2010 RITAs

It’s awards season for romance writers!  The RITA Awards are announced every year at the Romance Writers of America durning their Annual Conference.  This year, the lucky attendees (of which I am not one — sniffle, sniffle) get to go to Disney World.  While the days are filled with any number of excellent workshops, seminars and panels, one of the high points is the ceremony that acknowledges, as the RWA puts it, “excellence in the romance genre.”*

Categories cover a range of subgenres, including Series Romance, Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, and Inspirational, among others.  I’m watching the Historical category (duh!) and my youngest daughter was excited to see two of her favorite books of the last year nominated for best Young Adult Romances.  I haven’t read all the finalists myself, obviously, but I’m thrilled for all of the writers nominated!

Below are the books we’re cheering for at our house:

Nominated in Best Historical Category

To Beguile a Beast, by Elizabeth Hoyt

Knight of Pleasure, by Margaret Mallory

Nominated in Young Adult

Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

If you want to see if any of your favorite books from 2009 are nominated, check out the complete list of finalists in ALL categories here: http://www.rwanational.org/cs/2010_rita_finalists

Have you read any of the nominated books? Do they strike you as award-worthy?

*Quoted from the RWA website.  http://www.rwanational.org/cs/contests_and_awards/rita_awards


A Month in the Country

The London Season might have been the pinnacle of the social year, but a family’s showplace and the source of much its prestige (and income) was the country house (and the estate it sat on).  Even in America, Astors, Vanderbilts, DuPonts and Belmonts aped the British aristocracy by building lavish homes on Long Island and in Newport, Rhode Island.  Diantha, the American heroine of my March 2011 release, Her Scottish Groom, belongs to a family who aims to belong to this social elite.  Her husband, the aristocratic Lord Kieran Rossburn, already does.  Much of the action takes place during a country house visit hosted by Diantha and Kieran at his home, an estate near Scotland’s Grampian Mountains.

As my story takes place in 1875, the Scotland portrayed in it differs sharply from the many excellent portrayals of Highland life before and immediately after the Battle of Culloden over a hundred years earlier.  The social rituals involved are decidedly Victorian.  Having sent out invitations to their guests, both the host and hostess then have to think of ways to amuse them for weeks on end.

Travel in that era involved arranging transportation not only for the invitees, but for their maid and/or valet and their wardrobe.  Even after train routes developed, carriages often had to be hired at the station for further travel.  In the early 1800s, and for isolated locations later in the century, it didn’t make sense to travel only for a week’s stay. Nevertheless, invitations to a country estate were prized for the social cachet they bestowed.

Polite guests arrived in the late afternoon so their clothing could be unpacked and that evening’s dinner ensemble pressed and laid out.  Dinner was the grand event of each day of a country house visit unless a ball was planned.  Men and women dressed as formally as they would in London at the height of the season, including jewels and accessories.  No lady wanted to appear in the same evening ensemble more once unless necessity forced her to it.

The day began with breakfast, served for the female guests around 10 a.m.  The men might or might not breakfast earlier, depending on their activities.  For shooting parties and on hunt days, they left house early in the morning.  The opposite of dinner, everyone served him- or herself and sat where they wished.

While men engaged in fishing, hunting or shooting, the women seldom had any vigorous activity to look forward to.  Their day consisted of walks in the garden, letter writing, gossip, or for the really ambitious, reading or needlework.  At five o’clock, everyone gathered in the drawing room for tea.

In Her Scottish Groom, I took the liberty of allowing Diantha to arrange such genteel events as sketching parties and lawn tennis for the ladies, as well as a picnic by the seaside for everyone.  And with a Scottish setting I could even include a golf game.  (Naturally instigated by Kieran.)

Once the gentlemen had enjoyed their port and cigars, everyone mingled over tea and coffee for light conversation, or cards.  A lady was expected to have some musical accomplishment and might that time to demonstrate her skills (or her lack thereof) on the piano.  Victorians amused themselves by singing, so she might end up providing accompaniment to others.  Games like charades or twenty questions were not unusual.

House parties often revolved around events like a shooting party or fox-hunting.  In populous neighborhoods a hostess might plan a hunt ball for her guests and nearby friends, or a smaller dance for an evening’s amusement.  For political figures, a house party could function as a strategic planning conference.

Best of all for me as a writer, house parties are rife with possibilities for meetings, flirtations, making or missing assignations, mistaken bedrooms and countless opportunities for romantic mayhem.  What kind of activity do you would have enjoyed while visiting a country house?

TBR: Life, Libertines and the Pursuit of Hotness!

It’s July, and I just celebrated the 4th.  In the spirit of independent heroines and the bad boys they love, here are some books that I hope will heat up some of my summer days. (And nights.)  Yup, time for another entirely subjective, unscientific list of recent and upcoming releases in my TBR pile:

My Reckless Surrender, by Anna Campbell: The premise of this book involves the maiden running headlong into the arms of a practiced seducer instead of away from him.  (And really, in our imaginations, wouldn’t we all rather do that?) This sounds like the hero and heroine both get caught in their own webs, a device that can make for some great reading. June 2010, Avon

Song of Seduction, by Carrie Lofty: Lofty thinks outside the box in her choice of times and places to set her historical romances.  Centered around a composer hero and a violinist heroine and placed in 1804 Vienna, I have high hopes for this one!  Her angst-filled heroes and heroines absorb me completely. June 2010, Carina

Knight of Passion, by Margaret Mallory:  The family of William and Catherine FitzAlan continues.  This time the hero is Jamie Rayburn, introduced as a small boy in the first book of her ‘All the King’s Men’ series.  If her past novels are indication, very adult sparks are going to fly when he meets his childhood sweetheart, Linnet.  Mallory’s deft use of historical events and detail hooked from the first.  June 2010, Grand Central

The Wicked Wyckerly, by Patricia Rice:  A second son with no sense of entitlement who comes into an impoverished title, his hellion of daughter and a heroine blessed with compassion and common sense — all sound like a charming trio to read about on summer’s day.  Abigail, the heroine, sounds like an especially delightful foil for a rake beset by debts, a sordid past and sudden fatherhood.  July 2010, Signet

Highland Warrior, by Hannah Howell: Howell releases another of her Highlands romances, this one featuring the laird of a rogue clan.  He faces the quandary of ransoming the heroine off to her family for the good of his people or keeping for the good of his heart.  Howell writes so many times and places well, her books are always a treat.  July 2010, Kensington Zebra

So this is my list.  What books do you look forward to reading?