This sprig of holly is just a reminder that A CHRISTMAS BALL is coming soon. And today I thought I'd share a little with you about how this anthology came to be.
A CHRISTMAS BALL is the brainchild of my brilliant editor, Leah Hultenschmidt at Dorchester. (Leah is on the far right, next to Charles Paz, RT's 2009 Mr. Romance and Erin Galloway, marketing expert extraordinaire!) She conceived a holiday anthology where all the stories were linked by virtue of time and place--a grand Christmas Ball. She invited USA Today Bestseller Jennifer Ashley, Alissa Johnson and I to contribute novellas and we set to work. Other than the setting and the date of our stories (December 19, 1822) we were given free rein.
Because we did, however, have a few common elements, we had to agree on those. First of all, who are the hosts of the ball? Leah entertained suggestions (I hoped they could be Lord Robert and Lady Evelyn, because those are my parent's names. Turns out in 1822, Evelyn was a man's name, so Leah opted for Lord Robert and Lady Julia Hartwell as our hosts.) Lord Hartwell is a force to be reckoned with in the House of Lords and his wife is the consumate hostess. Their annual Christmas Ball makes staying in London over the holidays bearable for the politically well-connected members of the ton who normally would celebrate the holiday at their country homes.
Just where is the Christmas Ball being held? Since all our characters would be sharing the same space, we had to agree on the layout. So we did what all good writers do. We borrowed a little from a real London mansion and then altered matters to suit us. This majestic Georgian is Spencer House, the ancestral seat of Princess Di's family. Located in the heart of St. James, Spencer House was built by the first Earl Spencer between 1756-1766. History buffs will want to pop over to the Spencer House website for a more in depth peek into this fascinating place.
Of course, for the purposes of our stories, Hartwell House needed a few changes from the Spencer model. For one thing, we turned the Great Room on the First Floor (which would be the 2nd floor in the American system of reckoning) into our Ballroom. None of the servants' portions of the house is shown in the floorplan detailed on the Spencer website, so I used my imagination. Since my heroine is a scullery maid and my hero a head groom, they passed through the kitchen a time or two. And I discovered a system of secret passageways behind the walls in Hartwell House that are not easily discerned on the Spencer blueprints. But Spencer House gave us a wonderful point of commonality for our stories and a strong sense of place to get us started.
You'll be hearing more about A CHRISTMAS BALL in the coming weeks. It's due to hit the bookshelves on September 29th! If you'd like a taste, please visit my website! And while you're there, be sure to enter my CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST contest! The drawing is just days away.
And speaking of winners, I have a couple to announce from Gerri Russell's visit here this week! Debra Parmley has won a copy of TO TEMPT A KNIGHT and Katie O'Sullivan is the winner of a Scottish Templars T-shirt! Please contact me through my website with your mailing info and I'll get it to Gerri. Amanda McIntyre already announced her winner the day she was here, but I'll repeat the anouncement here--Etriv (aka Delilah) please contact me or Amanda to receive your prize! For those of you who didn't win when Amanda visited here, you have another chance today at The Chatelaines!
No prizes to give away here, but I still love to hear from you. We were talking about setting today. How important is the setting (the place, decorations, food, etc.) for celebrating a holiday to you?