Monday, 15 March 2021

The Test of Gold by Renee Yancy


Welcome to my blog, Renee! It's a pleasure to have you here.

Could you please give us some background information about The Test of Gold and what inspired it?

Renee:

The true story of Consuelo Vanderbilt inspired my new historical romance, The Test of Gold. Consuelo was a "Dollar Princess," the nickname coined for heiresses in the late 20th century who possessed multi-million dollar dowries and married cash-poor British and French aristocrats.

The Gilded Age occurred after the American Civil War, from 1870 to the early 1900s, a turbulent time of rapid economic growth in America. Captains of industry such as Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and John D. Rockefeller amassed huge fortunes, but were considered nouveau riche by the patrician bluebloods of New York City. The exclusive list of people who could comfortably fit into the ballroom of the queen of high society, Caroline Astor, was called the famous “400.”

Social climber Alva Vanderbilt craved entrance into the 400, and schemed exactly how to achieve it. First, she built an extravagant “chateau” with one hundred and fifty rooms at 660 Fifth Avenue. Nothing like this had ever been seen before. Then she planned a huge costume ball, the cost of which by today’s standard was $6,000,000!

When young Carrie Astor, Caroline’s daughter, didn’t receive an invitation to the ball, Mrs. Astor was forced to “call” on Alva to receive an invitation, and Alva was in.

During the Gilded Age, European aristocrats flooded New York City to find a wealthy bride whose dowries could shore up their crumbling ancestral estates, trading titles for dowries. Have cash, will marry! Consuelo's mother, our infamous Alva Vanderbilt, forced her daughter at the tender age of eighteen to marry the Duke of Marlborough to obtain a royal title for the Vanderbilt name.

It was a loveless marriage, and in time, Consuelo escaped it and achieved personal happiness with Jacques Balsan, a French aviator and industrialist.

For my research, I explored some amazing estates of the rich and famous, read books about the etiquette of that time, and studied the fabulous gowns of Charles Worth, who was the premier Paris designer of the Gilded Age. I searched out the jewelry designs of Tiffany, Cartier, and Marcus & Co. Such fun and so beautiful to look at!

Doing the research took me into an era of incredible wealth and shocking poverty the likes of which will never be seen again.

My character, Lindy, has a happier ending!

Book Description

Raised in the shadow of a mother who defied convention, but won’t allow her own daughter the right to make the same choices, heiress Evangeline Lindenmayer has been groomed since childhood to marry into the British aristocracy.

When Lindy challenges her mother’s long-laid plans by falling in love with a poor seminary student, the explosion is bigger than the Brooklyn Bridge fireworks on Independence Day.

My Review

What a lovely, sweet romance! The plot twists and turns in such an unpredictable manner that I read on at a rapid pace, anxiously hoping for Lindy and Jack to find a way to be together.

Lindy's narcissistic mother creates enormous problems for the couple. She doesn't brook having her will crossed, and her ambitious plans for Lindy throw many obstacles in her path.

I was shocked at the extravagance of the times, and I see now why this period in American history was called the Gilded Age. All that glitters isn't gold, however, and the high concentration of wealth in certain areas of society was only a patina, a thin shiny layer on the surface of something far less salubrious. It was eye-opening and saddening to read about the suffering of the less fortunate members of society at this time.

Although there are some serious elements to this story, the writing has a lightness of touch, which I appreciated. I particularly enjoyed the end of the book, which was both poignant and amusing at the same time.

I highly recommend this novel to lovers of sweet historical romance, who enjoy an inspirational flavour to their reading. 

Buy Link:

Amazon



Sunday, 28 February 2021

The Earl's Lady Geologist is now out!



The Earl's Lady Geologist is now out!


Cassandra Linfield is a lady fossil collector who declares she will never marry as no man will ever take her studies seriously.  When circumstances force her to travel to Town for the Season, Cassy infiltrates the hallowed portals of the Geological Society from which she has been banned. She is horrified when she comes face to face with her nemesis, the infuriating Earl of Rothbury.

Lord Rothbury is a gentleman-geologist with a turbulent romantic past. After a youthful disappointment he vows never to fall in love again, and makes the decision, instead, to seek out a convenient wife when he returns to England from his geological travels abroad. 

Brought together by their close family ties, Cassy and Rothbury collaborate on a geological paper and discover a powerful attraction. Marriage, however, is the one subject they cannot agree upon. But when Cassy’s life is threatened, the two realise that love matters more than their objections. 

Buy The Earl's Lady Geologist at Amazon

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Praise for The Earl's Lady Geologist

 “The Earl’s Lady Geologist by Alissa Baxter deftly weaves together the charm of a traditional Regency romance, fascinating information on scientific society of the time, with a quiet subtext about the challenges faced by women interested in pursuing science. This first book in a new series is wonderfully satisfying on many levels!”
Mary Jo Putney, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author
 
“A gentle Regency romance, full of sweetness and intelligence. Alissa Baxter’s writing is period perfect.”
Mimi Matthews, USA Today bestselling author of The Matrimonial Advertisement
 
“A truly traditional Regency romance, with lots of witty banter, very reminiscent of Georgette Heyer. Recommended for anyone who likes a completely clean traditional Regency, with strongly authentic writing, historical accuracy and a satisfying romance. Baxter’s writing is excellent, and her dialogue, manners and settings are true to the era. A spirited heroine, a brooding hero, lots of sparkling banter and an authentic Regency setting—with added fossils! Great fun. From Lyme Regis to the drawing rooms of London, Alissa Baxter takes the reader back to the time of Jane Austen.”
Mary Kingswood, author of traditional Regency romances

Read The First Chapter of The Earl's Lady Geologist

CHAPTER ONE

The beach between Lyme Regis and Charmouth, England, December 1817

A cry rang out from the other end of the beach. Cassandra Linfield spun towards the sound. Mary must have found something of interest. Clutching her fossil finds in her hands, she hurried in her friend’s direction, stumbling over a jutting rock in her haste. Regaining her footing, she peered up at the blue-hued cliffs. The limestone-and-clay structure leaned ominously forward. She shivered a little and continued to where Mary crouched on the fore-shore, below Black Ven.
After the violent storm last night, the cliff face was unstable. Should a chunk of mudstone dislodge and tumble onto Cassy’s head, it would render her insensible—or worse. Fortunately, in all the years she had lived in Lyme Regis, she had never sustained an injury while fossil hunting.
She took even greater care these days. Cousin Agnes made it clear when she came to live with Cassy after the death of her mother that she disapproved of her foraging activities. If she so much as sprained an ankle, her cousin would probably write to Aunt Ella, who would then insist that she come to live with her.
The wet brown sand crunched beneath her iron pattens as she threaded her way around the fallen rocks to Mary’s side. “What have you found?”
The other girl shoved her hat to the back of her head, leaving a streak of dirt on her forehead. She peered at a nodule sticking out of the mud and then chipped at it with her hammer. “It’s a fossil fish.”
Cassy bent over. “What a fine specimen. The scales are perfectly preserved.”
Mary squinted at her. “It’s a good cury and will fetch a good price.” She returned her attention to the fossil. “See how the skull is undamaged? Ma will be pleased. Have you found anything?”
“Only a couple of belemnites and a sea urchin.” She opened her palm to reveal the treasures, but her friend didn’t even glance at them. Instead, she fixed a wide gaze on something behind Cassy.
What had so captivated the other girl’s attention? Alarm gripped her stomach in a painful clench as she swung in a slow half-circle.
A large male figure strode along the foreshore in their direction. Within minutes, he was upon them, and his expression did not bode well. Tall and broad, he wore buff breeches, black boots, and a form-fitting double-breasted riding coat. A slate-grey gaze swung from Cassy to Mary and then back to Cassy again.
“Miss Linfield?” The clipped tone did nothing to relieve the ache in her stomach.
She nodded. How did he know her name? If she’d ever seen this man before, she did not recall the occasion. She doubted it not, as his was a face not easily forgotten. His hair was dark—nearly black—and a slightly piratical cast to his features brought to mind legends of wild men upon the seas. However, the rigidity of his square jaw and his flinty eyes gave the lie to her initial impression that this was a man ruled by his passions.
His gaze swept from her well-worn straw bonnet to the pattens over her visibly muddy boots. His gaze narrowed on her gloved hands. Stained and filthy, they must present a peculiar appearance to this gentleman who somehow knew her name. For he was a gentleman, that she did not doubt—a gentleman in none too pleasant a humour.
She raised her chin. “I am Miss Linfield.”
He removed his hat and bowed. “I…” He paused as his gaze shifted from Cassy to Mary and the spherical-shaped stone beside which she knelt. Frowning, he took a hasty step forward. “Cease your hammering, girl, before you damage that fossil.” He bent down and studied the nodule Mary had split open. “It appears to be a remarkable specimen.”
Cassy clicked her tongue. “Mary is an experienced fossilist and is in no danger of damaging anything.”
He straightened and glanced at Mary, who now stood defiantly before him. “You are Mary Anning?”
Mary bobbed her head.
“My friend Buckland has spoken of you. My apologies.” His gaze returned to the nodule. “Will you sell me this fossil?”
The dark storm clouds gathering on Mary’s face cleared at these magical words. “Yes, sir…for a crown.”
The man agreed to the price without demur, and the girl’s eyes lit up. “I will take it back to Lyme and clean it for you, sir. Where must I deliver it?”
“I am staying at the Three Cups inn.”
The man’s penetrating gaze returned to Cassy. “Mrs Linfield requests that you return home directly. I shall escort you.”
She took a step back. “My cousin sent you?”
“Indeed. She is perturbed that you are out here on the beach alone.”
“But I am not alone. I am with Mary, and Miss Elizabeth Philpot is further along the shore.”
“Nevertheless, Mrs Linfield is in high fidgets, and it would be well to return home directly.”
She took another step back. “With a stranger?”
He bowed. “I have been remiss in introducing myself. Rothbury at your service.”
“Lord Rothbury?”
He bowed again.
Cassy swallowed. So this was the legendary Lord Rothbury. Even though they were related by marriage, she had never met Aunt Ella’s eldest son, Edward, the Earl of Rothbury.
Widowed at a young age, Aunt Ella had married Cassy’s uncle, Sir Barnaby Linfield, a number of years later. Her only child from that first marriage was the man who now stood awaiting Cassy’s acquiescence.
The earl offered his arm. She studied the superfine cloth of his coat, and then raised her gaze to his. “I will muddy your coat, my lord, if I place my hand upon your arm.”
“It is no matter.” Impatience lent an icy edge to his tone.
“I beg to differ. Clay stains dreadfully. And your coat is very fine. Your valet will not thank me.”
She turned to Mary. “Would you be so obliging as to take my fossils back to Lyme?”
“Just place them in my basket.”
Cassy bent and carefully deposited her finds before she turned back to Lord Rothbury. He still held out his arm. She sighed. “Just one moment.”
She stripped off her gloves and placed her hand in a concealed pocket in the skirt of the grey dimity gown she usually wore for her forays on the beach. The gown was outdated, loosely cut, and made her look a bit dowdy, but she had certainly not expected to encounter any member of Polite Society when she ventured onto the beach today.
A pair of grey kid gloves nestled beside her small rock hammer. She stuffed the soiled gloves into the pocket, then slipped the far more presentable—and clean—gloves onto her hands.
Finally, she placed her hand on Lord Rothbury’s arm, but not before muttering under her breath.
They bid Mary farewell and strolled along the foreshore towards Lyme.
“Your words were lost to the wind, Miss Linfield.”
Dared she voice her opinion? “I was…er…saying that it is just like a man to not care about the work he creates for his servants. If I had soiled your coat with my muddy gloves, your poor valet would have struggled to remove the stains.”
“Potter would not take kindly to your disparagement of his abilities, Miss Linfield.”
She came to a halt and turned to face him. “The removal of blue lias clay from superfine cloth would present a challenge to the capabilities of the most superior gentleman’s gentleman. Or nobleman’s gentleman, in this instance.” Her voice was tart.
He laughed, and somehow, it transformed his face. No longer remote, his expression now seemed warm and open. He also appeared much younger. Why, he can’t be much more than thirty years of age. However, his face soon settled back into its rather severe lines, and Cassy gave a tiny sigh as they resumed their walk along the shoreline.
“Do you often hunt for fossils, Miss Linfield?”
“As often as I am able. I collect them.”
“It is not a safe activity for a lady. What about the tides?”
They passed a couple of fishermen who were inspecting their crab pots. “I look up the tide tables in my almanack when I go out hunting with Miss Philpot…she is my neighbour, and also collects fossils. However, when I am with Mary, I needn’t worry. She has searched for fossils since she was a child and knows the beach like the back of her hand.”
“Yet your cousin frets.”
Her lip tasted of salt spray when she captured it between her teeth. “Cousin Agnes is a worrier by nature, and she has become more unsettled since Papa’s death.”
“Please accept my condolences on the death of your father, Miss Linfield.”
She gave a brief nod. Her papa’s recent demise weighed on her heart like a heavy boulder.
“You take no male servant with you on your expeditions?”
She shook her head.
“These cliffs are unstable. There are often landslips.”
“Indeed. Usually after a storm. But that is the best time to hunt for fossils. I am careful, however, and keep well away from the cliff face.”
Lord Rothbury’s silence unnerved her, and she peeked at him. His grim profile said more than words. They walked on, and she racked her brain for a suitable topic to deflect attention from her controversial hobby.
She’d never been good at making polite conversation. She preferred to discuss interesting subjects in depth rather than flitting from one shallow topic to the next. No wonder Cousin Agnes despaired of her.
The silence stretched between them until her taut nerves insisted she break it. “Is Aunt Ella well?”
He came to an abrupt halt, and Cassy along with him. He frowned, and she released his arm as if it were a snake. Why did he have to glower so?
“My mother is concerned about your well-being. Your cousin wrote her a fine tale about your unorthodox activities here in Lyme. My mother asked me to ascertain whether Mrs Linfield’s letters were in any way exaggerated. I see now they were not.”
She drew in a sharp breath. Cousin Agnes frequently threatened to write to Aunt Ella about her activities, but it was a shock to discover she had done so. How unfortunate that Lord Roth-bury had discovered her on the beach today—muddy, untidy and much the worse for wear. She could not appear more unladylike if she had tried.
She eyed him doubtfully. “It…it may be slightly unorthodox for a lady to hunt for fossils, but I assure you I am not the only female in Lyme who does so. Mary and Miss Philpot are often here as well. Cousin Agnes fusses so.”
“And yet…” His grey eyes narrowed. “My mother is no fuss-pot, and she is as concerned about your activities as Mrs Linfield is.”
Her brow creased. “She is? Cousin James spent many weeks over the last few summers hunting along the beach with Papa and me. Your mama made no objection then.”
“My mother’s concern is not for my brother.”
“Only for me?”
“Indeed.”
“But why? It puts me out of all patience. I dislike being cooped up indoors, and fossil hunting is a hobby I enjoy.”
“Surely you must see why it is inadvisable, ma’am.” Impatience edged his tone. “When you were a child, it did not matter. But now you are an unmarried lady, and you have yet to make your come-out in London. Collecting fossils is an eccentric activity for a young lady on the lookout for a suitable husband.”
Her hands clenched into fists. “I see no difficulty then, my lord, as I am not on the lookout for a suitable husband.”
“Come now, ma’am. Surely you must see the lack of sense in that statement.”
Her eyes glittered. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single lady in possession of a good fortune must be in no want of a husband.”
“And it is also a truth universally acknowledged that a single lady with a penchant for novel reading is not always wise.”
She gritted her teeth. He was impossible. She longed to give him a heated dressing-down, but it would do her no good. She set off briskly along the beach again, but he easily kept pace with her.
They passed Church Cliffs, and then Gun Cliff, in silence before a sharp bend in the shore brought the town into view.
He offered his arm again then, and she reluctantly placed her hand on it as they passed the bathing machines on the beach, deserted at this time of the year.
Built between two hills which rose to a height of about five hundred feet, Lyme spread its way from the bottom of a narrow valley and up its sides, sloping to the east and the west. At the bottom, room existed for only one thoroughfare. Cassy and her unpleasant escort passed a number of houses along the shore before making their way up Broad Street towards Silver Street, where she lived.
A south-westerly wind blew off the sea, and the walk up to the home she shared with her elderly cousin took about five minutes. She shivered and huddled deeper into her thick shawl.
Despite the steep slope, the earl paced beside her without obvious loss of breath. For some obscure reason, this irritated her. He did not attempt further conversation until they reached Hilltop House, a charming, three-storey stone structure with a slate roof, a portico over the door, and a walled front garden.
Langton opened the door, and the old family retainer failed to hide his dismay at her appearance. He glanced apprehensively at the earl before shepherding his mistress towards the staircase.
“Is Mrs Linfield in the drawing room?”
The butler bowed. “Yes, Miss Cassandra. I shall bring the tea tray in presently. Should I send Betty to your bedchamber?”
“Please do.” She turned to the earl. “I shall be with you in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, my lord.”
He inclined his head gravely. “Pray do not hurry on my account, Miss Linfield. You will require a fair amount of time to…er…tidy yourself.”
Her jaw tightened. “I am not given to fussing about my appearance.”
“Indeed?” He met her gaze squarely. “I had suspected as much.”
She shot daggers at him before she stalked up the wooden stairs to her bedchamber. Insufferable man!

Monday, 12 October 2020

Book Trailer for The Earl's Lady Geologist



I am excited to reveal the book trailer for my upcoming release, The Earl's Lady Geologist, #1 in The Linfield Ladies Series from Vinspire Publishing.

Release Date: 28 February 2021.







Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Conflict in Romance Novels and Real-Life Relationships - Part One


Conflict is necessary in a romance novel to drive the story forward. If the hero and heroine of a book meet in the beginning of the novel, get on fabulously well, and decide straight away that they want to spend the rest of their lives together it would make for pretty dull reading. There would be no conflict in the book driving it forward, and therefore no story. A novel must have both external and internal conflict and once this has been satisfactorily resolved, the story comes to an end, and the inevitable HEA (Happily Ever After) is reached.

When I read Regency romance novels as a child, I longed to be the heroines of those stories. I dreamed of driving along in horse-drawn carriages, and twirling around candlelit ballrooms while having spirited discussions with my own dreamed up heroes. The thought of being a heroine in a novel thrilled me and often was the time that I wished I’d been born in another era so that I could appear in my own Regency romance.

However, as I got older, I started to look at all the ordeals the Regency heroines had to go through on their paths to happiness, and I realised that they usually weren’t all that happy on their way to their HEAs. It was then that I came around to the way of thinking that a less conflict-ridden relationship in real life might actually be preferable to those drama-filled romantic tales, no matter how entertaining they were to read.

But, like it or not, there is always some external and internal conflict at the start of any real-life relationship. Guy meets girl, sparks fly, attraction is acknowledged, and the beginning of a relationship starts to unfold – sometimes unsteadily, sometimes more smoothly, but usually there are some bumps along the way.

Although conflict in relationships is inevitable, I wonder, sometimes, if we haven't been conditioned by romantic movies and books into thinking that unless there is a lot of conflict in a real-life romantic relationship, then that relationship isn’t all that passionate and exciting. Do some people manufacture conflict that is unnecessary because they find the lack of drama in a relationship dull? Couples who fight, and then make up in a continuous cycle may find it thrilling, but is it really sustainable?

The interesting thing about the internal conflict a hero or heroine experiences in a romance novel is that unless it is resolved, then the HEA won’t be attained – or the HEA may be attained but it’s unclear whether the fictional couple would be able to sustain a long-term relationship beyond page 253 of a book, making the ending of the story unconvincing.

It is often the story after the HEA that is the most intriguing. Have you ever wondered about how Elizabeth and Mr Darcy fared after she moved to Pemberley, or whether Jane ever fought with Mr Rochester after they got married? What is it about a relationship – fictional or not – that sustains it in the long-term? Can a conflict-ridden couple ever change their destructive pattern and live in peaceful co-existence? Does internal conflict ever completely resolve itself in the story of life? 

I’ll be examining these questions in Part Two…


Thursday, 2 July 2020

Cover Reveal of The Earl's Lady Geologist

I am so excited to reveal the cover of the first book in my Linfield Ladies Series, The Earl's Lady Geologist. It will be published on 28 Feburary 2021 by Vinspire Publishing.


Tuesday, 23 July 2019

The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews



The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews
Release date: 23 July 2019

An Uncommon Beauty…

Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.

An Unlikely Hero…

Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.
Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?

About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical non-fiction and proper historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and a Siamese cat.

To learn more, please visit MimiMatthews.com

My review:

This charming Regency romance is a tender dream of a story that will capture your heart.

Philly comes to London for a season but falls into the clutches of a couple of unscrupulous men whose schemes she is determined to withstand.

Arthur is very much the honourable gentleman who comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress. But Philly’s gentle ways and loving touch also start to rescue him from the darkness and despair which invaded his life after a terrible war-time injury.

And so begins a tender journey of discovery for both Philly and Arthur.

There is some intrigue in The Work of Art - and a twist at the end which I didn’t see coming - but the heart of this story is romance and a lovely, heart-warming one at that.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Wedding Season: A Collection of Romance Reads

💍 💍 New Release 💍 💍
WEDDING SEASON: A Collection of Romance Reads is #LIVE!
#OneClick Today!
This summer, ROSA vows to have you falling in love all over again with ‘Wedding Season’, a collection of romance reads from the Romance writers Organisation of South Africa.
All proceeds go to the Athol Williams Read to Rise literacy charity and the ROSA Scholarship Fund.
Don’t forget to say ‘I do’, and order your copy.
Featuring stories by: Romy Sommer, Alissa Baxter, Suzanne Jefferies, Marie Dry, Sharonlee Holder, Sophia Karlson, Tanya Wilde, Natasha Anders, Jo Watson and Ashleigh Giannoccaro
The proceeds of this anthology will go to ROSA and to the Athol Williams Read to Rise literacy charity.