Blast from the Past: Marion Chesney’s Regency novels

Hi all, Susan Karsten here!

…Back from an absence of about four months (that pesky tax job). Since I enjoy Camy’s posts on older regency books so much, I am bringing you info about a book, and its author, and telling you about her extensive and delicious back-list of regency reading fun (over 90 titles). If the author Marion Chesney is not familiar to you — get thee to a bookstore — or library in this case — since she isn’t (boo-hoo) writing regencies anymore.

No, she now only writes fabulously popular cozy mysteries now and you may know her as M.C. Beaton. However, her regencies are GREAT, and with some digging, are still available to the avid fan. She’s got some of her backlist out as e-books lately, too.

Chesney’s debut (writing under her own name) book, which I happen to own, is “The Poor Relation.” Heroine and former debutante Amaryllis Duvane’s fortunes have sunk low and she is reduced to the status of serving her wealthier relatives. Her past love, the Marquess of Merechester, shows up to court one of these wicked stepsister types, and the drama begins.

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I’ll happily admit to being a huge fan of Chesney, in all her genres. But the chance to read one of her first efforts makes me admire her career trajectory even more. As one familiarizes oneself with her work, it’s clear that as she gained publishing popularity and confidence, more and more of Chesney’s delicious humor comes out on the page. I can only hope to instigate half as many snickers for my own readers…someday…when I make my debut!

If you’ve ever enjoyed Chesney’s regencies, please add a comment.

Susan Karsten

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Dickens Meets Sherlock Holmes

Brentwood's Ward Cover PeekWhat do you get when you mix a shade of the darker side of Regency London with a quick-witted lawman? Nicholas Brentwood—a hero who’s a little rough around the edges, colorful as a Dickens character, and observant enough to be a forerunner of Sherlock. But he’s not just any lawman . . . He’s a Bow Street Runner.

Traditionally, male householders in London were expected to police the streets in their neighborhood, and every citizen was to report anyone they witnessed committing a crime. This changed in the eighteenth century because of increasing concerns about the threat of dangerous criminals who were attracted by the growing wealth of London’s middle class.

Prompted by a post-war crime wave in 1749, Magistrate Henry Fielding hired a small group of men to locate and arrest serious offenders. He operated out of No. 4 Bow Street, hence the name “Bow Street Runners.”

Fielding petitioned the government and received funding, but even so, he soon ran out of money to pay these men a worthy salary. Still, the runners were committed to justice, so they took on odd jobs such as watchmen or detectives for hire or even—as in the case of Nicholas Brentwood—guarding people or treasures.

What attracted my interest as an author was an old newspaper advertisement put out by Fielding. It encouraged the public to send a note to Bow Street as soon as any serious crime occurred so that “a set of brave fellows could immediately be dispatched in pursuit of the villains.” I wondered about those “brave fellows” and what kind of villains they might come up against, and thus was born Nicholas Brentwood.

Despite Bow Street’s efforts, most Londoners were opposed to the development of an organized police force. The English tradition of local government was ingrained deep, and they feared the loss of individual liberty. So, as gallant as the Runners were in tracking down criminals, the general public did not always view them in a positive light. Even the nickname given them by the public—Bow Street Runners—was considered derogatory and was a title the officers never used to refer to themselves.

Bow Street eventually gave way to the Metropolitan Police, and by 1839, the Runners were completely disbanded. But that doesn’t mean they don’t live on in the fictional realm. See if you can match wits with an experienced lawman as he tracks down a dangerous criminal in BRENTWOOD’S WARD . . .

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There’s none better than NICHOLAS BRENTWOOD at catching the felons who ravage London’s streets, and there’s nothing he loves more than seeing justice carried out—but this time he’s met his match. Beautiful and beguiling EMILY PAYNE is more treacherous than a city full of miscreants and thugs, for she’s a thief of the highest order…she’s stolen his heart.

 Available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. But even better is that here’s your chance to WIN AN AUDIOBOOK! Hurry, though. This drawing ends tomorrow, April 17th.

CLICK HERE

 

Book recommendation: Minerva’s Marquess

Camy here! I recently read this oldie-but-goodie from Sheila Walsh and really enjoyed it. It’s not Christian, but it’s clean and a very sweet romance. I tend to really like marriage of convenience romances, so I admit I was a bit biased and ready to like the story because of that plot type. I liked how the heroine was sensible and forthright and willing to take charge of her own life. The hero is also a strong character but not too brooding. And there’s a light mystery thread to keep the story moving at a nice pace.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

The former Miss Minerva Braithwaite thought it a promising proposal when the lord whom she had shamelessly snared into wedlock suggested they go to Paris for their honeymoon. But all too swiftly that promise turned into peril for her hopes of happiness.

First the fearfully handsome, infuriatingly arrogant Lord Dominic Claireux refused to touch her on their wedding journey. Next she discovered that waiting in Paris was the ravishing Lavinia Winterton, who had broken Dominic’s heart once, but who now was eager to make amorous amends.

Somehow the beautiful Minerva had to find a way to melt her husband’s icy reserve and best a hot-blooded rival for his love. And clearly it was going to be a game of enticement and intrigue that only someone as daring as Minerva would gamble on winning…

Anything you’ve read recently that you enjoyed?

Make Way for the Postman

Today, the sound of a siren and the flashing red or blue lights make drivers clear the road to make way for the emergency vehicles. They trump all normal road rules because of the importance of their job.

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Royal Mail Coach guard in uniform with his clock carrying bag and coaching horn.

In Regency England the road was ruled, not by a siren but by a horn, one carried by the mail coach guard.

This wasn’t the overcrowded stage coach you sometimes hear about. The Royal Mail Coach traveled fast and kept to a very strict schedule, hence the use of the mail coach guard and his horn.

The guards were issued a uniform that looked strikingly similar to the ones used by the military. They were also given guns, a watch, and a very long, tin horn. The watches were all synchronized in London and any variance from the schedule had to be recorded along with the reason for the delay.

Along with providing protection for the coach, the guard would blow the horn. Different tunes meant different things. Some were simply an message to fellow drivers to get out of the way or letting people know they were turning.

But two of the tunes were vital to keeping the mail coach on target.

Royal Mail Coach via Wikimedia Commons
Royal Mail Coach via Wikimedia Commons

One let postmasters along the route know they were coming. If the coach wasn’t scheduled to stop and change horses or some other necessity, the mail for the town was dropped at the postmaster’s feet while the postmaster tossed up the bag of outgoing mail for the guard to catch.

Another let tollgate operators know the Royal Mail Coach was coming and to open the gate. The mail coach didn’t pay the tolls and didn’t stop at the gates. If the operator didn’t have the gate open in time, he could face a very hefty fine.

Knowing the importance and the power of the horn, it’s no wonder that many of the mail coach guards had their own made out of materials much finer than mere tin.

Though the uniforms have changed and the mail delivery vehicles now have to follow all the rules of the road, the Royal Mail in England is still a very efficient machine. You can see the Top Gear guys try to race a letter across the country in a Porshe here.