American heiress, Consuelo Yznaga

Frances Wynn and the Countess of Harleigh mysteries were inspired in part by the real American heiresses who, between the mid-1870s and around 1910, contracted over 400 transatlantic marriages with British peers. It seemed fitting to introduce some of those heiresses in a series of blog posts and I’d like to start with one of my favorites, Consuelo Yznaga.

Consuelo was the daughter of a wealthy Cuban merchant, and a planter’s daughter who brought their fconsuelo-montagu-duchess-of-manchester-6175f805-a0c8-4ada-9049-61c74a41f2a-resize-750amily from Louisiana to New York after the civil war. During a visit to Saratoga Springs in 1875, Consuelo met 23-year-old George Victor Drogo Montague, Lord Mandeville, son and heir of the Duke of Manchester. He had a less than sterling reputation, but he was a friend of the Prince of Wales and he would one day be a duke. He was also unwell, suffering from a lingering fever, possibly a bought of typhoid. Consuelo’s mother invited him to recuperate at their family home, nursed by Consuelo. Once he recovered, and her father offered a dowry of £200,000, they were engaged.

This was only the second marriage of an American girl to a British peer. The New York newspapers crowed and the Yznagas ignored any rumors they may have heard about the groom’s unsavory reputation.


Caricature by Spy, Vanity Fair

After the wedding, the couple returned to England. With her beauty, wit, and vivacious nature, Consuelo took London by storm. Though her high spirits, cigar smoking, and banjo playing shocked some of the more proper members of society, she was a favorite of the fashionable set and the Prince of Wales. Unfortunately, her charms did not help her marriage. Mandeville had earned his reputation. He spent his wife’s dowry on his mistress and gambling, racking up large debts. The Duke sent them to Ireland in the hope of curbing his son’s spendthrift ways. They also spent some time with Consuelo’s old friend, Alva Vanderbilt, but nothing could keep their debt from mounting.


By 1890, when Mandeville inherited the Dukedom, the couple rarely even saw one another. Consuelo was still a favorite in society an used her connections to sponsor other American heiresses, even after her husband died two years later. Sadly, the 9th Duke of Manchester was no better with finances than his father and had to seek his own heiress.

If you’re interested in learning more about Consuelo, you might enjoy the following books:
In a Gilded Cage: From Heiress to Duchess by Marion Fowler
The Husband Hunters by Anne de Courcy
And of course, the character of Conchita Closson in Edith Wharton’s The Buccaneers was based on Consuelo.

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A great time at Left Coast Crime

Just back from the Left Coast Crime conference in Vancouver. What a wonderful city and a great conference! I’ve attended lots of writers’ conferences in the past, but like Bouchercon and Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime is more of reader/author mixer and every minute is filled with bookish activities and events. There are author panels that range from informative to entertaining, interviews with notable guests of honor, a new

Sex panel

The Sex Panel was so funny!

author breakfast, where you can hear about your next favorite book, author speed dating, where authors come to your table in short increments to tell you about their books, and free books! I picked up Paddy Hirsch’s new novel that I’ve been dying to read.

Of course, you don’t have toVancouver waterfront attend every event. This is also a chance to meet in person people you’ve only interacted with online, meet authors you admire, or meet new friends. We’re all there to celebrate our shared love of books after all. And because both authors and readers aren’t often extroverts, there’s time to break away now and then to explore the host city. Left Coast Crime is in a new city every year. Next year, San Diego!

As I’m somewhat introverted, I’m always a nervous wreck when IDi wave anticipate speaking in front of a crowd, but I managed to get through the New Author Breakfast without blathering and the Lefty Debut Nominee panel with Tracy Clark, A.J. Devlin, Keenan Powell, and J.G. Toews was so much fun! I’m thrilled to say my novel, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, won the Lefty for best debut mystery. I was so overwhelmed when I went up onstage to accept, I had no time to be nervous. I also have no idea what I said!

Have you ever been to Left Coast, Bouchercon, or Malice Domestic? How did you like it?

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Research Material is Everywhere!

I have a lot of friends and family who claim to hate history.

cat shockedI don’t believe them.

Okay, maybe they hated studying history. Depending on how it’s presented, it can be dry or just a succession of dates to be memorized. Maybe there are certain eras in history they dislike. I can understand that too. But I don’t believe they hate history because each one has provided me with a wealth of historical information I might never have found elsewhere.

Yes, one of those history haters eyes lit up when he regaled me with the details of fishing, line dating back to the first person to ever try an alternative to bare-handed fishing. Before my eyes glazed over, I learned everything I needed to know about braided fishing line in the 19th century—and the 18th century, and the 17th century. The thing is, he doesn’t consider himself a historian, he just loves to fish and every time he had a chance to learn something about his hobby, he did. Victorian hunting costume male

I don’t know how much time I might have wasted researching Victorian hunting parties if one of my history-hating hobbyist friends hadn’t informed me that when someone is hunting birds, it is not called hunting, but shooting. Thus, I needed to research Victorian shooting parties. Since he knew that, I took a chance and asked if he’d ever been part of a shooting party. Jackpot! I got a first-hand account of a traditional shoot. I know this because once I was armed with the proper terminology, I was able to do the follow-up research. I had similar experiences talking with friends about archery and golf.

By now, you should have the idea I know nothing about sports, and you’d be right. However, my third Countess of Harleigh mystery, A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder, takes place at a country house party, where sporting activity abounds. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by people who, while they might hate history, (I still don’t believe them) they know the history of their sport inside and out.

Book three won’t release until 2020, but in the meantime you can enjoy A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, and in June 2019, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder.

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A Very Late Post

I completely missed the month of February on my blog. In part, because I was very busy and in part, because I was very busy celebrating. Both are good things—just not for my blog.

The second half of 2018 had me doing quite a bit of juggling—writing book three, copy edits and page proofs for book two, and marketing book one along with my regular life. The result was that I was way behind on book three. With only two months left before I had to submit the manuscript, it needed another thorough edit. So in February I planted myself in front of my laptop and got to work.

Then the nominations came out for the Lefty Awards and A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder was nominated for best debut novel! I couldn’t believe it! I celebrated, then immediately made arrangements to go to the Left Coast Crime Conference in Vancouver (March 28th – 31st). If you’re going, come say hi! I’ll be at the Debut Author Breakfast Friday morning from 7:30 to 8:30, and on the Debut Nominee Panel from 1:30 – 2:15. Fellow nominee, Tracy Clark and I will be hosting a table at the banquet Saturday night and we’d love to have you join us. Otherwise, I’ll be haunting the bookroom and lobby and enjoying the other panels! VancouverBanner

I got back to work and was moving right along when I heard A Lady’s Guide had made the short list for the Mary Higgins-Clark award! This was incredible! I love Mary Higgins-Clark. I met her at a writers’ conference in 1993 and was awed by how gracious and down to earth she was. It’s such a thrill to be nominated for this award. Of course, I celebrated.

Responsible as ever, I got back to work again, but I hadn’t quite finished this revision when I heard the announcement of the Agatha Award nominees. This time I figured I must be dreaming when A Lady’s Guide was nominated for Best Debut! Sadly, I have a conflict that will keep me from attending the Malice Domestic Conference, but I’m tickled to be nominated! Agatha pic

Meanwhile, I am also gearing up for a newsletter. I am not particularly techy, so working with Mail Chimp and putting a subscribe link on my website (you will notice there’s a pop-up now) did not come naturally to me.

Eventually, I managed the technical stuff, the nomination announcements ended, and I actually finished my revision, but that didn’t happen until last week. I still have a few tweaks to make before I send it to my editor, but I have to say I’m very happy with it and I can’t wait to share it with you!



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This is fun–out of the blue, my publisher sent me four copies of the audio book for A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder! So I’m giving them away! Here’s what you can do to win one:

Follow this link to add A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder to ygiveaway picour shelf on Goodreads. Then let me know in a comment here, or on my Author Facebook page that you want to be in the drawing. That’s it! Do you already have book two on your ‘want to read’ shelf? Thank you! Just let me know that in a comment here or on Facebook, and I’ll enter you in the drawing. Don’t have a Goodreads account? Just follow my FB Author page and leave a comment that you want to be in the drawing. Due to shipping costs, this drawing is for US residents only. (Sorry) I’ll keep it open through Monday, January 21st, and draw four winners on Tuesday, January 22nd. Good luck!

A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is the second in the Countess of Harleigh mystery series. Here’s a little bit about the book:

How far will some go to safeguard a secret? In the latest novel in Dianne Freeman’s witty and delightful historical mystery series, the adventurous Countess Harleigh finds out . . .

Though American by birth, Frances Wynn, the now-widowed Countess of Harleigh, has adapted admirably to the quirks and traditions of the British aristocracy. On August twelfth each year, otherwise known as the Glorious Twelfth, most members of the upper class retire to their country estates for grouse-shooting season. Frances has little interest in hunting—for birds or a second husband—and is expecting to spend a quiet few months in London with her almost-engaged sister, Lily, until the throng returns.

Instead, she’s immersed in a shocking mystery when a friend, Mary Archer, is found murdered. Frances had hoped Mary might make a suitable bride for her cousin, Charles, but their courtship recently fizzled out. Unfortunately, this puts Charles in the spotlight—along with dozens of others. It seems Mary had countless notes hidden in her home, detailing the private indiscretions of society’s elite. Frances can hardly believe that the genteel and genial Mary was a blackmailer, yet why else would she horde such juicy tidbits?

Aided by her gallant friend and neighbor, George Hazelton, Frances begins assisting the police in this highly sensitive case, learning more about her peers than she ever wished to know. Too many suspects may be worse than none at all—but even more worrying is that the number of victims is increasing too. And unless Frances takes care, she’ll soon find herself among them.

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A Year of Wonder and Gratitude

Happy New YearWith the launch of my debut novel, 2018 was an incredible year for me. Publishing a book comes with the privilege of writing acknowledgements; thanking those people who helped see the book through to fruition. But I wrote them so early in the process, I had no idea how many people would be there to help with promotions, marketing, support, advice, and kind words though the launch and beyond. So, this is an addendum to my acknowledgements for A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder.

Thanks to my friends and family who traveled a minimum of 30 minutes through Michigan road construction—some coming from across the state—to spend a beautiful, summer afternoon indoors, to listen to me speak, yet again, about my book. You made my launch party an experience I’ll never forget!

Thanks to Robin Agnew for taking a chance on a brand-new author and letting me hold my launch party at Aunt Agatha’s Mystery Bookshop. And thanks to Sarah Zettel for recommending A Lady’s Guide to Robin.

Thanks to my new friends and fellow debut authors at Authors ’18. From celebrating one another’s achievements to crying on one another’s shoulders, to promoting one another’s work, this group was proof I wasn’t alone in either my triumphs or travails. I’ll keep cheering for you through 2019 and beyond!

Thanks to fellow writers and bloggers who allowed, or invited me, to guest post on their (much larger) platforms. To those who interviewed me or provided content for my blog by allowing me to interview them.

Thanks to reviewers and readers who found enjoyment in A Lady’s Guide and were kind enough to share their thoughts on Goodreads, Bookbub, and elsewhere across social media, and even directly with me. The reason writers write is to connect with readers and hearing that I have, just makes my day.

Thanks to the man pictured above; my husband, Dan for sharing this experience with me. 2018 truly was an incredible year. I hope I’ll always look back on it with the wonder and gratitude I feel now.

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Interview with Carol Potenza, author of Hearts of the Missing

Carol Potenza is the author of the 2017 Tony Hillerman Prize winning novel, Hearts of the Missing. I recently had a chance to talk with her about writing thiHearts of the Missing_cover photos story.

Here’s a bit about the book:
When a young woman linked to a list of missing Fire-Sky tribal members commits suicide, Pueblo Police Sergeant Nicky Matthews is assigned to the case. As the evidence leads her to a shocking discovery, she uncovers not only murder but an ominous, vengeful twist that strikes at the very core of what it means to be a member of the Fire-Sky People. With an intimate knowledge of Fire-Sky customs and traditions, the killer ensures the spirits of those targeted will wander lost forever. As Nicky closes in on the murderer, those closest to her are put in jeopardy. She realizes she must be willing to sacrifice everything–her career, her life, and even her soul–to save the people she is sworn to protect.

DF: First things first; how did you come up with the idea for Hearts of the Missing?
CP: From ‘visions’ and ghost stories told by my family members (all true!) and a Zuni petit point coral necklace with a four chambered center, like a heart. The stories are from actual experiences my relatives have had which fascinated me because I’ve never seen anything supernatural in my life. When I lost a stone from the necklace around the same time a close relative passed away, I wrote a short story to explain how the loss of the stone was linked to the death or disappearance of a loved one. The idea for the book grew from this.

DF: How long did it take to write the book?
CP: I started it in January of the year before it was selected as the Tony Hillerman Prize in March of 2017. It took me about six months to write and six months to edit to the manuscript I sent into the Prize on January 4, 2017. During that time, I pitched it to another publisher who asked for a full, but rejected it. After it was selected, the St. Martin’s Press editor gave me some edits that made the story about a million times better. It took 18 months from the time it was chosen to publication December 4, 2018.

DF: What kind of research did you do?
CP: I have ‘sources’ on pueblos here in New Mexico that were/are invaluable for questions about the police procedural processes. I did ride-alongs and visited museums and fiestas on Native American Pueblos. I traveled to Native American ruins, talked to members of different tribes in New Mexico, visited mesas, deserts, plains, rivers, forests so I could describe the scenery. And for the science, I learned it from in-depth reading of the literature and talking to doctors and nurses. And of course, Google was/is my best source. I’ve been to some pretty dark and distant places on the internet.

DF: Do you do a lot of plotting or are you a pantser?
CP: I plot in my head, but pants on the page. I always know the beginning, the science, the crime, and the ghost story. I start writing, figure out the end, then write toward it. Sometimes there seems to be an insurmountable chasm to cross, but so far, I’ve been able to build that bridge.

DF: Do you have a favorite part of the writing process?
CP: Twisting the paths of the subplots together until they form the road my protagonist, Nicky, is running down to the finish. That road is actually an arroyo that’s hard to climb out of, and, by the end, a metaphorical flash flood is chasing her, poor thing.

DF: Do you have a favorite book that influenced your writing?
CP: It wasn’t so much a book, but books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I love their innovation, their twisted plots, the science they layer through their work, and the suspense and action that run like a train in all their stories. I literally always learn a new vocabulary word when I read their books. In some small way, I wanted to write like them.

DF: What are you working on now?
CP: I’m editing the second Nicky Matthews book in the series, writing the third, and researching the fourth. Keeps me busy.

Here’s a little baCarol Potenzackground on Carol Potenza, where you can connect with her on social media, and where you can purchase Hearts of the Missing.

Carol Potenza is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at New Mexico State University. She and her husband, Leos, live in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Hearts of the Missing, her debut novel, is the winner of the 2017 Tony Hillerman Prize. You can find her at her website, FaceBook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

You can purchase Hearts of the Missing at these retailers: Amazon:
Barnes and Noble:

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Review of The Frame-Up and Interview with Meghan Scott Molin

Meghan Scott Molin’s debut novel, The Frame-up releases today! I had the opportunity to read an advance copy and interview Meghan, so on my blog today I have both a review and interview.

The Frame-Up (my ranking—5 Stars!)theframeupcover
What a fun book! A clever mystery combined with a rom-com, The Frame-Up ticked all my boxes for a satisfying read–a witty, relatable sleuth, quirky secondary characters, interesting setting, rapid pace, mystery, and mayhem! I know nothing about the comic-con culture and it doesn’t matter. If you like mystery, fun, and light romance, read this book!

DF: Hi Meghan, thanks for visiting today! The Frame-Up was such a unique and entertaining story. How did you come up with the idea?
MSM: As cliché as it sounds, I had a dream about my best friend directing a squad of Drag Queen models through San Diego Comic Con to catch a killer. I woke up (literally) laughing out loud, told my husband and we both agreed I needed to write it down. It evolved into a story in my head, and BOOM. MG Martin et al were born!

DF: I really loved the protagonist, MG and her witty/snarky asides. Do you have a favorite character from the book?
MSM: Lawrence is my favorite. I identify with his love of Broadway show tunes, and his love of sequins! He’s such a complex and layered character, he’s been a ton of fun to write.

DF: Lawrence is pretty fantastic, in fact your secondary characters are all colorful. Are any based on real people in your life?
MSM: Wellllll…MG bears a physical and nerdy resemblance to one of my best friends, but is sort of an amalgamation of all the nerdy women I know. MAYBE one of the bad guys is modeled after someone who did a friend wrong, but I’m not telling, hahaha.

DF: This is your debut novel. Can you share with us how it all came together?
MSM: I started this book in March of 2016. By August I’d finished it and queried a small sample of agents with several R+Rs… I entered #pitchwars in August of 2016 and the rest is history! I re-wrote it for #pitchwars, and then again for my agent before sub. I think after editing for my publisher, this book has gone through at least 5 major revisions!

DF: Well, I definitely enjoyed the finished product! What’s next for you?
MSM: I am wrapping up edits on Book 2 for my editor and plotting Book 3!meghanscottmolin

Good to hear there will be more! Here’s a little background about Meghan, how to connect with her on social media, and how to buy The Frame-UP! Plus, a giveaway!

Meghan Scott Molin loves all kinds of storytelling. After studying architecture and opera at college, she worked as a barn manager before becoming a professional photographer. The Frame-Up is her first published book. An avid lover of all the nerd things—Star Wars, Star Trek, hobbits, Doctor Who, and more—Meghan also enjoys cooking, dreaming of travel, coveting more corgis, and listening to audiobooks in the barn. She lives in Colorado with her husband (and fellow zookeeper), her sons, two horses, a cat, and a rambunctious corgi. For more information about Meghan, visit her website at or follow her on Twitter (@megfuzzle), FaceBook, or Instagram.

Purchase the Frame-Up

And here’s the giveaway! (Link to Giveaway on FaceBook)

BOOK BIRTHDAY GIVEAWAY! To celebrate THE FRAME-UP’s official book birthday, I’m giving away a signed/annotated (with neat stories and notes inside the book!) hardcover AND a super sweet WW tin lunchbox that is packed (packed!) with nerdy things that MG would love. It’s like she packed it herself! You have to “like” my author page, like the post, and share it to enter from facebook! You also get an entry if you like/retweet my twitter post (@megfuzzle) or my IG post! (@meghanscottmolinauthor). Contest ends December 6!

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Suanne Schafer and A Different Kind of Fire

I recently had an opportunity to talk with Suanne Schafer whose historical fiction novel, A Different Kind of Fire, released this month. I just finished reading it and found the book very difficult to put down.
A Different Kind of Fire is the story of Ruby Schmidt. Torn between her childhood sweetheart, her forbidden passion for another woman, the nobleman she had to marry, and her dreamADKOF copy of becoming a painter, her choices mold her in ways she could never have foreseen. A woman who doesn’t belong in 19th century America, finds herself as she—and our country—move into the 20th.

DF How did you come up with the idea for this story?
SS For years I’d wanted to write my paternal grandparents’ love story. Once I started, though, I realized that I wanted more than a family history, and the book morphed into a herstory, with a more feminist view of the 1890s. The American Gilded Age was such an exciting time for women with suffragettes, the Free Love movement, and a woman running for President of the United States. I wanted my heroine to experience that first-wave feminism while walking a tight-rope balancing her career with home and family.

DF Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?
SS Bismarck, Ruby, and d’Este are based on family members but highly fictionalized. Some of the artists and other folks Ruby interacts with are real, but her interactions with them are, of course, straight out of my imagination.

DF I know from experience historical fiction can take quite a bit of research. What kind of research did you do for this novel?
SS The storyline obviously came from my own experiences, but I did extensive research on Buffalo Bill, the Panic of 1893, 19th century artists and academic painting, mixing pigments from scratch, Winsor & Newton art supplies, boarding houses for women, clothing, suffragettes, the Free Love movement, and women’s legal rights.

DF This isn’t a romance but it’s definitely about love. Can you talk about that?
SS A Different Kind of Fire is a love story on many levels, full of love triangles such as Ruby-Bismarck-d’Este and Ruby-Bismarck-d’Este and Ruby-Willow-Bismarck. If you add Ruby’s passion for art, these become love quadrangles and pentagons, all sides continually being skewed by strains between the people involved and art. Desire and passion are recurrent themes and a powerful force within Ruby: desire for art, desire for place (her connection to the land), desire for solitude, and passion for both her male and female lovers.

DF Your writing style feels similar to your description of Ruby’s painting style. You don’t soften or romanticize her world. Your writing is straightforward and realistic. Was that intentional? Is there some of you in Ruby Louise?
SS I can’t say I “planned” to write in a particular style for Ruby. That is just the way I write, rather lean and to the point. (I talk to patients the same way, no sugar-coating lab results, etc.) One of my Stanford professors compared my work to that of Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx—high praise indeed. Another said my prose was both laconic and elegant. I did feel somewhat constrained by the vocabulary of the 1890s. I’m not sure there’s much of me in Ruby (although I was talented enough artistically that my family thought I should follow in my grandmother’s artistic footsteps). I became a photographer instead and later switched to medicine, going to medical school at age 39.

DF Photography sounds like the perfect compliment to your writing style. In A Different Kind of Fire, you capture the essence of a woman of Ruby’s day, following her passions.

Suanne Schafer, born in West Texas at the height of the Cold War, finds it ironic that grade schsuanne_schafer-3264_ppool drills for tornadoes and nuclear war were the same: hide beneath your desk and kiss your rear-end goodbye. Now a retired family-practice physician whose only child has fledged the nest, her pioneer ancestors and world travels fuel her imagination. She’d originally planned to write romances, but either as a consequence of a series of failed relationships or a genetic distrust of happily ever-after, her heroines are strong women who battle tough environments and intersect with men who might—or might not—love them.

Contact Suanne:


Purchase A Different Kind of Fire



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Kensington Cozy Con at The Poisoned Pen

The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ is a mystery lover’s dream come true! The staff is helpful and knowledgeable and full of great suggestions. But the best part of the Poisoned Pen experience is all the mystery authors who come to the store to meet their fans and have a chat with Barbra Peters, the owner. However large or small the audience, Ms. Peters has a way of making us feel like a group of good friends.

Aside from the thrill of a close encounter with some of your favorite authors, it’s also a great place to meet new ones. I’ve read more mysteries than I can count, most of them historical, but I’d still never heard of Charles Finch untipoisoned-penl he stopped in at the Pen after the release of his fourth book. He’s now one of my favorite authors.

Sometime authors stay long enough to run a workshop for local writers. I’ve learned about plotting from Jane Cleland and my mantra; “every word matters” from Michael Koryta.

By now you should be getting the idea that The Poisoned Pen is a pretty big deal to me. I’ve been visiting the store for years and I love it, which is why I’m so excited that I’ll actually be one of the authors at the Kensington Mini Cozy Con at the Poisoned Pen on Saturday, November 3rd. I’ll be there with Tamara Berry, Lynn Cahoon, JC Easton, Jessica Ellicott, Cheryl Hollon, JR Ripley, Kim Roberts, and Rosemary Simpson! We’ll all be there from 1:00 – 5:00. Come and chat with us!

Find out more about the event here.

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