Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Mesalliance - book cover

Here is the finished cover for my next book for Robert Hale, due out in February 2007. The building is St Osyth Priory, where the book is set, and David Young, the artist, has captured it perfectly.
For some reason this image appears in lurid green- on my PC it's a far more natural colour. I hope my version is correct!!
I have asked for this artist to do all my covers in future as I think it is giving me a recognisable look- one that a library reader can spot. I'm hoping they will be using this 'look' to select the book not jump back in horror!!
Still no sign of the My Weekly Story Collection title- The Return of Lord Rivenhall- but I'll keep you posted.
Fenella Miller

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas cards!

Christmas at Steventon

Goodness, our blog readers are a talented lot! Regular commenter Jane Odiwe turns out to be the designer of these wonderful Jane Austen-inspired Christmas cards.

Steventon Rectory

So if you want to send something original this year, look no further! Anyone wanting to order the cards should email Jane on

effusions at btinternet dot com

(if this looks odd, say it out loud. I've put it up this way so she doesn't get inundated with spam.)

Assembly Rooms Ball

The cards are a pound each or a ribbon wrapped pack of nine (any selection can be made up whether they are all the same ormixed) is five pounds. There is a charge of one pound fifty for post and packing.

They're unusual and truly delightful!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Learning to Live with a Barbarian

I thought I was a Regency author, faithful and content - but then I got seduced, and by Terry Jones of all people, not possibly the first name who springs to mind when contemplating infidelity, nice and witty though he is.
I was watching his BBC2 series, The Barbarians, and the picture of nice Roman girl meets huge hairy Barbarian flashed though my mind and that was it, I was hooked by the Visigoths.
It has been a strange experience, creating Wulfric. At first I buried myself in reference books until I remembered the important thing was the love story and to write that first and check up on the historical accuracy as I went along (although I can't escape the maps and the atlases which carpet my study floor).
Not all the research is pleasurable academic delving of course. There is the effort of forcing myself to skim through Lord of the Rings looking at Aragorn for inspiration for long-haired heroes. Oh yes, and I'm dragging myself off to go and see Casino Royale to study the honed male torso, but difficult though this is, one has a duty to one's readers.
Once I have finished with Wulfric it is back to the Regency, although all those research books seem a bit of a waste for just one title, perhaps Mr Jones will lead me astray in the future.

Louise Allen

Miss Charlotte Smith's Diary - Part 11

For parts 1-10, see the links at the left.

January 23rd

Half past 7
Had a bath in lavender scented water then ate breakfast whilst wearing wrapper, in case I spilled hot chocolate. Then dressed in white muslin gown.
‘I wish it didn’t look quite so demure,’ I said to Melissa.
‘You can always dampen the muslin,’ she said. ‘It’ll make it cling to your legs.’
Melissa is a true friend.

8 o’clock
Took out rags and arranged ringlets artfully around face.

9 o’clock
Went shopping. Bought Mama’s sheets, two bonnets and a length of silk for a new gown. Will have to get a job now because I’ve spent my last penny.

Half past 11
Wet muslin and arranged it round legs in tantalising folds. Hailed a hackney and set out for Winters House.

Quarter to 12
Arrived at Winters House. It is exactly the sort of house I am cut out to live in. It has a marble floor and marble columns and priceless antique vases dotted about. The butler left me in the hall and went to announce me. I took off my pelisse and bonnet then wandered over to a mirror and examined myself in it.
Hair very curly - good - but several hairs out of place - bad.
Started to tweak hair in front of mirror, then turned round to see it from the back. Felt something brush against my gown, caught a glimpse of a priceless vase tottering on top of a stand, spun back in attempt to catch it, and succeeded only in clutching empty air as it crashed to the floor. Stood like a statue as the loudest crash I’ve ever heard in my life echoed around the cavernous hall.
Wished Lord Winters had a tiny hall like everyone else. Also wished he had invested in a carpet.

10 to 12
Unfroze and started to panic. Started frantically picking up the pieces of the vase and looking round for somewhere to put them. Saw a potted palm in the corner and tipped the pieces in the pot. Decided using my hands was too slow and so I scooped up rest of the pieces in my skirt. Held it up at the corners and waddled over to the potted palm. I’d almost reached it when door opened and out walked . . . The Rude Man in the Ante Room. Could only stop and stare, and wonder what he was doing there. Could also not help wondering why I hadn’t noticed how really good looking he was the other day, instead of just thinking he was not bad looking, and seeing that he has a body that looks like it spends a lot of time fencing and in the gym.
Then I realized I was picking up the pieces of a vase I’d just broken, and wondered if I am destined to bump into him at all the worst moments in my life. Also wondered if I am destined to convince him that I am the biggest walking disaster in the world.
‘What the devil are you doing?’ he asked.

Fortunately I was holding my skirt up at the corners so the broken pieces of china were invisible inside it. Thought quickly and dropped a curtsey, as though I’d been holding my skirt out whilst I waited to do exactly that.
‘Your Majesty,’ I said.
Rude Man looked at me as though I was a half wit.
‘Oh,’ I said, rising, but still holding skirt up at corners. ‘I thought you were the Prince of Wales.’
‘Must have escaped from Bedlam,’ he muttered to himself, as he stalked out of the house.
Pity he’s not a rich earl. Or maybe it’s a good thing. At least I have not made a fool of myself in front of my future husband, but only in front of Very Rude Person who just happens to be Very Nice Looking.

Amanda Grange

Christmas Past

As we begin the mad rush of shopping for Christmas spare a thought for the ladies of the Regency period. If they were very rich they might have bought gifts for their friends as we do, but many of them spent months labouring on their presents, which were often something that they had embroidered. They made most of their Christmas trimmings themselves, as well as all the cooking of Christmas puddings, relishes and sweetmeats. It must have been such a busy time for them. I sometimes wonder how they did it all.

I have seen many examples of the beautiful cards that were made in Victorian days, but what about the Regency ladies and gentlemen? I think many of the ladies made their own greetings to send out. They spent so many hours cutting, pasting, drawing and sewing, but of course they didn't have the distractions we do in this modern life. But I think it must have been wonderful to go to church at midnight and come home with a lantern to hot punch and all the family gathered in a house decorated with holly boughs and mistletoe. They knew how to play games in those days, and could entertain themselves quite happily. For all our modern advantages, I think Christmas must have been delightful then. Anne

The Journal of a Regency Lady 11

Regency Journal 11

May 19th 1812

I danced with Lord Belmond last night and then he took me outside for some air because it was so very hot in the ballroom. He asked me if I was enjoying my visit to town and I said yes. He told me then that he was leaving very shortly to join his regiment. I said that I should be sorry not to see him in company and he smiled a little sadly and said that he would miss me. He asked if he might take me driving in the park the next day. I hesitated and then said that he might, in the morning because I had engagements for the afternoon. He promised that he would call at half past ten and the look in his eyes made my heart beat very fast. I think that he may be intending to make me an offer – dear journal, what shall I do? I believed myself in love once, but now I am not so sure. Why did Miss Chesterfield break off their engagement – was it because she believed he was merely marrying her for her money?

May 20th

I spent a restless night for I truly do not know what I shall say if Lord Belmond asks me to be his wife. If only he had asked me last Christmas how happy I should have been then. I shall write when I return from my drive, though it may not be until tomorrow, because I have engagements all day.

A class

I'm currently taking a class for the Beau Monde group currently, together with my editor, Gail Northman, and I'm really pleased with the level of enthusiasm and interest.

It's on the English Country House, and we're trying to show how important these beautiful places are to our history as well as our heritage. The country house wasn't just a showpiece, although this was an important part of its function, it was Head Office.

The aristocratic title held a horde of enterprises under its broad canopy. Farms, agricultural concerns, mineral resources, but also building schemes, investments in new ventures and old, and many other concerns. Embodied in the person of the peer, the holder of the title, so many people worked, directly and indirectly, for the concern that he wasn't just a peer, he was the Chairman of the Board.

If you describe it as this to a modern person, things then become a lot clearer. Although it isn't a direct analogy, it's a valid comparison. When the Chairman was a vigorous, interested, clever person, the title, the investments and the country prospered, but when he was weak, unless a suitable deputy could be found, everything began to deteriorate.

So in describing these Head Offices we're trying to show how important these institutions were to the country in the Georgian period. Not just beautiful places, they were vital to the country's economy.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Social Outcast

The Social Outcast is my third historical romance and will be published by Robert Hale in February next year. I've just received the final artwork for the cover. What do you think of it?

Eloise Hamilton, a young lady of considerable wealth is, as the title implies, unacceptable to the leaders of society because she is not only the daughter of a merchant banker, but illegitimate, too.

Knowing she's never likely to be welcomed amongst the ranks of the aristocracy, Eloise resists all attempts on her family's part to push her forward and instead happily spends her time riding her horse, accompanied only by her dog, refusing to regret what might have been. When the second son of a duke starts paying her marked attention she is under no false illusions as to the outcome, vowing simply to enjoy Lord Craven's company, even though her lifetime neighbour and friend, Harry Benson-Smythe, suspects that things aren't that straightforward and warns her to be on her guard.

But Harry himself is preoccupied in investigating the mysterious disappearance of several local girls, reluctantly conceding that he must accept Eloise's offer of assistance in order to get to the truth. Only when it's too late does he realise that he's placed Eloise in mortal danger.

Want to know more? Sorry, you'll have to wait until next February. There again, perhaps I'll post a few extracts on this blog in the meantime ...

Wendy Soliman

Saturday, November 25, 2006

There are some more photos for the upcoming TV adaptation of Persuasion here

They seem to have given Anne a very severe hairstyle. I wonder if they're going to make her look faded and plain at the start of the programme, and then gradually let her look softer and prettier as time goes on, to show how she regains her bloom when Wentworth returns. Time will tell . . .


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Just another silly romance.......

Historical Romances get a bad press: many people assume that all you need do is put your heroine in a long dress, your hero in knee breeches and hey presto, it's historical! Nothing could be further form the truth. Writing historical romance is like a tapestry: the love story may be the main thread, but it has to be interwoven with a lot of background detail, subtle shades that give the tale depth and colour. Sometimes the detail is not even included in the final text, but it should be there, all the same.

Gentlemen in Question is set in 1792, when England was beset by fears of invasion, spies and even the thought of a revolution to equal the one taking place in France. Beneath the insouciance of the haut ton as they carried on with their house parties and social visits there was a very real concern that their social order might be overturned. Since Gentlemen in Question is set within the confines of a country house, these concerns are barely mentioned but they colour the attitudes of my characters, making them prone to suspicion and influencing their decisions.

In my latest book the characters are fully aware of the changes taking place in their world, and live their lives against a colourful and exciting backdrop of social upheaval. The Belles Dames Club, which is published in August, is set in 1786,a time of great change. The huge head-dresses and heavy gowns of the ladies were gradually being replaced by simpler styles and plainer fabrics such as muslin. Hair powder was beginning to lose favour, and gentlemen were relinquishing their wigs and moving towards a more sober style of dress. Some of this was a reaction to the political unrest that was building in France, but it was also a reflection of the changing attitudes of the country: it was not enough to have the local gentry providing charity for the destitute, a social conscience was growing, and among other things it made many people in England question the morality of the slave trade.
Poems were written to publicise the plight of the slaves, such as The Dying Negro by Thomas Day (see picture). I have one of my characters reading an extract from this poem at a fashionable soirĂ©e. I have mentioned the campaigner Granville Sharp in my book: for the period in which The Belles Dames Club is set, he was talking to groups, encouraging them to join forces to fight slavery – a year later in 1787 he founded the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade and the campaign really got under way, although it took another 46 years to get The Anti-Slavery Act passed.
It was also a time of scientific discover and exploration – the Royal Society with its energetic president Sir Joseph Banks was busy promoting science and funding expeditions to being back new plant species for the Botanic Gardens at Kew.

I have touched on all these points in The Belles Dames Club, all in a minor way but they are vital to the story and to the lives of my characters. Yet there is so much I have not mentioned, including the Industrial Revolution, but that's for another book……

Melinda Hammond
Gentlemen in Question – pub. Robert Hale Ltd

Monday, November 20, 2006


If you would like to pop into my own blog, url above, please do. I shall be talking about various authors I like and reviewing their books. My first featured author is Paula Marshall.

I am sorry that the last journal has the wrong number on it. I hit nine instad of 0. It should read 10 rather than nineteen. Why didn't I see it before it was published?

Anyway, hope it doesn't muddle everyone too much.

The Journal of a Regency Lady 10

May 14th
Lord Belmond dined with us last evening. He was charming and talked seriously, and Mama told me afterwards that he seemed much changed. I think she has decided that she likes him, and she looked at me oddly once or twice, as if she were wondering how I felt. I am glad that she did not ask me, because I should not have known how to answer her. It seems such a long time ago since I thought myself in love with him.

May 15th
Mama has had such a letter! My brother wrote to her to say that he was considering making Hester a proposal of marriage. Mama has been in a fluster all day, because she does not know what to think. Paul hardly knows Miss Symonds, and I think Mama wonders if he has been influenced at a time when he is vulnerable. I believe she would like to go home, but she does not wish to disappoint me. She is torn between wanting to talk to Paul and seeing me enjoy myself in town. We were to have stayed for another two weeks, but if Mama is distressed I would rather that we returned home.

May 16th
Mama has written to Paul, asking him to delay his proposal until after we return. She asked me how I felt and I told her that I would not be too upset if we went home early. She says that we must stay until the end of next week at least, because we have so many engagements. I was able to tell her that I thought my brother far too sensible to do something impetuous.
'Paul always thinks things through, Mama. If he is considering making an offer to Hester, it must be because he loves her.'
'But he has been so ill,' she said, looking anxious. 'It is easy to make mistakes when one has been near to death. Do not mistake me, Anne. I like Miss Symonds very well, indeed, I should be pleased to have her as my daughter-in-law, but I want Paul to be sure.'
'I think you may rely on him to be sensible, Mama,' I reassured her. 'And I believe he will wait until we return, since you have asked it of him.'
Mama seemed reconciled after we had talked. She seemed as if she wanted to ask me something, but she did not. I am glad that she was patient, for in truth I do not know my own mind.

May 17
I saw Lord Belmond again as I walked in the park. He was charming as always, but just before we parted he said something that made me a little uncomfortable. He asked if I had forgiven him for his behaviour at Christmas, telling me that he had regretted leaving without speaking to me. I told him that there was nothing to forgive, but I gave him no encouragement. I think that he may make me an offer, but I was not his first choice and I am no longer sure that I wish to marry him.

I have heard disturbing news of the troubles in the north and I cannot help wondering if Lieutenant Jones has been caught up in them.

Hope everyoneis enjoying the Journal. Please don't hesitate to comment and let me know, Anne Herries

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Captain Wentworth's Diary

I was browsing on Amazon this morning when I noticed that Captain Wentworth's Diary is now available for pre-order - it will be out June 2007.

Writing Captain Wentworth's Diary was a brilliant experience and I enjoyed every minute of it. I'd always wondered what happened the first time Anne and Wentworth met, in 1806. Where did they meet? How did it happen? Was it at a ball, at dinner, on a picnic or in the village? What did they think of each other? And what exactly happened?

When I came to write Captain Wentworth's Diary, I decided to try and answer those questions by writing what is in effect a prequel to Persuasion as the first part of Captain Wentworth's Diary. I'm really looking forward to finding out what readers think of it!


Friday, November 17, 2006

Oooooo... the cover!

I'll warrant that there are fewer things more exciting to an author that seeing a new cover for the first time. This is what happened to me this morning when my author copies of Fateful Deception, out with Linford Romance this month, arrived in the post.

It's perfect! The hero, Capain Robert Monceaux of the Light Dragoons, is tall and dark and in regimentals. Lucinda, the heroine, looks pretty and is completely in period (1810) in her debutant-white Empire line dress.

I emailed my editor at Linford Romance straight away to tell her how super it was and to thank everyone who had anything to do with it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Rupert Penry-Jones will be playing Captain Wentworth in the upcoming TV adaptation of Persuasion, and I'm really looking forward to it.

I don't imagine Wentworth looking like this, myself - if anyone had asked me to cast the part (which, alas, they didnt!)I would have cast Hugh Jackman - but it will be interesting to see what Rupert makes of the part.

Wentworth is one of Austen's most complex heroes. Not only is he a man's man, being a ship's captain, but he's also deeply romantic. He never forgets Anne, even after eight years at sea, and he says to her, 'You pierce my soul' - surely one of the most romantic lines in literature.

Who would you have cast as Wentworth?

Amanda Grange

Monday, November 13, 2006

Jane Austen handbook

The sensible yet elegant Mags, better known to Austen fans as the editrix of Austenblog, has been spending her time recently writing a book.

What is this book? I hear you ask. It's a book to delight any Austen fan. The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World by Margaret C Sullivan.

This promises to be essential reading, and it's available to preorder now from all Amazons.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Fenella-Jane's post regarding the value of second-hand books was spot on. I'm currently reading The Covent Garden Ladies which, as the title implies, describes the lives of ladies engaged in the world's 'oldest profession' during the Regency era.

I was intrigued to learn how some of the women ended up selling their bodies in order to survive. Many were country girls, lured to London by the prospect of honest employment. Many of the prettier ones were befriended by pimps or bawds, and their fates were effectively sealed. One such creature is recorded as having earned a massive five pounds ten shillings in her first week in her new job: only to find that when her 'mother' had taken her cut, plus board and lodging dues settled, and loans for the clothing she'd been given repaid, she was left with the princely sum of sixpence to show for her endeavours!

One enterprising bawd lurked about the Register Office, posing as a wife of a decent tradesman who required a healthful-looking woman, about twenty, to act as a lady's maid for an infirm old woman. She took the girl to a respectable lodging in a different part of town from her brothel, and fed her with a dram of alcohol. She was then be set upon by her assailant, her cries bringing no one to her relief. Solaced in the morning with a few guineas, the prospect of a new gown and a pair of silver buckles, she yielded to her fate and was most likely passed off several times more by the bawd as a fresh young virgin.

I was astonished to discover that many a respectable tradsman, finding himself with too many daughters to support, was not above selling one or more of them into the industry, consoling himself with the mistaken belief that if his daugthter entered one of the 'good' houses of disrepute, her future would be secured.

I didn't realise, times being as hard as they were, that even girls respectably apprenticed weren't above supplementing their incomes through the deployment of their charms. It would seem that the milliner's trade was well known for attracting girls willing to persuade their gentlemen clients to part with more than the price of a new bonnet for their wives.

It's sad, but hardly anything new.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Secondhand Books

THE PRINCE OF PLEASURE And His Regency 1811-1820 by J. B. PRIESTLY
I always rush into Charity shops when I'm in Colchester- like most towns it has more of them than almost any other shop - apart from mobile phone shops, of course!!
I go to the bric-a-brac first where I've found all sorts of interesting items. The last ones were two hand carved wooden birds from Africa for £1.
But I linger longest at the book section. A quick glance along the fiction shelves then a long lingering look at the non fiction.
Last time I managed to buy this wonderful book for the princely sum of £4. It's in very good condition and packed full of photographs and drawings perfect for research. I also find the bibliography useful- I've managed to obtain one or two excellent books this way.
However I was amused to discover that the original cost of this book in 1971 was £1. 50!! I had no idea ordinary secondhand books were such a good investment.
Fenella Miller

When I came back from my break in Northumberland last weekend I had a lot of emails to catch up on, and going through the list I was thrilled to discover that my latest novel, Gentlemen in Question, has been listed as an Editor's Choice in the Historical Novel Society Review for November. Phrases such as "highly recommended" had me grinning like Alice's Cheshire cat. Although authors should never get carried away by reviews – they are very subjective, after all - it is always gratifying to find someone likes your work and to be on a list that contains such writers as Philippa Gregory and Edna O'Brien is a bit overwhelming! I am off to open a bottle of bubbly!

You can read the review at

Melinda Hammond

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Romance in the Stone

I have just returned from a long weekend on the Northumbrian coast. The weather was superb for November and the scenery in this part of the world is stunning. We stayed in a little village on the coast close to the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, which is set on a dramatic whinstone promontory overlooking the North Sea (a couple of my better photos included here!) Unlike Bamburgh a few miles up the coast there is very little left to see now at Dunstanburgh, but the setting is so atmospheric I just love it. There are no roads or car parks close to the castle, so it's a walk of about a mile to reach it. The castle is owned by the National Trust and run by English Heritage and it is possible to climb up into some of the towers and look out over the sea or the countryside. Dunstanburgh has a charm all of its own and I can wander round the walls and cliffs for hours, listening to the constant roar of the sea and the cry of the seabirds overhead. It must have been very different when the castle was occupied: in times of danger the local people would have brought their animals within the safety of its thick walls: it must have been exciting, bustling, noisy and probably very smelly!

I discovered Dunstanburgh a few years ago and keep coming back. I have already used the castle in one (as yet unpublished) story and have a feeling it will creep into several more tales - it's a wonderful place to find inspiration.

Melinda Hammond
Gentlemen in Question - pub 2006 Robert Hale

Monday, November 06, 2006


Sometimes particular words strike me. I mean, really stand out and shout, "what a brilliant word I am, and why haven't you used me before?!" Goes with the trade of being an author I expect.

Today that word is reverie. It started when I looked up to see if I could use the word filtered in Regency times. No, not really. Jane Austen doesn't use it - too scientific at that time I guess. I decided that penetrated was the nearest Regency equivalent to filtered for the context in which I wanted to use it.

But I digress. Casually reading a bit of Austen and there it was - reverie. Chapter 6, Pride and Prejudice.

Miss Bingley says to Darcy: “I can guess the subject of your reverie.”

His reply: “I should imagine not.”

“You are considering how insupportable it would be to pass many evenings in this manner–in such society; and indeed I am quite of your opinion. I was never more annoyed! The insipidity, and yet the noise–the nothingness, and yet the self-importance of all those people! What would I give to hear your strictures on them!”

“Your conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”

The insipidity... the noise... the nothingness... great words, great assonance (the repetition of vowel sounds) but to top them all - reverie.

What a super word. It comes from the French and has been used since the 14th century according to my etymology dictionary to mean wild conduct or a frolic. Its use as Austen uses it, to mean a daydream, dates from the 17th century.

Now I just need a reason to use it in my work-in-progress, but I think my current hero's musing is too problematic to be Austen-esque reverie.

Unlike Mr Darcy, whose reverie is caused by...?

a) What he ate for breakfast
b) His ten thousand a year
c) Miss Elizabeth Bennet

Kate Allan
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