When I came to plan the family tree of my Ravenhurst clan for the Those Scandalous Ravenhursts series the heroine of the sixth book, the Piratical Miss Ravenhurst, seemed a long way away. I couldn’t “see” her yet or find a name for her.
For some reason I called her father Clement. Then I thought that as my skinny heroine would run away and find herself as a cabin boy on a pirate ship the feminine form of his name, Clemence, which would shorten to Clem, seemed a good choice for her.
When I started to get to know her it seemed to suit her well. And when my hero, Nathan Stanier, meets her he likes the name too -
Clemence. He said the name in his mind, savouring the sound of it, a sort of fruity sweet tang of a name. Tart and challenging, yet mellow too.
I was half way through writing the book when I found myself in my favourite places, a country auction room on Viewing Saturday. There was a pot of odds and ends in a cabinet and poking out of them, the unmistakeable handle of an 18th or early 19thc fan. I collect fans so I took a quick look, saw it was covered in verses in French and put it back amongst the rubbish before anyone else saw me looking at it.
I was in luck - no-one seemed to have spotted it for what it was and the only other bidder when I came back for the auction appeared to be after the Victorian pot the fan was in and certainly wasn’t prepared to battle it out with me!
So I bore off my spoils in triumph and had a good look at what I had bought. I couldn’t read the French verses but the picture seemed to be a scene of six young women and four cupids drawing lots from a revolving drum and handing them out. Then I saw the name - Clémence. The frustration of only being able to make out half the complex old French was acute! What did the verses say?
Luckily I remembered that fellow M&B Historical author Joanna Maitland is an accomplished linguist and she gallantly tackled the archaic French for me.
It was a lottery as I had guessed - a lottery for love. Each young woman was given a verse that described her lover and the virtues he would have -
Here is Love, putting the charms
Of all these beauties to the test.
The prizes, he has promised, will be
The true qualities of men…
A constant friend, a faithful husband,
Are both a lottery.
Poor Isis has no luck at all - and no lover. She is the girl in pink with her head in her hands. Aglaé will have a man with only one virtue, Aglaure, one with two. And so it goes on until -
And finally, there remains but one.
It is for the lovely Clémence.
Her destiny is wonderful, but rare.
It surpasses all her hopes.
A stout heart, a quick mind,
Virtue, courage and a handsome form.
Her lover is blessed with them all.
She has won the fivefold prize.
I could not believe it - the Clémence of the fan (the figure on the right in purple) is promised a hero with all the virtues of my Clemence’s love.
Of course I had to use the fan in the book - but you will have to read it to find out how! The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst is out this month with Mills & Boon Historical and Harlequin Historical.