Highlighting Historical Romance: Barbara Monajem

I’m not a historian, nor am I am one of those authors who gets caught up in research. I’m more of a flutterer – I learn a bit about this, a bit about that, flit from place to place, get hit by an idea, and work from there. I delve a little deeper into research when necessary, but it rarely grabs me.

The path to writing The Rake’s Irish Lady was a meandering one. While I knew there had been troubles in Ireland for a long time, I didn’t know much about the history until I read a novel by Diana Norman, The Pirate Queen. Much of the story takes place in Ireland during the time of Elizabeth I. For me, it was a harrowing introduction to how the English mistreated (to put it mildly) the Irish.

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17th century walls, Derry

Some years later, I visited friends in Derry in Northern Ireland, who lived there when the Bloody Sunday massacre took place in 1972. I learned a lot from both my friends and from the city itself, and by the time I returned home, I had decided that someday I would write a book that dealt with the conflicting loyalties involved. I think the fact that I have some Irish ancestry, way back, intensified my desire to learn more and to write about it.

Since my historical romances take place in the early 19th century, I did some research by reading The 1798 Rebellion: An Illustrated History. ( http://www.amazon.com/1798-Rebellion-Illustrated-History/dp/1570982554/ ) It’s a fascinating and sometimes horrifying account, and it gave me enough information to make up my own little bit of history that takes place six years later, in England, with a very English hero and a heroine who is half-Irish, half-English—the embodiment of conflicting loyalties.

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The Peace Bridge in Derry

Sounds like a serious topic, doesn’t it? Which it is, but strangely enough, many readers have commented on the funny bits in The Rake’s Irish Lady. Looking back, I realized there’s plenty of light-heartedness in the story, too. It’s a romance, so of course there’s lots about love and a happy ending. I guess I was too caught up in the dark side to notice—even while I was writing it.

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Widowed and lonely, Bridget O’Shaughnessy Black indulges herself in a night of pleasure. After all, she’s in disguise. And the baby girl? An unexpected blessing…until an old flame claims the child as his own to force Bridget to marry him.


Many women pursued Colin Warren, but only one climbed in his bedchamber window. When Bridget does it for the second time, she needs his help. Colin is unfit to be a parent, and yet he has no choice but to acknowledge the little girl.


Together they must solve the mystery of the old flame’s intentions—but can they reconcile their divided loyalties—Irish and English—through the power of love?

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About Barbara Monajem

Winner of the Holt Medallion, Maggie, Daphne du Maurier, Reviewer’s Choice and Epic awards, Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. When they grew up, she turned to writing for grownups, first the Bayou Gavotte paranormal mysteries and then Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa).

Barbara loves to cook, especially soups.There are only two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding and succeed at knitting socks. She may manage the first but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

An Extract

Bridget shoved the window up hard and climbed through, one leg, then her body, then the other leg. The bunched-up skirts of her gown caught on the sill, ripping as she yanked it through. She lost her balance and tumbled to the floor.

“What the bloody hell?” came a voice from the other room.

Ah, well. She’d hoped for a more dignified meeting, but this would have to do. She stood and began calmly untying her skirts. Calmly in appearance, at least; her heart thudded chaotically and her fingers fumbled with the knots.

Colin Warren appeared in the doorway of his bedchamber, a branch of candles in one hand.

Her breath caught, just as it had the first time she’d seen him, several years ago. What was it about him? Certainly, he was a handsome fellow. He had enough charm for ten men and knew his way around the bedchamber. But otherwise he was useless. She shouldn’t be so profoundly affected by him. He stared, bemused and not particularly disturbed, as she got the knots undone and her skirts fell to her ankles where they belonged.

“You’ve got lovely legs, darling,” he drawled, “and it’s kind of you to offer, but I’m not going to take you up on it.”

Conceited ass, thought Bridget, although he doubtless had reason. She smoothed her gown. “I’m not making that sort of offer, Mr. Warren.”

“No?” he said, his eyes going from her to the open window. “Why else would you climb into my bedchamber?”

“Because I have tried every other way I could think of to talk to you, to no avail. My name is Bridget O’Shaughnessy Black.”


“I wrote to you a few weeks ago.” All that got her was a blank stare. “At your estate in Lancashire as well as here.” No response. “About my daughter.”

Finally, a dawning of comprehension. “Ah, yes. You’re claiming I fathered your child.” He cast his eyes heavenward. “I burned your letters. I’m too old to be caught by such a trick.”

“I don’t want your money, Mr. Warren. I said so in my letter.”

“Come now, darling. Every trollop wants money.”

“I am not a trollop,” she said, “and I am willing to recompense you for your trouble, as you would know if you had paid heed to my advertisements in The Times.”

He propped himself against the doorjamb, making the candles flicker. “Which advertisements?”

He’d read the letters but not the newspapers? “In the agony column, to C.W. from Medusa. You can’t possibly have missed them.”

For a long moment he said nothing. His eyes narrowed. At last a half smile curled his lips. “Oh. So that’s who you are.”

At least he remembered her. Being ignored was bad enough, but she’d felt almost ashamed that that one experience had meant so much to her and so little to him.

He flipped a stray lock—he needed a haircut—off his brow. His hair was what had attracted her to him in the first place, all those years ago—a rich, dense brown, unlike her unmanageable, whisper-fine black. And then he’d smiled.

Dimples. What idiot fell for a man because of his dimples? Especially when that smile was for some other woman, and not a respectable one at that. But she’d done it, then and there.

And plotted to get into his bed for just one night. She’d been a widow for months, and she’d missed being bedded. She still missed it, but couldn’t afford any more stupid risks.

“And you’re not here to do it again?” His dimples peeked out. “I find that difficult to believe.”

“I’m here to talk.” She whirled and shut the window, banging it down hard.

“You can’t stay here,” he said. “Women aren’t allowed. If my landlady learns of this, she will toss me out, which would be a dashed nuisance.”

“I shall be happy to leave once we’ve had our discussion,” Bridget said.

He pushed away from the doorjamb and shrugged, a fluid, elegant, utterly indifferent motion. “You’re wasting your time, but if that’s what it’ll take to get rid of you, come in and have your say—but keep your voice down. My man’s asleep in the next room, and the walls to the next lodging aren’t as thick as one might like.”

He led her into the parlor, swept a coat and hat off the sofa, and motioned her to sit. He raised a half-empty decanter. “Wine?”

“Yes, thank you.” There they were, two pages of The Times from last week, containing the columns where she’d advertised. Yesterday’s paper hadn’t been opened yet. Maybe he hadn’t seen that one. She hoped not; she’d stooped, appallingly, to offering him another wild night. She’d come to the point of risking almost anything to foil Martin Fallow.

She glared at the papers. “If you read the advertisements but didn’t intend to reply, why did you keep them?”

He took a glass from a cabinet, dusted it with his shirtsleeve, and poured her some wine. And grinned.

Those dimples—Mother Mary and all the saints, they made her ache. “My man collects them,” he said.

“You mean—many women advertise?”

He smirked. “Oh, yes.”

She wrinkled her nose and took the glass of wine, her mind’s eye conjuring a vision of herself among crowds of women bowing down to this God of Dimples.

“Although they usually ask me to tryst with them in rather more select locations than a tavern in Grub Street.” He sat at the other end of the sofa, shoved the newspapers onto the floor, and propped his stocking feet in their place. “All right then, love. If you’re not here to have your wicked way with me, and you don’t want money, what do you want?”




12 thoughts on “Highlighting Historical Romance: Barbara Monajem

  1. I’ll have to get hold of this one, Barbara, because we’re tracking the same story from different angles. My stories are placed in Ireland, and what fascinates me is the relationships that somehow reached across the Irish-English gulf: love, sometimes, friendship sometimes, even loyalty sometimes. Wish I could claim some Irish ancestors myself–mine are Scots-Irish, the Scots and some English the English planted in Ulster (having cleared out the Irish Catholics) after the culminating battles established Protestantism as the ruling faith. Altogether the wrong side from where my research leads me now!

  2. Loved the excerpt, Barbara, and I can’t wait to delve into the whole book. Speaking of long-standing English/Irish ‘attitudes,’ I always have my college English classes read “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift. True, we look at the rhetorical (argument) structure of it, but the social and cultural insight the essay provides is remarkable.

  3. I’d describe myself as a flutter too with research. Great story, I loved it!

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