Sunday, October 28, 2007

Open Book

One of my very lovely friends, Katie Fforde, author of such fabulous books as Going Dutch and Bidding Love, alerted me to the fact that Mr Darcy's Diary was going to be discussed on Radio 4's Open Book programme.

As it happened the book discussed was another Mr Darcy's Diary (Jane's sandpit is getting distinctly crowded). BUT one of the contributors, the fiction editor of the Sunday Times, spoke eloquently about retellings, and mentioned that Amanda Grange had also written a book called Mr Darcy's Diary, as well as Mr Knightley's Diary and Captain Wentworth's Diary.

The programme raised an interesting point: why do writers love to write sequels to famous novels? In my case I think a lot of it is down to curiosity. It's rather like picking up a much-loved antique vase in order to see what it looks like from a different angle. There's also the pleasure of being able to use formal language, and to create Austen-like minor characters to populate the new sections. And of course there's the joy of spending all day in Austen's world.

I particularly loved creating Captain Wentworth's brother, not only because I wanted to explore Wentworth's relationship with his sibling, but also because I was intrigued by him. Wentworth is a naval captain, his sister is an admiral's wife, and yet his brother is a country clergyman. I thought that this situation would lead to a lot of teasing and I enjoyed imagining what it would be like.

This is from the start of the book, when Wentworth meets his brother for the first time since coming ashore in 1806:

As we walked back to his house along the dusty road I told him all my news, of the ships I had sailed in and the Captains I had sailed under; of the battle of St Domingo and my promotion to Commander; and in return I listened to his tales of sermons and services, of neighbours and parishioners. I could not help laughing at the difference.
‘What! One of your neighbours climbed over your wall uninvited last month? What a calamity! I do not know how you survived the excitement!’

‘A pretty time you have had of it!’ Edward retorted. ‘Never knowing where you would be in a few hours’ time, and whether you would be alive or dead. I would rather be safe in my parish with my garden and my books, my home and my church, rather than tossing about on the open sea in a flimsy wooden boat. You were always the bold one, Frederick.’

‘And why not? The war has made it possible for men of ability and ambition to rise in the world, and I mean to use the opportunities it has given me to make my fortune. Ah! the limitless horizons, both at sea and on land, the battles to be fought, the prizes to be won. I will be a wealthy man soon, and I mean to own an estate before I am done.’

‘And then be off again the minute you have bought it! You will never settle on land, you will find it too dull. I believe you will scarcely be able to tolerate your shore leave. I can offer you no battles, unless you wish to frighten my parishioners into listening to my sermons instead of whispering about each other’s bonnets, and I can offer you no glory, save the glory of being a novelty, to be examined and talked over like a prize bull at a fair.’

‘It is enough. I have had my fill of battles for the time being, and I am ready for variety. A man may grow weary of the sea as well as anything else, and I will fight all the better for the change. Besides, I mean to enjoy myself whilst I am here, and to do all the things I cannot do on board ship. I mean to ride and walk and explore the countryside, and I am looking forward to meeting your neighbours. You have told me a great deal about them in your letters and I cannot wait to make their acquaintance. I hope there are some pretty girls hereabouts!’

‘I have never noticed.’

‘Come, now, even a curate notices a pretty face,’ I said.

‘If you had been plagued by every spinster from sixteen to sixty for the last twelvemonth, as I have, you would not be so eager to attract their notice.'

If you'd like to listen to the programme you can find it by clicking here here until next Sunday, 4th November

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton is a famous landmark in England, with its onion-shaped domes and its minarets, but it started life very simply as a farm house. It was transformed by Prince George (right) in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries into the fabulous building it is today.

We're going to be looking at its transformation here on the blog over the next few weeks.

In 1786, the Prince's factotum leased a farmhouse for the Prince's use (left).

At the time it had flintwork walls, but when the Prince added to the farmhouse the whole building was covered in cream-glazed Hampshire tiles. This gave a sense of unity to the building.

A rotunda was added and then, to balance the original farmhouse, another wing on the other side of the rotunda. When the building work was complete by the following year, the pavilion looked like this:
Notice that the windows on the ground floor are taller than the windows on the first floor because the rooms on the ground floor have higher ceilings, befitting their use as reception rooms.

In 1803, a new stable block was begun, probably because the Prince needed to keep racehorses at the pavilion, and it was built in the Indian style. It provoked a great deal of praise, with Humphrey Repton calling it a 'stupendous and magnificent building, which by its lightness, its elegance, its boldness of construction, and the symmetry of its proportions, does credit both to the genius of the Artist, and the good taste of his Royal Employer.'

The stable block was completed in 1808, after numerous delays caused by a lack of funds. Its final cost was about £55,000 which is equivalent to about two and a half million pounds, or five million dollars, in today's terms.

When the pavilion was again enlarged after 1815, it was built in the Indian style to complement the stables. You can still see the shape of the original building beneath the exotic exterior, but it's come a long way from its humble beginnings!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Jane Odiwe

I am very excited to be joining Historical Romance UK, especially as I have been a fan of the blog since it started. To be invited to blog with such a group of fabulous authors is an enormous honour. It's lovely to have a place to share enthusiasms with others who are as interested by this particular era of history as I am.


Illustration from Lydia's Story

New member

We are delighted to welcome Jane Odiwe to the blog as a new member of Historical Romance UK. Jane is a long-time Austen fan and the author of Effusions of Fancy, which is a charming and light hearted portrayal of a youthful Jane Austen as seen through the eyes of her sister Cassandra. Look out for the book on the DVD of The Jane Austen Book Club, where it is featured.

You will find links to Jane's blog and website at the left, and you will be hearing more from her on Historical Romance UK!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Regency food

Fans of the Sharpe series and anyone interested in food in the Regency period will be delighted to learn that a new cookbook is coming out featuring recipes from Sharpe and his men. It can be ordered online and it can be shipped overseas, so Regency fans outside the UK can enjoy it, too.

It looks an interesting book for all Regency fans, and it's for a good cause as all author royalties are being donated to the National Osteoporosis Society (UK).

To find out more, please click here

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hope you enjoy the latest Regency Lady

I found time to do this for you, Anne

The Journal of A Regency Lady 15

The Journal of A Regency Lady 15
August 30th

I have heard nothing from Harry since he left and I am worried that something has happened to him. I have very little money and I do not know what to do. Most of the English wives have moved on, and the local people are not as friendly as they were. If Harry does not write or send me some money soon I do not know how I shall manage.

September 5th

Some English soldiers came through the village today with their wives. They say that the fighting was all over more than a month ago. Wellington entered Madrid even before Harry left me. I do not understand what has happened. If there has been no large battles since then how can Harry have simply deserted me?

I asked one of the ladies if she had heard any news but she said that I should have gone with my husband when he moved on. I did not like to ask for money, but I am desperate. I have sold some of my jewellery, but the money was not one tenth of its worth. I have taken to picking fruit from the trees that grow along the road but the local people look at me angrily. Why has Harry abandoned me? Why have I heard nothing from him in weeks – and why did he not take me with him when other wives went with their husbands?

September 9th

I have not eaten for three days. I do know what I should do. I would beg for work but I cannot make myself understood. Why has Harry abandoned me?

September 11th.

I was walking in the village and I fainted for lack of food. When I came to myself a woman was tending me. She gave me some soup and tried to talk to me, but I only understood a few words. If I have enough strength I must try to get to the coast. I can sell what I have left of my jewellery and perhaps purchase a passage home. Harry must be dead for no one has news of him and he has not written or returned for me. I must make some effort to help myself or I shall die here, far away from my home.

Why has Harry not written? He must surely have been killed. There were no more large battles, but I have heard of some skirmishes. Why has no one told me?

I wish I knew what to do for the best….

Guest blogger of the month - Trisha Ashley

We are delighted to welcome Trisha Ashley to the blog, talking to us about her new Regency novel, Lord Rayven's Revenge.

Although better known for writing contemporary romance (with my latest one, Sweet Nothings, out now), my first published novel, way back in the eighties, was actually a Regency. I was a perfectionist even then, so not only did I read every bit of primary source material I could lay my hands on, but I built up a collection of actual newspapers and almanacs from the time, which I have always kept - I love dipping into them. I think you really do need to hear the voices of the people who were alive at the time you are writing about; to read their novels and diaries, their newspapers, their history books; to understand the social mores of the time, the world in which your protagonists lived and breathed.

Alys, my heroine, is constrained by her class, by the society she moves in and, most powerfully, by the fear of poverty once her widowed father has drunk away her tiny inheritance. But she is a typical Trisha Ashley heroine - quietly strong-willed, intelligent and opinionated, so she finds a way to forge a new and better life for herself through the Gothic novels she writes.
Along the way she has a disillusioning early encounter with Lord Rayven and, although he comes off worst, it rather puts her off the idea of marriage. Years later she meets him again in London and he makes it clear he hasn't forgotten her. In fact, he seems to be dogging her footsteps, though whether for revenge or some other reason remains unsure right up to the point where her very life could hang on the answer.

It was great fun to dip my toe back into the Regency world again with Lord Rayven's Revenge - and it's lovely to have books out in two different genres at once! I love to get reader's comments, and you can contact me through my website by clicking here

Thank you, Trisha, the book sounds great! Lord Rayven's Revenge, ISBN: 978-0-7090-8334-4, is available from UK bookshops, from Amazon or from Hale Books by clicking here

Trisha also sends out a quarterly newsletter, Skint Old Northern Woman, with prize draws for books and other goodies, and she is always happy to welcome new visitors to Trishaworld.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Anne's News

Hi, I just popped in to give you my news. My second of the Horne sisters trilogy is out at the moment, the third is titled Marrying Captain Jack and comes out in December. I have two more Regency books already contracted and in with HMB for next year. After that there will be something called Dynasty and the first three volumes should be out late next year. It begins in the war of the roses but will through a long series of books come right down to the second wolrd war. A big task and one that will continue over a period of years. I have just been offered a five book contract with HMB and this will keep me out of mischief for a while.

I am going to write another piece of my Regency Lady's journal and will put that up in the next few days. Love to you all, Anne

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My life with Heyer

I discovered Georgette Heyer when I was around 13 or 14 and I can't remember which was my first one. It was love at first read. I adored the heroines, fell in love with the heroes and appreciated her research, extensive and thorough.
Heyer provided me, and still provides me, with one of the most satisfactory reading experiences I've ever had.
And she created the patten-card for the modern Regency romance. You want rakes, rich society dukes, or scoundrels? They're all there. Damerel spawned a lot of successors, but when all's said and done, there's only one Damerel!

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Georgette Heyer

I only discovered her five years ago. Her books were recommended to me by a writing friend (who also got me hooked on Terry Pratchet and Ian Rankin, but that's another story.) I read Bath Tangle and I was entranced. I swiftly trawled my local second-hand bookshop and now have all of her books. I enjoy reading widely and I also read a lot of non-fiction for research purposes. But when I'm tired or a bit low, I turn to Georgette Heyer. Not only are her books perfect comfort reading, they are also a master-class in deft plotting, appealing characters, a comprehensive understanding of the social demands and constraints of the period, and wonderful comedy.
My favourite is Faro's Daughter. Deborah Grantham is a superb heroine, spirited, honourable and loyal. Max Ravenscar - the wealthy, saturnine, arrogant Mr Max Ravenscar - is a terrific hero and a worthy adversary. The battle of wits and words that ensues between these two, who loathe and despise each other's actions while discovering aspects of each other's character that surprise then attract, is a joy to read.
That would be reason enough to enjoy this book. But for me, what makes it stand out is the wonderful character of Deb's Aunt Lizzie, Lady Bellingham, who accepted responsibility for Deb and her brother Kit after their parents' death and was then forced to open a gaming house in order to make ends meet. Aunt Lizzie's panic and bewilderment at the events erupting around her is both touching and hilarious.
It's a wonderful book. If you haven't read it, I'd recommend you get a copy at once. Then there's Devil's Cub...
Best wishes,
Jane Jackson

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hounslow Heath

One of the most important things for a historical novelist is to picture the landscape as it was in the past. Hounslow Heath was a notorious area during the 18th and 19th centuries, renowned for footpads and highwaymen. I was delighted to find this picture by Richard Wilson of the heath as it was around 1770: I have used the heath in the The Belles Dames Club for one of the incidents – I had not seen this picture then, but it fits perfectly with scene I had envisaged!

Melinda Hammond

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New Loveday cover

This is the new look paperback cover for The Loveday Revenge due for publication 1st November. I am thrilled with it for although the changes are subtle it does depict the more suspenseful and emotionally intense theme of this the eigth book in the Loveday series. Compare it to the hardback cover shown above. Which do you think is the best?

It also has extra pages with an author interview, writing tips, further information on the Loveday family and their world and a preview of the first chapter of the next book in the series.
The hardback sold out within a month of publication which was a great thrill showing the increasing popularity of the series. The paperback is available for pre-order through Amazon. You can click on to the home page of my website to read the opening chapter of The Loveday Revenge. click here

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lydia Bennet's Journal

What better for autumn than this delightful illustration from
Lydia Bennet's Journal , a new blog by Jane Odiwe.

Jane will need no introduction to Austen fans as she is the author and illustrator of Effusions of Fancy, which is featured on the DVD of The Jane Austen Book Club.

So if you're an Austen fan, hop on over to Lydia's Journal and read more about the youngest Bennet girl and see more of Jane's delightful water colours.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


John Keats (1795-1821)
Autumn has arrived in England, with its crisp days and its changing colours.
Perhaps the best known poem about autumn is from the Regency period, by John Keats. Here's the first verse, to complement the new season.


SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Regencies on the High Seas!

My new novella, The Pirate’s Kiss, will be published by Harlequin Historicals next month in the Regency Christmas Wedding Belles anthology, which also features stories by Margaret McPhee and Miranda Jarrett.

The Pirate’s Kiss is the sequel to my Bluestocking Brides book The Rake’s Mistress, in which the heroine’s brother was the privateer Daniel de Lancey.

Here is a sneak preview of the story…

Daniel De Lancey is a pirate - beyond the law and beyond love. He risks his life secretly in the service of his country but when he meets his childhood sweetheart again, he cannot risk his heart. Lucinda Melville bitterly regrets the youthful passion she shared with Daniel and has sworn never to fall into his arms again. But when she meets the dashing pirate again it seems that the love they shared has never died…

To celebrate the publication I have a special contest on my website at to win some luxurious pampering perfume and pillow mist!

Happy reading!


The Influence of Georgette Heyer - Part 8

I discovered Georgette Heyer's books in my teens and I can still remember the first one I read, it was The Talisman Ring. I was swept away by the adventure, the romance and the humour, and as soon as I'd finished it I wanted more. I read as many Heyers as I could find in quick succession, and I love them all, but my favourite is Cotillion.

Cotillion is, to me, a perfect book. It has wit, it has sparkle, it has endearing characters, it has some very funny scenes - I always laugh out loud at the end, when Dolph is popping in and out of cupboards - and, best of all, it takes the cliches of romantic fiction and stands them on their head. So successfully does it do this, that by the end of the book, no other outcome seems possible.

I cheer for Kitty throughout the book because she is determined to have some fun and not, NOT, to be a poor little squab of a dowdy. She's resilient, she's enterprising, she's a good friend, and she deserves to be happy. How could anyone not fall in love with her?

And then there's Freddy. Ah, Freddy! Just the sort of man you need if you find yourself caught outside in the rain.

If you haven't yet read this wonderful book, then what are you waiting for?! You have a treat in store.

Amanda Grange

Amanda's latest book is a retelling of Jane Austen's 'Emma' from Mr Knightley's point of view. For more information about her books, please visit her website by clicking here

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Rational Romance

I have just received the finished cover for my latest novel, A Rational Romance and would like your views on it. The cover is very different from all the others - it is a little reflective, perhaps. What do you think? The girl is very much as I imagined Rosamond - dark-haired and waif-like but with an independent spirit which lands her in trouble! I set this story in 1803, during a short-lived peace between England and France. This allowed me to take my characters to France. However, when hostilities were resumed that year, many English people were trapped in France and imprisoned, some for many years until the Abdication of Bonaparte in 1814. I love this story - we have a hero and heroine who are both determined to be sensible, so what could possibly go wrong?

A Rational Romance is published by Robert Hale in November 2007
England 1803.

Elliot Malvern, seventh Marquis of Ullenwood is very content with his bachelor lifestyle, spending his fortune on the pleasurable pursuits of gambling and mistresses. Rosamond Beaumarsh is determined to remain unmarried and independent.

What, then, could persuade them plunge into an adventure that carries them to post-revolutionary Paris and takes them on a headlong flight across France? Only the exercise of logic.

The pair embark upon a romantic adventure and learn that rational thought has very little to do with true love……

Melinda Hammond

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mr Knightley's Diary

The paperback of Mr Knightley's Diary is out today! Look out for it in your local book shop if you're in the US. UK readers will have to purchase it online, I'm afraid, as the paperback isn't out in the UK.

I thought it would be fun to see what Mr Knightley was doing on October 2nd, so here's an exclusive extract.

Friday October 2nd

After the noise and grime of London, it is good to be home.
I was struck anew with the beauty of Donwell Abbey, with its low, sheltered situation, and its avenues of timber. I left my horse in the stables and walked through the meadow and down to the stream. The light was fading, but there was still enough to see by and the low sunlight sparkled on the water. I thought of happy years spent fishing there with John, and I watched it as it trickled along.

I turned and walked back to the house, and was warmed by the sight of it. The west front was catching the last rays of light, which gleamed on the spires and arched windows. They brought out the detail in the carvings of birds and fruit, and I thought of the craftsmen who had made them centuries ago. After John’s town house, I welcomed the Abbey’s ancient walls, and its familiar sprawl.

I ate my dinner in solitary splendour, and afterwards I walked to Hartfield to give Emma and her father all the London news.
I found them about to play backgammon, but they abandoned their game as I entered the room. Mr Woodhouse fussed about my health, and the damp and the dirt, but I did not pay him much attention. Instead, I let my eyes wander to Emma.

I was struck at once by the difference in her. With her governess in the house, Emma had always seemed like a schoolgirl, but with Miss Taylor gone, she seemed more like a young woman. She was taking her new condition well. She could not but miss the company of Miss Taylor, but she was making an effort to be cheerful. Her face broke out in a smile when she saw me, and it elicited an answering smile from me.
She asked about her sister, and her nephews and nieces.

‘Did Isabella like the baby’s cap?’ she asked.
‘Very much. She said it had come just in time, as Emma had outgrown the last one.’
‘And did the boys and Bella like their presents?’
‘Yes, they did. John complained there was no present for him.’
‘I will have to make him a cap the next time you go to London!’ Emma said.
‘And how did the wedding go?’ I asked.
‘Ah! Poor Miss Taylor!’ sighed Mr Woodhouse, who, I fear, will be lamenting the marriage ‘til Doomsday. ‘She will miss us, I fear.’

‘We all behaved charmingly,’ said Emma. ‘Everybody was punctual, everybody in their best looks: not a tear, and hardly a long face to be seen. We all felt that we were going to be only half a mile apart, and were sure of meeting every day. Besides, it had an added matter of joy to me, and a very considerable one - that I made the match myself.’
So she is still claiming to have made the marriage, despite everything I can say to give her a more rational view!

‘My dear, pray do not make any more matches, they are silly things, and break up one's family circle grievously,’ said her father.
I could not help giving a wry smile at this novel view of marriage!
‘Only one more, papa; only for Mr. Elton. Poor Mr. Elton! You like Mr. Elton, papa. I must look about for a wife for him.’
I shook my head at her delusions.
‘Depend upon it, a man of six or seven-and-twenty can take care of himself,’ I told her.

Nevertheless, I find myself half hoping she will attempt it. I cannot make her see sense, but when she fails in this new endeavour it will teach her that her powers are nothing out of the ordinary, and that she had better leave other people to manage their own affairs!

Amanda Grange