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






Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Latest of my brides by chance

As I've just launched Book Six of my Brides by Chance series, I thought a little excerpt might be in order. This particular heroine has popped up in several earlier stories as the girl who is clearly going to end up a spinster. Her disadvantage is not so much pecuniary as just being too plain and ordinary to "take" as the saying went. She starts out being pushy and desperate, trying to attract the attention of every eligible male. But a couple of stories ago, another heroine advised her to relax and stop trying so hard. She took the advice to heart, but there were still no takers.

Delia is now resigned to dwindling into a maiden aunt. But a chance encounter on the road to Weymouth throws her helter-skelter into an adventure where she meets.... but that would be giving it all away.


The stallion lengthened his stride to a canter. Delia pulled him up as they reached the bridge, regarding it with disfavour. “It looks rickety to me.”
“Give me the reins!”
She relinquished them with alacrity, having no desire to attempt to negotiate the narrow wooden slats leading across, along with the aged and broken railing. Just as Giff guided Tiger’s steps onto the precarious structure, a familiar sound reached Delia’s ears.
Hoof beats. More than one set. And crackling twigs along with the swish of shifting leaves.
“Oh, dear heaven, I think they’re coming!”
“Damn them to hell!”
Her heart leapt into her mouth as the horse took the bridge at a pace that threatened to upturn the lot of them into the river below. The clatter of Tiger’s hooves on the wooden surface sent her senses flying into apprehension.
“They’ll hear that for sure!” Forgetting to be afraid of the crossing, she trained her eyes on the thickets behind and caught movement in the trees. “I can see them! Giff, hurry, for heaven’s sake!”
The horse’s hoofs hit terra firma again and Tiger shot into the forest, going straight through a gap in the trees. Delia looked back, trying to see if their pursuers were on the trail and saw instead the worn path winding away behind them. Oh, help! If those ruffians were able to cross the bridge, they could follow just as easily.
Impatience claimed her as Tiger’s pace slowed. “He’s tiring!”
She saw Giff glance up through the canopy of leaves. Was he finding the sun to guide them west again? “Not far now.”
“How do you know?”
“Should hit a lane at any moment.”
“But what if they get across the bridge?”
“We must hope they’re too faint-hearted to attempt it.”
Delia was not convinced. “They’ve shown nerve enough so far.”
“But not common sense. With luck, one of them at least will fall in.”
At which instant, Delia heard a loud cry and a splash. Elation soared and she laughed out. “They have fallen in!”
She was craning to try and see behind Giff and caught an amused look.
“It’s to be hoped they never find out how pleased you are about it.”
“Pleased? I hope the wretch has broken his leg. But I’m sorry for the horse.” Giff’s laughter echoed in the trees and Delia gave him a buffet on the arm. “Hush, for heaven’s sake! They’ll hear you.”
His brows flew up. “If I ever met such a bossy chit!”
“If it comes to that, I’ve never met such an autocratic fellow!” She regarded him a moment, a little concerned to see strain in his face. “Do you need another swig of brandy?”
He shook his head briefly, his gaze concentrated on path ahead.
Delia studied his face without meaning to, forgetful of everything save his danger. A pang smote her. He mustn’t die!

Elizabeth Bailey

Available at Amazon and other stores:



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Diversity in romance


This post is a little late, because I scrapped what I was going to write and went with this instead.
At the weekend, Suzanne Brockmann made the keynote speech at the RWA Convention in Denver. I think this marks a seminal moment in publishing, and sent people home determined to do something. 
She spoke about diversity, in particular gay romance. Suz is a pioneer of gay romance, especially in mainstream publishing. Her gay character Jules, a kick-ass FBI agent appeared in several of her Troubleshooter books, and is a reader favorite. There was a real development in these books, and his friendship with one in particular, Sam, turned Sam from a thoughtless homophobic to Jules’ best friend. Once you’ve read Jules, you’ll never forget him. He wasn’t there because he was gay, he was there because he was an FBI agent who happened to be openly gay. His career suffered for it, too.
Jules was no token character. He was distinctive, fully rounded, a man with faults. Someone you could fall in love with.
Tokenism is a tricky thing. The heroine’s gay best friend, the black drug dealer, the Chinese takeaway owner. While there are a lot of these in real life, when they are depicted as “typical,” with flat characterisation, it’s lazy and insulting. It’s a character the author sticks in for the sake of diversity, and miserably fails.
In historicals it’s even more difficult. Earlier this year, Kensington published my first gay novel, Sinless. I got tons of emails asking me to write his story, and I’m thrilled that Darius got his story. I thought I would have to do a quick novella and self publish it (with Kensington’s permission, since it’s part of the contracted Shaws series). And I’m so pleased it was part of a mainstream m/f series. But historically, “sodomy” was punishable by death. So there was deep peril in what came naturally, and most men lived closeted. Because to come out would mean persecution and possible death.
I also tried to write a story about the origin of slavery, as part of the Richard and Rose series. I had to give up. The language they used as a matter of course is just not acceptable today. They used it without being pejorative, but the words are far more laden with historical abuse and hatred when we look at it today. And I always try to be historically accurate. I could have used the word “black” which is just about acceptable, but that upset the rhythm of the book, and the way the words fell on the page. So I gave up. In fact there were lots more people of colour in history, but they were absorbed into the general population. Tradespeople, servants, the infamous black pages, freed slaves and the like. No aristocrats, not in the Georgian and Regency era, but some had ancestors who were poc, like Queen Charlotte, who was said to have African-like features.
The romance industry, particularly in the US, has been slow to accept diverse characters. That’s partly because they are not well represented among romance writers. There is a tradition of black romance writers in the US, and I’ve had the great fortune to meet some of them, including the lovely and hugely talented Beverley Jenkins. In the UK it’s even more dire. That’s not to say that you have to be a POC or gay to write those stories, but it would help if they were better represented.
The RNA is actively involved in encouraging more diverse stories. There’s a long way to go, but at least we’re on the way.
But read Suzanne Brockmann’s speech. It’s astonishingly good, and I do think it marks a new phase in romance writing. From the RWA shunning gay romance, erotic romance and others, rejecting those authors as members, to today, we’ve come some way. During her speech Suz pointed out how difficult it was to write gay characters, from her first book where one of her secondary characters was gay, and her editor made it change it, to the best-selling All Through the Night, she has explained how that came to happen. Mostly because Suzanne Brockmann is a Big Name in romance, and so she had that platform to base her stories on, something she knows only too well.
We’re getting there, but there’s a long way to go.
You can read Suzanne Brockmann’s moving and inspirational speech here. You won’t be sorry. And while you’re at it, pick up the first of her Troubleshooter series, The Unsung Hero. It’s so good.

Monday, July 16, 2018

All's Well That Ends Well - at least I hope it does.

Click Here To Buy
The Nightingale Chronicles - Book 4 - All's Well That Ends Well
This is the final book in a four book series and both Sarah Cooper and Alfie Nightingale will have to endure a deal of heartbreak and danger over the next two years to reach their happy ever after. Sarah becomes betrothed to Robert Billings and moves her family back to Colchester, and Alfie leaves to be a policeman in London. Somehow Sarah must hold the family together and pray that her man will come back to her. Alfie has a life changing decision to make but will he make the right one for himself and the family that he has abandoned?

I was sad to say goodbye to my characters, Sarah and Alfie Nightingale, after many years with them. I took them from twelve and thirteen years old to twenty-four and twenty-five with families of their own. The Nightingale Chronicles  are family sagas and also regional as they are set firmly in Essex and the East End.
There are now something called Exotic Sagas - ones set in foreign places - such as the Tea Planter's Wife. It would appear, according to agents and editors these are highly desirable titles right now - also anything about an orphan. 
I have already written what could be classed as an Exotic in Victoria's War. Victoria isn't working class (so not a clogs and shawls - which the others were) but Anglo-Indian and forced to give up her heritage when she marries an English army captain. The book starts in India, then moves to England, Africa, India, Bruma, America and ends in England. This book was inspired by my mother's memoirs (she was Anglo-Indian) and I love it. Not sure why it hasn't proved as popular as my other WW2 books.

I was going to write a series about a family involved with building the railway but now wonder if I should write something about an orphan. Victorian era is packed full of interesting stories. Henry Mayhew is my go-to research book and I can't wait to finish the Regency I'm writing and the edits for Aria and then I'll get started on my reading. 
best wishes
Fenella J Miller

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Lucasta, Gainsborough and the Long Regency

Publishing a new book (albeit a revised one) is always exciting, but searching for a new cover for Lucasta, my latest Melinda Hammond to be re-published on Kindle, turned up a fascinating true story that is the equal of any fiction.

You may be asking yourself why I have included a Georgian romantic adventure in this blog for Regency authors. Lucasta is set in 1780 and it can be argued that this was at the very beginning of a period known as the Long Regency, which covers a much wider time-span than the actual time the Prince of Wales was Regent (1811 – 1820). Generally, the Long Regency stretches from the late 18th century, when the Prince of Wales was coming into his own as a both a fashionable and a political figure, until 1837, when Victoria became Queen (and merited a historical period all to herself)


Lucasta is set around the 1780s, just before the French Revolution and the huge changes in society and fashion that followed. When I needed a cover for the e-book, it made sense to go to the leading artists of the day for my inspiration. And I came across this:
The Honourable Mary Graham of Balgowan by Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788)

 You can see how alike it is to my own cover (included at the end of this blog), which the talented Jane Dixon Smith designed for me.  The original portrait is now in the National Galleries of Scotland. It was painted after 1777, so it fits with the setting of my story (even if the style was influenced by the 17th century painter Van Dyck, so the costume and setting has echoes of an earlier period). When I looked a little deeper into the history of this painting, however, I discovered that the lady's own life was equally as interesting as any fiction.

The Hon Mary Cathcart was born in 1757, the daughter of a Scottish baronet who was at the time Ambassador to Catherine the Great. She was born in Russia and spent her early years there, but returned to England when she was "of marriageable age".  She was married at the age of 17 to a Perthshire landowner, Thomas Graham, in 1774. It is said that he was so love-struck that when she forgot to bring with her the jewels she wanted to wear at a ball, he rode 90 miles to fetch her jewel box.

She suffered from  consumption and her husband took her to Brighton in an attempt to improve her health. It was there she met Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire and they became life long friends (and possibly even lovers). Gainsborough adored her and painted her three times, including the version shown above, which was exhibited to great acclaim at the RA in 1777.

Mary's health continued to be a concern and her husband took her to the Mediterranean in the hope that a warmer climate would prove beneficial, but she died onboard ship, off the coast near Nice, in 1792. Thomas brought her body back through France, which was by then in the grip of revolution, but his party was accosted by French soldiers and Thomas was forced to stand by and watch while they broke into the coffin and violated his wife's body. He had planned to bury her in France, but after this appalling incident he decided to bring her home: she now lies buried in the mausoleum which he built in the churchyard at Methven.
Thomas never recovered from this outrage and could not look at the portrait again. He hung it with white muslin and later passed it to her sister. Thomas then spent the rest of his life in the army, fighting the French. In the mid 19th century, the portrait was bequeathed to the National Gallery by one her descendants on condition that it never leaves Scotland, and it has been there ever since.

It is a fascinating story, and one that I might never have learned had I not decided that this lady would make a perfect model for my eponymous heroine.

 Happy reading!

Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory

Lucasta is now available on Kindle

Thursday, July 05, 2018

In the Gallows' Shadow

What must it have been like to be in a prison where the gallows was always visible? When you might soon be climbing those wooden stairs and feel the noose being put around your neck. These thoughts jostled through my head when I visited Downpatrick Museum in Co. Down recently – it was once a gaol.

My writing self thought – but a gallows is just what a novel needs. Think of the scene in Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749) where the innocent Tom is climbing the scaffold's wooden stairs. The tension is almost unbearable. Will a pardon come in time? Or will poor Tom swing?
Downpatrick Gaol's scaffold and gallows as it would have looked in 1796

Downpatrick Gaol opened in 1796 and closed in 1830, and, during that period, it housed thousands of prisoners. Most of them were held for very minor offences, like petty theft, or being a public nuisance (which could mean practically anything). But it was also a convict gaol and hundreds of prisoners were held here in its cramped cells before being transported to New South Wales.

The very stones must have smelled of misery and hopelessness.
The outer yard of Downpatrick Gaol

It also held prisoners who fought for Irish independence from Britain in the 1798 rebellion, some of whom were hanged on the Downpatrick Gaol gallows. The most notable gallows victim was Thomas Russell, friend of the staunch Irish republican, Wolfe Tone. Russell met Tone in Paris during the French Revolution, together with another Irish revolutionary, Robert Emmet. Russell, Tone and Emmet were all executed for their beliefs. Russell and Emmet were hanged in 1803, Russell in Downpatrick, and Emmet at Rathfarnham. Tone was captured in 1798 and court martialed. He committed suicide when his plea to die a soldier’s death by shooting was refused.

These were violent times.

Downpatrick Cathedral, described by John Betjeman as 'the prettiest small cathedral in these islands.'


The Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, himself a staunch supporter of the French Revolution, had visited Paris a few years earlier, and famously wrote:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/ But to be young was very heaven.

But he was appalled by the violence unleashed by the Reign of Terror and, when things got too hot, he had no option but to leave his French sweetheart, Annette Vallon, in Paris with their baby daughter, hoping to return when things became more stable.  

The huge slab of stone said to mark St Patrick's grave


Downpatrick Gaol lasted only from 1796-1830, but they were years of exceptional violence, both in Ireland, in the rest of Europe and in the new United State of America. The scaffold and gallows were swept away and, nowadays, the place is a lively and interactive museum with exhibitions and events, showcasing Downpatrick’s rich history – St Patrick himself was buried at Downpatrick Cathedral in about 461 A.D..

It also tells the story of the gaol’s prisoners. Thomas Russell has not been forgotten.

Downpatrick Gaol: the inner prison yard

The museum’s director, Mike King, told us how the gallows returned to the museum. In 2015, the director of The Frankenstein Chronicles (starring Sean Bean) wanted to film there – and they would build an exact replica of the scaffold and gallows in its original position in the prison yard. With great presence of mind, Mike offered to waive the fee if the museum could keep it once the filming had ended. A lot of school groups visit the museum and he thought they’d love it. He was right. 
Gruesome or not, it’s a very visible reminder of the terror the scaffold and gallows must have once inspired.
Elizabeth Hawksley