Introducing author Lela Bay and her debut book — Ruined Reputations — with a Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway

Welcome! It’s nice to be back at Every Savage Can Dance after a winter hiatus!

I do occasional beta-reading for one of my Facebook acquaintances, and amongst my favourite reads was this delightful book by new JAFF/Regency author Lela Bay. It actually comprises two stories in one. You may have noticed that I often crab about how disappointed I am when authors publish short stories as stand-alones, and how I wish they’d put two or more together when they publish them. (When you encounter a single engaging short story it’s kinda like you’re just starting a yummy meal only to see it yanked off the table before you’ve finished enjoying it.) So I was most gratified by Ruined Reputations, which comprises two delightfully engaging short romances. Enough to keep you occupied and happy through one cup of tea or a potful!

ruined reputations coverBlurbing the book

–The Unusual Manners of Mr. Aarons–
Rumors of Mr. Aarons’ unconventional ways are confirmed when he nearly yanks the bonnet off Emmaline’s cousin’s head. Drawn by his charm and good looks, Emmaline finds herself assisting him in his mysterious mission.

His obscure search appears to lead to her cousin, beautiful Catherine Connersfield. Catherine is the more sensible choice, but will she have him? More to the point, will Emmaline let her?

–Virtue’s Temptation–
Experience has taught Eleanor it’s better to be practical than passionate.

When she discovers Bitsy eloping with her French tutor, scandal threatens to ruin the girl.

To keep her reputation intact, Eleanor reluctantly chaperones the rebellious heiress.

Eleanor’s spotless character protects Bitsy, but behaving respectably proves difficult when Eleanor is tempted by the dangerously attractive Mr. Stinson.

If she fails it will end with … Ruined Reputations.

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About the author

LelaBay_Online_Profile

Lela lives in a modest house with her husband, children, and pets. Despite living in the far north, she requires a certain amount of sunshine each day or she gets grumpy. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys strolling, gardening, reading, and tea time with friends.

She enjoys stories with intimacy and humor.

Follow Lela on twitter @bay_lela.

 

 

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Guest Post by Lela Bay

When a young, impressionable girl is led astray in a period drama, don’t you wish someone with sense would see it happening and step in? Where are all the disapproving matrons who should be fretting and tutting?

Examples of young misses led astray abound in literature. In Pride & Prejudice alone, Georgiana, Mr. Darcy’s younger sister, was barely rescued after meeting secretly with George Wickham and planning to elope. Similarly, just think what trouble it would have saved Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet if careless Lydia had been hauled home to pout instead of succeeding in escaping her chaperones in Brighton for Wickham.

As Elizabeth tells Mr. Darcy, “I have just had a letter from Jane, with such dreadful news. It cannot be concealed from any one. My youngest sister has left all her friends—has eloped;—has thrown herself into the power of—of Mr. Wickham. They are gone off together from Brighton. You know him too well to doubt the rest. She has no money, no connections, nothing that can tempt him to—she is lost for ever.”

In Ruined Reputations, the heroine of Virtue’s Temptation, Eleanor, discovers impetuous Bitsy running off with someone unsuitable. Rather than allow the girl to destroy her future, proper Eleanor takes responsibility for her.

Of course, saving someone from their own bad behavior is more demanding—and entertaining—than anyone with good sense could expect. Bitsy resists Eleanor’s help, and Eleanor is relieved when Mr. Stinson appears in pursuit. Eleanor and Mr. Stinson join forces to get Bitsy home before her reputation is irreparably ruined.

Eleanor must behave with propriety, since Bitsy’s reputation rests on hers as chaperone, but traveling with Mr. Stinson makes that more and more difficult. He came chasing after Bitsy, but is he noble hero or thwarted suitor? And what if it is Eleanor who wishes to be pursued?

I love the tension in Regency romances between propriety and longing. Eleanor is proper but in many ways envies Bitsy’s impetuous youth.

Virtue’s Temptation and The Unusual Manners of Mr. Aarons form my first romance novella Ruined Reputations.

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And now for my review

Two romantic Regency-era stories in one volume? Yes, I like it very well.

To start, I liked wondering if Mr. Aarons was a gentleman or if he was a rogue or a rake. And I liked rooting for “the underdog” to capture his heart (altho’ it took a bit to discover whether or not he in fact had a heart!). Then I liked wondering what dangers a woman traveling alone and sticking her nose into somebody else’s business might encounter, particularly given that these stories are set during the English Regency era, when women did not have quite so much latitude in society as we do nowadays.

The scenes and characters played out believably in both stories, with good attention to period detail as well as to human (and canine) nature.  Both stories moved along at a good pace, engaging the reader fully. When I get to the end of a story and think “I wish I knew what happened next” — as I did twice with this book — the author has made a definite connection.

Please note that while there are several steamy encounters between some of the characters, this is a clean read. But the mind can wander, can’t it? 😉

What I liked most

Well, aside from the “two-fer” aspect of the book that I appreciate, I liked how well the characters were drawn. If I ever encounter any of them I’ll know them in a moment!

What I liked least

I would have liked a rather more definite conclusion regarding Eleanor and Mr. Stinson. Given that life doesn’t always work that way, however, I’m willing to wait and see if the characters compel Lela to bring them back for an encore.

In short

A fun read (times two) and a well-done book. Nicely written and tightly edited, which is the way I like my books. Oh, and the cover is beautiful too. I give Ruined Reputations a well-deserved five Darcys.

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I look forward to more good things from this author. Thank you for visiting me today, Lela!

Connect with Lela Bay via:

Her blog
Her Amazon Author Page
Twitter

Order your copy of Ruined Reputations in kindle, kindle/unlimited, or paperback.

 

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The Giveaway!!

Lela is offering an ebook copy of Ruined Reputations to two (2) lucky winners. To enter the Giveaway, please leave a comment on this review post. (You can also comment even if you don’t want to enter the Giveaway; your comments are always welcome.)

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Also available on kindleUnlimited.

 

 

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The Murmur of Masks, and a tour of the Regency, by Catherine Kullmann

catherine-kullmanI should begin this post by saying that Catherine Kullmann has become one of my favourite authors. Her Regency stories are always well researched, well written, and well edited. My introduction to Catherine’s work was Perception and Illusion, reviewed here. Her brief autobiographical notes explain clearly why I was originally drawn to her writings. Recently I read The Murmur of Masks and couldn’t wait to share it with those of you who love good historical romances.

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Blurbing the book

murmur-of-masksIt is 1803. The Treaty of Amiens has collapsed and England is again at war with France. Eighteen-year-old Olivia must say goodbye to her father and brother, both of whom are recalled to active service in the navy. Not long afterwards, her mother, who has been her anchor all her life, dies suddenly. As a result, she loses her home. Adrift and vulnerable, she accepts the offer of a marriage of convenience from Jack Rembleton, an older man whose brother, Lord Rembleton, is pressuring him to marry and sire the heir to the title Rembleton has failed to provide. Olivia hopes that love will grow between them, but Jack’s secrets will prevent this and Olivia must learn that she has thrown away her youth and the chance of love.

When Luke Fitzmaurice, a young man prevented by ill-health from joining the army, meets Olivia at a ball, he is instantly smitten but she must tell him she is already married. Ten years pass, during which each faces up to life’s challenges but then fate throws them together again. Olivia is finally free, but before they can explore what might be between them, Napoleon escapes from Elba and Luke, who is determined this time not to be found wanting, joins Wellington’s army in Brussels.

They say: “I read it very quickly as the story was very compelling and the characters really came to life and engaged me.” “Depicts both the harsh reality of the battlefield and the pleasures and challenges of society life in England.” “I was hooked from start to finish.” Winner of a Chill with a Book Award.

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Guest Post

Please enjoy Catherine’s beautifully illustrated tour of the British Regency period.

The Regency Illustrated

One of the joys of writing historical novels is that you have an unimpeachable excuse to rummage in flea markets, second-hand book shops, antique fairs, and curiosity shops. My books are set in the extended Regency period from 1800 to 1830 and I was amazed to discover the wealth of coloured contemporary illustrations of the period over and above the portraits and architectural prints I had expected. Print shops selling cartoons and caricatures thrived, and ladies’ journals published fashion plates and engravings of eminent persons in each issue. In addition, publishers had progressed beyond the usual frontispiece to produce lavishly illustrated books that are the forerunners of today’s graphic novels. I have chosen five of these illustrations to take you on a tour of London from the lowest dive to the Prince Regent’s court.

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Here we meet Bob Tallyho Esq. and his cousin the Hon. Tom Dashall blowing a cloud and taking their heavy wet at the Black diamond merchants’ free & easy King Charles’s crib, Scotland Yard.

Glossary

Blowing a cloud                        Smoking

Heavy wet                                  Beer, especially porter and stout

Black Diamond Merchant      Coalman

Crib                                              Here, a public house

Free & easy                                A social gathering (gen. at a public house) where smoking, drinking, and singing are allowed.

Bang-up                                     first-rate

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And here we see Tom and Bob in Hyde Park, Cutting a Dash among the Pinks in Rotten Row. A ‘Pink of the Fashion’ is a gentleman who is at ‘the top of the mode.’

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While Tom and Bob were well-born young men about town, Dr Syntax, the hapless protagonist of at least four volumes by different authors, was a not-so-young curate whose outings tended to end in disaster of some kind. We encounter him and his wife at Vauxhall Gardens, holding up a slice of the ham that was famous, or infamous, for its thinness, which inevitably led to a steep bill at the end of the night.

Before them soon was laid a slice
which some might think was very nice,
But through whose thin, transparent fold,
You might the distant stars behold,
Was not much better than a jelly;
Another, and another still,
Must feed the craving ivory mill,
And still to every keen performer
“The last is welcome as the former.”

 

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We next visit a fashionable ball. In this illustration from The Adventures of a Post-Captain, you can just see the dancers in the background at the top left, but all attention is focused on the pink sofa where our hero woos his lady, ignoring the envious glances of others less favoured. The text beneath it reads:

The maiden listen’d, blush’d and look’d,
As she would have the words rebuk’d
But there was something in her eye.
Which seem’d to give the words the lie.

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Finally we attend a levée at Carlton House, seat of the Prince Regent, where Johnny Newcome, fresh from the Campaign in the Peninsula, presents him with the Trophies of Battle. Although our hero is fictional, this scene alludes to the retrieval of the baton of the French Marshal Jourdan from the abandoned coach of Napoleon’s elder brother Joseph Bonaparte, whom Napoleon installed as King of Spain in 1808. Joseph made a desperate attempt to escape Wellington’s advancing army in 1813, losing almost all his baggage in his headlong flight.  The baton was given to Wellington, who sent it to the Prince Regent.

To me, these prints and their accompanying text open a window on the real Regency. Perhaps it is because they were created with no thought to posterity that they are so appealing two hundred years later. Their vitality and immediacy invite us to step into their world, and I for one cannot resist.

©Catherine Kullmann 2017

Nor can I, Catherine!!

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And now for my review

This story opens heartbreakingly sadly. Young Olivia suffers the loss of her beloved mother, and inasmuch as her father and brother are off fighting the interminable war with France, she is left on her own with disappointed hopes. In Regency society, being without male protection translates as being quite vulnerable. Fortunately her uncle steps in to help. He approves when an acquaintance asks for Olivia’s hand in marriage. Unfortunately, neither Olivia nor her uncle are aware of who and what this acquaintance really is, what are his motives, and where his heart is truly engaged, setting Olivia up for a sad and loveless marriage of convenience.

After she is married she meets the man of her dreams. Altho’ he is a bit of a rascal (or maybe because of it!), I fell in love with Luke almost from the moment I “met” him. Illness prevents him from fulfilling his dream, as a second son, of joining the military, and he lives a rather dissolute life as he is also set adrift by his own disappointed hopes.

Ultimately, of course, they are both free to marry and enjoy a life of happiness together. Getting to that point, however, is not an easy straight line. The many twists and turns of their relationship are the stuff of this intriguing story, a story I could barely put down once I had started it.

What I liked most

There was so much I liked about this book that I hardly know where to start. Perhaps with the clever references to Pride and Prejudice? I’ll leave it to you to make these delicious discoveries for yourself.

Then there were the engaging characters and situations. All had the ring of reality to them, and I was pleased to be sharing their lives with them. One situation, and character, I had already been introduced to: Lallie Tamrisk, the star of Perception and Illusion, makes a cameo appearance, and I was happy to see her again, in a shocking scene touched on in P&I and featured in the 1972 movie Lady Caroline Lamb. Then I realized that P&I was written after TMoM. So now I wonder if Lallie simply grew into a larger role in P&I, and if we’ll see her yet again in Catherine’s next book? (Hint hint, Catherine!)

The new-to-me Regency words and expressions, as well as the general Regency history, that I learned here.

What I liked least

The vividly detailed description of The Battle of Waterloo. We who have never seen war close-up know events such as these simply as ticks on the timeline of history. To Luke and the other participants, however, they were far more personal, and even tho’ I admit to skipping some of this difficult reading, I actually found myself having nightmares about this nightmarish battle.

In short

If you enjoy well-researched and well-written historical novels incorporating a not-always-tender love story with a happily-ever-after ending, you will surely enjoy reading The Murmur of Masks.

I give it an enthusiastic five-star rating:

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To learn more about Catherine Kullman and her writings, and for lots more treats and goodies, visit her website.

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Your comments, as always, are most welcome!

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Now also available on kindleUnlimited.

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All things matrimonial

martrimonial ladderCatherine Kullman, the author who brought you the Matrimonial Map, now introduces you to the Matrimonial Ladder. This rare Regency-era “comic book” is absolutely delightful and most charmingly illustrated.

Do stop by Catherine’s home on the Web and take a look.  While you’re there, you might want to see what other goodies you can find on her website. It’s one of my very favourites; one reason why is her Regency stories, like this one that I reviewed a while ago.

Apologies to my ESCD readers for being out of touch for so long … I went through a bout of ill health, including a (blessedly!) brief hospital stay, and am just catching up now. I have some wonderful reviews and other “stuff” — including giveaways — coming up soon, so please stop by again. G0d bless you, and wishing you all good health and happiness!

Your comments, as always, are most welcome.

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desp-hearts-coverAnd … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here.

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Two sleep nights

DH and I have recently been caring for a couple of aging pets. We’d wake up in the middle of the night, either of our own accord or because some particular noise alerted us to see if either of them needed something in the night. After tending to whatever needed tending, we would go back to bed, on good nights falling asleep straight away but just as often struggling to return to our slumbers.

On those long white nights, and the following mornings when I could barely drag myself around the house, I was reminded of a custom I learned about several years ago and that has ever since fascinated me: the practice of two sleeps. And decided to go with it instead of fighting it.

two-sleeps 8 hour sleepHumans did not always spend eight (or so) hours at one stretch sleeping through the night. From ancient times our ancestors would sleep for four or five hours, wake up, spend anywhere from two to four hours in various activities, and then return to dreamland until sunrise. It was the common practice, and it lasted until about the end of the nineteenth century. So altho’ not a uniquely Regency-era practice, people certainly would have been two-sleeping during Jane Austen’s lifetime.

After waking from the first sleep, people engaged in numerous activities. These included feeding babies or the sick of the household; tending fires that would otherwise extinguish themselves during the night; checking on the welfare of farm animals to ensure they were not being set upon by predators or thieves. Many people spent the time reading or praying, and in fact there were specific prayers for this time of night. Family members might find this a convenient time for chatting with each other, while husbands and wives often engaged in sexual relations. Physicians recommended having sex after the first sleep as both parties were generally more relaxed and it was likelier to result in conception.

two-sleeps cartoon woman asleep at nightAs the practice of two sleeps was so common, visits were often made to equally wakeful neighbours. Socializing also served to remind potential nighttime thieves that their intended targets were awake and alert.

Two-sleeping faded in popularity with the advent of electricity; specifically indoor lights and outdoor street lamps. With more light available, people extended their daytime activities to the nights, and began to go to sleep later, leaving too little time for two sleeps and a wakeful period in-between. Thus our current practice of getting (or trying to get!) eight consecutive hours of sleep each night developed.

While we lost one of our pets recently – cancer ultimately claimed our beloved dog Rufus – we still tend to our elderly kitty Shana when she requires attention during the night, as well as to any other critters who might be temporarily indisposed. We two-slept for most of last weekend, for example, when our kitty Spunky chewed up a silk flower and spent the better part of the next two days puking it up at all hours. (Yes, we took him to the vet and he’s just fine now.)

two-sleeps cat and dogNext time you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, don’t panic or think that you absolutely must get back to sleep right away. Take a cue from our ancestors and stay awake for a while – productively awake, that is, by engaging in one or more of the activities enumerated above, or perhaps by sketching out your next storyline or book review. Or jot down any part of your dreams that you can recall. Or catch up on your reading. In fact, this is often the time when I get most of my own reading done!

Your comments, as always, are most welcome.

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. A perfect read for your two-sleep night’s awake hours!desp-hearts-cover

 

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