An Excerpt from Miss Spencer Rides Astride

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from my new Regency Romance novel, MISS SPENCER RIDES ASTRIDE. It’s available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble for just 99 cents!

Miss Spencer Rides Astride

“Yer old man’s replacing ye,” Tommy Boxton said with a grin. He forked hay into a wheelbarrow with quick, practiced strokes, all the while fixing Grainne with a mocking leer. “He knows ye’ll soon be married off and be nay good to him no more.”

“Stop that nonsense, Tommy Boxton, or I’ll box you,” Grainne snapped. She slipped into Magyar’s box to check his rug was straight. He greeted her with a nicker and she tried to ignore his affection; he wasn’t her horse any longer. Mr. Lark’s boy would be calling for him in the morning.

“Grainne Maxwell, with a babe on each lug,” Tommy went on. “Missus Maxwell, the lady of Boyle House, counting the eggs in the larder.”

“You’re a dolt,” Grainne said airily, changing tack. There was no reason to counter Tommy’s ceaseless teasing with temper. If it wasn’t her he was harrassing, it was someone else in the yard.

“He might be right though.”

Grainne shut Magyar’s box again and fastened the latch carefully. He was a clever horse; he’d find his way out if she didn’t finish the job properly. Only when she was certain the door was secure did she look up.

Seamus was looking at her with a concerned, fatherly expression. She sighed. The only thing Grainne found more nettlesome than Tommy Boxton’s heckling was Seamus O’Doyle’s paternal worry. For pity’s sake, the man was only a few years older than she!

And not half the rider, she thought privately.

“Father will not be marrying me off without my consent,” she assured him, patting his arm. “That’s not what this is about at all. We’ve needed a new huntsman this year and more. The yard is full, the kennels are bursting, and every meet I swear the old lord is asking for more mounts for his guests. These horses have to be kept in top condition all the time, Seamus. This English fellow is just the thing to help us out. He knows what Kilreilly’s guests are looking for in a mount.”

Seamus didn’t look much comforted. “If you say so, Grainne,” he said worriedly. He put out a brown hand and let Magyar lip at his fingers, sweet with the apples he’d been peeling into the feeds. “But you’re a woman grown, and your father must want you a woman wed, even if you are the finest rider he could ever hope for.”

Grainne lost patience then. “I’m sure that’s none of your concern, Seamus O’Doyle. Now shift yourself and get the saddle on Gretna. I want to take her out for a gallop before it rains again.”

Seamus grinned at her sharp tone and busied himself fetching Grainne’s worn saddle. It wasn’t his job to saddle her horse, but no one in the yard was willing to gainsay Grainne Spencer when she was in a black mood. The girl had a temper, Seamus thought, that would keep that silly soft Maxwell lad on his toes until he tipped them up in sheer exhaustion.

Grainne was not thinking of Edward Maxwell, and if she had been, it would have been with a decided lack of sympathy. A squire so fond of his sheepdogs he might as well marry them, she would have answered, had anyone asked her opinion of their only neighbor of any consequence. But no one ever asked Grainne’s opinion on anything but horses. And since she had so many opinions on horses, and was so eager to share them and so confident in their correctness, no one ever would. Grainne Spencer had a well-deserved reputation as a ruthless, roughshod know-it-all.

But for a rare moment, Grainne was flustered, and only by retiring to check the hind hooves of a young hunter who had recently gone lame could she hide the pink in her milky cheeks. She had felt the heat of those blue eyes on her body. That Mr. Archer… he was a handsome devil, she could tell already. She pressed a calloused thumb against a discolored spot on the sole of the hunter’s hoof and whispered a soothing command to be still when the horse jumped, nearly jerking his hoof from her grasp.

“Hush, love, it’s only a little abscess,” she told him, straightening and letting the horse drop his hoof back to the straw. She went to his head and stroked his neck in long rhythmic sweeps of her palm while he nuzzled at her pockets.

“You are a darling,” she told the horse. “I shall sell you to a young lady and you shall climb into her pockets just like this, yes?” The horse wriggled his nose along her side, tickling her sensitive waist. She pushed at his nose. “Now you stop. You are as lascivious as a man. You are as naughty as…” she thought. “As that Mr. Archer is, I daresay.” Grainne smiled despite herself. “I’m sure he’s a dreadful flirt,” she went on hastily, digging out the boiled sweets that the horse had been rooting for the entire time.

He lipped them from her palm with a velvety muzzle and watched her worshipfully while he crunched them between his teeth, dripping sweet sugary foam from his lips. “He looked at me as if he wanted to undress me,” she whispered to the hunter. “And believe me, I know what that looks like. Len looks at me in such a hungry way every time we meet.”

Len! Her whole body seemed to clench up at the thought of him. His greedy kisses and his roving hands — he was exciting, there was no doubt about that, and he was waiting for her this very moment. She must hurry.

“Seamus!” she bellowed, barrelling out of the stall. “Is Gretna saddled yet?”

“Aye, she is saddled and bridled and waiting here for you.”

“Perfect.” Grainne softened both her tone and her expression as she came out of the stall. “Thank you, Seamus.”

“Will you want a leg-up?”

“Not at all,” she said pleasantly, and, sticking a foot in the stirrup, swung aboard the dark mare as cleanly and quickly as a man.

Everyone thought of her as a man, anyway, she thought grimly, nudging Gretna forward. Everyone except for Len.

And perhaps that terrible Mr. Archer.

Miss Spencer Rides Astride at Amazon

Miss Spencer Rides Astride at Barnes & Noble


Miss Spencer Rides Astride is now available!


Good news! The ebook of MISS SPENCER RIDES ASTRIDE, my new Regency Romance, is now available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Look for it soon from iTunes and Kobo, as well.

Miss Spencer Rides Astride, Romance Novel, Sydney Alexander

Miss Spencer Rides Astride. Isn’t she precious?

MISS SPENCER weds my love for horses and romance with a very special couple, Grainne Spencer and William Archwood. She is the daughter of an Irish Master of Hounds, who spends her days running the yard, riding horses, and basically behaving in a most unladylike fashion. He is the son of an earl, affianced to a woman he can’t bear, and on the run from his name and his fate.

When William Archwood comes to Grainne’s stable as a huntsman, it is with the understanding that he will take over the management of the yard once Grainne has been properly reined in and married off. Grainne is determined, however, that she will never live a boring, “proper” life. And she certainly won’t be married to the local squire, a sheep-obsessed bore whom her father seems to think is the perfect match for his high-spirited daughter.

Grainne has a plan of her own.

William, fascinated by the bold Miss Spencer, can’t resist following her when she rides out alone. But day after day, she simply disappears into the countryside. He can’t figure out where she is going… until he overhears a conversation at the local pub that shocks him into action.

Amongst the green pastures and fine blood-horses of Ireland, Mr. Archer and Miss Spencer must fight against the fates others have planned for them — and the undeniable attraction that has sparked between them.

I’m so excited to share this story with the world. Miss Spencer and Mr. Archer mean a lot to me (as do their horses). This is the first of three books I’m calling “Heroines on Horseback,” to honor their equestrienne leading ladies. The next one is in production now!

And if you’re interested in reviewing a copy of MISS SPENCER for a blog or multiple sales outlets, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Amazon: Miss Spencer Rides Astride for Kindle

Barnes & Noble: Miss Spencer Rides Astride for Nook

Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing

By not listed [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale. Source: Wikipedia Commons

I have been reading through Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing, which luckily is reprinted online through UPenn’s digital library. I was doing a simple search about the precautions taken when member of a household was ill (laying straw on the street below his window, etc.) and of course got completely taken in by this interesting manual. Nightingale has very definite opinions…

On the unfortunate character of female dress:

A nurse who rustles (I am speaking of nurses professional and unprofessional) is the horror of a patient, though perhaps he does not know why.

The fidget of silk and of crinoline, the rattling of keys, the creaking of stays and of shoes, will do a patient more harm than all the medicines in the world will do him good.

The noiseless step of woman, the noiseless drapery of woman, are mere figures of speech in this day. Her skirts (and well if they do not throw down some piece of furniture) will at least brush against every article in the room as she moves.

This was written in 1860, when hoop skirts were at their height — I read a report of a young lady whose fiery death was caused by a crinoline 3 yards across. While professional nurses were generally not allowed to wear hoops, Nightingale’s work was meant for anyone who might find themselves caring for the sick; she begins the work by stating that “all women are nurses.” But even without a six-foot hoop skirt in the way, all those petticoats and yards of fabric were bound to be noisy.

On beef tea, and regular tea, for that matter:

One is the belief that beef tea is the most nutritive of all articles. Now, just try and boil down a lb. of beef into beef tea, evaporate your beef tea, and see what is left of your beef. You will find that there is barely a teaspoonful of solid nourishment to half a pint of water in beef tea,–nevertheless there is a certain reparative quality in it, we do not know what, as there is in tea.

if you consider that the only drop of real nourishment in your patient’s tea is the drop of milk, and how much almost all English patients depend upon their tea, you will see the great importance of not depriving your patient of this drop of milk.

Beef tea and tea, check. What else can you feed your nineteenth century patient when they are ill? Blancmange? That sounds like a nice dish for an invalid,  doesn’t it? Mostly cream, really. And cream…

Cream, in many long chronic diseases, is quite irreplaceable by any other article whatever. It seems to act in the same manner as beef tea, and to most it is much easier of digestion than milk. In fact, it seldom disagrees.

So yes, blancmange. But not too sweet!

For instance, sugar is one of the must nutritive of all articles, being pure carbon, and is particularly recommended in some books. But the vast majority of all patients in England, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, hospital and private, dislike sweet things,–and while I have never known a person take to sweets when he was ill who disliked them when he was well, I have known many fond of them when in health, who in sickness would leave off anything sweet, even to sugar in tea,–sweet puddings, sweet drinks, are their aversion; the furred tongue almost always likes what is sharp or pungent.

So there are a few helpful hints on how to nurse in the nineteenth century. I highly recommend taking a look at the document. It’s not very long, and there are a lot of useful examples of public opinion, medical opinion, and examples of bedside manner, the sorts of questions a doctor might ask a patient, etc., that can come in handy to any historical author.

The Three R’s

Welcome to … by Sydney Alexander, a new blog about writing, romance, and the Regency. (We’ll call them the three R’s!)

I decided to join the romance community after reading historical romances for the past… oh… fifteen years or so. What a world they opened up for me! I was something of a prodigy in European History, if you don’t mind my saying so. I was very knowledgeable about British government, about a thousand years’ worth of battles, wars, and skirmishes, and aced all my geography tests. Plus I knew all about corsets and hemlines and walking gowns and when they invented buttons…

And people call romances trashy!

I absolutely adore Jane Austen, although I can’t quite get into the fanfic, so you probably won’t see me dipping my toes in that water. Austen’s books inhabit the early nineteenth century, which for some reason fascinates me the most of all. I know I’m not alone — there isn’t an entire genre of Regency Romances without good reason. The Regency period is so alluring… I’m going to talk about it a lot here!