Tuesday, February 27, 2007
New chapter of There Must be Murder online
You can read more about it, as well as the first two chapters, by clicking here
Monday, February 26, 2007
Regency Ladies and their Finery
The beautiful clothing that upper class ladies wore during the Regency is one of the many things that attract me to the period, even though it must have been a bit of a chore having to change three or four times a day. All those laces, corsets, petticoats and what have you to think about!
When I describe gowns in my books, such as the one illustrated here, I can imagine the feel of the silk whispering about my heroine's ankles, and the soft rustle of her petticoats as she moves. I would have done well in that period myself since the high-waisted fashions would have made a good job of concealing my virtually non-existent waist!
In my latest book, The Social Outcast, my young heroine defies convention at every opportunity. She wears men's breeches in order to ride astride her horse and even climbs trees to rescue kittens in distress. But she also loves her growing collection of dresses, revelling in the feel of her first ball gown, even if she shocks everyone by wearing it without a corset!
Read more in The Social Outcast, published by Robert Hale ISBN 978 0 7090 8239 2
Saturday, February 24, 2007
A matter of opinion!
Yesterday my copies of the Large Print version of A SUITABLE HUSBAND arrived. I have never liked the original Robert Hale cover - the woman's head is far too large for her shoulders. As you can imagine I was looking forward to seeing this book with a different cover.
I prefer the Thorpe version, but think both characters could as well be heading out for a ball in the 21st century as the 19th!
What do you think? Do you prefer the Hale cover, which has authentic costumes on an out of proportion figure? Or perhaps the well drawn couple, in what could be mistaken for modern dress?
Don't forget A SUITABLE HUSBAND can be ordered form your local library in the UK or purchased form Amazon UK or USA.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Research at Coombe Abbey
A few days ago, Melinda Hammond posted a fascinating item about the inspiration we all get from historic buildings. Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to stay in one such place, Coombe Abbey, in Warwickshire. It is somewhere I have always wanted to visit for my research and to be able to stay there was a dream come true!
As the name implies, Coombe was once a religious foundation and some of the original Norman buildings, including the cloisters, are still standing. We were given a suite in the sixteenth century part of the building and had a marvellous time exploring the house and the estate.
Of particular interest was the eighteenth century church where the Craven family worshipped during the Regency period. It is absolutely charming. One fact that I found fascinating was that the Earls of Craven had their own private chapel, where they sat for the services. I had heard of important families having their own pews in church but never a private chapel. This was tucked away on the north side of the church, had its own entrance and was designed so that the family were hidden from the view of the rest of the parishioners! I could imagine them driving up to the church in their carriage, entering through their own private door and the congregation craning their necks to see the Earl and his guests, rather in the manner of that scene in the film of Pride and Prejudice when Mr Collins in preaching and Lady Catherine and her guests attend the service!
Mr Knightley's Diary - large print
I'm just dropping in to say that the large print version of Mr Knightley's Diary is now out, so if you prefer a larger print size, or you know someone who does,then this is the version to go for. I absolutely love the cover. It's a portrait of Commander Hugh Clapperton painted by Sir Henry Raeburn.
It's available from BBC books and you can order it by clicking here
The normal print version can be ordered from Amazon UK by clicking here
Here's an extract for February:
Tuesday February 23rd
The weather was worse this evening, and it was with difficulty that I managed to walk to Hartfield after dinner, but I did not want to neglect my friends. I found Emma and her father sitting with Harriet. Harriet's presence was welcome as it meant that Emma and I could play backgammon without worrying that her father would be bored, for Harriet could read him Isabella's latest letter again: little George had a cold, the baby was growing rapidly, and Henry was making good progress with his reading.
'I called on Miss Bates this morning,' Emma said.
'And you are wanting me to praise you for it,' I remarked.
'No. If I want flattery, I know I must look elsewhere!'
We began to play.
'And did you find Miss Fairfax at home?' I asked her.
'I did. She had just returned from the post office. If I had called half an hour sooner I would not have seen her.'
'And did you still find her reserved?'
'Yes. I found it very difficult to have a conversation with her. She listened politely to everything I had to say, and she answered every question I put to her, but she volunteered nothing.'
'Perhaps she had nothing to volunteer.'
'Nothing to volunteer, when she has been away from us for two years? What of all her news? Talk of her friend and her friend's wedding? Of the Campbells, and her life with them? Of her time at Weymouth, and her adventure on the boat? I am sure that could occupy half an hour at least.'
'I thought she had told you something of her friend's wedding a few days ago?'
'She did, but only when I asked her outright for information.'
There was something in her tone which gave me pause.
'What mischief are you brewing now?' I asked.
She looked at me innocently.
'You are a very suspicious man, Mr Knightley. What makes you think I am brewing mischief?'
'Experience,' I remarked.
'It is sometimes very inconvenient to talk to someone I have known all my life,' she said playfully. 'It is also very unfair. It gives you an advantage. You know all about my childhood freaks, and I know nothing about yours.'
'That is because I never had any!' I returned.
'What is it, my dear?' asked her father, looking up from the letter.
Mr Knightley says he had no childhood freaks.'
'I am sure he did not,' said her father. 'I have known Mr Knightley all his life, and he has never suffered from freaks. A better man it would be hard to find. Why, even as a boy he was very well mannered. I remember him saying to me, when I had had a cold: "I am sorry to hear you have not been well. I hope you are recovered?" and he was only five years old.'
I did not remember this evidence of my childhood virtues, but I said: 'There you are,' to Emma nonetheless.
'I believe I will ask John about you and find out the truth, the next time I see him,' she returned. 'I cannot believe you led a blameless childhood. I am sure you had your share of mischief.'
'As he is unlikely to visit us before the summer, I am not afraid.'
'Summer will come,' she said, 'and I will be waiting!'
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Guest blogger of the month - Anne Whitfield
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a guest blogger and to talk about my latest historical release, The Gentle Wind's Caress. I set my historicals in either Victorian Australia or Yorkshire. My family and ancestors are from Yorkshire and I'm Australian, so I get the best of both worlds. This mix gives me a wide scope for settings and plots.
The Gentle Wind's Caress is my fourth historical release, but my first UK and hardback release.
The novel is set in the Calderdale area of West Yorkshire -- Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall. I fell in love with the countryside, the steep gorges, rolling moors, the villages, rivers and canal.
The bleakness of the area in winter and the lushness of it in summer called to me, demanded that I work with all that it offered.
I felt the characters belonged there and that their story worked because of their surroundings. It helped to make them what they are.
I wrote the first draft of The Gentle Wind's Caress in about 5 months (family life had a way of interrupting me!). The story flowed so well, as though I'd known the characters for years, and perhaps I had subconsciously. :o)
My uncle, who lives in West Yorkshire and works in Calderdale, sent me a great deal of research material, it was wonderful. He found videos of country walks of that area, historical maps, books, photos, articles, etc. My niece even stopped there on her honeymoon to take photos for me.
You see, it has been 20 years since I was last in England and my memories are dimming a little. But this year I'll be travelling back, and reaffirming my link with England and Yorkshire.
The Gentle Wind's Caress blurb -
1876 - On the death of her mother and sister, Isabelle Gibson must fend for herself and her brother in a privately-run workhouse. To escape a life of drudgery and near-rape at the hands of the matron’s son, Neville Peacock, Isabelle agrees to marry Farrell, a moorland farmer she has never met. But Farrell is a drunkard and a bully in constant feud with his landlord, Ethan Harrington. When Farrell bungles a robbery and deserts her, Isabelle and Ethan are thrown together as she struggles to run the farm. Both are married and must hide their growing love. Despite the secrecy, Isabelle draws strength from Ethan and his best friend, Hamish MacGregor, as she faces the return of her long lost father and Neville Peacock. And when Farrell returns to claim his wife, tragedy strikes, changing all their lives forever.
I'm currently working on another Yorkshire set historical titled, Woodland Daughter. I'm writing in the Edwardian era for the first time and enjoying it very much.
In September this year, my second book published in hardback by Robert Hale Ltd UK will be released. A Noble Place is set in Australia 1851.
For more details about my books, you can visit my website by clicking
I love hearing from other writers and readers.
Thanks for having me here.
Thank you, Anne. We wish you every success with your books.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Miss Charlotte Smith's Diary - Part 13
For parts 1-12 see the links on the sidebar to your left.
Melissa and I celebrated me getting the job by sneaking down to the kitchen and retiring to my room with a bottle of cooking sherry.
Half past 1
‘That’s strange,’ said Aunt Jane when we joined her in the dining-room for lunch. ‘Eliza’s safely in the country, but the cook tells me she’s missing a bottle of cooking sherry.’
Melissa and I said, ‘Really?’ politely.
‘It must be the new footman,’ said Aunt Jane. ‘I will have to tell Cook to keep an eye on him.’
Mouth watered as white soup, baked fish, roast beef, roast potatoes and three different kinds of vegetables were brought in. Was hungry after a morning of strain and took an enormous plateful.
‘Charlotte!’ said Aunt Jane, shocked.
Looked guiltily at my plate. Was enough for three people on it.
‘What about your tooth?’
‘It wasn’t bad at all,’ said Melissa. ‘Just a . . . ’
‘Yes, just a . . . ’ I said, taking over from Melissa.
‘A . . . ’ she helpfully chimed in.
‘A sore gum?’ said Aunt Jane.
‘Yes. A sore gum,’ I said. ‘Very painful but will soon heal, as long as I eat plenty of sustaining food. I’ve been doing the wrong thing over the last few days, starving myself. I should have been feeding myself instead.’
‘Oh, well, if Mr Prindle says so,’ said Aunt Jane.
Helped myself to gravy and said firmly, ‘He does.’
Climbed aboard stage coach for journey home. Was long and uncomfortable but did not care. Am escaping Mama and Susan.
Spirits fell. How am I going to tell them?
‘Mama. Susan. We have not seen eye to eye lately, and I think it is better that I leave. I have got a job as a companion. It has an attractive salary and other benefits, and I do not intend to return.’
‘What . . . leaving us?’ asked Mama, her hand flying to her chest. ‘Never to return?’
She started to cry. Then I saw Susan’s shocked countenance and knew that Susan had suddenly realized she was going to be tied to a couch for the next six months and I was going to be out Exploring Life, Having a Good Time and Finding a Husband Better than Hers . . .
‘Charlotte. Charlotte!’ Mama’s voice cut into my reverie. ‘Stop daydreaming, and finish hemming that handkerchief.’
Looked at the handkerchief in my lap and put it aside.
‘I’m sorry, Mama, but no more hemming handkerchiefs for me. I’m going to be a companion.’
‘You’re going to do no such thing.’
‘It’s all arranged.’
‘No daughter of mind is going to be a servant,’ said Mama.
‘Oh, let her,’ said Susan. ‘Once she finds out how awful it is to run around after an old woman all day, she’ll be glad of my attic.’
Saturday, February 17, 2007
This time of year is one of great anticipation: from March onwards lots of the stately homes of England throw off the Holland covers and open their doors to the public. These historic buildings are an important source of inspiration to writers, the houses and castles are full of atmosphere, guides and guidebooks contain lots of interesting snippets to trigger a new storyline and many of the gardens are evocative of past times. Attingham Park (above) is now owned by the National Trust and is a beautiful eighteenth century mansion with (to quote from the guide book) Regency interiors: sheer bliss to wander through this beautiful house or around the deer park and let the imagination run riot. In contrast, one can take a trip to Coalbrookedale and experience the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution – in its own way Ironbridge is as picturesque and fascinating as any Georgian mansion, and sums up the achievements of the pioneering engineers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The area now is a beautiful leafy valley, but just in case one is minded to forget just how dirty and smoky the area used to be, there is a tar tunnel to be visited, where the natural tar still trickles from the walls. It's dark, damp and claustrophobic and yes, hard hats are compulsory for visitors!
Friday, February 16, 2007
Loveday Introduction Part 3
THE LOVEDAY TRIALS is the third book in the Loveday series.
By book three of the series it was obvious that the trilogy already planned was emerging into a series as the three sets of Loveday cousins became engaged in so many exciting adventures. Although each book must stand on its own as a complete story I now wanted to embrace all the family within the theme of each book title.
The third book in the series THE LOVEDAY TRIALS is about the trials of adversity faced by the family and also the court trial when St John is arrested for the murder of an enemy. Historically it was a turbulent time with lots of scope for the men to participate. It was great fun to write and it has been described as the Scarlet Pimpernel meets Hornblower meets Poldark.
As the Lovedays’ finances recover from near ruin, it is clear their trials are far from over.
Adam returning to Trevowan with Senara – now his wife – and their baby son, finds himself at loggerheads for the first time with his father. Edward refuses to accept his son’s choice of bride, and as a result Adam finds it impossible to continue working in the Loveday shipyard so dear to him. To support his family he works as an English spy in a France still in the grip of the Terror, whilst Senara strives to be accepted by the Loveday family and local community.
St John, meanwhile, is in trouble again. His involvement in the murky world of smuggling has made him some dangerous enemies – not least the corrupt and evil Thadeous Lanyon, who suspects him of being in league with the notorious smuggler and Lanyon’s arch enemy, Harry Sawle. Lanyon thinks nothing of killing anyone who crosses him – so when he himself is found murdered, and Sawle has an alibi, St John is arrested. He must face trial and, if found guilty, will be hanged.
This scandal adds to the growing dissent and rivalry that troubles the Loveday household. Even Edward must face a secret from his past that threatens to rock the stability of his own marriage.
Can the Lovedays pull together as they have done before? Or will these new trials finally tear them apart?
Intrigue, passion and tensions abound in THE LOVEDAY TRIALS making it an unforgettable read.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
A poem for Valentine's Day
I love this setion from Don Juan so much I used it in Stormcrow Castle. As the book opens, Helena has received an offer of marriage from a respectable man, but she wants more than financial security from marriage. She's looking for a man who can make her heart quake - and she finds him at Stormcrow Castle.
A long, long kiss, a kiss of youth, and love,
And beauty, all concentrating like rays
Into one focus, kindled from above;
Such kisses as belong to early days,
Where heart, and soul, and sense, in concert move,
And the blood 's lava, and the pulse a blaze,
Each kiss a heart-quake,-- for a kiss's strength,
I think, it must be reckon'd by its length.
By length I mean duration; theirs endured
Heaven knows how long-- no doubt they never reckon'd;
And if they had, they could not have secured
The sum of their sensations to a second:
They had not spoken; but they felt allured,
As if their souls and lips each other beckon'd,
Which, being join'd, like swarming bees they clung--
Their hearts the flowers from whence the honey sprung.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
The Social Outcast
My third Regency-set mystery-romance will be published by Robert Hale at the end of this month. The birth of a new book is always an anxious time, especially since on this occasion I've introduced a heronine with a rather unfortunate background, and I'm impatient to learn what people make of her.
Eloise might be young but she's still wise enough to appreciate that being the daughter of a merchant banker will cause society to look upon her with an unfriendly eye, even if some doors might reluctantly be opened to her because of her father's extreme wealth. The fact that she is generally known to be illegitimate, though, puts paid to any such expectations and she knows that she is destined to be a Social Outcast.
So why does the heir to a dukedom go to the trouble of singling her out, and why does her neighbour and friend, the infamous Harry Benson-Smythe, look upon her high-born admirer with suspicion, and jealousy? Who is behind the disappearance of three local girls and why can't Harry, who is already engaged to another lady, get Eloise out of his head?
If you want to know the answer to these questions, you know what to do! The book can be ordered from Amazon ISBN 978 0 7090 8239 2 or, if you're in the UK, why not borrow it from your local library?
Do put me out of my misery and let me know what you think of Eloise.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Pencils, Chairs and Books..
Did you know that the pencil was not invented until 1832. This must have made writing lists more complicated. Dipping a quill into an inkpot and scratching away would have been far more time consuming and difficult than the pencil and pad we use today. I suppose a seamstress recorded measurements on a slate - I'll have to do more research on this subject.
Writing letters was the way many wealthy women passed their time and is one reason we know so much about this era. They might have done so sitting in a chair like this.
This month I have two books out - A SUITABLE HUSBAND, is released by Ulverscroft in L.P. and THE MESALLIANCE, is published by Robert Hale.
The Hale book arrived this morning. It's hard to believe that this is joining six other titles on my bookshelf as I only sold my first Regency to Hale in April 2005.
Don't forget all my books can be borrowed from your local library (if you live in the UK) and can also be ordered from Amazon in both the UK and USA.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
The First Aviator
Whilst researching my current book, a historical set in the Edwardian era, I discovered that the true father of aviation was in fact a Regency gentleman called Sir George Cayley. He pioneered the study of aerodynamics over a century before the first powered flight. I had no idea that experiments in flight had started as early as the Regency – I had heard about the balloonists of the period, but not of any other flying machines. Apparently Sir George, who was a Yorkshire landowner, designed not only a helicopter but also an airship and a glider. In 1799 he tested the glider with his 10 year old son aboard (!) and it flew for a short distance. Later in the nineteenth century he designed an even larger glider, which was flown by his coachman. The man apparently retorted that he had been employed to drive a coach and horses, not to fly, but he is recorded in history as the first adult aviator!
Monday, February 05, 2007
Valentine's Day is approaching!
Friday, February 02, 2007
The Journal of A Regency Lady 12
The Journal of a Regency Lady 12
May 13 1812
Dear journal, I have thought long and hard about what I should do, and I have decided that I shall accept Lord Belmond's offer. I know it will please Mama, and I believe it will make me happy to be his wife. After all, there was a time when I believed I was desperately in love with him, and perhaps I shall be again once I have accepted the situation. Harry says he loves me. I must take his word and forget the past. If there was another I liked very much, I think I must forget him. He has made no attempt to write to me and I know Mama expects me to take my chance of a good marriage. So I have decided that I shall.
My feet hardly seem to have touched the ground since I told Lord Belmond that I would be happy to accept his offer. He kissed me and it was very pleasant, and then he gave me a beautiful diamond ring. We showed it to Mama and she was delighted with everything. She says we shall leave London tomorrow and go home to make preparations. Harry told her that he wished to marry me and take me with him to his regiment, and to my surprise she agreed. I really thought that she would ask us to wait, but she did not. Harry is to purchase a special license and he has requested an extra week before he joins his regiment in Spain – and so I shall go with him. Mama was determined that we should have a beautiful wedding, and she rushed me off to the seamstress, who is to alter a ballgown she was making for me so that it is suitable for my wedding. I shall wear ivory silk with pink beads and a pink bonnet with a white veil to wear in church. I cannot believe it is all happening. I keep thinking that I shall wake up and find it is a dream.
Where do we get our ideas from?
Researching the past throws up many ideas and opportunities for writers – even writers of "entertainment" rather than heavy political works.
I wove the story of Dance for a Diamond around the new dance craze, the waltz, that was sweeping Europe in 1815, but it's main character, Antonia, comes perilously close to ruin when she is alone and defenceless in London. Gentlemen in Question is set at the time of the French Revolution, when England was gripped by spy mania, a premise that led me to weave a tale around Maddie's fears and suspicions about her cousin and Beau Hauxwell. The presence of a dangerous villain in the story allowed me to take Madeleine on a mad dash across the English countryside in an exciting adventure. My latest novel, The Belles Dames Club, is set in England in 1786, when Britain was beginning to feel uneasy about its lucrative slave trade. . There was a growing awareness in the country that something had to be done. Universities were debating the matter, anti-slavery poems were read in fashionable salons and there was a boycott of sugar, which actually reduced sales by one third. Britain was developing a conscience. However, slavery was big business, most of the oldest families achieved at least part of their wealth from slavery.
The Belles Dames Club is in essence a light-hearted adventure-romance, but it is set against a realistic back-drop, which adds contrast and colour to any historical novel. . The ladies of the club attend a meeting where they hear one of the leading campaigners, Granville Sharp, describe the plight of the slaves, and they see some of the implements used to subdue the slaves during their long voyage across the Atlantic, such as shackles and thumbscrews. Their growing frustration at the horrors of the trade make the ladies ready to take drastic action, and sets the scene for some lively adventure.
And just to finish off…..on 25th March 1807, the Abolition of the Slave Trade bill became law. This did not stop the British slave trade, and it could be argued that for some time the plight of the slaves became even worse, but eventually, in 1833, the British Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act.
We are all aware that the past (and present) can be uncomfortable, but that does not mean we should not allow ourselves a little escapism. Enjoy your reading!
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Loveday Introduction Pt 2
The second book of the Loveday series is THE LOVEDAY FORTUNES.
As the civil unrest in France gathers force, ripples of conflict are also reaching across the Channel, for the Loveday family are fighting their own battles. Charles Mercer – Edward Loveday’s brother-in-law – has been found dead, the reputation of his eminent bank now in tatters. His investors’ money risked on a failed venture. Charles has left the Lovedays fighting emotional traumas and financial ruin.
But risk comes as second nature to the Lovedays. Adam finds refuge from the pressures of keeping the family shipyard solvent in his passionate relationship with the gypsy-bred Senara – whom he is determined to marry despite his father’s threats of disinheritance. He also risks his life captaining his own ship Pegasus to rescue French émigrés from the terrors of the growing revolution. His twin, St John, angry at having to curb his spending, decides to throw his hand in with the Sawle brothers – the smugglers who rule Penruan by intimidation and violence. And the vengeful and scheming Meriel Sawle, now St John’s wife, has her own vendetta to settle.
When the family learn their French aunt and their cousin Lisette, who is married to an aristocrat, are in danger, Adam, St John and the rakehell Japhet Loveday unite to face the dangers in France and save them.
As changing fortunes – both personal and financial – put strain on a family already buckling with internal tensions, each one of the Lovedays must sacrifice personal ambition and unite like never before to overcome such a crisis. But to some of them sacrifice does not come easy….