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Interview with Regan Walker, Author of The Holly and The Thistle

The Holly & the Thistle
Tell us a little about your current release.

The latest is a short story for Christmas: The Holly & The Thistle,  set in London in 1818 and includes a lot of the Regency Christmastide traditions, so I tell people you can spend Christmas in Regency London and fall in love with a Highlander. The name comes from the English heroine (“the holly”) and the hero, a handsome Scot (“the thistle). I’m delighted that The Holly & The Thistle is #27 in Amazon’s top 100 anthologies (short stories)


A chance meeting at Berry’s wine shop, a misunderstanding and Christmastide all come together to allow the most handsome Scot in London to give Lady Emily Picton the best Christmas gift she’s ever had: a marriage not of convenience, but of love.

What inspired this story?

It was Berry Brothers’ wine shop that led me to the first scenes. Berry Bros. & Rudd has been in existence and at the same location—3 St. James Street—since the 17th century. During the Regency, it was a very active place. So that is where my hero and heroine meet on one very rainy London day.

What are you working on now? Do you have any releases scheduled for this year?

I just turned in the second book in my Agents of the Crown trilogy, AGAINST THE WIND. (My editor is working on it now, so it should be out by early 2013.) And, I’ve started book 3, WIND RAVEN, which takes place on a schooner and in the Caribbean, where, it turns out, pirates lurked even in 1817!

How do you come up with ideas?

Well, typically a scene or a character comes to me. For example, in my first novel, RACING WITH THE WIND, it was the character Lady Mary Campbell. I believe that women in past times were no different in character, hopes and dreams than women are today. There have always been women who are happy to conform to the expectations of their times and there have always been women who did not. Perhaps because of their intelligence and curiosity, those who do not conform become bored with the role carved out for their sex and so they push the envelope of what is acceptable. I wanted to take a woman like that and look at her through the lens of Regency England. What would she do differently than the women of her age?

While Regency England (the period from 1811-1820), was characterized by a Prince Regent who lived a debauched lifestyle where courtesans might have been treated better than the wives of arranged marriages, still a young lady of the nobility would be raised in a certain manner with certain expectations of proper behavior. My heroine is one of those but she will rebel. She will ride astride in men’s clothes, she will be educated and read the classics, and she will be adventure seeking. So armed with that information, I went looking for history that would make for an interesting setting. And I found it in Paris in 1816.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love getting lost in the history. I research at the beginning of the story, of course, but I am also researching smaller points all the way through. I am constantly learning. My historical romances are all steeped in the history of the time. History to me is not background wallpaper but a real character in my stories.

Do you have a favorite hero and/or heroine in your books and why?

My favorite hero would be either Hugh Redgrave, the Marquess of Ormond from RACING WITH THE WIND, or William Stephen, the Scot from THE HOLLY & THE THISTLE. Both are men who are very sure of themselves, alpha males and constant, honorable men. The kind we’d all like to meet. And my favorite heroine would be a toss up between Lady Mary Campbell from RACING and Tara from WIND RAVEN (though I’m still writing her!). Both Mary and Tara are strong, intelligent women who want more from life than the typical route for ladies in the Regency would offer. Only a stronger, secure man could handle them—and that is just what they find!

What do you like to read?

When I read for pleasure, I read mostly historical romance, though there are a few paranormal romance authors I follow and some ask me to review their books. I have a review blog I started before I ever considered becoming an author and I keep it up today. It’s Regan’s Romance Reviews and features reviews, “best” lists, favorite authors as guests and articles related to the subgenre I’m reading. I like providing a service to readers who share my passion for historical romance.

Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

My mother…at age 4. (She read 4-5 books a week.) Every Saturday morning we made a trip to the library for more books. By the time I hit first grade, I could read well, and by age 8 I had read out the fairy tale section of our library. I never looked back. I’m an avid reader today.


London, December 1818

Lady Emily Picton hurried along St. James Street, drawing her cloak tightly around her and tugging her bonnet down against the driving rain. Hoping no one would recognize her in the downpour, she’d sent her carriage on ahead to the next stop. Ever in a hurry, she’d made the unusual decision of going to Berry’s wine shop alone.

A glance down showed her half boots splashing mud onto the bottom of her cloak. She shrugged. No matter the mud, she must persist if she was to procure a bottle of the Dowager Countess of Claremont’s favorite Madeira. She always brought a bottle of the Portuguese wine to the countess’s dinners, and she would not disappoint the old dear tonight, even if the countess was engaged, once again, in unwanted matchmaking efforts on her behalf.

A speeding carriage lurched toward Emily, splashing dirty water onto her cloak. She stumbled sideways in an effort to avoid the vehicle’s wheels but only received another volley of mud for her effort, this time onto her face.

“Argh!” She gasped, wiping the cold brown liquid out of her eyes with her gloved hand. As she struggled to recover, her foot caught on the edge of her cloak and she tumbled to the ground, landing hard on her hip. St. James would have to be one of the streets in London with pavement. Her bonnet, dislodged in the fall, sagged to one side of her face. In a rare fit of temper, Emily ripped it from her head, dragging pins from her hair. The bonnet sank into the same puddle from which she now labored to rise. The day had turned disastrous.

“Are you all right, ma’am?” a portly gentleman said as he stopped to assist her. She took his offered hand with her muddied glove and rose. Reaching for his handkerchief, he wiped the grimy liquid from his hands then offered her the cloth.

“Thank you, yes,” she said with a sigh, accepting the handkerchief and using it to scrape mud from her kid gloves. She handed it back. “I’ll be fine. Just a bit tousled.” That was putting the cap on the donkey, but she’d spare the kind stranger the details. She could already feel a bruise forming on her hip.

He picked up her mud-soaked bonnet and handed it to her with a sympathetic look. “Your bonnet seems a loss, I’m sorry to say.”

“I do agree, sir.” Stuffing it into the pocket of her cloak, heavy with the filthy water of the street, she thanked him, bade him good day and walked on in the rain, now at a slower pace, toward George Berry’s wine shop.

A most disastrous day, indeed.

* * *

“Egads! What a deluge!” William Stephen exclaimed as he stepped into Berry’s wine merchants. There was only a hint of a burr in his words; his years at Cambridge had allowed him to drop it when he was not among his fellow Scots.

As he brushed the rain from his shoulders, the smell of coffee and spices rose to greet his nostrils. He inhaled deeply of the rich aroma, a small but welcome consolation for his troubles. Today’s weather could compete with any rain in Dundee. Rain or no, he was determined to have a drink of the best cognac he could procure before he forced himself to endure the Dowager Countess of Claremont’s Christmas affair. There, he suspected, would be a bevy of English maidens looking to snag a wealthy husband.

Not for the first time he wondered why he had allowed his father to talk him into spending the holidays in London. His father hated the English. London was populated by the English. Though William called some Englishmen friends and even did business with their government, on the whole he considered the English a plague on the Scots people. Still, his father had mentioned he approved of William’s friend Lord Ormond whose family owned lands in Scotland, and when his father mumbled something about fate, William had decided it would be good to see his friend after all.

A young clerk looked up from the wooden counter where he was dusting bottles that would likely soon be filled with wine. “Can I help you, sir?”

“Ah, yes, you can. But first, might you find somewhere to put my sodden coat where it will nae render your floor a loch? I did not think it possible for England’s weather to outdo Scotland’s, but it seems London’s giving it a go.”

The clerk stepped around the counter and accepted William’s coat, drenched from the sudden downpour and dripping on the floor’s oak wood planking. “It’s a bad storm, no doubt about that, sir, the worst London’s seen in a fortnight. I’ll just hang your coat over here by the fire. It might be somewhat drier when you leave.”

William strode to the fire and handed the helpful clerk his hat, which joined his coat on the stand, leaving him in his brown waistcoat and damp breeches. Miraculously his shirt and cravat were still dry, but his boots bore splashes of mud.

Noticing what appeared to be a scale in one corner, but much larger than any he’d seen in a wine shop, William asked, “What is that used for?”

“That is our coffee scale, but it is used as much to weigh our customers as it is our coffee. Lord Byron himself has been weighed there, along with the royal dukes and the Honourable William Pitt, our former prime minister. Half the nobility have found their way to that scale,” the clerk said proudly.

William shrugged. Only the English would engage in such foolishness.

Returning to his side the clerk said, “Mr. Berry is out this afternoon, sir, but I would be pleased to serve you. Would you like a cup of hot coffee? I just put some on to brew. Or a cup of tea, perhaps, while you look about?”

“I have only one item in mind, lad, and I am told Berry’s is the place to find the best.”

“And that would be, sir?”

“A fine French cognac. I picked up a fondness for the brandy on a trip to France.”

“I was just unpacking some this morning. It’s in the cellar. Do you mind a short wait while I fetch it?”

“Not at all, lad. Take your time. I’d welcome some time in front of the hearth.”

William had just faced the crackling fire when the door opened with the jingle of a bell. He turned. Standing inside and cursing under her breath was a ragamuffin of a female in a soaked gray cloak that clung to her body, revealing what he thought might be a decent figure. Black hair, wet and dangling loose to her shoulders, hid most of her face. All of her was splattered with mud.

Taking in her appearance, he wondered if it was a banshee, a witch or a woman. He had yet to decide when she swore again and brushed her hair from her eyes. “All of this for a bottle of Madeira!” she gritted out under her breath.

“Can I be of assistance…madam?”

She looked up, startled, seeing him for the first time. “Why, yes, my good man, you can get me a bottle of Madeira.”

It was her pale purple eyes that convinced him to head for the shelf where he’d seen the Portuguese wine. She might be a charwoman who hadn’t bathed in weeks, but those eyes were remarkable, the color of thistle blooming in the Highlands in spring, framed by the thickest lashes he’d ever seen. “I believe I have one for you just over here.”

He walked to the shelf. As he reached for the bottle, however, he noticed there was a choice. It was unlikely she could afford the most expensive, this bedraggled chit, so he selected the one he knew would cost the least.

“Will this do?”

He handed her the bottle, which instantly drew a frown.

“No, sir, it will not do. I’d like”—she studied the shelf behind him—“that one.” She pointed to the most expensive, rarest bottle, the one with the beautiful handwritten label, The Spy in script, named after the ship that imported it to England.

“If you insist, madam,” he said, fighting a grin. Perhaps she was purchasing the wine for the lady of the house.

“I do,” she affirmed with ill temper. And with that she plunked sufficient coins on the counter to more than cover the item’s price. Abruptly she turned, taking her rumpled state to the door and leaving a trail of water and mud behind her as she went. Through the glass of the paned windows, William watched the bedraggled figure struggle with her cloak and bottle, gather herself together and trudge down the street.

William laughed out loud, a great belly laugh. For a charwoman she had quite the attitude. Extraordinary cheek!

Only the English.

Regan WalkerBio:

Regan was raised in California and her career has been that of a lawyer both as a partner in private practice and in high levels of the federal government. After her last stint in Washington DC, upon coming home to San Diego, she decided it was time for a change. Her work had given her a love of international travel (she’s been to over 40 countries!), and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. So, she decided to try her hand at historical romance and, not surprisingly, her first novels are all about a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects are his private talent pool. She loves to weave history into her romances and promises she will sweep you away to another time and another place to experience adventure as well as love. Her first novel, RACING WITH THE WIND, was published by Boroughs Publishing Group in July 2012, and her second, AGAINST THE WIND will be published in early 2013. She is a member of RWA Beau Monde and San Diego chapters and lives in San Diego with a wonderful Golden Retriever named “Link.”

You can find Regan at:

Author website:

Author blog:

Regan’s Romance Reviews blog:

Twitter @RegansReview (



Buy Link on Amazon for The Holly & The Thistle:

11 thoughts on “Interview with Regan Walker, Author of The Holly and The Thistle”

  1. Great interview Babette! *waving* Hey Regan! Great to see you here!

    “I love getting lost in the history.”
    When I read this, I nodded my head in wholehearted agreement. Nothing is better than getting lost in the history and finding inspiration among the facts. Historical romance is where it’s at!

    Best of luck to you, dear! And I love the sound of this book. Great premise!

    1. Thanks, Renee, for stopping by. We are kindred souls. I see history as an endless source of ideas for a romance writer…and for the reader a delight to live the history that might otherwise seems dull.

  2. “The Holly and the Thistle” will be on my Christmas list! The excerpt pulled me right in. I really enjoy a good historical read. Good luck with sales and Happy Holidays!

    1. Adriana,
      I do hope you read The Holly & The Thistle for your holidays…I had so much fun researching all those traditions…the Regency folks knew how to keep the holiday.

    1. I’m so glad you will have a chance to read my story on your Christmas break–perfect timing! I wrote it as the music of the Clare College Choir of Cambridge sang carols in the background…it really put me in the mood for Christmas!

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