband? Or whatever works for you.

Leave a comment below!