New England Islands

  Block Island Bluffs 1

by Mary Jo

This is definitely my year for islands! In July, I visited Orkney  and Shetland , and now we're back from a shorter, more low key New England cruise.  (I took the picture above on Block Island.)

We were traveling on American Cruise Lines, a small ship cruising company that specializes in American waters, from the coast of New England to Southern rivers, the Mississippi, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. We've cruised on ACL once before, traveling from Baltimore to Charleston, SC on the IntraCoastal Waterway, and we had a fine time.

IMG_3563Our ship, the American Star, held fewer than a hundred passengers, which was great. The food is also very good, and on the New England cruises, ACL heavily emphasizes lobster. This one is from the New England boiled dinner served on the first night. I'm not particularly fond of lobster–this one belonged to the Mayhem Consultant. Wait staff went around breaking open the lobsters so people could actually eat them. <G>

But this was only the beginning! Over the week, there were lobster soups, lobster rolls, both Maine and Connecticut, lobster mac and cheese, and even lobster bread pudding. By the end of the cruise, even the most devout lobster lovers were sated. <G Newenglandislands_700x700


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A Wicked Wench in Wales!

Mischief_350Nicola here, and today I’m talking about the background and
inspiration to my story in the Word Wench anthology Mischief and Mistletoe.

It’s been fascinating to see the posts by the other
Wenches on what makes their heroines wicked. My heroine, Lydia Cole, is the
landlady of the Silent Wench Inn in a dark and dangerous corner of Wales. It’s
the first time I’ve set a story in Wales and I wonder why I’ve waited so long
because the setting really appeals to me. It feels wild and lawless, the perfect place for a handsome and rakish hero to be marooned on a winter's night.

It was a co-incidence that I was on holiday on the west
coast of Wales around the
Cliffs  time that we were discussing ideas for the Wench anthology but I think it must have been serendipity. We were staying in a seaside cottage close to the town of Newport and as soon as I visited it I knew it was the town
where my heroine Lydia Cole would hide when she runs away from society to
reinvent herself. I won’t give away too many details of Lydia’s “wickedness”;
let’s just say that the Silent Wench Inn doesn’t simply offer refreshment to
travellers, it runs a fine sideline in other less respectable activities too, some
of which are downright illegal. Records show that Newport was a trading port from the 16th century onwards and it's geographical position made it an ideal centre for free trading. Smuggling in Wales continued a lot later into the nineteenth century than it did in many other parts of the British Isles.

Newport CastleI also wanted to bring Newport Castle into the story. The west coast of Wales was fought over for hundreds of years.
The Normans established a barony in Newport in the 13th century and
the site of their first wooden motte and bailey castle can still be seen.
Subsequent stone castles were destroyed when the Welsh fought back under Prince
Rhys Ap Gruffydd and later under Owain Glyndwr. The current castle is a
seriously spooky looking place, a nineteenth century renovation of a medieval building. I actually saw a bat fly out of the open

One little detail that I picked up from the history
Newport 2 of
Newport and wanted to incorporate into my story was the school. The first
school in Newport was established in 1809 funded by and named after Madam Bevan
of Laugharne. It was part of a nationwide movement of “Circulating Schools” set
up to give children in rural communities the opportunity to receive an
education. In my story Lydia may be complicit in some illegal trades but she also teaches at the school and is an important part of the local community.

The other inspiration for my story was Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. This evocative description could have been written to describe Newport:

“It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobbled streets silent and the hunched courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea.” 

 I substituted winter for spring and away I went with On A Wicked Winter Night!

Today Wench Pat is offering a copy of Mischief and Mistletoe to one commenter in North America and I am offering a copy to a commenter from "the rest of the world" so you get two Wench giveaways for the price of one!

The question:

Where do you stand on stories where the hero or heroine breaks the law? Does it depend on the circumstances or is it just plain wrong no matter the reason? Do you have a favorite book with a law-breaking hero or heroine?