Tag Archive | Signet

Susana’s Author Pals: Blair Bancroft

Susana read many of Blair Bancroft’s Regency romances in print and digital form long before she joined the Central Florida Romance Writers and met her in person. That was when she discovered some of Blair’s other outstanding talents: singing, acting, directing, and piano, in addition to blogging and editing. Blair (Grace) has shown herself to be very kind, supportive, and helpful to new authors in both the CFRW and the Beau Monde chapters of RWA. Having been a caregiver herself, she understands the challenges Susana faces during her winter sojourn in Florida when she cares for her dad.

About Blair Bancroft (Grace Ann Kone)

Blair came to writing late, partly because she had a desire to pursue a singing career and partly because her mother was a highly successful children’s book author, and it never occurred to Blair it was possible to have two such exotic creatures as an author in one family. So music was the order of the day. During college years at Brown and Boston University’s School of Music, Blair was fortunate enough to participate in operas under the direction of Sarah Caldwell and also find time for BU’s theater productions, musical and non-musical.

After five years of teaching music to elementary school students in Connecticut, Blair finally set out for New York City, where she became one of the nuns in the National Company of The Sound of Music (with Florence Henderson starring as Maria von Trapp). She also directed off-stage choruses, played piano for on-road rehearsals, and trained all replacements.

But teaching—and the lure of home and family—drew her back to New England, where she taught music in Newton, Massachusetts, and directed a production of The King and I at Newton High School. Then it was back to Connecticut for marriage, three children, and confining her performing to church. She also branched out into a new field—becoming editor of an educational publishing company, a job that lasted for the next twenty years. After moving to Florida in the 80s, she worked at a variety of jobs, from real estate to church secretary, while doing a huge amount of transportation for a daughter who was following in her footsteps as a soloist. Only after Blair’s youngest went off to college did she get one last crack at the theater, playing Mrs. Peachum in a Sarasota production of The Threepenny Opera.

Blair greatly admires women who seem to be able to do it all: handle a job, husband, children, and still find time to write. She could not. Although she “dabbled” in writing a time or two, she did not do any serious writing until her husband of twenty-five years had a stroke and she became a full-time caregiver—for the next nine years.

It took eight of those to find a publisher. Well, actually, the publisher (the now defunct Starlight Writer Publications) found her. The editor had been a judge in a contest Blair entered and requested Tarleton’s Wife as one of the initial offerings of their new company (December 1999). (Tarleton’s Wife , Blair’s Golden Heart winner, is now on its fifth incarnation and is still selling, after nearly twenty years. It also won a Best Romance award from the Florida Writers Association.)

And just that quickly, Blair’s luck changed. She was offered a contract by Kensington’s Precious Gem line and within the same year sold her first Regency to Signet (Penguin Putnam), for whom she wrote five more before the line was closed. That first Regency, titled by Signet The Indifferent Earl, won Romantic Time’s Best Regency award. (It is now available online under its original title: The Courtesan’s Letters.)

After Signet shut down their traditional Regency (think Jane Austen) line, Blair went back to where she started: epublishing, working for two different epublishers before going independent in 2011 and publishing subsequent books through Amazon Kindle and Smashwords. Blair is a strong advocate for independent publishing, for being your own boss. In addition to continually expanding her inventory to a variety of genres, she has been offering Writing and Editing tips on her blog, Grace’s Mosaic Moments, since January 2011—where she enjoys sharing all she’s learned since she started typing her mother’s manuscripts when she was a freshman in high school!

Blair reports that when she finishes Book 4 of her Blue Moon rising series, and if she counts two previously published books awaiting indie pub, she has written 40 books since the mid 90s. She is also working on organizing seven-plus years of blogs on Writing and Editing into book form, which she hopes to make available by Fall 2018.

Blair has not forgotten her musical training, singing regularly—and sometimes soloing—in the choir of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Longwood, Florida.

She may have come to writing late, but Blair doesn’t hesitate to say she loves it. As an “out of the mist” author, Blair’s favorite comment on her writing is: “I can hardly wait to get up each morning and find out what my characters are going to do today.”

March 18, 2018

Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart

Destroyed crops in Florida and Spain. Acts of terror? Corporate warfare? Or simply businesses held to ransom? Whatever the motive, Ashley van Dyne, president of an organic foods business, needs the tough Hispanic entrepreneur, Rafe Guererro, to help her put a stop to the damaging sabotage. The resulting cultural clash of both business and romance resounds across two continents. And, as if the problem weren’t big enough already, they both have teenage relatives caught up in the ongoing disaster.


The Blackthorne Curse

After the death of her father, young Serafina Blackthorne of New Haven, Connecticut, becomes a reverse immigrant, traveling from the New World to the Old. To her grandfather, who lives on Dartmoor, a place where eerie legends abound and where she discovers, to her horror, she is marked for death by the Blackthorne Curse. The more Serafina attempts to outmaneuver the Curse, the more she seems to jump from the frying pan into the fire. She finally has but one hope left. But does her childhood friend really want to save her, or is he destined to be her executioner?

Author’s Note: This book is a Gothic novel set in the Regency period—a style of story where a young woman finds herself basically alone and battling threats to her life, some from humans, some from possibly supernatural sources. But in spite of all the angst, it is also a romance. I hope you will enjoy reading this tale in a style made famous by Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney as much as I enjoyed writing it.


Mary Balogh: Regency Author Extraordinaire

baloghMost writers dream of publishing a best-seller, quitting their day jobs, and basking in the glory of riches, readers, and glowing reviews. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of wannabe authors fall by the wayside when the path to fame becomes littered with rejections and disappointments.

Mary Balogh is one of the exceptions. She wrote her first novel, A Masked Deception, in longhand in the kitchen after the dishes were done. Three months later, Signet offered her a two-book contract. The first book was published in 1985 and she won the Romantic Times Award for Best New Regency Author the same year.

Balogh grew up as a Jenkins in Swansea, Wales, married a Canadian who likes to play Santa Claus during the holidays, and taught high school English for twenty years before she was finally able to leave teaching to become a full-time author in 1988. She discovered Georgette Heyer during a maternity leave when she was working through a Grade XI reading list, and was instantly addicted to the world she’d only known before through the novels of Jane Austen.

The Baloghs live in the city of Regina, Saskatchewan in the winters and Kipling, a rural farming community, in the summer months.

Discovering Mary Balogh

Coincidentally, my own interest in Regency romance was piqued with Georgette Heyer as well, and eventually I discovered the Signet and Zebra lines. I can’t recall which of Balogh’s I stumbled upon first, but I can tell you that after that I scrambled to find everything she’d ever written. When she announced that she had written her last Signet in order to write longer-length novels, I felt betrayed. While I enjoy her later books as well, for some reason, I still think of Mary Balogh as a Signet Regency author.

What Is It About Balogh’s Writing?

secretpearlIt’s the characters. In A Secret Pearl, which I’m re-reading right now, I feel the desperation of the young girl forced to offer herself to a man in order to survive. She’s alone in the world, fleeing from a villainous cousin, unable to find respectable work, and her options are few. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about her dreadful situation. Then suddenly she is whisked away to a ducal estate to be serve as governess, as it turns out, to the daughter of the man who took her virginity. A married man. And then her cousin shows up…but I was hooked long before that. I must find out how my heroine gets her happy-ever-after when it seems hopeless. 

As you can see, Balogh doesn’t shy away from the darker themes. While the typical balls and waltzes do feature in her Regency stories, they often take a back seat to the seamier, more uncomfortable topics, such as adultery and prostitution. In fact, one of the books I will never forget is about a prostitute named Priscilla who becomes a mistress. Here is what Balogh herself says about A Precious Jewel.

This is the book of mine that seemed impossible to write but had to be written. Sir Gerald Stapleton was a minor character in The Ideal Wife and was forever lamenting the loss of Priss, his long-term mistress, who had left him to marry someone from her past. I found myself not only fascinated by that relationship—Gerald had taken Priss from a brothel to be his mistress—but also obsessed by it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and weaving a story about it—and dreaming up a reconciliation and happy ending for them.

The problem was obvious. I was writing traditional Regency romances at the time, and it was clearly impossible to use a working prostitute as a heroine. And Gerald himself was a beta male, not the dashing, rakish rogue so beloved of Regency readers.

But the story would not leave me alone. I finally wrote it—it took me two weeks!—and shelved it for a while. No one would ever publish it. It had been written for my own satisfaction. But one day I sent it to my editor anyway, just to see how she would react. She reacted by sending it straight through to copyediting! And when it was published, it became a reader favorite.*


Which of Balogh’s books is your favorite? Do you prefer her earlier, shorter Regencies or the later, longer ones? What do you think of her use of themes commonly considered taboo in the Regency sub-genre?

Web site: http://www.marybalogh.com