Friday, April 03, 2015

INSPIRATION - AND THREE CRACKING STORIES!




Over ten years ago I visited the battlefield at Waterloo and since then I have wanted to write a story based around the events at Waterloo in 1815. 

One of the places I visited was Hougoumont, a chateau/farmstead that was key to the defence of the Allied position and where thousands of soldiers from both sides died. It was in a parlous state then, and Project Hougoumont was set up to try and restore the site in time for the 200th anniversary of the battle in 2015. 

To support the project the Waterloo Collection was devised, a series of paintings depicting key scenes from the battle of Waterloo.  The paintings were commissioned in pairs to show the scene from both sides and prints were published by Steve Stanton and sold to raise funds for Hougoumont.  Steve kindly gave me permission to show two of the prints here – the two that provided the inspiration for my forthcoming book, A Lady for Lord Randall.
Mercer's Battery withstanding a charge from Napoleon's Grenadier a Cheval of the Guard. Waterloo 1815

Mercer's troop was stationed in the thick of the action and fought off repeated charges by the French Cavalry. It was the norm for the artillerymen to shelter inside the nearby infantry squares when a cavalry charge took place, but Mercer realised that the squares were manned by inexperienced soldiers and he feared they would break up if they saw the artillery men running for cover, so he disobeyed orders and kept his men in place while the cavalry charged them. Despite his foreign-sounding title Mercer was actually born in Yorkshire, survived to serve many years and died in Devon in 1868.


The images are quite dark, but remember the battlefield was covered with a pall of smoke from the constant firing.  If you look closely at the painting on the left you can see an artilleryman lying wounded on the ground.  When I first saw these pictures I wanted to include this scene in my book and I imagined that this man could be my own hero, Lord Randall, blown off his feet.

So, I had the germ of an idea. I got in touch with two of Harlequin's top historical authors and we decided to write a trilogy, and thus the Brides of Waterloo was born.  We first put our proposal to Harlequin in July 2012 and now, finally, our books are ready to be published to coincide with the Bicentenary of Waterloo.

My novel, A LADY FOR LORD RANDALL,
 is the first and will be published next month.




Then Annie Burrows' A MISTRESS FOR MAJOR BARTLETT follows in June



 and Louise Allen's A ROSE FOR MAJOR FLINT completes the trilogy in July.









And finally back to Hougoumont. I am delighted to say the chateau has now been restored and I was thrilled when I discovered that our lovely cover designers have used it for the backdrop. A Lady for Lord Randall (much of which takes place before the battle) shows Hougoumont intact, A Mistress for Major Bartlett shows it in flames and A Rose for Major Flint shows the chateau as a ruin. A very poignant touch, I think.


Annie, Louise and I had great fun writing these three stories and we hope you enjoy reading them. My thanks to Steve Stanton for allowing me to show you these prints and you can find more information about Project Hougoumont and the Waterloo Collection on Facebook or at the website addresses below:-
http://www.projecthougoumont.com 
http://www.waterloo-collection.com


Sarah Mallory/Melinda Hammond



10 comments:

Helena said...

This sounds like an interesting trilogy! Thank you for the background information.

Elizaqbeth Hawksley said...

Thank you for such an interesting post, Sarah/Melinda. Lucky you! I'd love to see Waterloo.

However, I did see a small exhibition on Wellington at the National Portrait Gallery last week. It includes the sketch-book/journal of a young officer called Edmund Wheatley who kept it for his fiancée, Eliza. There are some fascinating sketches of army life during the Peninsular War and a sketch of what (thanks to your post) I can now see was Hougoumont, looking very much the worse for wear.

Edmund Wheatley was wounded at Waterloo and taken prisoner by the French but managed to escape via a window. He drew the incident for Eliza with himself lying as flat as he could on top of a pile of wood, which was fortunately under the window, while the French sentry marched past underneath him!

Re: Mercer. The name comes from Norman French and it means a merchant dealing in textiles. It has been in use as a surname in England since the 13th century.

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

So glad you enjoyed the post, Helena and Elizabeth - yes Mercer is not unusual, my apologies, for misleading you here, during the editing of this blog I must have removed his title of General Cavalie Mercer - I haven't discovered what that is about yet!

I am off to Waterloo in June for the Bicentenary - and taking ear defenders because they are planning some spectacular re-enactments!

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

Ooh I am too quick to press the button! Elizabeth, meant to say thank you for posting that fascinating story about Edmund Wheatley - it sounds like a plot from a novel, doesn't it? How lovely that his sketches can bring the story to life for us today.

Yvonne said...

Very interesting post. I'm looking forward to reading this trilogy. Enjoy the Waterloo Bicentenary celebrations.

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

Thank you, Yvonne, I shall do my best to enjoy myself :-)

It was tremendous fun working with Louise and Annie on this trilogy, and I hope you enjoy the books.

Fenella Miller said...

I like the sound of these books -I will look out for them. Fascinating information -thanks - Sarah.

Helena said...

I've remembered who the cover model on Annie Burrows's book looks like -- the actor Edward Fox.

The Edmund Wheatley sketchbook/journal was published with Christopher Hibbert as editor.

El;izabeth Hawksley said...

Thank you for letting me know about Christopher Hibbert's editing of Edmund Wheatley's journal, Helena. I expect the London Library will have it and, fortunately, I'm a member. The National Portrait Gallery exhibition just had a slide show of some of the sketches so I shall look forward to reading it in full.

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

Thank you for your kind words, Fenella.
Helena, thanks for the information the Wheatley journal, I shall look out for it, too.

Thanks to you all for dropping by