Do you adore cute babies as much as I? What about twins? Twins run in my husband’s family. Thankfully, we did not experience twins directly, but his sister and our second son both did. As a 70-year-old grandmother, I enjoy cuddling infants because I know I can send them home with their parents afterwards. However, the idea of twins during the Regency period intrigued me and brought me to a new series. Heck even the whole idea of giving birth with what we would call primitive methods was a daunting idea to explore. Therefore, I wish to introduce you to a new romantic suspense series set in the Regency.
Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep is the first book in a Regency romantic suspense trilogy: The Twins, and it has been named as a 2017 finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Obviously, when I learned the news of its success, I did my *Happy Dance* (which I must say is infinitely less entertaining than was Elaine’s in the “Seinfeld” series, for I did dance on Broadway in my youth, and I can keep a beat). Today, I would give you the acquaintance of the second in the series, The Earl Claims His Comfort, which arrived on September 16 from Black Opal Books.
In “Angel” there are several sets of twins. The hero, Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, is a twin. Malvern and his sister, Henrietta, Viscountess Stoke, are fraternal twins, as are Henrietta’s boys. She is in the family way a second time in the book and obviously expecting twins again. Her husband, Viscount Stoke, is also a twin. Malvern’s father, the Duke of Devilfoard, possesses a twin. However, I wished a different slant for book 2. Identical twins become part of the plot of The Earl Claims His Comfort, where we encounter an “evil” twin as part of the mystery.
One might think that the preponderance of twins during the early 1800s is odd, but Vital Statics available on the possibility of twinning during the 1700s and 1800s can be found in a variety of abstracts. For example in the U. S. at the same time, “Vital records of Saybrook and Plymouth in New England from the 17th century were investigated. Among 8,562 maternities 81 twin maternities were found, the twinning rate being 0.95%. Twinning rate was low at the 1st and 2nd births as compared with the 3rd or later births, and was highest at the 7th and 8th births (1.6%). Twin maternity seemed to be a strong risk factor to terminate reproduction, particularly after 6 or more children had been delivered. The rate of mothers who had any other child (“fertile” mothers) at the 7th or later birth order was significantly lower for twin (13%) than for singleton maternities (63%). Twinning rate also varied by the size of offspring of a mother, and those mothers who had 5 or 6 children showed the highest twinning rate (1.3%). Those fertile mothers who had 7 or more children showed the lowest twinning rate (0.74%), although an exceptionally higher twinning rate was seen at their last births. Elongation of the last birth interval was observed for each group of every family size, and higher twinning rates were generally observed at their last births. Reduction in fecundity and rise in twinning rate seem to have occurred simultaneously at the last stage of the reproductive period of mothers, regardless of their family size.” (U. S. National Library of Medicine)
The birth experience during the Regency era was very difficult for women. We often hear the reason that men chose a younger woman (and women were on “the shelf” at age five and twenty) was that the younger girls were thought better to survive child birth. And no wonder! Did you realize that during this period a woman would experience pregnancy some ten times. The women gave birth to an average of six times during their lifetimes. Edward Shorter in Women’s Bodies: A Social History of Women’s Encounter with Health, Ill-Health and Medicine says, “The indifference of men to the physical welfare of women is most striking in regard to childbirth. …child bearing was a woman’s event, occurring with the women’s culture; a man’s primary concern was to see a living heir brought forth. I am not [Shorter] trying to cast the husbands of traditional society as fiends but want merely to show what an unbridgeable sentimental distance separated them from their wives. Under these circumstances it is unrealistic to think that men would abstain from intercourse in order to save women from the physical consequences of repeated childbearing.”
In her book In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860, Judith Schneid Lewis shares some interesting facts of the time period. Ms. Lewis studied 50 aristocratic women for the book. From these studies we learn that these 50 women averaged 8 children over an eighteen year period. The women in the group married typically at 21 and gave birth to her first child within 2.25 years. They continued to present their husbands with children until the age of 40.
Ms. Lewis tells us that 80% of the women gave birth within two years of marriage, with 50% presenting their husbands with a child within the first year of marriage. The Duchess of Leinster birthed 21 children over a 30 year span. She was 46 years of age when the last one was born.
Typical of the period, a male midwife would ask the woman if she were prepared to “take a pain,” meaning a vaginal examination. For this procedure, a pregnant woman would customarily lie on her left side upon a bed. She would be asked to draw her knees up to her abdomen. This was the position recommended by Doctor Thomas Denman, a prominent male midwife of the period. Denman also cautioned for discretion and tenderness during the examination.
From the examination, the midwife could determine how advanced was the pregnancy, whether the woman’s pelvis was deformed or not, and whether the baby had turned head down. If delivery occurred within 24 hours, it was considered natural. We see much of what happened to Princess Charlotte (daughter of the Prince Regent) as how it was for women during the Regency.
“About 7 o’clock on the evening of Monday, the 3rd of November, at 42 weeks and 3 days gestation, the membranes spontaneously ruptured and labor pains soon followed. The contractions were coming every 8 to 10 minutes and were very mild. Examination of the cervix at that time revealed the tip of the cervix to be about a half penny dilated. On Tuesday morning, around 3 a.m., the 4th of November, Princess Charlotte had a violent vomiting spell and Dr. Croft thinking that delivery was eminent, sent for the officers of the state and Dr. Matthew Baillie.
“The pains continued. They were weak and ineffectual but still sharp enough to be distressing, occurring about 8 minute intervals with little progress in the labor. Around 11:00 a.m. that morning after 16 hours of labor the cervix the size of a crown piece (probably 4 cm). At 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, she was noted to have just an anterior lip of cervix, and by 9:00 p.m., she was completely dilated. At this point, she had had about 26 hours of the first stage of labor.
“Labor advanced, but the progress was very slow. At noon, on Wednesday, the 5th of November after the second stage of labor had gone on for 15 hours, the uterine discharge became a dark green color, which made the medical attendants fear that the child might be dead. Between three and four p.m. after the second stage had gone on for 18 hours, the child’s head began to press on the external parts, and by 9:00 p.m., was born by the action of Charlotte’s pains only.
“The child, a 9 lb. boy, was dead and had evidently been dead for some hours. The umbilical cord was very small and was of a dark green or black color. About ten minutes after the delivery, Sir Richard Croft discovered that the uterus was contracted in the middle in an hourglass form. Approximately 20 minutes later, the princess began to hemorrhage. About 12:45 am. on the 6th of November she complained of great uneasiness in her chest and great difficulty in breathing. Her pulse became rapid, deep and irregular, and she extremely restless and was not able to remain still for a single moment.”(The Death of Princess Charlotte of Wales An Obstetric Tragedy, Charles R. Oberst, Spring 1984) Within hours, the Princess had passed. When we consider such, it is a wonder that any woman of the period would consider the “joys” of childbirth.
Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 in the Twins’ Trilogy, releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books
– a 2016 Hot Prospects finalist in Romantic Suspense
Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how a stranger’s life parallels his, while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.
Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon a road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.
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Excerpt from Chapter 5 of The Earl Claims His Comfort
“What do you mean I ordered you to attack the man sleeping in the cook’s quarters?” Rem growled in frustration. “I was the man in the cook’s room! Why in bloody hell would I pay you to attack me?”
He and Miss Neville had secured the two attackers only moments before the sound of running footsteps announced the arrival of the baronet and the marquess. His associates assisted him in bringing the younger of the two to sit in a chair before the worktable. The older had yet to awaken from the blow delivered by Miss Neville to the side of the man’s head.
“It be as I says,” the man assured. “Me and Heneree meets a man who offers us each twenty pounds to slit the throat of a man who pretends to be his lordship.”
“And the man favored Lord Remmington?” Malvern asked in the same state of confusion as Rem experienced.
His attacker turned a steady eye upon Rem’s countenance. “No ‘avored,” the intruder declared. “Be the same man.”
Rem reached for the man to shake some sense into him, but Sir Alexander caught Rem’s hand to stall his fervor. “Why do you not see to Miss Neville?” the baronet suggested. “The lady appears quite fragged from this encounter. Assure her all is well and send her off to bed. Malvern and I will learn the truth of this matter.”
Rem did not approve of the baronet’s dismissal, but when he glanced to his bedroom where Miss Neville and Sally swept up broken crockery and attempted to repair the collapsed bed frame, Rem accepted Sir Alexander’s orders. The lady strained under the weight of the heavy frame. “I mean to know the truth,” Rem hissed as he rose stiffly.
“As do we,” Sir Alexander confirmed.
Rem hobbled toward the small room to place his shoulder against the wood so the women could reset the notch. “While Sir Alexander continues his investigation, I thought perhaps I could convince you to tend my cuts from the altercation. Then I desire that you and Sally return above stairs. A long night awaits the investigation, and I do not wish Miss Deirdre to know more anguish.”
“But, my lord—” she began her objection.
However, he shook off her words. “Sir Alexander and Lord Malvern cannot ask the types of questions necessary with a lady in the room. Trust me that this is for the best. The gentlemen would not wish to expose you to the baser natures of our prisoners.”
“Your promise to Deirdre?” Miss Neville asked softly.
“Tell the child I did not forget, but I must first assist Lord Malvern and the baronet. Assure Deirdre that I mean to protect you both. No harm will come to either of you.”
Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy
– a 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense finalist
-a SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Award finalist for Historical Romance
Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?