On the Character of Clergymen in Jane Austen’s Novels & the Regency, a Guest Post from Alexa Adams

Alexa Adams shared this post with our followers on Austen Authors in June 2016. I thought it a worthy piece to share with you. 

David Bamber ar Mr. Collins, 1995

“My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world of your excellent judgment in all matters within the scope of your understanding, but permit me to say that there must be a wide difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst the laity, and those which regulate the clergy; for give me leave to observe that I consider the clerical office as equal in point of dignity with the highest rank in the kingdom — provided that a proper humility of behaviour is at the same time maintained. You must therefore allow me to follow the dictates of my conscience on this occasion, which leads me to perform what I look on as a point of duty. Pardon me for neglecting to profit by your advice, which on every other subject shall be my constant guide, though in the case before us I consider myself more fitted by education and habitual study to decide on what is right than a young lady like yourself.”

Ah, Mr. Collins: Austen’s biggest buffoon. Her most famous clergyman does not reflect well on his profession. Based on Pride and Prejudice alone, it would be easy to conclude Austen thought rather poorly of churchmen. After all, the only character who even considers entering the church is Mr. Wickham. Yet in her other novels she provides several examples of excellence in the calling. Nearly half her heroes are clergymen, and Henry Tilney, Edward Ferrars, and Edmund Bertram are all precisely what one would wish for in a spiritual guide: sincere, compassionate, and capable. In them Austen shows us what a good parish rector ought to be. In contrast, Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton are revealed as thoroughly undeserving of their preferment, a situation that was all too common in her time.

senseandsensibilitylrg4.jpgDan Stevens as Edward Ferrars, 2008

A man of genteel birth but not enough income to support himself had three options in the Regency world: he could join the military, study law, or take orders. It also happened to be a time in which the duties of the parish rector were being hotly debated. At issue was the custom of pluralism, or the holding of more than one living at a time. A living was the assignment (usually gifted) of a parish to a rector, which included a house and annual salary. There was a shortage of livings, which were typically held for life or until retirement, and the salaries attached to them were often not enough to live upon. About 1/5th of gentlemen in orders would spend their lives as poorly paid curates, while those that held livings often had more than one and still struggled to support their families.* As the daughter of a clergyman and the sister to two more, it is no wonder that Austen voiced her opinion on the subject in her novels.

From left to right: George Austen (Jane's father), ca 1764, his eldest son James, ca 1795, and his 4th son Henry, ca 1820. All artists unknown.
From left to right: George Austen (Jane’s father), ca 1764, his eldest son James, ca 1795, and his 4th son Henry, ca 1820. All artists unknown.

Jane Austen’s father held two livings, as did her eldest brother upon inheriting them. So do Mr. Morland in Northanger Abbey and Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park. While offering no criticism of pluralism, she also clearly sympathizes with the plight of the curate, as illustrated in the struggles of Charles Hayter in Persuasion and, potentially, Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility. However, it is only in Mansfield Park that she explicitly develops the subject. Here Edmund acts as defender of the clergy, while Mary Crawford makes her case against it.

At length, after a short pause, Miss Crawford began with, “So you are to be a clergyman, Mr. Bertram. This is rather a surprise to me.”

“Why should it surprise you? You must suppose me designed for some profession, and might perceive that I am neither a lawyer, nor a soldier, nor a sailor.”

“Very true; but, in short, it had not occurred to me. And you know there is generally an uncle or a grandfather to leave a fortune to the second son.”

“A very praiseworthy practice,” said Edmund, “but not quite universal. I am one of the exceptions, and beingone, must do something for myself.”

Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram, 2007
Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram, 2007

“But why are you to be a clergyman? I thought that was always the lot of the youngest, where there were many to chuse before him.”

“Do you think the church itself never chosen, then?”

Never is a black word. But yes, in the never of conversation, which means not very often, I do think it. For what is to be done in the church? Men love to distinguish themselves, and in either of the other lines distinction may be gained, but not in the church. A clergyman is nothing.”

“The nothing of conversation has its gradations, I hope, as well as the never. A clergyman cannot be high in state or fashion. He must not head mobs, or set the ton in dress. But I cannot call that situation nothing which has the charge of all that is of the first importance to mankind, individually or collectively considered, temporally and eternally, which has the guardianship of religion and morals, and consequently of the manners which result from their influence. No one here can call the office nothing. If the man who holds it is so, it is by the neglect of his duty, by foregoing its just importance, and stepping out of his place to appear what he ought not to appear.”

You assign greater consequence to the clergyman than one has been used to hear given, or than I can quite comprehend. One does not see much of this influence and importance in society, and how can it be acquired where they are so seldom seen themselves? How can two sermons a week, even supposing them worth hearing, supposing the preacher to have the sense to prefer Blair’s to his own, do all that you speak of? govern the conduct and fashion the manners of a large congregation for the rest of the week? One scarcely sees a clergyman out of his pulpit.”

J.J. Field as Henry Tilney, 2007
J.J. Field as Henry Tilney, 2007

Interestingly, the worldly Mary is only restating the very criticisms that the bishops of the English church had been leveling at their underlings for years. If a rector held a plurality of livings and did not live in a parish, he might only see its members on Sundays, and then only on those when the curate wasn’t performing the honors. How can a clergyman be a shepherd to his flock if he never sees it? Concerns for clerical non-residence led to the Residency Act of 1803, which required clergymen to obtain a license in order to hold the living of a parish in which they did not live. The act was amended in 1809 and 1810 to assist bishops in keeping track of resident and non-resident clergy and further distinguishing between those who performed Sunday services and those who did not. Acceptable explanations for holding a plurality of livings included the parsonage being unlivable, the salary of a parish being inadequate to live upon, or the ill-health of the clergyman.* Sense and Sensibility provides examples of the first two cases: the parsonage at Delaford is uninhabitable until Colonel Brandon institutes repairs upon it, and the salary, at only 200 pounds a year, is not enough to support a family. Thus the Colonel estimates how the living might be improved, and promises further patronage (like using his influence to procure Edward an additional living). It is only Mrs. Ferrars’ gift of 10,000 pounds that provides Edward the means to marry Elinor Dashwood.

In Persuasion we have an example in Dr. Shirley, Rector of Uppercross, of how ill-health might permit non-residency. Hopes for the marriage of Charles Hayter and Henrietta Musgrove depend upon the former’s attainment of a living, and the young couple rest their best hopes on Dr. Shirley being so infirm that he will hire Charles as his curate and pay him unusually well. Henrietta even hopes he will be accommodating enough to retire to Lyme, leaving the parsonage available for their occupation. In the end, a better solution arises. Hayter is given the holding of a living until the young man for whom it is intended reaches an age to take orders. By that time, Dr. Shirley will presumably be conveniently dead and the living at Uppercross available.

Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton, 2009
Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton, 2009

Two of Austen’s heroes, Edmund Bertram of Mansfield Park and Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey, enter the clergy because their families hold livings for which they are destined. Despite this lack of a calling, both are well-suited to the profession and can be expected to prove model clergymen. Edward Ferrars’ decision to enter the church without any expectation of patronage, on the other hand, is extremely risky, perhaps even foolish. Edward is the only character in Austen who appears truly called to serve, and it is only Colonel Brandon’s generosity that saves him from being one of many hungry curates in need of a living. Other clergymen in Austen get lucky, too. We are not told by what means Emma’s Mr. Elton ascends to the living at Highbury (his lack of connection to the area suggests he was appointed by a bishop), but along with his additional “independent property” he is situated well enough to both marry and provide him with an inflated sense of his own importance. Certainly his callous behavior towards Harriet Smith proves he is ill-suited for the clerical life: his ego so in command that he wounds a parishioner to assuage it. Mr. Collins is even worse and even luckier, for at least Mr. Elton shows a degree of competence that can account for his preferment. Mr. Collins, on the other hand, receives ordination with no prospects on his horizon, yet just so happens to come almost immediately to Lady Catherine’s attention and rise to all the glories belonging to the Rector of Hunsford, all without doing anything to merit such fortune. That patrons like Lady Catherine had the disposal of livings in their power and would choose to bestow them on sycophants like Mr. Collins was a serious problem. It is no coincidence that the same book gives us an example in Mr. Darcy of the conscientious patron: one who will not leave the moral guidance and care of his tenants to wastrel like Wickham. That Wickham even attempts to secure a living – merely a means to an annual income, with no concern whatsoever for the welfare of the parishioners – illustrates the dangers of the system. I think it safe to assert that Austen thought the appointment of undeserving clergymen to parishes a bigger concern than pluralism.

Mr. Collins makes an impromptu speech at the Netherfield Ball, elucidating for both the readers and all the guests of the house the duties and obligations of a rector, as he understands them:

“The rector of a parish has much to do. — In the first place, he must make such an agreement for tithes as may be beneficial to himself and not offensive to his patron. He must write his own sermons; and the time that remains will not be too much for his parish duties, and the care and improvement of his dwelling, which he cannot be excused from making as comfortable as possible.”

Clearly, he does not belong to that category of clergymen receiving that iota of Mary Crawford’s approval for having the sense to not write their own sermons, instead utilizing those widely published by Hugh Blair. The parishioners of Hunsford have my heartfelt sympathy.

Hugh Blair by David Martin, 1775
Hugh Blair by David Martin, 1775. The famous sermon writer is portrayed wearing the same style of clerical collar sported by Henry Austen and Mr. Elton above.


*For more on this subject please read Celia Easton’s essay “‘The Probability of Some Negligence’: Avoiding the Horror of the Absent Clergyman,” published in 2010 in Persuasions: No. 32. It largely inspired this blog post.


Posted in Austen Authors, Church of England, family, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Pride and Prejudice, Regency era, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

An Interview with Author Betty Bolté + an Excerpt from “Charmed Against All Odds”

I am thrilled to have Betty Bolté join us today on the blog. Betty writes in several genres, and she is one of the authors I share duties with in the Common Elements Romance Project. You can learn more about the project HERE. Or enter the November Giveaway for your choice of one of the books released this month from the Project. Enter HERE.

For now, let’s learn something of Betty Bolté. 

First, tell us a bit about yourself. From where do you come? Past jobs, awards, the usual bio stuff.

I have been a word lover since I learned the alphabet and started reading at age 5 years. Despite my love of language, my first jobs were as a Sunday morning bus girl at a restaurant, as a waitress at McDonald’s and a donut shop, and after high school I worked for a while at a department store. I worked there while I waited to be hired to work for the federal government as a clerk, and then after I’d worked as a clerk for a couple of years I switched to being a secretary for several “Beltway Bandits” corporations around Washington, D.C. I left the corporate world in 1988 to start my own word processing business from home after I’d married my husband. From then on, I worked at home as much as possible as a writer or technical editor. I’ve written magazine articles, essays, newspaper articles and a column about our experience as part of the Sandwich Generation (having my father living with us, 3 generations in one house). I’ve written several nonfiction books, all while working on learning how to write fiction. One highlight of my career is that for several years, I worked as a technical writer/editor for SAIC supporting the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, editing real rocket science.

I write in a variety of genres: historical romance, historical fiction, paranormal romance, and I’ve started a new series, the Fury Falls Inn series, that combines the historical with paranormal and a touch of romance. I published my first 4 romances in 2014, 2 by a digital press and 2 from a hybrid press. One of my books won an honest-to-goodness gold medal, Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure, from the Children’s Literary Classics organization in 2015. They invited me to an award ceremony in Las Vegas where they placed the medal around my neck, too. That was quite a moment in my career! With the release of Charmed Against All Odds this month, I will have published a total of 20 fiction and nonfiction books.

Tell us about your new release.

Charmed Against All Odds is the fifth book in my Secrets of Roseville paranormal romance series. It’s also one of the titles included in the Common Elements Romance Project collection of stories, each including the same five elements but used in any number of ways. Set in the quirky small town of Roseville, Tennessee, the Secrets of Roseville series features five women who are witches and mediums and have some fun adventures as a result. In Charmed Against All Odds, Roxie Golden has to come to terms with her ex-fiance Leo King returning to town unexpectedly and against his will. They’re forced to work together to find a series of 6 enchanted charms in order to first, end their reluctant partnership and second, learn their destiny.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) of your current project to write and why? 

Writing the backstories for the incidents that each of the charms represents in Roxie and Leo’s previous relationship proved both fun and challenging. I really had to think about what their lives had been like as children and teens before the falling out that ended their engagement. At the same time, I wanted to give each charm a specific meaning and reason for being part of this visual reminder for Roxie to wear in their new relationship. I found a company that makes each of the charms I feature in the story. I’m still pondering whether I want to make my own charm bracelet…

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I’ve used a variety of resources to consider possible names for my characters. Depending on whether it’s historical or contemporary, those options change. I’ve used census records of the most popular names from the 1920s when writing a World War Two novel, for example. I’ve gleaned names from the historical research books of Alabama for my Fury Falls Inn series, The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn is book one, set in 1821 Alabama. I’ve consulted baby name lists for my contemporary stories and the Character-Naming Sourcebook which includes the meanings behind the names by region/country. I’ve also pulled names from my own family tree and people I’ve met.

Share a quirky fact from your research.

Since Roxie is a witch, and in my story I’ve created the Order of Witchery Lore (OWL), I needed to find out more about Wicca and what I could learn as to the jewelry people of that faith would wear. What it means, how it’s important, and then reflect that in my story. From the Wicca Spirituality site (https://www.wicca-spirituality.com/wiccan-jewelry.html), I learned that the third finger is the heart finger (thus why relationship rings are typically worn on that finger) and rings worn there are “especially powerful.” The index finger is also powerful as the creation finger. Judgement and restraint center on the middle finger. Communication—Roxie’s strongest power and the Order’s mission—comes from the pinky finger. So I chose to have the OWL membership ring be worn on the right pinky finger. I actually blogged about this topic in more detail (https://bettybolte.net/?p=3231) if you’re interested in finding out more. I actually typically wear a ring I bought when I received my MA in English on my 3rd finger, and my dearly departed mother-in-law’s wedding band on my pinky, which makes me think it helps with my creativity.

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects?

I have my WWII story, Notes of Love and War, out to beta readers now. It’s a historical women’s fiction story set in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s inspired by reading my parents’ correspondence during and after the war. I’m also getting ready to write the second book in the six-book Fury Falls Inn series, Under Lock and Key, which I hope to release by summer 2020. I am debating how to publish Notes of Love and War and another 18th-century historical women’s fiction story about Martha Washington’s life that I’ve written. So plenty to keep me out of trouble!


Charmed Against All Odds

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Wedding bells are ringing, but not for Roxie Golden. If she can survive another round of wedding plans, then her life can return to normal. She’s perfectly happy running the bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then one stormy day, her ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift neither of them wants.

Leo King wants to flee the small town for the big city. Forget about the shame he brought upon himself when he abused his magical powers. First, to satisfy his warlock father’s final wish, he must deliver the mysterious box to Roxie’s bookstore.

But when Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, their plans and their lives are changed forever. Trapped in a reluctant partnership with the woman he once loved, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Charmed-Against-Odds-Secrets-Roseville-ebook/dp/B07WSJWDLF/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=charmed+against+all+odds&qid=1566480566&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Books2Read universal book link: https://books2read.com/u/3JVjaK

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/charmed-against-all-odds-betty-bolte/1133061479?ean=9781733973618

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/charmed-against-all-odds

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/charmed-against-all-odds/id1477254462


Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo      Apple

Excerpt from Charmed Against All Odds:

“What do you think you’re doing?” His deep, gravelly voice grated on Leo’s nerves.

“Nothing. Just looking around.” Leo matched the man’s smile with one of his own. No way would he share their true purpose for returning to the nostalgic old theater.

“Do you have tickets?” The manager raised one brow as he stared at Leo.

“No, sir.” Leo’s smile withered and fell away. “Like I said, we simply wanted to see the lobby again.”

“We haven’t been here in a very long time.” Roxie smiled, a much more sincere and thus believable friendly expression than either of the two men had attempted. “Nothing’s changed.”

“One thing has for certain.” The man’s pale blue eyes glinted in the light shining from the bright chandeliers. “You have to buy a movie ticket before you come into the lobby. This isn’t a sightseeing stop on some tour.”

“We only need a few minutes and we’ll be out of here.” Leo cut a glance at Roxie, who nodded.


“Either buy tickets to watch a movie or leave. Those are your options.” The manager crossed his arms over his narrow, self-righteous chest, his Adam’s apple prominently sliding up and down his scrawny throat. “No exceptions.”

“But—” Leo objected with his entire being. He couldn’t do it. Even if his libido wanted him to.

Sit in a darkened theater with Roxie at his side. Within reach of draping his arm around her, her head resting on his shoulder. Or playing thumb wars while they watched the movie. Sharing buttered popcorn out of a large tub between them, their fingers brushing when they both reached in at the same time. Like all the previous times they’d enjoyed being together.

“No exceptions.” The manager shook his head. “Your choice.”

The charm hid somewhere within the walls of the theater. He sensed they were close, a niggling in his core like he hadn’t felt in a long time. He couldn’t leave without the charm. Leo clenched his jaw as he noticed Roxie’s curt nod indicating they should do as the manager insisted. If she could do it, then he’d have to man up. Be a true gentleman and keep his hands to himself. No matter what. If possible…

Meet Betty Bolté: 

Award-winning author Betty Bolté is known for authentic and accurately researched historical fiction with heart and supernatural romance novels. A lifetime reader and writer, she’s worked as a secretary, freelance word processor, technical writer/editor, and author. She’s been published in essays, newspaper articles/columns, magazine articles, and nonfiction books but now enjoys crafting entertaining and informative fiction, especially stories that bring American history to life. She earned a Master’s Degree in English in 2008, emphasizing the study of literature and storytelling, and has judged numerous writing contests for both fiction and nonfiction. She lives in northern Alabama with her loving husband of more than 30 years. Her cat, Calliope, serves as her muse and writing partner, and her dog, Zola, makes sure she goes outside frequently. She loves to cook, travel, read, crochet and take long walks. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Historical Novel Society, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Alabama Writers Conclave, and Authors Guild. Get to know her at www.bettybolte.com.

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Posted in book excerpts, book release, contemporary, contemporary romance, eBooks, gothic and paranormal, Guest Post, paranormal, publishing, research, suspense, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Memories of the Marshall University Plane Crash

Memories-of-Marshall-ex-player-says-shock-of-crash-never-ends-2.jpgThis is not a post based on Jane Austen and her writing or on the Regency Period in England as you would customarily find on my blog. Rather it is a a moment in time when I stood witness to the true human spirit, and like so many others, I must speak of it. November 14 is the anniversary of one of the most tragic events I ever experienced, and I hope you will allow me to take you into my life, and by doing so, you will understand more of what makes me the person I am, as well as comprehend why I look to the simplicity of reading and writing romance for my release. When I think back to the moments in my life, which defined me as a person, one I must choose is my senior year in college. I attended Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

Marshall Univ. Crash www.check-six.com

Marshall Univ. Crash

On November 14, 1970, the Marshall faithful followed the team to East Carolina University for a closely contested game. Returning to Huntington after the 17-14 loss, Flight 932, a chartered twin-engine Southern Airways DC-9, struck a tree on a hill 5,543 feet west of the runway. The plane cut a path 95 feet wide by 279 feet long through the tree line, even clipping an abandoned house. It crashed, nose-first, in a hollow 4,219 feet short of the runway. The plane, essentially, came apart. A fire melted most of the fuselage. All 75 people aboard, including the entire football team (37 players), coaches, team doctors, the university’s athletic director,  25 supporters (many prominent citizens of the town), and a crew of five, died. Even today, the cause remains uncertain: weather (fog and rain) or too low of a descent or improper use of cockpit instrumentation data.

Other than being a MU student and part time waitress, I also spent some time with a volunteer medical unit, one stationed close to the accident. (I later taught at one of the high schools in the area.) At the time, I thought I might become a nurse. I was certified in basic first aid, and I was not of the nature to panic when I encountered danger. Previously, I assisted several people in car wrecks and the like.

Upon my arrival at the scene, those in charge pressed me into combing the hillside for the bodies, one of the most horrendous experiences of my life. With flashlights and flares used for light, those of us determined to be of service began to gather what we could salvage. We each thought to discover someone clinging to life, but no such scene ever occurred. In the movie, We Are Marshall, there is a line that says something to the effect of “There are no survivors.” It always brings me to tears (even as I type this piece).

We were instructed to take our finds to a temporary morgue at the National Guard Armory at the airport. I recall the terrible moment when we realized we didn’t have enough body bags. It was a taste of reality that shook me to my core. If one looked to the hillside hosting the crash scene, he would find small fires that burned for hours. Only the jet’s engine and a wing section were recognizable to the investigators trying to piece together an explanation of a disaster.

Pieces of bodies were scattered throughout the area. White plastic was used to block the view of “interested” onlookers who rushed to the scene. What we could recover, we placed on sheets laid on the armory’s floor. I remember that, ironically, S. S. Logan Packing Company, distributor of the Cavalier meat brands, provided a cooling unit to preserve the bodies until they could be identified.

plane crash | West Virginia travel queen wvtravelqueen.com

plane crash | West Virginia travel queen

Over the next week and a half, I attended 13 funerals, three in one day alone. An “instant” snuffed out the lives of the young who still held “potential” before them (the players) and those who greeted life as a partner (mothers, fathers, business leaders, doctors, lawyers, coaches). A 52-minute flight changed a town and changed me. A grief impossible to explain gripped the area. It was not only that we lost a football program. In reality, we were not a powerhouse at the time, but we were one of the first schools to recruit Black athletes, a statement of change following the Civil Rights movement. And like every young person, I held my hopes set on a brighter tomorrow. The crash was a gaping hole waiting to be healed.


Nate Ruffin and Jack Lengyel via The Herald Dispatch – Anthony Mackie portrayed Nate Ruffin and Matthew McConaughey portrayed Coach Jack Lengyel in “We Are Marshall”

The fictional character of Annie Cantrell in the movie commemorating this event says of the grief: Those were not welcome days. We buried sons, brothers, mothers, fathers, fiancés. Clocks ticked, but time did not pass. The sun rose and the sun set, but the shadows remained. When once there was sound, now there was silence. What once was whole, now was shattered.


1969 Marshall University football team via herald-dispatch.com

Despite our common anguish, things happened to keep the hope alive. The NCAA permitted Marshall to play freshmen, something never allowed previously, and with the insistence of Nate Ruffin, a man who later served on the university’s Alumni Board, as did I, the program became whole again. Walk-on players stepped up, and a team resurfaced.

I would like to tell you that the program miraculously became automatic winners, but that would be a lie. For my birthday weekend, the first game in 1971, I was among those in the stands at Morehead State University watching the “Young” Thundering Herd; and although MU lost, many of us saw it as a victory for the university and the town. The next weekend, I was again among the throng crowded into Fairfield Stadium for the team’s first home game. And miracle of miracles, God answered the combined prayer of a crazed crowd – from those who pleaded for a sign that He had not forsaken them. I am not one to beg God for winning lottery numbers or for an unexpected inheritance, but I admit to adding my silent prayers for a win and was granted a last-minute one over Xavier. For hours afterwards, we remained in the stands, hugging strangers who shared the joy of seeing hope resurrected.

Organizational Change: The Young Thundering Herd | Paul Ress ... www.linkedin.com

Organizational Change: The Young Thundering Herd | Paul Ress …

Marshall won only one more game that season, and for over a decade the university and the town suffered through numerous losing seasons; yet, even with those losses, people remembered the Xavier win. Often one heard someone say, “Were you here when the plane crashed?” Meaning, “Do we have a shared identity?” In the mid-80’s, MU won a I-AA National Championship and in the 90s it won more games than any other Division I team. Like every other school, MU has its good seasons and its rebuilding ones, but football is not the lesson here.

What did I learn from this tragedy? First, life is short. Embrace each day as if it is your last. Secondly, hope never dies. Even when faced with complete devastation, some moment, no matter how brief, tells a person that the phoenix will rise from the ashes. That man can step into the light once again. Lastly, true love is the most compelling of tasks. It is what sees us through the darkness.

November 14, 1970, serves as a defining date in my life. Like many who experienced this tragedy first hand, I am forever changed. However, the release of the 2006 movie We Are Marshall filled that gaping hole. I cried the first time I saw the film – the memory still too raw even after 35 years, but with each subsequent viewing, the hurt has lessened. Instead of death, I now view the resiliency of the human spirit. That resiliency and that need for hope and love are the subject of my writing.HOCrE7-AnLc.movieposter


This is the Marshall Plane Crash Memorial Fountain found on Marshall’s college campus. This fountain pays tribute to the 75 people Marshall loss on that sad day. https://www.theclio.com/web/entry?id=26776

The Memorial Student Center Fountain was dedicated to the memory of the plane crash victims on November 12, 1972. Each year on the crash’s anniversary the water is turned off until the next spring. Its creator Harry Bertora said, “I hoped the fountain would ‘commemorate the living – rather than the dead – on the waters of life, rising, receding, surging, so to express upward growth, immortality, and eternality.'”

BookSigning.jpg As a footnote to my tale, I would also like to point you to a book on the tragedy, but one written by a man NOT on that fateful flight. November Ever After comes to us at the hands of Craig T. Greenlee, a man who left the Marshall football program in 1969 for personal reasons, but returned to rebuild the program after the plane crash. You can learn more of Mr. Greenlee’s story HERE

61k6eBeDbEL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg November Ever After: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph in the Wake of the 1970 Marshall Football Plane Crash

The legacy of the players who perished in the 1970 Marshall football plane crash transcends wins and losses. Their tragic deaths squashed the likelihood of a bloody race riot on campus. Students at Marshall University had no idea that the horrific events on the night of November 14 would change their lives forever. The team’s plane crashed into the side of a mountain, and there were no survivors among the 75 passengers. Unless you were there, you could never comprehend the full gravity of grief that engulfed a college town in the days following the worst aviation disaster in the history of American sports. I know a lot about it. For two seasons, I was a Marshall football player. But for personal reasons, I decided that 1969 would be my last hurrah. As things turned out, it proved to be a life-saving choice. Had I not walked away from the game, I know it could have been me on that plane. When the school started to pick up the pieces of the football program, it was a no-brainer for me to return and become part of the rebuilding process in the spring of 1971. Media projects devoted to the Marshall football crash generated well-deserved exposure. Even so, there are glaring omissions in those presentations. Through this book, the record is set straight. Former Marshall defensive back Craig T. Greenlee provides insights and recollections that you simply will not find in other media accounts about the tragedy and its aftermath.

Posted in American History, film, real life tales, sports history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Female Inheritance Laws + an Excerpt from MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs

Under English law, women were subordinate to their husbands. It was expected that she was under the “protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord.” The law stated the old adage of “two shall become one.” She was her husband’s “feme covert.” Any property she owned—real or personal—came under his control. A married woman could not draft a will or dispose of any property without her husband’s consent.

Women rarely inherited property. She could inherit “personal” belongings such as, furniture, jewelry, clothing, moveable goods, etc. But that does not mean that a woman could NOT inherit real property (meaning land, or what we now call “real estate”). The practice of primogeniture under English law presented the oldest son with the real property upon the death of the father. [Note: Matrilineal primogeniture, or female-preference uterine primogeniture, is a form of succession practiced in some societies in which the eldest female child inherits the throne, to the total exclusion of males. The order of succession to the position of the Rain Queen is an example in an African culture of matrilineal primogeniture: not only is dynastic descent reckoned through the female line, but only females are eligible to inherit.] Daughters could only inherit in the absence of a male heir. The law of intestate primogeniture remained on the statue books in Britain until the 1925 property legislation simplified and updated England’s archaic law of real property.

Aware of their daughters’ unfortunate situation, fathers often provided them with dowries or worked into a prenuptial agreement pin money, the estate which the wife was to possess for her sole and separate use not subject to the control of her husband, to provide her with an income separate from his.

In contrast to wives, women who never married or who were widowed maintained control over their property and inheritance, owned land and controlled property disposal, since by law any unmarried adult female was considered to be a feme sole. Some of the peeresses, in their own right had property, as well as the title which the husband couldn’t touch. Still, inheritance through the female of a peerage by patent was  extremely rare and usually only  put into the patent while the 1st peer was alive. Usually, the patents didn’t allow for female inheritance. It was rare for a woman to be able to inherit a peerage created by patent. The Duke of Marlborough had his patent changed when it was obvious he would not have a son, but that was a rare occurrence. Most females succeeded to a lesser peerage created by writ. Once married, the only way that women could reclaim property was through widowhood.

The dissolution of a marriage, whether initiated by the husband or wife, usually left the divorced females impoverished, as the law offered them no rights to marital property. The 1836 Caroline Norton court case highlighted the injustice of English property laws, and generated enough support that eventually resulted in the Married Women’s Property Act.

Lately, England has considered what is cleverly known as the “Downton Abbey” law. The Bill is so called after the anomaly of female succession at the heart of ITV’s Downton Abbey, in which the character of Lady Mary, the eldest daughter of the drama’s fictional earl, was unable to inherit the family seat because it had to pass to a male heir. The bill adds the rank of “baronets” to those titles in which females can inherit.

Like many in the JAFF community, I often write how Anne De Bourgh can inherit Rosings Park. I do so again in my latest novel, MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs. But how is that possible? As mentioned above, Anne can inherit if she does not marry. By English law, she could inherit when she reaches her majority at age 21. I customarily add something in Sir Lewis’s will that has her wait until she is 25. [Mayhap, Sir Lewis anticipated Lady Catherine’s “unwillingness” to be removed from the reins of Rosings Park, and provided Anne a bit of time to find a strong husband who would depose her ladyship, or some such story line.] Yet, in reality, it is also possible for Anne to inherit because her father’s title is one of baronet. The rank of “baronet” was created by James I, who founded the hereditary Order of Baronets in England in 1611 to be conferred on 200 gentlemen with large, profitable estates on the condition they funded the salaries of 30 soldiers for the war with Ireland. In these early baronetcies, it was written into the letters patent from the monarch when the titles were created that women could inherit if there was no male heir. The last baronetess, Dame Anne Maxwell Macdonald, whose ancestors became baronets in 1628, died in 2011 aged 104. Therefore, Anne De Bourgh could be the next baronetess of Rosings Park.

MDF eBook Cover Introducing MR. DARCY’S BRIDE…

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.

ELIZABETH BENNET is determined that she will put a stop to her mother’s plans to marry off the eldest Bennet daughter to Mr. Collins, the Longbourn heir, but a man that Mr. Bennet considers an annoying dimwit. Hence, Elizabeth disguises herself as Jane and repeats her vows to the supercilious rector as if she is her sister, thereby voiding the nuptials and saving Jane from a life of drudgery. Yet, even the “best laid plans” can often go awry.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY is desperate to find a woman who will assist him in leading his sister back to Society after Georgiana’s failed elopement with Darcy’s old enemy George Wickham. He is so desperate that he agrees to Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s suggestion that Darcy marry her ladyship’s “sickly” daughter Anne. Unfortunately, as he waits for his bride to join him at the altar, he realizes he has made a terrible error in judgement, but there is no means to right the wrong without ruining his cousin’s reputation. Yet, even as he weighs his options, the touch of “Anne’s” hand upon his sends an unusual “zing” of awareness shooting up Darcy’s arm. It is only when he realizes the “zing” has arrived at the hand of a stranger, who has disrupted his nuptials, that he breathes both a sigh of relief and a groan of frustration, for the question remains: Is Darcy’s marriage to the woman legal?

What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet met under different circumstances than those we know from Jane Austen’s classic tale: Circumstances that did not include the voices of vanity and pride and prejudice and doubt that we find in the original story? Their road to happily ever after may not, even then, be an easy one, but with the expectations of others removed from their relationship, can they learn to trust each other long enough to carve out a path to true happiness?

EXCERPT from MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs (Chapter 18): This scene is Darcy’s threat to Lady Catherine when his aunt insists that he cannot back out of his marriage to Anne. [Trust me. Even with Darcy’s commanding tone in this excerpt, Lady Catherine is not easily put off.]

“Lady Catherine, sir.” His servant barely had time to open the door before his aunt strode into the room.

“Mr. Nathan, have my bags placed in my usual room,” his aunt instructed without so much as a by-your-leave.

Darcy’s ire grew quickly. He despised such presumptuousness. “Mr. Nathan, you will leave her ladyship’s bags upon her coach. And instruct my aunt’s coachman to remain nearby with her carriage. Lady Catherine will not be staying at Pemberley.”

Mr. Nathan nodded his understanding and rushed from the room, closing the door behind him.

“So this is the welcome I am to receive,” her ladyship harumphed. “Your mother would be ashamed of you, Darcy.” She sat heavily in an armed chair.

Darcy remained standing beside his desk. He spoke in clipped tones. “I was considering something similar as to Lady Anne’s reaction to your poor manners, Aunt. I can guarantee that George Darcy would never have tolerated your ordering his servants about, and neither will I. This is Pemberley, madam, not Rosings Park. I am the master here.”

His aunt snarled, “I see your insolence continues.”

“And I see you still think that the world will bend to your whims,” he countered.

Rather than to fuel their standoff with more inflammatory accusations, Lady Catherine switched tactics, a devise he had observed her employ previously. Darcy had always thought her doing so was an intelligent means for a woman to earn agreement over business matters in a man’s world, but her diversion would not work on him. “Is that girl in this house?” she demanded.

Darcy propped a hip on the corner of his desk and attempted to appear casual when he responded, “I fear Georgiana is not at home at this time. My sister will be sorry to have missed your call.”

Lady Catherine’s chin rose in stubbornness. “So that is the way you wish to discuss this matter. Very well. Then I shall be more direct. Did you bring Miss Elizabeth Bennet to Pemberley when you left Matthew Allard’s estate in Scotland?”

Darcy schooled his features. Someone would pay dearly for sharing his business with Lady Catherine. “I am not in the habit of discussing my personal life with anyone, and you of all people should realize I am more Darcy than Fitzwilliam. Your line of questions will not win you my favor.”

“I see you mean to protect this upstart! Are you so enthralled with the woman’s arts and allurements that you cannot see reason? If you fancy her, Darcy, then make her your mistress. Anne will ignore your indiscretions. I will instruct my daughter in the ways of men. Anne can be your wife while this strumpet can suffer your lust.”

His aunt’s description of aristocratic life sickened Darcy. “I have no intention of marrying Anne. You may beg. You may threaten. You may cajole. You may bargain. But I will never change my mind. I permitted you to use the memory of my dear mother to coerce me into agreeing to marry Anne, but Fate had other ideas. Anne was late, and I spoke my vows to another.”

“We both know those vows are not legal,” she drawled in warning tones.

Darcy had heard from his solicitor regarding those first vows exchanged with Elizabeth, and as expected, his first marriage to the woman had proved void. Mr. Jaffray had filed the papers to have the ceremony declared null. “Such knowledge does not change my resolve. I will not marry Anne.”

“Would you prefer that I instruct Anne in suing Miss Bennet for criminal conversation?” she challenged.

“Although neither Anne or I could officially testify in such a suit, the truth would win out. A skilled barrister can make certain all the facts are relayed to the judge. The lady in question could not have claimed my affections away from your daughter, for beyond a fondness between cousins, I never loved Anne.” He would not say that Elizabeth Bennet held his heart in her delicate hands. “Moreover, as I did not hold the lady’s acquaintance until several hours after that morning at St. George, it would be impossible for her to draw me away with her arts and allurements. All such a suit would do would be to bring ruin upon Anne’s head and mar my family name. You would have your vengeance and little else to keep you warm in the winter. No man would ever claim Anne after such a public display, but I suppose that is what you wish. You wish Anne forever to remain under your control.”

“Anne’s dowry of thirty thousand pounds can cover any flaw you name,” Lady Catherine argued.

“Yes, I suppose her dowry and the promise of Rosings Park can conceal all but one of my cousin’s failings: that of possessing an overbearing and controlling mother. Only the most desperate of men would consider aligning his name with Sir Lewis’s daughter. You would be willing to turn over Anne’s future to a man of no principles. That fact should surprise me, but it does not,” he said in sad tones. “Such a man would run through every penny of Anne’s inheritance, leaving you and your daughter as Matlock’s poor relations. I suppose that must be my justice.”

“You think me so cold-hearted?” his aunt demanded. “Everything I do, I do for Anne.”

“You may tell yourself these lies,” Darcy cautioned, “but your family and soon society will recognize you as a bitter, vindictive woman.” He sighed heavily. “If you persist in this madness, I will sue Anne for breach of promise. Her fortune will be greatly reduced, for I will win my suit. There were at least two dozen witnesses that can swear to the fact that she left me at the altar. If not for the false exchange of vows, I would have been long gone from the church by the time Anne arrived. You, too, would have been gone, likely looking for your wayward daughter to strangle her, as you attempted to do when she did arrive. Are you willing to tarnish your daughter’s name twice in the court of public notice? Poor Anne who has never had a Season. Who has never been permitted the freedom to form a friendship. Who is poorly educated beyond what her governess provided her. That Anne will be irretrievably ruined.” His tone held the warning of winter’s embrace. “I do not wish to see Anne suffer, but I will not permit you to injure an innocent just to puff up your consequence.”

“An innocent?” his aunt accused in her most implacable voice. “The woman traveled with you to Scotland where she passed herself off as Mrs. Darcy. You see, Mr. and Mrs. Allard were quite pleased to tell my man of your indiscretions. Allard was most displeased that you withdrew your financial support of his latest venture.”

Allard’s financial future would be nonexistent when Darcy finished with the man. He would permit no one to bandy about Elizabeth’s name in a vile manner. “We could debate this matter all afternoon,” he announced as he stood. “I believe somewhere within your hard resolve you want what is best for Anne, and I am flattered that you think me a suitable match for my cousin, but I wish to marry in affection, and my feelings for Anne are more brotherly than those of a potential husband.” A profound sadness crept into his tone when Darcy spoke of his cousin’s situation. He should have done more to assist Anne before things had reached this turning point. Like most in the family, he had thought all would change when Anne inherited Sir Lewis’s properties and fortune. He had never considered the fact that Lady Catherine would do all she could to shove Anne out Rosings Park’s door in order to maintain control of all of Sir Lewis’s holdings. “Do you not wish something more for your daughter and your dearest sister’s only son that a marriage of convenience?”

“I wish to see Anne well settled,” she declared in undisguised contempt.

Darcy hesitated briefly before accepting the gauntlet. His aunt would force him to be ruthless. “Then you leave me no choice, madam. If you force me into marrying Anne, I will leave you with little more than a humble cottage and a pair of servants to tend you for the remainder of your days. Anne will be five and twenty in two months. I will postpone the wedding until your daughter inherits Rosings Park per Sir Lewis’s will. All of it will belong to her, and as the estate and the fortune are entailed upon the female line, when we marry, as Anne’s husband, I will have control of it all. I have no intention of bringing Anne to child, so your many manipulations will be for naught. As you say, I will take my lust elsewhere. At Anne’s death, I will sell Rosings Park and all it holds piece-by piece, until nothing remains of Sir Lewis De Bourgh’s legacy. All you hold most dear will be scattered among the households of those with the funds to purchase it. I will destroy everything you have ever loved: Rosings Park and Anne. And each day of your miserable life you will know that I did these things in retribution for your foolish sense of consequence.” Needing to be away from his aunt, Darcy started for the door. “Good day, your ladyship. I will have Mr. Nathan see you out.” With that, he was gone, never looking back to view the look of astonishment upon his aunt’s features.

Posted in book excerpts, book release, estates, excerpt, giveaway, Inheritance, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, marriage licenses, Pride and Prejudice, primogenture, publishing, Vagary, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Courtesy Titles (or) Not, a Confusing Aspect of Reading and Writing Historical Novels

One of the most confusing aspects of writing Regency-based novels is the issue of courtesy titles. We authors are always going back and questioning what we think we know. I have heard readers say to me that this is one area that often confuses them. I will admit that I was in my final round of edits of The Earl Claims His Comfort before I realized I had called a minor character “Lady Delia,” when as a daughter of a viscount, she should have been “The Honorable Miss Phillips” or to those more familiar to her “Miss Phillips” or even “Miss Delia” for close acquaintances.I  cannot tell you how many times I had overlooked the error; nor did three editors catch the mistake, thinking I had it correct. Therefore, I thought it useful if we reviewed some of the basics of courtesy titles

By courtesy title, I am referring to the words “Lord,” “Lady,” and “The Honourable.” A peer’s wife and children are granted the use of certain titles, depending upon the rank of the peer. These are customarily used by the sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, daughter-in-law and sisters-in-law of a peer. The son and heir apparent of a duke, marquess or earl may use one of his father’s peerage titles by courtesy providing it is of a lesser grade than that used by his father.

The duke’s wife is a duchess. His eldest son usually assumes the next-highest of the duke’s titles as a courtesy title, customarily it is that of a marquess. The duke’s subordinate titles are distributed by courtesy only to his direct heirs, that is, his eldest son, and his eldest son’s eldest son, etc. His younger sons are are Lord First name Surname. The daughters are Lady First name Surname. For example, in my Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep, we find the Duke and Duchess of Devilfoard, the Marquess of Malvern, Lord Harrison McLaughlin and Lady Henrietta McLaughlin. When the Marquess of Malvern’s son is born, he will become an earl, assuming the duke’s next-highest title, etc. In actual practice in the United Kingdom, the Duke of Devonshire’s eldest son bears by courtesy the title the Marquess of Hartington, and Lord Hartington’s eldest son is the Earl of Burlington. If Lord Hartington were to predecease his father, then Lord Burlington would become the Marquess of Hartington, and his son, if he were to have one, would be born as Earl of Burlington. (Courtesy Titles)

A marquess’s wife is a marchioness. She is called Lady (His Title), i.e., Lady Stonecrest. His eldest son would become an earl as the courtesy title, depending upon the marquess’s highest-ranking minor titles.. The younger sons would be Lord First name Surname. The daughters are Lady First name Surname. 

An earl’s wife is a countess. She is called Lady (His Title). His eldest son assumes the next-highest title as a courtesy title. He is customarily a viscount. The earl’s younger sons are The Honourable First name Surname. Just as it is with the daughter of a duke or marquess, the honorific prefix of “Lady” is used for the daughter of an earl. The definite article ‘The’ (written with the capital letter ‘T’ even when the title appears in the middle of a sentence) before the prefix. The courtesy title is added before the person’s given name, as in the example The Lady Diana Spencer. Because it is merely a courtesy with no legal implications, the honorific persists after the death of the holder’s father but it is not inherited by her children. The spouse of a woman with an honorific title does not hold any courtesy title in right of their spouse. Neither does the husband of a man with any title (including the husband of a peer). Do you recall in Pride and Prejudice, that although Lady Catherine de Bourgh married a baronet, she keeps her courtesy title of “Lady Catherine” because she is the daughter of an earl? As the wife of a baronet, she should be “Lady de Bourgh.”

Laura Wallace provides us some very specific examples: “It was a 17th century custom to throw in a number of new lesser titles to “fill in” when creating a new higher title, so the older a dukedom or an earldom, the more likely the second title is to be a much lower one, skipping steps, if you will: the eldest sons of the Dukes of Norfolk, Grafton, St. Albans, Richmond, Buccleuch, Newcastle, and Northumberland are earls, the Dukes of Dorset’s and Manchester’s are viscounts, and the Duke of Somerset’s only a Lord.  But since Dorset’s and Machester’s eldest sons are viscounts, their eldest sons cannot take a barony as a courtesy title.  If there is no courtesy title available, the eldest son of a duke, marquess, or earl takes the family name as a courtesy title.  

“Several marquesses have the same title as marquess and earl, e.g., the Marquess and Earl of Hertford and the Marquess and Earl of Salisbury.  In these cases, the heir skips the matching peerage, and takes the next highest title as a courtesy title, to distinguish him from his father.  The heir of the Marquess and Earl of Salisbury is thus Viscount Cranbourne, and the heir of the Marquess and Earl of Hertford is thus Earl of Yarmouth (whose father happens to have two earldoms at his disposal).  

“The Duke of Wellington similarly holds two marquessates:  that of Wellington and that of Douro, so his heir takes the courtesy title Marquess Douro to distinguish him from his father.  [During the 1st Duke’s lifetime, all of his lesser titles were also either Wellington or Douro, and the family name, Wellesley, was used as a title by his brother, the 1st Marquess Wellesley, so I’m not sure what courtesy title would have been given to the eldest son of the eldest son of the 1st Duke of Wellington.   Fortunately, the issue never came up;  and eventually the Dukes of Wellington also inherited the lesser titles of the 1st Marquess Wellesley (whose title became extinct upon his death), which include the Earl of Mornington and Viscount Wellesley, so there are currently three titles available to the direct heirs of the Duke of Wellington.]

“It is important to note, however, that an heir of a peer who is not a direct descendant of that peer (i.e., his eldest son or his eldest son’s eldest son) does not take any secondary title as a courtesy title.   He remains known by whatever title (if any) he derived from his own father until he accedes to the peerage.  This is a common mistake in historical romances.

“For example, the 6th Duke of Devonshire never married.  Since he also had no brothers, his heir was a cousin.  The cousin was a great-grandson of the 4th Duke; before the 6th Duke died, he was plain Mr. William Cavendish.  Even though the line of succession was clear, Mr. William Cavendish was never given the courtesy title Marquess of Hartington.  Similarly, after Mr. William Cavendish succeeded and became the 7th Duke, he was in turn succeeded by his eldest son, who became the 8th Duke.  But the 8th Duke had no son, and he was succeeded by his nephew, a son of his younger brother, Lord Edward.  Before he acceded, the 8th Duke was plain Mr. Victor Cavendish.”

A viscount’s wife is a viscountess. She is known as Lady (His Title). All the sons and daughters of a viscount are The Honourable First name Surname. 

A baron’s wife is a baroness. Both the baron and his wife are addressed as either “Lord” or “Lady” (His Title). It is not correct to call him Baron Johnstone. He is Lord Johnstone, and his wife is Lady Johnstone. All the sons and daughters of a baron are addressed as The Honourable First name Surname. 

 Ranks-And-Privileges-Of-The-Peerage.jpg According to Debretts “A peer’s sons and daughters who are legitimated under the Legitimacy Act 1926, as amended by the Act of 1959, are now under an Earl Marshal’s Warrant accorded the same courtesy styles as the legitimate younger children of peers, though they have no right of succession to the peerage (except under certain circumstances in Scotland), or precedence from it. Courtesy styles may continue to be borne by the children of peers who have disclaimed their peerage.

“Children adopted into a family do not acquire rights of succession to a title, and children adopted out of a family do not lose their rights. An Earl Marshal’s Warrant dated 30 April 2004 decreed that the adopted children of peers should be accorded the styles and courtesy titles as are proper to the younger children of peers, but without right of succession to the peerage. Thus, for example, the adopted son of the Marquess of Ely is now known as Lord Andrew Tottenham (which is the style for the younger son of a marquess), rather than Viscount Loftus, which is the subsidiary title for that peerage.”

Debretts peerage has a section on siblings of peers who have special grants of precedency. In all of these cases, a sibling inherited because the father died before the grandfather-before the father could inherit.

When the eldest brother succeeds to the peerage, he can request that his siblings be granted the  precedency they would have had if the father had inherited. Though it is called a grant of precedency it really gives the person all the privileges of such rank such as courtesy titles. 

51da9RnvUwL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg In Valentine Heywood’s British Titles: the Use and Misuse of the Titles of Peers and Commoners (page 113), Heywood addresses what happens with courtesy titles when the heir is not in the direct line of succession. If a nephew, cousin, or other distant relative NOT in the direct line of succession to a peerage becomes the new peer, the Sovereign can accord the new peer’s brothers and sisters with the customary styling, which would have been theirs had their father held the title. Such would be conferred by Royal Warrant.

Heywood mentions only ones not in the direct line, but it is often a case that a marquess’s son is an earl, and the earl’s oldest son is a viscountcy, but the siblings are plain honourables. If the father dies and the viscount becomes an earl, the brothers remain the same, but the sisters can be referred to as Lady First name, however, all the siblings generally would be raised to the higher ranks when the brother succeeds as marquess.

Posted in British history, Inheritance, titles of aristocracy | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Celebrating the Release of “A Regency Christmas Proposal” + Excerpt + Giveaway

I am celebrating the last of my seven releases this calendar year. A REGENCY CHRISTMAS PROPOSAL,  a “clean” Regency anthology, featuring smart and somewhat sassy heroines, arrives TOMORROW, November 7. My contribution to the project is a story entitled “Last Woman Standing.” I think you will enjoy this one. Dreamstone Publishing in Australia is bringing this anthology to life. 


JACKSON SHAW, the Marquess of Rivens, never considered the “gypsy blessing” presented to his family during the time of Henry VIII truly a blessing. He viewed it more as a curse. According to the “blessing,” in his thirtieth year, at the Christmas ball hosted by his family, he was to choose a wife among the women attending. The catch was he possessed no choice in the matter. His wife was to be the one who proved herself to be his perfect match, according to the gypsy’s provisions: a woman who would bring prosperity to his land by her love of nature and her generous heart. In his opinion, none of the women vying for his hand appeared to care for anything but themselves.

EVELYN HAWTHORNE comes to River’s End to serve as the companion to the Marchioness of Rivens, his lordship’s grandmother. However, Lady Rivens has more than companionship in mind when she employs the girl, whose late father was a renown horticulturalist. The marchioness means to gather Gerald Hawthorne’s rare specimens to prevent those with less scrupulous ideas from purchasing Hawthorne’s conservatory, and, thereby, stealing away what little choice her grandson has in naming a wife, for all the potential brides must present the Rivenses with a rare flower to demonstrate the lady’s love of nature. Little does the marchioness know Hawthorne’s daughter might not only know something of nature, but be the person to fulfill the gypsy’s blessing.

Excerpt from Chapter Three of “Last Woman Standing” 

When alone last evening, Evelyn had uttered multiple words of self-chastisement regarding her complicity in relegating certain members of the marchioness’s guest list to the least desirable rooms in the manor house, but, at the time, with Lady Rivens’s encouragement, her actions had appeared so reasonable. Like her ladyship, Evelyn had declared her intentions honest, but, privately, she questioned whether the idea of a woman winning the attentions of the marquess simply by making an appearance at a ball with some sort of “exotic” plant in hand went against all things in which she believed. Her parents had been deeply devoted to each other. It was beyond Evelyn’s comprehension how those of the aristocracy had turned marriage into a business contract, with affection playing no part in the joining.

Only last week, when her ladyship explained knowing very little of Lord Justice Rivens until the night of the Christmas ball, Evelyn had asked innocently, “Were you not embarrassed from all the attention given to those vying for the marquess’s hand?”

Her ladyship had simply shrugged. “I was brought up with the knowledge I would marry into the aristocracy. My father was an earl, and I was the eldest daughter. A viscountess or a countess or a marchioness, or even a duchess. Those were the acceptable positions I was expected to claim. It was the same with Justice. He was groomed to choose an appropriate bride from among the members of the ton. We were fortunate, though, for our personalities blended well, and we grew to know true affection.”

“But not love,” she had mouthed the words when her ladyship had turned away. Hearing Lady Rivens’s explanation, Evelyn had told herself she was glad not to have been born into the aristocracy. She was a gentleman’s daughter, but, without a title, and prior to her father’s passing, she had held no restrictions upon her choices. A man with a title. A clergyman. A barrister. A man of trade. She supposed she would have been permitted more latitude in choosing a husband if her father had not known such a great loss with his wife’s passing, and Evelyn had not remained at his side, even when she came of age to marry. She had feared what would happen to him if she had abandoned him, for Gerald Hawthorne had had no one but her to love him. “Then he abandoned me,” she said softly to no one in particular.

“Who abandoned you?” a familiar voice asked.

Evelyn dipped a quick curtsey. “Good afternoon, my lord. Do you require my service?”

The gentleman stepped further into the conservatory. He nodded toward the small stove she had lit earlier. “It is quite chilly outside.”

“Yes, my lord.” She paused awkwardly when she glanced up at him, realizing once again how devastatingly handsome the marquess was. “I beg your pardon, my lord.” She repeated her question, “Did you seek me out for the marchioness?”

He shook off the idea. “My grandmother and I have finished our meeting with Mrs. Astor and Mr. Watkins regarding the arrangements for the house party. Her ladyship has taken to her bed for a short rest before supper.” He stroked the back of the leaf of a lemon tree. “I understand I am in your debt. Lady Rivens says it was your suggestion that I might choose to join the other single gentlemen in the dower house during the length of the party.”

Evelyn heaved a rueful sigh. “After Lady Rivens explained the number of ladies who would expect you to pay attendance—.”

He spoke in disapproving tones. “You mean those who wish to discover me in an empty room so they can claim being compromised?”

“There is that also,” she reluctantly admitted.

“Why is it you never scream the word ‘compromise’ when you and I are alone together, as we are now?”

Evelyn’s heart hitched higher with his question. “You are my employer, sir. Naturally, we might encounter each other when others are not about.”

“You and I do more than encounter each other in the practice of your duties,” he argued as he moved closer. “You must realize I seek you out repeatedly because I enjoy your company.”

Although the idea pleased her, Evelyn spoke in firm tones, as she moved one plant into a larger pot. “I, too, cherish our conversations, my lord, but I fully comprehend that once you take a wife, those conversations cannot continue. I am well aware of my place in your household, a position for which I am very grateful.” When she turned, Lord Rivens was closer than she had expected.

He caressed her cheek with his palm. “Then you do not fear me. You do not think I hold nefarious and, likely, self-serving, reasons for spending time with you?”

“No,” she replied quickly. Evelyn knew the marquess to be more than handsome, intelligent, spontaneous, and a bit prideful. She also knew, despite her original accusations regarding his character, he was a gentleman. A gentleman accustomed to having his own way, but a gentleman, nonetheless.

“Excellent. I do not debauch young maidens, especially those in my employ,” he said softly. “Even those who possess the softest skin I have ever touched.” He leaned slowly toward her. Evelyn knew she should put a stop to his manipulations, but she was excessively curious as to whether a second kiss might match the one he had given her previously. Unfortunately, the moment was not to be, as Mrs. Duckworth strolled through the still open door, followed by her brood of goslings. “Honk!”

His lordship jumped back before spinning around to face the intruder, but Evelyn nudged him aside before the marquess could reach the goose. “Mrs. Duckworth!” she exclaimed, kneeling down to greet the honking goslings.

“Dare I ask why you named a goose Mrs. Duckworth?” he demanded in questionable amusement.

“Mrs. Gooseworth sounded odd, and she does not seem to mind, do you, love?” She lowered her voice in a conspiratorial tone, “Moreover, as it is customary to c-o-o-k a g-o-o-s-e for Christmas, I thought it better to name her Mrs. Duckworth.”

He chuckled and said, “‘How ill white hairs become a fool and jester.’”

“Henry IV, Part Two,” she repeated automatically, “and you sound like your grandmother.” She stroked the goose’s neck and back. “Are you looking for your meal?”

“You feed the geese?”

She turned to note a slight shake of his head in what appeared to be disbelief. “Naturally. In Northamptonshire, I always fed Papa’s animals. That way he could keep them out of his precious plants. Is that not correct, Puddles?” She scooped up one of the goslings and held it to her chest.

The marquess barked a laugh. “Puddles?”

“You would understand if you had viewed this gosling when I first met him, or her,” she said with a grin. “Evidently, my darling Puddles ate something he should not. He squirted more water than food each time he took a step, leaving little puddles behind, rather than the customary nugget.”

“You are adorable, Miss Hawthorne,” his lordship said with a smile matching hers.  “Do you intend to fatten Mrs. Duckworth up yourself?” He knelt beside her and claimed another of the goslings who were honking and pecking at the floor where she had earlier crumbled a stale piece of bread into tiny pieces to tempt them.

“If so, I shan’t enjoy Christmas supper,” she declared readily. “And I swear I give them only food from my own plate or what Cook must throw away. Please say you do not mind my acting so foolishly. I promise the geese will not be a nuisance.”

He smiled upon her. “I fear, my dear, such is a promise you do not have the ability to keep, for, surely, someone will complain about the noise or Puddle’s puddles, but I hold no objection to your indulging the animals upon the manor if it makes you happy.”

Evelyn could not recall a time since before her mother’s passing that someone had done something to make her happy. It was all she could do not to throw her arms around his lordship’s neck and kiss him in gratitude.


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A Blessing or a Curse? The Release of “A Regency Christmas Proposal” + a Giveaway

I am continuing to celebrate the last of my seven releases this calendar year. A REGENCY CHRISTMAS PROPOSAL,  a “clean” Regency anthology, featuring smart and somewhat sassy heroines, arrives on NOVEMBER 7. Do you have your copy yet? My contribution to the project is a story entitled “Last Woman Standing.” I think you will enjoy this one.


Dreamstone Publishing in Australia is bringing this anthology to life. 

The Book Blurb for the full anthology: 

A Fabulous Regency Christmas anthology from Best-selling Authors. Six full length novellas to keep you reading all through Christmas, each featuring a happily ever after centered around Christmas. The anthology includes:

The Last Woman Standing by Regina Jeffers A Gypsy blessing for choosing a wife bound to rare flowers, a Marquess loath to comply with it, a companion with horticulture in her blood, lies, deception and manipulation, a blessing fulfilled in unexpected ways, an enduring love.

Twelfth Night Promise by Alanna Lucas A Lord with a steadfast love, the Lady who broke his heart, six long years ago, now forced to a marriage against her will, a snowbound Christmas which brings them together again, deception unravelling as love proves stronger than lies, a second chance claimed.

A Bluestocking for a Baron by Arietta Richmond A Bluestocking with unfashionable interests, a Baron with a deep investment in trade, an unscrupulous business rival, kidnapping, blackmail and rescue, love found in the face of danger.

The Earl and the Bluestocking by Janis Susan May An Earl who needs a wife – but dislikes all of the women he meets, a young lady who staunchly denies any interest in fashion and frivolity, a Christmas Eve Ball, and a chance to be different – just once, a mysterious beauty who disappears, a slender clue to a lifetime love.

His Yuletide Kiss by Summer Hanford A gentleman, the woman he believes he is fated to marry, her cousin, a family feud, an approval denied, secrets lies and deception, dark character revealed and true love redeemed.

Wooing the Wallflower by Emma Kaye A Viscount’s daughter, a man of business, a conflict of class, a secret of art, an unsuitable affection, the threat of a marriage, a love worth fighting for.

JACKSON SHAW, the Marquess of Rivens, never considered the “gypsy blessing” presented to his family during the time of Henry VIII truly a blessing. He viewed it more as a curse. According to the “blessing,” in his thirtieth year, at the Christmas ball hosted by his family, he was to choose a wife among the women attending. The catch was he possessed no choice in the matter. His wife was to be the one who proved herself to be his perfect match, according to the gypsy’s provisions: a woman who would bring prosperity to his land by her love of nature and her generous heart. In his opinion, none of the women vying for his hand appeared to care for anything but themselves.

EVELYN HAWTHORNE comes to River’s End to serve as the companion to the Marchioness of Rivens, his lordship’s grandmother. However, Lady Rivens has more than companionship in mind when she employs the girl, whose late father was a renown horticulturalist. The marchioness means to gather Gerald Hawthorne’s rare specimens to prevent those with less scrupulous ideas from purchasing Hawthorne’s conservatory, and, thereby, stealing away what little choice her grandson has in naming a wife, for all the potential brides must present the Rivenses with a rare flower to demonstrate the lady’s love of nature. Little does the marchioness know Hawthorne’s daughter might not only know something of nature, but be the person to fulfill the gypsy’s blessing.

Excerpt from “Last Woman Standing” 


Battle of Guinegate

16 August 1513

“What shall it be, my Lord Rivens?” His Majesty King Henry VIII asked. “My gift of an earldom or the blessing offered by this gypsy hag?”

Hollister Rivens knew he should claim the earldom and forget the promises of the gypsy witch, but he had witnessed firsthand the apparent power the gypsy held, for it had been the Roma who had instructed the English to build five bridges overnight over the river Lys, thus allowing the English army free passage to the other side. With the bridges in place, Henry had moved his camp to Guinegate on 14 August, displacing a company of French horsemen who guarded the Tower of Guinegate, which led to the English victory at Guinegate. “May I not claim both, my King?” Rivens bravely asked.

Thankfully, Henry found the humor in Hollister’s bravado. “You are an odd one, Rivens, but I am thankful you have served me well today.” Hollister had been part of the Earl of Essex’s forces when Essex ordered the English men-at-arms and the heavy cavalry to charge. They had caught the French just as French army thought to execute a retreat, sending them into disorder. Hollister’s men had held the town of Thérouanne by driving off the French with cannon fire. “You will be from this day forward known as the Earl of Rivens, and you may choose to listen to the gypsy’s tale of woe.”

“Of blessing, my king,” Rivens said. “The gypsy promised me a blessing.”

“A blessing, then, it is, Rivens. Go hear what the hag has to offer you.”

Hollister quickly made his bows and crossed to the small hut where the gypsy had been given refuge. She bade him enter at his knock.

“I see a new man before me,” she said cryptically.

“I have been presented a new title by the King,” he explained.

“More land?” she asked in a mix of heavily-accented English and French.

“I did not ask. I am satisfied with the lands I hold,” he explained, “but a barony does not hold the same power as an earldom.”

“A man of reason,” she said. “Most men want both.”

“I chose both,” Hollister explained. “I chose the earldom and your blessing.”

She smiled then, and Hollister knew she understood his reason for coming. “You wish to know your fate.”

“I wish to know my fate and that of my descendants,” he corrected.

“An ambitious man, but one looking forward, not to the rear.”

“You can tell me this?”

“I can tell you what I see,” she cautioned. “I cannot tell you what to do with the message.”

“How do we go about this? Cards? Gold coins?” he asked in excitement.

“Just stand and close your eyes. I shall circle about you and tell you what I see.”

Feeling a bit foolish, Hollister closed his eyes tightly and stood in place. He could hear her steps drawing closer. She hummed an enchanting tune, one he had not heard previously. Finally, she began to speak. “Another step will be taken when the time comes, but it shall not be yours to take, but, rather, the steps of the relations of your great-greatson.”

“Then I will have an heir?” He asked opening his eyes.

She did not answer. Instead, she kept circling him and humming that delightful tune until he closed his eyes again. At length, she spoke again. “To know the blessings of love and prosperity, choose among those who nourish the earth to scent the air—find one who manipulates the light to comfort the planted seed and who blesses the sweet, soft rain that washes clean a troubled spirit, turning it into the blue of heaven.

“Blessings also come from those minding the cattle and the sheep and all the creatures of the earth. Blessings fall upon the roof and the chimney tall and the hearth blazing within. Blessings come from the one who is kind to both friend and foe, who opens wide the door to strangers and kin.

“Lying beside such a person brings a man dreams, possibilities, and promises at dawn and shelter to calm his soul at night. Love guides a person when his steps stray from the path.”

He heard her walk away from where he stood. Slowly opening his eyes, Hollister asked, “What does all that mean? Is Lady Rosalind my future or not?”

The gypsy smiled in amusement. “The only way to know for certain is to ask Lady Rosalind to bring you a flower.”



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