Mary Jo Putney interviews Anne Gracie

Mary Jo here. I had the great good fortune to get an early read of our Wench Anne Gracie’s upcoming release of THE HEIRESS’S DAUGHTER, which will be released May 21st.  It’s third in her Brides of Bellaire Gardens series.
MJP: Anne, your set-up for this series is unusual since many readers probably aren’t familiar with the private gardens that are sometimes created within blocks of London houses.  The space is shared by residents so they must interact together.  Do you have any idea where this lovely idea came from?

Anne: I saw some of these gardens on line and I instantly wanted to set a series in one. At the time (some years ago) I was thinking that I might set a mystery series there, where some of the residents might notice a few odd things and eventually put their observations (and heads) together and solve the mystery, but that never eventuated and I set a romance series there instead. It’s ideal for having people interact in a different setting.
Interestingly, after the first book came out, Wench Christina told me she’d lived in a house backing onto a garden like this.

MJP:  The Heiress’s Daughter has a number of continuing characters who share that space.  This story’s heroine, Clarissa, was there from book #2, The Rake’s Daughter.  Can you tell us something about her?

Anne: Clarissa and her illegitimate half-sister Izzy arrived at Bellaire Gardens in book #2. Clarissa is the daughter of a heartless rake and an heiress. Having watched her father break her mother’s heart over and over again, she’s extremely wary of being married for her money, and especially of marrying a rake. Like her mother, she’s not particularly pretty and is shy and a little plump and not very confident. You can see why in the prologue.
But she’s a loyal and loving person, and readers really warmed to her in the previous book. After the previous book, I got a flurry of emails asking when Clarissa’s story would come out.

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The Scottish Bride

Susan here, with a look at my upcoming book, The Scottish Bride, now available on preorder for a June 4 release (just a couple of weeks away!). I’d love to share something about the story and historical background with you. This is a totally NEW novel, never before published! (My previous backlist books, related to these new stories but all independent reads, are recently available as the Celtic Hearts series.)

The Scottish Bride is Book One in my “Highland Secrets” trilogy. Book Two, The Forest Bride, is in editorial production (whew!), and Book Three, The Guardian’s Bride, is in the messy-but-promising writing stage. Scroll down for a sneak peek at their gorgeous covers too. I’ll post more info about those over the summer!

Secrets and heartfelt romance in medieval Scotland . . .
Three sisters of Clan Keith inherit gifts from their kinsman, the soothsayer Thomas the Rhymer, and must protect his legend and legacy—but each sister encounters a Scottish warrior intent on taking the treasure and thwarting the game.

When Lady Tamsin Keith escapes a castle tower to avoid marriage, she literally falls into the arms of a mysterious Scottish knight—Sir William Seton, sent by King Edward I to demand Thomas the Rhymer’s book of prophecies, said to be in the girl’s possession. Discovering that beautiful Tamsin is a gifted seer, Liam soon learns she is a tad too truthful, exceedingly stubborn, and has lost the Rhymer’s book. . .

But Liam’s forfeited lands and title, his wolfhounds, and his very life depend on bringing those prophecies to the king. Yet Tamsin refuses to trust the knight even as he thrills her lonely heart, even as they travel together to find the missing tome. Liam has a secret plan for that bothersome book—but never counted on falling for the lady’s headstrong allure. They must find the missing prophecies or answer to the king—but when a powerful foe threatens to tear down all they cherish, the only thing worth finding is love . . .

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Ask-A-Wench — Movies and TV

Anne here, and today we’re responding to the question: “What have the wenches been watching lately?”

Andrea said: I have been binging through ‘Lewis,’ a wonderful British police procedural spin-off of “Morse.” (Lewis was his sidekick.) It’s based in Oxford, with the mysteries always involving members of the university, so the plots are often cleverly erudite and tie into some arcane academic element. I find the ambiance, the scenery and the twists a lot of fun. I also really enjoy the chemistry between Lewis and his sidekick, Hathaway, who is a bit of an odd duck, (apparently both on and off the screen.) Hathaway is pretty tightly wound and adds an interesting edginess to the series. It ran for nine seasons . . .and I’m getting sad that I’m working my way closer to “THE END.”

Given the the political and cultural turmoil in this country right now, I also was moved to re-watch the amazing Ken Burns PBS documentary series on The Civil War. It is extraordinarily well-done, using letters and vintage pictures to tell the poignant story of the conflict. it really brings home the horrendous suffering and death on both sides caused by passions that sparked into hatred and extremism. It’s incredibly sobering and a chilling reminder of the awful consequences of violence.

Christina here. I’ve been in the mood for some very light entertainment and I found the perfect thing on Swedish TV when visiting my mother  – Hudson & Rex. It’s a Canadian crime series/police procedural drama set in St. John’s, Newfoundland, which is an unusual and very beautiful setting. Detective Charlie Hudson solves murders and other crimes with the help of his canine sidekick Rex, a very clever Alsatian/German Shepherd.

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Welcoming Summer

Christina here. So apparently summer has arrived in the northern hemisphere even if it doesn’t really feel like it much! Last week was May Day which is supposedly the beginning of summer, and it has been celebrated in various ways since ancient times. Most of us don’t bother to mark it these days, but in the past it was important as it heralded the warmer months to come.

One of the earliest known celebrations was Floralia, the Roman festival of Flora, goddess of flowers, spring and fertility. This took place during the last days of April and the first of May and included the Ludi Florae, the special “Games of Flora” that lasted for days.

Floralia – Hobbe Smith 1898

The festival was all about pleasure-seeking and was plebeian, rather than patrician as most other festivals were (even prostitutes took part). There were various spectacles like theatrical performances and other entertainments and it all sounds like great fun! (If you want to know more about Roman spring celebrations, check out this post on Alison Morton’s blog.)

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More than England…

Cruise map

by Mary Jo

In casual conversation, the words “Britain” and “England are often used interchangeably, but in fact the two things are very different.  We’re just back from a Viking cruise called “The British Isles Explorer,” which really highlighted the difference.  The British Isles are a sprawling archipelago of islands sized anywhere from uninhabited rocks to full sized nations. The largest island is Great Britain, which includes England, Scotland, and Wales.

V&A courtyard

The second largest island is Ireland, which includes the Republic of Ireland and Northern Island. The latter joins with England, Scotland, and Wales to become the United Kingdom. As the route map shows, the cruise also included two island groups with strong Nordic ancestry, Orkney and Shetland.  So the British Islands Explorer cruise includes a lot more than England!

Nonetheless, we started with 3 days in London because why cross the Atlantic to the UK and not spend time in London?  So we did.  The Mayhem Consultant chose the lovely Rembrandt Hotel, which is literally across the street from the famous Victoria & Albert museum, which holds the world’s largest collection of applied arts and designs.  It’s so vast that all one can do is nibble at it. We visited

Regency furniture

the 18th century area which included Regency style furniture.  We also admired the pool in the central garden, in which kids splash in warmer weather. (We had sunshine through the trip, but it was not particularly warm.)

On our previous visit to London, the  Mayhem Consultant had spotted big red double-decker buses that offered Tea on the Bus.  I had some doubts as I envisioned buses slamming on the brakes in heavy traffic and sending tea and cakes flying.

Tea on the Buss

But Bridget’s Bakery was much smarter than that. The very solid tables were built into the bus and there were wells to cradle the insulated tea beverage holders.  The racks that held the food were also heavy enough to be stable, and as you can see, each one held a LOT of foods, both savory and sweet.  Most guests ate about half and little carry-away boxes were supplied for leftovers.  The food items were also designed for eye appeal (or possibly eye shock. <G>)  For example, the green globe with a pink icing cap was actually a very tasty cream puff.  Savory items included sandwiches and a small quiche, among other things.

Us on the bus

So if you’re in London and in the mood to be well fed and totally touristy, try Tea on the Bus!  They have several routes with different pick up points. Since we are indeed tourists, we chose the route that started just off Trafalgar Square.  The tour took about an hour and a half and drove by a number of London’s most famous sites, like Westminster Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.

After seeing the sites and visiting some friends, we went off to Tilbury to board the Viking Venus. 

Tilbury port at sunset

Tilbury is due east of London along the Thames River and is a major deep water port on the North Sea. I took this picture of container cranes silhouetted against a dramatic sunset.

I’m running out of time so I’ll stop here, but I’ll talk more about the actual cruise on future  blogs.  For now, let’s share a cup of virtual tea!

Model royal coach in the V&A

Mary Jo