Scandal and the Regency by Emily Greenwood – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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Thank you very much for having me here today! With the release of THE BEAUTIFUL ONE, the first book in my Scandalous Sisters series, I’ve been thinking about scandal and the Regency, because they go together so well. Just think of all those beautifully dressed, wealthy people with all that free time for gossip!

Though modern people tend to think of nineteenth century people as being better behaved because of all those repressive rules, there was scandal enough going on during the Regency to make a Cosmo reader blush. While it was true that if you were someone from the minor gentry or the middle class who racked up huge debts or had an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, you’d likely become a social outcast, the ton was pretty forgiving of scandalous behavior done by those of high rank.

Consider that:

*The Prince of Wales (often called Prinny) married his mistress, Mrs. Fitzherbert, even though everyone knew the marriage could not be valid because 1) she was Catholic, and 2) he was below the age of twenty-five, which was required by the Royal Marriage Act. The invalidity of his marriage didn’t stop him from living with her for several years, though, until his enormous debts forced him to marry his cousin.

*Prinny’s brother William, the Duke of Clarence, fathered ten children with his mistress, the actress Mrs. Jordan. The illegitimate children were known as the FitzClarences (“fitz” meaning “son of”) and welcomed in society.

*Another brother, Frederick, the Duke of York, was Commander-in-Chief of the Army, a position that gave his mistress the opportunity to sell commissions. He did have to resign his command when her unscrupulous activities were discovered, but he was later reinstated.

However, even for someone moving in the highest circles, indiscretions had to be conducted in a tasteful manner. If a couple were having an affair, for instance, it was fine that everyone knew about it as long as they behaved with propriety in public. When the married Lady Caroline Lamb, the daughter of an earl, was jilted by Lord Byron after their months-long affair, she violated these expectations and nearly paid a steep price. Always prone to dramatic gestures (she slashed her wrists in front of him at a ball), she made such a public spectacle of her heartbreak that her in-laws tried to have her declared insane.

The ton is buzzing about The Beautiful One, a striking figure in a scandalous book of nude sketches. Only two men know the true identity of The Beautiful One, and they are scouring the countryside, determined to find her.

The unlikely center of the scandal, Anna Black is forced to flee home as disaster looms. Her tomboy’s heart and impertinent tongue serve her well when she meets the most brooding viscount ever to darken a drawing room. Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville, has his reasons for pushing people away, and when his tempestuous teenaged ward arrives on his doorstep, he presses Anna to take on her care. As Anna begins to melt the Viscount’s frozen heart, she knows the more she loves, the more she has to lose. For although Will cares nothing for what makes Society titter, he has yet to see The Beautiful One.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Rounding the edge of the wood at the back of Stillwell, he was startled to see his ward standing about. She was looking up at a tree in which, from the movement of its leaves and branches, some large creature seemed to be thrashing. A crow?

As he drew nearer to the oblivious Lizzie, he was almost certain he heard a woman’s voice coming from among the leaves. Lizzie stepped closer to the tree and lifted her hands upward, and he saw that on a thick branch perhaps six feet off the ground were perched two feet in past-their-prime dark ankle boots, and above them he was treated to a view of trim calves he could not regret. The surrounding leaves and branches mostly obscured the rest of his recently hired governess. In the instant before Lizzie became aware of Will, he saw that she held in her cupped hands a fluffy white ball.

Lizzie turned and saw him, her mouth forming into an “O” as a voice called from above, “Lizzie? I’m ready for the owlet.”

“Er,” said Lizzie, looking at him. In the clear afternoon light he noticed that her eyes were a different color blue than Ginger’s had been. But the shape was Ginger’s, as were the eyebrows. Not her fault, but he couldn’t go the route of compassion. It would only muddy what had to be. He looked past her and lifted a hand to rub his eyes.

“Miss Black,” he said, knowing he could not avoid asking, “what on earth are you doing?”

There was a pause as she absorbed his arrival and a shifting of the feet on the branch near his forehead as they drew together, perhaps in an attempt at modesty.

“Ah, my lord,” she said from above him. “Good afternoon. Lizzie and I are engaged in returning a fallen owlet to its nest. It was her idea. She is very caring toward animals.”

He could feel Lizzie’s big blue eyes on him though his own were still covered by his hand. He had no doubt as to whose idea it had been to climb the tree. He hadn’t truly expected Anna Black to be a typical sort of governess, had he?

“Come down at once.”

“If you will wait just a moment, my lord,” she said breezily, “I shall be down directly. Lizzie, the owlet.”

Lizzie cleared her throat. “Here.”

He tapped her on the shoulder before she could lift her arms farther. “Give me that creature, please.”

She looked uncertain, but she clearly didn’t want to displease him, and she handed over the motionless owl. He took it carefully from her and did not return her tentative smile. He could feel her eagerness for him to acknowledge her, but he let it flow past him.

The leaves and branches above them shook as Anna Black crouched down and extended her hand for the animal. Her bonnet, the same horrible blue one, had fallen on its strings around her neck again, and her hair, apparently loosened by her climb, curled crazily about her face as if she were some unkempt urchin, accentuating her pert nose and reminding him of her jack-in-the-box appearance from the coach.

Her pink lips pressed outward at the sight of him; doubtless she was annoyed by his arrival, but her expression didn’t draw an answering wave of annoyance from him. Instead, her lips were making him wonder, unaccountably, what it might feel like to be kissed all over by pink butterflies.

“The owlet, please,” she fairly ordered him.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Get down this instant before you fall. I will return the owlet.”

“I am already positioned to do so. If you will just give it to me, I can put it back and then receive your displeasure properly on the ground.”

He grunted. Why did he keep finding himself in out-of-his-control conversations with this maddening woman?

In his palm the owlet’s heart beat with a rapid, stressed flutter. He reached up his hand, and she gently took the animal and disappeared into the foliage.

From above came a few rustling noises, then the angry screech of what had to be an adult owl and a yelp. Fearing Miss Black would fall, he stepped forward to catch her, but at that same moment she jumped neatly down, so that she landed right in front of him.

He grabbed her arms, a reflex to steady her. She didn’t need his help, but their eyes locked, and for a moment he read vulnerability there before it was replaced with the hard glint of independence. She smelled like sunshine and crushed leaves, and he felt the slim softness of her arms and his body’s yearning to hug her close.

She stepped away from him. It had all happened in the space of a few moments.

But as he watched her brush some leaves from her skirts with her head down, that vulnerability he’d glimpsed tugged at him. Who was this woman? Where had she come from? She was clearly educated and intelligent, and though she was too forthright and she dressed terribly, she was not rough, merely unusual.

That life-on-the-edge-of-propriety quality he’d observed in her the night before had suggested that she’d known some hardship, or that she had some burden she might trade for money. And yet today, in the company of his ward, she looked at ease, even if her eyes seemed to be hiding something.

About the Author: Emily Greenwood worked for a number of years as a writer, crafting newsletters and fundraising brochures, but she far prefers writing playful love stories set in Regency England, and she thinks romance novels are the chocolate of literature. A Golden Heart finalist, she lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters.

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