Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Friday, October 28, 2016

MONSTERS AND MADWOMEN – TALES THAT MADE THE VICTORIANS SHIVER ~ By Tara Kingston

Greetings! In the spirit of Halloween and things that go bump in the night, let’s talk about some classic tales that chilled the spines of Victorians sitting around the hearth on a brisk autumn evening.

The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allan Poe’s 1839 short story is a classic Gothic chiller. Roderick Usher and his sister Madeline suffer harrowing fates in this tale of gloom, despair, premature burial and terror.
The Invisible Man — H. G. Wells published this science fiction novel late in Queen Victoria’s reign. The 1897 novel is a gripping tale of science gone horribly wrong.
Dracula — Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 of gothic horror created one of the most iconic and frightening characters in literature, vampire Count Dracula. Portrayed by a variety of actors in film (including Gerard Butler in Dracula 2000…I do love that movie!), Dracula is by turns seductive and terrifying.

Frankenstein — Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s 1818 gothic novel has been chilling readers for nearly two centuries.

Jane Eyre — Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 novel features a tortured hero, star-crossed love, and a madwoman. Is it any wonder it continues to fascinate readers nearly 170 years after its publication?


Sources:







All photographs and images are in the public domain. 


A Little About My New Release, When A Lady Deceives.

I’m thrilled that my Victorian romantic thriller, When A Lady Deceivesis now available. Like Nellie Bly, the heroine of When A Lady Deceives is a crusading investigative journalist. Jennie Quinn, star reporter for a London paper, is a daring woman who will overcome daunting obstacles to get the facts and fight for justice. She anticipates the danger of her investigation into an informant’s murder. But she doesn’t expect to fall in love, especially not with a very dangerous man. Here’s a little about the story:

A woman with a secret and a dangerous man forge an undeniable passion.

In Victorian London, reporter Jennie Quinn employs deception as a weapon. Going undercover to seek justice for a murdered informant, she’s drawn into a powerful criminal’s seductive game of cat and mouse. Enigmatic former lawman Matthew Colton is as dangerous as he is clever, but the passion in his kiss is too tempting to resist. She aches to trust him, but she will not abandon her quest for the truth.

Colton is a man with secrets of his own. Thirsting for vengeance, the disgraced Scotland Yard detective has infiltrated the criminal world he’s vowed to destroy. Jennie intrigues him, even as she breaks down the barriers around his heart. He yearns to uncover her secrets—in and out of his bed. Driven to shield her, he’ll risk everything to protect the woman whose love heals his soul.

To read more about When A Lady Deceives and enjoy an excerpt, please click here.



About The Author:

Award-winning author Tara Kingston writes historical romance laced with intrigue, danger, and adventures of the heart. A Southern belle-out-of-water in a quaint Pennsylvania town, she lives her own love story with her real-life hero in a cozy Victorian. The mother of two sons, Tara's a former librarian whose love of books is evident in her popping-at-the-seams bookcases. It goes without saying that Tara's husband is thankful for the invention of digital books, thereby eliminating the need for yet another set of shelves. When she's not writing, reading, or burning dinner, Tara enjoys cycling, hiking, and cheering on her favorite football team.




Wednesday, October 12, 2016

ENCHANTING THE HIGHLANDER Book Trailer!

Releasing in just a few weeks!

November 1st!


5 NEW Novellas set in the enchanting Highlands!

Watch the trailer...


   

PROTECTED BY THE LAIRD by Eliza Knight

While on a siege, Laird Douglas Hay discovers a lass’ half-frozen body. Though she’s his enemy, he cannot abandon her. As his captive, she could bring a hefty ransom. He revives her, a task easier managed than dealing with her fiery temper, and the intense desire heating his veins. Taken prisoner by a brutish warrior, Lady Annora Comyn is determined to escape. Secretly, she believes the war between Scots is ludicrous, that the vying for the crown should have ceased when her royal brother was murdered. Annora struggles with the notion of letting men fight their battles, or offering herself as collateral to unite the warring Scots. After all, there are far worse things than having to kiss Laird Hay everyday for ever and ever…

~~~

VEXING THE HIGHLANDER  by Terry Spear
Lady Aila MacIntosh hopes she doesn’t regret the king’s marital choices for her and her sister. Until one braw Highlander bumps into her at the king’s gathering. He’s as taken with her as she is with him, until she learns he is but a commoner, when she is a lady. The king would never make a match between them. Alban of the Clan Daziel meets a beautiful woman at the king’s court, only she is a lady and out of his reach. When the lady and he meet under awkward circumstances, they chance to overhear a plot to assassinate the king. Their lives spiral out of control and losing his heart to Aila is only one of his pressing concerns. Protecting her from those who wish the king dead—his greatest.

~~~

DEFENDED BY A HIGHLAND RENEGADE  by Vonda Sinclair
When Lady Mairiana MacKerrick witnesses her fiancé, Alec Lindsay, committing a murder three days before their wedding, she decides she must run away. Darack Grant, secretly an outlaw MacGregor, is on a secret mission, but when he finds Mairiana hiding in the stables, he decides to help her escape. He remembers the lovely lass from their one meeting a few years before. Though he was drawn to her, he always saw her as far beyond his reach. Mairiana finds her hidden inner strength and trusts the Highland renegade to protect her on their journey through the Scottish Highlands. On the way, they find an astonishing passion. But Alec will stop at nothing to reclaim his betrothed and destroy Darack, even pin a murder on him.

~~~

TARTANS AND TRYSTS by Victoria Roberts
Sorcha Gunn has realized the error of her ways and wants to make amends for everything she’s done. But when her cousin mysteriously disappears and Sorcha suspects her father is responsible, she needs to make a choice: betray the man who has given her everything or seek help from his enemy. As captain of the MacKay guard, Doughall Forbes will do anything to protect his clan from the ruthless Gunn laird. The last thing he needs is a wily female luring him into a nefarious trap. But he believes Sorcha, even though he can tell she’s holding something back. He’s determined to help her but soon discovers he’s the one who needs protection…from losing his heart.

~~~

HIS HIGHLAND ROSE by Willa Blair

Iain Brodie is a fierce warrior and passionate lover, but to prove he’s responsible enough to be the clan’s chief, he must find a bride—quickly. One of the three Rose daughters fills his mind—and heart—even when he discovers she is not who she claimed to be. Annie Rose doesn’t want to be a bride, not even deliciously and annoyingly sexy Iain’s. But her father wants an alliance with Iain’s clan, and he’s chosen her to forge it. Then Annie falls under Iain’s seductive spell at the spring known in old tales as the fairy pool. When her father suddenly decides against their match, Iain must risk losing everything he values—the clan he was born to lead and even Annie—his only love.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Ghost Ship Mary Celeste


It’s October and what better way to gear up for the holidays than with a spooky tale.

Have you ever been on a boat suspended between the horizon and the ocean? That wondrous place where the blue sea meets the equally blue skies? Or when the sun tucks in for the evening and liquid black blends into the star-studded night? If so, you know how incredibly small you are. Nothing but water for miles and miles can be daunting. When the sea is smooth as glass, it is a peaceful place. But when angry, lashing out with slaps of waves, the sea can be unforgiving. Calm or rough, the ocean is dangerous...and scary.

Mary Celeste
The mysteries of what lies beneath in the deep drink has stimulated the imagination for centuries. Since the first boat cast out to sea, tall tales of monsters, mythical beings, strange happenings, and phantom ships have been told. Some yarns and legends are merely fantastical explanations of odd sea creatures or weather occurrences from superstitious sailors. But some stories are real and unexplainable. One such story is the ghost ship Mary Celeste.

The Mary Celeste was launched in 1861 under her original name Amazon in Nova Scotia. As she prepared for her maiden voyage loaded with a timber cargo bound for London, her first captain Robert McLellan fell ill and died. That should have been an omen. The journey to London under a new captain would go on, but the voyage was hardly a smooth one. She collided with fishing weir causing a gash in her hull and needing repair before she ever sailed out into the Atlantic. Once she finally made it to London, she struck another ship, sinking it. Not really the best start for a brand new ship and it wasn’t the end of mishaps surrounding the vessel. Six years and many captains later, she was run aground by a storm off a Nova Scotia island and abandoned. Declared a derelict, Amazon was sold, repaired, refitted, and renamed Mary Celeste.

On November 7, 1872, the brigantine Mary Celeste sailed out of the New York Harbor and into the Atlantic bound for Genoa, Italy. Risky business considering the Atlantic often churns with volatile weather during the winter months. The cargo, 1701 barrels of denatured alcohol meant to fortify wine. She was captained by master mariner—and, ironically, teetotaler—Benjamin Spooner Briggs of Massachusetts. Along for the voyage was his wife, Sarah, 2-year-old daughter, Sophia, his trusted first mate, Albert Richardson, and six hand-picked crewmen.

Having left the port just eight days after the Mary Celeste, the Canadian brigantine Dei Gratia sailed within sight of the ship nearly one month later on December 5th midway between the Azores and Portugal. Repeated attempts to hail the ship garnered no reply and soon it was realized the aimlessly drifting Mary Celeste was deserted. Not a soul on board. Aside from weathered sails, the main halyard line hanging over the side of the ship, a faulty pump, and the soaking wet interior rooms from open hatches, Mary Celeste was in relatively good condition. She was well-stocked with provisions, her cargo untouched, and her occupants’ personal items still on board. Only the yawl (lifeboat) and a couple pieces of navigational equipment, the chronometer and sextant, were missing.

The last entry in the ship’s logbook on November 25th recorded her location within sight of the Azores island of Santa Maria. That was nine days earlier and 400 miles from where she was found adrift by Dei Gratia’s crew. Imagine boarding a seaworthy ship in the middle of the ocean to find no one on board and not a trace of what happened to them. That would be eerie!

Beautiful thief + sexy libertine = wicked fun
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The abandoned ship was sailed to Gibraltar by three of Dei Gratia crew members. Under maritime law, a share of the salvage of ships and/or cargo can be awarded to those who bring them in. But the British vice admiralty court suspected something amiss with the salvage. Perhaps the Dei Gratia crew ambushed and killed Captain Briggs and his family and crew, hoping to cash in a sizable salvage. Eventually, the court found no real evidence of foul play but awarded a much smaller reward.

Theories abound over what happened to the missing Mary Celeste crew, including marauding pirates, sudden waterspouts, an attack by a giant squid, a violent seaquake, and mutiny. All claims have been refuted. So what happened to her crew?

The most plausible explanation is something caused Briggs to order everyone off the ship and into the yawl. Perhaps strong vapors from the alcohol in the hold panicked the captain into calling for an immediate abandon ship. The lifeboat was probably tied to the thick rope that had been found hanging over the side of the ship. Whatever caused the captain to make that decision was likely a false alarm, but somehow the halyard snapped—whether by rough seas, a nefarious act, or something entirely mundane—and the little party was left behind, watching the Mary Celeste sail away without them. Ten people, suspended in the wondrous place between the horizon and the ocean, mysteriously vanished never to be seen or heard from again. More than 140 years later, the mystery still remains.

The Mary Celeste sailed for another twelve years until she was intentionally shipwrecked in an attempted insurance fraud. Seemed her fate all along was a doomed one.

Ghost ships like Mary Celeste have sparked my imagination, as well. One named Gloria is featured in my second full-length novel A Kiss In The Wind in the Romancing the Pirate series.

For a brief video on the Mary Celeste, click the link below.



About the Author

Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Scent of Roses by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Welcome back to History Undressed, our regular first Tuesday blogger and author, Kathleen Bittner Roth! Kathleen Bittner Roth! 

THE SCENT OF ROSES

by Kathleen Bittner Roth


Budapest, Hungary became my home six years ago. This expat is forever tied to the U.S., but I have felt compelled to live in other parts of the world and experience a country’s history and heritage. I’ll start with a trip outside the city—my journey to Krakow, Poland.


Keleti Train Station, Budapest

My friend and I boarded a train to Krakow from the Keleti Train Station in Budapest. The facility, built in 1881, was considered the most lavish station in Europe at the time, and is still beautiful today. How novel—a slumber party aboard a sleeper train, and we’ll arrive first thing in the morning, fresh and ready to explore Krakow and its surroundings.
Near dusk, and about an hour outside of Budapest, a sweet scent of roses enveloped us. Bushes laden with lush, powdery-pink blooms appeared for miles beside the tracks, so thick it seemed as though delicate, tinted clouds had fallen from the sky. I have never seen such a sight. We closed our eyes and breathed in the intoxicating perfume that swept through the train, feeling as though we floated on a fragrance created exclusively for us.

Then a jarring thought gripped me: My God, we’re riding the very rails that carried Jews, Gypsies, and political prisoners beyond Krakow to Auschwitz and Birkenau!
Hundreds of thousands of innocents on their way to their deaths. Hundreds of people packed in each car—women, men and children cramped so tightly together they were forced to stand the entire trip with no food, water or toilets. Even the dead and dying could not fall in the crush. Suddenly, the small compartment we occupied didn’t seem so cramped.
And what of the roses?
Had these fragrant flowers lined the tracks back then? After all, wild roses can regenerate for decades. I choked back tears, and turned to my friend whose countenance told me she held similar thoughts.
“Do we really want to visit Auschwitz?” I asked her.
We grew silent for a long while as we gazed at the blur of pink, and breathed a scent no longer light and sweet, but suddenly heavy and funereal. Then, strange as it may seem, we came to the conclusion that we had to honor those who traveled these tracks before us by remaining focused on their plight during our train ride, and commit to visiting the camps upon our arrival. What would our decision produce? Would it heal any lost souls? Would it heal us? We didn’t know, but we felt fractured, scarred by the past, and compelled to see our journey through to the end.

Eventually, we left the roses behind and traveled for a long while beside a lovely river. We didn’t know which river, but the countryside was beautiful. Bucolic. I wondered if the farmers who lived alongside this lazy river back then, or the people in these tiny villages, knew what horrors the trains carried.
Had anyone realized they were death trains?
Had anyone ever wandered close enough to the tracks to hear the wailings of the forsaken?
Had there been any cries to even be heard at that stage of the journey? After all, the trains were nothing more than windowless cattle cars, their doors nailed shut once the people were packed inside, and the only light to be had was what seeped through cracks in the boards.
Interior of boxcar used to transport Holocaust victims

Dear God, how could this have happened?
While my friend did fairly well with sleeping in her little bunk, I slept fitfully. I awoke once feeling disoriented. For a moment, as the clickety-clack of wheels against rails filled my ears, I didn’t know if I was on a train some sixty six years ago or now. I felt like a dark-haired teenager, confused and wondering where we were going, and what and why everything was happening. It was almost as though I had inculcated a miasmic memory that still hovered above the tracks. I came fully awake feeling desolate. I could barely breathe. I curled up on the other end of the bed, next to the window, and gulped in fresh air until my racing heart found some semblance of normalcy.
But my mind refused to wander elsewhere.
Hundreds of thousands of people rode these very rails to their deaths. What were they thinking? How were they feeling? A great sob welled up in my chest, one that wouldn’t release—at least not yet.
Had the guards and engineers aboard those trains known what was happening? Had they known these people were to be worked until they dropped or would be gassed within hours of arrival if they were too old, too young or infirm? Did they know that any twins or ‘little people’ aboard would be used for hideous experiments by the death camp’s macabre Dr. Josef Mengele, ironically known as The Angel of Death? Or were these workers kept naive, only informed of their own jobs, and they saw nothing beyond where the train disappeared from sight? I would tend to think so, since it would have compromised the Nazi program of creating an Aryan society of healthy blue-eyed blonds had word leaked out of what they were up to.
Auschwitz
Suddenly, I had a deep sense that for whatever reason, I was meant to ride this train, that I was meant to have these experiences. That I was meant to know and understand what the Hungarians had suffered through (Hungarian Jews comprised the greatest number sent to Auschwitz, but don’t forget the Gypsies and political prisoners—nuns, priests, businessmen, housewives. Any Hungarian labeled a spy became a political prisoner to be gotten rid of).
I’ve learned a great deal about the history in this part of the world, through my travels and by meeting Hungarians who have their histories to share. I have a story in mind that I hope will honor those who were taken from their homes in Budapest. I have four books to complete first, and then the story begins.


Kathleen Bittner Roth thrives on creating passionate stories featuring characters who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit to overcome adversity and find unending love. Her own fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle led her to her current residence in Budapest, Hungary, considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. However, she still keeps one boot firmly in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota. A member of Romance Writers of America®, she was a finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest. Find Kathleen on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest and www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.


PORTRAIT OF A FORBIDDEN LADY is book two in Those Magnificent Malverns series: A young widow returns to her childhood home after a forced absence and faces her first and only love, but despite their powerful attraction, danger compels her to remain his forbidden lady.  ORDER YOUR COPY!



THE SEDUCTION OF SARAH MARKS is book one in Those Magnificent Malverns series: When a proper Victorian miss awakens next to a handsome stranger, she must rely on the man's benevolence as she struggles to regain her memory and hold onto her heart. ORDER YOUR COPY!