Sunday, November 30, 2008

Guest blogger Annie Burrows

We're delighted to welcome Annie Burrows to the blog. Over to you, Annie!


Hi, everyone!
It’s a thrill to finally be blogging on this site, since I’ve been dipping into it for some time now. Amanda has invited me to tell you a bit about my next novel, which comes out in the UK in October in hardback, (ISBN 978 – 0- 263 – 20214 – 4) and in December in paperback.

Published by Mills & Boon, it is called “Captain Fawley’s Innocent Bride”
It is actually the third in a loosely linked series I have written, featuring a character who played a significant role in both “His Cinderella Bride” (my debut novel for Mills & Boon), and “The Earl’s Untouched Bride” which came out in a mixed line anthology in May.

In those earlier stories, we saw Captain Fawley undergoing rehabilitation into something approaching normal life after suffering horrific injuries at the battle of Salamanca. He tugged at my heartstrings so much, I just had to give him his own love story.



Now, I know there has recently been some controversy about heroes of romantic fiction all being tall, rich, and physically perfect specimens. In Captain Fawley, I have attempted to show that a man can be a romantic hero, without benefit of wealth, or good looks, (or possibly even height). The ex-soldier is wounded not only in body, but in spirit, and to begin with, it seems impossible that he should ever become whole again. But then he discovers his brother’s spinster aunt has made him a beneficiary of her will:


"You forget, perhaps, that I mentioned there were conditions attached to you inheriting anything,” said the Earl of Walton, with icy calm. “Until a few weeks ago, nobody, least of all myself, could have guessed you might want to meet them.”
“If I had known what they are, I would have been able to make the decision for myself!”
“Then do so now,” the Earl stated coldly. “If you truly wish to escape the ignominy of living on my charity, all you have to do is make a respectable marriage. For one thing my aunt made resoundingly clear. She had no wish to have a bachelor living in her house. But do not tarry, Robert. If you are not married by the time Percy attains the age of thirty, then the trustees have decreed everything will go to him. He is, after all, a blood relative, which you are not.”
Robert felt as though the wind had been knocked out of him. No woman in her right mind would marry him. He knew it. Charles knew it. That was why he had not told him about the legacy. Knowing that a fortune lurked forever just beyond his reach would only have added a further layer of torture to his existence.
He slumped back into his chair. It was not even as though Percy Lampton needed the money as much as he did. Lampton lived a comfortable, independent bachelor lifestyle. Whereas he was completely dependent on his brother. His half brother, he corrected himself.

If only there was some way out. Or at least, some way he could prevent Percy getting his hands on his Aunt Euphemia’s fortune. His mind revolved over what Walton had just told him about this will. All he had to do, apparently, was to persuade a respectable female to marry him. Yes, that was all, he reflected bitterly. Persuade some poor woman to wake up to the nightmare of his face upon her pillow every morning.
He damned the Lamptons volubly, and comprehensively, before addressing his second glass of brandy.
He had hated the name of Lampton for as long as he could remember. They had destroyed his mother, blighted his childhood with their insinuations of his illegitimacy, and made no secret of the fact they had hoped he would die in some foreign country while he was on active service. The French had done their damnedest, but he was not an easy man to kill. He had survived an explosion, two amputations, a fever, and gruelling months of rehabilitation.
Even in his darkest hour, when he had felt he had nothing left to live for, he had refused to let them beat him.
And he was not going to let them beat him now.

If Percy Lampton thought he was going to sit back while he waltzed off with his inheritance, then he was very much mistaken.
He would find a way to best all the Lamptons.
His face twisted into a mask of hatred.
And he didn’t much care how low he might have to stoop to do so.

And so, the race to find a bride is on!
Can Captain Fawley find a woman who can look beneath the surface scarring to his heart?
And, will he be able to persuade her to marry him, before his odious cousin (tall and handsome, but very definitely NOT hero material) can claim the inheritance that will have the power to transform his life?

Hope you enjoy this tale of a very different type of hero, as much as I enjoyed creating him!

Annie Burrows

Jane Austen's Calendar for Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen worked on a very precise calendar for her novels. In Pride and Prejudice the story takes place over a year and a couple of months. Several Austen scholars have attempted to place the action into a calendar, and although there are disputes about which particular years Jane was writing about, it is possible to work out how events unfold from Jane's writing. So what was happening in Pride and Prejudice on November 30th? Elizabeth Bennet had very recently refused a proposal from her cousin, the clergyman Mr Collins, but someone else is determined on having him! The following is taken from the book.

...but Charlotte's kindness extended farther than Elizabeth had any conception of; - its object was nothing else than to secure her from any return of Mr. Collins's addresses, by engaging them towards herself. Such was Miss Lucas's scheme; and appearances were so favourable, that when they parted at night she would have felt almost sure of success if he had not been to leave Hertfordshire so very soon. But here she did injustice to the fire and independence of his character, for it led him to escape out of Longbourn House the next morning with admirable slyness, and hasten to Lucas Lodge to throw himself at her feet. He was anxious to avoid the notice of his cousins, from a conviction that if they saw him depart, they could not fail to conjecture his design, and he was not willing to have the attempt known till its success could be known likewise; for though feeling almost secure, and with reason, for Charlotte had been tolerably encouraging, he was comparatively diffident since the adventure of Wednesday. His reception, however, was of the most flattering kind. Miss Lucas perceived him from an upper window as he walked towards the house, and instantly set out to meet him accidentally in the lane. But little had she dared to hope that so much love and eloquence awaited her there.

The whole chapter needs to be read to really enjoy Jane's wit, but it always makes me laugh to think how quickly a man who declared his passion for Elizabeth just two days before could transfer his affections with 'much love and eloquence'.

Here is a link to Ellen Moody's Pride and Prejudice calendar which I'm sure you will find very interesting.

Jane Odiwe

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Regency Weddings


A large number of Regency romances end with a wedding. But how much do we actually know about the wedding ceremony itself in those days?

St. Georges in Hanover Square was the venue for fashionable weddings but even these were private affairs, sparsely attended. It was the Victorian era that heralded the introduction of the more lavish affairs we often see today.

But what of the wedding dress itself? The English fashion journals are rather short of information on this subject but there is a rare print in Ackermann's Repository from June 1816 showing a wedding dress in white satin with an overdress in stripped gauze and trimmed with Brussels lace. It was to be worn with pearl jewellery, white satin slippers and white kid gloves but no veil.
I wonder when veils became popular. I found some prints in French magazines dating from 1813 showing brides wearing veils but nothing to indicate the same fashion had been adopted in England. I also discovered the first reference to the use of orange blossom as the accepted bridal flower in 1820, also in Paris.
It seems as though that city was making a name for itself in the fashion world even then.
Wendy

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TRAVELLING, CHISEL IN HAND…

First, an apology to those who commented on my last post, on 10th November. Sorry I didn’t respond. My excuse – and it’s a good one, I reckon – is that I was on my way to Egypt at the time and didn’t have access to the internet.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Any one who has visited Pompeii will know that graffiti is everywhere. It’s not just a modern thing.

One of the things I learned on my Nile trip was that 19th century travellers all seemed to journey with a chisel in their pocket. The graffiti are everywhere. Look at this, for example, from the temple of Philae at Aswan:


You’ll notice that Mr Cradock was there in April 1823 as was another with an indecipherable name. There was also a gentleman from Rome whose name seems to be something like Cav. D Riga. A cavalryman, or perhaps an Italian knight?

Another interesting example from Philae is this, which was done by the French Navy in order to show how good their navigation was. The numbers at the bottom are the latitutude and longitude of Philae. The numbers are actually wrong! That’s because the temple was moved to a different, higher island, in order to avoid the rising waters of Aswan when the High Dam was built. The original numbers were right at the time, I understand.

You’ll note, too, that the heading is R. F. (which I assume to be République Française) and the year is seven – an 7 – which should be 1799 or thereabouts. That’s round about the time of the Battle of the Nile (1798) which, as I’m sure you’ll recall, the Royal Navy won, under Nelson.



Men were not the only graffiti culprits. I found one example of a female working with her chisel, also at Philae. The lady in question was called Sarah Day. And above her is a very decorative mark from a certain Mr Hughes in 1822. Were they there together? Impossible to tell, since Sarah didn’t put a date.




I am also proud to say that I overcame my fear of heights enough to go up in a balloon to see the West Bank of the Nile at Luxor at sunrise. Isn’t it stunning?





And this is the temple of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the only female pharaoh, taken from the balloon.


This is what her temple looked like in broad daylight, when I had my feet safely back on the ground. Quite an edifice for 1500 BC, isn’t it?


Joanna

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Monday, November 24, 2008

The Five Alls



I was fascinated to read this explanation for a village pub sign of 1811.
'The five alls is a country sign, representing five human figures, each having a motto under him. The first is a king in his regalia; his motto, I govern all: the second, a bishop in pontificals; motto, I pray for all: third, a lawyer in his gown; motto, I plead for all: fourth: a soldier in his regimentals, fully accoutred; motto, I fight for all: fifth, a poor countryman with his scythe and rake; motto, I pay for all.'
I could only find a sign depicting The Four Alls.
There are people in the UK who visit and photgraph public house signs as a hobby - I wonder if they've ever come across The Five Alls.
Fenella Miller
'The House Party' is on offer at Amazon and is also available as a download from www.regecnyreads.com.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nearly Christmas




This cover is from the first of the Melford Dynasty. The third is being published next month in America and the fourth is with the publisher being read. This series has not yet been published in Uk.


It will be Christmas in a few weeks. How this year has flown, perhaps because I am busy all the time. I love my job and it never seems like work to write about my heroes and heroine. I have been so very lucky! Including recent ebooks I have had more than one hundred books published already and I am still completing contracts already signed. It is such a privilege to be published and I am so grateful to my publishers and particularly my readers.

My latest Anne Herries is at this moment number 3 in Harlequin Historical and 4 in Mills & Boon at amazon and two more of my books are in the top 10 in HH - when I looked this morning. It is such a lovely feeling to know that people enjoy my books. My publisher recently asked if I would do another Ottoman Empire book because Captive of the Harem has done so well - it has been published in several countries overseas and translated many times. Of course I said yes because I love this period almost as much as Regency.

Some of us are going to be writing Christmas stories for you, individual ones this year, because not everyone can manage it. I have enjoyed thinking of how people spent their time in Regency days, and although the Christmas tree did not come in until Victorian times they knew how to enjoy themselves and sent gifts and often handmade cards. The ladies and gentlemen of the Regency period loved beautiful things. The silver, glass and various objects d'art clearly show us they were admirers of fine things, as well as their furniture, which is amongst the most elegant ever made by craftsmen. I often regret the age of elegance and wish that life could be a little slower and happier for everyone. I believe that we are in the main a caring society today, but we have the same problems with things like drinking and homelessness that they had then. When I think of beautiful young women destroying their lives by binge drinking on a Saturday I cannot help but think of the misery of the poor in Georgian times who drank gin because they had no hope; they didn't have a chance of a better life, our young people do.

So looking forward to Christmas and continuing to write happy stories that will give my readers something to brighten their day!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Mr Regency Contest at Killerton House!


Last month I visited Killerton House in Devon, which was built in 1778 – 79 and is an absolutely charming place with a beautiful garden and a fascinating costume collection. The house, originally planned to be a temporary residence whilst a grander house was built on the hillside behind it, has lots of eccentric features such as a set of false books in the library with names such as "Nettles with nice noses" and "paper currency exploded". What particularly caught my eye, though, was the collection of portraits of the founder members of Grillons Club.

Grillons Club was formed in 1813. Members were drawn from both Houses of Parliament and the intention was to provide a venue where they could meet on neutral ground. The discussion of politics was strictly excluded! To it belonged most of the distinguished public men of the Regency and the reigns of George IV and William IV. Here, every Wednesday during the Parliamentary season, its members dined together, "the feuds of the previous day being forgotten, or made the theme of pleasantry and genial humour at a table where all sets of opinions had their representatives.” Members included George Canning, Lord Dudley and Ward, Lord F. Leveson-Gower (afterwards better known as Lord Francis Egerton), Lord Harrowby, Lord Wharncliffe, Lord Clare, Sir Robert Harry Inglis, Mr. G. Agar-Ellis, Sir R. Wilmot-Horton, and Sir James Graham.

Visitors to Killerton are asked to view the portraits and vote for the one they consider to be closest to their ideal of a Regency gentleman. It was a tough choice as some of the gentlemen were extremely dashing. In the lead at the time I was visiting was a drawing of William Gladstone. The entire collection can be viewed online on the National Portrait Gallery website.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New editions of Captain Wentworth's Diary, Mr Knightley's Diary and Edmund Bertram's Diary



I've just received cover pictures for the new, UK and Commonwealth, editions of three more diaries. They're very different to the US paperback covers but they're in the same style as the UK cover for Mr Darcy's Diary.









You might recognise the portrait on the cover of Mr Knightley's Diary. It also appeared on the hardback cover of Mr Darcy's Diary (which was called Darcy's Diary).









The new editions will be out at the end of January 2009, but they're available to order now from Amazon

I can't decide which I like best, the romantic US covers or the more classical UK covers. What do you think?




Amanda Grange

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Guest blogger - Jan Jones

We're delighted to welcome Jan Jones to the blog. Jan's here to tell us about her new Regency, Fair Deception. Over to you, Jan!

Thank you! Like so many others, I came to Regencies via Georgette Heyer. I love her Earls, her rakes, her quiet gentlemen and all the heroines who give as good (if not better) than they get. But I've always had a hankering to write romances about the more ordinary people in Regency life. And now, thanks to Hale, I am!


If a woman didn't have money in the Regency era she needed a protector. Susanna Fair has little of the first and a great desire not to have the second. An actress at the Sans Pareil theatre in London's Strand, Susanna has been holding the Dishonourable Rafe Warwick at bay for weeks. On the night the story opens it looks as though Warwick will at last make good his bet that he can make her his mistress. Until, that is, Kit Kydd - a latter-day knight errant - floors him and whisks Susanna away.

With money problems of his own, Kit needs to appear betrothed to stand a chance of being made his great-aunt's heir. Susanna needs to vanish for a while, so a visit by the pair of them to Great-Aunt Emma in Newmarket seems the obvious solution.

But Newmarket holds the secret of Susanna's scandalous ancestry. It is also shortly going to hold her previous theatre company. And as if that wasn't enough, Newmarket is where dishonourable gentlemen go to rusticate when they've made London too hot for them.


You can read the first chapter on my website, but here is an extract from Chapter Four. Susanna is spending a week at Kit's estate before they travel to Newmarket to try and sink into the skin of her part. Some facets of the deception are going to be easier than others!

There was an oil lamp burning low at the head of the stairs. Susanna descended cautiously, wondering why noise always sounded twenty times as loud at night. She had reached the lowest tread when a sudden thud from a room on one side of the hall halted her. She couldn’t remember which room it was, but the door was open a crack and behind it, a light was moving. The dinner-table talk of intruders and lawless men at once flooded into her head. She crept across to put her eye to the gap, so intent on moving quietly that she overlooked a small table in the shadows and consequently stubbed her toe quite agonizingly on it. The resultant screech of wood scraping over stone was stupendous. Her heart racing, Susanna whisked sideways to flatten herself against the wall.
She didn’t even hear the footsteps. One minute all was darkness, the next there was a dim rectangle of light where the door used to be and a strong male forearm was across her throat pinning her to the wall. She didn’t hesitate. She brought the jug round with a resounding crash on the back of her assailant’s head.
“What the devil - !”
“Kit!” Susanna’s hands flew to her mouth. “I thought it was... I thought... ”
The pressure across her throat was abruptly released. “Susanna? What the deuce... ?”
The room, she saw with a sinking heart through the open door, was the library and Kit was in his shirtsleeves with his neckcloth untied. He had plainly been looking for a book to read in bed. She had never felt so foolish in her life. “Oh dear, I was thirsty so I brought my jug down to fill it and then I heard a noise...” She faltered, biting her lip as Kit brushed shards of pottery from his hair.
He glanced at her with wry humour. “For future reference, breaking a jug over a person’s head isn’t the most effective deterrent against attack.”
“I’ll give you the price of it in the morning. Oh!”
Kit gripped her wrist, anger flaring in his face. “Don’t talk as if you’re a servant! I don’t charge anyone for breakages!”
“No... I’m sorry. I...”
He dropped her wrist and took a deep breath. “Forgive me. Come, you can have some of the water from my jug.”
“Thank you.” She surreptitiously scuffed the largest pieces of pottery against the wall with her slipper and trailed miserably after him.
“Fetch your glass,” he said outside her chamber, and went on further up the passage. Returning with his own jug, he held the candle high so that he could see to pour. The light glimmered through his shirt, outlining the firm edges of his body against the softly draping linen.
“Devil take it!” he said suddenly.
Susanna jumped and glanced where he was looking. A faint discolouration encircled the slender bones of her wrist. She quickly pulled at the sleeve of her nightgown to cover it. “I told you, I bruise easily,” she said. “Pray do not concern yourself. It will be gone as soon.”
His eyes were stony. “I should have had more control.” He put the jug on a side table and tilted her chin so that the light from his candle fell on her throat. She felt her night-time braid slither backwards over her shoulder. “Here too,” he said, his fingertips tracing delicate eddies over her skin. “Does it hurt?”
Hurt? It felt like lines of fire where he was touching her. Fire and danger and unbearable desire. “No,” she whispered, swallowing convulsively. Her mother’s warnings against the inconstancy of the gentry drummed in her head. “Pardon me, I should be retiring. Thank you for the water.”
For an aeon more his fingers lingered. Susanna felt the pulse in her throat leap to meet them, knowing her breathing was becoming ragged. What would she do if his hand drifted lower, over her shawl, over the cotton nightgown beneath? Her legs trembled. The water in her glass shook. Did she want - or fear - his touch?
Suddenly his fingers were gone, only the memory of their warmth left on her skin. “You’re cold,” he said. “I hope this adventure may not give you night terrors. Goodnight.”

Thanks, Jan, the book looks fabulous!
If you'd like to read Jan's book then you can find it in your local book shop (UK) or order it if they don't have it in stock, and of course it's available from Amazon and other online sellers. Or why not ask at your local library?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Mistletoe Masquerade


My latest story is out this month, a Christmas novella in the Married by Christmas volume.
Lady Rowan Chilcourt is appalled to find her meek friend Penelope Maylin about to be pressured into a match with the sinister Earl of Danescroft. Unbeknownst to her, the earl’s friend Lucas Dacre, Viscount Stoneley, is equally appalled that his friend should be contemplating marriage to such a mouse.
Great minds think alike and Rowan and Lucas find their way below stairs at a Christmas houseparty as lady’s maid and valet, each set on thwarting the marriage above stairs. Masquerading under the mistletoe is fun - until they realise that they are falling in love, and the object of their desires is utterly ineligible.
Here is the scene as they arrive at Tollesbury Court and Rowan, masquerading as lady’s maid Daisy Lawrence, first sets eyes on Lucas.

It was important to remember one’s place. Miss Maylin’s dresser clutched the morocco jewel case to her midriff and stood amidst the shabby valises and the old trunk that made up her mistress’s luggage. In front of her the dressers serving Lady Meredith Hughes and the Honourable Miss Geraldine Mather were already supervising the footmen. The impressive sets of matching luggage in their care were carried up the stairs to the guest bed chambers with respectful attention.
They had arrived after she had, but here at Tollesbury Court, as everywhere in polite society, servants took the precedence accorded to their employers. Miss Penelope Maylin was very far down the social ladder indeed, which meant that her dresser waited with patience until her betters were attended to.
Fires blazed in hearths facing each other across the flagged floor at the other end of the vast baronial hall. You could have roasted an ox in either, the dresser calling herself Daisy Lawrence thought, but at this end of the chamber Cook might safely store the evening’s ices and jellies with no fear of them melting. Her toes in their jean half boots were frozen and she could only be thankful that she did not suffer from chilblains. Yet.
Between the fires the guests were being greeted by their hosts and passed on to the care of the Groom of the Chambers who was organising footmen to lead them to their rooms. It all took time and a knot of people formed between the hearths while they shed cloaks and muffs and chatted amongst themselves. There too, rank was plain. Miss Maylin stood uncomfortably close to the heat, too meek to dodge around the formidable bulk of an older lady who was determined to get as close to her hosts as possible.
Penny – Miss Penelope, Daisy corrected herself - was roasting, she was freezing, and at this rate she was not going to be upstairs in time to have anything unpacked by the time Miss Penelope got to her room, desperate for a change of clothing and a cup of tea. On top of that, hairpins were sticking into her scalp, her head ached from the severity of her braided hairstyle and she was as badly in need of that tea as her mistress. But it would surely be her turn next: the other women were vanishing upstairs, dressing cases in hand, without a backward glance at their humble colleague.
There was a stir near the front door, another draught of icy air around Daisy’s ankles and footmen were bearing down on her with yet more luggage. Shiny, expensive luggage. Lots of it. Drat. Fuming she stood aside to let all six of them past. And sauntering along in their wake, a handsome dressing case in hand, was an individual that Daisy had no hesitation as recognising as a very superior valet indeed.
He was tall, he was dark, he was lean and he moved, not like a man who spent his life polishing boots and arranging neck cloths, but one who was at home in the saddle. He was unsmiling, his regular features handsome enough if you liked that sort of thing, she thought critically, watching from the side of the stairs. Then he saw her. Daisy frowned as a pair of deep blue eyes swept over her from head to foot in a comprehensive and very male assessment. Impertinent wretch! Her lips were parted as she almost spoke the set-down aloud, and then, in the nick of time, she remembered who and where she was.
Her teeth snapped shut, catching the tip of her tongue painfully. Eyes watering, Daisy stood in fulminating silence as the valet passed. And then he winked at her. Nothing else on his face moved except for that one lid and then he was vanishing up the stairs, long legs taking them two at a time.
She had just been winked at by a valet. A valet! It was the outside of enough. And this would be just the start. She had half a mind to –
‘This all there is then?’ Six foot of liveried footman was standing at her elbow. ‘Where’s yours?’ She pointed to a pair of even more battered valises. His lip curled. ‘Right then. Jim, you take those up to Miss’s room in the North turret and we’ll take the others. For some reason,’ he added over his shoulder as they climbed, ‘your mistress has got the Pink Suite. Very nice too. Seems a bit odd though, one of the best suites in the place, and she’s no-one much is she? Still I expect they’ve got their reasons.’
Yes they have indeed, Daisy thought grimly as she followed. And it will take more than some Pink Suite to ensnare poor Penny in their plans if I’ve got anything to do with it. Impertinent upper servants and chilblains must be endured. This was all her own idea, but she knew who to blame for it. Oh yes indeed. The Earl of Danescroft was going to regret the day he decided that Miss Maylin would make a conformable and grateful wife.
Louise Allen

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Release




I'm delighted to announce that my latest book, my 25th published title, Bonded Heart, will be published by Severn House in January 2009. This book started life under the title, Wild Justice. Unfortunately, when my agent submitted it to Severn House, we learned that someone else had beaten me to it and had first claim on that title! So I had to think again. Because my hero is a justice, the forerunner of a magistrate, the original title had worked really well. Anyway, I racked by brains and came up with Honour Bound. We all liked that one. Only we couldn't use it because Severn House sells to America and they spell honour differently there! I had brain-ache by now. Then, thinking about honour, justice and a man's word being his bond, I came up with Bonded Heart. Everyone was happy, and that is the title under which the book will be published both here and in the US.

The story grew out of a very small incident between two minor characters in my previous book, Devil's Prize, published in January this year by Robert Hale. Watching them together, I sensed deep attraction and an explosive situation with huge potential and knew that as soon as I had completed Devil's Prize I would be writing the story of Roz Trevaskis and Branoc Casvellan. I'll tell you more about them in my next post.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Inspiration of WIP



A time of panic for me is receiving the finished cover of the novel I am writing and I've still got another 25,000 words to write bringing all the threads and theme of the story to a dramatic climax. This is the cover of THE LOVEDAY CONSPIRACY due out June of next year. There are three conspiracies running through this story involving different members of the family and I also wanted a surprise ending that united the family now divided in their loyalties. On seeing the cover which creates an atmosphere of darker elements and mystery a twist ending suddenly came to me. I love the new look to the covers and this one in particular.

Kate Tremayne

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jane Austen's account of a November ball in 1800

In November 1800, Jane Austen was a month short of her 25th birthday. The following is a much edited letter, written to her sister Cassandra, but I particularly love her description of the ball and more particularly the images that are conjured up by the descriptions of the people who attended.
The lovely illustrations are by Philip Gough from Sense and Sensibility.

Steventon: Thursday, November 20, 1800.

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,

Your letter took me quite by surprise this morning; you are very welcome, however, and I am very much obliged to you. I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne; I know not how else to account for the shaking of my hand to-day. You will kindly make allowance therefore for any indistinctness of writing, by attributing it to this venial error.

Your desiring to hear from me on Sunday will, perhaps, bring you a more particular account of the ball than you may care for, because one is prone to think much more of such things the morning after they happen, than when time has entirely driven them out of one's recollection.

It was a pleasant evening; Charles found it remarkably so, but I cannot tell why, unless the absence of Miss Terry, towards whom his conscience reproaches him with being now perfectly indifferent, was a relief to him. There were only twelve dances, of which I danced nine, and was merely prevented from dancing the rest by the want of a partner. We began at ten, supped at one, and were at Deane before five. There were but fifty people in the room; very few families indeed from our side of the county, and not many more from the other. My partners were the two St. Johns, Hooper, Holder, and very prodigious Mr. Mathew, with whom I called the last, and whom I liked the best of my little stock.

There were very few beauties, and such as there were were not very handsome. Miss Iremonger did not look well, and Mrs. Blount was the only one much admired. She appeared exactly as she did in September, with the same broad face, diamond bandeau, white shoes, pink husband, and fat neck. The two Miss Coxes were there: I traced in one the remains of the vulgar, broad-featured girl who danced at Enham eight years ago; the other is refined into a nice, composed-looking girl, like Catherine Bigg. I looked at Sir Thomas Champneys and thought of poor Rosalie; I looked at his daughter, and thought her a queer animal with a white neck. Mrs. Warren, I was constrained to think, a very fine young woman, which I much regret. She has got rid of some part of her child, and danced away with great activity looking by no means very large. Her husband is ugly enough, uglier even than his cousin John; but he does not look so very old. The Miss Maitlands are both prettyish, very like Anne, with brown skins, large dark eyes, and a good deal of nose. The General has got the gout, and Mrs. Maitland the jaundice. Miss Debary, Susan, and Sally, all in black, but without any stature, made their appearance, and I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow me.

Mary said that I looked very well last night. I wore my aunt's gown and handkerchief, and my hair was at least tidy, which was all my ambition. I will now have done with the ball, and I will moreover go and dress for dinner.

We had a very pleasant day on Monday at Ashe, we sat down fourteen to dinner in the study, the dining-room being not habitable from the storms having blown down its chimney. Mrs. Bramston talked a good deal of nonsense, which Mr. Bramston and Mr. Clerk seemed almost equally to enjoy. There was a whist and a casino table, and six outsiders. Rice and Lucy made love, Mat. Robinson fell asleep, James and Mrs. Augusta alternately read Dr. Finnis' pamphlet on the cow-pox, and I bestowed my company by turns on all.

The three Digweeds all came on Tuesday, and we played a pool at commerce. James Digweed left Hampshire to-day. I think he must be in love with you, from his anxiety to have you go to the Faversham balls, and likewise from his supposing that the two elms fell from their grief at your absence. Was not it a gallant idea? It never occurred to me before, but I dare say it was so.

Farewell; Charles sends you his best love and Edward his worst. If you think the distinction improper, you may take the worst yourself. He will write to you when he gets back to his ship, and in the meantime desires that you will consider me as

Your affectionate sister, J. A.

Jane Odiwe - click here to read my blog

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Edits - sigh!




Doing edits isn't my favourite way of spending my time, but it has to be done. I write in two genres - historical romance and paranormal romantic suspense, and sometimes, when I get edits in for a book in each genre, it's interesting to note the differences.
My contemporary romances are sexier, and they have heroines who know what they want and how to get it, both in and out of the bedroom. But my historical heroines have to behave appropriately to the period - they're more restrained, less likely to be experienced and sometimes more of a challenge to write, because they can come across as wimps to a modern reader.
I love writing in both genres, I think it keeps me fresh, but this week, when among a slew of edits I received edits for both "Red Heat" and for "Yorkshire" (the latter is the historical) it brought home to me just how different my style is, too.
In my contemporaries I often write American heroes and heroines, so the obvious difference in language is there, and it filters through to the narrative. My point of view in the contemporaries is often much closer and intimate, whereas I like to step back a little in the historicals, even though "Yorkshire" is written in the first person. Rose sees the world around her, and it affects how she feels about everything else, including her beloved Richard. And the reader needs the details. When I write a contemporary, I can take it that the reader knows about certain basic things, like how to operate a computer or a TV, so I don't have to spell it out, but in a historical, things my characters would have instinctively known aren't obvious. In the early chapters of "Yorkshire," there is a carriage accident which is one of the centres of the plot, and I find I have to describe the workings and how the accident happened in more detail, because the modern reader doesn't come across horse drawn carriages every day (unless they live near Central Park!)

Anyway, more about "Yorkshire" nearer the time, but for now, I've put the cover art for "Yorkshire" and the the recently released "Moonfire" just to demonstrate the differences between the genres! Kudos to the artists, I have very little to do with the cover art, but the artists always produce superb covers for me. So Les Byerley ("Moonfire") and Natalie Winters ("Yorkshire")

"Moonfire" is currently available at Ellora's Cave, here:
http://www.jasminejade.com/p-5043-moonfire.aspx

"Yorkshire" is coming to Samhain in December:
http://samhainpublishing.com/coming/yorkshire

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Futility of War


On this the ninetieth anniversary of the end of the Great War it's impossible not to reflect upon the human cost of war and to remember those young men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

It got me thinking about the casualties in the Napoleonic Wars and so I did a little research. Did you know that one in twenty of the men in active service were either killed or injured in the conflict? One in twenty!

Those that survived the battlefield were more likely to perish in what passed for hospitals. Conditions were grim, hygiene non-existent and unsurprisingly disease was rife. Five and a half thousand officers lost their lives in the wars. A huge number until you compare it to the 84,000 other ranks who also perished. OF those in the army 25,500 died in conflict but a massive 200,000 who survived the battlefield subsequently lost their lives as a result of their injuries. Amputations without anesthetic were commonplace and one surgeon boasted that he could cut off a man's leg in little more than a minute!

It ought to have been enough to put an end to war forever but we don't seem to learn from our mistakes.

On a brighter note, we still have Sean Bean and his fellow actors to bring to period alive for us and, thankfully, Sean didn't meet a nasty end - well, not in any of the episodes I watched, anyway.

Wendy

Monday, November 10, 2008

You CAN keep a good story down!

One of the problems for writers of historical romances — or should I say challenges? — is keeping the right balance between the history and the love story. Researching the history is endlessly fascinating; there are so many wonderful incidents just crying out to be included.

I usually have lists of such incidents. Some of them make it into my stories, some don’t. Some are in early drafts but end up being cut at the editing stage. “Murder your darlings”, as writers have been advised to do. Well, yes, I do, though with lingering regret.

One of the stories I wanted to use in The Aikenhead Honours trilogy relates to Napoleon’s advance on Paris after his escape from Elba. I thought I might be able to include it in Jack’s story. It’s widely known that Napoleon marched from the south coast to Paris without a single shot being fired. King Louis XVIII sent soldiers against Napoleon, but in every case they defected and joined their Emperor. The first of those amazing encounters, just south of Grenoble, does actually figure in His Forbidden Liaison.

The second story I had been hoping to include is about Napoleon’s arrival in Paris. Elizabeth Longford, in Wellington — The Years of the Sword, recounts this:

Napoleon entered Paris on 20 March without a shot being fired in anger.
Indeed the only blow struck on Louis XVIII’s behalf was said to have been by an old woman selling chestnuts. When she shouted ‘Vive le Roi’ a man
roared back 'Vive l’Empereur’ — and she hit him on the head with her ladle.
I thought it would have been a vivid incident for my tale, but in the end I found it didn’t fit and so I had to discard it.

But now that His Forbidden Liaison has gone to the printers, I find myself wondering what my readers would have said if I had included it. Elizabeth Longford’s biographies provide splendid research resources. But selling chestnuts? At the end of March? I leave you to make up your own minds.

Joanna
www.joannamaitland.com

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Song Of The Mountains



Just popped in to show you my cover for Song of the Mountains. This is a big Medieval book published in ebook format by Eternal Press.

Set against the turmoil as the last Welsh prince of Wales fought for survival against the English, it is a story of love, hate and betrayal. Morgan is devoted to his prince and the cause but his heart is given to a woman he can never marry. Will he overcome all the obstacles, tragedy and pain to find happiness. A passionate tale with a hint of magic!

Covers and Quotes!


My next book for Robert Hale, THE GHOSTS OF NEDDINGFIELD HALL, is due out at the end of December but here is the finished cover. As always the artist has produced a cover I like.
I'm pleased to be able to tell you that I've just sold my sixth My Weekly Pocket Novel to D C Thomson, called, LORD ATHERTON'S WARD. no doubt, like all the others, it will appear in about 15 months from now.
Last week I heard another quote I was told was made by the Duke of Wellington - everyone knows the one made about his troops before Waterloo "an infamous army, very weak and ill-equipped, and a very inexperienced staff". I wonder how many of you have heard this one - about making love. "The pleasure mementory, the postion ludicrous, the cost exorbitant." Priceless - and how true. (Jan Jones has now corrected me - it was Lord Chesterfield who said this.)
Best wishes
Fenella Miller

Friday, November 07, 2008

Harlequin Historicals Launch Undone E-books!


This week Harlequin launched a new e-book-only line of sexy historical romance short stories called Harlequin Historical Undone.

My Regency story The Unmasking of Lady Loveless is one of the launch titles and here is a taster:

Erotic author Lady Loveless is scandalising the Ton with her shocking tales that are based on the real life high jinks of society. Engagements are being broken, inheritances lost as a result of her wicked pen and the gentlemen decide that enough is enough – she may spin the most naughtily seductive tales, but Lady Loveless must be stopped!

Lord Alexander Beaumont is convinced that the outrageous Lady Loveless is none other than his estranged wife Melicent, for the manuscripts are coming from the Yorkshire village where Melicent took refuge after the end of their brief, bitter marriage. Alex travels to Yorkshire determined to unmask his errant wife and put a stop to her wicked ways. But when he reaches the beautiful village of Peacock Oak, Alex finds that Melicent – and Lady Loveless – are not what they seem…

I have asked the other launch authors to share a little about their stories.

About her story Libertine Lord, Pickpocket Miss, Bronwyn Scott writes:

Sophie DuPlessy has everything to gain. Julian Burke has nothing to lose.

Vienna of the 1820’s is Europe’s new glittering capital both in culture and in politics. No one knows the potential of such a setting better than Sophie DuPlessy. Europe has been ravaged by Napoleon’s wars and re-structured by the Vienna conferences and Europe’s premier statesmen. In the aftermath, kingdoms have been absorbed, national boundaries have been redrawn. In the wake of such upheaval, heirlooms have been lost. In certain circles of dubious repute, Sophie DuPlessy has earned a reputation for discreetly recovering such objects. Now, she’s been hired by an Italian count to retrieve a set of jewels, a supposed heirloom of the family. This will be her last job. The reward promised for recovering the jewels guarantees her the financial resources to re-make her life as a horse breeder. But she’s not the only one looking for them.

Julian Burke, second son of an earl, has been sent on crown business to Vienna to ferret out the truth to the rumors that an heirloom once part of the royal treasury during the time of Charles II has surfaced in Vienna. When the Crown wants something badly, Julian Burke is the man for the job. Julian is the most dangerous of men; a man with nothing to lose. No wife to protect, no estate to risk, a fortune so large he cannot be bribed, no care for his reputation and according to most—no heart to break. He is unassailable when it comes to blackmail and other forms of traditional leverage.

But Sophie DuPlessy is about to change that!

One interesting research tidbit I enjoyed working with for this story was the neighborhoods of Vienna. The neighborhood Sophie lives in is still marked with a lantern today. In her time, the neighborhood housed bakers and other middle working class citizens. Visit the Bronwyn Scott blog starting November 1 for links to a few of the research sites I used for the story. You can visit at www.bronwynswriting.blogspot.com

Amanda McCabe: When I was asked to write an "Undone" short story as a spin-off from my January '09 book High Seas Stowaway, I knew right away who the hero would be--Carlos de Alameda. Carlos is a Spanish nobleman, an official of the Crown at the island town of Santo Domingo in 1535. He is also a dangerous spy, with secrets of his own to protect. He appeared briefly in the action of High Seas Stowaway, but I was intrigued by his intelligence and mystery. What was he really up to?

In Shipwrecked and Seduced, I got to find out! Maria Gonzales is the one who is shipwrecked, but in the end they are both seduced. Maria is a maidservant, headed to Santo Domingo with a Spanish contessa, Isabella, who is journeying to her wedding. A terrible shipwreck kills all aboard except Maria, and she is soon mistaken for the contessa herself--and taken to Carlos's island fortress! She knows very well that an affair with the sexy, mysterious man will threaten her masquerade, but she's drawn to him irresistibly. What will happen when he discovers the truth?

Michelle Willingham: On a trip to Dublin two years ago, I visited an archaelogical museum in order to research medieval artifacts. To my surprise, I saw an amazing display of Viking lore, including preserved bodies that had been found in a bog! I've always been intrigued by Viking raiders, and though most of the true Viking era took place in the 9th and 10th centuries, I found evidence that a Norse king, Magnus the Barefoot, attempted to take over Dublin in 1101. Such a daring move made him a fascinating historical figure, and as I plotted my Viking story, I imagined that such a king might a ruthless foe for a Viking warrior.

The Viking's Forbidden Love Slave tells the story of Tharand Hardrata, a memer of the Norse warrior class who steals an Irish noblewoman from her clan. He intends to trade Aisling O Brannon for his sister's life, after she was taken by King Magnus. If Aisling succeeds in pleasing the king with her body, Tharand believes Magnus will let his sister go. But the Irish captive enslaves him with a pleasure he's never known before. If you've ever wondered what it was like to be carried off by an amazingly hot Viking, then I hope you'll enjoy this fantasy story!

When the tale ends, Aisling asks Tharand to help her discover what happened to her brothers during the Norse raid. Their tale continues in Her Warrior Slave, the story fo Kieran O Brannon, on sale now at Harlequin Historicals.

There will be one new historical Undone story published each month, including future stories by our own Louise Allen and Joanna Maitland! With a variety of historical backgrounds and settings they are the perfect historical fix!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Romance is back!

Every now and again I take a break from the book I'm writing. I put it aside for a few weeks so that I can edit it with a fresh eye and see where it needs changes: places where the pace is too fast or too slow, places where there are holes in the plot or where the characters need more introduction, or places where there needs to be more or less humour etc. This is a very important part of the writing process, rather like putting something aside when cooking in order to allow the flavours to infuse. Without it, the finished book wouldn't be nearly as tasty.

So whilst Henry Tilney and his friends and relatives, not to mention the Morlands, roam around my subconscious, maturing and deepening as they do so, I thought I'd post about the fantastic coverage romance has been getting in the UK recently.

Until very recently it was popular for the media to sneer at romance. I don't know why, but so it was. The Romantic Novelists' Association here in the UK decided to try and change attitudes, and they sent a team to University Challenge, the professionals. The team were runners up, which was fantastic.

On Monday, the RNA sent a team to Eggheads, a popular UK quiz show. The result was a very near thing. Having knocked out the opposing team 3-1, they entered the final part of the competition and lost on tie breakers. One of the team was our own fabulous Louise Allen.

Louise, of course, writes for Mills and Boon, and M&B have been getting some very positive publicity over here recently, tying in with their centenary.

The Guardian wrote, about a programme in which Stella Duffy tried to write a M&B romance, "The programme is a success, for one because Stella Duffy . . . is very good company . . . But also because of all the amazing Mills & Boon ladies she meets along the way: the editor, the established writer who's teaching the course in Italy, the aspiring writers, the fans. They're all brilliant, clever, funny, women. Modern, even. But they also understand that romance - and cuppy-kissing - lives on."

The Times critic gave a recent programme on romance 5 stars, saying "...not only an apologia for the paperback romances that sell 200 million copies a year but a 50-minute broadcast on behalf of the Campaign for Real Men".

It looks like the tide is turning and that the media has realised that millions of sane, ordinary people love to read and write about romance, including of course those on the Romantic Times website who are entering / voting in the American Title contest, with the voting still open. Good luck to the RNA's Evonne Wareham and everyone else who's taking part.

Amanda Grange

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Walk in the Past



A few weeks ago we went for a walk in London. Nothing too surprising there - except that we did it with Horwood’s Map of London (1799/1819) in hand as well as the modern A-Z. It was a fascinating experience and one we’ll be repeating once I’ve done the homework for a new route.
My original aim was to look at the area in the Spitalfields area where the heroine of my current work in progress is living, but to make a day of it I found a walk from the free site www.london-footprints.co.uk. For anyone wanting to repeat the route, we used the “Spitalfields” walk, with variations.

To prepare I copied the area on a large scale modern A-Z and highlighted the route, then did the same from the wonderful A-Z of Regency London ( The Topographical Society’s indexed book of the Horwood maps). I wish now I’d also done it from the Roque map which makes up the A-Z of Georgian London. You’ll need scissors and sticky tape: it is a bit of a Blue Peter enterprise.
We started off with breakfast in Borough Market, just south of Southwark Cathedral - foodie paradise - then walked across London Bridge to pick up the walk. The street pattern is virtually intact and using the two maps together you can see how, despite the Blitz, the old shape of the City remains, right down to the angle of individual houses, long gone now but fossilised in their modern replacements.

We spent so long on odd corners with our maps that helpful passers-by kept stopping to see if they could direct us - and were more than slightly surprised to find what we were navigating by.

I was disappointed to find that my first ‘fictional’ landmark - Widegate Street, an oddly named, very narrow street off Bishopsgate - seemed to have been swallowed up by Middlesex Street. But I walked along the newer road a few yards and there it was, just as I had imagined it, leading into a narrow alley where my hero, in pursuit of the heroine, gets his coach stuck. And Georgian shops and houses survived all along.

The street I placed my heroine’s home in has vanished under a car park, and the tenterfeld where cloth was stretched out to dry had long since been built over, but the lay-out of streets are just the same.

We walked on, through Spitalfield’s market, past Hawksmoor’s brooding church and into the wonderful Georgian streets between Brick Lane and Liverpool Street station. For anyone trying this walk who hasn’t visited the magical and disturbing Dennis Sever house at 18, Folgate Street it is worth timing your walk to take that in too.
Louise Allen

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Monday, November 03, 2008

The Bargain - Extract



The Bargain was originally published by Robert Hale Limited in Hardback, and is also available in large print and i am delighted that it is now also available as an e-book. I had great fun writing this one - I love my tall dark and dangerous hero, the Earl of Aldringham but he has met his match in the lovely Melissa Langham. She may be forced to marry him, but when his behaviour becomes too outrageous she takes matters into her own hands, as this extract shows.

When Melissa entered the house she could hear the noisy chatter and laughter coming from the great hall. She was about to enter when a discreet cough made her pause. Mrs Borster was standing in the doorway to the servants’ quarters. Melissa turned towards her, saying cheerfully, ‘What is it, Mrs Borster? Has the cook walked out at the news of so many unexpected guests?’
The elderly housekeeper drew back and, intrigued, Melissa followed her along the passage to the kitchen. She nodded at Borster, who was sitting by the window, engaged in cleaning the earl’s carriage pistols.
‘Well, Mrs Borster, what is it you want to say to me?’
‘Well my lady, I thought perhaps you should know, before you join them.’ The older woman shifted her gaze. ‘The party isn’t what you might call … seemly.’
Melissa frowned. ‘Who is with my lord?’
The housekeeper moved from one foot to the other, looking even more agitated.
‘Well, there’s Mr Courtenay, who was here yesterday, and a couple of gentlemen from the village, and - and some females who have no right to be in any respectable house!’
Lady Aldringham turned on her heel and walked briskly to the great hall. At her entrance the noise abated, and for a moment Melissa thought she had wandered into a nightmare.
Aldringham, she noted with relief, was lounging in a chair alone, with a half-empty glass in his hand. Mr Courtenay was sitting in one of the armchairs, a very painted lady on his lap, whom Melissa judged to be at least twice his age. There were three other gentlemen in the room, all very young. One of them was engaged in drinking wine from a lady’s rather soiled slipper while its owner perched boldly on the edge of the mahogany table. The other two young men were lounging on a sofa with another untidily dressed woman between them.
Melissa took it all in at a glance, her anger growing, then, without a word, she turned and whisked herself out of the room. As she closed the door behind her, she heard her husband’s harsh, mirthless laugh ring out across the room. Eyes flashing angrily, she walked quickly back into the kitchen.
‘Borster, can you load those pistols for me?’
‘Load them, my lady? But—’
‘Well?’
‘Well ... yes, ma’am, but I don’t see—’
‘Then you will load them for me at once, do you hear? You, boy!’ She pointed at a young stable-lad who had just brought in a basket of logs. ‘Bring me the whip that hangs on the stable door. The big one!’
The boy goggled at her, but seeing the determined look in her face, he tugged his forelock and disappeared at a run. Borster looked at his wife askance, but at her nod, he began nervously to load the pistols.
‘There, my lady, but I beg you will take care!’
Melissa checked the weapons.
“You need not worry, Borster. I was used to be a very good shot. Now, order the carriage and horses for our guests.’
The stable lad had returned with the whip, and Melissa carefully placed one of the pistols in her pocket. She took the whip in her left hand, the other pistol held firmly in her right. Thus armed she stepped purposefully back towards the great hall.

Melinda Hammond




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