Monday, July 31, 2006

Guest blogger of the month - July

We're delighted to welcome Jacqueline Webb to the blog. Jacqueline's first historical romance, The Scarlet Queen, was published by Robert Hale earlier this year, and was shortlisted for the RNA New Writers Award.

The Scarlet Queen is set mainly in Egypt. There's a lot of humour and adventure, and anyone who likes Amelia Peabody (as well as anyone who likes historical romance!) should give it a try.

Over to you, Jacqueline.

"When Kate Whitaker first meets Adam Ellis, she loathes him. As the spoilt daughter of an Edwardian Egyptologist, she enjoys humiliating her father's assistants on his desert digs and is looking forward to amusing herself with new prey. Adam however is made of sterner stuff and soon Kate realises if she wishes to get the better of him, she is going to have to work a lot harder than usual..."

I wrote this story when I was trying my hand at romantic fiction after years
of slogging away at sci-fi and never really getting it right. I set it in
Egypt at the turn of the last century because I remember reading lots of
Victoria Holt novels in my teens and relishing the heroines who were always
seemed to be impoverished gentry who nevertheless always got to go to
exciting exotic foreign countries where they were embroiled in horrible
murders and robberies. There was often a hint of the supernatural involved
too and I have very happy memories of wasting my summers in the latest
Victoria Holt.

When I began writing I was determined that both my hero and heroine were
both going to have a sense of humour. I personally can forgive a man a lot
if he makes me laugh, but I like women to be able to come back with snappy
one liners too and sometimes I think female characters are fobbed off with
the "straight-man" role which is not my experience of women in real life! I
hope that comes across in my story. I also wanted Kate to be a horrid
little girl at the beginning of the story for no other reason than that is
what children are like sometimes. There does seem to me to be a tendency
for children to be portrayed only as innocent victims of abuse nowadays -
they are usually having a terrible time at the hands of some evil adult and
bad behaviour is always the result of some terrible trauma which is never
their fault. Children in novels never seem to have any fun just for the
sake of it. I enjoyed writing the story immensely and I hope other people
enjoy reading it too."

Jacqueline Webb

Friday, July 28, 2006

What do you really want in a historical?

Recently, there’s been yet another discussion about accuracy and “wallpaper historicals” on a forum, so I thought I’d tell you my story.

I wrote a book called NOBLESSE OBLIGE (well that was the title it ended up with!) about a shy man and the lady he fell in love with, a lady’s companion. The duke in the story isn’t a go-getting alpha, but a nice man, the kind you marry after dating the other kind for a few years. The heroine wasn’t 'kick-butt,' but knew where she stood in life and what she had to do to make a living. I liked her, because her practicality went much further than mere defiance. Her mistress was a wealthy slut, and as soon as the hero hove in view, the woman went after him, using my heroine as her go-between.

The story was set in Yorkshire, beginning in Scarborough, continuing to York and going on to a stately home remarkably like Castle Howard, but set a few miles further North, near Harrogate.

I sent this book off to a US publisher who was very interested. Only, they asked me, could I make the hero an alpha, and give him a mistress? Could I also set it in London, while I was at it? And how about giving the heroine a title, making her not the daughter of a country vicar, but the daughter of, say, a duke?

Well I tried, I really did. But in the end I couldn’t do it all. The hero turned before my eyes into the cardboard love-em-and-leave-em alpha, the heroine, while not the daughter of a duke (I just couldn’t do that!) turned into the kind of woman who wouldn’t have lasted five minutes as a lady’s companion. The subplot with the mistress turned into the usual stuff about jealousy and misunderstanding.

I couldn’t stand it.

However, the publisher helped me with one thing. The editor told me to ‘up the sexual tension’ and although I know that is one of the knee-jerk requests they often make, I looked carefully at it, and they were definitely right in this case. So I teased a little more.

Well, I couldn’t do the revisions they wanted, so I sent the book elsewhere.

So if you wonder why there are so many books which have the alpha duke meeting the feisty titian-haired heroine, and a plot that stumbles over big misunderstandings, to a background of riding in Hyde Park, going to balls at Almack’s and London mansions (huh? London mansions?) this is probably why. Until recently, that’s what they liked, so that’s what they got.

By the way, I’m very glad Champagne Books decided to take the book as it is, Yorkshire, reticent lady’s companion and all. I’m proud of it, and it’s a treat to see it on the virtual shelves. Soon it will be on the bookstore shelves as well.

Lynne Connolly/Lynne Martin

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Animals and Children?

Actors are supposedly reluctant to share the limelight with animals and children. I'm not sure if that should apply to fiction as well, but no book of mine would be complete unless it featured at least one charasmatisic dog. But then I'm an animal lover, so I would say that, wouldn't I?

Children, though, are another matter. Since I don't have any of my own, and seldom have reason to cross paths with them, I'm not entirely sure what makes them tick. Still, undaunted, I have created a young, widowed heroine in my next book, Duty's Destiny, (due to be published by Robert Hale at the end of November), who has six-year-old twins.

The following extract is the first occasion upon which the twins come to the reader's notice.

The twins came bursting through the kitchen door like a whirlwind, full of youthful energy, arms and legs flailing at seemingly impossible angles, disorderly red hair flying loose around Amy's shoulders and Hoskins, their wiry little terrier dog leaping at their heels.
'What are you two doing in here?' demanded Saskia, hands on hips, trying to sound severe, but knowing that her face had softened at the sight of her adored children and that her stern tone was unlikely to deceive the little imps in the slightest. 'I thought I asked you to pick the beans in the kitchen garden for me?'
'Oh you did, Mama,' Josh hastened to assure her, 'but you see -'
'- we heard the front door and of course Mr Graham is not here today and -'
'- and so we went to see who it was.'
'And?' enquired Saskia, well used to her children speaking at the same time and finishing one another's sentences.
'It was a gentleman,' pronounced Amy importantly.
'And he requires a room.'
'We said you would go and see him.'
'His name is Mr Beauchamp.'
'No, Josh, it was Mr Beaumont.'
'Well anyway,' they finished together, 'he is waiting to see you. We showed him into the breakfast-room, just as you said we should whenever someone calls.'
'Take the scones into the drawing-room for me,' said Saskia, removing her apron and smoothing down her gown. 'And the cream and jam too. Carefully!' she screamed after their swiftly retreating fitures.
As she moved towards the breakfast-room, Saskia was aware that she must look hot and flustered and that, as usual, long red curls were escaping from what was supposed to be an elegant chignon. She sighed resignedly, accepting there was little she could do to improve her appearance in the short time available, and trusted to luck that this stranger had a forgiving nature.

Wendy Soliman

Monday, July 24, 2006

Another Hale author!

Last weekend Margaret Muir, also a writer for Robert Hale, came all the way from Australia to stay with me. Margaret and I had met, via another loop for writers, last year when we both had our first books published. Mine was THE UNCONVENTIONAL MISS WALTERS hers was SEA DUST. Although SEA DUST is not strictly our period it is a historical; it opens in 1856, in Whitby and then takes the reader across the sea in a tall ship. It is a wonderful read - and I can recommend it to anyone who loves the sea as well as the period.
She took my book back with her and emailed me today to tell me she had sat up until 3:00am to finish it. I love to hear that my readers have enjoyed my novels, but it's epecially pleasing when it comes from another writer.
We both have books coming out at the end of August- for me it's A DISSEMBLER for her TWISTED VINE, Margaret has set her book between 1890 and 1920; mine of course is another Regency.
I wonder how many of you have established real friendships in this way - we used our shared love of writing to start things off. When we finally met we found we had so much to talk about that writing was not always the main topic of converstaion. When she left her handsome son came to collect her- he would not look out of place in an episode of Neighbours- a real Oz hunk!!
Fenella Miller

Friday, July 21, 2006

Letters Part 3

Darcy's letter from Pride and Prejudice is one of the pivotal moments of the book. Up until this point, Elizabeth has believed Wickham's lies, but the letter reveals the truth. Here's the part where he talks about Wickham:

"Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many years the management of all the Pemberley estates, and whose good conduct in the discharge of his trust naturally inclined my father to be of service to him; and on George Wickham, who was his godson, his kindness was therefore liberally bestowed. My father supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge; -- most important assistance, as his own father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife, would have been unable to give him a gentleman's education. My father was not only fond of this young man's society, whose manners were always engaging, he had also the highest opinion of him, and hoping the church would be his profession, intended to provide for him in it.

As for myself, it is many, many years since I first began to think of him in a very different manner. The vicious propensities -- the want of principle, which he was careful to guard from the knowledge of his best friend, could not escape the observation of a young man of nearly the same age with himself, and who had opportunities of seeing him in unguarded moments, which Mr. Darcy could not have. Here again I shall give you pain --to what degree you only can tell. But whatever may be the sentiments which Mr. Wickham has created, a suspicion of their nature shall not prevent me from unfolding his real character -- it adds even another motive.

"My excellent father died about five years ago; and his attachment to Mr.Wickham was to the last so steady, that in his will he particularly recommended it to me, to promote his advancement in the best manner that his profession might allow -- and if he took orders, desired that a valuable family living might be his as soon as it became vacant. There was also a legacy of one thousand pounds. His own father did not long survive mine, an within half a year from these events, Mr. Wickham wrote to inform me that, having finally resolved against taking orders, he hoped I should not think it unreasonable for him to expect some more immediate pecuniary advantage, in lieu of the preferment, by which he could not be benefited. He had some intention, he added, of studying the law, and I must be aware that the interest of one thousand pounds would be a very insufficient support therein. I rather wished than believed him to be sincere; but, at any rate, was perfectly ready to accede to his proposal. I knew that Mr. Wickham ought not to be a clergyman; the business was therefore soon settled -- he resigned all claim to assistance in the church, were it possible that he could ever be in a situation to receive it, and accepted in return three thousand pounds. All connexion between us seemed now dissolved. I thought too ill of him to invite him to Pemberley, or admit his society in town.

In town I believe he chiefly lived, but his studying the law was a mere pretence, and being now free from all restraint, his life was a life of idleness and dissipation. For about three years I heard little of him; but on the decease of the incumbent of the living which had been designed for him, he applied to me again by letter for the presentation. His circumstances, he assured me, and I had no difficulty in believing it, were exceedingly bad. He had found the law a most unprofitable study, and was now absolutely resolved on being ordained, if I would present him to the living in question -- of which he trusted there could be little doubt, as he was well assured that I had no other person to provide for, and I could not have forgotten my revered father's intentions.

You will hardly blame me for refusing to comply with this entreaty, or for resisting every repetition of it. His resentment was in proportion to the distress of his circumstances --and he was doubtless as violent in his abuse of me to others as in his reproaches to myself. After this period every appearance of acquaintance was dropt. How he lived I know not. But last summer he was again most painfully obtruded on my notice.

"I must now mention a circumstance which I would wish to forget myself, and which no obligation less than the present should induce me to unfold to any human being. Having said thus much, I feel no doubt of your secrecy. My sister, who is more than ten years my junior, was left to the guardianship of my mother's nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and myself. About a year ago she was taken from school, and an establishment formed for her in London; and last summer she went with the lady who presided over it to Ramsgate; and thither also went Mr. Wickham, undoubtedly by design; for there proved to have been a prior acquaintance between him and Mrs. Younge, in whose character we were most unhappily deceived; and by her connivance and aid, he so far recommended himself to Georgiana, whose affectionate heart retained a strong impression of his kindness to her as a child, that she was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to consent to an elopement. She was then but fifteen, which must be her excuse; and after stating her imprudence, I am happy to add that I owed the knowledge of it to herself. I joined them unexpectedly a day or two before the intended elopement, and then Georgiana, unable to support the idea of grieving and offending a brother whom she almost looked up to as a father, acknowledged the whole to me. You may imagine what I felt and how I acted. Regard for my sister's credit and feelings prevented any public exposure; but I wrote to Mr. Wickham, who left the place immediately, and Mrs. Younge was of course removed from her charge. Mr. Wickham's chief object was unquestionably my sister's fortune ,which is thirty thousand pounds; but I cannot help supposing that the hope of revenging himself on me was a strong inducement. His revenge would have been complete indeed.

"This, madam, is a faithful narrative of every event in which we have been concerned together; and if you do not absolutely reject it as false, you will, I hope, acquit me henceforth of cruelty towards Mr. Wickham."

Amanda Grange.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Regency Fan Club

The wonderful summer weather has started me thinking about fans – at the recent RNA Conference I noticed that Louise Allen had taken advice from her Regency heroines and provided herself with a pretty fan, and used it to great effect as the temperature started climbing.

Throughout our period, folding fans were the most popular, although bris̩ fans (consisting only of sticks that get wider from the rivet to the top) made a return to fashion after 1800. Fan sticks were made of wood, mother of pearl, tortoiseshell or ivory, the lower ends were often intricately carved and even studded with gems. The leaves of the folding fans were of paper, parchment or "swan skin" (actually a very fine leather from lambs or kids) and occasionally silk. Fan leaves made of fabric came into fashion at the end of the 18th century. Fans were painted with scenes from classical myths, landscapes etc and after about 1780, when printed leaves became available, current events such as balloon ascensions became popular. Inexpensive fans with plain wooden sticks and printed paper leaves could be bought or given away as souvenirs Рthe example shown below is the "New Caricature Dance Fan of 1794" from Bath Museum of Costume and depicts popular dance steps and music of the time.

During Georgian and Regency times, fans had a whole language of their own, and the art of "fluttering" could take months to acquire – one wonders how many ladies sent out the wrong signals? Fans could be used to hide a yawn or a smile as well as for flirting outrageously.

Although electric room fans are effective for large rooms and offices, I think we should start a fan revival for personal use – these beautiful fans are so much more attractive than the modern battery-operated versions, and they don't buzz at you!

Melinda Hammond
Gentlemen in Question - pub. Hale June 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Diary 6

April 3rd 1812
Today Mama told me that it was time I learned how to manage the stillroom. We spent the morning preparing lotions and creams that might be needed for a large household. We made cream to help soothe sore hands, for poor Nellie, our kitchen maid needed something to take away the redness from scrubbing floors with soda and hot water. We also made a lotion for Rosie's frekles and various other common rememdies that Mama bade me copy down into a receipt book. I enjoyed myself very much and think I shall like to work in my stillroom when I marry...if anyone asks me of course

I have heard nothing more of Mr Harry Carrington and I do not know if he intends to visit his friends in the near future. I know that I told Mama I was sorry for Miss Chesterfield, but I have allowed myself to think of Mr Carrington once or twice - which I know is foolish

April 10th
Today the seamstress came with several of my new gows. We were two hours taking fittings for it seems that I have lost weight about my waist. Mama says that is a good thing, but I feel sorry for poor Madame who has the extra work

Mama had a visitor again this morning. After the lady left, she told me that she had news of Mr Carrington.

'I am not sure how you will feel about this, Anne,' Mama said. 'But it appears that Mr Carrington has taken a commission and is to join Lord Wellesley immediately.'

'Oh...' I swallowed hard for I was not sure what that meant. I thought of Paul and how ill he had been of his wounds and I could not help feeling a little frightened for Mr Carrington.

'I believe it may have been his intention to take up an army career that led to the break up of his engagement,' Mama went on with a frown.' She did not wish to follow the drum and withdrew, saying that she would be a widow before she was hardly a wife.'

'Was that not a little unkind of her? Unless she had not known of his intentions previously...'
'I think she hoped to persuade him to give up his ideas of the army.'
'Yes, perhaps. I am glad to know that, Mama, for I had thought he might have done something to offend her.'
'Then I am pleased we have had this little talk,' Mama said. 'And now, Papa wishes to speak to you in his study.

'Mama?' My heart raced for I could not think what I had done to displease him, but she smiled and shook her head.
'Go along, May. I think you will find he has a nice surprise for you.'

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The importance of names

One of the many things I really enjoy doing yet occasionally find extremely difficult is finding the right names for my characters. It sounds silly, but if you give a character the wrong name they simply won't come to life. I belong to a group of published writers who meet every month to discuss work in progress, ask advice on scenes that aren't working, or brainstorm ideas for a new book to see where the weaknesses are and how many potential plot threads might be developed. We've all had sessions where we've moaned about being unable to "see" or get a grip on a character. The first suggestion always is to try a different name. It's amazing how often this is enough to remove the block. Suddenly your character springs to life, as real as your family.

But not only must names be right for your characters' personalities - we are all influenced to some extent by the names we are given because not only do they give clues to our background, our age, and the influences on our parents - they also need to be correct for the period. You might really like the name Wendy. But JM Barrie didn't invent it until after 1902 when he first introduced Peter Pan. So using it in a story set during the Victorian or Regency periods wouldn't be a good idea.

On the other hand, there are some names that should never have seen the light of day. I've been doing some research for my current work-in-progress, set in Cornwall in 1799. I wanted to know whether fire insurance existed then. Apparently the first fire insurance company in Britain operated from an office in London's Threadneedle Street in 1680. The man who set up the company was baptised If-Jesus-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned Barebones. (He was the son of a noted parliamentarian Praise-God Barebones.) But for business purposes he called himself Nicholas Barbon. I'd say that was a very wise decision.

Jane Jackson.

Dangerous Waters pub. Robert Hale Mar. 2006
(To read an excerpt please click on: )

Friday, July 14, 2006

Duty's Destiny

My second book, Duty's Destiny, is due to be published by Robert Hale in November. That seemed a long time away, until I received the attached art work for the cover, which made me very excited.

The book is all about smuggling and the hero, Felix Western, at first convinced that Saskia Eden is involved in her father's disreputable business, is determined to dislike her.

I think the cover manages to convey feelings of intrigue, danger and strong emotional involvement, which I hope will attract readers to the book.

What do you think?

Wendy Soliman

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Miss Charlotte Smith's Diary - Part 9

Regular blog readers will know that this is a Regency satire of Bridget Jones's Diary. Parts 1-8 can be found by following links on the sidebar.

January 18th

10 o’clock
Hooray! Had a letter from Lord Winters.

Dear Miss Smith, Please call on me on January 23rd at 12 o’clock so that I can see if you would be suitable for the position of a companion.
Lord Winters.

Wonder what he’ll look like. Will he be tall, dark and handsome like Dominic Longburn in The Baron’s Promise, or will he be golden-haired and blue-eyed like Alistair Worth in The Governess’s Dream?

11 o’clock
Had a major panic as I realized I don’t have a thing to wear. The white muslin’s too demure, the pink spot makes me look like an overgrown baby, and the yellow silk makes me look like I have green skin.

12 o’clock
Raided Susan’s wardrobe.
Had a lot of good feelings as I realized her dresses are all too big, because Susan’s bottom is ten times the size of mine. Then had a lot of bad feelings because that means her red silk dress is too big, so I can’t borrow it.

1 o’clock
Had lunch. Could not eat because I was so excited.
‘Are you ill, Charlotte?’ enquired Mama.

1 minute past 1
Had another major panic as I realized I will have to go to London next week and I will have to think up an excuse for Susan and Mama. Oh no, am a sad moron who doesn’t think things through.

2 minutes past 1
Had a major brainwave. Am not a sad moron at all. Am an undiscovered genius who doesn’t need to think things through.
‘It’s my tooth,’ I told Mama.
‘Your tooth?’ enquired Mama.
Was touched to hear the concerned note in her voice and nodded sadly.
‘I’m not surprised,’ she said. ‘You eat far too many sweet things. Susan and I were saying so only this morning.’
‘Too right,’ mumbled Susan, between mouthfuls of syllabub. ‘The way you eat, you’re lucky you have any teeth left.’

‘Susan’s right, darling,’ said Mama.
Realized it had not been a concerned note in her voice to begin with, but a critical note. Felt less guilty about deceiving Susan and Mama.
‘I’ll give it a couple of days, but if it’s no better by Tuesday, I think I’d better go down to London and see the dentist,’ I said, putting my hand to my cheek in an anguished manner.
‘Why not see Mr Sanderson? He’s a good man.’
Thought of the local horse doctor and shuddered.

‘No, I think I’d better see Mr Prindle. He won’t like it if I go to someone else.’
‘Oh, very well, I suppose I can do some shopping whilst I wait,’ said Mama. ‘I need some new sheets. Even so, it’s very inconvenient having to go all that way just because you’ve eaten too many cakes.’
‘No!’ I shouted.
Mama and Susan both looked at me.
‘No . . . no need for you to come,’ I finished. ‘Like you said, it will be very inconvenient, and I don’t want to put you to all that trouble.’
‘Charlotte, you can’t go down to London on your own. You might be an old maid, but the social conventions still have to be observed. We can’t have you bringing disgrace to the family, not when Susan has a new baby on the way.’
Mama directed loving look at Susan. Susan directed loving look at syllabub.

‘I’ll take Ruby,’ I said. Ruby is our maid and is utterly devoted to me. She won’t say a word about the detour to Winters House. ‘And I’ll take Melissa,’ I said, on a sudden inspiration. ‘Then we can do your shopping for you and save you a trip.’
‘Well, I don’t know . . . ‘ said Mama doubtfully.
‘It means you can stay here and look after Susan. I wouldn’t like to think I’d taken you away from her just because of a rotten tooth.’
‘All right, you can go with Ruby, but straight there and back, mind. No going to the theatre or anything else.’
‘Don’t worry, I won’t have any fun,’ I promised her.
She shot me a suspicious look but I replied with a look of angelic innocence. Then my face fell as I realized I will have to spend the next few days eating next to nothing and clutching my face. Wish I had said I had a bad leg instead.

Amanda Grange

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More on Penrith

On Saturday morning it was time for workshops, which were given by a number of inspiring speakers including our very own Kate Allan. The workshops were interspersed with coffee and lunch, which gave us to chat with our friends and exchange industry news.

As well as workshops, there were a number of times during the day when we came together and listened to our guest speakers. Kate Fenton was lovely, glamorous and very funny. She had us all in stitches with her stories. Anyone who likes contemporary comedies should try Kate's books, and Jane Austen fans might like Lions and Liquorice in particular, as it's an updating of the Pride and Prejudice plot, but with a twist: it's the woman in Kate's story who's the arrogant one, and not the man.

In the afternoon, our guest speaker was Penny Jordan. Penny is lovely, glamorous, an incredible writer, and also a member of my RNA chapter. She told us about her sagas, which she writes under the name of Annie Groves, as well as her hugely successful modern romances.

Then it was off to the bar for more chat before getting changed for the gala dinner.

Amanda Grange

Monday, July 10, 2006

Carriages and a wedding!

This carriage, a brougham, was not around in the Regency as it did not appear until 1834. However as it was used to convey the bride at a wedding I attended on Saturday I just had to show you all. The wedding was in Coggeshall, a small Essex town with narrow streets and houses that would not have been out of place in Jane Austen's books.
The high-perch phaeton is often found in Regency romances and was a surprisingly robust and safe carriage in spite of its unwieldy appearance as can be seen by the fact that two young ladies are driving this one.
Nothing new to report on the writing front, I am waiting eagerly for the finished cover for my next book, A Dissembler, out next month, and will post it next time.
Fenella Miller


I've just got back from Penrith, tired but happy. It's in
Cumbria ,
in the north of England, and as you can see from the photos it's a beautiful place.

Some of our members arrived on Thursday, and on Friday they were out and about in the town, giving a talk at the library and making appearances in the Bluebell Bookshop. The local TV were very good to us and filmed a lot of RNA members - unfortunately not any of our historical romance authors! - talking about their books.
On Friday afternoon, more people arrived for the start of the conference proper. It was held at the University of Central Lancashire, which was an attractive venue set amidst rolling countryside, and we were well looked after. The catering staff in particular were lovely and very helpful.

So, what happens at a writers' conference? Well, ours started with registration, which was a cheerful buzz of people flinging their arms round old friends and catching up on the news - and oh, yes, we picked up our keys as well. Then it was off to unpack before the welcome by Jenny Haddon, the RNA chairman. The welcome talk included news of members' milestones, for example getting their first books accepted or having their 20th book published. It was followed by the presentation of the Elizabeth Elgin award - more on that later.

There was then a talk on sagas, followed by gossip in the bar. We sat outside enjoying an English summer evening, with the sun shining and the hills around the campus glowing emerald green. It was perfect.
Then it was time for dinner, which involved more gossip, then back to the bar. By this time the light was fading, so we sat inside until late, talking about anything we could think of.

Lynne's editor, Gail, was there, and it was very interesting to hear about Triskelion's success story. But I'm sure Lynne will be saying more about this!

And then, late, it was time to catch some sleep, ready for the morning.

Amanda Grange

RNA conference

The Romantic Novelists' Association conference is the highlight of the writing year for many of us. It gives us a chance to catch up with our friends, network, and generally find out what's new in the publishing world. We have beautiful venues, great speakers and a chance to refresh ourselves as writers.

I've just got back from this year's conference, and will be posting more about it later on today. Meanwhile, here's a picture of our venue for this year:

Letters - Part 2

One of the most romantic letters in the English language is Captain Wentworth's letter to Anne, again from Persuasion.

She had only time, however, to move closer to the table where he had been writing, when footsteps were heard returning; the door opened, it was himself. He begged their pardon, but he had forgotten his gloves, and instantly crossing the room to the writing table, he drew out a letter from under the scattered paper, placed it before Anne with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a time, and hastily collecting his gloves, was again out of the room, almost before Mrs. Musgrove was aware of his being in it: the work of an instant!

The revolution which one instant had made in Anne, was almost beyond expression. The letter, with a direction hardly legible, to "Miss A. E.--," was evidently the one which he had been folding so hastily. While supposed to be writing only to Captain Benwick, he had been also addressing her! On the contents of that letter depended all which this world could do for her. Anything was possible, anything might be defied rather than suspense. Mrs. Musgrove had little arrangements of her own at her own table; to their protection she must trust, and sinking into the chair which he had occupied, succeeding to the very spot where he had leaned and written, her eyes devoured the following words:

"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in

F. W.

"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."

Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from. Half and hour's solitude and reflection might have tranquillized her; but the ten minutes only which now passed before she was interrupted, with all the restraints of her situation, could do nothing towards tranquillity. Every moment rather brought fresh agitation. It was overpowering happiness.

That must have been a letter to treasure!

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Jane Austen was a prolific letter writer and, perhaps not surprisingly, letters play an important part in her novels.

In this, the first of an occasional series, we bring you some of the letters that shape Jane Austen's books. The first is from Persuasion, and it was written to Mr Smith by Mr Elliot.

"This is full of papers belonging to him, to my husband; a small portion only of what I had to look over when I lost him,' (said Mrs Smith). "The letter I am looking for was one written by Mr. Elliot to him before our marriage, and happened to be saved; why, one can hardly imagine. But he was careless and immethodical, like other men, about those things; and when I came to examine his papers, I found it with others still more trivial, from different people scattered here and there, while many letters and memorandums of real importance had been destroyed. Here it is; I would not burn it, because being even then very little satisfied with Mr. Elliot, I was determined to preserve every document of former intimacy. I have now another motive for being glad that I can produce it."

This was the letter, directed to "Charles Smith, Esq. Tunbridge Wells," and dated from London, as far back as July, 1803: --

"Dear Smith,--I have received yours. Your kindness almost overpowers me. I wish nature had made such hearts as yours more common, but I have lived three-and-twenty years in the world, and have seen none like it. At present, believe me, I have no need of your services, being in cash again. Give me joy: I have got rid of Sir Walter and Miss. They are gone back to Kellynch, and almost made me swear to visit them this summer; but my first visit to Kellynch will be with a surveyor, to tell me how to bring it with best advantage to the hammer. The baronet, nevertheless, is not unlikely to marry again; he is quite fool enough. If he does, however, they will leave me in peace, which may be a decent equivalent for the reversion. He is worse than last year.

"I wish I had any name but Elliot. I am sick of it. The name of Walter I can drop, thank God! and I desire you will never insult me with my second W. again, meaning, for the rest of my life, to be only yours truly,--Wm. Elliot."

Such a letter could not be read without putting Anne in a glow; and Mrs. Smith, observing the high colour in her face, said--

"The language, I know, is highly disrespectful. Though I have forgot the exact terms, I have a perfect impression of the general meaning. But it shows you the man. Mark his professions to my poor husband. Can any thing be stronger?"

No, nothing indeed!

This was the letter that enabled Anne to see through Mr Elliot. She'd already had her suspicions about him, but this letter proved that her suspicions were right.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Assembly Rooms

There's an interesting article in the Telegraph today about assembly rooms around the UK.

"Funded through subscription, these original arts venues were almost exclusively built in the elegant Regency style that was so in vogue at the time. Along with lavish interiors, they were specifically designed to appeal to the professional classes. The main draw tended to be the balls and dances, popular because professional middle classes rubbed shoulders with the local aristocracy and every girl could find her Mr Darcy.

Designed by John Wood the Younger in 1769, at a time when Bath and its spa were becoming fashionable among polite society, these magnificent Assembly Rooms were both a meeting place and a venue for public functions, and where Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra attended balls and country dances."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sweet Deception

I have just read Deceieved by Nicola Cornick HQN and had to post my congratulations. I think this is one of the best, if not the best Regency Romance of its type that I have personally read. In my experience Regencies fall loosely into three categories. The clever witty masterpieces of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. The gentle, sometimes amusing, sometime adventurous books that the majority of romances come into (including my own) and the intense, passionate duels between star crossed lovers.

Deceived is an exciting, passionate duel between two compelling characters and it has held me right the way through. As one of the Steepwood authors I met Nicola at M&B and became a fan of her books. However, I have to say that in Deceived she has taken the leap from being a good Regency author to a great one. Many congratulations, Nicola! I look forward to reading more books in future. Love to all, Linda Sole

Monday, July 03, 2006

How Do You Make an Author Blush?

How do you make an author blush? Easy, it can be accomplished in three steps:

1 - You tell her you are putting out her latest book as a 4 CD audio book, and it is being read by gorgeous Michael Praed, he of the smouldering eyes and dark brown voice. Your author is very excited.

2 - You abridge it. This makes your author grind her teeth. But, cunningly, you don't tell her you've not abridged any of the sex scenes.

3 - She decides it would be nice to listen to it as she drives to work - and then almost runs into the back of a lorry on the A1 as Michael Praed starts smouldering into dialogue she's only ever heard in a female voice in her head.

Yes, if anyone noticed the woman driving down the A1 towards Hatfield, crimson in the face and with one hand clamped over her mouth in an effort not to moan out loud - that was me. Coping with rush hour motorway traffic, while listening to sexy men reading love scenes you've written, is not in the Highway Code. It should be.

The Viscount's Betrothal is out in paperback and audio CD in July, published by Mills & Boon. Just don't listen while you drive.

Louise Allen

Gentlemen in Question

My latest book, Gentlemen in Question, was launched this weekend with champagne and one of the most violent thunder storms I have seen for years - I shall have to include it in a book sometime! There is only a little blustery weather and mild rain in Gentlemen in Question, although there is plenty of action, and I have included an extract for you to read. To set the scene, Madeleine and her handsome French cousin are staying with Sir Thomas Wyre and his family, and Maddie is growing suspicious of the Beau Hauxwell and decides to investigate.....

Now that she was in the chamber, Miss Sedgewick was at a loss to know what she was hoping to find. It was without doubt Mr Hauxwell’s apartment, for his initials were boldly emblazoned upon a small travelling case which rested on the chest of drawers. Glancing around her, she saw a gentleman’s greatcoat resting over the back of a chair beside the window. She moved purposefully across the room and hardly believing her own temerity she reached into one of the coat’s capacious pockets. Her fingers touched cold metal and she carefully pulled out a deadly-looking pistol.

A cold fear clutched at her stomach and for a brief moment Madeleine thought she might faint. It was not unusual for a gentleman to carry a weapon when travelling, but such things were generally holstered in the carriage, or the saddle, certainly not secreted in the pocket of a greatcoat. She knew little about firearms, but she had never seen a holster pistol such as this: its slim, octagonal barrel, the fore and rear sights hinted at a much more specialised weapon, such as a duelling pistol. Suddenly her straining ears caught a slight sound from the corridor. Footsteps were approaching. She quickly thrust the pistol back into the pocket and turned towards the dressing room, then she stopped. To reach the dressing room door, she would have to cross the room and risk being seen by anyone entering the room. She turned back towards the heavy bed-hangings and hid herself in their voluminous folds. Scarcely daring to breathe, she heard the door open and someone enter the room. After that she heard nothing but the thud of her own heart. The heavy cloth enveloped her in its dark folds, pressing against her face and she fought against the desire to sneeze. She clenched her teeth and tried to remain motionless, praying that whoever had entered would leave again very soon. But even as she uttered up her silent prayer, the curtain was whisked aside and she found herself confronting the stern-faced Beau Hauxwell, the wickedly gleaming point of his unsheathed sword-stick at her throat.

Gentlemen in Question is published by Robrt Hale Limited

Melinda Hammond

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Couldn't get this on the first blog. Hope it works this time.
Love to you all, Anne H

The Journal of a Regency Lady 5

March 11th
Paul is so much better! I am so happy because today my dearest brother was able to leave his bed for the first time. We walked about his bedroom together and he sat in a chair by the window and looked out at the gardens.

'It is so good to feel the fresh air again, Anne,' he told me when I opened the window for a while. I had begun to think that I should never rise from my bed again.'

'Of course you will,' I said and kissed his cheek. 'You are strong and brave and you deserve to be happy.'

'I am happy here with you,' Paul replied. 'You have been the best companion a brother could want.'

I blushed when he praised me. 'I have done very little. It was a pleasure to me to sit with you, my very dear brother.'

'And I have enjoyed your company,' he said. 'But now you must begin to resume your own life, Anne. Mama is planning to take you to London soon and you should start to gather your wardrobe.'

I knew that he was right. Had he not recovered I do not think that Mama would have carried on her plans for my season, but she had that morning told me that she would be asking a seamstress to call very soon.

'If I must go, I shall,' I told him with a wry look. 'But I am not sure that I wish to marry anyone. I think that I love you better than I shall ever love my husband, Paul.'

He looked at me seriously for a moment and then shook his head. 'The love we bear each other is not that kind of love, Anne. You think that you would be content never to marry at this moment, but I know you. You need a home and children - and for that you need a husband.'

March 15th
The seamstress came this morning to begin my wardrobe. We were with her for more than two hours and Mama ordered so many new gowas that I am sure I shall never wear the half of them, but she insists that I must be properly dressed.

March 23rd

Something happened today. Mama had a visitor, a lady of some consequence. She called me down to her after her guest had gone and told me that she had heard the engagement of Miss May Chesterfield to Mr Harry Carrington was not to take place after all. She looked at me oddly as she told me the news and for a moment my heart raced madly.

'Are you affected by that news, Anne?'

'No, Mama, except that I am sorry for Miss Chesterfield.'
'It was she who jilted him, Anne, though I do not know why she did such a thing.'

'Oh...' I swallowed hard. 'It does seem unkind of her, Mama, though perhaps she had her reasons.'
'Yes, perhaps,' Mama said and smiled. 'You are a sensible girl, Anne I had wondered if we should cancel our trip to town, but if you are not affected I shall continue with my plans.'
I thanked her and kissed her, though I was not as unaffected as she imagined. To think of Harry is less painful than it was, but I believe I should be very foolish if I allowed him into my heart once more

Sorry this post has been so long in coming, but I have been writing hard to finish my Regency trilogy - and begin the next! Love to all, Anne Herries