Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Men's costume in Pride and Prejudice

The new film of Pride and Prejudice is controversial in terms of women's dress, but the men fare better. This is perhaps because men's fashions didn't change so much.

Mr Bennet is wearing an old-fashioned tricorne hat. Like Mrs Bennet, he clings to the styles of his youth. But the rest of his clothes would pass muster in the 1790s or in the first two decades of the nineteenth century.

Bingley fares better. As a young man with 5 thousand a year, he is well dressed.

Darcy here is well dressed, as befits a man of his station.

We have no idea what he's wearing here. Is it a coat? Is it his dressing-gown? And where is his cravat? Quite frankly, when he looks like this, who cares?

What do you think?
Is this a wonderfully romantic image, or is it a liberty too far? Do you think he looks so wonderful you don't care about accuracy, or do you think that Darcy would never go out in a state of partial undress? Does this shot make the film for you, or does it ruin it?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Pride and Prejudice costumes - what do you think?

Director Joe Wright broke with tradition when he dressed the Pride and Prejudice characters in a mixture of styles by setting the film in 1798.

We have no quibble with setting the book in the late eighteenth century, as our very own Amanda dated Pride and Prejudice at 1799/1800 when she worked out a timeline for Pride and Prejudice whilst writing Darcy's Diary. But what do you think of the mixture of styles?

Here, Mrs Bennet is in a dress from the early 1790s, which, if she was wearing an old dress would be accurate. But what about Mary? Is her gown high-waisted or low-waisted? It seems in the middle to us.

And here we have the same mix of styles, with Mrs Bennet in a low-waisted gown in the style of the 1790s and the girls in a range of dresses with waists between low and high.

Do you think Lady Catherine looks more intimidating in fashions of the earlier 1790s, or do you think she looked more imposing in the high waisted styles of the early nineteenth century, as in the BBC's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice?

And can anyone, looking at this picture of Caroline Bingley, understand how Joe Wright thinks high waists make women look like marshmallows?!

Is it only men who dislike high-waisted gowns? Thackeray didn't like them either. He drew his own illustrations for Vanity Fair, but although the book is set in 1814, he drew the characters with the fashions of the mid nineteenth century, because he thought Regency fashions were ugly.

What do you think? Is it a man/woman thing? Do you like high-waisted gowns?

Do you like the mixture of fashion styles in the new film, or would you rather they had stuck to Empire line dresses?

Monday, November 28, 2005


Love's Measure is my current book, published last April. It is to be an audiobook in January 2006 and later in that year will go to large-print hardback and softback. A local journalist has described it as 'the historical National Velvet' and I hope that phrase will give it some impetus. My heroine is a 19-year old horsewoman and the climax is a high-stakes steeplechase so it might be worthy of that description.
I'm at the 3-chapter-synopsis stage of my third period romance, titled RAVENSCAR. Lots of research needed as the hero is one of Wellington's cartographers/mapmakers. I'm looking forward to writing this one.
This is a wonderful website, and I'm happy to be in such good company.

Maisie Hampton

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Tribute to Pamela Cleaver

We are very sorry to have to tell you that Pam has died.

Pam was a huge supporter of the Regency romance. Through her work with the Romantic Novelists' Association and the Historical Novel Society, she did a great deal to raise its profile. Her membership of this blog was the latest example of her dedication to a genre she loved.

Pam was a gifted writer. She had had many children's books published, and her book, How to Write Children's Books, was - and still is - a bestseller.

She had always loved Regencies, stemming from her love of Georgette Heyer, and she recently turned to writing them.
Her first Regency romance, The Reluctant Governess, is a perfect example of the traditional Regency. Its lively characters are embroiled in an adventurous story as the heroine tries to discover the identity of the leader of a band of smugglers. All the while, she knows the outcome might lead to heartache, as one of the contenders for the role is a man she finds very attractive . . .

The Reluctant Governess encapsulates the wit and sparkle of a traditional Regency, together with a satisfying love story - the Regency at its best.

We will miss her.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Reading about Fenella's book launch for The Unconventional Miss Walters reminded me of the party I had at the launch of The Lady Soldier earlier this year. Not at home, I hasten to add, but in a club in London - The University Women's Club (see picture left).

The club is based in a house in Mayfair, originally built as a family home in 1876/7 but internally very much decorated in the Georgian style (see photo below). To tie-in with this I had some old-fashioned looking invites printed, which a neo-classical-looking cherub on them.

Viviane Morgan was guest of honour and gave a very well informed talk about female cross-dressers through the ages which she had been researching for a book, and for a lecture she had delivered at the National Army Museum.

However, the show was completely stolen by certain guests - namely red-coated Napoleonic reenactors, who had kindly volunteered to come along and support me. Not all red-coated as among them was a representative of the 95th Rifles who wore dark bottle-green uniforms. This is the regiment where Jem, heroine of The Lady Soldier, is in at the start of the novel. The redcoats spoke to everyone, sharing their detailed knowledge about Napoleonic military matters and asking the ladies if they wanted to feel their musket balls.

I've written two military heros now - Captain Anthony Dorrell who is a foot soldier (The Lady Soldier), and Captain Robert Monceaux who is in the light cavalry (A Notorious Deception). But what do you think about redcoats? Do you want to see more or less of them in Regency romances?

Kate Allan

Friday, November 25, 2005

Book launch for The Unconventional Miss Walters

On 30th October I opened my home to 75 assorted friends and family for the launch of my first book. I woke up feeling sick and wished I could cancel it but making hundreds of canapes and organising bowls of olives and exotic crisps kept my nerves at bay. The sun was shining and the day mild, perfect for sitting outside on the deck.
At noon the first people arrived and from that moment I forgot to be worried and began to enjoy myself. The two lovely young ladies I had employed for the cccasion served the drinks and put out the food, leaving me to mingle and my husband to act the perfect host.
Soon I was asked to sign my first book, something I had been dreading but, in fact, it was a chance to speak to everyone personally. It was odd signing books for writer friends, especially those who command a whole shelf to themselves at the local library. I sold out of books and had to order some more.
The most memorable signing was from a jounalist friend who asked me to put 'From a writer to a hack' Everyone enjoyed themselves and I can't wait until next March when 'A Suitable Husband' is published and I can have another one.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Fenella's book launch

It was a special moment seeing The Unconventional Miss Walters in a bookshop where strangers might actually buy it!

When I went into Waterstone's in Colchester, I found that they already had The Unconventional Miss Walters up on a display, with Highly Recommended on it!

Here are more photographs of my book launch.


If you like books set at the time of The Scarlet Pimpernel

then try Harstairs House by Amanda Grange

It's set on the Cornish coast in 1793, and is available in regular print, large print and audio book forms. The cover shown here is from the audio book.

Susannah inherits a house on the Cornish coast, and gladly gives up a job as a governess to claim her inheritance. But when she gets there, she finds the house has a tenant.

Oliver Bristow claims to be renting Harstairs House whilst he looks for a house to purchase in the neighbourhood, but his behaviour is odd and he disappears at times, turning up again without any explanation.

When he finds that Susannah has discovered a secret passage in the library his behaviour becomes menacing, and Susannah has to solve the riddle of Harstairs House.

Amanda says:

I have always loved Cornwall, and I wanted to set a book on the Cornish coast. Harstairs House allowed me to bring together some of the elements I love best in romances: a large house, a mystery, a curious heroine and a hero with a past.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Favourite Jane Austen characters - Part 3

Louise's favourite character is Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility.

"He's such a romantic and so
deliciously buttoned-up," she says.

Maisie's favourite is Anne Elliot.

She adds: "I have a penchant, not only for Darcy and Captain Wentworth, but also for Mr Knightley from "Emma".

Melinda's favourite is Elinor from Sense and Sensibility

"She has to be strong for all the family, despite her own heartache - and she suffers in silence so heroically!" says Melinda.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why we love the Pimpernel - Part 2

It's so romantic!

In this extract, Marguerite is in a terrible situation. She is being blackmailed and her brother's life is being threatened. She wants to turn to Percy for help, but he has become cold towards her, because he thinks she is secretly working against him and assisting the Revolution.

And so there is an estrangement between them.

"Can you do aught for Armand?" she said sweetly and simply. "You have so much influence at court. . .so many friends. . ."

"Nay, Madame, should you not seek the influence of your French friend, M. Chauvelin? His extends, if I mistake not, even as far as the Republican Government of France."

"I cannot ask him, Percy. . . . Oh! I wish I dared to tell you. . .but. . .but. . .he has put a price on my brother's head, which. . ."

She would have given worlds if she had felt the courage then to tell him everything. . .all she had done that night--how she had suffered and how her hand had been forced. But she dared not give way to that impulse. . .not now, when she was just beginning to feel that he still loved her, when she hoped that she could win him back. She dared not make another confession to him. After all, he might not understand; he might not sympathise with her struggles and temptation. His love still dormant might sleep the sleep of death.

Perhaps he divined what was passing in her mind. His whole attitude was one of intense longing--a veritable prayer for that confidence, which her foolish pride withheld from him. When she remained silent he sighed, and said with marked coldness-

"Faith, Madame, since it distresses you, we will not speak of it. . . . As for Armand, I pray you have no fear. I pledge you my word that he shall be safe. Now, have I your permission to go? The hour is getting late, and. . ."

"You will at least accept my gratitude?" she said, as she drew quite close to him, and speaking with real tenderness.

With a quick, almost involuntary effort he would have taken her then in his arms, for her eyes were swimming in tears, which he longed to kiss away; but she had lured him once, just like this, then cast him aside like an ill-fitting glove. He thought this was but a mood, a caprice, and he was too proud to lend himself to it once again.

"It is too soon, Madame!" he said quietly; "I have done nothing as yet. The hour is late, and you must be fatigued. Your women will be waiting for you upstairs."

He stood aside to allow her to pass. She sighed, a quick sigh of disappointment. His pride and her beauty had been in direct conflict, and his pride had remained the conqueror. Perhaps, after all, she had been deceived just now; what she took to be the light of love in his eyes might only have been the passion of pride or, who knows, of hatred instead of love. She stood looking at him for a moment or two longer. He was again as rigid, as impassive, as before. Pride had conquered, and he cared naught for her. The grey light of dawn was gradually yielding to the rosy light of the rising sun. Birds began to twitter; Nature awakened, smiling in happy response to the warmth of this glorious October morning. Only between these two hearts there lay a strong, impassable barrier, built up of pride on both sides, which neither of them cared to be the first to demolish.

He had bent his tall figure in a low ceremonious bow, as she finally, with another bitter little sigh, began to mount the terrace steps.

The long train of her gold-embroidered gown swept the dead leaves off the steps, making a faint harmonious sh--sh--sh as she glided up, with one hand resting on the balustrade, the rosy light of dawn making an aureole of gold round her hair, and causing the rubies on her head and arms to sparkle. She reached the tall glass doors which led into the house. Before entering, she paused once again to look at him, hoping against hope to see his arms stretched out to her, and to hear his voice calling her back. But he had not moved; his massive figure looked the very personification of unbending pride, of fierce obstinacy.

Hot tears again surged to her eyes, as she would not let him see them, she turned quickly within, and ran as fast as she could up to her own rooms.
Had she but turned back then, and looked out once more on to the rose-lit garden, she would have seen that which would have made her own sufferings seem but light and easy to bear--a strong man, overwhelmed with his own passion and his own despair.

Pride had given way at last, obstinacy was gone: the will was powerless. He was but a man madly, blindly, passionately in love, and as soon as her light footsteps had died away within the house, he knelt down upon the terrace steps, and in the very madness of his love he kissed one by one the places where her small foot had trodden, and the stone balustrade there, where her tiny hand had rested last.

With special thanks once again to Sophie Weston, a long-time fan of The Scarlet Pimpernel, who managed to put her hand on this extract straight away.

Characters in Disguise

Thinking about The Scarlet Pimpernel made us think about characters in disguise. We have a fair selection of them in our own books!

Louise's book, The Marriage Debt, opens with the hero, Black Jack Standon, in a condemned cell in Newgate waiting to be hanged as a highwayman.

Only he isn't a highwayman, his name is Nicholas Lydgate - and when Katherine Cunningham marries him as a sure way to escape her debts and then clears his name, it turns out that she has married into something which scares her even more than the highwayman did.

Louise isn't the only one who likes heroes and heroines in disguise:

In Melinda's book The Dream Chasers, the heroine runs away disguised as a boy.

In Amanda's book The Silverton Scandal, Lucien, the hero is disguised as a highwayman.

In Kate's book The Lady Soldier, the heroine is disguised as a soldier

Why we love the Pimpernel - Part 1

He's a master of disguise

In the stage play, Fred Terry used to use an uncredited old woman to sit knitting at the foot of the guillotine, so that when, after some shenanigans in the wings, "she" metamorphosed into the dashing Pimpernel, there was a genuine gasp of amazement from the audience.

His ultimate disguise was that of a useless dandy, a man who cared for nothing but the style of his cravat. It was so convincing that no one ever guessed who he really was.

Which makes us wonder, was the Pimpernel the first superhero?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Scarlet Pimpernel

2005 is the centenary of the first publication of

The Scarlet Pimpernel

This is one of the most adventurous historical romances ever written. It has mystery, intrigue, excitement and romance.

It was not, however, an instant success. Baroness Orczy tried almost every publisher in London, and they all turned it down. It was rescued by Fred Terry and his wife Julia Neilson, who dramatised it in 1903.

It was revived regularly right up to the War, and on the strength of its theatrical success the novel was published at last in 1905. The rest, as they say, is history.

It has been turned into films, TV dramas and has been published in 16 languages.

Orczy immediately started to write sequels. Over 35 years, she wrote 12 books about the Pimpernel and his followers along with lots of other popular novels.

The first film had Leslie Howard as Sir Percy,
and the wonderful brooding Raymond Massey as
the villainous Chauvelin.

Merle Oberon was Marguerite.

Later, Anthony Andrews would play the role of the Pimpernel, and Jane Seymour Marguerite.

And later still, Richard E Grant played the Pimpernel on TV, in a series of adventures

With special thanks to Sophie Weston, a long-time fan of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Congratulations to Liz Harris!

Congratulations, Liz!

Not only does Liz share a name with Jane Austen's most famous character, but as she's the first person to post a comment on our new blog, we decided we'd send her a book. Thanks, Liz!

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Three years ago about this time of year I'd just been reading about a lady who got away with being in the Russian cavalry disguised as a man for ten years (1806-1816) - Nadezhda Durova. Hers is an amazing story of determination and courage and it got me thinking about whether there had ever been a lady soldier in the British Army in Regency times... and the idea for a novel was born.

I was an unpublished writer but I'd come to the end of a novel which had some interest from a publisher. I'd really raced to get it done, dusted and sent off, and I wanted a break. My critique partner, Michelle Styles, was in the same boat, and, partly for fun, we thought we'd try out writing a story together. I suggested 'the lady soldier'.

Writing The Lady Soldier was fun. Michelle sketched out a plot but we changed and developed much along the way (to surprise each other I think). It was finished in early in 2003, and then followed six months of doing the rounds with the script among publishers and agents. There was some intertest, which kept our spirits up, but we got many rejections before Robert Hale finally picked it off the slush pile. We chose the pen name 'Jennifer Lindsay' as Jennifer is my middle name, and Lindsay is Michelle's.

It was published in May this year in hardcover in the UK and in August in US/Canada. It's been my first book in print and every time I hear that someone has read it and enjoyed it I get such a thrill to think that a story I've co-written has captured other people's imaginations and given them pleasure. Especially when men read it and love it! Just as soldiering should not be left to the boys to have all the fun, historical romance is not just for girls!

Kate Allan

More favourite Austen characters

Lynne says:

"Well, I thought and I thought, and I came up with a character who is in all the books, but never does anything.
Jane herself.
I love the authorial voice, and I'm a bit sad we're not allowed so much of it any more. In "Bleak House" there are at least 3 distinct authorial voices, all of which add to the depth and texture of the novel.
In Jane's books, there is a kindly spinster aunt, a vicious satirist of social mores, and a sharply keen observer, and they're all Jane. In "Pride and Prejudice" she is the first 'character' we meet, and we see everything through her filter, although sometimes she will step aside and allow the characters to speak for themselves. Her books would be sadly impoverished if the authorial voice was taken out."

Nicola says:

"I've chosen Henry Crawford from Mansfield Park as my favourite Jane Austen
character. A bit controversial, I know! But Henry is a rake and rakes are
always interesting. Not just because they are usually fatally attractive,
but because of what's going on in their mind. The natural tendency is to
want to reform a rake, but Jane Austen resists this impulse.

In Mansfield Park we see very clearly the moment when Henry could reform by turning away from his past misdeeds. He is drawn to Fanny Price's goodness and her different values, but she rejects him and so he turns back to his former
ways. Was he ever genuinely in love with Fanny or would he have lapsed at
some point? We'll never know. But he remains a fascinating character."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Reluctant Governess

Books by Georgette Heyer have been my comfort reading since I was a girl. THE RELUCTANT GOVERNESS is by way of being a homage to her. I love the way her heroines always have a fault – not a bad one, usually something quite endearing – so I decided to make Belinda’s besetting sin jumping to wrong conclusions. This gave me some interesting and sometimes amusing situations.

I enjoy the interaction in families, so I set Belinda, an only child, in the midst of a warm loving family, and watched her cope with the scrapes her charges and their brothers got into, and got her into. I always have an animal in my books, so I added an enchanting puppy to the mix.

I set the book in Suffolk as I live in East Anglia. At the time of the story, 1812, smuggling was rife along the coast so I added that in as another ingredient.

Pamela Cleaver

Favourite Jane Austen characters

Kate's favourite is Mr Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.
She says, "Since Amanda got in there before me and stole Mr Darcy I'll take Mr Bennet. I love his wit and perception, and his deep love for his family. He's a perfect father, wanting to allow his daughters to make their own decisions yet guiding them where necessary."

Fenella's favourite Jane Austen character
is Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey.

"I prefer her younger heroines who at the
outset are unworldly, and by the final page
have progressed towards maturity and
self-knowledge," she says.

Pam's choice is Anne Elliot, with her 'elegance of mind and sweetness of character which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding'.

"I love her because of the uncomplaining way she undertook the tiresome duties placed upon her by her family, and admire her having the strength to stand up to her overbearing father when she wanted to visit her old school friend who was living in reduced circumstances, and finally to defy her family and her godmother Lady Russell and take her second chance at love when it was offered."

Amanda's favourite is Mr Darcy.

"An obvious choice, but I can't resist. Darcy has everything
- including flaws. Watching him change from an arrogant
man into a warm human being makes me melt every time.

And, of course, he's the owner of Pemberley!"

Let us know about your favourite character!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Lynne Connolly Noblesse Oblige

It's so good to see a site with UK Regency authors, and I'm in such good company I could squeal!
My latest Regency is called Noblesse Oblige and is available at Champagne Books

Marianne Noble has reconciled herself to the life of a lady’s companion until she meets Jerome Rivers, but Jerome may not be all he claims to be. When Marianne agrees to marry him she learns a secret that shocks her to the core. Then someone tries to kill him.
Jerome Rivers likes the quiet life, but his situation makes this a rare luxury. During his annual sojourn in the fashionable resort of Scarborough he meets his fate, only to risk losing everything he holds most dear. Who wants him dead, and why? Or is it Marianne the assassin wants to destroy?

Lynne Connolly

Dance For A Diamond

As a writer of historical novels set in Georgian and Regency times, I find that dances feature quite frequently. In an age when young ladies of good birth and breeding were chaperoned everywhere, the dance floor was one place where they could talk to a man - and even hold hands with him!

Imagine the shock, then, when the waltz swept across Europe. Suddenly it was acceptable to stand very close to a man, to even be in his arms. This must have caused shock and horror amongst the older generation, and even some alarm in the breasts of shy young maidens.

This set me thinking about a new story and Dance for a Diamond is the result. Antonia Venn sets up her own dancing school but soon finds herself embroiled in the lives of the beautiful Isabella Burstock and her autocratic brother. The early version of the waltz swept the dancers along at an ever increasing speed, and I hope this sparkling Regency tale does the same with its readers.

Melinda Hammond

Monday, November 14, 2005

Darcy's Diary

I'm a long-time fan of Pride and Prejudice, and a few years ago I was working on a timeline for Pride and Prejudice when I came up with the idea of writing Darcy's Diary. I had often wondered what happened when Darcy went to Ramsgate and found that his sister was about to elope with Wickham. I'd also wondered about what he did when he wasn't with Elizabeth, and how he managed to make Wickham marry Lydia. Writing Darcy's Diary seemed the perfect way to find out.
It also allowed me to explore Darcy's feelings. So if you can't get enough of Darcy and Elizabeth, and you want more, try Darcy's Diary!

Historical Romance UK Authors


If you love historical romance, then this is the blog for you!

It's run by a group of historical romance authors working in the UK. It crosses publishing boundaries to give readers details of new hardback books, paperback books, large print books, audio books and ebooks.

So, whatever your reading preference - this blog has something for you!
We hope you enjoy it!