There I was minding my own business, writing a lovely (if lengthy!) Regency series involving eight ducal siblings, when a reader emailed me: What about the duke and duchess? Didn’t they have a story?
Percival Windham, Duke of Moreland, had sired two by-blows prior to acquiring a wife, and that alone meant his past was of some interest to me. What sort of woman would take on that kind of challenge, particularly when we also knew that Percival Windham was a younger son, not destined for the title? Especially when we also knew that those two by-blows didn’t join the ducal household until several years into the marriage (though that’s another story)?
I started to wonder about Percival and Esther, but I am a Regency author, and as we know, the Regency proper was a little, jeweled window of years, 1811-1820. I was and am most comfortable in that window.
Though I do love me a Scottish Victorian. I’m so thoroughly enamored of Jennifer Ashley’s MacKenzie brothers that I decided I’d dip my toe in those waters and see what happened. I tried a trilogy in the early 1850s, when Prince Albert was still very much alive, the royal family was still growing, and most people in Great Britain were still living on the land.
This first foray outside my little Regency garden went well. “The Bridegroom Wore Plaid” comes out in December, and Publishers Weekly has given it a starred review—which is all very nice, but more significantly, I had fun writing the book. I had fun reading Dickens, I had fun looking at all those solemn early photographs. I had enormous fun poking around at Balmoral Castle and larking around Edinburgh.
Fun, fun, fun and to be quite honest, taking a break from Prinny and the wretched Corsican, and Almacks was… you must tell no one I said this, delightful.
So imagine my wonderment when I woke up one morning with this thought: “You haven’t written a house party romance yet. Percival and Esther met at a house party.”
Instead of muttering, “What has that to do with me?” I instead figured out that such a house party would have been held in the mid 1780s. Did houses have bell pulls then? What about ladies’ hair styles—were they still tremendously complicated and did everybody wear powder all the time? What were the gents wearing and were social mores as constrained in the upper classes as they became during the Regency and Victorian eras? What had the Duke of Devonshire been thinking when he propositioned his wife’s best friend?
I started exploring, and found to my delight an age before the violence and mayhem of the French Revolution, an era before Napoleon threw an entire Continent into decades of chaos and warfare. I found such lovely, flattering styles of dress, and an era were marrying for love and taking a direct interest in one’s children became more accepted than not. I found a king and queen who met on their wedding day and had fifteen children in astonishingly short order. What fun! So I wrote my first Georgian novella, complete with rice powder and wigs, and enjoyed myself tremendously. And I also discovered something most historical fiction readers likely know: The styles can change, the architecture can vary, the menus become more or less elaborate, but a love story is a love story, and a well told happily ever after in any age is a great read.
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OUR REVIEW OF THE COURTSHIP
Lord Percival Windham has come back from a cavalry posting in the wilds of Canada to find marital ambushes and intrigues on all sides at what ought to be a country house party. He depends on sensible Miss Esther Himmelfarb to guide him past all hazards, but who will protect Esther’s heart from being taken captive by Lord Percival?
Historical Romance Novella
Heat Level: 2
Review rating: 5 Stars
REVIEW by Emery
The setting of THE COURTSHIP is the ubiquitous 18th century aristocratic house party, the scene of match-making and midnight trysts. Of the many guests present, and more by default than preference, is the almost-spinster Miss Esther Himmelfarb, who is there mainly to support the matrimonial ambitions of her impoverished cousin Michael. Also on the list more out of obligation than inclination, and decidedly disinclined to place themselves within range of any debutante’s matrimonial sights, are the Windham brothers Anthony and Percival, both younger sons of the Duke of Moreland.
Although he would much prefer to return to the wilds of Canada than satisfy his mother’s demand to produce Windham progeny, Lord Percy is struck at once by Esther’s understated beauty and quiet self-possession. One of my favorite quotes is Percival’s protest to his brother after Anthony notes Percy’s interest in Esther:
“I do not fall in love, Anthony. I fall into bed, or occasionally into linen closets, private boudoirs, secluded bowers, that sort of thing.”
Like the stately minuet, the plot unfolds gracefully and at a leisurely pace, with Ester and Percy coming to an early truce and even seeking one another out to prevent the unwanted attentions of others even as their attraction to one another grows. A quote from another favorite scene:
“You are an impertinent woman.” This did not, unfortunately, sound as if it put him off.
“As compared to you, my lord who are somehow a pertinent man? Or perhaps pertinacious might apply?” That was rude, intended to put the perishing idiot in his place, but it only added approval to the warmth in his gaze. His eyes crinkled at the corners, his lips curved up to reveal perfect, straight white teeth in a dazzling, alarmingly intimate smile.
“We’re going to get on famously, Miss Himmelfarb. I adore impertinent women.”
There is an understated elegance and sophistication to Grace Burrowes’ prose which lends itself well to the Georgian era. I found THE COURTSHIP to be a well-developed and delightful novella written with true wit and style. Highly recommended.
“The Courtship” is available exclusively at Discover a New Love (you don’t have to be a member to buy it), and will become available on all the major ebook platforms in early November. Link for Discover a New Love: http://www.discoveranewlove.com/store/courtship.html