Monday, October 15, 2018

Hybrid Publishing - is this the new way forward ?

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Here I go on a new adventure. I always wanted to work with a mainstream publisher and now I am. Aria - Head of Zeus bought this book and the two that follow.  The Spitfire Girl comes out tomorrow and I don't quite know what I'm expecting. I have had my hair cut and gone an a diet as I thought I needed to be ready in case the press are beating down my door demanding an interview. :)
The jury's still out on this hybrid publishing lark.
 I love having an enthusiastic and excellent team there to support me, but dislike not being in charge. After almost 60 books indie-published, where I'm fully in control of the process, having to wait a week for an answer to an email etc is frustrating.
What I do like is that I'll no longer feel so personally offended if a reviewer gives me a 1*review. There's one on Goodreads that calls me retarded and refers to a character as 'airport boy'. Reviewer doesn't know the difference between an airfield and an airport. Now I can relax knowing if 'my team' love the book then the reviewer must be wrong. 
I'm also not thrilled with being in the dark about sales etc. Amazon is so good now with data that I know exactly what I'm earning and can plan my expenditure. I don't even know how much I'll get per sale let alone anything else. On the other hand I now have a big publisher as eager as I am to push the book and don't have to do it all myself.
I love that they have organised a blog tour, put the title on NetGalley and I don't have to be involved. I did write five posts -but didn't have to.
The blurb was written by someone else and I didn't see it until it went up.  Some things needed changing and I wished I'd seen it before it was visible to the public..
I was fully involved with the cover and title choice but in the end it was my editor's decision. I have to accept that she knows the market better than I do.
The difficulty is that I feel strangely divorced from this book, as if it is no longer anything to do with me. Like a son or daughter leaving home it now has to find its own way in the world.

Here is an extract - hope you enjoy it.

July 1939
‘Well, Miss Simpson, what do you think?’ Joseph Cross asked as he pointed to the de Havilland 60 Moth that stood proudly on the worn grass outside the barn that served as a hanger.
Ellen wanted to hug him but thought he might not appreciate the gesture. ‘I love it. Is it dual control?’
‘No, but it has the usual two seats so can take a passenger.’
‘Good – I’ve got more than enough pupils to teach. Since the government subsidy last year every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to learn to fly.’
‘I hope you don’t expect me to pay you any extra, young lady. I reckon you owe me far more than your wages would have been for all the lessons and hours you’ve spent flying my aircraft over the past five years.’
She put her hands on her hips. ‘Giving my brothers and me lessons at your Flying Club couldn’t have been as much as the rent you would have had to pay to use my father’s farms and fields.’ He was about to interrupt but she continued. ‘Not forgetting the fact that Dad bought the first aircraft and both Neil and George acted as instructors until they joined the RAF.’
He scowled but she wasn’t fooled for a minute. ‘The cost of one lesson is usually two pounds – the three of you never paid a penny…’
‘Joe, I don’t want to stand here arguing anymore. I want to take her up before it gets too hot. Are you coming with me or can I go solo?’
‘Circuits and bumps only, my girl, no flying off into the wild blue yonder. There are three new enquiries to be dealt with in the office – I want you to sort those out this morning.’
The other aircraft the flying club owned were a Swallow and a Gypsy Moth. Both were fitted with dual controls. Joe had several clients who liked to go up on their own and pootle about until the fuel ran out. This de Havilland had been bought to satisfy those clients.
Sidney, the ground engineer, and the only other full-time employee, wandered out from the hanger. ‘Nice little machine, Ellie, sweet as a nut. You going to take it up for a spin?’
‘If that’s all right with you, I’d love to. I’ll not be long – I just want to get the feel of it for myself.’
‘The bloke what brought it said it flies like the Gypsy only a bit faster. You’ll have no problem – you’re a natural. I remember your first solo flight when you were no more than a nipper…’
Joe poked his head out of the office. ‘No time for reminiscing, Sid, let her get on with it. Just had a bell and we’ve got a new pupil coming in an hour.’
‘Sorry, guv, I’ll not hold her up.’
She collected her helmet and goggles and scrambled into the cockpit. Even though the weather was warm she needed her flying jacket on over her dungarees. It got a bit nippy at a thousand feet above the land. After doing her pre-flight checks she taxied into position on the grass runway and took off.
An uneventful forty-five minutes later she landed smoothly and headed for the office to catch up with the paperwork. The new pupil, a middle-aged bank manager, decided after a couple of circuits of the field that he didn’t want to learn to fly after all. As they’d only been in the air for a quarter of an hour there was no charge.
By the time her last pupil left the airfield it was almost six o’clock. Often they had to work until it was too dark to fly, but tonight they’d finished early. Ellen left Sid to lock up and jumped onto her bicycle. At least in the summer Dad didn’t come in for his tea until late so she wouldn’t have missed her meal.
She pedalled furiously down the track, swerving instinctively around the dips and ruts, covering the mile in record time. She skidded into the yard, sending half a dozen chickens squawking into the air in protest, and tossed her bike against the wall.
With luck she’d have time to wash before her parents sat down to eat. It had taken Mum months to get used to seeing her only daughter dressed in slacks or dungarees. She might be a farmer’s wife now, but she’d come from a grand family and had very high standards.
The fact that Mum had been disowned when she’d married a farmer should have softened her but instead, according to Dad, it had made her even more determined to bring her children up as though they were landed gentry and not the children of a farmer.
After a quick sluice in the scullery Ellie headed to the kitchen – she was about to open the door when she realised the voices she’d heard were coming from the seldom used front parlour. Mum insisted on calling it the drawing room, but no one else did.
This must mean they had guests. She looked down at her scruffy oil-stained dungarees and wondered if she had time to nip upstairs and put on something more respectable. Unfortunately, her mother must have heard her come in.
‘Ellen, you are very late this evening. Had you forgotten Neil has a twenty-four hour pass?’
She was pretty sure this was the first she’d heard of it but having her oldest brother home was a wonderful surprise. She didn’t stop to think why this meant they were in the parlour, and burst in.
‘Hello, little sister, I’ve brought a chum along. Let me introduce you to Gregory Dunlop.’
Only then did she become aware of the second RAF uniformed young man staring at her with open admiration. He was a bit shorter than Neil, but broader in the shoulders, with corn coloured hair and startlingly blue eyes.
‘I’m pleased to meet you, Flying Officer Dunlop.’ She wasn’t sure if she should offer her hand as despite her best efforts it was far from clean.
He stepped closer and held out his and she had no option but to take it. ‘I’ve heard so much about you, Miss Simpson, and have been pestering your brother for an invitation in order to meet you for myself.’
His grip was firm, his hand smoother than hers – but what caught her attention was his upper crust accent. ‘I’m sorry to appear in my work clothes. If you don’t mind waiting a few more minutes I’ll pop upstairs and change into something more suitable for the occasion.’
‘Please, don’t worry on my account. I think you look perfectly splendid just as you are.’
He seemed reluctant to release her hand but she pulled it away firmly. He was a very attractive man and was obviously interested in her, but she wasn’t looking for a boyfriend.
‘Run along, Ellen, you’ve got plenty of time to put on a frock as your father has only just come in himself. We are having a cold collation so nothing will be spoiled by waiting for another quarter of an hour.’
She smiled at her brother in resignation and he winked. They both knew there was no point in arguing once their mother had made up her mind.
She met her father in the passageway. ‘Have you got to change as well, Ellie? She told me at lunchtime I’ve got to put on something smart.’
‘It must be because of Neil’s friend. He certainly sounds very posh.’ She pushed open her bedroom door and was about to go in when he replied.
‘Seems a lot of fuss for nothing but easier to give in than put up with a week of black looks and sour faces.’ He shook his head sadly and went into the room he no longer shared with her mother. Ellie wished her parents had a happier relationship.
If there was one thing she’d learned, by watching the disintegration of what must once have been a happy union, it was this: Don’t marry for love as it doesn’t last. If she ever took the plunge it would be with a man she respected, liked and who shared her outlook on life.
Her mother had told her to put on a frock but she rebelled. She didn’t wish to impress their visitor so would come down in what she usually wore – slacks and blouse. The only time she put on a frock was when she was forced to attend church. Most Sundays she had the excuse that she had to work at the airfield.
She checked her face was oil free and ran a brush through her hair. Satisfied she was presentable she hurried downstairs eager to catch up on Neil’s news. George, her other brother, hadn’t been home since January and she was desperate to hear how he was doing.
Her mother pursed her lips when Ellie came in. ‘Is your father coming, Ellen?’
‘I don’t know, Mum, but I don’t think he’ll be long.’ She joined her brother by the open window, leaving his friend to entertain her mother.
‘I wish you wouldn’t deliberately provoke her, Ellie. Why won’t you call her Mother? You know how much she dislikes being called Mum, especially in front of strangers.’
She shrugged. ‘Whatever she was in the past, now she’s just a farmer’s wife. Have you finished your training?’
He grinned and pointed to the wings on his uniform. ‘I have, didn’t you see these? George is still in Scotland – seems he pranged a Moth and needs longer up there.’
‘He obviously didn’t hurt himself or you wouldn’t be so jolly. Do you know where you’re going to be stationed?’
Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of her father looking uncomfortable in a collar and tie. After he was introduced to the guest her mother clapped her hands as if wishing to attract the attention of a crowd of children.
‘We shall go in to dine now that we are all here.’
Ellie hid her smile at her mother’s pretentiousness behind her hand. Ham and salad hardly deserved such an introduction.
When her father mentioned the likelihood of there being a war her mother insisted that this was not a suitable topic of conversation at the dinner table. No one was particularly interested in discussing the weather and an uneasy silence fell.
‘We’ve got another aircraft, Dad. I took her up and…’
Her mother glared at her. ‘I’m sure that Flying Officer Dunlop doesn’t want to hear about your highly unsuitable employment. A young lady should be interested in more feminine things, don’t you agree, Mr Dunlop?’
The young man nodded solemnly. ‘I’m sure that most girls would prefer to talk about fashion or flowers but your daughter is different. I’ve never met a female pilot before and am most impressed. How many hours solo do you have now, Miss Simpson?’
‘Please call me Ellie, everyone else does.’
‘And you must call me Greg.’
‘Well, Greg, to answer your question, I’ve been flying since I was twelve – six years now – and got my A licence when I was fourteen and my instructor’s certificate when I was sixteen. I’ve logged more than twelve hundred hours now.’
‘Good God! That’s a damn sight more than I have.’ He couldn’t fail to hear her mother’s horrified gasp. Instead of being embarrassed he smiled at her. ‘I apologise for my appalling language, Mrs Simpson, I do hope you will forgive me.’
‘Apology accepted. I’ll say no more on the matter.’
He turned to Ellie. ‘I want to hear how you manage in poor weather conditions and hope you will talk to me before we leave tomorrow morning.’
Before she could answer she was instructed to clear the table and fetch the dessert. Obediently she pushed her chair back and began to collect the plates. When Greg made a move to stand up she shook her head.
Clearing the table was a woman’s job, as well all the other domestic duties that she did her best to avoid. Pudding was a sherry trifle accompanied by a jug of thick, fresh cream from their dairy herd. She placed the large glass bowl on the tray and put the cream beside it. The ham salad, again all home-grown, had been excellent but this would be even better.

Fenella J Miller

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Brand New Sarah Mallory....

I have a new Sarah Mallory published in November – Beauty and the Brooding Lord. And yes, it has a Beauty and the Beast theme! It features Serena Russington, the spirited sister of Russ, my hero in The Ton's Most Notorious Rake. She thinks a rake would make an interesting husband and goes searching for one – with quite disastrous results!

Here is a short excerpt. To set the scene: Serena has slipped away into the garden for a secret assignation with Sir Timothy Forsbrook, whom she knows to be a rake….


… in the moonlight the paths gleamed pale silver and the roses themselves ranged from near black to pale blue-grey. But if the flowers had lost their colour, their scent was enhanced and Serena breathed in the heady fragrance as she made her way along the path, but when she reached the turn in the path she was aware of something else besides rose scent in the night air. A faint hint of tobacco.

Ahead she saw an arbour surrounded by climbing roses and her heart gave a little skip. There, in the shadows, was the unmistakable figure of a man. His upper body was hidden, but his crossed legs in their light-coloured knee breeches and white silk stockings were plainly visible in the gloom. Serena had expected to find her swain pacing up and down, impatient for her to arrive, but here he was, sitting at his ease. She quashed the faint ripple of disappointment and hurried up to him, smiling.

‘Forgive me, I was delayed. I—’ She broke off with a gasp as she peered into the shadows. ‘You are not Sir Timothy.’

‘No, I am not.’

The reply was an irritable growl. The figure rose from the seat and Serena took a hasty step backwards. She realised now that he was nothing like Sir Timothy Forsbrook. This man was much larger, for a start, although his upper body was so broad that he did not look overly tall. Where Sir Timothy’s glossy black locks were carefully styled about his head, the stranger’s hair was lighter and too long to be fashionable. And as he stepped out of the arbour she thought he was not at all handsome. In the moonlight his craggy face appeared harsh, as if he was scowling at her.

He towered over her and she took another step away.

‘Excuse me—’ She would have walked on but his next words stopped her.

‘There was a fellow here, but he has gone.’


‘Aye. He had the impudence to suggest I should vacate the seat, so I kicked him out.’

She swallowed. ‘Literally?’

His great shoulders lifted in a shrug. ‘No. Mere jostling. He retreated rather than have my fist spoil his face.’

She sucked in a long, indignant breath. ‘That is disgraceful behaviour. Quite boorish.’

‘I suppose you would have preferred me to give way. But why should I? I came out here to enjoy a cigarillo in peace. You two will have to find some other place for your lovemaking.’

His voice dripped scorn. Serena’s face burned with mortification.

‘How dare you! It is nothing like that.’


Knowing she was in the wrong did nothing for Serena’s temper. She drew herself up and said angrily, ‘You are odiously rude!’

‘If it’s soft words you want I suggest you go and find your lover.’

‘Oh, I shall go,’ she told him in a shaking voice,’ and he is not my lover.’

He grinned, his teeth gleaming white in the moonlight. ‘No need to be coy on my account, madam.’

Serena gasped. ‘Oooh, you…you…’

He folded his arms and looked down at her. ‘Yes?’

For a moment she glared at him, her hands closing into fists as she tried to control her rage. It would be most undignified to rip up at him. Resisting the urge to stamp her foot, she turned and swept off, muttering angrily under her breath all the insults she would like to hurl at the odious creature.


 I must say, things go from bad to worse for Serena after that but she discovers that the ideal man for her is very different from what she imagined!  Beauty and the Brooding Lord was great fun to write, so I hope you like it, too.
 And if you haven't yet read The Ton's Most Notorious Rake, it is currently 99p for the Kindle version!

Happy reading.

Sarah Mallory / Melinda Hammond

Friday, October 05, 2018

High Living for Heroines

Last week I visited the magnificent Kenwood House, built in the 1760s by Robert Adam for the Earl of Mansfield. Whilst there, it struck me that what novelists need is not an in depth knowledge of a stately home’s architectural highlights but a record of some of the everyday objects which a heroine might come across.  

Kenwood House. The Orangery is on the left. In summer, the orange trees in tubs are moved outside.

Step forward Rosa Forbes, twenty-three, thin, badly-dressed and a bit prim, but with hidden possibilities, given the chance. Rosa’s widowed father thinks of nothing but hunting (in winter) and gambling (the rest of the year), he scarcely notices Rosa. When he dies, the estate is sold to pay off his debts and Rosa, in desperation, writes to her unknown great-aunt for help. Two weeks later, Rosa finds herself at the magnificent Manderville Court with only one shabby valise to her name.

Ceiling plaster work in the entrance hall

Rosa is entranced by the roundel and early the following morning she sneaks down and lies on the floor to admire it better. To her embarrassment, Lord Ludovic comes in unexpectedly and nearly trips over her.

'For Heaven's sake, Miss Forbes! What on earth are you doing down there?'

It is not a good start.

Mercury, the messenger god. What message does he have for Rosa?

As if being caught lying on the floor wasn't bad enough, she then catches sight of a plaster statue of a nude Greek god standing in a nonchalant way in an alcove – he has nothing on except for a fig leaf – and, ludicrously, a hat. She doesn’t know where to look. Lord L. is amused by her confusion, she can see. She flees.

Jet combs

Two new guests arrive, the supremely poised - and wealthy - Honourable Constantia Pomeroy, and her alarming mother. Rosa learns from her great-aunt that an engagement between Lord Ludovic and Miss Pomeroy is imminent.

They deserve each other, thinks Rosa.

'Really, Miss Forbes,' sniffs Miss Pomeroy, the first evening after her arrival, 'why are you peering so closely at that mantelpiece? I thought for a moment that you were a housemaid dusting it!'  She titters.

The Library alcove

There's one room Rosa really loves - the Library. She forgets to be shocked by the ceiling panel of Hercules choosing between Glory and the Passions. All she can do is breathe, ‘Oh!’ Those colours! The pale blue and pink set off the dark red and gold of the books so well. She walks around, entranced

The Library steps

Nobody’s there, so, greatly daring, she climbs the library steps and finds The History of Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. Mama once told her that it was very shocking - no lady should be seen reading it. Gingerly, she takes Volume I off the shelf and tucks it under her arm; she would jolly well read it, she vowed, but nobody would see her doing so. A day or so later, she is back at the top of the ladder. Tom Jones is terrific and she can’t wait to read Volume II. The ladder is standing in shadow when she hears laughter and footsteps. Lord Ludovic comes in with another house guest, the asinine Sir Godfrey, he of the braying laugh. 'Who on earth is Miss Forbes, Manderville? Zounds! I took her for a scullery maid until Miss Pomeroy told me she is actually a guest!'

Rosa grabbed Volume II of Tom Jones, more than half-inclined to hurl it at him. Then, reluctantly, she lowered her hand. That way lay disgrace. They hadn’t noticed her so far but when they turned round…

Library mantelpiece, looking glass and bust of Homer.

She glances across at the gold framed looking-glass in the alcove with the bust of Homer beside it, and, to her horror, sees Lord Ludovic looking straight at her. As their eyes meet, he winks and a tiny jerk of his head indicates that she escapes. He touches Sir Godfrey on the arm and points to the deer in the park.

The staircase

Lord Ludovic isn't all bad, thought Rosa, tip-toeing down the steps as fast as she could and fleeing back to her room, stumbling on the treads of the elegant cantilevered staircase. She finds her great-aunt’s lady’s maid in her bedroom with a couple of lengths of silk over her arm. ‘My Lady suggests that these would make you a couple of evening gowns,’ she spreads them over the bed.

‘But I’m hopeless at sewing!’ exclaims Rosa, sliding Tom Jones stealthily under the pillow.

‘And I am good at it!’ The lady’s maid smiles. ‘It would be no trouble.’


Then there’s the Drawing-room, where the ladies sit after dinner and wait for the gentlemen to finish their port and salacious stories before joining them. Rosa loves the way the chandelier's cut crystals sparkle in the candlelight. 

The chaise longue is covered in expensive damask and gilding

The chaise longue is obviously top of the range but it’s not comfortable. Rosa keeps feeling she’ll either slide off, or spill her coffee. Worse, the turquoise clashes with her new hyacinth blue silk evening gown. She overhears Sir Godfrey whispering behind Miss Pomeroy’s fan, and they both look in her direction.

Rosa lifts her chin defiantly. 

The pianoforte

There is a pianoforte in the corner. Rosa used to have piano and singing lessons every week. After her mother died, when Rosa was fifteen, that stopped and her father refused to have the piano re-tuned, so she could no longer even practice.

The next morning, Rosa sneaks into the Drawing-room and discovers some music inside the hinged piano stool. It doesn't look too difficult. She finds a couple of country songs she knows, takes a deep breath, sits down, runs her fingers lightly over the keys and begins to sing.

A voice behind her, a rich baritone, joins in ….

And that’s just Chapter I.

Elizabeth Hawksley

Sunday, September 30, 2018

What does a Regency hero look like?

Some writers I know like to have an image of the hero they are writing about pinned above a desk. Personally I don't do this. My heroes tend to jump into my head fully formed and if I went looking for a picture of them I'm sure I wouldn't find one. Occasionally, a hero doesn't make an appearance except as a vague shadow in my mind until I set him loose upon the page when he starts to take form and his features clarify for me.

Now and then though, I get hooked into images on Pinterest and collect pictures of potential heroes. Or pictures of men who might fit a Heyer hero I'm particularly fond of. Fellow Heyer addicts tend to use modern actors or stars (often pictured dressed in Regency gear) when they are musing about which Heyer hero this could be.

What better, however, than images of real men from the era? Portraits of the time may be a touch romanticised by the painter to make them flattering to the buyer, but they do depict men looking as they did back in the day. These are the guys who might truly be a Regency hero.

How about this blonde specimen, guaranteed to set our heroine's heart a-beating? A tad arrogant, do you think?

"Do I know you, madam? I think not."

But of course he'll find her irresistible and that look of disdain will be wiped from his features with a charming smile.

What do you think of the hairstyle?

Or this for the brooding hero? More at home on the battlefield than in the ballroom perhaps. Disinclined to grant our heroine any favours. Naturally she will charm him into submission and brooding will be a thing of the past.

What of the handsome hero here? He's interested, for sure. But I'll bet there are rivals a-plenty to prevent our heroine catching his attention. He's smart, and the hair is always in place, I should think.
Now here we have "the look" for sure. You know, the one he gives the heroine when he's royally infuriated with her. A blazing row is on the cards within minutes. But oh, that long hair tied in the back - gets me every time.

As for this guy, I wouldn't fancy the heroine's chances at all. He's clearly a wild, annoying creature who will drive her crazy in the first five minutes. If only he wasn't so devastatingly good-looking. And that loose lock over the brow - oh, be still my beating heart!

Now what about this fellow? To me, he looks a dead ringer for Willoughby in the TV version of Sense and Sensibility. Though if he's going to be a hero, we can't have him that villainous. Besides, he's clearly in the navy, so he can't be all that bad. I think we'll have to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's got a sweet smile too.

This is the older hero. There's a touch of kindness in that face, and I'll bet our youthful heroine will be smitten in short order. He's another naval warrior, pretty high-powered by the look of that uniform. All neatness and precision. That will have to go. I think our heroine is going to have to do some softening here.
And finally, the unattainable. Every girl wants this one, but of course he's going to fall desperately in love with our heroine, who will be the most unlikely match for him. He looks a bit like a young George Brummell, but he's probably a poet or an artist. Oh, that wild hair!

Now, honestly, aren't these a great deal more like the heroes we read and write about than your modern film star (always excepting the delectable Colin Firth, of course)? Personally, I'd cosy up with any one of them, no questions asked.

Elizabeth Bailey

Saturday, September 15, 2018

New Books for Old.

Earlier this year I signed a three book contract with Aria-Head of Zeus for my Ellen's War series. As I'd paid for the photo shoot with the the model  I was able to give all the images to Aria. I love the new cover, but then I loved the old one too. Which do you prefer?
They have changed the blurb and the title, the book was edited again and a few extra scenes put in - but essentially it's the same book. The series title is now The Spitfire Girl instead of Ellen's War. Books ending in 'War' are no longer popular and there must be 'Girl' in the title now.
The fact that Ellie has no contact with any Spitfires in this book doesn't matter, it seems, as it is the series title as well as the book title.
The second book in the series is with them and I'm waiting for my editor to read it so I can start writing the third. If she wants changes to the second book they will impact on the third and I need to have these in mind when I'm writing. I've just bought two new research books -The Hurricane Girls, and another one I can't remember the title of. I already have a dozen books on the ATA, autobiographies mostly, as well as forty or so about WW2. I aim to start thinking about this final book in the series next week as it's due in at the end of the year.
Fortunately, the book once entitled The ATA Girl, only sold around 40 copies before I removed it from Amazon. This means it can be put out as a brand new book. Blue Skies & Tiger Moths/ The Spitfire Girl sold thousands and had as many books read on KOL. Therefore it's essential to let my readers know that this isn't the much awaited second book in the Ellen 's War series, but the first book repackaged. I hope no one buys it in error. Aria are a brilliant mainstream publisher and I'm sure they know what they are doing.
The publicity department has the book on NetGalley and is arranging a blog tour. I've written the first four blogs and have another four to do. I'm finding it hard not being in total control of everything but it's a good feeling having the enthusiasm and energy of such a vibrant team behind this book.
It's out on the 16th October.
Fenella J Miller

Friday, September 14, 2018

Pride and Pyramids - new illustration

Some of you will remember Pride and Pyramids, which I wrote with Jacqueline Webb. It's set fifteen years after Pride and Prejudice, and it gives us a glimpse into a possible future for Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. They have six wonderful children and they all go off to Egypt on an educational holiday, which turns into an adventure.

Some time ago, I saw Elizabeth Monahan's wonderful illustrations for Pride and Prejudice. I loved them so much I commissioned her to do me an illustration of Pride and Pyramids. It's not in the book, it's something I wanted for my own pleasure and the pleasure of my fans. Here's a reminder!

 I recently decided to commission another illustration from Elizabeth. I was curious to see how she would depict the Darcys as they all set off on their adventure. You can see her finished artwork below. It shows the Darcy family, with Mrs Bennet in the background, emerging from below decks. Mrs Bennet was desperate to go to Egypt but of course Elizabeth and Mr Darcy wouldn't let her accompany them. So what did she do? Why, she stowed away!

I hope you love this illustration as much as I do!
Amanda Grange

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Six Must-have Accessories for a Regency Heroine

There are a number of objects which every self-respecting Regency lady had to hand - each of them very useful for a novelist.

The most important was probably her writing desk. It was the laptop/smart phone of the day and no lady would travel without it. Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey has one. We know how much she valued it because, as she was setting off with the Tilneys to Northanger Abbey, such was the General’s impatience that ‘she had some difficulty in saving her own new writing-desk from being thrown out into the street.’


Wooden portable writing desk with brass fittings
The writing desk shown here has neat brass bands for strength and brass corners to save it from knocks; it also has a lock as well as two square wooden holders for glass ink wells and a longer container for quill pens and a knife to sharpen the nib. Catherine Morland would probably have kept her journal safely locked inside.
The hero, Henry Tilney, teases her about it. ‘Not keep a journal! How are your absent cousins to understand the tenor of your life in Bath without one? How are the civilities and compliments of every day to be related as they ought to be, unless noted down every evening in a journal? How are your various dresses to be remembered, and the particular state of your complexion and curl of your hair to be described, in all their diversities without having constant recourse to a journal?’  
I’m sure we can all think of a modern equivalent!

Writing desk open with cut glass inkwell. Writing slope covered in green leather. Underneath are storage spaces and three very small drawers. 
Writing desks are not just for heroines; a competent villainess could make very good use of one, too. A writing desk could be quite big enough to hold a pistol, for example, and there are some small, discreet drawers inside which could hold billets doux, stolen jewels, an important document, any number of secret things.
Beaded reticule with draw-string

Then, our heroine will also, of course, have a reticule. I have chosen the larger of the two I possess to show you; it is U-shaped, 7 x 7 inches and has a draw-string. It was once lined in cream silk. I’m guessing that a heroine would keep more in it than just her purse.

Brass etui with tassel, about 2 inches long.

So, what else might be inside it - a handkerchief, perhaps, or a small notebook with a pencil? What about this pretty brass sewing etui? Inside, it contains a thimble which sits on top of a very small china tube with a brass cap. Various coloured cotton, or possibly silk lengths, are wound round the outside and, if you take the cap off, there are a few needles inside. However, the thought instantly struck me that you could put anything inside – smelling salts, say, or even poison.
Inside the etui: thimble, cotton/silk strands, needles

In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of the everyday objects a Regency lady owned could be used for other things. A villainess could make very good use of an etui, or a writing desk, I felt sure.  
Glass powder bowl with silver rim

The next object is a powder bowl with a silver rim – for loose face powder. It would have had an ostrich feather powder puff with a small ivory stick to hold it with. So why might a Regency lady need it?
Suppose our heroine has enjoyed a few stolen minutes in the conservatory with a delightful man. She knows that he’s a detrimental but … he has other talents which she is only just discovering. Horrified, she spots her mother coming across the room. Quickly she nips behind the curtains, races upstairs to her bedroom and looks at herself in the mirror. Her hair is a mess and her face is pink and glowing. This won’t do! She reaches for the powder puff, dips it in the bowl and frantically pats her face to restore it to its fashionable pallor. Whew!

China hairpin container 
But what about her hair? She has left several hairpins on the conservatory floor. Fortunately, she has a small china knick-knack on her dressing-table which holds her hairpins, so she can easily repair the damage the handsome Mr Detrimental did to her coiffure.
Little does our heroine know that the gentleman in the conservatory has picked up several of her dropped hairpins and is studying them thoughtfully. Could he be contemplating blackmail? Or perhaps the villainess finds one an hour or so later – it looks just the right size to pick a lock …. If the hairpin was distinguishable in some way, she might even use it to get the heroine into serious trouble, if it were discovered somewhere suspicious.

Ebony and silver spangled fan

Lastly, her fan. This one, with carved ebony sticks and discreet silver spangled design, is a mourning fan. In an age which demanded physical restraint from ladies, a fan could be very useful. From a body language point of view, a fan can be used as a 'body extension' tool. A lady cannot touch a gentleman but a touch of her fan on his forearm, or a light tap on his hand, allows her to touch him by proxy. Not to mention holding her fan to hide her face, but allowing herself to peep at him from over the top of it. What gentleman could resist?  
So there you are. Make sure that your heroine has the right accoutrements for the period and you will have all the props you need for a gripping story which will keep the readers turning over those pages.
Elizabeth Hawksley

Thursday, August 30, 2018

You read trashy romances? What’s wrong with you?

As a romance writer, you rapidly get used to being put down rather than praised by the general public. Romance readers, knowing this tendency to be called out for their reading tastes, used to be known for hiding their romance paperback inside another “literary” novel, or wrapped in brown paper. If you talked about it, you said it was a guilty pleasure.

Thankfully, the rise of kindle changed all that. Nobody knows what you’re reading in that electronic contraption. I’m convinced the huge boost to romance since the advent of ebooks is down to that – at least to some extent. You can read whatever you like and no one is going to diss you for it.

But the idea that romance is easy to write (and therefore not worth anything) because it’s light entertainment and (often) trash, persists to this day. Yet romantic films abound, love songs roll down the years, and reality shows about love and marriage keep on coming. But pen a romance and you’re for it.

It's nothing new. Romance has been under fire ever since the 18th century when such novels (including the gothic) were trashed as systematically as they are in our time, and were thought to be injurious to the feminine mind, filling it with false expectations and foolish dreams. What's wrong with dreaming, say I. And millions of women agree.

It is getting better these days, since so many romance writers have become huge best-selling authors due to the ebook indie publisher revolution. But the stigma is still there and a romance writer develops a thick skin. When I was writing for Mills & Boon, my fellow writers and I could expect nothing but scorn and derision from the literati, especially literary journalists.  A diet of catcalls and rubbishing epithets has led the general public to regard Mills & Boon as junk food for the sexually deprived.

A typical conversation would go something like this:

Interested party:  Oh, you’re a writer. Are you published?
Me, bracing for it:  Yes.
More interested:  Really?  What do you write?  Have I read any?
Me [thinks: How the heck should I know?] (politely through false smile):  I write for Mills & Boon.
Party's expression changes to blank:  Oh.  (pause while suppressing laughter)  My mother used to read those.
Me (gritting teeth):  Really?
Party (no longer interested):  Oh, yes.  I tried to read one once, but it’s not my thing really.  All that panting and deep looks stuff.
Me:  Well, I write historicals, actually.
Party (openly grinning):  You don’t!  What, those bodice ripper things.  (laughing like a hyena)

At this point, if the party is a man, he will say with a leering look:
“Do you do your own research?”  (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)

And that’s about the level of respect. Thank you. Much obliged. Is it any wonder romance writers are reticent about saying what they do, except to other writers in the genre?

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  People are usually impressed you’ve had a book published at all, and once you’ve got a longish backlist you can crush even the most hardened critic with numbers. That usually shuts them up. There is also some evidence that not all journalists consider us a legitimate target for jeering brickbats. A few articles dealing more fairly with the genre have been seen these last few years, so there is hope for us yet.

Meanwhile, I am finding my shift into Regency mystery, even though laced with heavy doses of romance, is a step on the road to respectability. Apparently, if you write detective fiction, you are allowed to be considered a "proper" writer!

Elizabeth Bailey

When Emily Fanshawe, Marchioness of Polbrook, is found strangled in her bedchamber, suspicion immediately falls on those residing in the grand house in Hanover Square. Emily’s husband - Randal Fanshawe, Lord Polbrook - fled in the night and is chief suspect – much to the dismay of his family.

Ottilia Draycott is brought in as the new lady’s companion to Sybilla, Dowager Marchioness and soon finds herself assisting younger son, Lord Francis Fanshawe in his investigations.

Can Ottilia help clear the family name? Does the killer still reside in the house? Or could there be more to the mystery than meets the eye…?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Arranging the family album

Today we have hundreds of photographs in files on our computers, or shiny pieces of pasteboard shut away in a cupboard. We select and filter them when we choose the ones to put in our albums, digital or physical.
Since Victorian times people have collected photographs of themselves and others. Now we have photo filters and Photoshop to alter the pictures, to make ourselves beautiful, or to look like a cat.
Back then, they had portraits. During the early sixteenth century the Long Gallery became popular.
A long room made for exercise or physical pursuits when the weather didn't allow it. At least, that's what they said. But it also displayed family portraits.
My favourite isn't one of the magnificent examples in great houses like Hardwick, wonderful though they are, it's the one at Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire. That house was built for a wealthy farmer, a squire, not a member of the aristocracy, and as the family grew wealthier, they built on to the original structure. The Long Gallery was the last of these, plonked on to the top, made of green wood that warped and twisted, so walking along it is like walking on the deck of a ship at sea. It also made three rooms redundant, as only the top half was available. So they panelled it off and those rooms became "secret rooms."
So they are the rooms where Isobel hides Nick in "Danger In White" when she thinks he's a Jacobite spy. I had the seeds of that plot on my computer for years before I found a book where I could use it. 
The portraits were as manipulated as our Photoshopped photos, and seen through the eyes of a painter. After Classical painting, portraits were considered high in the heirarchy of painting, higher than landscapes. They were also a painter's bread and butter.
The great painters would often only do the vital parts of a work, usually the head and hands, but if the sitter was important, like Charles I to Van Dyck, then the painter would do everything. He would train students and some of his studio would have specialities they would use - the ability to paint trees or drapery. Van Dyck himself was a wonderful painter of fabric. In the eighteenth century Gainsborough and Reynolds led the pack, and during the Regency the glamorous paintings of Lawrence became all the rage.
Most sitters wanted a likeness, but they wanted a flattering likeness. Some, like Oliver Cromwell, demanded they be shown "warts and all," but most wanted to be seen at their best. There were no happy snaps back then! Charles II had his mistresses painted by Sir Peter Lely, most of them half naked, or with silk and satin robes falling artfully from their shoulders.
Reynolds and Gainsborough made the eighteenth century movers and shakers elegant and proud. Many were painted in fancy dress, so the portraits would be less likely to go out of date quickly. The clothes they wore were their best ones. Rarely are there portraits of people in everyday wear, so these are treasures. Genre paintings like the ones by Chardin show everyday wear, and cartoons, engravings and sketches give a better idea. But you had your portrait taken in your best, or if you didn't have a best, in a borrowed outfit, or one hired from the painter.
The best artists showed people, so you feel that you could talk to them and hear their reply. You can sense their characters.
Even though they are all staring down at you from the walls of the Long Gallery.

Danger In White is on offer this month for 99 cents/99 pence. All the buy links are on this page, with an excerpt link

Friday, August 10, 2018

Singles or Doubles? Melinda Hammond Ponders Romance Covers...

With the release of our latest Regency Romantics Box set, A Summer of Dukes, I have been thinking about covers recently and wondering just what readers – and authors – prefer. Perhaps a single gentleman on the cover is favourite, our "Duke" certainly seems perfectly at home in the picture above, doesn't he?  And the cover of The Ton's Most Notorious Rake, my current Sarah Mallory Regency, has a very handsome hunk gracing the cover.  
Yet the recent Italian version of the same book features a painting of an actual scene from the book and I find I quite like that, too, or perhaps it is just the author in me kicking in, because I like to think that someone has read the book!

And I have now received foreign copies of two of my Sarah Mallory books from the Scandalous Arrandales Series – Lithuania, in fact! – plus The Duke's Secret Heir in German, and they ALL have couples on the covers.

To balance this, several of my own Georgian or Regency Romances have pictures of the heroine on the cover, including these two:-

 So, do you prefer to see a couple on a romance cover, or a single man or woman? Or perhaps it depends on the title  or the story? I confess that I don't think I have a preference,  but I am always intrigued to know what my publishers will choose next!

Do let me know what you think.

Happy reading
Melinda Hammond /Sarah Mallory

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Jane Austen: Mr Bennet's Failure as a Father

In every film or television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice I’ve seen (and I’ve seen many)   Mr Bennet comes across as a sympathetic character; a man we could like. We enjoy his irony with regard to the oleaginous Mr Collins: ‘It is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?’  

He finds Mr Collins ‘as absurd as he had hoped; and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance…’ And we laugh with him.

But there is a less admirable side to Mr Bennet, one which leads to a great deal of unhappiness for his elder daughters, Jane and Elizabeth, and near disaster for the flighty Lydia who runs off with the caddish (though handsome) Wickham.

19th Century Reticule

At the end of Chapter 1, Jane Austen sums up Mr Bennet’s character. He was an ‘odd mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve and caprice...’ He enjoys winding people up. He allows his wife to think that he has no intention of paying that essential courtesy call on the newly-arrived Mr Bingley, a young, unmarried man with £5000 a year, without which Mrs Bennet will not be able to introduce her attractive daughters to him. He leaves her in ignorance until he’s extracted the maximum enjoyment from her agitation before telling her that he has paid the call.

He can be unkind, too. At the Netherfield ball, his middle daughter Mary eagerly sits down at the piano and begins to sing. ‘Mary’s powers were by no means fitted for such a display; her voice was weak and her manner affected.’  Elizabeth is in agonies of embarrassment and ‘looks at her father to entreat his interference.’  


Mr Bennet telling his wife and daughters that he has called on Mr Bingley by Charles E. Brock

He picks up her hint and says, after Mary’s second song,‘That will do extremely well, child. You have delighted us long enough. Let other young ladies have time to exhibit.’  Elizabeth must have heard the irony in his tone for she felt ‘sorry for (Mary), and sorry for her father’s speech.’ He could have done it more kindly.

But Mr Bennet is not a particularly kind man. When Mr Bingley suddenly leaves Netherfield without having made the expected offer to Jane – and it’s obvious to Elizabeth that Jane and Bingley are very much in love – Jane is deeply upset, and Elizabeth and Mrs Bennet are full of sympathy.

Mr Bennet’s reaction is quite different. He says to Elizabeth: ‘So, Lizzy, your sister is crossed in love, I find. I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now and then. It is something to think of and gives her a sort of distinction among her companions.’ He suggests that Elizabeth will not want to be outdone by Jane, and recommends Wickham for the role: ‘He is a pleasant fellow, and would jilt you creditably.’

It is callous, inappropriate, and he completely ignores Jane’s very real distress.

Regency man

The tone of Elizabeth’s response is interesting: ‘Thank you, sir, but a less agreeable man would satisfy me. We must not all expect Jane’s good fortune.’ On the surface, it sounds as though she is content to echo her father’s irony, but I wonder? She doesn’t call her father ‘Papa’ she calls him ‘sir’, as if distancing herself, a reaction further emphasized by her use of ‘We’ rather than ‘I’. The reader suspects that Elizabeth is hurt by her father’s reaction and that this conversation will not be passed on to Jane.  
Mr Bennet in his Library about to be harangued by Mrs Bennet on Elizabeth's obstinate refusal to accept Mr Collins' proposal, by Charles E. Brock

Then there’s the question of the Bennet girls’ education. When Lady Catherine de Bourgh cross-questions Elizabeth about her and her sisters’ education, she discovers that they grew up without a governess; and that, although Elizabeth and Mary are both musical, they never went up to London to be properly taught.

‘My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates London,’ Elizabeth tells her.

Lady Catherine might be nosy but she asks questions to which the readers, too, would like answers. ‘Why did you not all learn? You ought all to have learnt. The Miss Webbs all play, and their father has not so good an income as yours.’

Later she says: ‘No governess? How was that possible? Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education.’


These are pertinent questions; and surely it is Mr Bennet’s duty as a parent to see that his daughters have a decent education, especially considering that they might have to work for a living if they don’t find husbands. We also learn from Lady Catherine that Mr Bennet’s income could well support proper music teachers.

Of course, the reader knows that it is extremely unlikely that Mrs Bennet would have taught her daughters. So how were they educated? Possibly they went to a girls’ school in Meriton, to an establishment like Mrs Goddard’s school in Highbury in Emma, where ‘a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price.’

The Bennet girls can all read and write and are numerate. They would have been taught to sew (Lydia pulls apart a newly-bought hat prior to redesigning it) and they had obviously had dancing lessons – they are all good dancers. We know that Mary and Elizabeth were taught the piano by somebody (even if not a London professional) and they had singing lessons.

Two Girls at School, 1817

The sisters would have learnt a modicum of British History, even if only through Miss Mangnall’s Historical and Miscellaneous Questions for the Use of Young People (1798). They know various card games. Jane, at least, can ride.  

As Elizabeth says, ‘We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle certainly might.’ It is not very satisfactory.

In my view, Mr Bennet should have seen to it that none of his daughters were allowed to be idle. And he certainly failed Mary.

Mary isn’t pretty like her sisters; instead, she tries to be ‘accomplished’. But, although she is obviously intelligent, Mr Bennet doesn’t bother to teach her to think clearly. Her trite observations are allowed to stand and, doubtless, give her father some amusement, but that is, surely, not enough. He could have helped her – he is a thinking man - but he can’t be bothered.

Furthermore, a man of breeding should treat his wife with respect – even if they have very little in common. To do otherwise sets a bad example to their children. Sir Thomas Bertram in Mansfield Park, for example, always treats Lady Bertram courteously, even though she does very little apart from lying on her sofa and petting her dog, Pug. The Bertram children are expected to treat their mother with the respect which is her due. 
Mr Bennet's reaction on hearing that Lydia has eloped with Mr Wickham 

Mr Bennet also allows himself to criticize his wife in front of his children. He says of Charlotte Lucas’s engagement to Mr Collins: ‘It gratified him … to discover that Charlotte Lucas, whom he had been used to think tolerably sensible, was as foolish as his wife and more foolish than his daughter!’ And he obviously enjoys Mrs Bennet’s distress about the Lucas-Collins match – and we sympathize – after all, the Netherfield estate is entailed and it is Mr Collins who will inherit it when Mr Bennet dies not Mrs Bennet and her daughters. They will be homeless.

It is not Mr Bennet’s fault that he only has daughters, but it is his responsibility to see that his wife and children are properly provided for after his death. We are told, towards the end of the book, that he had ‘often wished that, instead of spending his whole income, he had laid by an annual sum, for the better provision of his children, and of his wife, if she should survive him.’ It was his duty to have done so, as he eventually recognizes.  

His income is £2000 a year. If he’d saved 10% - surely not too difficult – it would have meant that the marriage settlement of £5000 would now be worth well over £9000. Luckily for Mr Bennet, Mr Darcy’s generosity enables Lydia to marry Wickham, and Mr Bennet himself ‘would be scarcely ten pounds a year the loser.’

Reading Lady 

And it is Mr Bennet’s refusal to listen to Elizabeth’s advice to forbid Lydia to accept Mrs Forster’s invitation to go to Brighton, which precipitates the final catastrophe of Lydia running off with Wickham. Elizabeth’s plea is heartfelt: she points out that she and her sisters’ social acceptance and ‘respectability in the world must be affected by the wild volatility and disdain of all constraint which mark Lydia’s character.’ And she sees Kitty, who follows her sister, being drawn in, too. ‘Vain, ignorant, idle, and absolutely uncontrolled! Oh my dear father, can you suppose it possible that they will not be censured and despised wherever they are known, and that their sisters will not be often involved in their disgrace?’

He listens, and he has an answer to her points which satisfies him and he gives Lydia permission to go to Brighton. When push comes to shove, he always goes for the option which will cost him the least trouble.

Jane Austen, after Cassandra Austen. National Portrait Gallery.

At the end of the book, Mr Bennet has married off three of his five daughters, so money will be less tight. He could, if he so chose, start saving for Kitty, Mary and his wife’s futures. But he doesn’t, ‘he naturally returned to all his former indolence.’  Perhaps he assumes (probably correctly) that his two rich sons-in-law will make sure that his wife and unmarried daughters will be comfortable, financially.  It is not an admirable trait.

There are other fathers in Jane Austen’s novels whose characters may be worthy of censure: General Tilney’s bullying, for example, or Sir Walter Elliot’s snobbery and financial fecklessness, but it is Mr Bennet’s disengagement from his daughters’ upbringing which makes him the most blameworthy, in my opinion.  

Elizabeth Hawksley