Tuesday, March 27, 2007

If I have been quiet...

... it is because there has not been much going on to talk about! However, I received my author copies of the large print version of my Regency romantic comedy Perfidy and Perfection and so you can see the cover here. Like it? I do.

I've been working since before Christmas on a tale set in Cornwall at the end of the 18th century involving smugglers. I've also been revising an adventure story I hope to have ready sortly, and I'm really struggling to think of a title for, so the smugglers have been set aside for now until that is complete. In July Linford Romance will be publishing the very first complete novel I ever wrote, The Restless Heart and I'm looking forward to see what the cover is like, as their cover for Fateful Deception was wonderful.

Kate Allan
My website

Northanger Abbey

I am very much enjoying this series of Jane Austen's books. I thought Mansfield Park was romantic but it did differ from the book quite a bit and was not quite up to the standard of previous films. However, this book has not been filmed so often and there wasn't a really good one to compare it to so perhaps that is why I found it so enjoyable. The scenes that depicted Catherine's wild dreams were very good indeed, and I liked the hero. He portrayed a nice balance between the teasing hero and the serious gentleman. So I would give this one nine out of ten, even though the purists might not. It was very watchable and I look forward to seeing the others in this series. I wonder if they will attempt Pride & Prejudice? I think that will be difficult because there have been several versions and the BBc series would be difficult to match in a short film. That is still the outstanding production in my opinion.
Anne Herries

Jane Austen and Baseball?

Did anyone else catch the reference to cricket and baseball which occurred near the beginning of the excellent tv adaptation of Northanger Abbey?


I can't pretend to be an expert on the recreational pursuits of the age but it didn't quite ring true to me. Was it a reference to an early form of rounders perhaps, did the British really adopt baseball before the Americans, or was it merely a slip of the script-writer's pen? Does anyone know?


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Northanger Abbey, with Felicity Jones and JJ Feild

Tonight sees the second of ITV's Austen adapations, Northanger Abbey, starring Felicity Jones as Catherine and JJ Feild as Henry.

The script has been hanging around for eight or nine years.Written by Andrew Davies, who wrote the phenomenally successful screenplay of Pride and Prejudice, which starred Colin Firth, it was originally written for Weekend Television. Then Harvey Weinstein of Miramax Films optioned it, added drafts from other writers such as Martin Amis, but eventually abandoned the project.

This just goes to show how expensive it is to make period dramas, and how difficult it is to get them on TV, because if Andrew Davies, with a huge hit behind him, couldn't get his work on TV, then what hope for anyone else? But the wheel turned. Attitudes at ITV changed. People changed. And Austen was 'in' again.

The new adaptation stars Felicity Jones, who will play 17-year-old Catherine Morland. Andrew Davies said he was "completely blown away" by Jones's audition tape. "She is absolutely delightful to look at. She is possibly slightly too pretty for Catherine. With all that radio experience, she had absolutely wonderful diction. Every word is crystal clear. I'm really thrilled we've got her. I think she's a terrific discovery."

It sounds promising. But we'll just have to wait and see . . . .

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chawton House Library

With all the excitement around the current crop of Jane Austen adaptations, this seems like a good occasion to visit Chawton House Library, which is set in the home and working estate of Jane Austen's brother Edward Austen Knight. Chawton House Library is a wonderful resource for Regency authors as it has a unique collection of books focussing on women's writing in English from 1600 to 1830. As well as having online biographies of authors such as Maria Edgeworth (Castle Rackrent) and Ann Radcliffe (The Romance of the Forest)the website also provides full transcripts of some of their collection. I used it when I was writing my Bluestocking Brides Trilogy. My heroines were all members of a Regency reading group and I wanted them to be reading something authentic, so I chose The Enchantress by Mrs Martin. I was able to read the entire text online and draw on it in my research. Check out the library at http://www.chawton.org/index.html and at the same time you can catch up on the history of the estate and its connections with Jane Austen.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mansfield Park with Blake Ritson and Billie Piper

Opinion seems to be divided about ITV's Sunday night showing of the new Mansfield Park with Blake Ritson and Billie Piper.

General criticisms in the media seem to be that it was too short - agreed! - and that the beginning felt rushed - also agreed! - but with a 90 minute running time, these things were inevitable.

Billie Piper's acting and casting have come in for a variety of opinions, with some people thinking she was excellent and some thinking she was miscast, but overall, here on the blog, we liked her.
"I think it is one of JA's better books and enjoyed the tv adaptation," says Wendy. "It's very easy to criticise the costumes and such but shouldn't we stop worrying about details and simply enjoy being entertained? When all's said and done, isn't that what every tv programme and books strives to do? Having said all that, I did think that anyone unfamiliar with the book would wonder what Mrs Norris was all about. The adverse effect she had on Fanny's upbringing wasn't apparent from tv. I hated Fanny's hair and agree that she ran around too much - she was supposed to be the ultimate poor relation, after all - but I still sat spellbound for two hours"

Blake Ritson seems to have been liked by all for his portrayal of Edmund. He captured Emdund's upright qualities without making him seem preachy or a drip.
Melinda found it a bit static but says, "I think this is a very difficult book to put on screen - it is the story of two nice people, so not a lot of scope there.Maybe Ken Russell could have done better."

Ken Russell making Mansfield Park? Now there's a thought!

And for those who can't get enough of Fanny and Edmund, why not try Edmund Bertram's Diary? The hardback (left) is already out, and the paperback (right) comes out in August 2008. Experience the story through Edmund's eyes!

There are further books in the series, with Mr Darcy's Diary, Mr Knightley's Diary and Cpt Wentworth's Diary already out, and Col Brandon's Diary coming out in 2008.

More details on Amanda Grange's website.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Jane Austen Season

As everyone and his dog - or perhaps that should be Pug - reflects on the continuing popularity of Jane Austen, we thought we'd take a look, over the next few weeks, at some of the things that give her books long lasting appeal.


The books are some of the funniest ever written, and even if they hadn't been love stories, they would still have stood the test of time, as other humorous books such as Three Men in a Boat have done.

Here are some of my favourite lines:

From Mansfield Park:
"the expectation of his return must be a very anxious period to my mother; and if we can be the means of amusing that anxiety, and keeping up her spirits for the next few weeks, I shall think our time very well spent, and so, I am sure, will he. It is a very anxious period for her.”
As he said this, each looked towards their mother. Lady Bertram, sunk back in one corner of the sofa, the picture of health, wealth, ease, and tranquillity, was just falling into a gentle doze.

From Persuasion:
“We do not call Bermuda or Bahama, you know, the West Indies."
Mrs. Musgrove had not a word to say in dissent; she could not accuse herself of having ever called them any thing in the whole course of her life.

From Sense and Sensibility:
"We do not live a great way from him in the country, you know, -- not above ten miles, I dare say."
"Much nearer thirty," said her husband.
"Ah! well! there is not much difference."

And from Pride and Prejudice:
"I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart."
"You are uniformly charming!" cried he, with an air of awkward gallantry; "and I am persuaded that, when sanctioned by the express authority of both your excellent parents, my proposals will not fail of being acceptable."

What are your favourite humorous lines or moments?

Amanda Grange

Our recent books

Saturday, March 17, 2007

New books

It seems ages since I manged to get in but at last I am here. I had to leave the post halfway through as we had an appointment, but finished it when I got back. I have been so very busy of late, writing a lot of Regency novels. The last of the Hellfire Trilogy comes out next month and another trilogy starts in June, though I'm not sure if that is hb or pb. The next series is about three sisters who have to leave the Vicarage that was their home because Papa has died. It looks as if their prospects are bleak until one by one they find the men they will love. I have also written two of a series called dynasty, which is set at the time of the end of the War of the Roses. The first is called Forbidden Lady and comes out in America next month - they are publishing them there first for some reason!

What with making guest appearances on blogs because of the short list for the RNA Romance Prize and working on a new review site for authors of romance, I have been like Anne in the story - my feet hardly touched the ground! Love to you all, Anne Herries

Guest blogger - Jean Fullerton

We're delighted to welcome Jean Fullerton to the blog. Anyone who loves the Pirates of the Caribbean films will love Jean's new book, Cutlasses and Caresses.

Over to you, Jean.

"Thank you! I have always loved stories about pirates and the romance of the open sea in a sailing ship. Of course there are the men. I mean what wouldn’t you love about a man in long black boots, tight breeches and an open fronted shirt? More seriously, the idea for Cutlasses and Caresses came from an article in the BBC History magazine.

All the settings of my books are real. I put a lot of time and effort into researching all aspects of my stories. One of the joys of being a historical writer is that I get to delve into the past. For instance, although Cutlasses and Caresses is a work of fiction, I have based it very much on fact and spent a great deal of time researching the details to weave around Nathan and Prudence’s story. It's a romp set in the Pirate capital of Port Royal, Jamaica, during the volatile 1680’s, and it centres around the sensual romance between Prudence Stone, a minister’s niece in search of her kidnapped fiancĂ©, and Nathan Frazer, who is in the Caribbean for a very different reason . . .

Port Royal which is where most of Cutlasses and Caresses is set, actual existed and was just as debauched and lawless as I portray it. The brothel, The Two Puddings, where Prudence stays is fictitious but the Mermaid tavern also mentioned was notorious for its riotous behaviour and in a town like Port Royal that was no mean feat! If you go to Jamaica today, however, there is not much left of it because on the 7th July 1692, a year after Cutlasses and Caresses, is set, 90% of the town disappeared under the sea as a result of a massive earth quake. Some said it was the hand of God punishing the town for its wickedness.

You can read the first chapter of Cutlasses and Caresses on my website by clicking here and you can buy it from Triskelion by clicking here

I also have a chat group. To find out more, click here

Thanks, Jean! Cutlasses and Caresses sounds like a must read for anyone who loves pirates or a well researched historical romance.

The Journal of A Regency Lady 13

May 29 1812
It has been some days since I wrote in my journal. My feet have not touched the ground since I told Mama that I was to marry Lord Belmond. She was so happy and so relieved that I was glad I had made my decision. Indeed, I had not quite decided until he came that day, but now that it has happened I am pleased. After all, I liked him very well before he became engaged and he has explained all that. So now I shall be Lady Belmond very soon and then we shall join his regiment, though we are not to go abroad as soon as we had expected for he has had orders to report to Lime Regis where his men are are presently stationed.

It does not matter. I am in such a whirl for Mama was determined that I should be married at home and we set out almost at once. Paul was so pleased to see me and I was pleased that he looked so much happier and well again. He told me privately that he thinks he shall resign his commission for he still limps a little and does not believe he could ever be a soldier again.

'I want to marry and have a family, Anne,' he told me. 'I came close to dying and I do not wish to leave this life without knowing the joys of having a wife and child.'

I believe Mama is almost reconciled to the idea of his marriage. For myself I am pleased that he has found peace and happiness after his illness, which I feared would change him forever.

'You must do as you please, dearest,' I told him. 'I know Mama was doubtful but she will learn to love your wife, as I shall.'

Paul tipped his head to one side, his eyes narrowed as he looked at me. 'What of you, Anne? Are you truly happy? I think you were badly hurt last Christmas...'
'Yes, I was hurt,' I admitted, 'and when Harry first asked me I was not sure it was the right decision, but now I think we shall suit very well.'

My brother frowned for no one knew me better. 'That does not sound as if you are madly in love? It is what I should hope for you, sister.' His gaze narrowed. 'Did you not find anyone else you preferred?'

I hesitated for a moment. 'There was a gentleman I liked but...' Paul's brows rose. 'He did not ask me to marry him. I thought he meant to but his regiment was called to some riots in the North and I heard nothing more from him.'

'You would not marry just for the sake of it? Mama did not push you into this, Anne?'

'No, of course not,' I began but then we both heard Mama calling to me. 'Mama is calling me for yet another fitting.'

'We shall talk more later,' Paul said. 'If you are not sure you should not marry him, Anne.'

I smiled at him and shook my head. I had given my word and could not break it. Besides, I was almost certain that I loved Paul.

But Mama is calling me once more. I shall write more this evening...

Sorry to everyone that I have been so long since the last episode. I didn't realise how long it was until I tried to find the last bit. I will try to get in more often now that I can get in again. Anne

Friday, March 16, 2007

Give it up?

Recently, I've come across an author who has decided to give up writing fiction.

While I respect her decision, that's something I could never do, but it does give me an idea.

I will always write. I wrote for years without even considering publication, it didn't matter. It wasn't part of my life.

When I did write with publication in mind, I had a different attitude.
I'm asking people to pay good money for my work, so all the self
indulgence had to go, and I had to have a more professional attitude.
That meant looking at markets, producing a book regularly, a proper
working day.

I still love it, and I think all the discipline has actually raised my game. I'm certainly happier with the way I'm writing.

But could I give up writing? Hell, no!

However, I've seen writers in despair, because they can't find an
agent, can't find a publisher, can't find a home for their work. So my
advice would be to give yourself a holiday from that.

Just write. Remind yourself why you do this, how much you love it.
Forget markets, forget the business and just give yourself permission
to write, something you care about that doesn't fit anywhere, or do
anything except maybe hone your craft a little, and free up your voice.

You never know, you might end up with your first published book! But
it doesn't matter. If you don't, you have reminded yourself just why
you put yourself through this torture, what is at the heart of your
writing, why you do it.

And if you find yourself writing nothing, don't despair. Perhaps that
was the break you needed and you'll come back refreshed, or even find
yourself turning in another direction.

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LOVEDAY Intro Part 4

One of the greatest joys of writing the Loveday series is to receive so many emails from readers. They are a constant joy and never more so than on a day when one of the Lovedays have got themselves into a scrape from which I wonder if they can ever redeem themselves with honour and integrity. For a writer to learn that readers empathise with the characters and feel their pain and anguish is great motivation for an author to push themselves that one step further to make each story unique and memorable.
In the series Adam is the main hero but the moment his rakehell cousin Japhet stepped onto the page I knew this was a man women would adore and through love hope to reform. The fourth book in the series THE LOVEDAY SCANDALS was given a new look to the covers and with the background of Bodmin Moor this is one of my favourites. THE LOVEDAY SCANDALS brings Japhet to the fore but his wild escapades threaten his life. In a gritty family series there can be no fairy tale endings and each Loveday must face the consequences of their actions…

Having lived and worked in London for several years, I loved the opportunity to research the 18th century gaming hells, underworld, theatre and life in Newgate.

The novel begins with Adam still at sea and his twin St John banished to Virginia. The family struggle to survive in the face of fresh scandals and shocking revelations. Japhet has fled to London to forget the heartache of his love affair with Gwendolyn Druce. He finds himself drawn into the dangerous world of the city’s gambling dens and, when he runs out of money, turns to highway robbery. As his life spirals out of control heengages in a passionate affair with actress Celestine Yorke, but when Gwen arrives in London Celestine’s ardour turns to obsessive jealousy. She has her suspicions that he is a highwayman. When blackmail fails to keep him at her side, there is no greater fury than a woman scorned. The gallows await any found guilty of highway robbery. How can our hero realistically escape the noose? Certainly not without sacrifice and dire circumstances.

Meanwhile Edward and Amelia’s marriage is rocked by the arrival of his illegitimate daughter, Tamasine, who has come to claim her rightful place in the family. Can the Lovedays rise above the turmoil which seems set to finally tear them apart?

Kate Tremayne

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dance for a Diamond

I am away for the weekend so I am having to submit my blog a few days early, but I was so excited about this I just couldn't wait to share it and ask everyone's thoughts on the cover.

Dance for a Diamond has just been published in large print version by Ulverscroft, and I am delighted with the cover they have used. It sums up my heroine, Antonia Venn, perfectly: lively, petite, soft brown hair and a passion for dance. Dance for a Diamond is set at the time of Waterloo, with a dark, brooding hero and a heroine who desperately wants to be independent. They both have to learn to trust again before they can achieve their happiness. This is one of my favourite books to date, a lovely feel-good novel – and I'm not just going on my memory of writing it, I loved this cover so much I was tempted to read it all over again!

Let me know what you think.

Melinda Hammond

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at bonnets

Jane Austen is coming in for a lot of attention at the moment. A new film supposedly about her life, Becoming Jane, is out at the cinema. 3 new TV adaptations are about to hit our screens, and newspapers are full of Austen, too.

Celia Brayfield attacked Austen recently, provoking a spirited defence from Libby Purves in the Times Online, which will surely delight the heart of any Austen lover:

"Celia Brayfield accuses Jane Austen of focusing on “young women’s fancies” while ignoring the French Revolution, Napoleon, and the Chinese woman pirate Zheng Yi Sao. She berates Austen for not being Mary Wollstonecraft, for failing to “look out of the window” at poverty and recording a sexist society.

Being a middle-class girl in the 1800s, clinging on to the lower rungs of the financial ladder, was frightening. Daily life was arduous — all that sewing was not a hobby but household maintenance and the construction of clothes. In the country, livestock must be tended and a woman’s retreat to the drawing-room in a clean dress was often well earned. The older generation, especially if moneyed, held a power over the young unimaginable to our generation.
Beyond the walls of home the prospect was alarming: no social security, no pensions, no dole, no health service, antibiotics or reliable contraception; terrifying childbirths, no careers for single women without a slide down the social scale towards poverty."

Whilst cheering Libby Purves, I couldn't help thinking, Why and how has our society come to despise enjoyment for enjoyment's sake? Even if Jane Austen wrote about nothing but bonnets, what would be wrong with that? Pleasure is a necessary part of existence. Without it, life would be a dull affair; moreover, we would never be able to lift our spirits enough to do anything about the things that trouble us.

So long live Jane Austen, in whatever form people choose to appreciate her - social historian, woman of her times, comic genius or romantic novelist.

As Oscar Wilde almost said, We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at bonnets.

Amanda Grange

Monday, March 12, 2007

Jane Austen season

There's a new Jane Austen season starting on TV in the UK this week, which is good news for Regency fans.

Mansfield Park is the first to air, on Sunday 18th March, with Fanny Price being played by Billie Piper and Edmund played by Blake Ritson, whilst Tom is being played by James D'Arcy.

Northanger Abbey is next, on 25th March, with Catherine Morland being played by Felicity Jones and Henry Tilney by JJ Feild.

The it's on to Persuasion on 1st April. Captain Wentworth is being played by Rupert Penry Jones and Anne Elliot by Sally Hawkins

And to finish, ITV are showing a repeat of Emma on 8th April. This is the TV version from 1996 with Kate Beckinsale as Emma and Mark Strong as Mr Knightley.

And if you're in the US, the dramatisations will be shown on PBS in the autumn - November, we believe.

We can't wait to see them!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lord Thurston's Challenge

Yesterday I received the rough for my next book, LORD THURSTON'S CHALLENGE, which comes out in July 2007. It is by the same artist as for my last two books, David Young. I love it -what do you think?
The story is set in an ancient Tudor mansion and I sent various photographs of suitable buildings and he selected the one he liked. I'm lucky to be allowed so much input with my covers. In my contracts it clearly states that Hale have absolute control over them and some Hale authors have covers with cross-eyed, green faced women!!
A writer I met yesterday said that her publisher not only allow her no say in the cover designs they also change the titles of her books. The latest one was changed and now has the same title as another recently released chick-lit novel.
I'm in the process of re-vamping my website- the new version will be up soon. I'll let you know when it's on line.
Fenella Miller
THE MESALLIANCE Robert Hale, 9780709082248, is out and can be bought from Amazon. Don't forget to go in to your local library (UK only) and order the book. They might not stock it unless you do.

Lady Hartley's Inheritance in Large Print

I recently had the pleasure of seeing my first novel published by Thorpe in large print. I love the cover! My heroine appears capable and determined, as well as serene and beautiful. But they have also managed to capture the vulnerability she tries so hard to coneal from the world. Shame about the colour of her hair, though. I describe it as being the colour of burnt corn but both Thorpe and Hale seem to have got that one wrong.

Let me know what you think of the cover.

Wendy Soliman

Monday, March 05, 2007

Devil's Prize

From Jane Jackson.

Hello, I'm just dropping in with a progress report. Things have been a bit hectic since I last posted. But as life has calmed down a bit, I thought I'd take this opportunity to bring you up to date.

My current historical adventure romance, Devil’s Prize, is now three quarters finished. It’s strange and wonderful to leave my comfortable home with all its modern conveniences each morning and at the click of a mouse plunge back into the C18th.

1795 was a desperately hard time for the Cornish people. England was at war with France and press gangs roamed towns and villages looking for young – and not-so-young – men to replace those killed or wounded aboard naval ships of war.

A poor harvest meant food was in short supply. Starving miners who gathered in Falmouth and Truro to prevent American wheat landed in Cornwall from being shipped up to London were shot.

Coastal towns and villages relied on pilchards for food, oil for lighting, and income from the casks of salted fish exported to Italy. But sometimes the shoals didn’t come. Forgotten by a government preoccupied with the war, many Cornish turned to smuggling simply to survive.

Superb seamen, braving moonless nights and winter storms, Cornish smugglers treated the fair trade as a battle of wits between themselves and the Customs Service and displayed remarkable skill in avoiding the Customs cutters at sea and the Riding Officer and his dragoons ashore.

Virtually everyone in the community was involved, from the vicar who allowed casks to be hidden in his church, to the village women who concealed bladders full of cognac beneath their voluminous skirts.

Naturally, no duty was paid on smuggled goods. So, furious at being denied money it needed, the government passed increasingly severe laws to try and stop the trade. For example, being caught with a blackened face while engaged in smuggling was punishable by hanging.

Some of the landowner justices who put up the money for cargoes of contraband dealt lightly with their local smugglers, but sentenced those of rival gangs to death or transportation.

This is the background to Devil’s Prize, a story of danger, intrigue, heroism, hardship and a love that survives against all odds. I can’t wait to get back and find out what happens next!

Jane Jackson.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Darcy's Diary, the audiobook

I'm really excited about this, because Darcy's Diary is now available as an audio book. I haven't heard it yet - this news is hot off the press - but it's read by Gordon Griffin, who has had excellent reviews for his readings, so I'm really looking forward to it. It's on 6 Audio Cassettes and it's 8hrs long.

The easiest and cheapest way to buy it seems to be by ordering it direct from the publishers - click here - or you can order it from bookshops in the UK. Amazon have it, but it seems to be a lot more expensive on their website.

If you order it from a bookshop, or request it from your libary, it might help to know the product code - it's SOUNDS3504 - and the ISBN, which is 978-1-84559-661-3.

Happy listening!


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Reviewers' Choice Awards

We're delighted that six of our blog members were nominated for Reviewers' Choice Awards from Single Titles and Cataromance

The books nominated were:

Duty's Destiny by Wendy Soliman
The Chain Garden by Jane Jackson
Mr Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange
A Dissembler by Fenella Jane Miller
Deceived by Nicola Cornick

The Society Catch by Louise Allen
Lord Greville's Captive by Nicola Cornick
The Viscount's Betrothal by Louise Allen

We're even more delighted that the winners in each category were our very own Louise Allen with The Viscount's Betrothal and Nicola Cornick with Deceived