Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Release Day! GIFTS GONE ASTRAY, Regency comedy

Today is the release day for my latest Regency comedy novella, Gifts Gone Astray.

A gift is a wonderful surprise. Or maybe not.

At the Earl of Langley's family gathering, everyone receives a gift, including the servants. Tutor Stephen Fairfax expects a small token, but the present from family member Mrs. Anne Copely, the widow who's caught his eye, is a dream come true.

Until he opens it. What a gift! How did that demure lady acquire such a book? And she wants to "study" it with him? If he accepts her offer, tempting as it is, he could lose his job.

Anne has no idea why Mr. Fairfax is in such a flutter. Her present is a simple book of illustrations. The subject interests them both, and she would like nothing better than to examine the book--and Mr. Fairfax--more closely.

She glanced at the mantel clock. "Oh, look at the time! I must return to the drawing room. So much to do before the family party tonight. But, before I leave..." She swallowed. "We had some trouble with the gifts today. Yours went missing. I apologize—"

"But I received a gift. Someone left it outside my door."

"Thank the stars." She pressed her hand to her bosom.

Stephen's gaze followed her hand down and his throat dried.

"I worried your present was lost."

She worried about me. Capital! He tore his eager gaze from her breasts and lifted his head. "I have not yet unwrapped it. A book, I take it?"

"Yes. The volume belonged to my husband. He was a scholar, and that book was one of his favorites. Mine, too. We spent many happy hours enjoying it." Another dazzling smile curved her lips. "I selected it with you in mind."

His pulse thumped. I have a chance. "You flatter me with your consideration."

"My pleasure." She flashed another of her heart-stopping smiles. "As much as I long to, I will not ruin the surprise by telling you what the book is." She smoothed her face into a blank stare, but her glorious chocolate eyes twinkled.

So, she wanted to play games. He gave an inward smirk. He would love to play games of a different sort. But he would settle for a guessing game. For now.

Available at:

The Wild Rose Press

Note, depending where you are, the links might not yet be active.

Thank you all,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Prostitution during the Victorian era. ~ New Release SURRENDER TO DESTINY

 The Great Social Evil, as prostitution became known in the mid-19th Century, was brought about by the shift from a moral/religious cause to a socio-economic one. The 1851 consensus revealed the population was approximately 18 million, which amounted to 750,000 women who would remain unmarried because there were too few men. These women were labelled 'redundant and superfluous' and many ended up in prostitution.
While the Magdalene Asylums had been "reforming" prostitutes since the mid-18th century, the years between 1848 and 1870 saw a veritable explosion in the number of institutions working to "reclaim" these "fallen women" from the streets and retrain them for entry into respectable society — usually for work as domestic servants. Many girls were orphans and many came from the country, often tricked into "the life" and unable to return home. Some were as young as eight years old!

Prostitutes were often presented as victims in literature such as Thomas Hood's poem The Bridge of Sighs, Elizabeth Gaskell's novel Mary Barton, and Dicken's novel Oliver Twist. The emphasis on the purity of women found in such works as Coventry Patmore's The Angel in the House led to the portrayal of the prostitute and fallen woman as soiled, corrupted, and in need of cleansing.
This emphasis on female purity was allied to the stress on the homemaking role of women.

While making a movie about Giovanna Russo’s life in Victorian London, Astrid Leclair and Dylan Shaw steam up the screen with their passionate scenes.
Two men desire the beautiful artist’s model, Giovanna Russo. One intends to make her his mistress and the other wants her dead.
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Gina Russo looked up at the attic window where driving rain had caused a leak to form. It dripped down onto the floorboards, forming a pool at her stepfather's feet. He seemed completely unaware of it, but then, when he was painting, the building could burn down around him.
"You must move your easel, Milo," she ordered him, placing her hands on her hips. "Your trousers will get wet and in this miserable, moldy climate, you'll catch your death."
He looked up blankly, paintbrush poised above the canvas where he painted a still life. "But, the light, Gina!"
"I do not intend to be orphaned in this cold-hearted city. What would I do without you?"
He laughed and wiped his brush on a cloth, then threw it down onto a table piled with brushes and half-squeezed tubes of paint. "You have made a good point. You're not just pretty, my girl, you've got something up here," he tapped his forehead.
She helped him move his things away then ran to place a bowl under the drip.
"When will you pose for me again, Gina? I have great hopes for the last painting I did."
"When you have sold another painting and we can afford some coal," she said firmly. "I am not stripping off in this cold. And we need decent food."
"Aah. I can taste a tender turkey breast stuffed with sweet Italian sausage and chestnuts. That would be most welcome."
"We shall be eating your Still Life with Apples, Milo, long before that." Gina watched as he settled at his easel once more, and pick up his brush. There would be no more conversation for the afternoon.
She grabbed the broom and began to sweep the floor at the far end of the room. She worked to warm herself. She'd swept the floor that morning, but no matter how many times she cleaned it, it always looked dirty. Work also helped to clear her head. She was constantly thinking up schemes to leave horrid, foggy London. She had been thirteen years old when her mother brought her to England, old enough to remember the sunny days and green hills of Tuscany.
She turned to study the bowl of wizened fruit and vase of wilting flowers she had purchased from the market that morning for Milo to paint. Surely, the sun-ripened fruit of her homeland was sweeter. Her mother had been like a delicate flower, she had not thrived in an English winter. She hated the cold and fog. She was fond of saying that Italians knew how to live and the men knew how to love.
It was certainly true that the Englishmen who pursued Gina had money where their hearts should be. They knew nothing of a love that took hold of you, mind, body, and soul. To them she would be an acquisition, someone they could flaunt in front of their friends and boast about in their clubs. She would have none of it. She had promised her mother.
When her mother had married Milo and came to England, she had become a much sought after artist's model. Even after her death, Gina and Milo remained loyal to their friends of the demi-world, the shadow world of fellow artists, models, writers, thespians, courtesans and musicians, through which the upper classes wandered, paying for anything they desired. It could be an exciting world, but had a dark side of despair, poverty, ruin and untimely death.
Her mother had died of inflammation of the lungs at thirty-six. She was already ailing when she married Milo, fifteen years her elder. She knew he would take care of Gina after she was gone. Even when her health was failing, she would drag Gina to church every Sunday. Her final words still echoed in Gina's ears. "We have a saying in Italy, sweet child. You never forget your first love. I loved your father and if only he'd lived.... No matter how hard life gets, don't ever be tempted to sell your body, for that will destroy your soul. Remember you are a good Christian girl. Promise me!"
Gina touched the hair-bracelet on her wrist, made with her mother's lovely golden hair. When she had asked her mother about her father, she would always turn away. "Better that you don't know." Her standard reply left Gina wondering what made her so sad and reluctant to reveal the past. Had her mother and father been married?
"Bah," Gina said, swatting at some imaginary speck of dirt. She was sick of being grindingly poor. The struggle to live tore the heart out of you and dragged you down. She hated London, its miles of rat infested, filthy cobblestone alleys and shabby brick and stucco houses, the noise and the smells and the dirt. She hated feeling desperately sad for the tatty, barefoot children. She hated her cheap dresses, and longed to have something store-bought and pretty. She hated their ugly, leaky attic rooms that no amount of cleaning could turn into a home, most of all.
A block away, the street prostitutes trolled between the gin shop and the pawnshop, younger than she, some of them. Green from the country, they quickly become addicted to the drink and their gentle eyes turned hard. Lying in bed at night, she'd listen to them out there under the gaslights. Dancing, drinking, and singing into the small hours. The sounds of their hollow laughter made her want to weep and pull a pillow over her head.
As she put away the broom, Gina's thoughts turned to Milo. How did he produce such beauty in his paintings, in a place like this? She put her hand to her mouth. How could she be so ungrateful?
"Did you say something, mio caro?" Milo asked, adding a highlight to a painted apple. The apple had become his signature and appeared in most of his paintings. His painted apple was so much fresher and redder than the one in the bowl. Perhaps that was his secret, he saw life through rose-colored glasses.
"No, Milo," she said, going to stir the minestrone soup that with bread and cheese, would have to do them until the end of the week.
"You're a good daughter, Gina," he said absently.

A Dictionary of Victorian London Lee Jackson

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Now released! The House of Women

I'm so excited that my historical novel, The House of Women, is now released.

Leeds. 1870. Lonely and brokenhearted, Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters’ rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own.
    The eldest of seven daughters, Grace is the core of strength around which the unhappy members of the Woodruff family revolve. As her disenchanted mother withdraws to her rooms, Grace must act as a buffer between her violent, ambitious father and the sisters who depend upon her. Rejected by her first love and facing a spinster’s future, she struggles to hold the broken family together through her father’s infidelity, one sister’s alcoholism, and another’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an unsuitable match.
    Caring for an illegitimate half-brother affords Grace an escape, though short-lived. Forced home by illness and burdened with dwindling finances, Grace faces fresh anguish –and murder– when her first love returns to wreck havoc in her life. All is not lost, however. In the midst of tragedy, the fires of her heart are rekindled by another. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness?


   Grace blinked to clear her frozen mind as her mother and Verity climbed the staircase. If Verity was here then was William here too? Movement at the door caused Grace to close her eyes. She couldn’t bring herself to open them and see the one man she’d longed for since she was sixteen.
    ‘Miss Woodruff?’ Doyle inquired at her shoulder.
    Startled, she spun to face him, but she was blind to him, blind to everything but the sensation of having William here. Crazily, she wondered if she would swoon like a maiden aunt.
    Doyle’s hand reached out, but he quickly tucked it behind his back. ‘What is it, Miss Woodruff?’
    Grace swallowed, feeling the fine hairs on her arms and nape prickle. He is here.
    'Good evening, Grace.’
    At the sound of William’s deep velvety voice, her heart stopped beating, only to start again at a rapid pace. Her stomach clenched and her legs felt unable to support her anymore. Slowly, she swivelled to gaze into William’s blue-green eyes and knew she was lost again. William smiled his captivating smile. He had aged, no, matured since their last meeting. He looked leaner, but broader in the shoulders. There was an aura about him, something that females of any age wanted. He made all other men around him seem insignificant. A magnetism, a mystical air surrounded him, catching Grace in its clutches once more.

Order The House of Women from, or The Book Depository, which has free postage.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Trencarrow Secret Released Today

I am pleased to announce my Victorian Gothic Romance, Trencarrow Secret is released today by MuseItUp Publishing.

Isabel Hart is afraid of two things, the maze at Trencarrow where she got lost as a young child, and the lake where her brother David saved her from drowning in a boating accident.

With her twenty-first birthday and the announcement of her engagement imminent, Isabel decides it is time for her to face her demons and ventures into the maze. There she sees something which will alter her perceptions of herself and her family forever.

Isabel’s widowed aunt joins the house party, where her cousin confides she is in love with an enigmatic young man who surely cannot be what he pretends, for he is surely too dashing for homely Laura?

When Henry, Viscount Strachan and his mother arrives, ostensibly to use her ball as an arena for finding a wife, Isabel is determined not to like him.

As more secrets are revealed, Isabel doubts she has chosen the right man, although her future fiancé has more vested in this marriage than Isabel realizes and has no intention of letting her go easily.

Will Isabel be able to put her preconceptions of marriage behind her and take charge of her own life, or is her life destined to be controlled by others? 

Available from MuseItUp Publishing Bookstore. Click Here 
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Friday, June 3, 2011


My latest title, Angels at War, out this month in paperback, is the sequel to House of Angels, although the story will stand alone. Again this book is set in the Lake District, partly in the beautiful Kentmere Valley around the time of the First World War It’s a beautiful quiet corner of England which hasn’t changed much since. The nearest village is Staveley, situated between Kendal and Windermere, and the hills can offer some of the best walking the Lakes. Here is picture to tempt you to visit.

But this book is also about suffragettes. The suffragette movement in Great Britain was focused around Manchester as that is where Emeline Pankhurst and her family lived. The general election of 1905 brought it to the attention of the wider nation when Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenny interrupted Sir Edward’s speech with the cry: ‘Will the Liberal Government give votes to women?’

They were charged with assault and arrested. The women further shocked the world by refusing to pay the shilling fine, and were consequently thrown in jail. Never before had English suffragists resorted to violence, but it was the start of a long campaign. Their headquarters were transferred from Manchester to London and by 1908, and now dubbed the suffragettes, they were marching through London, interrupting MP’s speeches, assaulting policemen who attempted to arrest them, chaining themselves to fences, even sending letter bombs and breaking the windows of department stores and shops in Bond Street. They went on hunger-strikes while incarcerated, brutalised in what became known as the ‘Cat and Mouse Act.’ This ‘war’ did not end until 1928 when women were finally granted the vote in equal terms with men. They showed enormous courage and tenacity, were prepared to make any sacrifice to achieve their ends.

Livia is one such woman. She is fiercely independent – a ‘modern’ woman in her eyes, and having suffered at the hands of a brutal father, she is reluctant to give up her independence and subject herself to the control of any male. She dreams of bringing back to life the neglected drapery business, but standing in her way is the wealthy and determined Matthew Grayson who has been appointed to oversee the restoration of the business. His infuriating stubbornness clashes with Livia’s tenacity and the pair get off to a bad start. She then joins the Suffragette Movement which puts further strain on her relationship with Jack, the other man in her life, who she has promised to marry one day.

I’ve written about suffragettes before, as the subject fascinates me. How passionate these women must have felt to put their lives at risk in the way they did. Here is a description from the book of the force feeding ritual.

This morning when the cell door banged open, instead of the tempting tray of food brought to plague them, came a small, stocky man with side whiskers and a mole on his chin. The wardress shook Livia awake.

‘Get up girl, the doctor needs to examine you. We can’t have you die on us for lack of food.’
There followed a humiliating examination in which she was again poked and prodded, a stethoscope held to her chest, her pulse taken. When he was done he turned to the wardress and gave a nod. The wardress smiled, as if he’d said something to please her. ‘If you will not eat of your own accord, then we must find a way to make you.

There were four of them now crowding into the cell, huge Amazonian women with muscles on them like all-in wrestlers, and they brought with them such a bewildering assortment of equipment that even Mercy paled.

‘Dear lord, they’re going to force feed us.’

They dealt with Mercy first. She fought like a tiger while Livia cried and begged them to stop, and finally sobbed her heart out as her protests were ignored. The four women held Mercy down, shoved in the tube and poured the liquid mixture into her stomach. When they were done they dropped her limp body back on the bed.

Then it was Livia’s turn.

She tried to run but there was no escape. They picked her up bodily and strapped her into a chair by her wrists, ankles and thighs, then tied a sheet under her chin. The sour breath and stale sweat of the women’s armpits made her want to vomit; their heavy breasts suffocating her as they held her down. The wardress was panting with the effort of trying to force open her mouth, while another woman held her nose closed. Livia did her utmost to resist, heart racing, teeth clenched, but she could scarcely breathe.

Then she felt the cold taste of metal slide between her lips. The implement, whatever it was, cut into her gums as the wardress attempted to prise them open. Livia tried to jerk her head away but it was held firmly by one of the women standing behind her. Once again pictures flashed into her mind of the tower room at Angel House, the place where her father had carried out unspeakable tortures upon the three sisters, bullying one in order to control the other.

Livia hadn’t been able to escape then, and she couldn’t now. The constant stabbing at her gums and teeth was every bit as painful as having one drawn. The steel probe scraped against her gums, and Livia tasted the iron saltiness of her own blood, felt it trickle down her throat. She heard the rasp of a screw, felt the inexorable pressure of a lever. Either she opened her teeth beneath the unrelenting pressure of the steel instrument, or they would shatter. That’s if she didn’t die of suffocation first.

As Livia snatched at a breath a tube was instantly shoved down into her stomach. ‘Gocha!’ the woman cried in triumph.

It scraped down her dry throat, causing the muscles to convulse. Then the screw, or lever, whatever it was, jammed firmly between her teeth so that she could resist no more as a curdled mix of milk and egg was poured into her.

Livia felt as if she were choking, as if her entire body were filling up with the liquid and drowning her. When the tube was finally pulled out, the whole mess seemed to explode out of her, spraying the clean aprons and hard, unyielding faces of her assailants. They were furious and flung her on to the hard bed, gathered up their equipment and left her blessedly in peace, stinking of sour milk and vomit.

Angels at War, published by Allison & Busby - now released.