One of my favorite things to read and write about in a historical romance is the
ubiquitous house party. Back in the Regency, when it took a while to travel,
guests might stay with a host for several weeks. I think my introverted self has
a horrified sort of fascination with the idea of this (Iâ€™m pretty much ready to
go after Iâ€™ve visited someone for a couple of days.)
In my novel, THE IMPROPER
BRIDE, our hero finds himself in want of a wife and decides to host a house
party at his grand country estate. As you can imagine, the guests during these
extended parties needed to be occupied (possibly so they wouldnâ€™t drive each
other mad, but maybe thatâ€™s just my point of view). This became a little harder
to do if, like in THE
IMPROPER BRIDE, the guests are snowed in. Being limited to the indoors
automatically rules out hunting or shooting for the men, or riding, walking,
carriage rides, and lawn games for both genders.
But still, there were plenty of options for indoor entertainment, from a variety
of word games to amateur theatricals. While my hero, Henry, is quite content
with a sedate game of cards for entertainment, his guests prefer something a
little livelier. He finds himself an unwilling participant in activities with
more scandalous potential, including what he calls the â€śsoul destroyingâ€ť
Questions and Commands, which was basically an early form of Truth or Dare.
Though, in the gameâ€™s earliest variant, refusing to answer a question meant you
might end up having your face â€śsmuttedâ€ť (or marked with soot), so there were a
few minor differences between then and now. (But perhaps the threat of having
your face smutted would be a fun addition to the modern game?)
Henry and his guests survive Questions and Commandsâ€¦though surviving it with
their dignity intact is another matter entirely.
As many characters have discovered, thereâ€™s so much romantic potential during a
house partyâ€”all of those long days and nights, being in close proximity,
slipping away from watchful chaperones. But while I love writing about the
awkward and potentially scandalous situations that a house party and games like
Questions and Commands can provide, Iâ€™m pretty relieved that multi-week
gatherings are a thing of the past.
Lily Maxton grew up in the Midwest, reading, writing, and daydreaming amidst
cornfields. After graduating with a degree in English, she decided to put her
natural inclinations to good use and embark on a career as a writer.
sheâ€™s not working on a new story, she likes to tour old houses, add to her tea
stash, and think of reasons to avoid housework.
Cold, arrogant, and demanding Henry Eldridge, Marquess of Riverton, would
never dally with a mere servant. But when Henry is injured in a horrible fire,
his pretty housekeeper Cassandra nurses him back to health, throwing them
together day and night. As he slowly heals from his burns, their friendship
blossoms, and the class walls between them start to crumble. Cassandra is
surprised by glimpses of a kind and thoughtful man beneath her employerâ€™s hard
faĂ§adeâ€”and even more surprised when she develops tender feelings for him. But
anything between lord and servant is impossible...and besides, as a widow, she
knows love only leads to heartbreak.
Henry is changing, as well. His close
brush with death has opened his eyes to his self-imposed emotional
isolation...and has urgently reminded him of his duty to marry a well-bred lady
and produce an heir. Determined to do right by his family name, he immediately
begins searching for a suitable bride. But Cassandra is the only woman who is
never far from his mind or his heart. Contrary to everything heâ€™s been taught to
believe, he realizes his lovely housekeeper might just be his perfect match.
Now, if only he could convince everyone else of that. Especially Cassandra...
3 comments posted.
Smutted? That's a new one to me. I think the smart person would try to avoid that game!
(Pat Dupuy 1:08pm February 15, 2016)