..  

 

 

..

 

Last Updated:

November 2012

..

I’m so excited to see the release of Duchess of Sin, the story of Lady Anna Blacknall and Conlan McTeer, her wild Irish duke.  I loved meeting Anna in Countess of Scandal and was very nervous to see everything work out for her in her own HEA.  It’s been quite an adventure keeping up with the Blacknall sisters of the Daughters of Erin series, and luckily for me my fun isn’t over just yet—Caroline Blacknall’s story, Lady of Seduction, will be out in June 2011.

Anna’s story takes place against the background of a very tumultuous moment of change in Irish history.  The hotly contested Act of Union was actually two acts, the first passed as an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain on July 2, 1800 and the second an Act of the Parliament of Ireland on August 1, 1800.  The two acts officially united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which came into effect on January 1, 1801 (the time of Duchess of Sin).  In the Republic of Ireland, the first Act was not repealed until the passing of the Republic’s Statute Law Revision Act in 1983.

Before these Acts, Ireland was already in personal union with England since 1541, when the Irish Parliament passed the Crown of Ireland Act proclaiming Henry VIII as King of Ireland.  (England and Scotland were united into a single kingdom in 1603 with the accession of King James I).  The Parliament in Dublin had gained a measure of precious independence by the Constitution of 1782, and its members guarded this hard-won freedom fiercely (one of the most notable being Henry Grattan, the hero of the anti-Unionists—he makes a brief appearance in this story at the debates!).  They rejected a motion for Union in 1790 after the upheaval of the Rebellion by 109 votes versus 104.  (Not that the Irish Parliament was a truly democratic body, open to all Irishmen—only Anglican landowners of a certain class could become Members of Parliament and the biggest landowners often controlled the boroughs and thus the vote).  But Britain was scared—the Revolution in France and the Irish Rebellion made them fearful and determined to make the wild Irish settle down once and for all.  The final passage of the Act in the Irish Parliament was achieved in large part by determined bribery, such as awarding peerages, estates, and money to get the needed votes.  The measure passed 158 to 115 amid riots and protests.

A few good sources on the Act of Union and this period in history are: Alan J. Ward’s The Irish Constitutional Tradition: Responsible Government and Modern Ireland, 1782—1992; WJ McCormack’s The Pamphlet Debate on the Union of Great Britain and Ireland; Edward Brynn’s Crown and Castle: British Rule in Ireland, 1800-1830; Patrick Geoghan’s The Irish Act of Union: A Study in High Politics, 1798-1801.

Another aspect of Irish culture I loved researching for Duchess of Sin was Christmas!  No one loves a good holiday party more than the Irish.  Christmas has always been a time filled with visiting, dancing, and music, and good food.  I learned a lot about Irish Christmas traditions as a child in my grandparents’ house, which was always a wonderful time.  My grandmother would make plum puddings and ginger cakes, put up holly wreaths and mistletoe kissing boughs, and play Irish Christmas music all the time (I listen to The Chieftain’s Christmas CD every year!).

She also kept a candle in the window (albeit an electric one that wouldn’t start a fire!), and when I asked her why she told me what her mother told her.  The candle was a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they traveled looking for shelter (and in time of the Penal Laws could also be a sign of a safe place to say Catholic Mass).  One tradition said the candle should be lit by the youngest member of a household and only extinguished by a girl named Mary.

If you’re interested in the tale of the Children of the Lir (or the other Sorrowful Tales that feature in the “Daughters of Erin” series) a good source is David Bellingham’s An Introduction to Celtic Mythology.

Nollaig Shona Duit (Merry Christmas) everyone!  I hope you enjoy Anna and Conlan’s story as much as I did.  If you’d like to create a bit of a traditional Christmas for yourself, here is my grandmother’s old recipe for plum pudding (she used to say it was best to make this a year in advance and let it “mellow,” but she would mostly start it at the beginning of Advent…)

Ingredients

Fruit Mixture (to be made 4 days ahead)

  • 1 pound seedless raisings

  • 1 pound sultana raisins

  • ½ pound currants

  • 1 cup thinly sliced citron

  • 1 cup chopped candied peel

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • ½ tsp mace

  • ½ tsp nutmeg

  • ¼ tsp ground cloves

  • ¼ tsp allspice

  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 pound finely chopped suet (powdery fine)

  • 1 ¼ cups cognac

Pudding

  •  1 ¼ pounds fresh bread crumbs

  • 1 cup scalded milk

  • 1 cup sherry or port

  • 12 eggs, well beaten

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 tsp salt

  • Cognac

Preparation

Blend the fruits, citron, peel, spices and suet and place in a bowl or jar.  Add ¼ cup cognac, cover tightly, and refrigerate for 4 days, adding ¼ cup cognac each day.

Soak the bread crumbs in milk and sherry or port.  Combine the well-beaten eggs and sugar.  Blend with the fruit mixture.  Add salt and mix thoroughly.  Put the pudding in buttered bowls or tins, filling them about 2/3 full.  Cover with foil and tie it firmly.  Steam for 6—7 hours.  Uncover and place in a 250 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Add a dash of cognac to each pudding, cover and keep in a cool place.

To use, steam again for 2-3 hours and unmold.  Sprinkle with sugar; add heated cognac.  Ignite and bring to table.  Serve with cognac sauce.

                            

..

Coming in 2012--escape to Victorian London with a new series! 

Book 2:

Two Sinful Secrets

(December 2012)

 

and

 

Book 1: 

One Naughty Night(June 2012)

 

Praise for
Countess of Scandal

“Laurel McKee’s prose is lyrical, her pacing is flawless, and her talent for evoking a rich, sweeping historical atmosphere is second to none” –USA Today Bestseller Julianne MacLean

 “An exciting, suspenseful and very passionate story.  Loved it and very much look forward to the next in this series.  Interesting history lesson and a good backdrop for a first-class love story”—Romance Reviews Magazine

 “Ms. McKee’s style of writing is stellar, streaming with lovely prose, vivid descriptions, breathtaking love scenes, and action-packed tension.  Every word sings with unyielding intensity” –Romance Junkies

“McKee sets the stage for a romantic adventure that captures the spirit of Ireland and a pair of star-crossed lovers to perfection” –RT Book Reviews - 4 Stars

 “Countess of Scandal combines a passionate romance with a nail-biting plot.  The author’s research shines through to make the era come alive, as well as her characters.  An exciting tale out of the common mold” –Romance Reviews Today

 “This book has rarely used and well-drawn setting, good characters, and so much more working in its favor.  I absolutely loved reading this one!” –All About Romance

 “McKee’s intriguingly nuanced characters and deliciously subtle sense of humor provide the ideal counterpoint to the perfectly executed historical setting that gives Countess of Scandal its refreshingly different literary flavor” –Booklist

 

Want to know more about Georgian Ireland and the events surrounding Laurel's Daughters of Ireland trilogy? Check out Behind the Book and Resources.

 

NEW
Picture of Laurel at RWA '09!

..