Sunday, August 31, 2008
We are all so proud of Nicola here on the blog. Publisher's Weekly said, "Ms Cornick is a rising star of the Regency genre..." and we couldn't agree more. Not only does she write fabulous historicals but her wonderful new book, Unmasked, has been chosen to launch Harlequin's NEW, interactive Enriched Edition e-book series!
The e-book is available with pictures and buttons to click for hyperlinks to websites giving more details of the historical background. So if you want to look up obscure period details, customs, terms or references it's easy. Just press a button and hey presto! the information is at your fingertips. It looks fantastic and it's a brilliant new way for readers to enjoy their favourite historicals.
As if this wasn't exciting enough, Unmasked was up in lights in Times Square! We're all blown away by it here on the blog. What do you think, isn't this the coolest thing you've ever seen? If you need any more reasons to check out Unmasked, here they are:
"Sensual, dangerous and charming, Nicola Cornick’s Regency romances are darkly compelling." Rendezvous the romance Bookstore.
"A book… with a unique premise and whose heroine and her journey are the star of the show." Cheryl Sneed, All About Romance.
"A haunting story... The characters are well drawn and the plot is intricately detailed and surprising. Ms Cornick... improves with each new book but her writing has moved to a new depth with Unmasked." Leanne Davis, Rakehell.
"A spellbinding historical romance spiced with plenty of intrigue, adventure, chivalry and passion, Unmasked will grab your attention from the very first page and leave you breathlessly turning the pages late into the night until you reach the final satisfying denouement." Julie Bonello, SingleTitles.com
"A wickedly seductive Regency Romance!" MurderOne Bookshops.
So where can you get hold of it? You can find it on the Harlequin site, for the same price as their regular ebooks, by clicking here You will also find more details including an exerpt.
Hooray for Nicola, history writer, history maker!
And don't worry, if you're not into ebooks, Unmasked is also available as a regular paperback.
We'd like to welcome Monica Fairview to the blog as our guest. Over to you, Monica!
My first book, An Improper Suitor is in print and what a thrill it is to share my Regency world with my readers! It still amazes me to think that typing up words translates the ideas I have in my mind into a story that people can share. Because I have a strange mind and I’m always thinking about things that happened in the past, I have to give tribute here to whatever brilliant person thought of the idea of an alphabet in the distant, distant past. What would we do without it? Think of all the books we would never have read!
An Improper Suitor, though, isn’t about that first alphabet, though someday that might be a good topic for a novel. It’s about two badly matched people coming together and finding things they share in common. It’s a Regency novel, so of course it’s set in that wonderful world of glamorous balls, charming rakes, and (in the case of the heroine Julia) headstrong bluestockings who have a hard time sticking to the conventions.
I’ve always loved the regency period, ever since I read first Georgette Heyer and then Jane Austen. One reason I love writing Regency novels is that there is always the chance to discover new things. Once you have the basic research out of the way and you have a general idea of how women and men of that day interacted, and what the dating rituals of the times were, then there is always something else to learn.
For this novel, I was fascinated to learn about the language of flowers. I have seen a lot about the language of fans, and how there was a whole code behind it, but I didn’t know about the fad of consulting dictionaries about the meaning of flowers. At a time when interaction between young lovers was restricted, I suppose young people had to use anything at their means to communicate with each other. And sending flowers was perfectly respectable. But a rose by any other name had to mean something, and what flowers you sent could well be significant. That’s why I have Thorwynn, the hero, send Julia flowers. And Julia, suspicious of his motives, runs around consulting anything she can to try and interpret his message. The funny thing is, though, that Thorwynn is clueless. Sometimes a flower is just a flower…
For me, then, writing a Regency romance is like biting into a chocolate with fillings, a ferrero rocher, for example. First you peel off the gold wrapper and look at the chocolate in anticipation. You bite into it, and the first layer is good, but then there are those other layers inside, waiting to be discovered. Each layer brings another taste to your tongue, another level of pleasure. Hmm… looks like I should go and get some.
Hope you enjoy An Improper Suitor.
Comments about An Improper Suitor:
Julia is a lively character drawn with wit and sympathy and the descriptions of Thorwynn slowly falling for her as the story progresses is in the best tradition of Jane Austen … A great tale and entertaining romp through an unlikely and unconventional courtship, with a truly romantic denouement.
Catherine Jones, Chair, Romantic Novelists’ Association
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Here are a few snippets from the latest reviews.
In this pleasant addition to the growing micro-genre of Austen knockoffs, Odiwe pays nice homage to Austen’s stylings and endears the reader to the formerly secondary character, spoiled and impulsive Lydia Bennet.
Her new acquaintances are interesting and well developed, and Wickham is just as scandalous as ever. The ending will be a complete surprise.
ForeWord’s This Week Newsletter
Odiwe emulates Austen’s famous wit, and manages to give Lydia a happily-ever-after ending worthy of any Regency romance heroine.
I have to say I'm really pleased and can only hope that readers of Lydia will like learning about her story as much as I have enjoyed writing it!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Primary data, is the dry title given to this kind of research. Sounds boring, doesn't it? Anything but. Immersing yourself in a letter of the period is as good as reading a racy novel. Better, sometimes. Ephemera is the name given to the stuff people often throw away, but has sometimes survived. Letters, newspapers, journals, diaries, gossip-sheets, of which there were plenty in the Georgian era.
We tend to think of gossip as something that is particular to our own age, but that is far from the truth. As long as man has been alive, there has been gossip. The caveman probably kept an eye on his neighbour, just to see what he was up to, and passed the information along in idle chat while he and his colleague were crouched by a rock, waiting for the next mammoth to come along. And in the Georgian era, with characters like Horace Walpole and Hervey (Lady Mary Wortley Montagu said there were three species - men, women and Herveys) the age didn't lack for talented and witty gossip-mongers.
I suppose I'm thinking about it now because my work-in-progress, a modern-set paranormal, features, as its heroine, a gossip columnist. One that is paid for the dirt she can dig up. But even there, these people have their standards. Why do we worry about the antics of Paris Hilton and her friends, and why do some people turn up their noses and say they're not interested?
I don't really know, but it's interesting. And as long as people chat, there'll be gossip.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Jack’s story, His Forbidden Liaison, starts in Marseilles where Jack and his fellow-spy Ben have been sent by the Duke of Wellington to try to suss out the extent of support for Napoleon. Suddenly, their careful plans are thrown up in the air. It’s not a question of whether there might be support for Napoleon in the future. He’s actually landed, only a few miles along the coast!
The story takes them from Marseilles, to Lyons, and then to Paris. All the while, Napoleon is making the same progess from Mediterranean coast to capital, gathering enthusiastic support along the way. It’s an exciting, and dangerous story, for my hero and his friend. But they do have help along the way, from Marguerite, a remarkable Lyons silk-weaver, with some interesting uses for a brass candlestick.
Lyons seems to have had a complete make-over after the fall of Napoleon in 1815. In 1813, on the south end of the peninsula between the rivers Rhone and Saone, there was a huge oval place des victoires, a grand tree-lined cours impérial leading up to a semi-circular monument, and a projected imperial palace with huge formal gardens. A year or so after Waterloo, there was almost nothing on the map but fields. All traces of imperial grandeur had gone.
My most urgent research task was to identify the roads around the old port in Marseilles. I had spent a year in the city as a student, but that was no help at all. The Marseilles where I lived was, and is, huge and sprawling. I needed to know how much of it was there in 1815.
What I found was fascinating. There was a maze of twisting medieval streets on the north side of the port, while on the south side, a much more modern and spacious layout had been adopted, with a canal running round what looked to be warehouses. The famous broad street running up into the city from the old port, La Canebière, was there, but wasn’t tree-lined as it is now.
And the names had changed, of course. The city end of the old port was called the quai impérial in 1814, but had become the quai de Monsieur by 1820. (It’s now the quai des Belges.) The place impériale of 1814 had become, predictably, the place royale by 1820. One which hadn’t changed by 1820 was the tiny place du cul de boeuf, which has a rather rude translation, I’m afraid. It amused me so much that I’ve used it in my story.
My favourite, though, was further out beyond the gate in the city walls, on the road north to Aix-en-Provence. There I found the place pentagone. Of course, with that name, it was not square at all, but a huge non-symmetrical space. However, its previous name had been place des 13 escaliers, the square of 13 staircases. Doesn’t that conjure up a wonderful image?
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Yesterday I received the good news that my latest novella, A Reluctant Bride was now up on www.regencyreads.com
I much prefer the new cover, I don't know where they get them from, but if you have a look on their site all the covers are delightful. Here are the first two pages, I hope you enjoy them.
'Mama, please don't worry about me. I am perfectly happy living here with you. When dear Jack died at Talevera three years ago he left me with a comfortable income and a determination never to marry again. '
Lady Bryson shook her head, unconvinced by her daughter's protestations. 'My dear girl, you were married out of the cradle, the major snatched you away from me before you had even a season. Good heavens, Patience, you are hardly in your dotage, you are only three and twenty and a beautiful young lady. It is high time you went back into society and found yourself another husband.'
Patience had heard quite enough of this nonsense recently. She pinned a smile to her face, pushing back a stray russet curl from her forehead.
'Mama, I have told you repeatedly that with Jack I had a perfect marriage.' She paused, her smile becoming sad. 'Of course, we were not blessed with children, but apart from that there is not a man on this earth who could match him. I shall not settle for second best.'
She watched her mother draw breath knowing she was about to embark on yet another reason why being a contented widow was not enough. 'Very well. As you are so insistent that I am mouldering away in this village I shall accept the invitation of my godmother and go and stay for the season at their
'My dear, I am so pleased to have changed your mind. Lady Orpington is not well and as her daughter Rosamond is to make her come out, she is in need of a companion for her.' The small,
Patience laughed. 'I hope by your use of the word immediately you're referring to the writing of the letter and not my imminent departure to
'You do not intend to go for the festive season? It is so quiet here; you would be much better enjoying yourself with people your own age. You have been out of black for more than two years it is high time you rejoined society.'
Patience was adamant. 'No, Mama, I shall stay here for Christmas and travel in the New Year. The season does not really start until March which should give me ample time to replenish my wardrobe and get to know Lady Rosamond.'
Lady Bryson accepted defeat. 'Well, my dear, I must own that I shall enjoy your company. I am sure that Eleanor will send her carriage for you so you may rest assured, your journey will be comfortable.'
'There is no need for that, Mama. I shall take the mail coach. As I shall be travelling with Mary and Sam Perkins, I shall come to no harm.'
'I can see that you have made up your mind so shall say no more about it. If you are travelling with a maid and a manservant you should be safe enough. I shall have the missive ready in thirty minutes. If you delay your ride until it is finished you could take it down to The Red Lion for me.'
Patience agreed to wait until the letter was done. She had been about to take her huge black gelding for a gallop through the woods whilst the weather was clement and was already dressed in
a handsome, green riding-habit that exactly matched the colour of her eyes. She tapped her booted foot on the carpet feeling decidedly put out.
My latest offering from Robert Hale is also available now -The House Party can be bought from Amazon and also directly from Hale at a considerably reduced price. You can also order it from your local library in the UK.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
Moonshadows is a Georgian love-story overlaid with a contemporary romance, so only half of the book fits on this blog but I hope you will forgive me!
“Everything’s going wrong with my life - my boss wants to get me into bed, and I am being haunted by my ancestor’s three-hundred-year-old lover!”
Jez Skelton has two men in her life (three, if you count the Georgian nobleman who haunts her dreams). Piers Cordeaux is a rich, successful businessman and incredibly attractive. Harry Gillam is a young engineer, just making his way in the world. Piers has everything, Harry very little. Jez knows the choice between the two men is clear-cut: she is determined to remain loyal to Harry, but when he is sent abroad, Piers’ attentions become harder to resist. On top of all this, she learns about her eighteenth-century ancestor, Sarah Methven, whose story seems to run strangely parallel to her own. Can she avoid the same unhappy ending?
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I agonised over this idea for ages because I couldn't see how to do it. In Northanger Abbey it's Catherine who brings the Gothic element because she imagines herself to be in one of Mrs Radcliffe's novels, but with Henry being a very different kind of person it was difficult to see how to do it. And then a line in the original gave me the clue because Henry and Eleanor read Gothic novels together.
This is perfect from my point of view because I can have some Gothic scenes, with thunder rolling outside the Abbey window and Henry and Eleanor sitting indoors, reading one of Mrs Radcliffe's novels by candlelight. If I add in some over-the-top Gothic elements like a few flashes of lightning the Gothic scene will be set.
It will also allow me to do something else I wanted to do, that is, introduce some text from The Mysteries of Udolpho. I know that not everyone will have read Mrs Radcliffe's classic, and that some people won't realise it's an actual novel, so this will allow me to give them a taste of the book.
I want to include something about the black veil, because Catherine and Isabella mention this in Northanger Abbey. Readers in Jane Austen's time would have read the scene and so they would know exactly what Austen was talking about. I want to give modern readers the same kind of knowledge.
The only thing I can't decide at the moment is whether or not I should have a later scene in which Henry and his sister read the passage that reveals what lies behind the veil. Would that spoil it for anyone who hasn't read Udolpho, or do I anticipate that everyone who is likely to do so has already read it and therefore they know the answer to this question?
At the moment I can't decide. One thing's for sure, there will be some very Gothic scenes in Henry's diary.
Monday, August 18, 2008
I've spent the weekend trying to catch up with paperwork and housework (I swear it breeds when I'm not looking) as I was away all last week teaching a Summer School on The Craft of Novel Writing at University College Falmouth. There were nine students from many different walks of life. They began the week rather shy and uncertain, and left on Friday delighted with what they had achieved and with a far greater understanding of the techniques required in the construction of a novel. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. And having spent the week discussing character biographies, different types of plot, how to construct a step sheet that shows cause-and-effect events in the plot plus the effects of these on the characters who change as the story progresses, I know I shall be far more self-critical in developing the outline for my own new book.
Meanwhile my niece, who recently set up her own web design business,
(www.phoenix-webdesigns.co.uk) put the finishing touches to my new website and that went live on Tuesday - just as my ISP went off-line for four days due to a major fault! Fortunately, I'm back on-line again. When you have a spare moment/coffee break, do check out my new website. I'd love to know what you think. We have included a page/link for reader's and viewer's comments.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Maid of Honour is now out as an e-book! It's always exciting when a new version of a book comes out, with a brand new cover and a fresh look. It was lovely to revisit Maid of Honour after such a long break - I found myself thinking, "Wow, did I write that?" Maid of Honour moves from beautiful English countryside around Bath to the scarred landscape of Waterloo in the days following the battle. Here's a brief extract:
For a long time Lucy remained sitting on the edge of her bed, staring at the door. She wanted to cry, but the tears would not come. At last she stood up and paced the room, the motion providing some relief to her feelings. Gradually the hurt within her turned to anger, then shame. Charlotte was right: she had acted appallingly, with no thought for anyone but herself. What would Mama say when she heard that the daughter she trusted had allowed herself to be seduced? At the thought of her mother Lucy had a sudden longing to be at home, to throw herself upon her mother’s mercy, beg her forgiveness and to bury herself in the household chores, never to have to face the world again. All at once the room seemed too hot. She ran to the window and threw up the sash, breathing in the still, humid air. Her room was on the same side of the house as the dining-room and from the open windows below she could hear the faint sounds of voices and laughter. In her imagination she could see Charlotte and Dominic, their heads close together, blonde curls touching sleek black hair as they laughed together over the discomfiture of little Lucilla! She could not bear to face them or anyone in the house again. If only she could go home now, this minute. Jump on a horse and ride away. After all, if Charlotte and Dominic were engaged there was no need for her to stay. The thought came to her as the faintest whisper: why not? She had money in her purse; if she could get to Bath she could buy herself a seat on the night mail and be in Templecombe by the following evening. Lucy felt sure it would work. She would borrow Snowfire - after all, it was in part Dominic Vanderley’s fault that she was in this fix, he could not object, and she would see to it that the mare was returned when she reached Bath - no, not Bath, she decided. Once her departure was noticed they would be certain to make their first enquiries there. No, she would go to Keynsham, for had they not seen the mail-coach when they passed through the town on their way to Stock House? The heavy clouds obliterated the last of the evening sun, but she decided that once she reached Fordham and crossed the river, it would then be an easy matter to ride cross-country to reach Keynsham before dark. Anxious to waste no more time, Lucy hunted through the big cupboards until she found her riding habit. Outside, the thunder grew louder and more frequent but Lucy paid no heed: her whole attention was fixed upon flight.
Of course, this is a romance, so we know it is madness for Lucy to set out of an evening and try to cross a river when a storm is brewing - she may need to be rescued.............Melinda Hammond
Friday, August 15, 2008
They had a very fine day for Box Hill; and all the other outward circumstances of arrangement, accommodation, and punctuality, were in favour of a pleasant party. Mr. Weston directed the whole, officiating safely between Hartfield and the vicarage, and every body was in good time. Emma and Harriet went together; Miss Bates and her niece, with the Eltons; the gentlemen on horseback. Mrs. Weston remained with Mr. Woodhouse. Nothing was wanting but to be happy when they got there. Seven miles were travelled in expectation of enjoyment, and every body had a burst of admiration on first arriving; but in the general amount of the day there was deficiency. There was a languor, a want of spirits, a want of union, which could not be got over. They separated too much into parties. The Eltons walked together; Mr. Knightley took charge of Miss Bates and Jane; and Emma and Harriet belonged to Frank Churchill. And Mr. Weston tried, in vain, to make them harmonize better. It seemed at first an accidental division, but it never materially varied. Mr. and Mrs. Elton, indeed, showed no unwillingness to mix, and be as agreeable as they could: but during the two whole hours that were spent on the hill, there seemed a principle of separation, between the other parties, too strong for any fine prospects, or any cold collation, or any cheerful Mr. Weston, to remove.
At first it was downright dulness to Emma. She had never seen Frank Churchill so silent and stupid. He said nothing worth hearing - looked without seeing - admired without intelligence - listened without knowing what she said. While he was so dull, it was no wonder that Harriet should be dull likewise, and they were both insufferable.
When they all sat down it was better; to her taste a great deal better, for Frank Churchill grew talkative and gay, making her his first object. Every distinguishing attention that could be paid, was paid to her. To amuse her, and be agreeable in her eyes, seemed all that he cared for - and Emma, glad to be enlivened, not sorry to be flattered, was gay and easy too, and gave him all the friendly encouragement, the admission to be gallant, which she had ever given in the first and most animating period of their acquaintance; but which now, in her own estimation, meant nothing, though in the judgment of most people looking on it must have had such an appearance as no English word but flirtation could very well describe. "Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Woodhouse flirted together excessively."
An extract from Jane Austen's Emma
You'll have to read a little more if you wish to understand why this is not a 'sunny scene'. I cringe every time I read of Emma's behaviour toward Miss Bates. You can read more by clicking here
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Video thanks to DreamyViper
I've been so lucky with this book, so many people enjoyed it! So thank you reviewers, for helping Seductive Secrets to succeed!
Here's a new snippet for you:
Can she trust him with all her secrets?
Isobel carries baggage from her first marriage. But Nicholas, Marquis
of Cardington, thinks he can cope with them when he proposes marriage
to the beautiful widow he’s loved all his adult life. He hasn’t even
started to uncover her pain. Only on their wedding night does he get
some idea of the terrible secret Isobel has harbored for the last eight
Isobel married Harry after jilting Nick, but now Nick is back and he
won’t take no for an answer. But the blackmailers who drove Harry to
suicide are back, too and their want their pound of flesh.
Isobel must learn to trust Nick with her life and all her secrets or their enemies will destroy them both.
When he heard her quiet, “Come,” he turned the knob and went in.
Isobel was standing by the open window, looking down into the garden.
Her dark gold hair streamed over her shoulders, her loose bed robe
showed her figure, slim but beautifully rounded in all the right
places. He caught his breath, and had to concentrate to hear her words.
“There are people still there,” she said. “Gardeners, at this hour.”
His anticipation rose several degrees. He took his time, steadying
himself, but the sight of her like this intoxicated all his senses.
“It’s quite early, really.” He crossed the room to join her and stood
close but didn’t touch her. They watched the gardeners attending to the
plants in the soft dusk. Some gardening jobs were better done out of
the heat of the day and nurturing tender plants was a constant job.
All that passed through Nick’s mind but his concentration was on
something else. He felt Isobel flinch when he put his arm around her,
careful not to trap her glorious hair. He kept his hold light. She
needed relaxing and softening before he’d go any further. After all,
she was his wife, not a mistress or a passing fancy and he hoped to
spend many years with her. It might take more than one night, though he
hoped not. He ached for her.
“Come with me.” He led her faltering footsteps away from the bed, towards the inner door to the sitting room.
Isobel turned to him, a question in her eyes. “What is this?”
“You ate nothing during the wedding breakfast. I want to see you eat something now.”
He took her to one of the two chairs set before the table and drew it
back for her. “I’m really not hungry,” she protested but she sat down.
“Nevertheless, please try to eat something.”
He lifted the lid of the nearest serving dish and she gasped. “Scotch
collops!” She reached forward and lifted another lid. “Lemon cream!”
Her lovely eyes lifted to his in surprise. “How did you know they were
Smiling, Nick lifted another lid to show her the fresh salad,
delicately sprinkled with her favourite dressing. “I asked.” Just her
smile made the trouble worthwhile. “When we went into the ballroom I
stopped and sent for your maid. She told me what you liked and I sent
to the kitchens for them. I doubt I’m a favourite there, with the
wedding breakfast to arrange and then this.”
She laughed. “I must make sure it’s made up to them. They deserve my
thanks.” She helped herself to some of the meat and salad. “Perhaps I
am a little hungry.”
He poured wine for them both and took a little salad, just enough to
keep her company. Unlike Isobel, he’d partaken of the banquet set
before them earlier and he needed nothing more.
It was pleasant to watch her, knowing with lazy certainty that he could
do it for years to come. He marked it in his mind as their first time,
and decided that intimate suppers would make a delightful addition to
their life together.
She ate, and he was glad. Watching her at the ball, he’d thought her
mood was low, and knew it must be partly from lack of food. Not wholly,
though. There was something else, something he couldn’t work out. It
might be simple nervousness but he sensed more than that in her
troubled demeanour. “Did you enjoy the day?” he said, looking for a way
in, to begin to release the tension pulsing from her.
“Yes. It was perfect.”
She didn’t mean it. He knew by the way she avoided his eyes, and
blinked quickly to get rid of what might be tears. Nick would expect
this from a new bride, untried, young and virginal but he’d married a
widow who must have experienced some of the joys of the marriage bed
before matters went wrong between her and Harry.
Isobel finished her lemon cream and pushed the dish away with a satisfied sigh. “You’re right. I do feel better for that.”
He refilled their glasses. “I thought you would. And I thought it would
give you time to—” he broke off when he saw her look at him innocently
and made him laugh, “—get used to seeing me like this.”
She laughed too. “It’s not too much of a shock.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
They took some time finishing their wine, chatting about the day, until
he put his glass down and stood up, holding out his hand in a gentle
but definite command. “Come, wife. Let’s go to bed.”
Seductive Secrets - the first in the Secrets trilogy
Can she trust him with all her secrets?
From Samhain Publishing
Monday, August 11, 2008
The verdit on my books in the Historical Novels Review is always awaited, which is why I was pleased with Sara Wilson's thoughts on The Carstairs Conspiracy.
As sole heir of the late Duke of Penrith, Abigail Carstairs is the target of many fortune hunters. But it would also seem that she is the target of a murderer. In desperation she calls on Lord Sebastian Denver to investigate.
As well as being a renowned investigator, Sebastian is also a notorious womaniser. Even so Abigail is attracted to the handsome nobleman - and he to her. Sadly this growing attraction cannot prevent the murderer striking again. It's a race against time to find the culprit before he makes another move.
A beautiful heiress, a handsome hero and a perilous adventure - this novel has all the elements of a really delightful historical romance. The Carstairs Conspiracy is such fun and a great way to while away a few hours.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
It was the smell that woke him.
For fully three seconds, Dominic lay quite still in the Lion d’Or’s best bed, trying to make sense of the strange messages tumbling into his brain. Dark. Silence. Smoke? Fire!
He flung himself out of bed. Light! He needed light! And where the devil were his breeches?
A terrified neighing ripped through the pre-dawn silence. Then a whoosh, as if a giant were sucking in a monstrous breath. Followed by red, hellish light.
The smoke had turned to flames. The Lion d’Or’s stables must be on fire!
Dominic threw wide the half-open window, stuck his head out and yelled at the top of his voice, ‘Au feu! Au feu!’ It was surely loud enough to wake even drunken grooms.
He dragged on his breeches and crammed his feet into boots. A voice rang out below. At last! Then more voices. A woman’s despairing wail. And the ominous crackle of the fire taking hold in dry straw and ancient timbers.
Dominic took the stairs three at a time. In the yard, the silence was turning into utter chaos. Yelling, cursing men milling around in the eerie light. No one fetching water. No one saving the horses.
He grabbed the nearest groom by the shoulder. ‘Get to the pump,’ he ordered in crisp French. ‘Start filling buckets. And you—’ he seized another by his flapping shirt ‘—rouse all the men from the house. Get them into a line to pass the buckets. You two. Don’t stand there gawping. Start getting the horses out.’
In the space of half a minute, Dominic had turned the commotion into the beginnings of order. The terrified horses were being led to safety. Water was being brought. But the flames had a head start. And they were winning.
The front part of the stables and one side of the doorway were ablaze. One panicked horse was refusing to be led through. It was fighting against the halter, rearing, eyes rolling, hooves flailing. With a cry of pain, the groom dropped to the ground. The horse fled back into the stables.
Dominic lunged forward, hefted the unconscious groom over his shoulder and raced across the yard to the inn. By the door, a maidservant stood motionless, wide-eyed with fear. ‘You, girl.’ He laid the boy ungently at her feet. ‘Make yourself useful. Look to his hurts.’ He did not wait to see whether she obeyed. He had to help save the horses. Only one other man left to do that. Not enough. Not nearly enough.
The smoke was now so thick that it was difficult to see. And to breathe. Dominic looked around for something to use as a mask over his face. If only he had thrown on a shirt. But he had nothing. He would have to continue as he was. Taking a deep breath of the cooler air in the yard, he plunged into the hell of the burning stables.
Still at least half a dozen terrified horses to save. Possibly more. He could barely make out the back of the stable. It was full of smoke, though not yet ablaze. But he could hear the sounds of hooves thundering against stall boards. At least some of the horses must still be tethered. He raced to the back of the building, keeping as low as he could, to avoid the choking smoke. Let the groom deal with the horses nearer the door.
Like a ghostly apparition, a slim shape in grubby white emerged from the swirling smoke, leading a horse. No more than a boy, from the little Dominic could see, and dressed only in a bedgown and boots. But a boy who knew horses, for he had covered the animal’s eyes to quiet it. ‘Well done, lad,’ Dominic gasped as they passed. No reply. The boy had his mind on his task. Just as Dominic must.
It was taking too many precious minutes to rescue the horses. All the time, the fire was engulfing more of the building. Yet the boy in the bedgown was fearless, always going back into the most dangerous area of the stable. He had a way with the terrified beasts, too. More than once, Dominic fancied he heard the lad’s voice, murmuring strong and low, urging the animal towards the flaming doorway. He had even started to cover the horses’ nostrils against the acrid smoke. Part of Dominic’s brain registered that he would find the lad after this was all over, and reward him for his bravery. He would have been proud to have such a boy in his own service.
Out in the yard again, Dominic caught a dripping cloth tossed to him by one of the inn servants. Gratefully, he covered his head, hoping that the boy had done the same. With this, there ought to be a chance of rescuing the remaining animals. Only a few more to bring out now. He ran back into the thickening smoke.
He found himself struggling with the tether of one of the last horses. The straining beast had pulled it tight in the iron ring. Its thrashing hooves were threatening to crack Dominic’s head open. If only he had a knife. Damnation! The rope refused come free. At this rate, they would both burn!
A strong, lean hand appeared out of the smoke holding a knife. Bless the boy! A single slash cut the rope. Then the hand disappeared again. No time to say a word of thanks. The horse, suddenly freed, reared up to its full height with a loud and terrified whinny. Dominic ducked under the deadly hooves and grabbed the trailing rope, forcing the animal down. He had to get this horse out. The fire was really taking hold now. Soon the stable roof would be aflame. There would be no more rescues then.
At last, Dominic managed to coax the horse through the stable doorway. Someone had taken an axe to the blazing wood so that the gap was wider and the flames were less fierce. The broken, smouldering timbers lay on the ground. Dominic thrust the rope into a waiting hand and raced back inside, ignoring the prick of sparks on the bare skin of his back and chest. He had tiny burns all over his body now. No doubt he would look as though he had a dose of smallpox when this was over. But he had to be sure that there were no more horses hidden by the smoke.
It seemed the lad in the bedgown had had the same thought. His eerie figure was just visible through the swirling darkness, searching among the stalls. Dominic ran towards the boy. ‘Is that all of them?’ he yelled, trying to make himself heard above the noise of the fire.
Before the boy could say a word, there was an ominous crack above their heads. Dominic caught a glimpse of a huge, flaming beam dropping towards them. Towards the boy! Dominic bridged the space between them with a single stride, grabbed the boy and thrust him aside. The beam hit the stable floor just inches from where they stood, showering them both with sparks. In seconds, the boy’s bedgown had caught alight.
Dominic made to tear it off him.
‘Non!’ It was a scream of anguish.
The boy must be a idiot. Surely he knew that it was better to be naked than to burn?
‘Non!’ the boy cried again, ripping the tail of his bedgown out of Dominic’s hands.
There was no time to argue. And only one solution. Dominic pushed the boy to the ground and covered him with his own body, rolling them both in the dirt to stop the sparks from taking hold.
And then he understood.
This was no boy. The lithe body straining against his own belonged to a fearless, and extraordinary, girl!
Saturday, August 09, 2008
As my latest book is called The House Party I thought it appropriate to talk about the reality as opposed to my fictional event.
The Regency was a remarkable era that witnessed both the birth of celebrity and the advance of science; the grand tour and Frankenstein; the time of duels and dandies and the cult of Lord Byron. All this has been perfectly captured in the genius of Jane Austen.
A House Party in Regency times was a little like Big Brother today. Although each house guest's status might be different, there would be the aristocrats, society's finest as well as the young lady whose fortune comes from trade and the paid companion. Their target will be the same: to court the opposite sex according to the prevailing social etiquette. They were there to win the best partner they could.
In reality shows there will be the celebrities as well as the nonentities, but they will all be there for the same purpose - to win; sometimes fame, sometimes money, occasionally a partner.
Women,in the Regency, for example, were always chaperoned and a man could never address a woman by her first name until they were engaged. The mildest social offence could even result in your being asked to leave the house. If you were a rich heiress whose fortune came from trade, you might well take a titled chaperone to smooth your entry into society and hope that you would be accepted for your personal accomplishments, such as playing the piano forte, your natural beauty and money. Perhaps these might stop too many whisperings about your lack of rank.
The House Party is out now -9780709085362- Robert Hale.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Queen Caroline of Brunswick, wife of George IV, “the unruly Queen,” died suddenly on August 7th 1821. Less than a month previously she had been denied entry to Westminster Abbey for her husband’s coronation, having the church door slammed in her face. Some contemporary commentators said she had “died of vexation.” The squabbles of the King and Queen had, like the rest of their lives, been lived out in public. Both had been brought up under the strictest discipline as children and both had rebelled. George’s tutor had once said of him: “He will either be the most polished gentleman or the most accomplished blackguard in Europe. Possibly both.” By the age of twenty, Caroline had something of a reputation as a flirt and also a reputation for lack of personal hygiene. It was said that neither she nor her clothes were ever washed.
The marriage of this less-than-fairytale couple got off to a bad start when George called for brandy to revive him after their first meeting, then got so drunk on his wedding night that he passed out on the floor and Caroline left him there. It was said that they did manage to sleep together three times during the marriage and the result of one of these encounters was Princess Charlotte, who died in childbirth in 1817. Caroline separated from her husband two years after the marriage, establishing her own court at Montague House, Blackheath. She eventually departed to live on the continent in 1814. George paid her an additional allowance of £15 000 to leave the country and later offered her a bribe of £50 000 not to return, but she came back in 1820 to take up her rightful place as Queen, as she saw it. George tried to divorce her; she triumphed in the subsequent parliamentary case.
Even after her death she continued to squabble with her husband, for she had wanted her coffin to bear a plaque that read: “Here lies Caroline of Brunswick, the injured Queen of England.” One of her executors secretly smuggled the plaque into St Peter’s Church Colchester, where the cortege was resting overnight on its way to Harwich en route to burial in Brunswick. The plaque apparently fell out from beneath the man’s cloak and a cabinet-maker attached it to the coffin, only for the King’s representatives to remove it again!
Perhaps the explanation why Caroline felt unable to submit to the whims of her capricious husband and to the rules that governed female conduct at the time lies in her heritage and family motto: “A Brunswicker has the heart of a lion.”
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Colonel Brandon's Diary is just out in hardback and Edmund Bertram's Diary is out this week in paperback.
Writing the diaries, I realised what a lot Henry Tilney and Edmund Bertram had in common. They are both younger sons with wastrels for older brothers and both are destined for the church - Jane Austen might not have talked about nature and nurture in so many words but her books explore the issue. But whereas Henry turns into a lighthearted witty young man, Edmund turns into someone far more serious, perhaps because he has to manage his father's estate whilst his father is abroad, whereas Henry never has that kind of responsibility.
I really enjoyed writing Edmund Bertam's Diary. I know that a lot of people aren't all that keen on Mansfield Park but I hope they'll give Edmund's diary a try. A lot of the exciting incidents in Mansfield Park happen off the page because they concern Edmund and not Fanny, but they occur on the page in Edmund's diary. It's Edmund who falls in love with Mary Crawford; Edmund who accompanies his father to London to try and find Maria when she elopes; Edmund who brings Tom home when he's seriously ill. And it's Edmund who has the biggest journey to make as he wrestles with first love, responsibility, his difficult family and his feelings for Fanny.
You can find more details of both books on my website at www.amandagrange.com
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
For other readers in North America, I’m afraid the story won’t be published until the spring of next year, but UK readers can buy it at the beginning of September. In the meantime, you can read an extract on my website here. Or, if you’re really keen to get reading, the Mills & Boon website has it for sale in their shop here.
The Aikenhead Honours
Three gentlemen spies: bound by duty, undone by women!
Introducing three of England's most eligible bachelors:
Together they are
The Aikenhead Honours
A government-sponsored spying ring, they risk their lives, and hearts, to keep Regency England safe
Follow these three brothers on a dazzling journey through Europe and beyond as they serve their country and meet their brides, in often very surprising circumstances
'Ace', Dominic Aikenhead, Duke of Calder in
His Cavalry Lady (Sept 2008)
'King', and renowned rake, Lord Leo Aikenhead in
His Reluctant Mistress (2009)
'Knave', and incorrigible playboy, Lord Jack Aikenhead in
His Forbidden Liaison (2009)
Best wishes and happy reading
. . . or even the cover from your favourite Austen-inspired novel, including Mr Darcy's Diary!
Saturday, August 02, 2008
By the time one of my books is published I am usually more than half-way through writing the next. This means long hours spent in research and at the computer - at least physically. Mentally and emotionally I'm in another time, living the dramatic adventures and heart-wrenching emotions of my hero and heroine with them. So when my publisher sent me a copy of a review of Devil's Prize posted by Romance Junkies I was thrilled as it brought back wonderful memories of writing that story.
Life is tough and precarious for all who live on the Cornish coast and attempt to make their living in shipping. Devlin "Devil" Varcoe is constantly at risk as he smuggles contraband. Will the fierce sea or the revenue men finally catch up with him? He has earned his nickname, "Devil" by being a fierce taskmaster who will not tolerate those who oppose him or attempt to betray him or those around him. Devlin has had to develop a hard exterior since he has no one else to support him in his ventures. He is estranged from his brother and father who blame him for his mother's death, among other things.
Devlin's good looks and self confidence make it easy for him to have any woman he chooses, but he never risks his heart. He is taken by surprise by Tamara Gillis who seduces him. She comes from a very conservative family, but she becomes wanton and wild to capture the elusive Devlin.
Jenefer Trevanion's father has been financing Devlin's smuggling adventures. A fire destroys Jenefer's family home and kills her father. This sudden change throws both Jenefer's and Devlin's lives into turmoil. They have to deal many issues that will change their lives forever or maybe even lead to untimely death.
The author never gives an exact date in this haunting historical novel, but she does mention that Napoleon is 29 years old, which puts this timeless tale into perspective. Her vivid descriptions pulled me right into the story. I could almost smell the salt air and hear the crashing waves. I have never been to Cornwall, but I could visualize it as I walked along with the characters who populated DEVIL'S PRIZE.
Devlin is every inch the alpha male, but he does have a tender side. Despite her wild ways, Tamara is a woman in love who knows what she wants and is willing to take risks to get it. Jenefer is fiercely courageous. In a time when opportunities were extremely limited for women, she does not moan and sink into despair, but does whatever it takes to survive.
DEVIL'S PRIZE is sure to please readers of historical who love a swashbuckling saga with a little spicy romance on the side.
Friday, August 01, 2008
This is the new image for the paperback book of THE LOVEDAY SECRETS due out in December. This is book nine of the series and the covers have certainly changed over the years to depict new trends in the publishing industry. Over half the books have had different hardback covers to those for the paperback. Some have been pictures of the Cornish landscape, other featured a woman's face imposed over a dramatic landscape. I have always been impressed by my covers and this one certainly follows the current mode and has managed to convey an element of secrecy into its format. I love the rich texture of the cloak and authenticity of her gown. Yet all the paperbacks have weathered the changes in publication fashion as all are currently available in print. For images of all the covers on the Lovedayday books blogspot click here