Saturday, April 29, 2006

Some things you might have missed . . .

I missed all of these gems at the time, but have picked them up via Austen-tatious Blogspot

Originally from Litrix, some brilliant one line descriptions of novels eg Persuasion: "You're never too young to be an old maid."

There's an interesting article on fiction at Times Online, which talks about giving great works a happy ending, in line with popular preference for a happy ever after:

"Madame Bovary could also do with some cheering up. How about this: Emma marries Charles, a terrifically entertaining and virile country doctor, they have eight children, someone invents Prozac, Emma buys an Aga and wins first prize for home baking at Yonville agricultural fair."

And how to douse the cheer on others:
"And since we are making unhappy endings cheerier, for the gloomy 2 per cent there are ways of rendering happy endings a little darker, starting with Jane Eyre: The original “My Edward and I, then, are happy” needs another clause “. . . or we would be, if that bloody Bertha hadn’t found the fire escape.”"

The perspicaceous article then goes on to say:
"Even though Austen ended all her books with a definitive full stop, dozens of imitators have added sequels and prequels . . . Most are embarrassing pastiche . . ."

So he obviously hasn't read Darcy's Diary then :-))

But I really like this, explaining the huge amounts of fan fiction and embarrassing pastiche:
"Great fiction continues to run on in the imagination long after the last page."

It's about as good a definition of great fiction as I've ever come across.

Amanda Grange

Friday, April 28, 2006

New TV adaptation of Jane Eyre for the autumn


This autumn looks as though it's going to be a feast of TV for lovers of historical romance. Not only are there new versions of several Austen classics to look forward to, but also a new BBC version of Jane Eyre.



The following is from the BBC website.

"Newcomer Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre) and Toby Stephens (Edward Rochester) head up an all-star cast in a passionate new version of the much-adored classic Jane Eyre for BBC ONE.

The four-part serial also stars Francesca Annis as Lady Ingram, Christina Cole as Blanche Ingram, Lorraine Ashbourne as Mrs Fairfax, Pam Ferris as Grace Poole and Tara Fitzgerald as Mrs Reed.

The sustainability and appeal of Jane Eyre lies in her universality and the audience's appetite for a well-told romantic tale."

So what do you think of the casting? And why do we all love Jane Eyre (unless you don't love it, in which case, tell us why you don't!)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Book Group Online

If you'd like to join a book group but don't have one near you (or don't fancy reading a lot of books you're not interested in) then Book Group Online could be the answer.

The website is divided into categories, so you can discuss the books you enjoy reading, and you can pick up ideas for new books to read and discuss as well.

There's a lively thread on Pride and Prejudice, so Austen fans will feel right at home!

Amanda Grange

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Miss Charlotte Smith's Diary - Part 6

Regular blog readers will know that Miss Charlotte Smith's Diary started out as Miss Bridget Jane's Diary, which began life as a Regency satire of Bridget Jones's Diary
in a winning competition entry on the All About Romance website.

Somewhere along the way, Miss Bridget Jane became Miss Charlotte Smith, and so here she is, in all her glory.

If you haven't read the preceding entries in her diary, then reading them first is probably a good idea. You can find the links on the sidebar to the left.



January 6th

Put on my bonnet and stout walking shoes and went to see Melissa. Melissa is my best friend, and has been ever since we went to the seminary together and decided we were in love with the dancing master. Melissa has lost her thing for dancing masters, but now has a thing for curates.
‘How did the ball go?’ she asked me, as we went into the drawing-room.
‘It was awful.’
I told her all about Lord Rotherwell, and The Rude Man in the Anteroom, and that I've decided to become an old maid.
‘You can’t do that, Charlotte.’
‘Why not?’ I asked.
‘Because if you do, you'll be penniless. You won’t be able to have hot rolls and chocolate for breakfast, you’ll have to live on gruel.’
Have decided against becoming an old maid. Do not have the sort of constitution that thrives on gruel.


January 10th

3 o’clock
‘Really, Charlotte, I don’t know what to do with you,’ said Mama, looking at me sorrowfully, as though I was a big disappointment to her, which I probably am.
‘I do,’ said Susan.
Susan, as I’ve mentioned before, is my beloved sister. She has a bottom the size of the Gower Peninsula, but she can afford to have a huge bottom, because she is married. She doesn’t have to wear silver gauze, or throw back her shoulders and stick out her chest, or be nice to widowers with seven children. She can eat like a horse, and Mama never says to her, ‘Now, Susan, no more meringue, or you’ll never get a husband. A man wants a mistress for his home, not a mattress,’ and then follow it up with a silvery laugh.
‘Charles and I are expecting another baby in the summer —’
‘Oh, Susan, how wonderful,’ cooed Mama. ‘Are you sure you’re comfortable, dear? Can I get you another pillow? Or perhaps a piece of cake?’

‘Don’t fuss, Mother. As I was saying, Charlotte can come and live with us. She can make herself useful and look after the older children. A maiden aunt is just what we need. So much cheaper than a governess. There’s a nice room in the attic she can have, right next to the schoolroom. She can keep the children out of our way.’
Had a vision of disappearing into Susan’s attic and never being seen again. Or perhaps going in there at twenty-five and coming out at eighty-five, with hair down to my ankles and long nails trailing on the ground.
‘I am not cut out to be a nursemaid or a governess,’ I said.
‘Face it, Charlotte, what else is there for you? Lord Rotherwell was your last hope,’ said Susan. ‘Mama, I think I will have a piece of cake after all.’
Mama rang the bell and ordered two pieces of cake.
‘Both for Susan, dear,’ she said to me. ‘She’s eating for two. You know, your sister does have a point. You’re not getting any younger, and this was rather your last chance. Perhaps you should go and live with her after all.’

4 o’clock
I will not go and live with Susan, even if she owns the last house on earth. I would rather run away to sea.
I retired to the library and picked up The Earl’s Secret. I’d only just opened it when I remembered I am meant to be reading improving books. I took up a copy of Kings and Queens of England and started reading that instead.

5 past 4
Am bored with the Kings and Queens of England.

10 past 4
Have decided that The Earl’s Secret is an improving book, because it gets better as it goes along.

January 11th

3 o’clock
Have had a marvellous idea. I will look for a job and become a companion! The lovely Phoebe in The Earl’s Secret is a companion. She’s interviewed by the son of the sweet old lady who needs a companion and falls madly in love with him. After thinking he is in love with a thin-as-a-rake beauty who has a dowry of twenty thousand pounds she realizes he is in love with her because she has Titian hair and green eyes. In a good light, with a following wind I, too, have Titian hair and green eyes, and I, too will marry an earl.

Amanda Grange

Monday, April 24, 2006

Wicked Intentions



Here's a bit from my new release, WICKED INTENTIONS a romance set in mid Georgian England. I do hope you enjoy it!

This is what the book is about:

Ruth Urswick’s father is insane. The only place she can find sanctuary from him is a Covent Garden brothel, and the only person who can help her is a dangerously attractive stranger. Ruth learns much more than any virgin should rightfully know at Mother Brown’s, but is that really a bad thing?

Oliver Bridgman, Earl of Iveleigh, is haunted by the tragedy that cut short his military career and nearly killed him. When he meets Ruth, he finds the bravery and beauty he’s been searching for all his life, but she needs his help.Desperately.If Oliver wants to win Ruth, he has to defeat a crazy man and take her as she is, penniless and friendless.Georgian England provides the rich and colorful setting for this sexy, romantic adventure. How can you resist?

Oliver and Ruth certainly can’t!

Excerpt:

"Do you understand why I let you?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“I’m glad. I’m not usually so–so—”
“Wanton?” he finished for her, a gleam in his eye.
Her cheeks pinked. “I suppose so. I’m sorry for all this. I didn’t know you see, I just thought I did.”
He smiled. “Did you enjoy it?” he asked suddenly.
“Sir!” Her first reaction was indignation, but in all fairness she couldn’t keep it up for long. She couldn’t look at him when she confessed, “I–I suppose I did.”
“I thought you did. I certainly did. And would you have enjoyed it with anyone else? Another gentleman?”
“No.” She said it without thinking, then was sorry. She’d let out too much. “I mean—”
“I’d love it if you’d agree to marry me, Ruth.”
She stared at him. She’d expected a proposal, Edmund had led her to expect it, but not like this. What a gentleman he was, how kind he was to put it this way! “I–I “ she began and stopped. He gave her the time to compose herself, leaning back, but retaining one hand once more. Ruth swallowed and tried to explain what she felt . This was no time to lose her reason. This conversation could affect the rest of her life.
The trouble was, she wanted him. She yearned to feel him again and in the past few days she feared she’d learned to love him. He wouldn’t be an easy partner, but he was the one she wanted. She loved his concern, his kindness and conversely, his passion, shown her only the one time and thereafter so carefully masked. He didn’t need to tell her he wanted her. She had caught him looking at her once or twice with naked desire, the look he had given her openly at Mother Brown’s. It both warmed her and frightened her, but she couldn’t take him on that alone.
“Is there anyone else?” She had to make sure he wasn’t looking elsewhere.
“No one else.”
“Forgive me, this might seem a stupid question, but–but I would like to know.” His understanding expression gave her the courage to go on. “Do you–could you–love me? I’m not talking about grand passion, Francesca and Paolo, that kind of thing, but well, ordinary, everyday love.”
“I thought you knew,” he said, his face grave with sincerity. “Of course I love you, Ruth. Grand passion and all.”
She stared at him, her mouth slightly open before she recovered herself to say, “No! You must be mistaken!” then, realizing what she had said she added, “I didn’t mean to imply you didn’t know your own mind, or anything like that. I just–I find it hard to believe.”
“Why?”
“Oh for any number of reasons! It seems so, so convenient, so right! And you hardly know me–how can you tell?”
“Oh for goodness’ sake!” he said, showing the first signs of impatience that day and he pulled on her hand until she came closer. He released it only to clasp her tightly in his arms and when she lifted her head to look at him, kiss her on the mouth.
Softly, his lips played on hers and Ruth let herself sink into the sensation, deliberately pushing all her doubts aside. His lips left hers only so he could murmur, “Open your mouth for me, my love. Please.” She complied, very slightly parting her lips so when he returned to feast, he slipped his tongue between them and opened her up.
She relaxed into his arms, feeling safe, but with her skin tingling to his touch. At that moment she was his, to do whatever he liked with.
Gently at first and then with more assurance he explored her mouth, let her explore his, which she did, after a little encouragement. She found it wondrous, miraculous even that such intimate contact was what she had really needed from him. He moved his hands softly over her back, caressing and comforting until there was a responsive movement from her.
When he slid his hand around and touched her breast, she felt something inside her thaw. Her heart, held independent and behind carefully guarded fences for six years, afraid to love anyone, opened for him. She had to believe him. If she didn’t, she was lost. He ended the kiss only to drop light kisses along her jaw, down her throat, then returned to her willing mouth to ravish her senses again.
Eventually they had to stop, if only to get their breath back. Leaning against his shoulder, her breast still cradled in one strong, possessive male hand, she said, “I’ll never wear paint again.”

Lynne Connolly, Urban Gothic: Romance with a Dark Edge
Also writing as Lynne Martin, Author of breathtaking historical romance
Join my newsletter by sending an email to LynneConnolly-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
http://www.lynneconnolly.com

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Dissembler- cover sketch


The cover design for my next book, 'A Dissembler', arrived yesterday and I love it. The artist, David Young, has used a Victorian photograph of the lane that runs between Frating and Great Bentley, Essex, which is where the book is set. The fact that he has turned the lane into the drive to Frating Hall is a shame- it would have been great to have been able to market the book as having an authentic local cover.
However, after the problems with the cover for 'A Suitable Husband' I am just so relieved I'm happy with this one.
Waterstones in Colchester, and Caxton's in Frinton, are both stocking 'A Suitable Husband'. I have a meeting with the owner of The Red Lion bookshop, also Colchester, which was voted 'The Independent Bookshop of the Year' next Thursday. They are keen to support local authors so I'm hopeful they will stock some copies as well.
I, as many writers do, checked Amazon to see if there were any sales or reviews for 'A Suitable Husband' - as far as I can see I've sold nothing as I have not even achieved a ranking yet!! However I was delighted to see that my first book, 'The Unconventional Miss Walters' has suddenly started selling again. The mystery of this system is quite beyond me.
Fenella Miller

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Invite to an online book launch party


Kate Allan
would like to invite you to an online party
to celebrate the book launch of Perfidy and Perfection
and new ebook issue of Fateful Deception
from 20th to 22nd April 2006
at http://perfidyandperfection.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Reader, I married him……



The Georgian Newspaper Project is run from Bath Record Office by a team of volunteers and they are making an on-line database of information from the Bath Chronicle for the years 1770 – 1800. I have been browsing through the section on marriages, and it makes fascinating reading. I think it shows the art of conveying a world of meaning in just a few words.

For instance, in 1786 Mr Bradford, a surgeon of Frenchay, married Miss Rogers, "an agreeable lady with handsome fortune" while in 1785 John Wiltshire married the "amiable and beautiful" Charlotte Bridge – one wonders if her fortune was handsome, too. Then there's the 23 year old man who married a farmer's widow of 65, and Mr Norris, age 18, who married a 76 year old widow. A Mr Curtis from Guinea is reported to have married "a brisk young widow" - what an image that conjures for me!

Then there are the more touching stories – in 1799 Abraham Ludlow married Miss Gibbs and "every poor family in Westbury, Heywood & Hawkeridge (nearly 2,000 persons) received a liberal donation". Mr John Frampton married Miss Elswood in 1798 – "he courted lady 2 x week for 45 years & walked c. 17,000 miles" and William Smith married Miss Winifred Latham: "He having recovered from a stroke 2½ years previously with her constant, dedicated care."

There are several terse reports: "Robert Lindsay, esq, to Miss Penelope Ford Scriven of Bath at Gretna Green." and "notice of marriage of Rev Mr Edwards of Tilshead to Miss Jaques of Devizes was premature."

In 1770 one poor couple had to go through the whole ceremony again because of a mistake in the bride's Christian name "…being wrongly inserted as Sarah instead of Celia in the licence."

Any one of the above could start me on a whole new book! You can search the database for yourself at http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/BathNES/lifeandleisure/leisure/localarchives/georgian

Finally, my favourite has to be from October 1785:
" Mr Edward Collier, tallow chandler & soap boiler, age c. 50, to Mrs Jones, age 84 (with a considerable fortune), at Norton St Phillip on Saturday. Bride on crutches supported by two helpers to altar."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Journal of a Regency Lady 2


December 18 1811
I saw him again. He was just as handsome as ever and he smiled at me. My heart beat so fast that I think my cheeks must have turned pink. We walked in the long gallery at Daventry Hall to admire the pictures and it was all I could do to keep from laughing for he described them all in such a droll way. We spent half an hour together before we had to join the others for nuncheon and it was the very best time of my life!

December 19 Papa asked him to dine with us on Christmas Eve. We are to have thirty guests for dinner that evening and Mama is in a frenzy of apprehension. She is always the same whenever we have a large party, preparing lists and then losing them and plaguing poor Cook with all manner of instructions about how the goose should be cooked and how many courses we ought to serve. I think that when I am married I should like to be the mistress of a large house and too grand to go down to the kitchen. I shall employ a housekeeper to do all that instead of fussing as Mama does. However, that means I should ahve to marry a rich man and I am not sure that he is very rich.

December 20
I have been working very hard at my sewing for it is nearly Christmas and I have not finished all my presents. I have made a handkerchief for Papa with his initials in the corner and the same for my brother Paul - but I made him a pen case too for in his last letter he told me that his was lost with some of his baggage when they moved camp. I am not sure when I shall be able to give Paul his presents because he does not talk of coming home, but they must be ready just in case. I have made a pretty nightchemise for Rosie, which Mama helped me to cut out and I saved my pin money to buy Mama some lavender water, which she had been wanting. I cannot wait for Christmas Eve. If he does not come I think I shall truly die, but he did promise faithfully that he would...

I am writing this as I might had I been a lady in Regency times. In my own life I am writing for M&B as Anne Herries and Severn House as Linda Sole. I hope you enjoy my fictious diary

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Guest blogger - Elizabeth Chadwick

We are delighted to welcome Elizabeth Chadwick as our guest blogger for April. Elizabeth is the critically-acclaimed and best selling author of such exceptional medieval novels as Shadows and Strongholds and The Greatest Knight.

"An author who makes history come gloriously alive" - The Times

Here Elizabeth talks about her methods of research.



Finding The Past.







Research is an essential underpinning of the historical novelist’s art. Robert McKee said in his ten commandments something along the lines of ‘thou shalt know the world thy characters inhabit as well as thou knowest thine own.’ I thought I’d blog about some of the ways I do my research, both the conventional and the slightly alternative.







Primary sources.
These are the first port of call - the works written at the time in which I set my novel. They will inform me about the mindset of the times (although sometimes they can be slightly narrow or skewed given that I write about the earlier Middle Ages and much primary source material comes from curmudgeonly old monks with a somewhat jaundiced view of the world – especially the world of women!). They will also give me clues as to daily life, clothing, food and such, plus insights into the major events and characters. Primary sources for my time period, will also include accounts, personal letters and pipe rolls. For example, I know from a pipe roll that King John commanded a carpenter to make him some chests to in which to carry his books. I know he had a laundry maid called Florence. I know from personal letters that King John had a favourite belt of black leather and that he liked to wear jewels around his neck. I know that one of my heroes, William Marshal, was rather fond of bread-stuffed mushrooms! All of the above are useful for getting to know and developing a character and also for setting the scene.



Secondary sources.
Here I use reference works written by experts in the field and usually published by university presses or specialist presses such as Boydell & Brewer. These will give me a good overview of the period, both social and political, and with their extensive bibliographies, more food for thought should I need it. I have a few coffee table books for pretty pictures and some children’s books too, again mainly for illustration. I always back up the less academic books with more in depth research from the scholarly or primary source books.


Guidebooks.

I go to as many historical sites as possible, and wherever I go, even if it’s not currently concerned with a novel I’m writing, I pick up a guide book because I never know when I’m going to need it. The same goes for local history volumes.


Connected to the above.
Going to places and sussing out landscapes and layout, plus soaking up atmosphere. It’s not always possible, but very useful if I can do it. For example, I wrote a scene at Ludlow Castle where a character falls from a window. It was based on a true incident and the tower from which the character fell is still standing. Before I went to Ludlow, I had the character falling into the courtyard. A visit to the castle revealed that the window in question faces outwards to the ditch. So I had to go back and rewrite the ‘splat’ scene.


The Internet.
This has become an increasingly valuable resource with some terrific websites and e-lists. An author can find out a great deal without having to leave his or her study. However one has to be careful as there is a lot of dross out there too. Rather in the way that I use academic works for my secondary source research, I am very choosy about the sources I use on the Internet. Some of the genealogy sites are a hoot but not to be taken seriously. For example, one of them has the hero of my current work in progress being born in Pembroke around 1140, when I know for certain that he was born in Wiltshire around 1105!


Re-enactment/Living History.


Sometimes there is absolutely no substitute for trying it for yourself. I have been a member of Regia Anglorum early Medieval Living History society for about 15 years now www.regia.org and the dividends paid have been massive. By literally ‘walking the walk’ I have been able to find out things that no text book, no matter how well written or researched is going to do for me. Instead of being two dimensional, it’s up close and personal. I know what it’s like to look through the eye slits of a jousting helm. I’ve walked up castle stairs in flat soled shoes. I’ve helped man (or woman!) a trebuchet. I’ve cooked and spun, woven and dyed. If I’m personally not hot on fighting techniques, then I have access to people who are. Over a quarter of the membership are either historians or archaeologists. The knowledge store is phenomenal both at academic and practical levels. I’d encourage anyone to become a member of such a society.


Remote Viewing.
Definitely a VERY alternative source of research and one that I talk about in my own blog. Basically it’s ‘seeing’ back into the past via someone who has the ability to tune into what has gone before. Rather like re-enactment, this has revolutionised the way I write my novels, especially with reference to characterisation. A fabulous resource. I hope that at some point, the remote viewing notes I have taken over the last year and a half, and still ongoing, will eventually become a book in themselves.


Elizabeth Chadwick is the bestselling author of many historical novels including her most recent, Shadows and Strongolds (The Ludlow novel!), as well as The Greatest Knight. The Greatest Knight is the first of two novels about Medieval hero William Marshal (out now in hardback, and published in paperback on July 4th.) Both are published by TimeWarner. They are available from bookshops in the UK, and from Amazon and other online booksellers around the world.


To find out more about Elizabeth and her novels, visit Elizabeth's website

Excerpt from DANGEROUS WATERS


Phoebe is leaving her home for a new life in Jamaica and marriage to a man she's never met. But first she has to cross the Atlantic, and she's terrified of the sea.


A knock on the cabin door made her jump violently.
“Miss Dymond?”
“Yes?” Shock had tightened her throat so that the word emerged as a strangled hiss.
“Is everything all right?”
No. Phoebe swallowed hard. Rising from the bunk to her feet she steadied herself with one hand, used the other to make sure her face was free from tearstains, and spoke through the wood. “Yes, thank you.”
“Miss Dymond, I have no wish to intrude on your privacy but nor do I have unlimited time.” His obvious impatience made Phoebe flinch. “I have just learned that I am to act as your guardian for the duration of the voyage. That being the case would our conversation not be more easily conducted – and more private - without a door between us?”
Phoebe grasped the handle. The door remained shut. She was trapped. Terror seared her nerves. But as she opened her mouth to scream she was pulled forward, the handle wrenched from her hand as the door flew open outwards.
Letting out a cry she stumbled against a tall figure, gasping as she felt warm breath on her face. Gripped by her upper arms she was set down on the bench seat with the table at her back and immediately released.
Dizzy with relief and shock, deafened by her drumming heartbeat, Phoebe pressed both hands to her temples feeling utterly foolish. “How stupid of me. I’m sorry. I forgot about the door opening out - ” As she glanced up the words dried on her tongue. This wasn’t the man she had seen on deck. “Wh – who are you?”
His thick hair was the colour of clover honey and sprang back from his forehead in tousled waves. Beneath it his brows were drawn together in a frown. Without taking his eyes from hers he lowered himself onto the bench, deliberately putting distance between them.
“Crossley. Jowan Crossley.”
Phoebe’s thoughts tumbled in confusion. This was the man her uncle had asked – ? No, he hadn’t. Her uncle had asked the packet agent to inform the captain. Only the captain wasn’t aboard. And either the agent had been too busy to mention it or had simply forgotten. “You’re the surgeon?” At his brief frowning nod she moistened her lips. Clearly he was as unwilling a party to the agreement as she was.
“I’m sorry you have been put to such unnecessary inconvenience, Mr Crossley. My uncle made the arrangement with my best interests at heart. However, as you see I am not a child. I have been used to going about the town quite independently. With only three other passengers aboard I cannot think I shall require protection. As you pointed out, you have too little time already. And I do not need, nor do I want, anyone feeling responsible for me.”
As the silence stretched and she waited for his reply she could feel her cheeks burning. “I intend no offence, Mr Crossley.”
“None is taken, Miss Dymond.” He stood up, his head almost touching the great crossbeams that supported the deck. “May I escort you up on deck? It is a fine sunny day and – “
“No!” Phoebe blurted. Then collecting herself she forced a smile. “No, thank you. I will stay here.”
But instead of taking his leave as she had expected, he sat down again resting one elbow on the table and briefly inspecting his fingers.
“You have not made a sea voyage before?” He made it a question but Phoebe guessed he was just being polite.
She shook her head. Then darted him a glance. “Is it so obvious?”
He smiled and raised one shoulder in a shrug. “I wouldn’t know. This is my first trip too.”
Phoebe searched his face warily. Would he say such a thing if it were not true? What would he gain? “Are you humouring me, Mr Crossley?”
“No, Miss Dymond. I am stating a fact. I did not mean to be impertinent. I asked only because I wondered if perhaps the ship’s motion is affecting you. I understand it can sometimes take a day or two to get used to it.”
For the first time she was able to smile naturally. “No, the motion has not disturbed me at all, at least not so far. But should it do so I have several remedies in my case.”
“Then why,” he quizzed gently, “on such a beautiful sunny day do you choose to remain down here? Heaven knows there will be rain enough before - ” He stopped, rising to his feet as Phoebe jumped up grabbing the table edge to steady herself.
“Because – because I have things to do. Excuse me.” Wrenching open the door to her cabin she whirled inside and pulled it shut. Leaning against the partition she pressed her palms to her fiery cheeks. He had no right to question her. She held her breath, waiting, counting the seconds as she willed him to go. She had reached six before she heard him move away, then the sound of his boots on the brass stairs.
Trembling she took off her long cloak and hung it on the hook on the back of the door. Having claimed she had things to do she had better find something. Keeping occupied would pass the time. And there was so much time to pass. Kneeling she pulled her trunk forward, opened the lid and lifted out two sheets, two blankets and a pillowcase. As she shook out the folds and began to make up the bed she breathed in the sweet fragrance of lavender. A flood of memories made her eyes burn. Blinking away tears before they could fall she concentrated on tucking the sheet neatly over the grubby mattress.

DANGEROUS WATERS by Jane Jackson. Pub. Robert Hale 2006.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Pirates and Privateers

I'm in Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island at the moment and already I'm gripped by the rich history attaching to this fascinating part of the world. The Bahamas are made up of some 700 Islands and Cays scattered over 100,000 square miles in the mid-Atlantic; their topography having made them an ideal target for pirates, freebooters, buccaneers and privateers alike. Tales of adventurers operating alone, or in tandem, have been handed down through the generations to such an extent that it's now virtually impossible to differentiate between myth and historical fact.

What is certain is that the infamous Blackbeard started his dastardly career in Charles Town (later to become Nassau), in 1716. Discontent with the standard symbol of skull and crossbones, peculiar to most pirates, Blackbeard designed his own flag, which sported a skeleton holding an hourglass in one hand and a spear in the other, whilst standing beside a bleeding heart. Scary!

Blackbeard was once famously described as,

'the embodiment of impregnable wickedness, of reckless daring, a nightmarish villain so lacking in any human kindness that no crime was above him ... the living picture of an ogre who roamed the seas and withered all before him with his very presence.'

That sort of testament stirs the novelist within me. If Blackbeard was so lacking in all decent feeling then it's reasonable to suppose that he would have added wenching to his list of evils. That being so then surely some of his descendents must have inhabited The Bahamas during the Regency period?

Hum, time to redress the balance, I think. Now there just has to be a book in there somewhere.

Wendy Soliman

Journal of a Regency Lady

Decmber 15 1811. Mama gave me this journal today. She says that I should begin the habit for it will help me when I am married, but I do not know what I should write. Except that I am not sure I wish to be married - at least I do not wish to marry any of Papa's friends. They are all so dull and I wish that something exciting would happen!

December 16. We dined with Mrs Henderson last evening. Her brother Colonel Bridgeworth was there and he put his leg next to mine under the table and kept calling me his dearest Anne. I do not call that exciting for he is at least forty and smells of the stables. We had baked carp for the fish course and the sauce was lumpy. Oh, I do wish something exciting would happen! Mama says that we shall go to town next season but it is so long to wait and I am bored. It would not be so bad if Paul were here, but my brother is away fighting for King and Country, as Papa says. I am very proud of him but I miss him so much. Rosie is all very well, but she is still in the schoolroom and very precocious.

December 17. Something has happened! On, I do not know if I dare to write about it! If Mama were to read my journal it would be too awful - but I cannot bear to keep this to myself and Mama swore that my journal was sacrosanct.

It was at the Hamilton's Christmas party. I expected it would be as dull as it usually is with not enough young men to go round. I was dreading having to dance more than once with Colonel Bridgeworth - but I didn't have to because Sir Roger Daventry brought his houseguests and they included five young men! They were all pleasant and good mannered - but he was so gorgeous! The moment I saw him my heart stood still, and when he came over with Mrs Hamilton and asked if he might be presented it raced like mad. I am sure my cheeks were quite pink. And then he danced with me and I thought I should swoon. His name is Harry Carrington and his uncle is Lord Carrington...and if I write another word I swear I shall die...

Linda talking now. Just back from Spain, where I came up with a trilogy for M&B and revised another book. I also came up with this idea, which I hope will be liked. Let us know if you enjoy it. More soon Linda (Anne Herries)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Today in Darcy's Diary - 13th April





As those of you who have visited my website will know, I worked out a timeline for Pride and Prejudice whilst writing Darcy's Diary. Although there's room for speculation, as Jane Austen didn't give exact dates for most of the events, I worked out that Darcy's meeting with Elizabeth at Rosings was on this day, 13th April in 1800. So here's the extract from the book.





Easter Day, Sunday 13th April

I had seen nothing of Elizabeth since my visit to the parsonage, but I saw her this morning at church. She was looking very well. The early sun has put colour in her cheeks, and brightened her eyes.
After the service, Lady Catherine stopped to speak to the Collinses. Mr Collins beamed as she walked towards him.
‘Your sermon was too long,’ said Lady Catherine. ‘Twenty minutes is ample time in which to instruct your flock.’
‘Yes, Lady Catherine, I—’
‘You made no mention of sobriety. You should have done. There has been too much drunkenness of late. It is a rector’s business to tend to the body of his parishioners as well as their souls.’
‘Of course, Lady —’
‘There were too many hymns. I do not like to have above three hymns in an Easter service. I am very musical and singing is my joy, but three hymns are enough.’


She began to walk to the carriage, and Mr Collins followed her.
‘Yes, Lady Catherine, I —’
‘One of the pews has woodworm. I noticed it as I walked past. You will see to it.’
‘At once, Lady —’ he said.
‘And you will come to dinner with us tonight. Mrs Collins will come with you, as will Miss Lucas and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. We will make up a card table.’
‘So good —’ he said, bowing and rubbing his hands together.
‘I will send the carriage for you.’
I followed her into the carriage and the footman closed the door.


I found myself looking forward to Elizabeth’s arrival at Rosings, but quickly crushed the feeling.
Her party arrived punctually, and because I knew the danger of speaking to her, I passed the time in conversation with my aunt. We talked of our various relations, but I could not help my eyes straying to Elizabeth. Her conversation was of a more lively kind. She was speaking to Colonel Fitzwilliam, and as I saw the animation of her features, I found it hard to take my eyes away.
My aunt, too, kept looking towards them, until at last she said, ‘What is it you are talking of? What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear what it is.’


Colonel Fitzwilliam replied that they were speaking of music. My aunt joined in the conversation, praising Georgiana’s abilities on the piano forte, then mortifying me by inviting Elizabeth to practice on the piano forte in Mrs Jenkinson’s room. To invite a guest to play on the pianoforte in the companion’s room? I had not thought my aunt could be so ill bred.
Elizabeth looked surprised, but said nothing, only her smile showing what she thought.
When coffee was over, Elizabeth began to play, and remembering the pleasure I had had in her playing before, I walked over to her side. Her eyes were brightened by the music, and I placed myself in a position from which I could see the play of emotion over her countenance.
She noticed. At the first pause in the music she turned to me with a smile and said, ‘You mean to frighten me, Mr Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me. But I will not be alarmed, though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.’
‘I shall not say you are mistaken,’ I replied, ‘because you could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know, that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own.’
Where this speech came form I do not know. I am not used to making playful exchanges, but there is something in Elizabeth’s character which lightens mine.
Elizabeth laughed heartily, and I smiled, knowing that we were both enjoying the exchange. So well was I enjoying it that I forgot my caution and gave myself over to an appreciation of the moment.


‘Your cousin will give me a very pretty notion of me,’ she said to Colonel Fitzwilliam. Turning to me, she said, ‘It is very ungenerous of you to mention all that you knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire - and, give me leave to say, very impolitic too - for it is provoking me to retaliate, and such things may come out, as will shock you relations to hear.’
I smiled. ‘I am not afraid of you.’
Her eyes brightened at my remark.
Colonel Fitzwilliam begged to be told how I behave amongst strangers.

‘You shall hear all then,’ said Elizabeth. ‘But prepare yourself for something very dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a ball - and at this ball, what do you think he did? He danced only four dances!’

In her eyes, my refusal to dance became ridiculous, and I saw it so myself, for the first time. To stride about in all my pride, instead of enjoying myself as any well regulated man would have done. Absurd! I would not ordinarily have tolerated any such teasing, and yet there was something in her manner that removed any sting, and instead made it a cause for laughter.It was at this moment I realized there had been little laughter in my life of late. I had taken on the responsibilities of a man when my father died, and had prided myself on discharging them well as my father would have done. I had tended my estate, looked to the welfare of my tenants, provided for my sister’s health, happiness and education, seen to the livings in my patronage and discharged my business faithfully. Until meeting Elizabeth that had been enough, but now I saw how dull my life had been. It had been too ordered. Too well regulated. Only now did I begin to see it, and to feel it, for the feelings inside me were wholly different from any I had known.


Darcy's Diary is available from bookshops in the UK, as well as Amazon. It's available from all Amazons around the world.

Amanda Grange

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Excerpt from Perfidy and Perfection


Chapter 1

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young lady of no fortune must be in want of one. Sophia Grantchester was one such young lady. She sought to end the painful worries about how all the tradesmen would be paid not by finding a husband, rather by being a lady novelist - like Mrs Radcliffe or Miss Edgeworth.

A shameful secret, of course, known to no one but herself. This was why, standing on the dark oak floorboards of Mr Pointer’s general shop, her first instinct was to turn, and run.

Sophy chided herself and forced her feet to remain exactly where they were. Yet she could not stop the thoughts running through her mind - what if someone borrowed the volumes, and somehow found out that Miss Sophia Grantchester, daughter of the Reverend Grantchester, rector of Middleton parish in Wiltshire, was a novelist? Her breath came in very short.

She blinked. There they were, on the shelf in front of her. Both volumes. The gilded titles on their calf-leather spines glaring at her – Caprice and Conventionality Vol. I and Caprice and Conventionality Vol. II. There was no one else in the shop apart from herself and Mr Pointer. She reached out towards the first volume. She trembled as her fingers gripped the spine of the book.

She had had the good sense to be published under a nom-de-plume, but what if people reading the book could tell that she was the author? Had she used a name or a turn of phrase without realising it that would give her secret away? Never would she have imagined that her book would be among the pitiful selection of books delivered by the circulating library to Mr Pointer’s shop.

She must borrow them immediately and return them too late for anyone else to have a chance to do so. Or something. She picked up the second volume of Caprice and Conventionality and four other books selected without regard, and gave the pile to Mr Pointer who sat behind his desk rubbing his spectacles with a fawn coloured cloth.

Sophy turned back to the dusty two-foot long shelf of circulating library books while Mr Pointer tied her books up in string for her. She willed her heart to stop thudding so rapidly. The bookshelf was in front of the shop’s small paned bowed window and an unobstructed view of Stickleton post office across the street.

The vantage point was ideal. However, it didn’t mean her plan was foolproof. Sophy swallowed. She simply had to get to the post office today. She needed her money.

The green door of the post office swung open and Mr Hannay, the postmaster, stepped out onto the street, his hands in his pockets and his collar pulled up high around his neck. He proceeded up the road in the direction of The Red Lion. Thank heavens Mr Hannay was a man of regular habits and enjoyed, without fail, his midday tipple. He was also a man of peculiar habits, and his post office clerks never stayed beyond a few weeks in his employ.

His new clerk had been in Stickleton less than a week. She could now go into the post office without being recognised.

‘Here you are, Miss Grantchester.’ Mr Pointer patted the pile of tied-up books and looked at her through his spectacles without focusing.

‘Thank you.’ Sophy smiled, snatched up her books, and hastened out and across the street to the post office.

***
‘What a splendidly pretty bluestocking,’ Viscount Merryford drawled. ‘And you always say that Wiltshire is so lacking in gentlemanly diversions, Harty!’


Benedict St Michael, Lord Hart, let his attention flicker away from his pair of greys pulling his curricle at a slow trot, to his friend who sat beside him. Merryford adjusted his quizzing glass as he leaned forward and Ben followed his gaze. Was he looking at the girl hurrying down Stickleton High Street some way ahead of them? She wore a dull coloured cloak, an equally dull coloured dress underneath and a straw poke bonnet, trimmed with bright red felt. A pile of books tied with thick string dangled from one arm and she had a basket on her elbow. Ben coughed. ‘The girl with the books? That is only Miss Grantchester, my cousin.’

‘Your cousin?’ Merryford’s eyes opened wide. He scrambled to retrieve his quizzing glass from his lap. ‘Such fine ankles!’

Ben felt his brow creasing into a frown as an inexplicable surge of vexation directed against his old friend made his shoulders go stiff. ‘Miss Grantchester is my cousin, indeed. And barely out of the schoolroom.’

‘She looked womanly enough to me,’ Merryford said, leaning back and placing his hands behind his head. ‘Curves in all the right places. And hair the colour of spun gold!’

Ben stared as his cousin climbed the post office steps in great haste and disappeared inside. How the devil could Merryford tell? Her grey woollen cloak had been buttoned up to the neck, and her hair seemed wholly hidden under her poke bonnet.

‘Pothole!’ Merryford exclaimed.

Ben snapped his attention back and steered them round it.

‘And is she spoken for?’ Merryford asked, rubbing his chin.

‘What the devil do you mean by that?’

Carpe diem, old friend.’ Merryford nodded and winked. ‘Take the opportunity.’

‘I think you’ve got the wrong idea,’ Ben said. For some reason his voice sounded agitated. He swallowed and made an effort to sound urbane as usual. ‘Miss Grantchester is my cousin, but a very distant cousin, a poor relation if you like. She is not going to be expected to make an advantageous match.’ Ben stopped there. He was sounding like his dear Mama. And now he thought about it, why shouldn’t she do something for Miss Grantchester to improve her prospects? He’d ask her about that for she had never mentioned such a thing.
‘So she’s not spoken for?’ Merryford pressed.


‘No, but she’s as poor as a church mouse. Remember, you need to marry money if you are going to stop the rot of that crumbling pile of yours in Devon.’

‘Very true.’ Merryford’s mouth quirked into a lazy smile and Ben felt his neck prickle uncomfortably under his cravat. ‘Well, in that case I can take her off your hands in a different fashion. Set her up in a nice little house somewhere. Chelsea perhaps-’

‘Oh no, you don’t,’ Ben said and steered them through the doors and into the enclosed yard of The Rose and Crown public house.

(c) Kate Allan, 2006

Perfidy and Perfection by Kate Allan. Published by Robert Hale. April 2006.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Not tonight Josephine...



... but last Sunday. Some more pictures of the Napoleonic Fair.



[ABOVE] Fenella-Jane Miller, Louise Allen and me set up our books, Regency bric a brac and Louise's display of costume prints and magazines.


[RIGHT] Still smiling after a long day at the Fair. L-R Louise Allen, me and Melinda Hammond.



[LEFT] Me with a redcoat. :)



It was a tiring but interesting day. I spoke to a lot of people about this blog... fingers crossed some come and visit! Everyone enjoyed taking to other people from many different backgrounds but one thing in common - a genuine interest in the Napoleonic/Regency period. There were lots of people in period costume so I decided to wear my Regency day dress - a sprig pattern I'll have you know. And, of course, my brand new bonnet.

Oh to be in 1815!

NB: A few more pictures on my blog if you're interested.

Monday, April 03, 2006

All the Fun of the Napoleonic Fair



It was up at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning to drive from Yorkshire to St Albans in Hertfordshire for the International Napoleonic Fair. Kate Allan, Fenella-Jane Miller, and Louise Allen and I were there to fly the flag for UK Regency Authors with our own stand in the lower foyer of the Alban Arena. It looked very impressive, with an array of our own books, period bric- a – brac and Louise's display of costume prints and books – just to see a copy of La Belle Assemblée with its beautifully drawn gowns was worth the 200-mile drive for me! To add the finishing touch, Kate Allan was wearing her fabulous Regency dress and bonnet - unfortunately she escaped when we were taking photographs, so I have only a photo of Louise and myself to adorn this blog! However, I am sure that much better photos will appear shortly, so watch this space.

We all managed to slip away to explore the Fair: it's a very strange experience to be wandering around the Alban Arena, a late twentieth century building, surrounded by soldiers and ladies in early nineteenth century dress. Those of us not in costume were in the minority! There were stands from re-enactment societies (in the centre of the hall, where they had formed square), the Sharpe Appreciation Society, cloth sellers with a wonderful array fabrics – wool in bright red and forest green for uniforms, heavy black for greatcoats and beautiful thin silk-like materials for gowns. On the large stage were huge tables laid out with battle scenes of Waterloo and Trafalgar etc and upstairs a seated area was set aside for talks, including one from our own Louise Allen on costume research from the novelist's point of view.

I had a wonderful time, met lots of interesting people, could have spent a small fortune on everything from DVDs to reproduction riding boots and came away at 4 p.m. tired but enthusiastic about the amount of interest in the Napoleonic era.

MELINDA HAMMOND

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Assemblies


When Georgian or Regency novels talk of Assembly Rooms, the locations are usually Almacks, or Bath, or Harrogate. But in the far west of England during this period a little oasis of wealth and culture was blooming. A gentleman visiting in 1790 claimed that Truro was "unquestionably the handsomest town in Cornwall." The centre of the town was High Cross, site of annual fairs and weekly markets complete with bull baiting. But with the town's wealthy citizens getting richer - Ralph Allen Daniell's nickname was "Guinea a minute", an indication of his reputed earnings - they wanted to raise the tone and build an elegant location for more genteel entertainment. They wanted Assembly Rooms. The money was raised by the sale of 28 shares costing £55 each. Lord Falmouth bought three. The Assembly Rooms opened in 1789, and among the people attending the ceremony was famous actress Sarah Siddons.

But while the wealthy danced, flirted, played cards and enjoyed lavish banquets, trouble was brewing. The Revolution across the Channel had unsettled local landowners who were worried about its possible influence on the lower classes here. By 1793 England was at war with France. When the harvest failed in 1795 riots erupted as starving miners flooded into Truro from the surrounding countryside to protest at the price of bread. Yet by 1798 spirits were rising once more with one of Nelson's victory over the French. Truro's Assembly Rooms were the perfect location for a glittering ball. This time though, motivated either by a sense of self-preservation or perhaps a genuine desire that the whole county share the celebration, in every town Cornwall's wealthy citizens contributed an ox or a sheep and many gallons of beer so the ordinary folk could rejoice with their own street party.

Jane Jackson. Dangerous Waters pub. Robert Hale Feb 2006.

"If you like romantic suspense...then this is for you." Rachel A Hyde, MyShelf.com




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