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Monday, August 15, 2011


One standard haunt of the Regency hero is his club. He often dines there. He definitely drinks and hangs out with his cronies there. He may even get into an altercation with the villain at one of these establishments. During the Regency period, a great number of gentleman's clubs existed, from the Sublime Society of Beefsteaks to better known establishments such as Boodle's or Brooks's.

The best known of all was White's. Founded in the late 1600s, it was originally established as a hot chocolate emporium. By the 18th century it had turned into a gambling house. One of its famous features is its bow window, where only the most exclusive members might claim a table.

White's - Regency Men's Club
Bow window for privileged at center 

The other famous feature of this club was its betting book. On its pages, members would wager on anything they could dream up. This might include which members of the aristocracy were most likely to marry, the outcome on the ongoing war with Napoleon, or sports. Here is a sampling:

Mr. Greville bets Lord Clanwilliam ten guineas, that Lord Stewart will be married to Lady F. Vane in six months.—June 18, 1818 [Clanwilliam paid].

Mr. Mills bets Lieutenant General Mackenzie a pony, that Lord Stewart goes to Vienna before he marries Lady Frances Vane. [Mills paid].

Lientenant-General Mackenzie bets Lord Yarmouth sixty guineas to fifty, that the Duke of Cambridge has a child before the Duke of Clarence.

Lord Sefton bets Sir Joseph Copley fifty guineas, that Lisbon and Cadiz will be in Buonaparte’s possession on or before the first of April next.—Jan. 17, 1809 [Copley paid.]

Some of the wagers were ridiculous. Lord Alvanley, of the privileged inner circle who was admitted to the bow window, is said to have once bet a friend £3,000 on a raindrop.

I took inspiration from this frivolous bet in the opening chapter of my Regency A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. My novel opens with the hero about to wager against his best friend on something ridiculous when he learns, through the reading of the betting book, that something even more serious might be about to occur. Here's an excerpt:

William Battencliffe wagers five thousand pounds that Miss Julia St. Claire will become the next Countess of Clivesden.

Benedict Revelstoke reread the lines in White's infamous betting book. What the devil? His fingers constricted about the quill, just shy of crushing it. Right. He'd been about to lay a wager. Some idiocy, no doubt—hardly worth the bother now.

The book's most recent inscription, scrawled in such a casual hand for all the world to see, had quite driven the notion from his mind. In gold ink, no less. How fitting. Gold ink for Battencliffe, the ton's golden boy.

Upperton, his oldest friend, nudged him. "What's the matter? Your feet coming over icy all the sudden?"

Lead blocks would be more accurate, but Benedict was not about to admit to that. He laid the quill aside and jabbed a finger at the heavy vellum page. "Have you seen this?"

The page darkened as Upperton peered over his shoulder. "Clivesden? Thought he was married. And what's Miss Julia got to do with any of this?"

"I've no idea, but I intend to find out." He released a breath between clenched teeth. "Appalling how so-called gentlemen will lay bets on young ladies of good reputation."

Ignoring the jibe, Benedict turned on his heel and strode down the steps to the pavement. A glance at his pocket watch told him it was ten minutes past eleven, still early by the ton's standards. That was something. At least he knew where he'd find Julia at such an hour.

He sighed at the prospect of dodging a passel of marriage-minded misses. He'd be damned before he let some idiot besmirch her reputation.

Ashlyn Macnamara

Ashlyn Macnamara's Regency romance, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, a retelling of Sense and Sensibility—only with more love scenes, was a finalist in the 2011 Golden Heart® contest for unpublished manuscripts. It has since sold to Ballantine-Bantam-Dell and will hit bookshelves in early 2013.

Congratulations on your sale and release date, Ashlyn. Perhaps you'll come back nearer the publication's release for another look at A TALE OF TWO SISTERS.


Jenn Stark said...

Ashlyn, your book sounds absolutely marvelous! I'm a huge Regency fan and just now getting into some of the history of it. How did you fall in love with the time period, and what was your biggest surprise about the era?


Anonymous said...


I'm already hooked! I can't wait to read your book when it is released.

How did you find information about the betting book? Is it on display somewhere?

Congratulations on finaling in the 2011 Golden Heart. Wishing you many, many sales! :)

Nancy said...

Ashlyn, what a fun post! I love these sorts of historical details.

Your book sounds like a blast. Congratulations again on your sale, and good luck!

Linda Avellar said...

Love the details Ashlyn - fascinating! Can't wait to read the book.

Jen McQuiston said...

Wow, now HOW long do I have to wait to read it in its entirety???? Not fair!

Ashlyn Macnamara said...

Aw, thanks, everyone for your comments. I'm going to try to reply to everyone in a mega-comment here.

@Jenn: I'm more of a historical fan than a fan of any one given period. I've read a ton of Regencies, because that's a good chunk of what historicals get published, but I also love a variety. My other MSs were mostly set in Colonial America. When I got the idea for this story, though, it didn't want to be anything other than a Regency. I tried to set it in Colonial Williamsburg, but it just didn't want to go there.

@jsnichols: I got those sample bets from a website Regency research website:

@Nancy, Linda and Jen: thank you all. I know it seems a horribly long way off. I think when I get my edits (because I don't have them yet), I'll be happy the release is far in the future. One of the reasons it's so far off, though, is to give me time to write the second book in the series so they can be released close together. So you have to wait now, but you won't have to wait so long between installments.

Thanks for dropping by!

Abigail Sharpe said...

Ashlyn, I love it! I already have a crush on the hero. :)

Anonymous said...

Love it! I'm not a Regency reader but I can already tell I'm going to LOVE this! Sounds like a wonderful story!

Anonymous said...

Loved learning more about Whites! Loved the excerpt!! Can't wait to see it in print!

Arlene Hittle said...

Ashlyn, you just hooked me! Historicals are my second-fave read, right behind romantic comedy. Can't wait to read more of your story.

Angelyn said...

This is a great opening. Very authentic and believable! Can't wait to get the book when it comes out...

Ashlyn Macnamara said...

@Abigayle: Thanks! I developed a crush on the hero's friend while I was writing this. He's the hero of the second book.

@carla: Better watch what you say, or Queen Valerie will sit you in a chair and force you to read Regency. I hope it lives up to your expectations.

@Tess: thanks for stopping by! Glad you liked it.

@Arlene: I don't think it's possible for me to write and not include some humor. I hope to deliver a few laughs in with the history.

@Angelyn: I hope you enjoy when it comes out!

Thanks, everyone, for the comments.

Valerie Bowman said...

Love lovey love the betting book at White's! And your excerpt is fab, Ash!

Josie said...

Thanks for your excerpt. Your writing is wonderful!
Sincere congrats on your sales.

Pamala Knight said...

Thanks for sharing the excelent excerpt and for the insight into the Regency gentlemen's clubs. Can't wait for your release!

Ashlyn Macnamara said...

Thanks to Valerie, Josie and Pamala for stopping by!

Next time I do this, I hope to have something to give away. Aren't freebies great?

Sandy L. Rowland said...

I am hooked.
Love it!
Their gambling stakes tells you how very bored and rich some of these men were.
It made me smile.

Lynn said...

Ash - what a great picture. I can see where you got your inspiration.

I love taking picture/seeing old buildings. All about the what could be... or what has been.

Good luck with your release! Lynn

Lori M. Lee said...

Wow, intriguing information and what a great opening! When can we buy it? :D

Ashlyn Macnamara said...

*Waves to Sandy and Lynn* Thanks for dropping by.

@Lori: my book isn't coming out until early 2013. Bit of a wait yet.

Sharla Rae said...

I love the history of all sorts and this is fun even though I'm a Western fan. :)