Two of my sisters-in-law visited us over the weekend. One of the fun things about having family come see us is that we get a chance to play tourist with them in the beautiful Boston area. We went to the New England Aquarium (which I’m sorry to report is in the middle of a major renovation, so it wasn’t the experience I’d hoped for my sisters) and spent a lovely, albeit rainy, morning at the Arnold Arboretum. I had no idea there were so many different varieties of lilacs.

We also walked the Freedom Trail.

The Spite HouseI’ve done it before but this time I saw a historic house I’d missed. You really can’t blame me. It only measures a little over 10 feet wide. There’s no front door. You have to squeeze through a narrow alley to enter.

It made me wonder how such a strange little house came to be built. Its history is a bit sketchy, but here’s what I’ve uncovered. In 1874, two brothers inherited the land on Hull Street from their father. One was a soldier who was in active service. The other brother built himself a grand home on the land, set back from the street and left only a narrow sliver for his sibling. When the soldier came home and saw what his brother had done, he didn’t get mad. He got even.

He built this unique home in the space his brother left for him. The Skinny House (sometimes called The Spite House) tapers to a mere 9 ft. 3 inches to the rear of the property, but its width isn’t the most important dimension. Its four stories block the light and the harbor view of his brother’s home.

Spiteful indeed!

Sins of the HighlanderOh! Before I forget, I need to let you know about a special offer from Sourcebooks. For a limited time, you can get Sins of the Highlander for only $2.99. That’s a 63% savings over the regular price.

Like the wronged soldier who built the Spite House, Mad Rob MacLaren wants to even a score too. He blames Lachland Drummond for his wife’s death, so he steals Drummond’s bride right from the altar. He never expected she’d bring his dead heart back to life.

I love Mad Rob’s story and hope you will too.

Buy links: Kindle , Nook , Kobo 

 

 

 

No, I’m not talking about the recent Boston Marathon bombing. My family and I didn’t attend the race and we live far enough away not to have been in danger. My DH was ordered not to report to his office in Cambridge on Friday since that’s near the MIT campus where the security officer was shot and killed, but otherwise, we watched the manhunt on TV like the rest of the country. I’m grateful the ordeal is over. Thank you for your prayers for my city.

But even though I was not in peril, this event brought back memories for me. Shortly after 9-11, my DH had to travel to London for business. If you follow my blog, you know when he goes someplace interesting for work, I tag along for pleasure. The Londoners we encountered were delighted to see us because Americans had been staying home in droves immediately after the towers fell. While my DH went to meetings, I embarked on my exploration of London, that wonderful 1000 year old city.

Way OutWhen I travel to other countries, I make use of their mass transit and am well acquainted with the London Tube. It’s a fast and efficient way of getting around the town, especially if you can travel outside the peak hours. So I was deep underground in a station, waiting for a connection to take me to the museums I’d decided to visit that day, when an eerily calm voice came over the loud speaker announcing that the station had received a bomb threat and we were to make our way out with all speed.

Tube EscalatorAs one, the Londoners turned and moved in silence toward the exits. There was no shoving. No pushing. No frantic scramble to be first up the long escalators (and if you’ve been there, you know those escalators go on forever.) The power had been cut to the escalators so we trudged up the frozen stairs, wondering with each dogged step if we’d hear a detonation behind (or worse) ahead of us.

I was so proud to have English blood in my veins that day. People helped each other with quiet expediency. By the time we reached street level, bobbies with bomb sniffing dogs were headed down. Having had enough of an adventure for one day, I hailed a cab and scurried back to our hotel.

But I didn’t stay there long. The next day I was back out exploring the city and soaking up the treasures in its museums. Life is too precious, too wondrous, to live in fear. I was determined not to allow a momentary panic to keep me from experiencing it.

So today, for those who are wondering how they can ever take part in a large public event again, how they can ever trust the strangers around them, I say, there are only two choices. Either we hide in a hole, or we live our lives.

I don’t intend to hide.

 

RagnarDid you happen to see the pilot of Vikings on the History Channel last Sunday? If you missed it, you can view the first two episodes online. I haven’t been this excited about a TV series since I discovered Downton Abbey.

Of course, I have a soft spot in my heart for those Nordic barbarians. My first two novels, Maidensong and Erinsong, are set in the Viking world. (Dragonsong, the final book in the Songs of the North trilogy will be out later this year!) And this new series shows so many things that captivate me about this time period.

MaidenSong

Click to read an excerpt!

History is usually told by the victors, but in this case, much of what we know about the Vikings came from their victims. Once they began raiding outside the Scandinavian fjords, they showed up in the chronicles of the day and every Christian soul in ‘civilized’ Europe began to pray “Deliver us, O Lord, from the fury of the Northmen.”

But they weren’t simply mindless raiders. In the late 8th century, they were making technological advances like a keel for their sleek, beautiful longships and a sun compass that allowed them to calculate latitude. And while the rest of Europe bathed once a year whether they needed it or not, the Vikings bathed once a week and took great pride in their appearance.

They were the last population group to convert to Christianity, but that didn’t mean they had no moral sense of “ought-ness.” The Norse had a detailed collection of laws with punishments for specific crimes carefully laid out. They had a rich mythology, as complex as the Greco-Roman system of gods and goddesses. It’s a fascinating culture and I’m so glad the History Channel is doing such a good job of recreating it.

Of course, it’s not the Regency. The women don’t wear gorgeous gowns and there are no fine balls. But the Vikings knew how to love and how to hate and they thought a man’s chief duty was to provide for and protect his family. In my book, that’s hero material.

Erinsong

Click to read an excerpt!

For years, the historical romance genre has shrunk to mean only stories set in England and then only in the Georgian-Regency-Victorian eras. With the success of Downton Abbey, I expect the late Edwardian, early 20th century to creep into the mix, but that still leaves a mammoth portion of the world and its history left unvisited by the romance world.

What do you think? Are you willing to read outside the box? What unusual setting has captivated you? Or if you are a historical purist, please share why you love the Regency. (Don’t worry, I love it too. But I do enjoy dabbling in other times and places as well.)