Thursday, November 5, 2009

News from the 18th & 19th centuries

The Two Nerdy History Girls, Susan Holloway Scott & I, have returned from our latest junket to Colonial Williamsburg, and we're ready to Tell All. You can learn what we learned about 18th-19th c. coaches, clothes, dancing, and other delights. In case you were wondering, our sources' knowledge extends far beyond Colonial America. For one thing, in Colonial times, Americans viewed themselves as English subjects, and imported just about everything from England. For another, the CW interpreters' scholarship is wide-ranging. They're as comfortable talking about a Regency era carriage as an 18th C one, and the milliners and tailors make clothes for the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. We've got the pictures to prove it--detailed photos you won't find anywhere else. Intrigued? Just click on My Other Blog over there to your right or, if that's too far for you, right here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mystery vocabulary

I just finished re-reading (for about the sixth or tenth or eighteenth time) Dickens's The Pickwick Papers, and am once more overwhelmed by my ignorance. Yes, this was an edition with notes, but no, it was not a Norton Critical Edition (there isn't one, I discovered to my intense annoyance), and whoever wrote the notes took an excessively optimistic view of the average reader's knowledge of historical arcana.

Being a Nerdy History Girl, I know weird, useless stuff, make it my business to know weird, useless stuff. But page after page, I was stumped. Here are a few mystery terms:

"plush shorts and cottons"

"Oxford-mixture trousers"


So I thought, if I'm puzzled, what about high school and college students? Then I remembered how tedious I found most of the 19th C "classics" I read back then. Would I be writing the kinds of stories I write now if a friend hadn't explained the joys of David Copperfield to me, sometime in the middle of my lengthy college career?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Two Nerdy History Girls debut

You may have noticed the new link under My Other Blog.

Susan Holloway Scott & I have joined forces to indulge our historical obsessions.

We've been working on it quietly in the background for a while, but finally decided it's time to spring it on an unsuspecting public.

Michelle Buonfiglio at Romance B(u)y the Book hosts our launch party.

She's got more at her Heart to Heart blog at Barnes & Noble.

It's not too late to stop by and say something.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Scandalous prints

In Don’t Tempt Me, I make frequent mention of satirical prints. These were something like today’s editorial cartoons. They were often but not always political. They tended to mock Society, high and low. Most interesting of all, I think, is what the artists got away with. True, the erotic prints tended to be kept under the counter for special customers, but a great deal hung in print shop windows for all the world to see.

An online exhibit of works by Gillray at the New York Public Library shows you Humphrey’s Print Shop in St. James’s Street--where my fictional Duke of Marchmont would have paused to study the prints dealing with Zoe.

And here, in case you were wondering, is the print, Is She Not a Spunky One, that Marchmont plants in the journalist’s mind.

Them's fightin' words

A Central Massachusetts columnist today called for civility in the discussion about health care. I, too, would prefer civilized discussions to scream fests, on this and all other topics. I found myself thinking, though, how differently these things were handled a couple of centuries ago. I’ve been watching, courtesy NetFlix, John Adams. The shouting matches in Congress (and hey, how interesting that our legislators all fit in one small room in those days) reminded me that the debates often went beyond shouting to shooting.

In Gentleman’s Blood: A History of Dueling, Barbara Holland quotes Adams: “ ‘Politics . . . had always been the systematic organization of hatreds.’” According to Holland, “Every faction considered all other factions a threat to the republic and a personal insult.”

In those days, gentlemen stuck to their guns, literally. They weren’t likely to retreat from a long-held position simply because people were yelling at them. If a man did retreat, someone would call him a coward, and then he’d have to fight a duel to prove he wasn’t.

I don’t know if we’re doing better today because our politicos don’t shoot each other so much, or our forefathers did better because they'd put their lives on the line in defense of principle (or manly pride).

History simply makes me ask questions. And watching the miniseries has made me want to read the book.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't Tempt Me still in favor

More good news today. Don't Tempt Me is in its fourth week on the New York Times Mass Market list and the USA Today list.

It's gone into a third printing, too.

We'll return to our irregularly scheduled blogging soon, but these moments of triumph are all too fleeting in the writerly life, and we want to make the most of them.

Readers, THANK YOU!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Me--or at least my cover--in People

Yes, Sarah and Candy have done it again. They've made mathematicians and NPR interviewers read my book. Now they've got it into People magazine. No, I'm not kidding. 3 August 2009 issue. Lord of Scoundrels, in living color. For all the world (the part that reads People, that is) to see.

Read it all about it at Smart Bitches Love Trashy Books.

All About Romance Ranks 'Em

Big thanks to all who voted in the recent All About Romance Poll, Favorite Books by Favorite Authors. Don't know if the results will surprise you, but they surprised me.

You can view the results here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Romance B(u)y the Book Blog Date

I'm going to be hanging out with Michelle Buonfiglio and the Bellas tomorrow (21 July) at Romance B(u)y the Book.

It's a great group and Michelle is a smart, funny hostess. Stop by and say something. It'll be fun.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

DON'T TEMPT ME: The Interview

Don't Tempt Me sm

Historical fiction author Susan Holloway Scott interviewed me at the Word Wenches blog. Here's how it went, (minus the very flattering intro, which I've edited out because, well, because):

Susan: First, Loretta, what’s it all about? In a nutshell.

Loretta: Zoe Octavia Lexham, a harem captive for twelve years, risks her life to get home to England again, only to find that England’s not wild about having her back. (Here’s English Society’s idea of a harem). The only man who can make Society change its attitude toward her is a childhood friend, the Duke of Marchmont. Handsome, witty, rich, and very, very fashionable, he’s also the laziest man in town and, apparently, not overly intelligent. But he says “Nothing could be simpler” than making her respectable again, and Zoe can’t afford to be picky. And if I say any more, it’s no longer a nutshell but an essay.

Children-Schoolroom-ca-1820 Susan: While Don't Tempt Me is a “stand-alone” book for you, the hero and the heroine are hardly “stand-alone” characters. Their families and friends are very much part of their lives and decisions in both good and bad ways, and yet Zoe Octavia and Lucien de Grey, Duke of Marchmont, are completely separated from their families for years at a time. What role did you see “family” play for both characters?

Portrait of the Benua Family-Olivier-w Loretta: I think family, whether dead or alive, is crucial to character development. We don’t come out of nowhere; we come out of a context. In this story, though, I brought the family up close and personal to the hero and heroine, partly because it’s funny and partly because it’s poignant and partly because of that separation you mentioned. Lucien’s reacted to his experience by becoming detached from everybody. Zoe’s the opposite: She made a family of sorts for herself in the harem and she's determined to be part of her family when she gets back to England. She takes desperate measures to keep from being ejected from the nest--and her refusal to let them eject her is what, eventually, brings Lucien the connection he’s missed. Too, family interactions are a great way to demonstrate character: People behave differently with family than they do with friends, and I loved the opportunities this story gave me to show the comic aspects of aristocrats acting like a normal family.

Harem Bathhouse-Manuscript of the Zanan-nameh by Fazil-Yildiz in the University of Istanbul-w Susan: In your last book Your Scandalous Ways, your heroine Francesca was a genuine, unrepentant courtesan and not simply one as a titillating plot contrivance. In Don't Tempt Me, Zoe has spent nearly half her life in an Egyptian harem, and you don’t sugar-coat that experience, either. How did you research the life of a European woman in a harem? How did it affect Zoe? And how did it make her uniquely ready to conquer London society?

Loretta: I’d learned quite a bit about harems in Egypt while researching Mr. Impossible. This book offered a chance to explore the material further. Zoe’s harem, though, was bigger than the average Egyptian harem--which refers, basically, to the the women of a family. But the more important the man, the bigger the harem. I’d read that Ali Pasha of Albania had three hundred women in his harem. Considering how small Albania was/is, this sounded like half the female population!

Harem reception-Lewis 1873-w This is why my model was the Sultan’s harem, of the Topkapi Palace. With hundreds of women, and all the slaves and eunuchs, things get complicated. I thought a smart, educated young English woman, even at twelve, could adapt and, as she matured in that world, would master its ways. Cruikshank_Loo_in_the_kitchin-wk This experience makes it easy for Zoe to deal with, say, the hierarchy of English society and the hierarchy of household staff.

Pool in a Harem-w Too, in the harem’s hothouse atmosphere, a smart, observant girl would develop a keen understanding of human psychology. The cultural differences are important,too. She’s coming from a world in which people are more demonstrative. Emotion isn’t a dirty word. And dirty words aren’t dirty words: In that world of women, the focus is on sex, and this is what they talk and think about. So she walks and talks and generally behaves differently from English women. It's comedy material, yes, but it's also an eye-opening--and arousing--experience for the men, especially her jaded duke. (For more harem gossip, see my post at the Avon Romance Blog.)

English DukesSusan: The proliferation of dukes in historical romances is epidemic, and for the most part they’re often depicted as pleasure-seeking-slacker-rakes. But Lucien takes his title and responsibilities very seriously––and I have to say it earns him a solid place alongside the other great Loretta Chase heroes. You make him suffer, yes, but he also gets over it, and gets along with his life. Is he based on a real-life peer?

St James Sq 1799-wk Loretta: I stole the Duke of Norfolk’s house for him, and shoved the Duke of Richmond (descendant of Louise de Keroualle, the heroine of your latest, THE FRENCH MISTRESS) down a rung on the ladder of precedence to make room for Marchmont. But he wasn’t based on any duke in particular. I was thinking about what happens to a young man psychically when he’s abruptly thrust, in the most unwelcome circumstances, into a position of great responsibility. I was thinking, “teenager--rebellion--avoidance--denial.”

Gambling at roulette table ca-1800-w But this is also a man strongly influenced by a father figure, Lord Lexham, who takes his public duties seriously and is a devoted family man. That made for a conflict between the outside Marchmont--the detached nobleman who refuses to take anything seriously--and the inside Marchmont, who knows his Duty, and gets it done via his secretary.

Harrietwilson-La coterie debouche As to raking, it seemed to me that a man as detached as Marchmont couldn't be the serial seducer type. He has his 19th C equivalent of girlfriends, but it’s one at a time, for a (short, because he gets bored) time. I wanted us to be aware, all along, of a the kernel of goodness at heart that's necessary in a proper hero--and I think the bond with family helps account for his not turning out all bitter and twisted and selfish. I like to think the sense of humor and the wry self-awareness have grown out of interactions with the Lexham brood.

Almack's_Assembly_Rooms-wk Susan: One of the hallmarks of your books is to establish the setting as a real place, and in Don't Tempt Me you’ve again managed to make early 19th century London seem fresh and vivid. What aspects of the era did you choose to emphasize to make this work?

G-Cruikshank-Inconveniences-Crowded-Drawing-Room-1818-w Loretta: Zoe's point of view helps revive endlessly worked-over ground. She comes to England from another culture, and sees everything so differently. Showing London through her eyes made it fresh. She allowed me to delve more deeply into the old, familiar places. In her eyes, Hyde Park and the Green Park
are wonderlands of greenery. Everything, from the exterior of White’s Club to the claustrophobic royal Drawing Room, is unfamiliar and needs to be interpreted, and her interpretation isn’t like everyone else’s. (The black and white drawing is of the famous Almack's Club.)

Drawing Room at St James's- Microcosm-Rowlandson-w Susan: You’ve always been aware of how fashion and clothes make your characters behave (or not.) The stunningly awkward hoop skirts required for formal court dress play a major part in the courtship been Lucien and Zoe –– and that’s all I’ll say so as not to give too much away. 1778-jeune-dame-de-qualite-en-grande-robe-wki Would you share a little more about these ritualized hoops?

Loretta: Reading about hoops elsewhere had opened my eyes to their seductive possibilities, but then you suggested DANGEROUS LIAISONS--not the Laclos novel but a book published in connection with an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The marvelous illustrations offered the sort of detail one longs for--as well as abundant inspiration. But I think with hoops, the pictures really are worth a thousand words, so I’d direct readers to Candice Hern’s wonderful collection of prints
and I’ll point out that Cruikshank’s comical illustration strikes me as more accurate an illustration of a Drawing Room than the one below it by Rowlandson--certainly it's closer to the one I describe in Don't Tempt Me.

Susan: You've given us three very different Fallen Women so far. What's next?

Loretta: Another Carsington book, featuring a woman of weak moral fiber, a man who prides himself on having no imagination, and a haunted castle in Scotland.

Susan: It seems that's all we're going to get out of her. For more background info, check Loretta's website for links to interviews and blogs.

(Originally posted at Word Wenches)

Monday, July 13, 2009

All About Romance Reader Poll

From the same folks who brought you all those other cool polls...

All About Romance
have asked me to announce their latest:

Favorite Books by Favorite Authors.

You get to vote on the works of thirteen authors, and yes, I'm one of them.

Here's your ballot.

The polling ends at midnight 19 July 2009.

Vote early and often.

Monday, June 29, 2009

O Possum Part 2

Critter Control

The possums were still there this morning. So we had to call the guy in the yellow truck.

He went into the garage and closed the door to prevent desperate escapes. He was in there for a while. Toward the end, I heard thumps and thuds.

Trapped possums Then the garage door opened. Some of the little ones, it turned out, gave him a run for his money, and some of that non-car stuff in the garage toppled.

But we think he got them all.
Bye, o possums. You'll be happier in the woods. Really.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Don't Tempt Me in Cyberspace

Last year I learned the hard way that the time spent doing cyber appearances for a new release is not only time taken away from the Work in Progress, but usually works out to a formula like this:
For a blog or interview subtract 1-3 days writing progress on WIP.
As the blogs or interviews increase in number, the rate of negative impact on WIP increases exponentially.

This has unfortunate results on my mental health come Deadline Time.

So for DON’T TEMPT ME, I’ve cut back quite a bit. Here are a couple of cases of my venturing outside the hermit cave:

An interview at the Book Smugglers:

In Behind the Veil, I offer some interesting tidbits about harems at the Avon Romance Blog

Not everyone reads reviews. But if you do, here are some:

Book Smugglers

Reader to Reader

If you’re like me, though, you’d just rather read the book and form your own opinion.
It’s scheduled to appear in bookstores on 30 June.
I hope you like it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

O possum

Here's what I found in my garage this morning. When I walked in, Mum opossum didn't act dead but she did go very still, watching me. I watched her, too. Mommies of all species can become Terminators when they think their kids are threatened. The kids--who apparently have not learned the Play Dead game--went on wandering through the garage, which, yes, like so many others, contains many non-car objects. I've no idea why she thinks a pickax is a comfy place on which to build a nest.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The world they lived in

My research library contains a number of ancient tomes. It's amazing how many are illustrated. For which I am grateful. When I'm setting a scene, the history nerd in me wants it to be as accurate as possible. Thus it's good to have actual pictures of the place. Floor plans are wonderful. And maps, of course. Since my new book, DON'T TEMPT ME, will be out soon (30 June, if anyone's asking), it seemed like a good idea to launch this blog with some helpful illustrations.

The story proper opens in White's, a gentleman's club in St. James's Street.

Here's St. James's Street. White's is at 37-38 St. James's Street.

Here's White's and the famous Bow Window where Lucien's friends have gathered.

Here's Berkeley Square, where the Lexhams live, in the lower left hand corner.