Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The java and me.

Coffee and Tea. That was the subject given to me when I was nine years old for a school project. We were to study all aspects of coffee and tea, studying the production and development of the habit. So I got to handle coffee beans and tea leaves, and discovered some of the trivia that has stood me in good stead at many pub quizzes ever since, such as the fact that tea is part of the camelia family.
Then the magic happened. I can honestly say that no love affair in my life has lasted as long as the one with Georgian England. We had a slide show as part of the project. They showed us an engraving of the inside of a Georgian coffee house, and I was in love. Completely gone.
Ever since, I’ve read and read around the period. I’ve visited many houses built then, and wished I could live there, haunted art galleries and museums. I know what they wore, how they lived, how much they earned. Only because I love the period. If I didn’t write it, I’d still research it.
Strange, then, that my interest is purely personal. I’ve never ventured into the academic world of the Georgian scholar. When I went to university, I took the Renaissance as my subject, even made a few discoveries and developed a theory or two. It just happened that way. When I went to university, Georgian wasn’t hot, it wasn’t in, and courses on the period were rare. Usually it was the Victorian ‘making of the modern world’ or the Renaissance, with its incorporation of the classical world into the new Christian thought. So I did Renaissance, since I’ve never been enamoured of the Victorian era.
The first romance I read was Fanny Burney’s “Evelina” and my first pinup hero was Lord Orville. He’s long been superseded by Dain, Jervaulx, Alverstoke and Darcy, but he’s never lost his place in my heart. First loves always last!
The robustness, honesty and colour of the period enchanted me. The labyrinthine politics were a bit trickier, but the personalities of the period, Pitt, Fox, Wilkes and the rest brought the dry Parliamentary proceedings and the laws of the time to life. Similarly, the underworld, full of colourful characters, was irresistible. The fashions were outlandish and gorgeous, and this was the last time a man felt free to peacock alongside the women, if he wanted to. It takes a real man to wear pink!
I know I could move into Georgian England and live there like I was born there, but would I want to? How can I put this?
A world without instant music, the Internet and the computer? Unthinkable. A world where I was banned from doing so many things simply because I’m female? Infuriating.
I’ll stay where I am, thank you very much. But give me the chance to pay a visit to London in the 1750’s and I’d be there like a shot.

Lynne Connolly w/a Lynne Martin
Season of Storms currently available from Triskelion Publishing

Monday, February 27, 2006


Drum roll...

And the winners of the weekend giveaway are:


Thank you for sharing your recent Regency reading. Email me your address details and a Kate Allan 2006 fridge magnet will be on its way to you.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Regency Cant or Modern Parlance?

As a relatively new author of Regency-based fiction I often find myself agonizing over just how much langage of the time to introduce into my work. Should I go for authenticity, aided and abetted by the extensive dictionary of 'Regency-speak' which I've built up over the years? Could the use of obscure terms slow the pace of the plot and would I be better advised to leave the Regency dictionary gathering dust on its shelf and express myself in a manner that's more likely to be familiar to the modern-day reader?

For instance, most aficionados of the Regency period would have no difficulty in understanding me if I were to refer to a gentleman becoming 'leg-shackled' or 'falling prey to the parson's mousetrap', since they would immediately realize that he was about to be married. And if I were to refer to a charactger that had 'pockets to let' or indicated that he was 'on a repairing lease' then few readers would doubt that said unfortunate individual was short of funds.

On the other hand, supposing I accused someone of telling 'crammers', 'bamming' or becoming involved in a 'brangle', would those expressions be as easily understood and, morer to the point, would they slow the story down or, worse, cause the reader to lose interest?

I'd be interested to know what you think.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

I can resist anything but temptation

This week, quite by chance, I discovered a local bookseller with an amazing historical list. It’s particularly strong on military history and I’m afraid I succumbed, buying quite a few books. What temptation was there!

One of the books I bought was the Diary of Edmund Wheatley, an Ensign in the 5th Line Battalion of the King’s German Legion, who served in the latter part of the Peninsular War (1813-1814) and at Waterloo. It was written on the spot, rather than years later, unlike some other first-hand accounts.

Here’s a fascinating extract from 14th April 1814 (complete with Wheatley’s spellings). Napoleon had already abdicated, but the French commander at the siege of Bayonne refused to surrender and launched an assault on the allied troops.

"Our Battalion now drew up in a small garden. The French were around us and it was impossible to distinguish Friends from foes. The French had seized the Windmill in our rere and we began to fear for our Camp and baggage. The batteries played increasingly, and the wounded lay very numerous around. It was impossible to send them to the rere as no hospital had been appointed. By the flashes of light I saw something wrapped in a boat cloak on the other side of the hedge.

Impelled by curiosity as well as humanity, I broke through and on turning it up I washed away the blood and gore from the features with the skirt of the wrapper and discovered the countenance of Lieutenant K√∂hler of my Regiment. My promotion instantly suggested itself and thoughts of my own danger. I walked up to Captain Bacmeister and, bowing, said in the midst of the shot, ‘Allow me to introduce Lieutenant E. Wheatley to your notice.’ And I actually received his congratulation. Can there be any thirst for glory when actions like these take place on the fields of havock? Ambition’s made of sterner stuff. Interest is the impulse in these our modern wars."

In Wheatley’s defence, he was not that well off. He had been gazetted Ensign without purchase, and no doubt the increase in pay from a promotion would have meant a great deal to his prospects.

And it’s all grist to the writer’s mill. So I shall continue to allow myself to be tempted.

Happy reading!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Weekend giveaway!

You need to be quick to enter this improptu giveaway drawing!

I've got 3 remaining exclusive fridge calendar magnets to be given away. Each has a handy full 2006 year calendar and features the cover sketch for my Regency-set romantic comedy, Perfidy and Perfection, out at the very end of March (UK) and in July in the US.

If you want a dashing buck to grace the door of your fridge, all you need to do to enter the drawing is comment here about the last Regency or Georgian-set novel or Regency or Georgian era non-fiction book you've read and would recommend to others before midnight GMT this Sunday. The 3 winners will be drawn and announced here on Monday morning.

Now there's a reason to look forward to Monday morning. :)

I'm currently reading and very much enjoying Malcolm Balen's lively account of the economic boom and bust that became legendary at the very start of the Georgian period: the South Sea Bubble.

A Very English Deceit by Malcolm Balen is published by Fourth Estate, ISBN: 1841155535

'Silver lining'

For the past ten days I've been wrestling with a virus/'flu and have not put pencil to paper. My new book has two chapters completed and two more written in my head- but at the moment I'm having dificulty writing this blog so it will have to wait until next week.
I received a letter yesterday from Hale saying my next book 'A Suitable Husband' will be published on 31st March. I should have been horrified if it wasn't- I'm having a party for friends and family on 26th March and it would have been a bit silly having it without the book!!
The silver lining I mentioned earlier is that my lack of appetite is doing wonders for my waistline- but I've sent off for a pair of the 'magic knickers' I saw advertised, just in case.
Fenella Miller

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Only 3 days left!

Don't forget to enter our February competition on our sister site, Regency Authors. It closes on Saturday 25th February, at midnight GMT.

Click here to go to the Regency Authors website.

Miss Bridget Jane's Diary - Part 4

8 o’clock

Arrived at ball.

‘Now remember, dear, Lord Rotherwell’s wife was no better than she should have been, and had carnal relations with the gardener, the footman and the groom, before running off with the coachman, so try not to mention servants, wives, carnal relations or carriage accidents. It’s also better not to mention ballet dancers, actors or opera singers. Nothing was ever proved, but there were Rumours.’

‘Margaret, Charlotte, Susan, so glad you could come,’ said Aunt Anne, bearing down on us in a purple robe with a matching turban. ‘Charlotte, you look positively youthful in that gown. Silver gauze is such a good idea. Your cousin Tallulah was wearing silver gauze when she met her husband, and she was thirty-two. Margaret, dear, you look enchanting, as always. You and Charlotte could be sisters.’

‘Has Lord Rotherwell arrived yet?’ asked Mama.
‘I haven’t seen him, but he should be here soon,’ she said, looking round the ballroom.
Tried to slip away, but it didn’t work, though, as Aunt Anne has eyes like a hawk.
‘Charlotte, where are you going?’ she asked.
‘Um. I think I need a glass of champagne.’
‘Oh, very well dear, but just the one. We don’t want you tipsy when Lord Rotherwell proposes, do we?’ she said with another silvery laugh.
I wandered over to the footman and took a glass of champagne from the tray.

‘Lord Rotherwell . . . ’
The name reached me from the side of the room. I turned round to see a flunky bowing in front of a tall man who was, let’s face it, not bad looking.
I couldn’t hear the rest of the conversation because a buxom dowager bore down on me and started telling me about her nerves. But I saw the flunky bowing, and shortly afterwards Lord Rotherwell left the room. Decided it was time to take action. He might be quite handsome, but I’ve no intention of becoming a mother to seven children, so I followed him out of the ballroom. Was just in time to see him disappear into the door of an ante room further down the corridor.

I went in. He was standing by the fireplace with one foot on the fender, looking exactly like the hero from The Duke Meets His Match, except that in The Duke Meets His Match, the hero doesn’t have seven children. Or at least he doesn’t have them living at home with him, though by the way he seduced every woman he met before falling in love with the lovely Camilla, he must have had about a hundred stashed away somewhere. But that isn’t the point. The point is that he didn’t want the lovely Camilla to be a mother to them. He wanted her for carnal relations and lifelong devotion. I am cut out for carnal relations and lifelong devotion. I’m not greedy, though. I’m not bothered about him being a duke. An earl or a baron would do.
‘My Lord,’ I said. I took a deep breath. ‘I know you’re not short or fat or over forty —’ I began.

‘How observant of you,’ he said with a curl of his lip.
I never knew people really curled their lip before, but he definitely managed it.
‘Please don’t interrupt,’ I said. ‘This is hard enough without you putting your spoke in. Now where was I? Oh yes, Iknowyou’renotshortorfatoroverforty,’ I said, as a quick recap, ‘but I think it’s only fair to tell you I have no intention of marrying you.’

‘Thank God for that,’ he said.
‘So if . . . ’ I carried on blithely, before I realised what he had said. ‘Pardon?’
‘I said, Thank God for that. Because you are short and fat and . . . ’
Not forty, I thought in horror, as he ran his eyes over me. Surely I don’t look forty.
‘ . . . past the first flush of youth, and I have no intention of marrying you. So if you think you can force me into it, you’re mistaken.’

‘Well! Of all the nerve! Mama told me you wanted to marry me,’ I exploded, wondering if it had all been wishful thinking on Mama’s part, or if she’d had a knock on the head, or if she’d made the whole thing up.
‘Then she’s as addled as you are,’ he said.
I wasn’t going to take that lying down, or even standing up.
‘She distinctly said that Lord Rotherwell was going to offer for me —’
‘Ah. I see,’ he interrupted again. ‘That explains it. I am not Lord Rotherwell.’

Amanda Grange

Friday, February 17, 2006

Award for The Rake’s Mistress

I was very excited and honoured to be told that The Rake’s Mistress had won the Cataromance bi-annual Reviewers’ Choice Award. The book is the third in my Bluestocking Brides trilogy and is set in Suffolk in 1803 at a time when fears of a French invasion were at their highest. Smugglers, pirates, treasure-seekers and spies are all drawn to the quiet Midwinter villages, where the comfortable surface of village life conceals treason and danger as well as romance and excitement.

The reviewer described The Rake’s Mistress as a “spectacular finish” to the series and commented: “Nicola Cornick seduces her readers with her vividly portrayed descriptions of the Regency era, wicked wit, nail biting intrigue, sensual emotion and intense romance.”

As a celebration of the award, I am giving away a signed set of the Bluestocking Brides Trilogy to the first reader whose name is drawn out of the hat on the 21st February. Email me at nicolacornick@madasafish.com to enter!


Award wins for Regency UK authors!

Two Regency UK authors win awards from Cata Romance and Single Titles!

Nicola Cornick won a Reviewer's Choice Award from Cata Romance for her Harlequin Historical book, The Rake's Mistress.

and Melinda Hammond won a Reviewer's Choice Award from Single Titles for her Historical, Dance for a Diamond, which the reviewer likened to Georgette Heyer.

Well done, Nicola and Linda!

Both books are availabe from Amazon


I have just received the wonderful news that DANCE FOR A DIAMOND is a winner of the prestigious SingleTitles.com bi-yearly REVIEWERS' CHOICE AWARD for DANCE FOR A DIAMOND.

Check out this link Single Titles Home Page.

What a lovely start to the morning.

Melinda Hammond

What is a romantic novelist? Melinda Hammond ponders the question, with tongue firmly in cheek!

With Valentine’s Day still strong in the memory I realise just what a mistake it is for those of us who write romance to call ourselves romantic novelists. There is nothing in the least romantic about sitting in front of a computer trying to find yet another way of getting hero and heroine into each others arms without mentioning heaving breasts, eyes burning with desire or hot blood pulsating through the veins. Nor is it romantic to be working late into the night (or early in the morning) trying to finish a book to meet a deadline. Then there is the very unromantic job of checking the typescript – it is difficult to become dewy-eyed when reading a page for the umpteenth time checking for errors - one is more likely to be come cross-eyed, and that is definitely not a description one uses for a heroine! So are we romantics, or hard-nosed business people? Well, frankly, we cannot be the latter or we would not be writing in the first place, since the chances of getting published at all are very small, and of making a living even smaller. Running a company might be problematic, but it is nothing to the nights spent dreaming up new ways to put a maiden into a life-threatening (or, more likely in historical novels, a reputation-threatening) situation and then even more nights finding ways to extricate her.

To make matters worse, the authors on this blog are historical romantic novelists, so we have to stay even more clear-headed as we set our characters in a world that we can only visit vicariously: our knowledge of the past must come from our meticulous research, which is even more work.

So, where’s the romance? Well, personally I love visiting historic sites and reading about past lives: then there is that spine-tingling moment when one feels another story beginning to form: for example I read that in 1815 fortunes were won and lost by those waiting to know the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo, and at the same time the fashionable world was dancing through the summer nights as if there was not a care in the world. These two factors began to circle round in my mind, making me think “what if?” on a hundred little points. The story grew into “Dance for a Diamond” and after all the hours of creating, writing, editing and correcting I have to admit that the romance came flooding back when I first held a copy of my brand new book. So, writing – it’s not glamorous, but, OK, I’ll admit it's romantic!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fascinating research for Dangerous Waters

What I find fascinating about research is not how different things are now from the past, but how in some ways they have altered so little. Society might change, but human nature doesn’t.

This was brought home to me while I was researching Dangerous Waters, which is published at the end of this month.

Two hundred and fifty years ago in Jamaica and what is now Haiti, slaves risked severe punishment, even death, to dance at night in secluded forest glades lit by the moon or flaming torches. They danced to the music of drums whose complex rhythms stirred the blood and took body and mind into a state of trance. They did this try to communicate with the spirit world and escape the physical demands and mental anguish of working 18-hours-a-day as another man’s possession.

We think of that as being part of the distant past. Yet right now, 2006, in every town and city, nightclubs offer a dark venue, music with a pounding beat, flashing lights, and drugs such as ecstasy for exactly the same purpose - to enable people to escape the problems and pressures of their everyday lives through an altered state of consciousness.

Might there be something in human genetic programming that drives people to seek new experiences, something beyond themselves, beyond the limitations of five senses?

Jane Jackson.

Dangerous Waters published by Robert Hale Feb 2006. Price £18.99

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New BBC series about Romantic Fiction

Have your say on a new BBC series about the History of Romantic Fiction!

They will be discussing the great and good about romantic literature in the past 200 years, looking at everything from the Brontes and Austen, through Elinor Glyn, Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer to Sophie Kinsella. From Mills & Boon, to the bonkbusters and chick lit (Bridget Jones, Lace, A Woman of Substance, Hollywood Wives etc.).

A large part of the programme will hear the stories of real readers, who will tell how particular books or authors effected their lives, their ideals of love and concepts such as the ideal man (even though it’s just fiction!)

They would like YOU to get in touch with your stories!

They want to hear the stories of real women readers, as opposed to just academics and authors.

Contact Hugo Macgregor, Silver River TV.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Poetry for Valentine's Day, from Don Juan, by that great Regency poet, Lord Byron.

A long, long kiss, a kiss of youth, and love,
And beauty, all concentrating like rays
Into one focus, kindled from above;
Such kisses as belong to early days,
Where heart, and soul, and sense, in concert move,
And the blood 's lava, and the pulse a blaze,
Each kiss a heart-quake,-- for a kiss's strength,
I think, it must be reckon'd by its length.

By length I mean duration; theirs endured
Heaven knows how long-- no doubt they never reckon'd;
And if they had, they could not have secured
The sum of their sensations to a second:
They had not spoken; but they felt allured,
As if their souls and lips each other beckon'd,
Which, being join'd, like swarming bees they clung--
Their hearts the flowers from whence the honey sprung.

Wherever you are, we hope your day is full of romance.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Accuracy in the historical romance?

Good morning!
That old discussion topic has emerged yet again. Should a historical romance be as accurate as possible, or doesn’t it matter?
While it’s true that a romance is a romance is a romance (sorry, Gertrude!) there are distinct genres, and historical romance is one of the largest, both in North America and in the UK.
Now what follows is my opinion and my opinion only, but as an avid reader of historical romance, as well as an enthusiastic writer, I do feel entitled to some kind of opinion. Feel perfectly free to disagree!
When I read one of the less accurate romances, I feel cheated. The writer has used the genre to show a fairytale time which I’m not interested in, and the characters do things that they just would not have done in this era. It’s not just mistakes with history, it’s attitudes and ideas that are changed. So I feel I'm not really reading a historical romance.
I’ve read all the following in Regency romances (my favourite genre):
An earl who passes the title to his younger brother, an illegitimate son who inherits a title, and an American who inherits an English peerage. None of these are possible.
I’ve also read books containing these plot points: a peer marries a known courtesan and she becomes a society hostess, an unmarried woman enters society on her own, without a chaperone, a book where a peer is condemned because he is in ‘trade.’ None of these are at all likely, and depict a Regency I don’t know. Literary license is one thing; going against the way people thought and acted is another.
Now the counter arguments I’ve often heard. First the “we don’t want to read a history book, we want to read a romance” one. Writing screeds of history that are irrelevant to the story, instead of an involving story is bad writing, too, in a novel. But the history in the story should, surely, be as accurate as the author can make it.
“We all make mistakes, nobody can get it perfect.” Nobody’s asking anyone to do that. Even the Divine Georgette made mistakes. But she tried very hard not to, and had an enormous library of research books.
And the “Who cares, if the romance is good” argument. Okay, this one has some merit, if you look on romance novels as just entertainment. But I’ve come across readers who know nothing about history, but instinctively sense when something is wrong. It doesn’t help the suspension of disbelief.
May I emphasise that it’s ‘horses for courses.’ I don’t like inaccurate romances, but many readers don’t care. I really don’t want to spoil their reading, but for my own sake, I’d like more attention to detail, because then I’d have more great books to read!
Lastly, I want to tell you the thing that really made my mind up about accuracy in historicals. I wrote a book (it’s not published) using the Battle of Corunna in the opening chapter. I read personal accounts of the suffering the people involved went through, heartbreaking letters and journals, as well as the terrible accounts of the battle and what led up to it in the press and the official records. It was brought home to me that this time was real, these people existed. The Regency isn’t just a playground for me and other writers, it mattered.
So I try to keep my stories as accurate in its historical details as I can as a tribute to them, the people who lived and breathed at that time in history.
Plus, I try to tell an involving, sexy and exciting story!

Lynne Connolly, The Return of the Gothic: Romance with a Dark Edge
SEASON OF STORMS, a new historical paranormal romance from Triskelion Publishing

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Gilli Allan, designer of the Regency UK logo

About Writer & Artist Gilli Allan

In answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Gilli Allan always knew the answer. A commercial artist. It was only when she was grown up, and had worked for some years in her chosen field, that she began to change her mind.

Inspired by her fiteen year old sister, whose intent was to write a Georgette Heyer style Regency romance, Gilli started to write novels when only ten. Those early notebooks were always lavishly embellished with illustrations and doodles. Her parents - father in advertising, mother a painter - were quick to recognise and to foster her artistic talent . Her written “scribblings” were not discouraged but they were disregarded. So, while art became the ambition, writing was the hobby - a hobby which Gilli pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home and real life supplanted the imaginary kind.

Gilli went to Croydon College of Art, whose most famous alumnus (before Gilli‘s time) is Ray Davies of the Kinks. On leaving college, life did not dish up that plumb job she expected. To keep the wolf from door and to fill in the time till her luck changed, she did a variety of unsuitable jobs. No one was more relieved than Gilli when, through a combination of fluke, coincidence and luck, she eventually landed the perfect job as an illustrator in a London advertising design studio. After a few years she went freelance.

Gilli married Geoffrey; their son, Tom, completed the family. With motherhood, priorities were reassessed.Working in advertising had lost its glamour and Gilli no longer wanted that kind of stress in her life. She gave up work and when Tom began play school, Gilli started writing again and quickly found a publisher. When her husband was head-hunted, the family moved from the south east of England to a village, near Stroud, in Gloucestershire. As well as writing, she became involved in her local community. She still works on a voluntary basis at the local school and at the community shop, which she helped to set up. She has recently become a school governor. She is also the village correspondent, sending reports of local news to several Stroud newspapers.

Gilli writes contemporary romantic fiction, but not romantic comedy or chick lit. Her unconventional stories are harder edged than much of the mass market romantic fiction which is available. Gilli Allan writes honestly about real situations. She writes about the perils and pitfalls - as well as the rewards - of love and lust. She claims she has created a new and still unrecognised genre which she calls ‘Reality Romance’.

Her two published books, Just Before Dawn (ISBN 1898030456) and Desires & Dreams (ISBN 1898030448), can be ordered through good book shops or from internet suppliers. The book covers are her own design.

Still a keen artist Gilli is happy to have found herself in such an artistically active community as Stroud. She still attends a local life-class, as she has done, almost uninterrupted, since art school.

Gilli Allan would welcome art commissions. She is a figurative artist and specializes in Beardsley-esque drawings.

Visit Gilli Allan's webpage

Our new logo

Regency UK has a new, exclusive logo! This beautiful logo was designed for us by the mega talented Gilli Allan, and reminds us of a piece of Wedgewood.

You will also see our logo in the following versions - black on white, and white on black

We had a hard time deciding on our favourite. Which is yours?

Bookshops and Romance

When I was in London last week, I checked out a couple of branches of Waterstones (Piccadilly and Oxford Street) to see whether they were promoting romantic fiction. My previous experience with the chain has not been encouraging. Most branches don’t stock my books since I’m published by Mills & Boon. When I ask why Waterstones don’t stock them, I get varying answers but they mostly equate to the same thing. Mills & Boon is…er…not the kind of thing Waterstones sells.

However, I don’t hold grudges. I’m prepared to give the chain every chance to do its bit for romantic fiction and improve its own sales in the process. After all, romance sells millions of books every year in the UK. There’s profit in it. Real profit. So why isn’t it being promoted? What are bookshops so ashamed of?

On the ground floor of Waterstones in Piccadilly, I discovered several bays of romantic fiction. Some was American, some was British, and they even had Mills & Boon contemporaries on the shelves. I was pleasantly surprised. It was sad that the Mills & Boon historicals didn’t have any shelf space but there were a couple sitting on a table, so they were stocked. What a coup, I thought. Progress! And then I looked around, and thought a bit more. The romance section is hidden at the back of the store, round a corner. It’s totally invisible until you stumble on to it. There is no mention of romance on the store directory. There are ceiling-hung indicators to every other category—crime, erotic fiction, gay/lesbian and so on—but there’s no mention of romance anywhere, except on the bays themselves. So how is any passing romance buyer going to know where to look?

There was a big display of romance right next to the door in the Oxford Street branch. It was in two chest-high bays with Valentine-pink labels screaming Romance on top of them. Sadly, I didn’t find any Mills & Boon books there. Certainly no historicals. As far as I could see, it was a display of American books only, mostly in bright poster colours. The books were crammed in, spine-out, with not a single front cover on view. It looked as if someone had thrown handfuls of Smarties at the shelves. I thought it was one of the worst book displays I had ever seen. I can’t imagine it would have encouraged anyone to browse.

When Maxim Jakubowski spoke to the RNA in January, he said that American authors were confident and proud of writing romantic fiction but British authors lacked confidence. There’s something in what he says, I think, but our confidence certainly isn’t helped by some of our major booksellers. I shall keep asking, in Waterstones and elsewhere, why they don’t stock romance properly and why their promotion of it is so lame. I hope you will, too.

Joanna Maitland
getting off her soapbox now (grin)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Lady Hartley's Inheritance

I am very excited about my first novel, Lady Hartley's Inheritance, being published by Robert Hale in April. Let me tell you a little bit about it.

Clarissa Hartley, a young widow, reluctantly leaves her native Northumberland, and her prize herd of Cheviot sheep, in order to travel to London and meet her man of business, supposing he requires to see her in order to inform her that her late-husband's affairs have been settled at last. When she discovers instead that Sir Michael, a famous Egyptologist, had an illigitimate son she knew nothing about, and that he has come forward to claim his father's estate, she fears she has lost everything.

Whilst in London Clarissa is residing with her Godmother, The Countess of Newbury, but can barely tolerate the presence of her son, the current earl, Luc Deverill, whom she regards as a wastrel and rake.

When Luc learns of Clarissa's difficulties he immediately suspects fraud. Can Clarissa put aside her dislike of Luc and work with him to uncover the truth? And could there ever be any hope for romance between such an unlikely couple as this country-loving widow and a pink of the ton such as Luc?

Lady Hartley's Inheritance
Robert Hale - April 2006

Wendy Soliman

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Miss Bridget Jane's Diary Part 3

The third instalment of Amanda Grange's Regency satire of Bridget Jones's Diary
- in which our intrepid heroine thinks about her ideal man.
For the first 2 instalments, follow the links at the left

January 5th

5 o’clock
Mama was in high spirits, which is even worse than Mama in low spirits.
‘Now then, Charlotte, I want you to look your best tonight,’ she said, bustling into the room with a cake-like confection in silver gauze. ‘It’s high time you were married, and we need to do everything we can to make sure you find a husband at Aunt Anne’s ball. If this silver gauze doesn’t do the trick then I’ll eat my turban.’

‘I’m too old for silver gauze,’ I protested, eyeing it with misgiving.
‘Nonsense, your cousin Tallulah was wearing silver gauze when she met her husband and she was thirty-two.’
‘Maybe I don’t want a husband,’ I said.
‘Don’t be silly, Charlotte, of course you do. Now then, arms up . . . and on it goes. There, now, doesn’t that look lovely?I want you to be on your best behaviour tonight because there’s someone I want you to meet.’
‘Oh, dear.’

‘His name’s Lord Rotherwell, and he’s in need of a wife.’
‘I don’t want to marry someone who’s in need of a wife.’
‘We can’t all be swept off our feet like your sister, you know, and Lord Rotherwell’s very nice. He’s a widower with seven children and they’re in need of a mother.’
Why is it that Mama can’t see I’m not cut out to be a nursemaid? I’m cut out to be a countess with a massive house and hundreds of servants and an adoring husband who’s rich, handsome, and the sexiest man alive.

I felt it was time to make her see it.
‘I’m twenty-five not forty-five,’ I began. ‘I don’t think —’
‘Good, dear,’ said Mama with a simpering laugh. ‘Don’t think. It makes life so much easier.’

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

End of Story

On Friday I finished my latest manuscript, tentatively titled Dangerous to Know, and sent it off to my agent. It sounds a straightforward process but that doesn’t really describe how I feel when I finish a book.

As I got closer to the end I became obsessed with finishing. I stole hours morning, noon and night to spend more time with my characters. I lived in their world. Even when I was walking the dog I was seeing nineteenth century London in front of me rather than twenty first century Oxfordshire. I felt compelled to finish and at the same time, anxious about what I would do once the book had gone. It was the same feeling I get when I’m reading a particularly enjoyable novel. I desperately want to find out what happens but at the same time I feel bereft when I read the final word.

I don’t suppose every author feels the same when they finish a book – if I’ve learned anything from being a writer it’s that different people write in different ways and there’s no right and wrong way of doing it. But I wandered round like a lost soul for several days after I had finished. I missed my characters. I worried about whether anyone would like the story.

So there’s only one solution. I treat myself to a few historical trips out and then... I start the next book!


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Crim.Cons and scandals

We are so used to salacious reporting of celebrity scandals that it sometimes a surprise to find equally frank reports in the respectable daily newspapers of the early 19th century - albeit in extremely small type. CrimCon, or Criminal Conversation was the euphamism for adultery and the latest CrimCon stories were eagerly recounted and gossiped over.
Looking through The Times for 29th February 1812 I found the case of Richard Moore, esq. of Long Melford who was proceeding against his wife, Mrs Sidney Arabella Moore for a divorce on the grounds of her adultery.
Her lover, it was alleged, was John Miller, appointed steward to the Moores' household in the Spring of 1810, when his employers had been married for fourteen years. Soon the servants began to whisper. Whenever Mr Moore was absent his wife and Miller were closeted together. They were observed kissing and using 'fond expressions' and Mrs Moore would sleep in a different bedroom when her husband was away - a room with an empty china closet opening into it.
One night "One of the servants, looking through the keyhole of a door commanding a view of the staircase, saw Mrs Moore come out of the drawing-room, and, after looking to see if anyone was near her, go softly upstairs, beckoning for someone to follow. And in a few moments Mr Miller stole softly after her." Mrs Moore reappeared, alone, and two of her servants went upstairs and began to search. There was no sign of Mr Miller anywhere - but the china closet attached to the bedroom was locked and a chair from a nearby room was missing.
Not content with their prying, the servants obtained a ladder the next morning and looked through the window of the china closet - sure enough there was the chair, where, they deduced, the steward had waited until Mrs Moore went to bed before joining her.
The next day the servants trooped off to denounce the adulterous pair to Mr Moore who promptly dragged his steward before the local magistrate, recovering a "heavy sum" in damages in the process.
The learned judge pronounced that it would require "a great degree of scepticism in anyone" not to conclude that adultery had taken place. Mr Moore obtained his divorce.
The whole story conjures up a Hogarth print with smug servants peeping through keyholes while the guilty pair romp in the bedroom. How on earth, in a houseful of servants, did Mrs Moore expect to get away with it? Was her marriage uphappy, or John Miller too seductive to resist? What happened to her afterwards - did her lover marry her or spurn her? I searched the internet genealogy sites, hoping to find their marriage, but without success.
And what of Mr Moore in possession of his heavy sum in damages, but without a wife, publicly cuckolded and with a houseful of sniggering servants? I would love to know.

HNS Editors' Choice!


The HNS says: "For each quarterly issue of the Historical Novel Society Review Magazine, the editors will select a small number of titles they feel exemplify the best in historical fiction. These novels, which come highly recommended from our reviewers, have been designated as Editors' Choice titles."

This month, The Unconventional Miss Walters was one of their choices!

Here's the review:

Nineteen-year-old Eleanor Walters is obliged by the terms of her guardian’s will to marry an older man, her cousin Lord Leo Upminster, whose uncontrolled temper and rapid changes of mood she finds both bewildering and frightening. However, his dark, handsome looks are undeniably attractive. Ellie is certain that Leo has married purely out of a sense of duty and therefore she insists on a marriage of convenience, denying any intimacy to her husband. Frustration and a series of misunderstandings cause mounting tension, despite Eleanor’s growing affection for Leo. However, she is forced to run away from him after becoming the unwitting victim of malicious gossip. Eleanor decides to take refuge on a lonely country estate with near disastrous results following the outbreak of riots in the area.
Miller’s detailed picture of the social unrest that followed the Napoleonic wars, and the appalling hardship in the country caused by lack of employment, absentee landlords and unscrupulous agents, provides a realistic background to the story. Eleanor’s dilemma, her growing maturity, and social consciousness are sensitively portrayed; moreover, the limitations imposed on her actions, including her plans to renovate the dilapidated housing on the estate, reflect the social realities of the period. The author clearly has a detailed knowledge of fashion history, fabrics, interior furnishings, and other items of everyday use, and I was particularly fascinated by these minor details that add special colour and interest. Miller’s characterisation is wholly convincing, making the novel a particularly engaging and entertaining read that I thoroughly recommend.

--Lucinda Byatt

You can see the article on the HNS site here

I am, as you can imagine, delighted that THE UNCONVENTIONAL MISS WALTERS has been selected this month. I hope that the praise might be translated into sales - but I'm not holding my breath!

Fenella Miller

Audio books

I was talking to Maisie Hampton recently, and we were discussing audio books. My first audio book, Harstairs House, came out last year, and Maisie’s first audio book, Love’s Measure, is just out.

We both found the experience exciting. Our print versions of Harstairs House and Love’s Measure have been out for some time, and it was refreshing to rediscover the stories through a new medium.

What amazed us was the way that the audio book readers managed to make all the varied characters sound so different.

I’d assumed that romances would be read by women, and this is the case with my own book, Harstairs House, which is read by Patrical Gallimore, but Love’s Measure is read by a man, Christopher Scott.

For those of you who listen to audio books, do you prefer to have them read by a man or a woman? And where do you listen?

I usually listen whilst doing something else. They’re a great way of passing the time when I’m doing the housework, and they keep me company on long drives. How about you?

If you’d like to find out more about our audio books, visit the Isis website

Amanda Grange

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A cover for Perfidy and Perfection

The cover for Perfidy and Perfection arrived and I like it. I've had a co-authored novel published (The Lady Soldier by Jennifer Lindsay) and a short novel but this is my first novel really. It'll be out in about 9 weeks time.

I think my hero (Ben) looks suitably rakish. I love the way the artist makes him look at Sophy, the heroine. I also love the sense of period, down to the shop windows - in fact Sophy peers out of a shop window in a street in a small market town in the opening chapter. So really, it's perfect.

The Sound of Silence

When you are alone, how often do you put on the TV for company, or the radio, or a CD? Imagine living in a time before radio and TV, what would you do to break that still, pressing silence that one is sometimes aware of? Today we can listen to all kinds of music but in the past just how did people know about Mozart, or Handel? The only means of communication was by word of mouth or print, you couldn’t email someone and say, ‘Hey, go online and listen to this, it’s that new young sensation Mozart, isn’t he great?’ The rich (if they considered themselves cultured) would invite musicians to perform for them, or go to concerts, but for the great majority music must have come in a home-grown variety – for the poor perhaps singing was their first musical experience, or fiddlers playing at the May Fair. When Mozart and his contemporaries toured the country they must have played with a range of orchestras, from the very good to the downright awful – after all, there were no recordings to set a benchmark. In my latest book Dance for a Diamond, music is very important to the main character, Antonia Venn: she loves dancing, and like most young girls of good family she would have been taught country dances at home or school, and attended local assemblies held in the function room of the local inn. We know that her own governess was very musical, because when Antonia opens her dancing school in Bath, Miss Chittering joins her to play piano for her pupils. However, although Antonia attends the musical concerts held at the Assembly Rooms, her social status has changed, and as a dancing teacher she will not risk going to any of the balls and being snubbed by members of the fashionable world, so her own opportunities to dance are limited. Two gentlemen show an interest in her, but she is pretty sure they are not offering marriage! But I digress…..

We take music very much for granted these days but in Georgian England many people would have had very little chance to enjoy it. So next time you find yourself humming a tune, just think how lucky we are to have such a wide variety of music available at the flick of a switch, to kill that lonely silence.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It's been a pretty hectic couple of weeks since my last posting as we've been doing major redecorating at home. This is wonderful in one respect as the house now looks lovely. What was not so wonderful was living in the chaos while it was going on, and trying to work at the same time.

Still, walls have been knocked down, rooms re-papered, ceilings and skirtings repainted, new carpet laid. I've spent a day in the loft helping lay nine rolls of insulation. Why me? Because the roof timbers only have gaps two feet square and my husband's shoulders won't go through. So guess who was clambering about on her knees holding a torch and trying to push rolls of fibreglass out to the eaves with a long strip of wood? Once the plumber has been and replaced the hot water tank - ours is the only one on this estate that hasn't yet burst or leaked and we're on borrowed time - we should be down to the final clean-up.

In between helping my husband I've been writing press releases for my new book due out at the end of this month. I hope you like the cover. I'm thrilled with it.

I really enjoy writing powerful love stories set in dangerous situations. The problems the couple have to face bring out both the best and worst in them. They will discover things about each other - unsuspected strengths, a willingness to trust - things they may not otherwise have learned. This means that whatever life throws at them in future they will survive it together, their relationship unbreakable.

DANGEROUS WATERS is published by Robert Hale in hardback, price £18.99

Jane Jackson.