New contest: “True Pretenses” re-release gift basket and ebooks!

ETA: This contest is now closed. Virginia won the basket, and Paola, Karen, Carolyn, LSUReader, and B won the ebooks. 

The second book in my Lively St. Lemeston series, True Pretenses, is available again today, with a beautiful new cover! To celebrate, I’m giving away 5 e-books and a lovely gift basket of items (basket not included)…

True Pretenses is a Regency-set historical romance about a small-town heiress who agrees to a marriage of convenience with a Jewish con artist in order to get her hands on her dowry…

Something borrowed…

Through wit and sheer force of will, Ash Cohen raised himself and his younger brother Rafe out of the London slums and made them (in his unbiased opinion) the best confidence men in England. Ash is heartbroken when Rafe decides he wants an honest life, but he vows to give his beloved brother what he wants.

When Ash hears of a small-town heiress scrambling to get her hands on the dowry held in trust for when she marries, he plans one last desperate scheme: con her and his brother into falling in love. After all, Rafe deserves the best, and Ash can see at once that captivating, lonely Lydia Reeve is the best.

Lydia doesn’t know why she instinctively trusts the humble stranger who talks his way through her front door and into her life. She just knows she’s disappointed when he tries to set her up with his brother.

When a terrible family secret comes to light and Rafe disappears, Lydia takes a big risk: she asks Ash to marry her instead. Did Ash choose the perfect wife for his brother…or for himself?

Buy the book: kindle · kobo · iBooks · nook

The gift basket includes:

1. A paperback copy of True Pretenses.

2. A happy Hulk plush (pictured). This is a bit of a stretch but I do imagine Ash as Mark Ruffalo, so. And I own one of these Hulk plushes myself and looking at it ALWAYS makes me smile.

3. David Maurer’s The Big Con. THE authoritative book on the classic long con (in fact, the author sued the producers of The Sting for infringement and received a settlement).

4. Season 1 of Leverage, one of the best con artist TV shows of all time!

5. Orange tree mug (pictured). Full disclosure: I found this mug at a thrift store so it isn’t brand-new. But it’s just so perfect! (If you’ve read True Pretenses, you know there’s a very sexy scene set in a greenhouse filled with orange trees…)

The rules:

1. Comment on this post to enter.
2. The winners will be chosen at random using
3. The 5 e-books are open internationally. The gift basket is US only.
4. Open for entries through August 14, 2017. (Book 3 re-releases August 15th! Listen to the Moon features an irrepressible maid-of-all-work and a very proper valet who marry to get a plum job.)
5. Void where prohibited.

If you’d like to be alerted when new contests go up (I typically give away romances signed by the author), you can sign up for my newsletter.

Remember, you can buy True Pretenses here! Or if you’ve read it, check out the DVD extras.

Good luck!


New contest: “Sweet Disorder” re-release gift basket, plus e-books!

The first book in my Lively St. Lemeston series, Sweet Disorder, is available again today, with a beautiful new cover! To celebrate, I’m giving away 5 e-books and a lovely gift basket of items (basket not included)…

Pictured: Spokemodel T-Rex (not included) indulging in some Byronic daydreams. (Image credit: Turner’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.” [x])

Sweet Disorder is a Regency-set historical romance about a prickly widow who could make her husband a voter…if she had one. A newly disabled officer is sent to marry her off to help his brother’s election campaign.

Campaigning has never been sweeter…

Prickly newspaperman’s widow Phoebe Sparks has vowed never to marry again. Unfortunately, the election in Lively St. Lemeston is hotly contested, and the little town’s charter gives Phoebe the right to make her husband a voter—if she had one.

The Honorable Nicholas Dymond has vowed never to get involved in his family’s aristocratic politicking. But now his army career is over for good, his leg and his self-confidence both shattered in the war. Helping his little brother win an election could be just what the doctor ordered.

So Nick decamps to the country, under strict orders to marry Phoebe off to somebody before the polls open. He’s intrigued by the lovely widow from the moment she shuts the door in his face.

Phoebe is determined not to be persuaded by the handsome earl’s son, no matter how charming he is. But when disaster strikes her young sister, she is forced to consider selling her vote—and her hand—to the highest bidder.

As election intrigue thickens, bringing Phoebe and Nick face to face with their own deepest desires, they must decide which vows are worth keeping, and which must be broken…

Contains elections, confections, and a number of erections.

Buy the book: kindle · kobo · iBooks · nook

The gift basket includes:

1. A paperback copy of Sweet Disorder.

2. Rocket-shaped popsicle molds. I have these and let me tell you, the popsicles look AMAZING. Appropriate because it’s summer and there’s ice cream in the book.

3. A popsicle cookbook so you can use your new molds, and

4. A “Byronic hero” mug!

The rules:

1. Comment on this post to enter.
2. The winners will be chosen at random using
3. The 5 e-books are open internationally. The gift basket is US only.
4. Open for entries through July 18, 2017.
5. Void where prohibited.

If you’d like to be alerted when new contests go up (I typically give away romances signed by the author), you can sign up for my newsletter.

Remember, you can buy Sweet Disorder here! Or if you’ve read it, check out the DVD extras.

Good luck!

"All or Nothing" bibliography

This is just a partial bibliography of some of my favorite sources. If you have particular questions about anything in the book, please e-mail me or comment! It’s a subject I never get tired of talking about.

1. The faith of remembrance: Marrano labyrinths, by Nathan Wachtel. An invaluable, heartwrenching resource on the lives of Spanish and Portuguese Jews forced to convert or pretend to convert by the Inquisition.

Continue reading

Spoiler-friendly "All or Nothing" discussion post

Hi everyone! This is a spoiler-friendly discussion and questions post for my novella “All or Nothing” (originally published in the Gambled Away anthology). I’d love to hear anything you have to say about the book! And if there’s anything you want to know (about the book, about writing the book, about characters in the book, about what happens next, anything really), this is a good place to ask.

"All or Nothing" deleted scene

Remember this scene?

“If you want to make it up to me, talk up Number Eighteen to your friends.”

Once again, Simon was impressed by Maggie’s devotion to her business, when he could barely bring himself to mention his own trade to prospective customers for fear of being thought over-forward. But as business-mindedness was a quality associated with Jews, he refrained from saying so.

Originally, Simon did say so, and Maggie role-played doing a pitch with him…

Continue reading

In which I believe Alexander Hamilton was part Jewish

I believe Alexander Hamilton was part Jewish.

The evidence is all circumstantial, so it’s certainly a subject on which reasonable people can disagree, but in my opinion it’s the most likely (or at least, there isn’t any likelier) explanation for the facts.

I’ve seen a few puff pieces on the subject, but I haven’t seen all the information gathered in one place, so that’s what this post is. (If you know of another one, let me know so I can link!)

I’m not really interested in debating about it, because I’m not insisting I’m right; I’ve already acknowledged there’s no conclusive proof and there are plausible alternate explanations for everything.

In the end, history is a little like fandom. Everybody has their headcanon. This is mine.

For context, it’s important to understand how many Anusim (forced converts) and crypto-Jews (secretly practicing Jews) were in the Caribbean in the 18th century. (This is a topic I happen to have researched a bunch recently for my Anusim heroine in “All or Nothing“.) Spain and Portugal’s large Jewish populations were forced to convert or pretend to convert by the Inquisition, and many fled to Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the New World hoping to escape the Inquisition’s reach. However, they still couldn’t just live openly as Jews in most places: they often traveled between the colonies and Europe for work; there were local Inquisition offices in the colonies; and they frequently had family members in the Old Country whom they would endanger by publicly “backsliding.” Because of this context, I’m not suggesting that any of these people were openly practicing Jews. However, I believe they had Jewish ancestry and possibly even considered themselves to be Jews, which Hamilton may or may not have known (on that point I have no particular opinion).

There was also a significant openly Jewish community in Nevis when Hamilton was a kid.

First of all, let’s address the evidence that his mother’s husband, John Lavien, a merchant, was Jewish.

A. His name may be a variant of Levine, a common Jewish name. Name spellings were not standardized in the 18th century so the name appears in different documents spelled MANY different ways (sometimes multiple ways in the same document), but Hamilton himself spelled it Lavine, and Alexander Hamilton: the Formative Years by Michael E. Newton (have I mentioned I recommend that book highly for people who want as much of the available information as possible?) notes, “Poll-tax lists recorded the name as Lewine. A probate record from 1768 also recorded the name as Lewine, although spellings of Lavine and Levin are also to be found in that document.”

John Lavien and his son consistently spelled it “Lavien,” however.

B. His country of origin. Alexander Hamilton described him as “a Dane”. However there is no evidence backing this; the languages he used in his business were Dutch, English and German (he wrote to Danish associates in German, not Danish). According to Newton, “it is now believed that John Lavien was from Germany”, with at least one scholar making the case that Lavien’s name originally derives from the town of Lowien in Poland “or from one of the many other towns with similar names spread throughout Eastern Europe.”

There were many Jewish German and Eastern European merchants in the New World, although certainly there were also many who were not Jewish. Moreover, if Lavien was indeed born in Germany with a Polish name, his chances of being Jewish increase.

C. Somebody in St. Croix told researcher Gertrude Atherton that Lavien “probably was a Jew by birth,” however what they based this on is lost to history and may have simply been his name.

D. According to Chernow, he got his start peddling household goods. Peddling was a profession associated strongly (though again, not exclusively) with Jews in the 18th century.

E. To me the most compelling piece of the puzzle is this, reported by Ron Chernow: In 1768 Peter Lavien, John Lavien’s son with Hamilton’s mother Rachel, was appointed to a prominent position in his parish church in South Carolina. On a brief visit to St. Croix in 1769, he had himself “quietly baptized.” This implies that (a) Rachel and Lavien did not baptize their son at birth, (b) Peter knew that, and (c) Peter did not want anyone else to know. The contours of the story seem to overwhelmingly suggest crypto-Judaism.

Now let’s look at Rachel.

(Note: Rachel is considered a Jewish name now, but in the 18th century it wasn’t particularly. She and others often spelled her name Rachael, which may or may not hint at Sephardic origins.)

If Rachel was part Jewish, it was probably through her mother, Mary Uppington. According to Rachel’s parents’ marriage record, Mary was a widow from England, so Uppington was not her maiden name and nothing has been found about her family or previous life that I know of. (And there were plenty of Anusim and crypto-Jews named Maria.)

Rachel’s siblings were baptized, and while there’s no record of her own baptism, the church is missing six years of records right around the time of her birth (caused by hurricane damage), so probably she was too. This proves nothing except that if Mary was a Jew, she was a secret Jew, which we already knew.

After Rachel’s father died, Mary took Rachel and moved to another island. Mary making a fresh start with her daughter after her husband’s death strikes me as suggestive. Crypto-Judaism was often passed from mother to daughter, and it was not uncommon for a parent to choose one child to carry the Jewish legacy into the next generation, while keeping the secret from their other children.

AH:tFY states: “According to Alexander Hamilton…Rachael married John Lavien ‘in compliance with the wishes of her mother…but against her own inclination.'” (The full text of Hamilton’s letter is here; note the blank space where he evidently intended to put a word describing Lavien but did not.) An arranged marriage to a much older man is also highly consistent with patterns of crypto-Jewish marriage I’ve seen in my research.

(A word of partial explanation: arranged marriage is a traditional Jewish practice, in-group marriages were strongly desired, and the pool of potential husbands was extremely limited. Plus, many crypto-Jewish men in the New World were entrepreneurs living away from home, which meant (a) if they were young they were likely poor and (b) they probably left the Old World already older than girls just growing up whose families were looking for husbands for them.)

How did Rachel raise her children? Well, we already know she didn’t baptize her son with Lavien. No baptismal records for Hamilton have been found either (witness the ongoing debate about his true birth year), despite the fact that many churches in the West Indies did baptize illegitimate children.

She also sent Hamilton to a Jewish school: Hamilton’s son, John C. Hamilton, wrote in his biography that Hamilton “received the rudiments of his education commencing at a tender age. As an instance of which, rarely as he alluded to his personal history, he mentioned with a smile his having been taught to repeate the Decalogue [i.e., the Ten Commandments] in Hebrew at the school of a Jewess when so small that he was placed standing by her side on a table.”

But to me, the most suggestive statement of all is this, by Chernow:

“As a divorced woman with two children conceived out of wedlock, Rachel was likely denied a burial at nearby St. John’s Anglican Church. [RL’s note: There doesn’t seem to be any actual evidence for this supposition, though it’s certainly possible; another (equally unproven) explanation is that she didn’t want to be buried in the churchyard because she was Jewish.] This may help to explain a mystifying ambivalence that Hamilton always felt about regular church attendance, despite a pronounced religious bent. The parish clerk officiated at a graveside ceremony at the Grange[…]where Rachel was laid to rest on a hillside beneath a grove of mahogany trees.” [emphasis mine]

One of the strongest patterns of crypto-Jewish behavior that I’ve read about, both among people who know they are crypto-Jews and people who simply inherited the uneasiness from their parent(s) without understanding it, is an emotionally charged avoidance of Christian observance. Because many crypto-Jewish people don’t learn of their Jewish heritage until they are old enough to keep the secret (if they learn about it at all), as children they don’t know why their family rarely or never goes to church, why their family doesn’t celebrate on holidays like everyone else, where their parents’ persistent anti-clericalism arises from, or why there is so much tension surrounding all these things. They simply absorb it.

On his deathbed, Hamilton was desperate to be given last rites and take communion, telling Benjamin Moore, the rector of Trinity Church that, “It has for some time past been the wish of my heart, and it was my intention to take an early opportunity of uniting myself to the church, by the reception of that holy ordinance.” When Moore refused, Hamilton begged another friend, Mason, to administer communion, and when that friend refused because his church did not do private communion, he pressured Moore again (successfully) despite Mason’s assurance that “the Holy Communion is an exhibition and pledge of the mercies which the Son of God has purchased; that the absence of the sign does not exclude from the mercies signified; which were accessible to him by faith in their gracious author.”

Again, there are many explanations, but this is consistent with a man who knows that in some way he has not entirely been a Christian (whether he knows why he feels that way or not).

So there you have it! A comprehensive list of the details I have come across, which taken all together, builds for me a clear and internally consistent picture of a crypto-Jewish family.


A note: I have read a number of scholars asserting that Hamilton had a special lifelong respect for the Jews. I don’t, personally, see any evidence of that. As a young man, he once wrote: “Progress of the Jews from their earliest history to the present time has been and is entirely out of the ordinary course of human affairs. Is it not then a fair conclusion that the cause also is an extraordinary one—in other words, that it is the effect of some great providential plan?” Eh, okay, fine. I could do without that particular strain of philosemitism even if you believe it’s meant to be complimentary (although it takes on a different, rather poignant cast if you imagine that Hamilton knew he was part-Jewish).

The other quote most often attributed to Hamilton to support the idea that he “respected Jews” is “Why distrust the evidence of the Jews? Discredit them and you destroy the Christian religion,” which is from the transcript of the Le Guen v. Gouverneur & Kemble trial. Alas, if you read the transcript, this was actually said by his opposing counsel after Hamilton did try to discredit Jewish witnesses using anti-Semitic arguments. You can read Hamilton’s response—basically, that all the good Jews converted to Christianity anyway and are not Jews anymore—here. (Which is no evidence either way about his own Jewish background, sadly.) I would like to believe that this pervasive misquotation started out as an honest mistake and not a whitewashing job.

Another note: If you google Alexander Hamilton and Jewish you come up with a lot of neo-Nazi anti-Semitic international banking conspiracy sites. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t Jewish. The Rothschilds are on those too.

Samhain closing its doors

You may have heard that Samhain Publishing is closing its doors at the end of February.

This means my books with them (Sweet Disorder, True Pretenses, Listen to the Moon, A Lily Among Thorns, and In for a Penny) will be unavailable until my rights are reverted and I can go through the self-publishing process with them. I don’t know yet how long that will take; I will update you when I know more!

Buy them before they disappear!

The Sweet Disorder e-book is still just 99 cents for Kindle, Nook, and Apple.

This will NOT affect the release of my novella “All or Nothing,” which is up for pre-order at Amazon and Kobo! (More formats and vendors to follow.)

If you have any questions, you can ask them in the comments and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.