Making The Light Over London Come Alive Through Research

For The Light Over London, I got to immerse myself in a number of histories of the ATS, the Blitz, women’s roles in the British military, and more. I’ve included a few mentions of these books in my author’s note at the end of The Light Over London, but I wanted to mention a few more titles in case there are any readers who want to learn more about this fascinating time period.

Used for The Light Over London

These are the books that had the greatest impact on me while writing Louise and Cara’s stories. I don’t think it would’ve been possible to write the detail of the 1941 story without Barrett and Calvi’s excellent history of a Gunner Girl (as well as a Wren and a WAAF) or Green’s extensive research into the everyday lives of women in the ATS.

Girls in Khaki: A History of the Second World War by Barbara Green

The Girls Who Went to War by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi

The Secret History of the Blitz by Joshua Levine

Woman at the Front: Memoirs of an ATS Girl by Sylvia Wild

Additional Resources Used

From time to time, I needed to get a greater context of what was going on in Britain or Europe during the war. For that, I turned to several of these books. Certain titles also were invaluable for giving The Light Over London texture in the fashions and hairstyle or learning about social attitudes to things like love and marriage during the war.

Britain’s War: Into Battle 1937-1941 by Daniel Todman

The Blitz: The British Under Attack by Juliet Gardiner

Debs at War: 1939-1945 by Anne de Courcy

Forties Fashion: From Siren Suits to the New Look by Jonathan Walford

The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War by Lara Feigel

Historical Fiction Set on the Home Front

If you enjoyed The Light Over London and are interested in reading more books set on the Home Front during this time period, I recommend the five-volume family saga by Elizabeth Jane Howard, The Cazalet Chronicles. Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers also touches on World War II in Cornwall and the Wrens in a charming historical and contemporary narrative.

If you’re a reader of books set in Britain during WWII, I’d love to hear your recommendations. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

The Woman Who Broke the Story of World War II

After the greatest darkness...There is light..png

In researching my upcoming release, The Light Over London, I was continually amazed at the many—often unsung—ways women contributed to the war effort in Britain during World War II. The Lightseekers is an ongoing series of articles that highlights some of their work and the ways they brought light to Britain in one of its darkest times.

The biggest scoop of World War II belongs to an extraordinary journalist at the dawn of her career. 

A woman with such a colorful life and career that it almost would be hard to believe if it wasn’t true, Clare Hollingworth’s early life is relatively unextraordinary. She was born in Leicester and raised on a farm. After attending domestic science college and spending some time working, she won a scholarship to London University and then went to Zagreb University to study Croatian. 

Hollingworth began working as an activist for a charity in Europe that would be credited with saving the lives of thousands of refugees from pre-war Nazi Germany. According to her obituary in the New York Times, her work secured visas for between 2,000 and 3,000 people before it came to an end in July of 1939.

After she returned to London, she talked her way into an assignment working as a stringer for the Daily Telegraph. On August 28, 1939, just three days after she was sent to Poland, she borrowed a British diplomat’s car and drove to the border with Germany. According to the New York Times, “Alone on the road from Gleiwitz…she watched as the wind lifted a piece of the tarpaulin that had been erected on the German side to screen the valley below from view,” and saw hundreds of German tanks. It was the invasion of Poland that would mark the start of World War II.

Hollingworth raced back to Poland to call her editor. Her story ran on the front cover of the Daily Telegraph with no byline under the headline: “1,000 tanks massed on Polish border. Ten divisions ready for swift strike”. It would prove to be one of the biggest scoops in the history of journalism. 

Prime Minister Nevill Chamberlin warned Germany that it had until September 1, 1939, to withdraw from Poland or face war. At dawn on the day of the deadline, Hollingworth found the story coming to her. She woke up to German bombers and artillery fire near her hotel in Katowice. When she called a friend at the British embassy in Warsaw to warn him, he didn’t believe her so she held her phone receiver out the window so he could hear it all unfolding. Britain and Germany were at war.

Hollingworth would go on to cover the war from multiple fronts in Europe and North Africa. She would report on major breaking stories and conflicts like the Vietnam War, the Cambridge spy ring, various conflicts in the Middle East, and multiple wars. 

“Often under fire, occasionally arrested and possessed of such a keen nose for covert information that from time to time she was accused of being a spy—both by local governments and by the British—Ms. Hollingworth was friend, or foe, to seemingly everyone in a position of power in the world at midcentury,” the New York Times obituary recalls.

Hollingworth slept on the floor of her Hong Kong flat well into her 90s in order to keep from going soft. She carried a revolver, wore a safari jacket most of her life, and hated housework thanks to her years in domestic science college. 

Her first husband divorced her after 15 years, citing desertion because she was always out reporting. “When I’m on a story, I’m on a story—to hell with husband, family, anyone else,” she said in an interview with the Guardian in 2004.

Hollingworth was not universally liked but, in reading her interviews, one gets the sense that hardly mattered. She was respected, a doyenne of conflict journalism in the twentieth century. 

Clare Hollingworth died in her Hong Kong flat in January of 2017 at the age of 105.

Read every story of the The Lightseekers in the series archive. You can also learn more about their stories by following the hashtag #TheLightseekers on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

The Lightseekers

After the greatest darkness...There is light..png

In researching my upcoming release, The Light Over London, I was continually amazed at the many—often unsung—ways British women contributed during World War II.

The Ack-Ack Girls manned the anti-aircraft guns defending Britain from Luftwaffe attacks. 

Spies got valuable information out of Germany, occupied France, and other enemy territories.

Land Girls worked the farms and fed the country.

Factory girls braved dangerous conditions to make the munitions necessary to fight battles on all fronts.

All of these women were instrumental to achieving the ultimate goal: winning Britain the war.

After the greatest darkness... there is light.
— The Light Over London

As I kept reading about these ordinary women rising to the challenge and doing extraordinary things, I realized that I didn't just want to tell the story of The Light Over London. I wanted to tell all of their stories. I wanted to show their bravery and single-mindedness, hoping to teach just a few more women their stories as I told them.

I call these women The Lightseekers, and over the coming months I'm going to endeavor to tell their stories both here and on social media. You can follow stories of The Lightseekers on my blog and in The Lightseekers archive which will grow as articles are released. And for more information, you can follow the hashtag #TheLightseekers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Hollywood's Underestimated Woman

Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved the glamor and drama of old Hollywood. It probably started with To Have and Have Not. I watched it when I was around 12. There was something about Lauren Bacall, all smolder and vulnerability, with her beautiful hair and deep voice. I wanted some of her grown-up sophistication for myself, and so I snapped up as many of her movies as I could find. The Big Sleep, Key Largo, Dark Passage, How to Marry a Millionaire.

From there I discovered Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night, Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews in Laura. (One of my favorite movies.) The list goes on and on and on.

As I got older, I began to learn more about the other side of Hollywood that is often sordid and sometimes tragic. I've listened to most of You Must Remember This, an excellent podcast about the film industry, Los Angeles (where I grew up), and the people who created the movie myths we still believe today. However, I only knew bits and pieces of one of its most extraordinary women.

Hedy Lamarr was widely recognized as one of the most beautiful women in the world during her heyday in the 1930s and 1940s. An Austrian actress, she was scandalous and alluring. She was also an almost unrecognized genius, but the documentary Bombshell is trying to change that.

Lamarr was an inventor with an inquisitive mind. During World War II, she came up with a technique called frequency hopping that would allow the navy to deploy torpedos that couldn't be jammed by German submarines. Her invention, largely neglected at the time, has become the basis for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and military technology being used today.

Her fascinating, sometimes deeply sad story, is told through interviews with Hedy, her family, and others. You get a picture of a woman who was pigeon-holed into being just a beautiful face because, to paraphrase one interviewee, you don't get to be Hedy Lamarr and be smart. She was difficult and complex and funny and so many things, and now the movie-going audience who loved her films is getting a chance to see a more complete version of her.

What I'll Be Reading This February

Since I've been writing both contemporary and historical romance this winter, I've been doing my best to read outside of the genre for relaxation. Judging packets for the RITA Awards came out this winter which makes taking a break from romance a bit tricky but here are a few of the books I'm reading off of my TBR pile this month:

I'll See You in Paris, by Michelle Gable

This was a gift from my friend Mary Chris Escobar as part of a secret Santa present. This women's fiction follows a mother and daughter as they return to the mother's long-lost home in England. As the story unfolds, you get little bits of a mystery about a third woman as well.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue, by Melanie Benjamin

Every reader's got catnip. Books about New York in the 1920s, '30s, '40s, and '50s are mine. I haven't started this book yet, but The Swans of Fifth Avenue came as a strong recommendation from a good friend who shares the same obsession as I do.

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners, by Therese Oneill

This was a birthday gift from my sister and her boyfriend. I've read through a couple sections already, and it's a really irreverent, fascinating look at history. Think of all the unglamorous things you don't usually read about the Victorians: poisonous cosmetics, menstruation, weight loss and gain. I can already tell it's going to be really helpful for research.

The Mystery of Princess Louise, by Lucinda Hawksley

This book is strictly for research, although I really enjoy Hawksley's other books I've read. Princess Louise was a talented artist in her own right and served as stand-in for her mother, Queen Victoria, at many state functions while Victoria was deep in mourning.

She's also the subject of one of my favorite portraits. (One day, someone please paint a portrait of me that is as complimentary as this one.)

Grit:The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth

I'm tearing through this book about the psychology behind success and determination. A friend of my recommended reading it because it looks at the common traits that successful people share: passion and determination, or as Duckworth calls it, grit. (FYI, romance authors are some really gritty ladies.) Normally I don't think of myself as a big fan of psychology books, but I'm really enjoying this one and I also thought Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller was fascinating so I might have to revise my thoughts on the genre.

The Governess Problem

I’ve written a bit here about how I came up with the idea to write about three friends who are all governesses and each find their happily ever after in their own time. What I haven’t talked about is why governesses? The answer is simple: governesses occupied a fascinating space as educated, well-bred ladies who earned a wage but weren’t servants. That status on the fringes of society makes them all the more interesting to write about.

"Marian Hubbard 'Daisy' Bell and Elsie May Bell with governess," 1885, Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Who Was the Victorian Governess?

If you’re only vaguely familiar with who governesses were and what they did, here’s a primer. They were often educated, respectable women who’d fallen on hard times, the daughters of parents who couldn’t afford to keep them at home until they married, or other down-on-their-luck widows armed with a good reputation. These women could make an income by educating the girls of a well-to-do middle- or upper-class families until their charges were married and became the mistresses of their own households.

And intentionally or not, governesses were subversive as hell.

It’s important to remember the context of the time period we’re dealing with here. During Victorian England society was governed by a phenomenon called “the two spheres.”

Convention dictated that men occupied the public sphere and could go off into the world and do things like manage businesses, enter into politics, or work. Women got to stay at home.

“The prevailing ideology regarded the house as a haven, a private domain as opposed to the public sphere of commerce,” writes Elizabeth Langland in her article, “Nobody’s Angels: Domestic Ideology and Middle-Class Women in the Victorian Novel."

White, straight, cisgender women of the middle and upper classes occupied this “private sphere,” but at the same time their money allowed them to delegate many of the duties that would have traditionally fallen to women. In households that could afford it, you hired a maid-of-all-work, or if you had more money specialized servants like chamber maids, ladies maids, and a cook. Families who could afford it hired a nurse and, for the education of their young girls, a governess.

The Governess as a Sexual Threat

Governesses, by professional necessity, were not married. They lived in their employer’s homes and therefore had an intimate knowledge of a family regardless of whether their actual relationships with the individual members were warm or not.

Even though governesses were a status symbol of a certain degree of wealth and class, they were still looked on with suspicion. Having an unmarried woman in close proximity to a husband or older sons was seen as a direct threat to domestic peace. The historian M. Jeanne Peterson quotes at length from Mary Atkinson Maurice's Governess Life (1849) in her article “The Victorian Governess: Status Incongruence in Family and Society:”

Frightful instances have been discovered in which she, to which the care of the young has been entrusted, instead of guarding their minds in innocence and purity has become the corruptor—she has been the first to lead and to initiate into sin, to suggest and carry on intrigues, and finally to be the instrument of destroying the peace of families…

Because the governess wasn’t the “traditional” Victorian woman who stayed within the confines of her own home and therefore the private sphere, she was seen as threatening to the very structure that held society in check.

Even more concerning — and surely ridiculous to modern readers — was that Victorian womanhood was wrapped up the idea that the ideal woman was modest and retiring when it came to sex. The accepted model of female sexuality can be most easily seen in the works of the much quoted and undeniably naive Dr. William Acton who believed that that “the majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled by sexual feelings of any kind" (The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs, 1857). If a woman lived outside of the bounds of her traditional role, she must be a threatening, oversexualized figure. This is where the governess-as-seducer trope you see with characters like Vanity Fair's Becky Sharpe gets its bite.

"A sufficient reason," S.D. Ehrhart, Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1894 January 10, Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

The Governess and The Economic Threat

Governesses didn't just offend society's ideas about womanhood because of they lived close to men or their perceived sexuality. They subverted strictly gender roles for middle-class women by earning a wage. This gave the governess access to money, economic independence, and choice — all hallmarks of what we would later come to know as feminism.

Woman in Victorian England had little say over their own money. It wouldn’t be until a series of Married Women’s Property Acts* increased the legal rights of women under British law throughout the 1800s that a woman could inherit and maintain control over her own money within her marriage. Before then she was essentially beholden to first her father and then her husband and sons for the duration of her life. She was essentially a charity case who had little legal recourse if the man who was supposed to be providing for her was instead frittering away her money.

By living outside of the traditional father-daughter or husband-wife structure and earning her own wage, a governess could exercise a degree of independence by having power over her money.

I don't want to paint too rosy a picture for the Victorian governess. She didn't earn much money so the independence she did have was limited. “Her working life was not likely to last more than 25 years, at a starting salary of 25l, rarely reaching 80l” (Liza Picard, Victorian London: The Tale of a City, 1840-1870, p. 262).

While teaching was one of the few respectable ways for a middle-class woman to earn her living,** the governess was relegated to a lower social status than her charges. Still, she was earning money and was beholden to no man which meant she had legal control over her income — something married women couldn't boast of until well into the 19th century.

Making Them Heroines

The conflict built into the governess's life — whether it's the perceived threat to the fidelity of a marriage or her uncomfortable limbo between lady and servant — makes her the perfect romance heroine. There's conflict built into her story from page one because she doesn't fit neatly into the boxes that Victorian society assigned women. No matter who the hero (or heroine in the case of F/F) is, there is going to be a tension regarding her non-traditional role in the home and in society. And great romance comes out of great tension.

*You can read more about these acts in Mary Lyndon Shanley’s Feminism, Marriage, and Law in Victorian England, a dry but fascinating book.

**Another was writing. Mary Wollstonecraft and Frances Milton Trollope were just two of the women who picked up their pens to earn money during the Georgian and Victorian eras.

Further Reading

Feminism, Marriage, and Law in Victorian England, Mary Lyndon Shanley

“Nobody’s Angels: Domestic Ideology and Middle-Class Women in the Victorian Novel," Elizabeth Langland

“The Victorian Governess: Status Incongruence in Family and Society," M. Jeanne Peterson

Victorian Sexualities,” Holly Furneaux

Exploring Victorian Fashion Plates

It's no surprise that I love libraries. I'm an author, it's kind of what we do. But my love of the New York Public Library runs deep for a lot more reasons than just accessibility to books. The NYPL is an incredible resource for writers, especially those of us focusing on historical writing. The digital collection isn't entirely open (ie there are some resources you can only access while at a library location and with a valid library card), but enough of it that it's an incredible tool.

One of my favorite places to start rooting around for inspiration while I'm writing books is the digital collection's listings of fashion plates. If you're interested in the history of 19th-century fashion, this is the place for you. Godey's Lady's Book and La Mode Illustrée are both well-represented in the collection, and clicking through will give you a pretty good idea of how fashion (especially silhouettes) changed throughout the 1800s.


"Costume Parisien." 1807. Courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collections.

London Fashionable Evening & Full Dresses.

"An Equestrian Fashion Plate." 1849. Courtesy of The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

"Toilettes de Mme. Breant-Castel." 1870 - 1870. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

"Soirée toilette." 1883-01. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

"Spring mantles." 1883-05. Courtesy of The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

"Blackwell's Durham Fashion Doll [paper doll with dress]" Courtesy of The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

A Closer Look: James Miranda Stuart Barry

When you’re a historical author, you do a lot of research. Pair all of the book-specific research with a degree in Victorian British History with a focus on gender and sexuality, and I’ve got more random facts kicking around in my head than I know what to do with. I've always been fascinated by women in medicine. Today I'm taking a closer look at the unusual life and work of James Miranda Stuart Barry.

James Miranda Stuart Barry

"The good doctor wore three-inch lifts in his shoes, carried a parasol, and traveled the world with a milk goat. And he had a lousy temper. But James Barry earned the highest rank a doctor could achieve in the British army."

James Miranda Stuart Barry is a problematic, but important place to start when looking at first generation of female doctors to earn medical degrees in the United Kingdom. That's because Barry lived for decades as a man, and it was not until his death that people discovered that he was biologically female.*

James Barry was born Margaret Ann Bulkley between 1789 and 1791 to unknown parents. What we do know is that Bulkley would grow up and want to be a doctor. In the early 19th century, that was a profession barred to women. Florence Nightengale and the professionalization of nursing had not yet happened, and the only way for a woman to really be involved in the medical profession was through midwifery. Stuart, however, had a plan.

In 1809, Bulkley assumed the name of James Barry to gain entrance to Edinburgh University (Women). Not much is known about Barry's time at the university, but he successfully kept his gender under wraps and graduated in 1812 (Karlekar). Not satisfied with secretly smashing one barrier, he joined the British Army--an organization completely off limits to women--and was appointed Medical Inspector of South Africa.

By all accounts, Barry was not easy to get along with. He was, "bombastic, opinionated and tactless." He criticized local officials in South Africa for inadequate water systems that he insisted on being upgraded. After his work in South African, he took his crusade for better sanitary conditions and nutrition for soldiers to India, the Caribbean, and Canada (Women). In Canada, he would eventually be elevated to Inspector-General of Military Hospitals in Canada (Karlekar). Barry also has the distinction of performing one of the first Caesarean sections in the British Empire.

Barry died in 1865. The woman who prepared his body made what must have been the shocking discovery that the doctor was in fact biologically female (Women).^ It was a secret he had kept for 56 years all to maintain a life dedicated to medicine.

If you are interested in more articles like this or would like to stay up to date on release dates and other news, please subscribe to my newsletter!

Page Divider

*I'm a strong believer in respecting self-identification. While biologically Barry was female, he lived the majority of his life as a man. We don't know whether this decision was rooted in necessity because he wanted to practice medicine and would have been barred for his sex or whether Barry identified as male. Since we cannot ask Barry himself, I've chosen with great respect to identify him as male since that is the way he presented to society.

^While most sources seem to agree that Barry was biologically female, there are some people who dispute that claim. It is possible that Barry was a male hermaphrodite with breast development and external genitalia.

Page Divider


"Her-Story: Then James Barry/Miranda Stuart," Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics On the Air!

Karlekar, Malavika, "An Anatomy of a Change: Kadambini Ganguly and the Seven Before Her",  The Telegraph India, July 8, 2007

Roland, Charles G., "Barry, James"Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval.

Books for All!

So yeah, that was a longer blog hiatus than I meant to take. Sorry about that, everyone. The good news is that amid all of the day job and professional writer craziness, holidays, and family time, I actually got a lot of reading done. Several transatlantic flights will do that to a girl.

So here's a big, long list of what I've read recently and am happy to recommend.

Romance & Erotica

Agnes Moor's Wild Knight Agnes Moor's Wild Night

by Alyssa Cole


Short and deliciously not sweet. This is a multi-cultural historical erotic romance set in Scotland, and I can't gush enough about it. The rafters of a great hall never saw so much action...


Radio Silence

by Alyssa Cole

Amazon | B&N | iBooks

I'm shamelessly plugging an Alyssa Cole that you can't read yet (sorry, not sorry). It's on pre-order until February 2nd, but I got an ARC and guys. Guys. I had no idea that I was into post-apocalyptic romance with hot Korean doctors, but I am. I really am.


Blamed: A Blood Money Novel

by Edie Harris

Amazon | B&N | iBooks

A little bit James Bond, a lot of hot romance with a sexy British hero. What more do you need?


Stripped (Volume 1)

by Alexis Anne


We're several volumes into this very sexy rockstar romance from Alexis Anne. This is another I've been getting sneaky early reads of, and it's hot. Very hot. The hero, Travis, also has a knack for being sexy and tender at the same time. Perfect.


How to Fall

by Mary Chris Escobar

Amazon | B&N | iBooks

If erotic romance and rockstars aren't your thing, take a look at this book. It's a women's fiction with a sweet, slow burn romance that develops over a summer.

Literary Fiction


Dept. of Speculation

by Jenny Offill

Amazon | B&N | iBooks

I went on a depressing reading streak somewhere in late December-early January, and that's when I read this book. Yes, it's depressing (it's about the rise and fall of a marriage), but, man, is it good.


Dear Committee Members

by Julie Schumacher

Amazon | B&N | iBooks

An epistolary novel told entirely in letters of recommendation written by a cynical, sardonic, egotistical English professor at a second tier university. This book is a masterful send-up of academic life.



My Salinger Year

by Joanna Rakoff

Amazon | B&N | iBooks

My Salinger Year manages to capture the feeling of being a twentysomething year old woman living in New York City, broke but hopeful (and in a terribly dysfunctional relationship with a man you know you won't wind up with). The writing is masterful. My sister and I both reached the 40 page mark before realizing that this is a memoir and not a novel. I didn't want it to end.


Outliers: The Story of Success

by Malcolm Gladwell

Amazon | B&N | iBooks

To say that Outliers is out of my comfort zone is an understatement. Normally I would never pick this book up, but it was recommended so ardently that I took a chance. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gladwell has an easy way with narrative, and his work makes you think about how you look at the world.


Inheritance: The Story of Knole and the Sackvilles

by Robert Sackville-West

Amazon | iBooks

I'm a sucker for family histories of the English aristocracy. There's enough scandal and bad behavior in this book to make parts of it read like a novel, and it has added interest in being tied in with the history of the house.


Bad Feminist: Essays

by Roxane Gay

Amazon | B&N | iBooks

 I love Roxane Gay's collection of essays on everything from feminism and culture to Scrabble and questionable adult life choices. Some of the essays work better than me for others. I tend to get the most from her personal anecdotes or reviews of works I've engaged with (The Hunger Games books and movies). Although Gay doesn't believe in trigger warnings, I will say that if you're sensitive to rape accounts you're going to want someone one to screen some of the essays in the Gender and Sexuality section.

I Went to the Death Becomes Her Exhibit at the Met

Death Becomes Her, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This Sunday was Marathon Day here in NYC. I, like many New Yorkers, live right near the route. While I love the marathon, sometimes the crowds can get a little rough. This year I cheered on some of the runners earlier in the day and then left the neighborhood to do something I never do. Dear Reader, I went to the Met on a Sunday and took a boatload of photographs.

Normally the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a mess on the weekends (even more so when it's raining). I try to avoid it as much as possible, but I was determined to see the museum's new exhibit Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire. Victorian fashion? Death? Mourning? This is pretty much right in my wheelhouse, so off I went to a delightfully empty Met thanks to all of the crowds being diverted to the marathon.

Arriving so early, I had the gallery mostly to myself which was an incredible experience. The exhibit is small but incredibly details and representative of several trends in mourning attire. The curator's notes addressed some major themes:

  • Women bore the brunt of the responsibility when it came to mourning. Rules for men were much more flexible, but women were strictly regulated in what they could wear and when as well as the social activities they could partake in while in mourning.
  • The stages of mourning and the way that fabrics mirrored the gradual coming out of mourning. The exhibit discusses the use of crepe as well as the incorporation of more lustrous fabrics like silk moire and taffeta in the later stages. Color also comes into play.
  • The tension between fashion and grief. Especially in the later examples of the dresses, the curator's notes emphasizes that the wearer, despite being in a deep state of mourning, was still at the cutting edge of fashion when it came to silhouette.

And speaking of silhouette, I was delighted to see that the exhibit shows the progression of the Grecian-inspired dresses of the 1810s-1820s through the bell-shaped crinolines of the 1850s all the way to the princess cut dresses of the lat 1870s to early 1880s and then into the very late Victorian period (there's even an Edwardian dress or two in there). Oh! And one of Queen Victoria's dresses is on display (which I sadly did not photograph because I was overwhelmed by seeing one of Her Majesty's dresses in the flesh)!



If you have the chance to see this wonderful exhibit, definitely do. Sadly there is no museum catalog for Death Becomes Her, and photographs do not do these works of art justice (all of the detailing gets lost on black fabric, and these are rich with details).

Death Becomes Her is on until February 1, 2015.


September Reading Wrap Up

What a month! A mild summer here in NYC doesn't mean that the fall is any less welcome. It's my favorite time of year. The cool, crisp weather makes me want to curl up with a cup of tea and take a deep dive into a great book. With that in mind, here are a few of the things I've enjoyed this past September:

Devil in Winter (Wallflowers #3)

by Lisa Kleypas


Amazon | B&N | iBooks

Excuse me for a moment while I drop the professional author guise and go all fangirl for a moment. OH MY GOD, THIS BOOK. I'm not sure what prompted me to pick it up -- perhaps it was all of the people telling me over the years that I would love Kleypas' historicals. I should listen to those people more often.

This is a marriage of convenience story (which just happens to be one of my favorite tropes). Sebastian, Viscount St. Vincent, is the perfect alpha hero. His alphaness is director more towards protecting the heroine, Evie, than being a bossy asshole. Even better, although Evie is quieter than her husband, she has serious backbone. The chemistry between them is electric, and it's wonderful watching their marriage of convenience turn into love.

Unlocked (Turner #1.5)

by Courtney Milan


Amazon | B&N | iBooks

Courtney Milan is pretty much an instabuy for me at this point. I found this novella in the Seven Wicked Nights boxed set featuring a lot of my favorite historical authors. It tells the story of a heroine who has been bullied for years and the man who has to humble himself to win her heart. Since it's a Milan, there's no surprise that there's a good dose of science in the storyline as well.

Upside Down (Off the Map #1)

by Lia Riley


Amazon | B&N | iBooks

I'm not a very prolific New Adult reader. Usually the high drama and angst turns me off, but I found that this book has just the right mix of humor and drama. Upside Down also fills my recent cravings for romances in unusual settings as the action takes place in Melbourne where Talia is studying abroad. I'm lucky enough to have gotten an early read of book 2, Sideswiped, and I've got an author interview with Lia Riley coming up in a few days so keep an eye out!

A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death that Changed the British Monarchy

by Helen Rappaport


Amazon | B&N | iBooks

If you're feeling like some history, this might be a good place to start. Rappaport is a highly accessible writer who focuses in on a specific period of Queen Victoria's reign. The book focuses primarily on the death of Albert and Victoria's decade-long period of high mourning for him. It touches on the Victorian obsession with death and the various social and political issues caused by the queen's refusal to assume her public duties. If you're at all interested in the Victorian era, this is a good way to dive a little deeper into a fascinating subject.

Just a quick heads up. First Draught is coming up on October 7th. We'll be talking about revising that book you started but shoved in a drawer (or the deepest, darkest depths of your hardrive). RSVP here to make sure you don't miss out on the discussion!

The Writing Process Blog Hop of 2014

Why hello there. When my friend Alexandra Haughton tagged me in The Writing Process Blog Hop of 2014 I was thrilled. I love reading about other writers work, and I'm glad to get the chance to share. With a GIF or two. Because that's how I roll. I. What am I working on right now?

All the projects. I'm working on all the projects right now. Or at least that's what it feels like compared to how I used to work.

When I started writing I had one full-length historical I dedicated all my energy to. Since then I've finished two other manuscripts (one is junk and will never see the light of day and one is a sports romance I love that is in the hands of my wonderful agent right now). Currently I'm working on a second, full-length sports romance, a novella for an indie anthology with Alexis Anne, Alexandra Haughton, and Audra North, and some flash fiction for a blog hop (coming soon). I'm also in the research stages of a mystery based in 1920s New York City. That's a project that makes me so excited I'm practically vibrating like this...

However, I know that I'll come to hate it if I start it without a good research foundation, so I'm reading everything I can get my hands on and holding off on the writing for now.

II. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well isn't this an intimidating question? I write in two genres. Historical and contemporary. Let's tackle historical first.

I studied Victorian sexual and gender history in college. The women I found most fascinating were on the fringes of social acceptability. We're talking governesses, doctors, prostitutes -- all women who gained some form of economic independence and therefore pushed back against the constraints of patriarchy whether they knew it or not. Society typically categorized them as "abnormal" and often saw them as under or oversexed (whatever was most convenient). Those are the women I like to write about.

My first book is set in 1880s London and follows a poor relation who writes a book to earn money so she can strike out on her own. The book sells. A lot. Now she's in the awkward position of having an elevated -- although eccentric -- public persona while her relatives still treat her as a second-rate member of the family. Naturally there's a tall, dark, and handsome marquis who comes along and falls in love with her (you know this ends).

When it comes to contemporary, I want to tell stories about women I would happily grab a drink with. Right now I'm focusing on sports romances. What is more fun that turning the hyper-masculine world of professional sports on its head by dropping in a smart, confident female character who can go toe to toe with a hero? The heroine in my first contemporary romance is a sports agent. She's kind of a bad ass when it comes to the business side of things, however, she's not a "strong woman" (ie so perfect she's unrealistic). She has moments of doubt. She cries. She makes mistakes. I'm happy to see readers asking for strong female characters, but I want us to get to a point where we can have heroines as layered and complicated as our heroes.

III. Why do I write what I do?

I started writing romance as a relief from my masters thesis. I would get home from Columbia University's radio lab late at night exhausted and burnt out. I wanted a mental break, and a woman can only watch so much Dancing with the Stars. I needed a more creative outlet to keep my sanity, so I started writing what would become my first historical novel.

Now I write because I can't imagine doing anything else. I know that's such a cliché, but that doesn't make it any less true. On some level I want to tell those pro-female, sex-positive stories about those complex women I mentioned earlier, but I also just love romance. Some friends have asked me if writing stories that must end with a Happily Ever After is limiting. The answer is a very simple no. The characters dictate the way you get to that HEA, making each story unique. The HEA is just an expectation of the genre -- nothing more, nothing less.

IV. How does my writing process work?

My writing process has undergone some changes since I started scribbling scenes in graduate school. I used to be a pure pantser who wrote whenever the feeling moved her. Let me tell you, that is not an effective way for me to get anything done. I will always come up with something else to do. Then I went to the total opposite end of the spectrum and started to write every single day on an absolutely brutal, unrealistic word count schedule. This was a really stupid idea for someone who works in a high-stress job (producing TV news in New York City, hotbed of crazy). Learn from my mistakes and don't kill yourself. You'll just burn out and wind up curled up in a ball on the floor of your apartment.

Now I use Michael Hauge's "Six Stage Plot Structure" method to plot out character arcs. This isn't a strict, detailed outlining method so it offers me enough flexibility to get creative while still knowing the major turning points in plot and character. I write what I call a Fast Draft which is exactly what it sounds like. I get down whatever I can as quickly as possible. This is usually heavy on the dialogue since I write anchor scripts for a living.

My goal is to write 2,000 words a day Sunday through Thursday for my main work in progress. Anything extra counts as brownie points. If I'm working on a secondary project I'll switch my attention to that once I hit my main WIP word count. I'm out of the house at least 11 hours a day between working and commuting so I write everywhere I can. This includes on the subway and at the laundromat. I like working with background noise thanks to all my years in newsrooms and nearly as decade of babysitting/nannying before that. Don't tell my reporters, but producing and childcare overlap in more ways than one.

I'm the queen of laundromat writing.

I should also note that I've recently moved over to working in Scrivner, so part of my day is dedicated to learning a new program and pleading with it to like me.

After the Fast Draft I go back and do a First Draft 2.0. That's a pass through to fix any character inconsistencies and add in all of the emotional development that might have been lost in the Fast Draft.

Next is the long, slow process of revising. I'll usually do a second draft and then send the MS around to my critique partners. This gets another set of eyes on it and forces me to put it aside for a few weeks so I can better pinpoint problems later.

Next is a few rounds of fiddling with sentence structure and polishing. At some point I realize that by continuing to work on it I'm going to make the book worse rather than better. That's when it goes off to my agent to see what she thinks, and I feel like this for about a week:

Then I start the whole process over again with a new book.

It. Never. Ends.

So that's me in one very long blog post. I'm now tagging Audra North and Mary Chris Escobar. Audra's post is already live on her site (definitely check it out), and Mary Chris will be posting hers soon.

Thank you all, and good night.