posted by Christine Wells
It's my very great pleasure to welcome my most charming friend, Cara Elliott to the lair today. I met Cara at a Beau Monde conference in Orlando where she presented a fascinating workshop with Lauren Willig about teaching a romance course at Yale.
But Cara is a woman of many talents -- she also writes sexy historical romance in which she combines a thorough knowledge of the era with all the spice, intrigue and heart-stopping romance we love. Cara is one of the illustrious Word Wenches and we're so pleased to have her with us today. She also has a signed copy of her fabulous new release to give away. Welcome, Cara!
I’m so delighted that my good friend Christine invited me to come blog with the Bandits today. It’s always such a fun party over here, celebrating books, romance, hunky heroes and all the other good things in life.
Now, speaking of parties, I have a confession to make. I like to have a good time, but after doing the research for my just-released book, TO TEMPT A RAKE, I feel like a modern-day wimp in comparison with the lords and ladies of the Regency era. Seriously, these people really knew how to boogy . . .er, that is, waltz—but you know what I mean!
I decided to set part of the book at the Congress of Vienna, a diplomatic gathering which convened in the fall of 1814 to reorganize Europe after Napoleon’s exile to Elba. (In many ways, it was the precursor to the United Nations.) Emperors, kings, princes, margraves, powerful government ministers and their entourages all flocked to the Austrian capital to make peace . . . and to make love (not necessarily in that order!) Yes, there were serious discussions on borders, political alliances and other such issues. However, the royals and all the others had come not just to work but to play!
And play they did! Vienna was THE ultimate party town at the time. Anybody who was anybody wanted to be there, to rub shoulders (and other unmentionable body parts) with the kings, princes, emperors and other high profile celebrities.
The Emperor of Austria hosted many of the dignitaries at his magnificent castle, and his poor aides spent countless hours trying to figure out the room assignments, taking into account who was sleeping with whom, so that late night tiptoeing through the corridors wouldn’t result in any embarrassing trip-ups.
Glittering balls, sumptuous banquets, fanciful medieval jousts, spectacular fireworks—the daily list of extravagant entertainments was mind-boggling. Party girls Princess Bagration and the Duchess of Sagan, below, (who was having a torrid affair with Prince Metternich (right), the head of the Conference) vied with each other to see who could attract the most influential men to their soirees. As for other pleasures, well, let’s just say they all were intent on having a good time. In fact, the Tsar of Russia—a notorious skirtchaser—had to have a whole new wardrobe sent from St. Petersburg because he gained so much weight partying every night! (We girls can sympathize with that!)
Here’s are a few of my favorite parties from the months of non-stop entertainment:
The Emperor’s Ball
The Emperor of Austria hosted a welcoming ball for the international array of royalty and diplomats . . . One of the “decorations” was having the Duchess of Sagan and 23 of her friends come dressed as the Four Elements: Six ladies dressed as Water, wearing blue and green dresses festooned with pearls, coral and seashells. Six wore bright red dresses and carried torches to represent Fire. Six wore thin, nearly transparent gauzy dresses and wore wings to be Air. And lastly, representing Earth, the Duchess and her group wore brown velvet dresses and headdresses made out of golden baskets filled with jeweled fruit!
This recreation of a medieval joust, held at the famous Spanish Riding School (where the white Lipizzaner horses traditionally were trained) was perhaps the most spectacular party of them all. Glittering chandeliers and thousands of candles lit the indoor arena. At one end was an imperial grandstand with gilded chairs for all the royal guests. The other end was for the “Queens of Love,” 24 ladies who had been selected to be the tournament’s belles d’amour for the 24 “knights” who, mounted on matching black chargers, jousted to win their favor. Around 1200 spectators, including ambassadors, diplomats and high-ranking officials packed the remaining seats, and the display of jewelry and sumptuous dresses worn by the ladies was said to be dazzling. After a mock combat with lances (only one casualty resulted when Prince Liechtenstein was knocked unconscious from his horse) the crowd returned to the Emperor of Austria’s palace for a banquet where acrobats, minstrels and jugglers entertained the guests.
Now I ask you, what could be a more perfect setting for a sexy historical romance that combines seduction and intrigue. Naturally, I couldn’t resist! Kate and Marco, the heroine and hero of TO TEMPT A RAKE, start out their story at a fancy house party in her grandfather’s estate outside of London. Kate has spent most of her life sailing around the globe, acquiring an expertise in botany, along with a few less ladylike skills. She’s come to England to seek reconciliation with her grandfather, the imperious Duke of Cluyne, but the waters are a bit stormy. The presence of Marco, the rakish Conte of Como, isn’t making life any easier. The two of them have clashed before . . .
But when Kate becomes the prime suspect in a murder, she forced to seek his help. Caught up in a web of international intrigue, they must travel to Vienna and waltz through the glittering ballrooms to unmask . . . Oh, but that would be spoiling all the fun!
So how about you? Are you a party animal, or do you like a quiet night out with a few friends? What’s your idea of a good time? And have you a favorite over-the-top party you’ve been to that you want to share with us? One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of TO TEMPT A RAKE!
To read an excerpt of TO TEMPT A RAKE—and to download a recipe for a sinfully decadent Viennese chocolate cake—please visit my website. (There’s also a contest to win a box of gourmet chocolates, so please be sure to sign up for my mailing list.)
We have an AHA Go Red pin for one commenter today.
The healthy heart tip for today is: Tip: Spice it up – try cooking at home with healthier seasonings and avoid prepackaged mixes that may contain a lot of salt. Instead, add some spice with some fresh hot peppers. Remove the membrane and seeds first, then finely chop them up. A little goes a long way.
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From Feb 1 through May 31, 2011, receive one free romance e-book when you sign up for the American Heart Association's Better U Program and one after you complete week six of the program. And look for the Eat Smart for Your Heart limited edition magazine (that features this offer) on newstands and in a grocery store near you.
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