The Lakes District,                                                                                                                                            Making Lemons Out of Lemonade

By Donna Hatch                                                                                                                        

donna h.-lakes districe

Like the millions of visitors who visited it before me, the Lakes District instilled in me a sense of wonder and awe. The beauty of the area is balanced by a yesteryear charm, including unspoiled vistas, the multitude of lakes, meres, and waters, delightful names such as Windermere, Ambleside, and Loweswater, and the preservation of history.

Donna H. -lakes dist cottage with waterwheel (1)

There is something magical about this area. The colors are more vivid, the light more pure, the landscape more natural and more passionate than any I’ve ever visited. I could point my camera in any old direction with zero to no set up and capture a print-worthy image. Even the photos of me in the area turned out well, and that’s saying something!

Donna H. =Lakes Dis. Donna by pass

One of the many fascinating aspects of the area was the use of slate stones to build fences, barns, bridges, businesses, and pretty much any type of structure. When the early settlers found farming difficult due to the multitude of stones in their fields, they removed the offending elements, and like any enterprising settler skilled at making lemons out of lemonade, put these rocks to good use in constructing all their buildings. Slate rock was readily available, study, and durable—perfect for building material.

Donna H. -Lakes Dist. fence

Today, the skill used to build these stone structures is in danger of becoming a lost art. They use a technique called dry stone. Builders literally use dry stones, with no mortar or cement to glue them together. Like a master puzzle solver, the specialist meticulously choses each rock for its shape and size, and fits them together to create a strong structure that holds up to animals, weather, and even time itself. 

A technique called stone cladding, is placing a thinner layer of stone to the outside of buildings. Unlike shingles, siding or stucco, stones never need painting and seldom need repairs or replacing. Slate rock structures are just one of the many unique and memorable reasons I fell in love with the Lakes District of England


Donna H==Lakes Dist. church



Lamenting the Lack of Bookstores

by Barbara Bettis

Speaking of books. And where to get them. bookstore

I have a wonderful report (in theory).

This week when I was going through the grocery store checkout and chatting with the clerk, I discovered she was a senior at the local university, majoring in English.

She wants to open a bookstore when she graduates.

I nearly wept on her shoulder. I didn’t though, but I did thank her and encourage her in her dream. Luckily it was a slow day in the supermarket, so we were able to talk for a few minutes. She was cognizant of the difficulty of such an effort, but she said she hoped to open a small place to begin with, something that had space for people to gather, read, hold meetings, have coffee or tea.

She said she wanted it to be a spot for booklovers to congregate, and she would offer all kinds of books for purchase.  

This, in my opinion, is a perfect kind of bookstore, one that encourages people who love to read to gather in the midst of books, to spend time alone with a cup of coffee and their favorite author, or to meet with coffee shop get togethers friends to talk over—whatever they like.

 It can even be a spot where other events are conducted. Our Borders used to host evenings of music, as well.

Our city is the third largest in the state, population-wise. Yet our Hastings left years ago and our Borders, of course, went out when the company folded. (I still miss our Borders. It was so very author friendly as well as reader friendly.) We have a scarce handful of used book stores, one store that sells both used and some new, and the Barnes and Noble, which seems to offer more ‘other things’ as the years go by.

Yes, the burgeoning of e-publishing and the shrinking market for hard-copy books affect booksellers and book buyers, as does the rising cost of books. Yet this young woman said she was willing to take the risk in order to bring back the warmth and energy of a bookstoTheLadyoftheForest_w11020_750re.

I gave her my card and told her to let me know when it happened because I knew of several authors who would immediately patronize the place. (We’ll actually haunt it, but I didn’t want to scare her off.)

Let’s hope she manages to realize her dream.

What’s the reality of bookstores where you live?



Books: Standing the Test of Time

Shadow of the MoonShadow of the Moon

Review by Jenna Jaxon

Recently, I began re-reading M. M. Kaye’s romance Shadow of the Moon (probably about the 8th time I’ve read it—my first copy fell apart) and while the love story is as wonderful as it ever was, and the descriptions of India are truly magnificent—you can believe you are there—the writing style, jumps out at me as having a lot of things I’ve been taught not to do. How does one judge a work that was written in a different time, with different stylistic expectations?

Shadow of the Moon, set in England and India in the years leading up to the India Mutiny of 1857, is the story of young Winter de Ballesteros, born of an English woman and a Spaniard who met and fell in love in India. Winter is orphaned almost from infancy and raised in a wealthy Indian household. At age six, she is sent back to her relatives in England, where she lives, unappreciated, until she returns to India to marry a distant relative, a Commissioner of the Indian state of Lunjore, she met once and who she has romanticized into a shining knight, able to return her to the wonderful life she remembered there. The Commissioner’s handsome aide, Alex Randall, reluctantly escorts Winter to India, hoping his charge will have the sense to break the engagement when she discovers the truth about her betrothed.

Winter’s dream shatters when she realizes—too late—her knight in shining armor is an older, drunken, debauched man who is only after her wealth. Now trapped in a loveless marriage in the midst of a foreign country on the brink of a violent explosion, Winter works together with Alex to try to prevent the crisis and deny their feelings for one another. In the aftermath of the brutal mutiny, more dangers threaten Alex and Winter and their future happiness.


The Residence at Lucknow after the India Mutiny


I have loved this book, as well as Kaye’s masterpiece The Far Pavillions, since I first read them, though I did wonder how the writing would hold up now that I read as a writer moreso than a reader. Written in 1956, Shadow of Moon includes several things no longer acceptable in the romance genre: head-hopping, a third person narrator, and pages of backstory on the politics and history of 18th and 19th century India. The head-hopping, changing point of view from character to character is constant throughout the book, though after a while it no longer bothered me. The use of a third person narrator helps both with the historical perspective and with the lack of deep POV from the hero and heroine. Again, it takes some getting used to, but as the book is 800 pages long, you come to embrace it along the way. The historical/political backstory, however, I fouOnlyAMistressWillDond myself skipping over in great chunks in favor of getting to the romance. I do not believe the reader’s enjoyment of the book is in any way compromised by doing this and if one finds such things fascinating, it is wonderful contextual reading.

I do recommend this book to lovers of historical romance. Both Shadow of the Moon and The Far Pavillions have made me put a trip to India on my bucket list of things to do. I would love to see some of these storybook palaces, ride horseback on the plains, experience a colorful bazaar myself and in some tangible way relive these masterful stories first hand.

A Personal Roadmap to Research

beppie bio pixOur departure is bearing down on me! We leave tomorrow morning to spend almost a month in England, all because I was smart enough to marry an Englishman an incredible number of years ago, and so lived in London for ten years and since then have traveled back frequently to visit family and friends.

So this is another of those trips. Most of the time I intend to spend eating wonderful British bread and cheese while trying to explain to incredulous English friends what the hell is going on in Washington, but before we get down to that, I’m going to take a wonderful cab ride called Research through the Regency places in London.

I’ve been to most of them one time or another, but never with my Regency goggles on, so to speak. All of the streets, as far as I can tell, are still there. I’m working with my wonderful book The A to Z of Regency London, but since it shows London as it was, not as it is, I’m waiting to get to London to buy a spanking new London A to Z (which, should you ever be trying to buy one, is pronounced “A to Zed”) and the put the two together, and take one of those wonderful English cabs—no longer always black, more’s the pity—with a driver who knows London inside out and backwards, and figure out a sensible route between them, as I’m certain many if not all of them are now one-way streets.

Here’s my list:

Bond Street:

The obvious starting point. Bond Street is still a wonderful shopping experience, assuming your pockets are stuffed with 5 pound notes and higher. (There is no 1 pound note now: that’s a coin.)  The shops my Regency heroines knew are all almost certainly gone, but when I was last on the street there were plenty of new ones, with that distinctive crest showing they have been patronized by a member of the Royal Family. There was also, back in the day, Hookham’s Circulating Library, well known to ladies as they specialized in novels. Jane Austen’s books sold there. Down the street a bit, I imagine, was Gentleman Jackson’s boxing saloon, where the gents could practice their arts and cheer on their friends and sneer at the less capable.

St. James Street:

I know I’ve been down this street because I rem


White’s Today

ember passing one of the famous men’s clubs there (they still are!) but unfortunately don’t remember which one. White’s, Boodle’s, and Brooke’s were all there and still remain. Back in Regency days, respectable women did not walk nor drive in open carriages, because the men clustered at the windows would remark on what they saw. (Why did they cluster at the windows? To be researched . . . )


The Strand

Here I have an address for Ackermann’s Repository of Arts. It stood at 101, where the Savoy Hotel now is. It was a particular favorite for all, rich and poor, to stand gawking at the windows where they posted topical prints and those magnificent caricatures that made fun of everyone, but primarily the rich and famous.

King Street:

This is where the fabled Almack’s stood, and where the ton danced who had managed the difficult feat of obtaining tickets by way of the seven formidable ladies who were the patronesses, each of whom made sure that her tickets only went to the socially deserving. There was an enormous ballroom, about a hundred feet long and


Regency Almack’s

. One did not come to Almack’s for the refreshments: they were only the lightest of wines, orgeat or ratafia, and the food was sparing and negligible. Almack’s ma




in function was to act as a showcase for the pick of the debutantes. It was there that girls were launched by their mothers and made to parade for inspection. It’s not still there. Isn’t that a pity?



That was where the Prince Regent and affluent others came for their bottles of scent. Both men and women wore scent as a matter of course. The Prince used eau de Cologne, eau de Nile (certainly not what it sounds like!), lavender water, Oil of Roses, Oil of Jasmine and Oil of Orange Flower as well as “Bergamotte.” The best perfumers at the time were a French firm, Bourgeois Amick and Son, with premises in Haymarket.

Haymarket is mostly theaters now, if I remember correctly. But, faithful readers, I will be finding out soon, and my next blog will be a report on how my expedition went.

Au revoir!the reluctant heart

(Images of White’s and Almack’s from Wikipedia)

My Heroes Always Come Home

by Katherine Bone

Ahoy, me hearties! When I was a young officer’s wife and my husband was frequently away on duty, I turned to books to escape. At the time, I had two young children below thkatherine bonee age of two years old and we were living overseas in Italy and Germany (a total four and a half years), far away from family and friends. Books were my mainstay, companionship in times of trouble, and provided adventure far outside of the loneliness I experienced every day.

To stay sane, I devoured romance novels by Kathleen Woodiwiss, Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsey, Elizabeth Lowell, Rosemary Rogers, and Fern Michaels. Their books led me to historical places where life was gritty and hard, but love ALWAYS won the day. Something I prayed would happen when my husband was serving our country and there were times I feared I would never see him again.

Two more children and eight moves later, I decided to take my art school background and flip it by painting pictures with words. Writing novels is a wonderful opportunity to share my passion for history and the written word, and to pay it forward to readers experiencing the same loneliness I endured so many years ago.

In the beginning of my writing career, I wrote western romance to celebrate my passion for old western frontier Army bases like Fort Laramie, WY, Fort Leavenworth, KS, and Fort Sill, OK. Think John Wayne in the Searchers and Angel and the Badman, Roy Rogers, and the Lone Ranger. (My love for the west deepened at the Fort Leavenworth Museum. It was there I volunteered as an assistant assembling exhibits and created artwork for exhibitions.)

My writing style has been greatly influenced by comic books, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Julie Garwood, Edgar Allen Poe, Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, Patrick O’Brien, John Jakes, Jane Austen, the Brontës, Alexander Dumaserroll flynn as captain blood 2, and Gaston Leroux. But the theme of my books has always been anchored by hope.

What better way to anchor readers in hope than to write seafaring stories, especially about pirates, eh? (After all, there isn’t much of a jump between the Wild West, men traveling west of the Missouri to forge a living on the plains, to pirates sailing away from civilization to pillage and plunder on the open sea, is there? Pirate!)

Readers can always count on action/adventure sequences sandwiched between sensual scenes and witty repartee in my books. There will always be epic peril involved that can often seem over the top. (My love for over-the-top action is an ode to my youth and comic books!) 😉

Remember those nights I worried about whether or not my rogue would return home? There will be thrilling sea battles and swashbuckling sword fights, or gunfights, to keep readers turning the pages to find out that very same thing. I’ll let you in on a secret. In my books, heroes ALWAYS return home!

Real life is shocking, tragic, throwing curve balls at every turn. Key in overcoming obstacles in our lives is to forge on through every challenge, trusting that our anchor will keep us from dashing upon the rocks or floating away on perilous cthe pirates debturrent

I’m beyond thrilled that readers will soon get the next book in my Regent’s Revenge Series, THE PIRATE’S DUTY. Expect to see Oriana Thorpe’s and Captain Walsingham’s book available mid-July.

Until then, grab a copy of book two, THE PIRATE’S DEBT, in the ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS box set, a May 18th Limited time release! THE PIRATE’S DEBT is Lady Chloe Walsingham’s and Basil, Earl of Markwick’s story.