Monday, October 30, 2006


Autumn, which our cousins across the Atlantic call the Fall, is with us now. I love this time of year. Coloured leaves all over the place, rain and the nights drawing in. I actually love closing the curtains and turning on the fire, and so does my cat.
And this year, for a week or two, we don't have central heating, while we get a new installation, so I'll be able to recall was it was like pre-central heating.
We all worked in the same room, so I got used to doing my homework to the accompaniment of the TV and ordinary family life. When we woke in the morning, we had ice on the inside of the windows, and we dressed under the bedclothes to conserve heat.
So perhaps the good old days weren't quite so good, after all?

Friday, October 27, 2006

How many words in a book?

I'm delighted to be able to say that I have just had an offer for my fifth Regency Lord Thurston's Challenge from Robert Hale.
This sale has been a challenge in itself as the book came in seriously over Mr Hale's required length. It appears that I had been calculating my books using the PC word count and Hale do it by 'the white space' method. This involves counting the number of words in 50 lines, then the lines on pages, taking away the number you first thought of and that's the answer!! In other words my book which I thought was 84 000 was, by this method, closer to 120 000!!
I have agreed to cut 28 pages and Mr Hale, bless him, has agreed to adjust the margins and typeface to accomadate the extra. All Hale books are no longer than 224 pages, but, it seems, the production costs are by word so it is still far more expensive to produce a book with more words.
I am about to embark on a frantic weekend removing 'the domestic trivia relating to children', of which it appears there is far too much. I have promised to send the revised ms to Hale on Monday.
I'm looking forward to seeing a copy of my first novella, Lord Rivenhall Returns, to be published in My Weekly Story collection, any day- I'll post a picture of the cover when I get it.
Best wishes
Fenella Miller

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Embracing the World-Wide Web

Having seen the publication of my first two novels, and being aware that the third will see the light of day next February, I decided it was high time I got myself up to date and commissioned my own website. The decision was taken reluctantly, since I'm a self-confessed techno-phobe, easily put off by things I don't understand. It was easy to find excuses not to take that final step but, having run out of reasons to procrastinate, is now out there, somewhere in cyber-space. Do have a look at it and let me know what you think.

The whole process left me wondering how we ever managed to do anything without the web. Apart from us novelists being able to promote the finished product, I am also able to do all the research for my books from wherever I happen to be in the world, simply at the press of a button. It might make for a solitary existance but it sure saves on time and shoe-leather!

Ain't technology wonderful!

Wendy Soliman

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Journal of a Regency Lady 9

May 11 1812
I have been invited to a waltzing party this morning, held by Lady Caroline Lamb. Everyone is enchanted by this dance now and they say the Regent loves to waltz. Mama was a little dubious at first but is reconciled. I have seen the Prince Regent twice now and he is very fat. Perhaps I should not say such a thing but I can tell my journal.

This evening we went to a ball and he was there again. I had not realised but he is now Lord Belmond and our hostess introduced us. He asked me to dance and I could not think of a way to refuse politely. He dances well but we did not talk much and he seems much changed - more serious. I was not sure what to say to him.

May 12
The papers are filled with stories of riots in the North. Mama says Papa is concerned because his brother owns a great deal of property there and may have been caught up in it. I feel a little as if we should not be giving ourselves up to pleasure when there is so much trouble elsewhere. Lieutenant Jones told me that he is being sent North to help quell the problems with Luddites. I do not think he truly wished to go but more troops are needed. He hesitated for a while and I thought he meant to ask me something but he did not. He said that he would call on me at home if he does not return to London before we go home.

Hope you like the image of the reissued Steepwood Scandal!

May 13th
I met Lord Belmond while out walking with Mama. He stopped to speak to us and asked if he might call. Mama has invited him to dine with us this evening. He smiled at me and asked if I was enjoying my visit to London. I said that I was. He seems so different and I am not sure what to think. I am a little nervous of meeting him at home this evening.

Hi everyone

Just to say hello to everyone and give you a little news. My new Regency trilogy starts in December in paperback and the book is called An Improper Companion. This is the first in the Hellfire series and the second book is out in Feb 07 in paperback.

Please check out my website for more details. I have some books trailers playing on the site and there is a competition for free books. I shall be back soon with the Journal of a Regency Lady.

Best wishes, Anne Herries

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Marie-Antoinette – a tragic romantic heroine

Guest blog by Evelyn Farr

‘She who was my happiness, she for whom I lived… she whom I loved so much and for whom I would have given a thousand lives, is no more.’ No, not from a romantic novel, but written about Marie-Antoinette, one of the most tragic figures in European history, by the man who truly loved her. ‘What gentleness, what tenderness, what kindness, what solicitude, what a delicate, loving and tender heart!’

Sofia Coppola’s bizarre new film on Marie-Antoinette will unfortunately do little but perpetuate the myth of a vacuous, heartless, pleasure loving bimbo who got her just desserts from the French peasantry after eating too much cake. The real Marie-Antoinette was a complex, intelligent, passionate woman trapped in a marital and political nightmare from which she constantly rebelled but never managed to escape. Married off at fourteen by her mother, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, to the Dauphin of France (Louis XV1), she had to battle from the start with a powerful anti-Austrian faction at the huge, unwelcoming French court, the indifference of her husband and the malign influence of some very opportunistic friends. Her image in history is largely that of her teenage years – a young, pretty princess determined to salvage some fun from the ghastliness of her official position. She broke the rules in so many ways – she laughed, she danced, she spoke to people she should have ignored, she ignored people she should have flattered. And she fell head over heels in love – but not with her husband.

The man who captured Marie-Antoinette’s heart at the age of seventeen and kept it for the rest of her life was described by one of his contemporaries as looking ‘like the hero of a novel.’ Count Axel Fersen, son of the most powerful man in Sweden, soldier, diplomat, was handsome, reserved and ‘had a burning soul beneath a layer of ice’ according to one damsel who tried unsuccessfully to detach him from the Queen. The love between Marie-Antoinette and her Swedish count was passionate and enduring, survived war, separation and revolution, and lasted beyond the grave. They both knew it was dangerous, both battled their feelings – he went off to fight in the American War of Independence to try to forget her. She waited three anxious years for his return, and then seized the day to make him her own. ‘Never,’ he declared, ‘has anyone ever known how to love like her.’ He refused countless marriages to remain at her side, and was far more her husband than the hapless man to whom she was shackled.

When the Revolution came, Marie-Antoinette was targeted in order to bring down the King (she had brains, he didn’t). It was Axel who comforted her, accompanied her on the gruesome march to prison in Paris, the heads of her bodyguards paraded on pikes beside her carriage, after the failed attempt to assassinate her at Versailles. He worked tirelessly to rescue her. He even managed to get her out of Paris on the ill-fated flight to Varennes, which in characteristic fashion Louis XV1 turned into a disaster. The royal family were locked up again. Axel had to flee France, a price on his head. And still he returned, in disguise and at great personal risk, to see the woman he loved. Their last day together was Valentine’s Day 1792. He tried to persuade her to attempt another escape. She felt she couldn’t leave her husband, who had grown ever more dependent on her considerable political negotiating skills. She stayed, fought to save the French constitutional monarchy and prevent civil war, but her husband’s weakness and indecision led to his own death and her execution on 16 October 1793 at the age of thirty-seven on the Place de la Concorde. By some miracle, a scrap of paper she managed to smuggle out of prison found it’s way to Axel Fersen in Sweden two years later. ‘Adieu, my heart is all yours.’ He never fully recovered from losing her. On the anniversary of her death in 1794, he wrote in his diary: ‘This day was a memorable and terrible day for me. It’s the day I lost the person who loved me most in the world and who loved me truly. I shall weep for her loss all my life.’ And he did. He died tragically in 1810, assassinated in Stockholm because he opposed the granting of the Swedish crown to an former French revolutionary. He never forgave the men who had destroyed Marie-Antoinette and he never forgot.

My book The Untold Love Story: Marie-Antoinette and Count Fersen is published by Allison & Busby.

Evelyn Farr

Monday, October 16, 2006

Reader, she married him

The final episode of the new BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre was on television last night.

I've been watching the drama unfold each week, and although I read Jane Eyre as a teenager, the series has made me think about the story in some new ways.

For example I had never liked how Rochester had tricked Jane, from the fortune teller prank to nearly commiting bigamy with her. However, I think I now understand Rochester better as someone weighed down by his past, and too unsure of Jane's love to be able to act in an entirely straightforward manner.

I also understand better the attraction between he and Jane in the way that they both touch each other very deeply. I think it is at least partly because they are essentially very lonely characters that they both understand what is like to have their real natures hidden or suppressed from the world outside. Jane's is hidden because of her circumtances, Rochester's is chained in by his mad first wife.

Kate Allan
My website

Saturday, October 14, 2006

This is a fantastic year for historical romance on TV in the UK. Not only do we have Jane Eyre on at the moment, but next year we will be getting some new Jane Austen adaptations.

We picked up a link to photos from the shoot for Persuasion from Austenblog
Click here to see them and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dead and Unburied

It's obviously important to ensure that one's research is diligently undertaken when writing historical novels. You can be sure that if you assume you know something and don't bother to check, then nine times out of ten you'll make a mistake, inviting readers' criticism.

With that in mind I was recently researching the origins of death certificates and discovered rather more than I'd bargained for. Death certificates became mandatory in 1832, following the passing of the Anatomy Act in the Houses of Parliament. This was considered to be necessary in order to discourage body snatchers or "resurrection men", who met the demand for bodies for anatomical dissection in medical universies by robbing fresh graves or claiming the bodies of persons without family who had died in hospital or parish workhouses.

With fees of up to fifteen guineas per cadaver this proved to be a lucrative occupation and it didn't take long for demand to outstrip supply. Undaunted, our inventive body snatchers turned to another source, i.e. murder. John Bishop and James May, operating in London's East End in 1831 had the market cornered, so to speak, and many elderly or solitary persons in rooming houses fell victim to their avaracious exploits.

A surgeon in King's College, London eventually found them out. He noticed that the body of a fourteen-year-old boy appeared quite fresh, displaying no signs of recent burial, and had an open wound upon his forehead. The police were called, Bishop and May were tried, convicted and executed. And thus followed the Anatomy Act.

Oh, and by the way, the bodies Bishop and another body snatcher, Burke, were delivered to the anatomists after their executions. Poetic justice?

Wendy Soliman

Guest blogger of the month - Elizabeth Hawksley

Elizabeth Hawksley is well known to historical romance fans in the UK for her absorbing novels, such as Frost Fair, which was shortlisted for the Elizabeth Goudge Award. Set in the winter of 1814, when it was so cold that the River Thames froze solid, Frost Fair tells the story of sixteen-year-old Emilia Daniels, who elopes with a charming ne'er-do-well, Stephen Kirkwall, unaware that he is in debt to the sinister Balquidder. Balquidder has an eye on the fortune Emilia will inherit when she is twenty-five, and will stop at nothing to get it.

Crossing the Tamar is set in Cornwall in 1808 and is a story about smuggling with a difference, beause the smuggler is a woman. Dorothea, about to lose everything, is planning the next Selwood smuggling venture when the new heir, the Reverend Selwood, a religious don with very rigid notions of propriety, enters the scene.

Elizabeth's new book will delight a lot of people, because she's taken the time - with co-author Jenny Haddon - to write a clear, simple book on punctuation. It's illustrated with humorous illustrations and will be welcomed by writers, students and anyone with an interest in the English language.

With a degree in English and American Studies from the University of Sussex; a PGCE from the Institute of Education, University of London; and an MA in Victorian Studies (with Distinction) from Birkbeck, Elizabeth has taught both English and Creative Writing and so she is an ideal person to write the book.

Her co-author, Jenny Haddontook a degree in English at Oxford and then worked for the Bank of England, primarily as a bank regulator responsible for overseas banks. Throughout her life she has written novels, sometimes as Sophie Weston and is published in 24 languages.

Elizabeth says:
We've all seen the headlines shrieking 'Punctuation in Peril' but it was Lucy, one of my bright A level students, who brought it home to me. 'You mean there are rules for commas? I thought you just sprinkled them about like black pepper on pizza.' Er, no, Lucy.
Later, the class passed their stories round for reading out loud and there was a surreal moment when Ben's neighbour read out, 'That will wake the dead professor.'
We all blinked. Had his campus romp suddenly turned into a ghost story?
'No,' said Ben, grabbing back his pages, 'I meant, "That will wake the dead, Professor."'
Then Ant, a keen Creative Writing student, said, 'What is a paragraph?'
They were hungry for help.
So Jenny and I mulled it over and thought about Delia Smith: this is an egg; this is what happens when you boil it. To keep it soft, you take it off after four minutes, to make it hard enough to take on a picnic . . . . That's what these students needed for punctuation. So that's what we wrote.

Jenny Haddon adds:
Maddy, a trainee teacher rang me in a panic. She had bought Eats, Shoots and Leaves to sort out her punctuation for class. 'It's only made things worse,' she wailed. 'There's even more to go wrong than I thought!'
Lynne Truss herself, of course, warns right from the start that her book 'doesn't instruct about punctuation'. It's great fun - but it sure as heck makes people jumpy!
'Think about why you punctuate,' I suggested. 'It's the written equivalent of waving your hands about. Your punctuation shows the reader how you would have spoken, if you were talking face to face. '
That got rid of the panic. After that, she found that the rules were relatively easy.
When you are in the same room with someone, they can ask you questions or make you repeat something if they don't understand first time. They can't ask questions of a book or report. So writing is a one shot game. If the reader doesn't understand, he (or she) will probably give up. Punctuate clearly and don't lose them!

Elizabeth continues: The rules are all there but the book has other things going for it as well. I think readers will be amused by the stories we use as examples - and Belinda Bubblewit, the (unpublished) romantic novelist whose Love and Lucasta's Lord demonstrates all too clearly What Not To Do.
We've highlighted common mistakes, too. So if you use the book for quick reference, it is easy to see if you've got it right and, if not, how to correct it.

To which Jenny adds:
It's practical but not dogmatic. We explain why punctuation works the way it does, instead of laying down arbitrary rules.
That's why we put together the Learner Driver's Guide, which compares punctuation marks to braking distances. It's easy to grasp and it helps you choose the punctuation marks which will make your meaning clear.
For the same reason, we've put together an example of how to organise ideas into logical order and divide them into paragraphs in our Train to Edinburgh. We think that will be equally useful to students and people in business, in fact anyone who has to write essays, formal reports or business letters.

Wide Sargasso Sea

A new adaptation of Jean Rhys's revisionist novel - Wide Sargasso Sea - about the first Mrs Rochester was aired on BBC4 last night.

Rafe Spall, who played a younger Mr Rochester off to seek his fortune in the West Indies, was pretty hot.

As was the weather in Jamaica no doubt.

And also the furnace of a fire at Thornfield Hall.

And additionally the bedroom scenes.

Kate Allan
My website

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Restless Heart

My new novella, The Restless Heart, is out now with My Weekly Story Collection. You can find on sale in WH Smith and other newsagents in the UK & Commonwealth.

Here's a short excerpt from the story's opening.

The Restless Heart

Chapter 1

‘Anthony!’ said the sharp female voice. ‘Oh do go and help that poor creature out of her misery. I can hardly bear to watch.’
Isabella Oakley had two choices – turn around to observe the female who had spoken or plunge forward in one last ditched attempt to save her bonnet from being blown completely away. She plunged forward but a strong gust of wind got there first, lifting the straw bonnet with its frayed ribbons up into the air and further across the lawn.
‘Heavens!’ she muttered, biting her lip and knowing that young ladies such as she were not supposed to look so utterly undignified. Bella put her hand up to the side of her head and felt hair coming loose. She’d now lost a hairpin as well. By now, all the people who had been enjoying a promenade on this pleasantly sunny afternoon would have stopped to watch the spectacle she was making of herself. They were most likely in better circumstances than she and could have let the elements take a bonnet with the certainty they would afford to buy a new one. She shuddered to think how much her aunt and uncle had already spent on her wardrobe to make sure she would be properly outfitted for her debut.
Bella gripped her skirts in her hand and darted forward once more as the bonnet took off from the lawn and got caught in the branches of a tree above her.
She stood next to the tree trunk and looked up with some dismay. Maybe if she balanced on her tiptoes and reached up with her right hand…?
‘Miss,’ a deep voice said. She snatched her hand back to her side. ‘Allow me.’
A tall gentleman dressed wholly in black save his starched white linen cravat reached up into the branches of the tree and plucked out the bonnet.
‘It appears beyond repair, I’m afraid,’ he said, turning the squashed straw over in his long-fingered hands.
‘Thank you, sir.’ Bella looked up as he handed her the article and found herself looking into some very dark brown eyes squinting because of the sunlight. He had a long face with a square chin yet his strong features were softened by the tousles of his dark hair. Curls framed his forehead and around his ears, and rested in sharp contrast on his brilliant white neck cloth.
His gaze narrowed and Bella realised he was not simply trying to keep the sun out of his eyes but was regarding her with some curiosity. It was perhaps not surprising as her green serge dress was unfashionable. She looked down to the tops of his black leather boots and felt a heat rising in her cheeks.
‘Anthony Davenport,’ he said and gave a small bow as was customary. ‘Your obedient.’
He kept one hand behind his back. His manners were clearly those of high society. What was she supposed to do? She had no idea whether she should introduce herself or simply thank the stranger and be on her way. Her uncle was going to be cross enough as it was that she had gone out for a walk alone.
‘Are you not going to share with me your name?’ he said his voice as smooth as cream as he raked his hand through his hair. Yet she had the strangest sensation that he was a little nervous.
‘Isabella Oakley.’ Whether or not he was nervous she was - her cheeks were burning and she’d already forgotten his name. Anthony something…?
‘A pleasant day for taking a turn, Miss Oakley,’ he went on to say, a small smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.
Bella’s attention turned to the conversation of two fast approaching ladies.
‘What a circus,’ one of the ladies said.
Bella wanted to hide her head in her hands. She should have noticed one of the ribbons on her bonnet was fraying and then none of this would have happened. But she’d been in such a thoughtless rush as usual….
The second lady said, ‘Well, Anthony is busy making an acquaintance. One day he really will disgrace us all!’

Kate Allan
My website

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hello everyone

Just to say that I am sorry I have been so long publishing my latest episode of the Journal of a Regency Lady. I have been on holiday and then snowed under with work on my return. An Improper Companion comes out this month in HB and December as HMB paperback and is the first in a new Regency trilogy. It runs through to April next year when another Regency trilogy starts. So you can see why I have been busy!

Love to you all, Anne Herries (Linda Sole)

The Journal of a Regency Lady 8

May 7th
We attended a large ball last evening and it was beyond my dreams. I wore a dress of white silk that Mama had commissioned from one of the most fashionable seamstresses and the pearls Papa gave me. I had pink silk roses in my hair and carried a posy of roses that Lieutenant Robert Jones sent me. He is one of Paul's closest friends and has just returned to England. He called on us the first afternoon we were at home and was so kind to me. He paid me so many compliments and asked that I would keep two dances for him.

I was sure that I should have plenty of dances to spare but it was not the case. I danced every dance! The gentlemen were all so kind and said some very foolish things. I did not expect to be such a success and I must admit that I enjoyed myself very much, though Mama said that I must not let it go to my head. Indeed, I shall try not to - but it was very exciting.

May 9th
Oh, I do not know what to think! It is the most extraordinary thing and a little disconcerting. Lieutenant Jones took me driving in the park this morning. He has some fine horses and I was enjoying myself very much until I saw him. He was staring at me in a very odd way. At first I could not believe it was Mr Carrington for I understood that he was going to be a soldier and I do not know how he comes to be in London.

May 10th
Mr Carrington was at a card party we attended last evening. I was told his commission has been delayed because he had to attend the funeral of his unle, Lord Belmond. It seems that Mr Carrington has unexpectedly been left a considerable fortune because his cousin was killed only last month in a riding accident. I cannot help wondering how Miss chesterfield feels now

Mr Carrington smiled at me but I moved on and did not speak to him. I daresay we may meet again soon for we are both to attend Lady Waterfield's ball tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Woman of her time

I have recently been reading "An Aristocratic Affair" by Janet Gleeson, a biography of Harriet Spencer, Countess of Bessborough, sister to the much more famous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and mother of the notorious Caroline Lamb. Harriet lived from 1761 until 1821; as a writer this is my favourite period in English history.

At a time when many consider women to have been powerless, Harriet was a very influential political hostess and close friend of the Prince of Wales. She and her sister were prominent Whig supporters and although they received a very bad press for their efforts, their husbands seemed to be quite happy for them to be on the streets canvassing during the elections.

She lived through some of the most troubled times of modern English and European history, was personally involved in Revolutionary France (her disapproval of Napoleon caused difficulties for her and her husband when they wanted to leave France after their visit to Paris in 1803).

Harriet was a fascinating woman who married well to please her family and thereafter conducted a series of discreet liaisons, following the fashion of the 18th century. Her affairs included a long lasting relationship with Granville Leveson-Gower and also the playwright Sheriden. From her letters she comes across as strong minded, kind and generous, even to those who tried to hurt her, and devoted to her sister Georgiana. Along with their mother, Lady Spencer and Lady Elizabeth Foster (the third party in the Devonshires' infamous ménage a trois) they formed a strong self-help group, the sisters looking after each other when they retired to the country (or even abroad) to have their lovers' children, defending each other from creditors and from the wrath of their powerful and rather alarming husbands. Harriet's lovers continued to pursue her even when she was no longer a young, attractive woman, and she remained friends with some of them until her death.

As a role model for a heroine we could do worse than look to Harriet: Her affairs may not be quite what we want for our romances, but she was a clever, articulate woman, warm-hearted, fiercely loyal to her friends and a devoted mother. I have no doubt that she will influence my future heroines (and in fact I see some of her traits in many of those I have already created).

Melinda Hammond
Gentlemen in Question, pub. Robert Hale

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Have you seen Brigadoon?

"I saw the rain-dirty valley, you saw Brigadoon."
- Waterboys, The Whole of the Moon

I'd never seen Brigadoon, that is up until a couple of weeks ago.

At the end of a slightly stressful day putting on a DVD of a musical by Learner and Lowe (who also wrote My Fair Lady, one of my favourite films ever) seemed like a good plan.

The film of the musical was made in 1954 by Vincent Minelli (father of Liza). The sound is in Mono and the Highlands of Scotland settings are painted backdrops in a studio.

However, Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse are fabulous, the story is very romantic, and the score immediately appealing and memorable.

There are some calls to remake Brigadoon, which seems like a good idea to me. Although the film is lovely, it does feel dated.

While there seems to have been a book published in 1949, nothing since (as far as I could discover). If there had been a novelisation available, I'd have bought it.

Have you seen Brigadoon? What do you think? Is it time for an update?