Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guest Author -- Vanessa Kelly

We are thrilled to have author Vanessa Kelly with us today as she celebrates the release of her second Regency historical romance, Sex and the Single Earl. Vanessa's first novel, Mastering the Marquess, garnered much acclaim and it seems Sex and the Single Earl will be following in those same successful footsteps. Be sure to take a few minutes to stop by Vanessa's website. You really need to check out the Below Stairs Recipes, where Vanessa shares some of her Italian family recipes (all of which sound yummy!) and Regency Reloaded, where she shares gritty and fascinating tidbits about the Regency era. Please join me in welcoming Vanessa Kelly to The Romance Dish as she talks about regency celebrations.


It’s so great to be here at The Romance Dish, celebrating the release of my latest Regency-set historical romance, Sex And The Single Earl. (Buffie jumping in here to say . . . holy smokes, look at the cover!!!) I think the best way to mark the occasion is with a party—a Regency dinner party—given to celebrate the engagement of my heroine, Sophie Stanton, to Simon, the Earl of Trask. Sophie has insisted on a secret engagement (Simon’s not happy about that, but she has her reasons), so we’ll keep that tidbit of gossip to ourselves. Instead, we’ll just throw your average dinner party before a ball, with the standard three-course, seventy-five dish meal.

Did I just say seventy-five dishes?! Yes, I did. Most formal dinners during the Regency period had three courses, including the dessert course, and up to twenty-five dishes could be served with each course. For some reason I can’t quite fathom (symmetry, I guess) you had to serve the same number of dishes for each course. Thus, the magic seventy-five. Not that the ladies were able to sample all those dishes. They were pretty much limited to what was placed in front of them, or what one of the men sitting next to them would offer. Sophie always seems to get seated in front of the Breast of Mutton, which is most unfortunate because she loathes mutton. But what else might she eat, if her obliging dinner partner is willing to serve her?

The first course always included soup and fish. Soup was served to all the guests—usually ladled out by the butler or a manservant. On the night of her party, Sophie would probably eat a bouillabaisse or a white soup. White soup was very fashionable during the Regency, and consisted of veal or chicken broth, egg yolks, ground almonds, and cream. At a ball, it was often served with negus (hot sweetened wine). The fish, perhaps carp with wine sauce, would be presented after the soup. The rest of the first course might consist of dishes like roast goose with apples and prunes, a ragout of beef or a joint of beef, roasted partridges, chicken fricassee, a rabbit casserole…well, you get the idea. For good measure, some vegetable dishes would be thrown in to round things out.

Once everyone had pigged out, er, had sampled the dishes before them, the first course would be cleared and the second brought to the table. There would be a selection of both sweet and savory choices. No soup, however, and the second course might include some fruit or jellies, and even an herb quiche or a savory cheesecake.

Finally, on to the best part of the meal—dessert! Dessert in the Regency era was a big deal. The desserts were often fashioned into elaborate confections that probably looked better than they tasted. The table itself would be decorated with sugar-paste creations in architectural shapes, or even with a recreation of a garden or an outdoor scene. But our Regency hostess would also have plenty of the good stuff to eat—things like baked apples, rum cakes, syllabub, fruit trifles, ratafia cakes, marzipan confectionaries, apple custard pie, and jam tartlets. As you can see, our lords and ladies of the ton took their sweets very seriously.

What beverage might accompany all these culinary delights? Champagne, of course. On the night of her secret engagement party, Sophie finds herself drinking quite a lot it. You see, she’s not sure she should marry Simon, even though she’s loved him since she was a little girl. She’s not convinced he returns her feelings, and those suspicions are confirmed when Simon appears at the ball with his ex-mistress draped all over him. Can we really blame poor Sophie for quaffing several glasses of Lord Penfield’s very dry champagne? Or for the fact that she decides to punish Simon by flirting with every eligible bachelor at the ball?

It grieves me to relate that Simon doesn’t take kindly to Sophie’s behavior, and he marches her straight out of the ball, fully intending to deliver a stern lecture. But Sophie’s not interested in lectures, and before you know it they’re both buck …well, let’s just say that Chapter Ten gets very interesting.

Now that you know what a Regency dinner party is like—oh, did I tell you it could last four or five hours—is that how you’d choose to celebrate a special occasion? Or would you prefer an assignation with that special rake at Vauxhall? A masquerade? Or would you rather a quiet dish of tea at home, waiting for your swain to call?


  1. I'm saying masquerade...that way I can stay as long as I want...and if I want to sneak out for any reason...I can :)

    Fun blog post today, I enjoyed it!

  2. sounds like some dinner party. thank heavens I don't have do the cooking or the dishes! I say we skip the 1st traditional course and move course 2 up to 1st, then the sweets for course 2 (I do have a bit of a sweet tooth and rum cake sounds really good) and make the charming rake the "dessert" or 3rd course? ;) now that sounds like a celebration to me ;):)

    Congrats on the new book and happy release day!

  3. I wouldn't mind doing the dinner party. It would certainly be interesting. I can't imagine spending that much time at dinner. You would be too full to do much else afterwards.
    Congratulations a nd best of luck with the releasr of

  4. Oh wow...that sounds soo incredible.. I think that I would love to experience at least once in my life..you know all that pomp and ceremony...very cool but I know that after that one time I would want to spend my time preferably enjoying baked goodies and a cup of tea leisurely reading books to my heart's content.


  5. Hi Vanessa, congratulations on your new release Sex and the Single Earl it sounds very appetizing to say the least.

    What a great post and you blew me away, I can't possibly imagine sitting down and eating for 5 hours! However if the table was filled with delicacies like twizzlers, coke, Doritos, tacos, pizza and chocolate mud pie, well then perhaps I'd be persuaded. I'm such a plebeian. In fact an assignation with my favorite Rake at Vauxhall sounds like just the ticket. Under the stars with music playing in the background. I would be dressed in something flowing and white and of course the quiet lane with lanterns hanging from the trees above would only enhance the moonlight. Yes, that sounds perfect; much preferred to a sit down meal with a hundred guests, servants, and too much food to consume. Quiet and intimate would be perfect.

  6. I too am glad I don't have to do the cooking or the dishes LOL.

    I love the idea of the dinner party although i think a nice turn around the gardens with a Rake would be just the thing after the food LOL.

    Congrats on the release Vanessa I am looking forward to reading it

    have Fun

  7. Hi Vanessa! Welcome to The Romance Dish! We're so happy to have you with us to celebrate the release of Sex and the Single Earl.

    What a terrific blog! I never knew that about Regency dinners. I love food but not that much. I'd probably be asleep before the end of the second course. lol! I'd much rather take my rake off for a night under the stars. I can guarantee that wouldn't put me to sleep! *g*

  8. Hi, Vanessa! I just can't fathom eating for that long! As much as I love food, there's only so much one can take. *g*

    Now, give me a handsome rake, the two of us alone on a shady path, music faintly playing in the distance....well, the more time we have, the better! Especially if he looks like the hottie on the cover of your book! ;-)

  9. Hi everybody! I'm so thrilled to be here on The Romance Dish! Those Regency folks sure knew how to party, didn't they? But I'm with PJ - I'd be asleep by the second course!

    I'll pop back in soon - have to run a few errands this morning, and then it's back to the party!

  10. Hi, Vanessa. What a great post and fun stuff to read. Four-hour dinners would be quite uncomfortable if you didn't really have much in common with your guests, wouldn't you say?!

    Since I just had 14 people at my house on Sunday, minus 2 who couldn't make it, I know what a chore it is to get ready for a dinner. Admittedly, mine wasn't elegant (yay for paper plates, paper napkins, and grilling outside) and I cleaned without a horde of servants to help. However, I think I would wait for my sweetheart to call on me with a cup of hot, sweet tea.

  11. Congrats on your release, Vanessa! I can't imagine having to cook all that food back then. It must have been an enormous undertaking.

    For me, I'll take the masquerade. I love the idea of wondering around with no one recognizing me.

    Congrats again!!

  12. Hi Vanessa!
    Congrats on your new release.

    I'm going with masquerade. ^^ I'm not much of a conversationalist. lol It would be fun to dress up in customs and dance all night. Plus there is the anonymity of it and a chance to act like a hoodlum and no-one know it was you. ^o~


  13. I've got this one waiting for me, I downloaded it already and can't wait!

    If I had dinners like that regularly I'd never fit into my clothes! I think the best option would be to HAVE the options...some days a dinner, some days a masquerade, some days that secret meeting...got to keep it lively :)

  14. Happy SATSE Release Day, Vanessa! I'm hitting the bookstore shortly to see if I can find a copy locally or if I have to wait for the weekend and a trip into the city. I already know I love Sophie, a heroine with a conscience, and the superb Simon, so I'm eager to read their story in its final form.

    BTW, congrats on the Readers' Crown Rom Con nomination! I loved Mastering the Marquess and raved all over the web about it.

  15. Wow--what a dinner party. On to check out some of Vanessa's recipes now!

  16. Thanks for all your kind words, everybody! I'm overwhelmed. Please excuse me if I don't respond to all your comments on an individual basis - my novella is due next week, and I'm racing to the deadline. Trust me. I'd much rather stay and chat with y'all!

    Well, so far, it looks like the masquerade is leading the pack. Certainly much easier on the waistline! And I think the idea of dressing up, wearing a mask, and waiting for your rogue to pull you into one of those dark Vauxhall paths is very appealing!

  17. Janga, thank you so much for all your support! Make sure you check the acknowledgements page when you pick up the book!

    JWZ, I hope you enjoy the book!

  18. Please excuse me if I don't respond to all your comments on an individual basis - my novella is due next week, and I'm racing to the deadline.

    We understand, Vanessa! Next time you pop in, will you tell us about the novella and when it might be released?

  19. Sorry the Dishies haven't been around much this morning. Pesky work (and other) commitments are interfering with our fun! ;-)

    Sounds like many of you are in the mood for a masquerade. So tell me, what costume would you wear to the party?

    I'll be back to play later this afternoon!

  20. PJ, my novella will be in a Kensington anthology, along with a reprint of a fab Jo Beverley story and new stories from Sally MacKenzie and Kaitlin O'Riley. I'm doing a bit of a riff on Jo's story. She has a heroine who is quite a big younger than the hero - think Col. Brandon and Eleanor Dashwood. I decided to do a bit of a flip. My heroine is older than the hero - not too much older, you understand! Didn't want to go into a creep factor. But my editor and I like to joke about it and call it my Regency Cougar story. The antho will come out sometime in the winter or spring of 2011.

    I also have a short story coming out this summer in the Mammoth Book of Regency Romance. There are tons of great writers in that collection, including The Romance Dish's Anna Campbell.

    Karyn, I didn't know that's who my cover model was. Love him!

  21. Hey, Vanessa! Happy Release Day to you! We're happy you could share it with us. :)

    Um, I don't have the patience for a five hour meal. I eat too fast! LOL

    I like the idea of attending a masquerade, too!! You can be someone other than who you normally are and no one (except your handsome rake) would ever know. Sounds delicious!

  22. Oh, and I have to add that I am SO looking forward to the Mammoth Book of Regency Romance!!!

  23. Vanessa, I love the premise of your novella! Regency Cougar! LOL

    Definitely have to get the Mammoth Book of Regency Romance!!

  24. I would rather skip the 4-5 hour meal and just have a picnic outside.

  25. I think the Mammoth book this year is going to be spectacular!

    Gannon, I think the Regency Cougar story will be fun. The hero is a big, tough soldier, so he's certainly no weedy youthy!

    Runner10, I didn't think of picnics. What a great idea! Box Hill, but without all the drama.

  26. PJ: I love the word "assignation" It makes the idea so much more palatable.

    Imagine preparing all of those dishes without a Cuisinart or KitchenAid...(yes, my POV is definitely "below stairs")

    Beautiful cover (beautiful man on the cover) Vanessa! Catchy title and though it's regency, the title reminds me of the romantic comedies from the sixties. Adding this one to my pile.

  27. Hey, Vanessa, just swinging by to congratulate you on the release of SEX AND THE SINGLE EARL! I love this story - I was lucky enough to read it in manuscript, yes, I know - I'm gloating! To continue the theme, it's a banquet for the senses!

    Actually I'm a pig, so the 75 dishes sound pretty good to me. And the handsome rake had better make sure he keeps those goodies comin'! Hmm, that sounded a bit naughty...

  28. Vanessa, I'm really looking forward to the Mammoth Book of Regency Romance coming out too - it's a bit like a Regency dinner party, lots of different delishness in one spot!

  29. And the handsome rake had better make sure he keeps those goodies comin'! Hmm, that sounded a bit naughty...

    LOL @ Anna! I love it!!

  30. Jen, it is a beautiful cover, isn't it? And the title is fun!

    Anna, thank you so much for your kind words! I have to admit that I would go for the dinner party, too. Love long hours over a dinner table with good food, good wine, and good friends. Great way to describe the MMO! A multi-course dinner party!

  31. I just love the title of that book!

  32. ::running in from a very long day at work::

    Hey Vanessa! Thank you so much for spending the day with us and for sharing your knowledge on the dinner parties. My goodness, those people loved to sit and eat and sit and eat!! I can't imagine spending 5 hours doing that! It's hard enough to sit down for 30 minutes and enjoy a meal :-)

  33. Vanessa--I am a bit tardy to the party....but you know a girl does need to make an entrance! LOL.
    Congratulations on the release of this book. Sounds very good---anopther to be added to my tbr pile!
    I would go for the rake--moonlight--music and Heavens not that much food. After eating for 5 hours can you really do anything fun?! (eyebrow waggle here) Hehe!

  34. Sounds like everyone is in the mood for a masquerade and then a little one on one with a hot rake ;-) I *knew* I loved you ladies for some reason!! LOL!

  35. Hi Vanessa,

    Congratulations on your latest release. SATSE is on my BTB list and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Maybe here?

    Now that is some dinner party. Back then with the kitchen facilities being what they were, I don't think I'd want to be the cook! Or a dishwasher for that matter.

    I'd say masquerade is the way to go. Lots of things can happen at a masquerade. I'm thinking of a scene in one of the Candace Hern Merry Widow trilogy books. So hot, I thought the book was burning my fingers!

  36. OK, sounds like Anna and I would be doing the dinner party by ourselves! The rest of you gals would be running around Vauxhall in your masks and dominoes, waiting for the rakes to show up. I'm down with that!

  37. Woot! Hello Vanessa, I have been waiting on this book forevah!

  38. Thanks, Dianna! I hope you enjoy it!

  39. Vanessa, thanks so much for being our guest today!

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by to help celebrate the release of Sex and the Single Earl. Hope you all had fun!

  40. Thanks, PJ! I'm exhausted from all the partying, but it was great!

  41. Congrats Vanessa! Romance is more delicious at a dinner party so that would be my pick. If my "hero" and I can focus on each other more than on the parade of gourmet dishes and desserts, it must be love indeed!