Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Baking Her Frontier Sweethearts

I have featured recipes and dinners—from elaborate multi-course events to simple fare cooked over a campfire—in many of my books. But Her Frontier Sweethearts, out now, was the first time I dreamed up an entire restaurant, complete with menus! I hope you’ll enjoy returning with me to the frontier of the Pacific Northwest in 1876.

Ciara O’Rourke learned to bake sweet treats from the best, her older sister. Now determined to step out on her own, she agrees to start the first cookhouse and restaurant at Wallin Landing, a tiny settlement north of frontier Seattle. But nothing goes as planned, from the local loggers, who seem more interested in courting than being paying customers, to the baby who’s thrust into her arms by a stranger who rides off whispering warnings. 

Kit Weatherly sailed away from his controlling family on a tea clipper to explore the world. He’s since found a true family in the Wallin Landing logging crew. That is, until the pretty new cook informs him he’s uncle to a niece he never knew he had! One look in little Grace’s face, and Kit knows he’ll do anything to protect her. And one taste of Ciara’s cooking has him wondering what he’d have to do to convince her to take a chance on them both.

Her Frontier Sweethearts was a winner for me. I love books about protecting children and books about fake engagements so this was a special treat for me. A+” Hott Book Reviews 

You can find the story in print and ebook at fine online retailers such as

Barnes and Noble 
Apple Books 

Make your reservation for a sweet treat today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Blast from the Past: When Jane Austen Went Bump in the Night


I am fond of the topic of this post, because I've always thought the Gothic novel craze was both fascinating and fun--enough so that I played with the genre in The Vanishing Volume, the second installment in The Ladies of Almack's series. Enjoy!

* * *

Jane Austen must have enjoyed a good laugh. How else could she have created Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Marianne from Sense and Sensibility, and today's topic, Northanger Abbey?

Much of the divine Jane's early work was outright comedic, written to amuse her family; she especially seemed to have enjoyed parody, gently making fun of existing works and genres (her A History of England, a parody of Oliver Goldsmith's book of the same name and dedicated to her sister Cassandra, is pure silliness.) We've discussed the Gothic novel craze as a brief thing of the past, a temporary blip on the history of the English novel...but Jane experienced it in real time. And just as there are people who find today's vampire craze amusing, it's pretty clear that Jane got a chuckle from Gothic novels.

Northanger Abbey, though not published till after her death in 1818, is one of Jane's earliest major works: a first draft, entitled Susan, was probably written in 1798 or 1799. It's also the most explicitly literary of her major novels in that it's very much a book about books. The story begins with the introduction of the heroine: "No one who had seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman...and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters. Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense...and instead of dying in bringing [her] into the world, as anyone might expect, she still lived on...."

Jane is poking fun here at the convention in Gothic novels that the heroine be perfect and either orphaned or subject to the whims of a parent who has suffered a clouded past which will of course rebound upon his or her hapless child. The book continues in this vein with frequent authorial intrusions to point out how boring and normal Catherine and her life are...much to Catherine's dismay, for she is a devotee of books "provided they were all story and no reflection." Poor Catherine, with a head full of stories and a life full of commonplaces, for "There was not one lord in their neighbourhood; not even a baronet. There was not one family among their acquaintances who had reared and supported a boy accidentally found at their door; not one young man whose origin was unknown....But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way."

Of course Catherine does find a hero while visiting Bath. Handsome Henry Tilney and his sister invite her to visit their country home, Northanger Abbey, and Catherine is in raptures at the thought: will it be infested with the ghosts of murdered monks and inhabited by ancient retainers who know all the awful secrets of the family they serve? Jane has a field day with Catherine's visit: the Abbey is no crumbling, battlemented ruin but a comfortable, modern house; a dusty scroll hidden in a strange Japanese cabinet turns out to be an old laundry list. But then poor Catherine does indeed get a fright when the Tilneys' father, hitherto almost fawningly nice to her, suddenly turns cold and declares her visit at an end. Catherine learns that being the heroine in a dramatic story isn't as much fun as she thought it would be, but all ends happily: Henry Tilney follows her home and proposes, explaining that his rather money-grubbing father had thought her an heiress, but is told (falsely) that she was a penniless adventuress. Papa is brought round when he learns that Catherine has a respectable dowry, and all live happily ever after.

Northanger Abbey is probably the most light-hearted of Jane's books, with even its central love story being something of a joke (Henry Tilney takes no real notice of Catherine until he realizes she admires him enormously: "in finding him irresistable, becoming so herself." Read it, and laugh along with its author across the centuries.


P.S. Amusingly, it was thought that Jane Austen had made up many of the titles of Gothic novels mentioned in Northanger Abbey, until some scholarly detective work in the 1920s revealed that they had all, indeed, been realio, trulio published works.


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Blast from the Past: Humphry Davy, Laughing Himself into History

I first published this post in June 2013, near the time of the release of The Courting Campaign, which featured a hero who was a natural philosopher, what we would call a scientist today. Since then, I’ve featured a natural philosopher hero and heroine in Never Vie for a Viscount and, of course, in The Regent’s Devices trilogy. In the latest book, The Lady’s Triumph, my heroine Celeste Blanchard and her dear friend Loveday Penhale (penned by the amazing Shelley Adina), join the Prince’s Own Engineers, which includes real-life scientist, Humphry Davy.

Born in Cornwall into a woodcarver’s family, Davy did extremely well in school and even considered becoming a poet before developing a fascination for experiments. That fascination nearly saw him blowing up his home several times as he was growing up. An old family friend apprenticed him to a surgeon, but that connection led him to a variety of learned gentlemen who furthered his interests in chemistry. One of these gentlemen, a Dr. Thomas Beddoes, was sufficiently impressed with young Davy that he offered him a position as his assistant at the Pneumatic Institution, a research facility for the study of the medical properties of gasses. Davy started working there, overseeing experiments, when he was twenty.

It was there that Davy became acquainted with nitrous oxide or laughing gas. He was convinced it could be efficacious for something, but many times he and his friends simply inhaled it for fun. It was said the large chamber constructed for his experiments was really built for such inhalation parties. On the other hand, he also conducted a number of experiments on galvanism, generating electric current through chemistry. That also ended up also having a nice sideline as a parlor trick.

Between patrons of the institution and trips to London, his circle of influential friends continued to grow and soon included the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey. Various friends brought him to the attention of the Royal Institution, that exalted haven of scientists. He was soon assistant lecturer in chemistry there, where he also directed the chemistry laboratory and helped edit the Institute’s journal.

Perhaps it was the poet in him, perhaps it was the fact that he was kind on the eyes, but his lectures proved extremely popular, with scientists and the public alike. At times he packed 500 people, many of them women, in the lecture hall. He was full lecturer by the time he was 23 and knighted when he was 34.  Here’s a satirical look at one such experiment and it’s rather rude results.

Shortly after his knighthood, he quit his position, married a widow of some means, and embarked on a Grand Tour, starting in France, where he was awarded a medal by Napoleon for his work in chemistry. They then travelled to Florence, Rome, Naples, Milan, Munich, and Innsbruck before the return of Napoleon from Elba forced them back to England. 

More studies followed, including the invention of a lamp to aid coal miners (and a cameo appearance helping my hero in The Courting Campaign). Davy is credited with discovering a number of elements, including sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, boron, barium, and chlorine as well as pioneering electro-chemistry. For his body of work, he was ultimately granted a baronetcy, the highest honor given a natural philosopher at that time. He eventually returned to Switzerland and died there of heart disease.  His last gift to the world was a book compiling his thoughts on science and philosophy, in which he spoke quite poetically and with touches of wry humor.

He never could stop the effects of laughing gas. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Announcing the First Ladies of Almack’s Omnibus!

I’ve had so much fun releasing the stories in the Ladies of Almack’s series one per month, in something that’s somewhere between a serial and a conventional book series. But I know that some readers prefer to read shorter works bundled together in chunks, which is why Countess of Shadows: The Ladies of Almack’s Omnibus No. 1 releases today.

Countess of Shadows
contains the first three stories in the series: The Forgery Furore (Who is forging vouchers to Almack’s…in Annabel’s name?), The Vanishing Volume (When book fandom in Regency London is foiled by magic, the Ladies come to the rescue), and Lyrics and Larceny (Annabel’s cousin is in love, and London’s jewels are being spirited away…might there be a connection?) together with all the accompanying author’s notes and other materials. It’s a great way to meet Annabel and the Ladies and follow their earlier adventures in fighting supernatural crime in Regency London.

Countess of Shadows will be widely available in November from all the usual online bookstores…but if you want a copy now, you can purchase it directly from the publisher, BookView Café, in both EPUB and MOBI formats. And (ahem!) subscribers to my newsletter will be receiving a coupon for it at the Book View Café bookstore…so if you haven’t yet made the Ladies of Almack’s acquaintance (or signed up for my newsletter!), now is a great time to do so.

Happy reading!