Monday, April 25, 2016

Wedding Fashions in the time of Jane Austen

Wedding Fashions in the time of Jane Austen

I've just been to a lovely spring wedding, and it got me thinking about the wedding fashions of the Georgian and Regency period.

From the 1790s a wedding dress in white became the fashionable garment to wear, taking over from the white and silver dresses that had been worn by wealthy young women. Waistlines rose, sleeves became shorter and lace accessories not so regularly worn, although the bridal veil started to make its appearance at this time. Simple styles worn with less jewellery and diamonds were the order of the day, and lace veils were worn draped over the head for evening wear as well as wedding attire.

The sheerest muslin from India was the most fashionable fabric, but silk, gauzes, fine cottens and linens also formed the basis of a wedding outfit. Machine made net, often embroidered was an alternative.
The actress Elizabeth Farren who married Lord Derby at his house in Grosvenor Square in May, 1797 had thirty muslin dresses for her trousseau. Jane Austen’s cousin, Eliza de Feuillide wrote of the ‘great number of simpletons from the ‘fashionable world’ who had ‘been to see her Wedding Garments which are superlatively magnificent - She has thirty Muslin dresses each more beautiful than the other, and all trimmed with the most expensive Laces. Her Wedding Night Cap is the same as the Princess Royal’s and cost Eighty Guineas - I have no patience with such extravagances, and especially in such a Woman.
A nineteenth century fashion plate published in France in 1813 shows the model in a short-sleeved evening dress of embroidered machine net worn over a white silk under dress. The bride wears elbow-length gloves, a floral head-dress and lace veil. The earliest British plate was published in Ackermann in 1816, and features a dress by Mrs Gill of Cork Street made of striped French gauze over a white satin slip with short puffed sleeves. The hem has a deep flounce of Brussels lace with artificial roses trimming the skirt and bodice. She wears a diadem on her head with roses, though in this case there is no evidence of a veil.
The wedding of Catherine Tylney Long and William Wesley-Pole in March 1812 was reported in the fashion magazine, La Belle AssemblĂ©e - the bride’s ‘robe of real Brussels point lace’ was worked in a simple sprig pattern and worn over a white satin petticoat costing 735 pounds, a vast amount of money in those days. The bride also wore a white pelisse trimmed with swansdown and a Brussels lace bonnet decorated with ostrich feathers and a deep lace veil. The groom wore a plain blue coat, white waistcoat, buff breeches and white stockings in contrast.

From 1813 to 1825 wedding dresses looked more like evening dresses with low necks and short sleeves, though for church weddings sleeves were usually longer and a pelisse worn for modesty. The high waistline dropped so that by 1820 the waist resumed its normal position.

By the 1830s trimmings became increasingly elaborate and though headdresses became increasingly elaborate, bonnets were often worn as a popular alternative.

I love this glimpse of Emma's wedding from Emma by Jane Austen - I think we get an insight into what Jane must have thought of some of the wedding fashions: The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own. 'Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business! Selina would stare when she heard of it.' But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.

Finally, here are the lovely costumes that Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman wear in Sense and Sensibility - it's interesting to see the film versions of Jane Austen's weddings, but that's another blogpost!

Jane Odiwe

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Threads in the Tapestry

Having just come back from beautiful Derbyshire with my head full of my favourite places, here I am blogging about them a little more.

Deep into the heart of Derbyshire countryside, there is a delightful house with over 300 years of history: Sudbury Hall, now in the custody of the National Trust. As the guidebook informs the avid visitor, it is “largely the creation of George Vernon (1635/6 – 1702), ‘a prudent young man, sober and active’, as he was described by a contemporary [and very handsome too, as described by me :) ]. He succeeded to the estate in 1660 and almost immediately began to rebuild the old manor house of his ancestors, probably to his own designs.”

Hundreds of years down the line, it still boasts exquisite Louis Laguerre murals and painted ceilings, Grinling Gibbons carvings and the sparkling and flowery work of plasterers such as Bradbury and Pettifer. 

Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire
Photos Joana Starnes

Along with the hall, the surrounding village was remodelled and it has survived the passage of time, complete with a coaching inn, a school and even the village stocks.

Village of Sudbury, Derbyshire
Photos Joana Starnes

Lyme Park, Cheshire
Photo Joana Starnes

Sudbury’s real history is enthralling, but I must confess that I often dwell on its imaginary one. Because, along with another certain house in nearby Cheshire with its own 600 years of history, to me Sudbury Hall is Pemberley.

At every visit – and there were many, and hopefully many more – all sorts of details catch my eye and I squirrel them away, to be woven into the tapestry at some later point in time. The artistry of the carvings in the drawing room. The table set for a delightfully intimate dinner in the small dining room. The beautiful crayon sketch in the narrow hallway between the Queen’s Bedroom and the Porch Room, that could so easily be a lovingly-drawn likeness of a suitor or a brother. I know this is not the case, but one can dream.

Sudbury Hall, Saloon
Pemberley, Music room
Photo Joana Starnes
So I still dream as I look at the portraits displayed in the house and imagine them to be the ancestors of Pemberley’s master (who incidentally can also be described as a prudent young man, sober and active, who had succeeded to his estate at an early age and gave it his best).

The portrait of a stern-looking gentleman with proud patrician features could easily be Mr Darcy’s grandfather, who had married for love in his early youth, hoping for a ‘lifetime of felicity, in all human calculation’. The beautiful young woman in a dark velvet dress, smiling from underneath a hat bedecked with feathers, could be his first wife. The pretty but placidly resigned lady in a different portrait (much smaller than the other one) could be the woman he married for duty to his lineage and estate, when the love of his life was taken from him. And as she strolls with her husband and new sister and learns from them about the life stories behind the portraits, Elizabeth Darcy might muse whether the grandfather’s solemn features would still have been devoid of warmth and feeling in his fiftieth year, had his first wife lived...

And, months down the line, the parallel might become unbearably striking when times of anguish and peril revisit the Darcys. Or at least that was the inspiration for this fragment from Chapter 18 of my first novel, 'From This Day Forward – The Darcys of Pemberley’.

* * * *

The curtain twitched under a heavy hand and moved back to reveal the dreadful scene outside Pemberley House…
The dark hearse…
The coffin…
Fitzwilliam’s stony countenance, without life, without tears…
The long mournful procession going through the gates…
It is done…
It is over…
And there is nothing left…
Nothing at all…

Sobs, pitiful, broken sobs got through to her, and Georgiana awoke – drenched in cold sweats and in a flood of tears – to find they were her own.
“A nightmare,” she said aloud, to reassure – to persuade herself, and then again: “A nightmare!”
She sat up, still shaking, and got out of bed.
She had to see.
She had to be certain.
She donned her robe and tied the sash with trembling hands.
She did not light a candle – the moonlight would suffice.
She walked down the corridor and turned sharply at the end, towards Elizabeth’s bedchamber. She pushed the door open slowly, noiselessly, and only by a fraction.
And what she saw within tore at her heart.
Fitzwilliam was sitting in a chair by the bedside, his countenance as haggard and ashen as in her dreadful dream. He was holding Elizabeth’s hand, cradling it, without words, without tears.
And the mute despair in his eyes was devastating.
She turned to look towards the bed and waited, until the barely perceptible rise and fall of Elizabeth’s chest, with every breath, gave her the desperately needed answer. She withdrew and returned to her room, slowly, and very quietly. And bent to her knees, and prayed.
She prayed for her sister to survive.
For if Elizabeth did not, she knew not how her brother would.

* * * *

Quiet footsteps, eerily quiet, drew him from his trance.
He looked up – and followed.
The ghostly sound faded as he reached the eastern staircase and he took the steps two at a time, down to the bottom, where he had found her. A madman’s quest for he knew not what pushed him to the gallery. In the light of the moon, from her portrait, his grandfather’s first wife looked down upon him with the deepest compassion.
He dug his fingers in his hair.
A long, dry sob racked his chest as he pounded the frame of the unfortunate woman’s likeness, and broken gilt plaster fell to the floor.
He covered his mouth with his fist, stifling the groan.
And ran out of the deathly silent room, chased by his demons.

* * * *

If you think this was not exactly the lightest of blog-posts for a bright Sunday morning – or worse still, for a wet one ;) – and because I personally can’t bear angst unless I know the tale ends well, I have to assure you this one does too. I think all love stories deserve happy endings. Especially those involving Elizabeth and Mr Darcy who, to me, are the most romantic couple of them all.

Thanks for coming to Derbyshire with me. If you would like to see what else I might have dreamed up about the master and mistress of Pemberley, please follow the links.

                           Books by Joana Starnes on

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dilemma in Yellow Silk

This month I have a new release that I’d love to tell you about.
DILEMMA IN YELLOW SILK is an Emperors of London book. Set in the 1750’s, it concerns the continuing Jacobite struggle, when it went underground in the 1750’s, and a new threat emerged to challenge the status quo.
I’ve loved writing this series, with its mixture of history and romance, and this book was no exception. Viola and Marcus were a lovely couple to get to know!

Dilemma in Yellow Silk
The Emperors of London, Book 5
Ever ready to do the right thing, The Emperors of London act bravely—and when it comes to matters of the heart, impetuously…
Despite her cover as the daughter of the land steward for Lord Malton, Marcus Aurelius, spirited Viola Gates is tied by birth to the treacherous Jacobite legacy. Not that this keeps her from falling for the dashing Lord from afar. Despite his staid demeanor, Marcus is devastatingly handsome—and hopelessly beyond her reach. Then Viola’s father is mortally wounded and her secret identity revealed, sending her straight into danger’s path—and Marcus’s arms…
For years, he’d only known her as a wild child, the tempting—and forbidden—daughter of his trusted steward. But when Viola’s life is threatened, Marcus must act as duty—and his barely contained passion—dictates. Ferrying the bold beauty on an eventful journey to safer quarters, he offers her the protection of his name. Their tempestuous union might succeed in vanquishing their enemies, but will the chivalrous lord and his unsuitable wife surrender to the power of love?
“Lynne Connolly writes Georgian romances with a deft touch. Her characters amuse, entertain and reach into your heart.” —Desiree Holt
“Plots, deviousness and passion galore…a truly enjoyable read.” –Fresh Fiction on Temptation Has Green Eyes

Concentrating on her music, Viola nearly jumped out of her skin when a large body plumped down on the stool next to her. She shrieked, spun around, and closed her eyes. “You!”
“Why, weren’t you expecting me?”
His expression of innocence did not fool her for a minute.
“Not here, not like this. Did you run from the last staging post?” she demanded. She should not talk to the Earl of Malton like this. Right now he was less the earl and more Marcus, the boy she’d known so long ago. “Oh, my lord, sir, I’m sorry!”
She should recall her place, but she was finding the task difficult when he was wearing the same mischievous grin he’d used at nine years old.
“I couldn’t resist. Do you know what you were playing?”
The heat rushed to her face. “Yes.” No sense dissimulating. Of course she knew.
“And if you don’t stop ‘my lord’ and ‘sir’ing me, I’ll have you sent home forthwith. When we’re alone, it’s still Marcus.”
What had happened to him? Marcus had slowly moved away from her, gone from a childhood friend to a dignified, proper aristocrat. She understood the move, because he would have responsibilities to take care of, but sometimes she missed him. He’d remained a distant figure ever since, growing more pompous every time she saw him. Now he seemed to have cast all that off.
“I thought—that’s not right.”
Sighing, he shook his head. “And I’ve stopped you playing. A pity—I was enjoying that. Carry on.”
“Is that an order—sir?”
He growled deep in his throat, such a small sound she’d have missed it if he were not sitting so close to her. “Stop it. I’ll be Malton in about an hour.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’ve spent the last three days in a closed carriage with my father, and I want to forget the stateliness. He would, given the chance. But with outriders and men riding ahead to warn innkeepers we were on our way, we had little chance.”
“So they commit the great crime of ensuring the best bedrooms are free. The cook is bursting from his waistcoat, trying to cook the best meal he’s capable of making. If only my journeys were so tedious!”
His laugh rang around the room. “Exactly. But we’re welcomed with ‘Good evening, my lord,’ and ‘How can I serve you, my lord?’”
“You poor thing.” She should guard her tongue, but she delighted in reacquainting herself with the man she used to know.
He rewarded her with another laugh. “I know. It’s such a hardship.” Lifting his feet, he spun around on the bench so he faced the keyboard, as she did. “You got a phrase wrong. The tune is based on the traditional one, but it’s varied in the last line of each verse. Slightly different each time. Like this.”
When he demonstrated, Viola understood exactly what he meant. But with the amusement, her heart ached. She had missed him so much. At the delicate age of nine, two years after his breeching, Marcus had begun his training, and since then, he’d become engrossed in his life’s work. Before then, the laughing boy had had no cares, and they’d played together.
Until someone remembered their different stations in life, and she did not think it was Marcus.
“Your turn.”
After giving him a doubtful glance, she copied the phrase. He sang the verse along with her, his baritone blending with her untrained mezzo. At the end of the verse they continued with the next one. Then he added one she hadn’t known about.
By the end of the song, she was quite in charity with him. The years slipped away. Or rather, they did not, because never at any time did she forget that a man sat next to her, not a boy.
Viola hadn’t been this close to Marcus for years. In this lovely room, with sunshine streaming in through the windows, they could be in another world—one of their own, a place out of time.
Playing scurrilous songs on a valuable string instrument seemed part of their world. Eventually she joined with him as his infectious laughter rang around the room.
“Do you remember this?” She played a few notes. A two-handed exercise taught to children to help them accustom themselves to the keyboard.
“Ha, yes I do.”
He joined in, taking the upper part of the tune. It was simple but capable of infinite variations. At the end of the piece she changed the pitch and they continued. Four times they went around, until she stopped with an emphatic chord.
She rested her palms on the edge of the harpsichord. “This was tuned last week. I was only supposed to check it, not play it until it’s out of tune again.”
“Do harpsichords lose their tuning so easily?”
He really didn’t know? “It’s a harpsichord. The strings are delicate. Even damp can send them completely wrong. Each quill has to be checked and replaced if necessary. Don’t you know anything?”
He shrugged. “I know how to address a duchess and how to dance a minuet. I can shoot straight and use a sword.”
“So can I. The last part.”
He widened his eyes. Such a perfect shade of blue they were. She hadn’t seen them this close for years. Far too long. “You can fence and shoot?” he said, his voice rising.
“I shoot better than I fence, but I know one end of a sword from the other. I know how to stop someone taking it off me.” Considering her position, her father had considered the training useful. The daughter of a land steward, especially an only child, needed to know how to take care of herself.
“I will certainly test you on that.” He patted his hip. “But I don’t generally travel with a sword at my side. We have them in the carriage, though. Shall I send for them?”
She bestowed a jaded smile on him. “No. Or fetch them yourself, come to that.”
His cheek indented slightly, as if he were biting it inside. Stopping laughter? Then she was a source of ridicule? No, he wouldn’t do that, not the Marcus she’d known.
But she had not known him for years. Only seen him at a distance and occasionally exchanged polite nothings.
He shook his head as his smile faded. “Why did we not tell my tutors to go to the devil, Viola? What harm did our friendship do?”
“They were teaching you to be an earl, and eventually a marquess.”
“Ah yes. That. But you continued to play with my brothers and sisters.”
She lifted one shoulder. “I hardly missed you at all.”
That was a lie. She had missed him very much. His way of talking, the way he would say what he was thinking without hesitation—but he would hardly do that any longer. People hung on his every word, at least some people did. The people wanting the ear of his father, or for Marcus to do them a favor.
“I missed you,” he said softly. “I would like us to be friends again, as we used to be.” He covered her hand with his own.
Startled, she stared at it, but she didn’t move. His warmth seeped through her, heating more than her fingers. He’d been her childhood sweetheart, but they had both known they were only playing.
He did not mean it in that way. Occasionally she’d allowed herself to dream of him, but never allowed her fantasies to creep through to real life.
Marcus had grown up tall and handsome, and unlike most men she knew, he wore his own hair tied back in a simple queue. He rarely powdered, his one concession to his wishes rather than the dictates of fashion, but he would consent to wear a wig on ceremonial occasions.
The first time she’d seen him dressed for a grand occasion had served to distance him completely from her. Without those glossy dark brown locks, and dressed in the finest London could provide, Marcus appeared a different person, one Viola didn’t know at all. So when he said he missed her, he probably meant the carefree days of his childhood.
Viola could not pass this opportunity by. She turned her hand and curled her fingers between his. He clasped her hand warmly.
She stared at that symbol of friendship, as if it weren’t her hand. “I missed you, too.”
“You’ve grown up a beauty, Viola,” he said softly.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

The Girl in the Title

It started with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I think. Then there was Gone, Girl, the Girl on the Train and many, many other girls in various situations, places and circumstances, mostly with a hint of danger about them. Yes, the prevalence of the word “girl” in book titles has been apparent to us all and shows no sign of waning. And it’s not just girls. At the RNA Conference last summer Matt Bates, buyer for WH Smith Travel commented that over 60% of their best selling titles that year had a female noun in them whether it was girl, wife, mother, sister or something similar.

Choosing a title for a book is a difficult business so it’s always interesting to analyse what makes a particular theme popular. I hadn’t thought that “girl titles” were particularly applicable to historical fiction until I looked at the book charts and then I realised I was quite wrong. The Girl with No Name by Diney Costelloe is at the top of Amazon’s historical fiction charts. It has a nice, mysterious ring to it. There are others - and I've used a couple of covers to illustrate.

When will the popularity of girl titles end and what will be next? I wish I knew so I could get in first and start a trend rather than follow one.  In the meantime I'm
setting a challenge. Can we get the "girl craze" to work for Regency romance? I don’t really think the Girl and the Duke has the right nuance and if I re-titled my latest book The Girl in the House of Shadows it sounds like too much of a mouthful. Yet I feel sure we could make the “girl” trend work. So I am offering a copy of House of Shadows (without the girl) to any commenter who comes up with a good historical title featuring the word “girl” or even better re-writes a classic title in that way. When I threw down the gauntlet to my husband on this he came up with “The Girl on the Moor” which I thought was inspired. Over to you!

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Elizabeth Hawksley Writing Tips: 3

Good morning, Elizabeth here. Spring has arrived, a time of new beginnings, so I thought I'd offer a couple of kick-starting Writing Tips.

Sometimes scenes can get so bogged down that it feels like being stuck in a peat bog. Somehow, you need to get things moving again. Here are a couple of suggestions which work for me.

What’s at stake?
Each scene needs to push the action forward in some way and you may have lost the emotional connection with your hero or heroine. Try asking yourself: is what’s at stake strong enough? 
Fling in a problem
Chuck in something that stops the action in its tracks, and causes your hero/heroine maximum embarrassment, anguish or whatever.  Lydia Bennet running off with Wickham in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a brilliant example of this; it brings Lizzy and Darcy’s increasing intimacy to a sudden halt and throws a serious spanner in the works. Suddenly, a whole lot more is at stake.

Good luck.

Elizabeth Hawksley

Photo by Sally Greenhill 

Sunday, April 03, 2016

A Busman's Holiday. Melinda Hammond explains why she enjoys getting away from it all – working!

I have just returned from a writing retreat – no tutors, lectures or seminars, just half a dozen like-minded writers who decided to get together, all writing busily during the day and meeting up in the evenings to discuss progress, problems and generally talk "shop".  On the first evening we had a quick catch up and discussed what we wanted to achieve, and we were all up early the following morning, raring to go!

This is the second retreat we have organised; last year we enjoyed a break on the breath-taking North Devon coast, looking out over rugged cliffs and rough seas, very inspiring, I think you'll agree.


 This year our numbers were depleted by illness, so in the end it was only Louise Allen, Janet Gover, Sophie Weston and myself who arrived at a holiday cottage in Oxfordshire for three full days of intensive writing. We didn't have the dramatic scenery of last year, but we did have a lovely long lawn stretching  down to the Thames, where we could wander out if we wanted a break.  Equally inspiring, but in a very different way.

At breakfast we watched the red kites wheeling and diving to the lawn for scraps  and around lunchtime we would convene in the kitchen for snacks or just coffee and a natter, then it was back to work again, each of us finding a desk or table away from everyone where we could work.

Writing can be a very lonely profession, and it was good to have company who understood the need for us to be silent and working for hours on end. There was a sort of friendly rivalry, too, as we all set ourselves targets – word count, getting to the end of a particular scene, etc. etc., but because we were working alongside other writers, we would always go just that little bit further, do an extra hundred words or sketch out another scene. And if anyone felt like slacking, the tap, tap of other writers' fingers on laptop keys was a mental slap on the wrist, telling us to get back to work.

When we came together for our final dinner on the last night we compared notes. No one had written "the end", but we all had a terrific sense of achievement, even though we all felt a certain amount of exhaustion after three intensive writing days. We came away refreshed, inspired and energised; words written, plots created, and in some cases endings resolved.
It was a real busman's holiday and I can't wait to go again!

Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory
Four Regency Seasons - Melinda Hammond (Kindle)
Return of the Runaway - Sarah Mallory, pub. April 2016 by Harlequin

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Hi, Jo Beverley here, writing about one of my favourite plot lines.

MOC = Marriage of Convenience, though in historical romance novels the union is usually inconvenient for at least one of the parties. It's an "arranged marriage", perhaps not to everone's liking, and/or a forced marriage.

It's a particularly powerful drama if it's a union of enemies, but that requires situations unlikely in today's most popular period, the British Regency. In fact, arranged marriages can be tricky to set up in the civilized Regency. They're easier the further back in history we go.

For example, in the middle ages dynastic marriages were fairly common, as were the marriages or pledged unions of children, who are less likely to object -- at the time, at least. Fantasy settings can often be created for MOCs.

By the time we get to the Regency, the notion of affectionate marriage ruled, providing fertile ground for many novelists, including Jane Austen. A hundred years earlier most people would have consider the plot of Pride and Prejudice absurd, and would wonder why Elizabeth wasn't forced to the altar with Mr. Collins for the good of the family. Or, looked at another way, why rich Mr. Darcy didn't simply visit Mr. Bennet and say, "I wish to marry your daughter Elizabeth. Let's draw up the settlements."

A crucial turning point was the Marriage Act of 1754, but I don't have time or space to get into it here. Follow the link above to learn more. Why does the article date it at 1753 when I date it at 1754? Because that's when it was passed, but it didn't come into effect until 1754, which was a distinction important in my novel, The Secret Wedding.  That starts with a forced wedding, which was only possible before the Act.
In comparison to an Austen novel, consider a true case from 1719. 
Charles Lennox, Earl of March, heir to the Duke of Richmond was only 17  when his father summoned him from his education and ordered him to marry Lady Sarah Cadogan to settle a gaming debt. The bride, aged 14, was brought from her schoolroom. She was simply bewildered, but he protested at being married to such a dowdy creature.
The marriage took place as ordered, but wasn’t consummated and Lord March left on the traditional Grand Tour. He returned to England three years later in no hurry to meet his wife again. Instead, he attended the theatre, where he saw an enchanting lady in an opposite box. He asked someone who she was, and was told she was the reigning toast of London, Lady March.
He hurried to her side.
Their meeting must have been interesting — Did she remember his insulting words? Was she annoyed that he’d ignored her for so long? But however their early days went, they became a deeply devoted couple. He died in August 1750, aged only 49, and she died a year later of grief.
They were the parents of the famous Lennox sisters, subject of the book and television series The Aristocrats.

Why does the arranged marriage story appeal so much? 
I invite your answers to that question, but here are some of my suggestions.

We are intrigued by the forced intimacy of strangers, regardless of whether the book contains explicit sex or not. Simply learning to live together is challenge enough.

An arranged marriage removes responsibility and/or the pressure of affection. Neither party has to woo or negotiate, or try to decide if the marriage would be wise or not. If it doesn't work, someone else  is to blame.

In a novel, it can get the hero and heroine together quickly. That can be difficult in a historical setting where for many people society did its best to keep spinsters and bachelors apart. If the hero and heroine already dislike each other or are natural antagonists, so much the better.

Do you have some other ideas? 
Do you particularly like arranged marriage stories?
Do you dislike them? Why?

I like to write MOC books, for the reasons above. 

On April 5th, my latest will be available in print and e-book -- The Viscount Needs a Wife
The new and reluctant Lord Dauntry decides a sensible wife will relieve him of many of his problems. A friend suggests widow, Mrs. Kathryn Caterill, who definitely needs a new husband. 

You can read the set up in two excerpts, the first one beginning here.

Happy Easter


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Cornwall and ‘The Falmouth Connection’

I have yet to find a more romantic place than Cornwall. Romance hangs in the air on secluded beaches that make you think of smugglers and dark deeds, or on deserted woodland paths where ivy trails from the surrounding trees fashioning ghostly shapes in the witching hour. There is exquisite romance in the overgrown garden of old country houses, with their granite walls glistening in the damp and salty air. Which is why I had chosen Cornwall for the setting of one of my Pride and Prejudice alternate stories, ‘The Falmouth Connection’.

I love writing Pride and Prejudice what-ifs and designing various scenarios for our favourite couple. And why is it that so many of us simply cannot leave Elizabeth and Mr Darcy well alone? Because they are the perfect couple, little as they know it to begin with, and we want – we need – so much more of them. Because it’s reassuring to believe that there is such a thing as destiny; that there is a red thread guiding us through trails and tribulations towards the happily ever after. Because it’s wonderful to think that no matter what heartless obstacles are set before them, Elizabeth and Mr Darcy would still be together, and everything is well in the world.

Let me take you today to beautiful Cornwall, to the secluded gardens of Cotehele, my inspiration for Landennis Manor in ‘The Falmouth Connection’. This is a variation that begins at Hunsford around the time when Mr. Darcy decides to go ahead and make his disastrous first proposal. He does not get the opportunity – and we all know that it’s for the best. But he has no inkling and is severely disappointed when Elizabeth is suddenly summoned to Falmouth to meet a great-aunt she never knew she had. Little does Mr. Darcy know that as a result they would both become embroiled in a tale of deceit and peril. There would be smugglers involved, of course – it is 18th century Cornwall after all. But smugglers are the least of Mr. Darcy’s worries as he finds himself forced to question other people’s motives and especially Lord Trevellyan’s, a landowner of great consequence whom he suspects to be a dangerous man and, worse still, a rival. And then there is a troublesome French connection and all manner of secrets and lies, in a land that feels alien to Mr. Darcy. A land where few – if any – are what they seem to be…

So much for the ‘cloak and dagger’
And the romance?
Do read on and see. 

The scene is set in a garden very much like this one:

But you will have to imagine it in the middle of the night. It’s very late and there is no moon, not anymore. It’s very dark, much darker than in this nighttime picture. Too dark, in fact, to see what is before your very eyes. A few hours earlier, Elizabeth had been obliged to venture out – and she had found more than she had bargained for in the woods surrounding her great-aunt’s gardens. And now she is returning to the house after a series of troublesome encounters, only to discover that the eventful night is not over yet!


Breathless with the swift trek uphill and with the terrors of the night, Elizabeth hurried to the house. The garden door would not be open, surely. Would they hear her if she knocked? Perhaps not. Perhaps she should walk around to the main entrance.

She rushed forth noiselessly over the damp grass – and stumbled into something or someone in the darkness, only to find herself caught and held tightly in strong arms that would not let her fall, yet at the same time prevented all escape!

Before the cry of utter horror could leave her lips, a deep voice, warm and earnest, stilled her struggles and set her thoroughly at ease – for she would have recognised that voice anywhere.

“Sshh. You are safe. You are safe. You need not fear me. Forgive me for startling you thus! You have nothing to fear. Thank goodness, you are safe!”

The words did not sink in. Not yet. Not quite. But their fervent cadence reached her, along with the overwhelming certainty that this was not some unknown aggressor. It was Mr. Darcy – and she clung to the folds of his cloak with all her might, shaking like a leaf. Not for fear, though. The fear vanished as though it never was, to be replaced by the strangest weakness. Had he not held her, she might have collapsed, for her knees felt useless, about to give way, and her head was swimming.

‘It must be the shock,’ some wispy threads of reason sensibly claimed, but at this point she could barely heed them.

Still shaking, and still gripping the folds of his cloak with trembling fingers, she could not think straight. She could only feel. And the only feeling she could readily identify, from the tumult and confusion that seemed to reign inside her, was unspeakable relief that at long last this was someone she could fully trust. Someone who came from her own safe, sane world, and not from this terrifying other, where one could not tell one’s friends from one’s foes!

She was not cold – at least she did not think she was – and yet she felt herself shaking from head to foot with a violent shiver. Or was it a sob? Or both? Most certainly a sob this time, and then another, deep and wracking. She could not control them, which was terrifying in itself. She struggled for breath – and yet did not withdraw from the tight clasp of those arms, but unconsciously drew nearer.

Support and succour and safe haven. How strange that she had never felt as safe before. It was the oddest certainty that nothing could harm her now, and the relief made her positively dizzy, after the events of this long night, without a doubt the most frightful she had experienced in her entire tame existence.

The sobs subsided, tempered by the novel thought, and no less by the equally novel, barely perceptible sensations. A light touch of warm lips on her brow, sliding to her temple. Cold fingertips brushing against her cheek – and yet the trail of their caress was not cold at all. It was hot. And tingling. Another touch of a cold fingertip on her lower lip, in a light stroke, so light that she could barely feel it.

Her senses, previously dulled by the dizzying weakness, came suddenly alive, like hissing candles lit in very quick succession. She felt his breath upon her cheek, warm, rapid and uneven, and her own breath turned fast and shallow, as though to match the pace of his – then grew faster still when the narrow gap was closed, and his lips touched her cheekbone. They lingered there, dropping light, feathery kisses, and the cold fingertips were on her chin now, tilting her face upwards – or perhaps she had already done so of her own accord; she truly could not tell.

“Elizabeth…” she heard him whisper, his lips still trailing a soft line on her cheek, and then the whisper gave way to a harsh intake of breath – and his lips were on hers. No longer soft and tentative, but searching. Deepening the kiss, over a length of time that seemed to be measured in thundering heartbeats. Her eyes flew open, yet she could barely see his face. The moon had long since hidden behind clouds and they were in the deepest shadows. She reached up, her hands seeking blindly until her fingertips encountered the hard jaw, the cheeks, ever so slightly rough, not perfectly clean-shaven any longer, and she explored their shape, strangely glad of the darkness as she stroked their contours, never before touched, yet ever so familiar just the same.

Under her touch, the jaw tensed, and she could hear his breath becoming ragged as the kiss deepened even further into something her thoughts could not encompass. In truth, there was no room for thoughts, not anymore – otherwise she might as well begin to wonder what on earth was she doing in the gardens of Landennis in the middle of the night, kissed breathless by none other than Mr. Darcy, whose offer of marriage she had refused a few hours ago!

There was no sense, no reason, just the exquisite kiss and the night that suddenly felt warm and gloriously perfect, after the reign of fear and of doubt. Come to think of doubt though, she might as well begin to doubt her sanity for allowing this to happen – but as his hands roamed across her back, clasping her so fiercely that she could barely breathe, she closed her eyes again, relishing the madness and the bewildering sensation of homecoming, into strong arms that would keep her safe.


If this sufficiently romantic ;) ? If so, I hope you'd like the rest. Thanks for visiting and I would love to hear from you.

                           Books by Joana Starnes on

Friday, March 11, 2016

Marie Lloyd – Queen of the Music Hall and Unwitting Victim of the American White Slave of 1910

 This month I have been researching the Edwardian era for my novel about suffragettes and decided to give one of my characters the name ‘Maud’. I then got sidetracked (as one does on the internet) by the poem, Come into the Garden, Maud, which led me to Marie Lloyd, the Queen of the music hall.
Born Matilda Alice Victoria Wood in 1870, Marie led a fascinating life, made all the more spectacular due to the fact that she was operating in the days when women were expected to behave with decorum and reserve, and were pilloried if they did not conform to these ideals.  Her cheeky delivery of songs, with suggestive nudges and winks were considered vulgar at the time, but still made her very popular. Her personal life was tumultuous as well. She married three times, divorcing twice and several times ended up in court giving testimony against two of her husbands on the grounds of what we would now call domestic violence.
But for me one of the most interesting anecdotes of her life occurred in 1896 when she performed in front of a local council. The council in question were considering refusing to renew a local music hall’s entertainment’s licence on the grounds that the lyrics to songs sung there were offensive. Marie was summoned to the council and sang three of her best-known songs with such charm and innocence that the council could find no fault with the rendition. However, she was so incensed at their interference and judgmental attitude that she then launched into a performance of Come in to the garden, Maud. This was a popular ballad of the time, adapted from the poem by Tennyson, and performed by the daughters of the middle class in many a drawing room. Marie proceeded to execute it in such a way that it sounded filthy and was so crudely suggestive that the councillors didn’t know where to look.
The other incident in her life that I found fascinating happened when she travelled to America in 1913 to appear at the New York Palace. She was with her boyfriend of the time, Bernard Dillon. They had been together since 1910, although Marie was at that time still married to her second husband. When Marie and Bernard arrived in New York they were refused entry as they were not married, as they had claimed when applying for entry visas. They were detained and threatened with deportation on the grounds of ‘moral turpitude’. Dillon was charged under The Mann Act (often known as The White Slave Act) in that he had attempted to take into the country a woman was not his wife; Marie was charged with being a passive agent. After a lengthy enquiry, a $300 fine each, and an imposed condition that they were to live apart while in America, the couple were allowed to stay until March 1914.  The Mann Act was named after Congressman James Mann of Illinois, making it a felony to transport any woman or girl for the ‘purpose of prostitution or any other immoral purpose’.  Its stated intent was to address prostitution, but in reality it was a backlash against the considerable freedoms that women were finally experiencing as they were gradually being liberated from the strict social confines of the time. It therefore became less a weapon in the war against prostitution than to be used to prosecute inter-racial and unapproved pre-marital and extra-marital relationships. The penalties would be applied to men whether or not the woman involved consented and if she did, she would be considered an accessory to the offense. Marie and Bernard were therefore caught right in the cross-fires and Marie was so humiliated by this incident that when the tour finished she vowed never to sing in America again no matter how much money she was offered.
Although Marie died in less than glorious circumstances, penniless and alcoholic she was in her own way as much a crusader for women’s rights as the Pankhursts.  During my research I developed quite a soft spot for her, so expect to see her playing a small role in my next novel, provisionally entitled ‘Grace’.
Jacqueline Farrell writes historical and paranormal romances with The Wild Rose Press. Her two paranormal novels ‘Sophronia and the Vampire’ and ‘Maids, Mothers and Crones’ and her historical romances, ‘The Scarlet Queen’ and ‘Dragonsheart’ are available from Amazon and all good e-book stores. Follow her on twitter @jacquiefw1 and on her website   

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The reasons why I love being a historical fiction author-publisher.

Last week I released The Duke and Miss Bannerman – again.
I wrote this book many years ago and sold it to DC Thomson, then to large print with Linford Romance. It then went to a US e-book publisher, which folded, and the people who worked there started Musa. It then came out with them. I got back the rights to this book two and a half years ago and since then it has been languishing on my PC waiting for an opportunity to reappear.
The book has been re-edited and proofread again – you wouldn't believe how many things were wrong with it. How did two supposedly professional editors miss the major historical error? I referred to the duke as "my lord" instead of "your grace" throughout the book.
Therefore this is its fourth reincarnation. Hurrah for e-books is all I can say at this point. I know a lot of writers disapprove of Amazon but for me they have turned my career into a success story. Indie publishing is no longer looked down on but is considered a professional choice for many writers.
Of course, a few years ago, if my then agent had found me a major deal with one of the big five I would have been delighted. How things have changed.
However, I'm now content with my writing life and have no desire to become entangled with an outside authority. I have control over my writing output, my covers, when I publish and what sort of book I produce – why would I want to relinquish control of all that? 
Another crucial issue for me is being able to set the price of my books – there's no getting away from the fact that readers want cheap books. Indie published e-books now make up 45% of the American market on Amazon and traditionally published books have less than 25%. The only reason for this, as far as I can see, is that our books are competitively priced. A new Lee Child e-book costs the same as the hardback – how silly is that?
 Also, I doubt that I could earn much more, even with one of the big five, than I do at the moment.
Although I am mainly known for my Regency romances I also write WW2 and Victorian sagas. I couldn't write in three different genres if I was with a traditional publisher – they would expect me to stick to the one that was the most successful. I know very successful traditionally published writers who no longer enjoy their writing because they are obliged to produce the same sort of book year after year.
I wonder how many of you actually know whether the books you are choosing to buy have been produced traditionally or by an indie publisher.

Here is the blurb for the book:

This Is a 'Pride & Prejudice' story – he is as proud as Darcy and she as prejudiced as Elizabeth. 
A marriage of convenience to Peregrine, the Duke of Essex, is the only way Rosamond Bannerman can save her family from ruin. Her twin, Amelia, is too sensitive for such an undertaking. 
However, Rose finds Perry arrogant and proud whilst he thinks Rose pert and impolite. He considers her sister Millie a more suitable bride but when Rose takes her sister's place, her actions compromise them both. 
The duke is obliged to offer an arrangement neither party is happy with.

Click US  $1.99
Click UK  £1.50

Saturday, March 05, 2016


I've just been re-reading Pride and Prejudice, and I found myself wondering what, if anything, could be said in Mrs Bennet's favour.

At first glance, she seems to have nothing whatsoever to recommend her as a wife or mother. Jane Austen says of her, ‘She was a woman of mean understanding, little information and uncertain temper.’ Furthermore, her manners leave much to be desired; Mr Darcy, in his letter to Lizzy, writes about Mrs Bennet’s ‘total want of propriety’ and poor Lizzy herself, ‘blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation’ when her mother came to see Jane at Netherfield. Lizzy knows, all too well, that her mother's behaviour seriously lessens her chances of making a good marriage.

Jane Austen: National Portrait Gallery

However, whilst admitting that Mrs Bennet’s behaviour could be embarrassing, nevertheless, I came to the conclusion that Mrs Bennet had also given her daughters some very useful qualities.  

Lovers: from The Lady’s Pocket Magazine

For her point of view, ‘The business of her life was to get her daughters married,’ and in this she is entirely single-minded. Far from being of ‘mean understanding’, Mrs Bennet is absolutely clued up here. Her daughters have got to marry; if they don’t, their financial situation will be perilous indeed. After Mr Bennet dies, Mr Collins will inherit his estate. Would he offer them a home at Longbourn? I can’t see any of the sisters wanting that. Their only work option is to be a governess; and we know how sketchy their education was. ‘We never had any governess’ Lizzy confesses to Lady Catherine.

From: Correspondence between a Mother and her Daughter by Ann Taylor, 1817

So what did Mrs Bennet give her daughters? I began to think about why Mr Bennet married her. Jane Austen tells us he was, ‘captured by (her) youth and beauty and that appearance of good-humour which youth and beauty generally give.’ And if Mr Bennet, a well-educated man, could be taken in by youth and beauty, why shouldn’t other eligible men fall for her beautiful, good-humoured daughters?

Genetically, Mrs Bennet has passed her beauty down to at least four of her daughters. When Mr Bingley first pays a call on Mr Bennet ‘he had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much.’ Beauty and good-humour are very useful qualities for girls who are not rich.

Promenade Dress, 1809. Lydia in Brighton?

Furthermore, I would argue that she also handed down a sort of sexual self-confidence in  relationships with men. Jane Austen mentions Lydia’s ‘high animal spirits and a sort of natural self-consequence’,  and she means, surely, sex appeal. When Lydia returns to Longbourn after her shot gun marriage, she is described as: ‘untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy and fearless.’ How many of us have heroines with very similar qualities (except, perhaps, being noisy). None of the Bennet girls are shrinking violets - and their outgoing self-confidence certainly doesn't come from Mr Bennet who prefers to shut himself up in his study and read.

From: Costumes Parisiens, 1827

Lizzy, too, has inherited the magic ingredient of sex appeal. Consider how Darcy reacts to her at Netherfield, early on in the story: ‘There was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman and he was by her.

She’s beautiful and she’s sexy; and for that she has Mrs Bennet to thank. Of course, she has other, more solid qualities, too, but it is these very basic ones which initially attract Darcy to her. I decided that you could do a lot worse than have Mrs Bennet as your mother.

I rest my case.

Elizabeth Hawksley