Thursday, February 28, 2008

Starting the WIP

A WIP - Work In Progress is always exciting.
When you start plotting, I'm convinced this is going to be your best yet.
After you're first chapter, I'm full of enthusiasm for it.
Half way through, it's turgid and I get bogged down in the plot. Why did I ever start it?
Towards the end, it picks up speed and I have to stop for a quick weep when my hero and heroine get together. Sorry, but I do tend to get involved as I write!
Finished, I'm sure it's complete rubbish.
Then I start to edit. After I've got rid of the usual errors, the words I always overuse, the inconsistencies, the scenes that go nowhere, do nothing, I start again.
This edit is to add the touches that, hopefully will make the book sparkle. The cutting and cleaning done, it's time to beautify. And finally, finally, I start to think "This isn't so bad after all!"

My last WIP went badly. It took a month longer than usual because I started with the wrong heroine, one my hero (Chris Keys, for those of you who read the Pure Wildfire books) was more than happy to take to bed, but he stubbornly refused to fall in love with. And she wasn't too smitten by him, either. So I gave him the heroine he wanted and the whole book came alive. I had to rewrite the book right from the start, because the original plot wouldn't work for her. She's been in the series before, but I never saw her as heroine material, until Chris did. And he did. They burned up the pages together.

I'm at the very start of a new project - Corin's story in the Triple Countess series. I have a heroine in mind for Corin, but I need to do some scenes with them together to see how she works out for him. Let's hope this one works first time!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


You may recall that the North West Libraries and the Romantic Novelists Association have been running the Pure Passion event, where readers have been able to vote for the best romantic read published in the past ten years. Last week we had our Finale when the winner was announced - Christina Jones, writer of fantastic romantic comedies, topped the poll with her book Love Potions. The joint runners up were Elizabeth Chadwick's The Scarlet Lion (a historical, hooray!!!) and Linda Gillard's Emotional Geology. Well done to all of them, and there are pictures from the event on my website at if anyone wants to take a peak. It just shows that sometimes writers do get away from their desks and party!

Melinda Hammond

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Bittersweet Proposal

My fifth Regency romance, A Bittersweet Proposal, is to be published by Robert Hale in June. The book follows the fortunes of Harriet Aston, who is struggling to keep her family's cider production business profitable following the recent death of her father. Under the unusual tenancy arrangements agreed upon with Lord Rothwell before Harriet was born, her family is entitled to reside at Matlock House rent free provided the business shows an annual profit.

Since her father's demise one misfortune after another has befallen Harriet and she urgently needs to reassure the new Lord Rothwell, reputed to be a callous individual, that she will soon set matters to rights. But he ignores all her missives and Harriet fears that her family will soon be without a roof over its head.

A Bittersweet Proposal is set in Kent and I recently received the artwork from Hale for the jacket design. I'm very pleased with their proposal as I feel it captures the essence of the story very well. It shows Harriet in the background picking apples and although she's wearing a gown, whereas I usually have her clad in breeches during her working days, I am still happy with the overall depiction.

What do you think?

Wendy Soliman

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pride & Prejudice: Is this Mr Darcy?

I've been looking through my collection of costume pictures and I found one I took at the Museum of Costume in Bath, a couple of years ago, when they were doing a special exhibition of Jane Austen costumes from film and TV. I do rather think that the male mannequin at the back of the display case looks rather like Colin Firth. Do you agree?

Looking back at these pictures reminded me that an awful lot of white was worn and it probably got quite boring. This, for example, is a beautiful gown, but I think it needs that fabulous shawl to liven it up. This one is real, by the way, dating from about 1800, and made of white embroidered muslin (part of Bath's historic collection).

Just to prove that they didn't always wear white, though, I've put up a couple of more colourful gowns for you to drool over. This one is from the production of Emma. A very subtle shade of green, with a beautiful blond lace overdress.

And these two are from the production of Persuasion. Don't the colours zing?

I can quite understand why, from time to time, the ladies of the period longed for something other than white. And really vibrant colours were perfectly acceptable, especially if you were a little older.

Which of these gowns would you covet for yourself, if you were a Regency lady?


Gothic Romance

Gothic fiction is something that mixes elements of both horror and romance. It's generally believed to be have been invented by the English writer Horace Walpole with his 1764 novel, The Castle of Otranto. All books of this genre had to include terror, both physical and psychological, the supernatural , haunted houses, Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, doubles, madness, secrets and heriditary curses!!
The stock characters are tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, Byronic heroes, persecuted maidens, madwomen, skeletons, ghosts and even the Devil himself.

Further contributions to this getnre came from the Romantic poets, such as Coleridge's, Christabel, and Keats's, La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Lady Caroline Lamb published her own Gothic novel in 1816, Glenarvon, and Mary Shelley, wrote Frankenstein, in 1818. Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey satirizes Gothic Romances.

This genre has remained popular over the years and more modern practioners are Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Catherine Cookson and Dorothy Eden.

I'm in the throws of writing my own 'Gothic romance' and am finding it a balancing act keeping it credible with all the 'spooky ghosts' thing going :-). I'll let you know if I succeed!
My latest book, A DEBT OF HONOUR Robert Hale, is released next week in hardback but this book will also be available as an e-book on regencyreads at the end of March.
Don't forget to order it at your UK library.
Fenella Miller

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mr Knightley's Diary

I'm just dropping in again to show you the cover for the reissue of Mr Knightley's Diary in large print, which I've just received.

I love the inkwell and the diary, and I think the city in the background is very evocative. I'm very pleased with it - I'd definitely pick this book up if I saw it in a shop or a library.

It makes a marked contrast to the paperback cover, but I love them both in their own ways. The paperback cover is very pretty. I particularly like the scrollwork and the oval for the title. Penguin are continuing this look for the other paperback covers, but more of that later!

And don't forget, if you're in the US, you can soon see the Andrew Davies version of Emma on PBS, it's well worth a viewing.

Amanda Grange

Friday, February 22, 2008

The English Weather

We've had some weird and wonderful weather in the UK this month. Earlier in the month we had the hottest February days since records began, and it wasn't unusual to see people strolling around without their coats on, which is unheard of for England in February - it's definitely a coat, scarf and gloves time of year! And then, just as we were getting used to the heat, we woke up to ice instead.

I had the best of both worlds - sun and ice - when I went to visit Tatton Park, a beautiful Georgian stately home. The house was bathed in sunlight . . .

. . . whilst the ducks were skating around on the ice instead of swimming in the lake. It must have been cold for their feet!

And I loved the sight of a rhododendon in bloom, with frost all around it and a frozen lake in front of it. I'm not sure what variety it is, but presumably it must be an early bloomer. Even so, I've never seen a rhododendron out in February before. If anyone recognises it, I'd love to know what it is.

Although the house is Georgian, the gardens were mainly remodelled in the Edwardian era and they've been restored to their Edwardian splendour. The Japanese garden was made at this time, as Japanese gardens were in vogue. Maybe this will put you in the mood for Nicola's Edwardian romance, which is due out soon!

Amanda Grange

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It has been a busy month!

Yesterday, I went to the RNA Cambridge Chapter meeting and met with some fellow authors, two of whom were fellow Mills & Boon authors. Havin already been to two other writing funtions this has been exceptional for me as I spend most of my time at the computer as a rule.

My new Regency for Amira Press seems to be selling reasonably well in ebook format and should be out in print soon. My first Regency for Mills and Boon this year is coming out in April. The Unknown Heir/Anne Herries. It will be followed by The Homeless Heiress and then the dynasty books will begin.

I am very much looking forward to this series, which will progress from the the Wars of The Roses down through the Ages to the WW11 hopefully. This is what we have planned and I was particularly asked if I was going to continue it at the RNA luncheon so my editors are keen. I have written the first three. Forbidden Lady was published in USA last year and The Lord's Forced Bride comes out very soon there too.

I have received good reviews for Love Is Not Enough/Anne Herries/Severn House. This is the first of a series and my editor thinks it is an exciting series!

Update to the above.
A shameful Secret/Anne Ireland/amira Press went to number one in the Amira Press section of Fictionwise and number two in the overall Historical Fiction section, just under Ken follet and above Bernard Cornwall. It has now dropped one place but it was there!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Miss Austen Disapproves?


On Sunday 10th February I found myself – much to my surprise – in the BBC Breakfast studio about to appear live discussing sex and Mills & Boon with the editor of the Erotic Review.

Had M&B become sexier, racier and generally more erotic? the interviewers wanted to know. Well, yes, I said. M&B always changes with the times. Today different lines have different levels of sensuality and explicitness and the Historical line allows authors, and readers, a wide range from sweet to sizzling.

James McLean from the Erotic Review was positive about M&B and genre fiction, and we got on like a house on fire - which probably came as a disappointment to the producers who were doubtless hoping for a dramatic confrontation between fainting M&B author in twin set and pearls and hardened rake of the publishing world (but then, we Historical writers all love a rake).

But it did make me think afresh about sex and authenticity. Yes, virginal young ladies launched on the Season were very strictly chaperoned and once ‘ruined’ really had ruined their marriage prospects. But sex wasn’t invented in 1963, despite what Philip Larkin thought. I looked afresh at the family trees of my highly respectable (admittedly middle class) 19th century ancestors. Either they were strangely prone to premature births on both sides of the family or pre-marital sex had been discovered. And there are enough stories to be found in literature and the press of the time about seduction, abduction, elopement and such goings-on to make one realise that, statistically, there must have been much illicit lovemaking where the young ladies were not found out.

This print is entitled The Shower Bath and was published in 1813 by Ackermann (a publisher better known for his Repository of Arts journal and not for racy prints). I'd love to know if the gentleman is an intruder or whether the young ladies were sneaking a shower in his trendy new bathroom.

I write historical romances that the Romantic Times categorises as “Hot”. My hero and heroine enjoy a range of sexual encounters in as wide a variety of settings as I can imagine – so am I being historically inaccurate? Sometimes, no doubt. But I enjoy a sexy story and it seems my readers do too. So, how to overcome the problem without creating improbably forward young ladies? I find my heroines these days are rather older and come from slightly unconventional backgrounds. They meet the hero on far more equal terms than the sheltered young miss who has just had her come-out, and they articulate what they want more directly.

So far in my Those Scandalous Ravenhursts series I’ve written about two widows, a governess who is pretending to be a courtesan and a bluestocking with an independent view of the world. The first of these, The Dangerous Mr Ryder, featuring a Grand Duchess and a government agent, is out in March.

But it does amuse me when I’m asked how on earth I get the experience to write about some of these situations. Have I ever made love in the sea off Corfu, tied to the bunk in a pirate ship, in a carriage or a Turkish harem or on a polar bear skin rug? No, unfortunately, although I think I would, given the choice, skip the pirate ship… Um, on second thoughts perhaps not… Johnny Depp… Writers have an imagination, and sometimes it is a very steamy one indeed.

Louise Allen

Monday, February 18, 2008

Heroes of the sea

Yesterday, while out walking on the coastal footpath beside the Helford River, I saw the Falmouth lifeboat practising pick-ups from the water. A brisk north-easterly breeze had created a strong swell on which the stationary lifeboat reared and plunged. Once the final pick-up had been made and everyone was safely below, the coxswain increased power to the two huge engines and the lifeboat gathered speed, creating great clouds of spray that completely hid the boat as it roared through the waves and headed out into the bay on its way back to Falmouth.

Back in the late 1700s – the period in which Devil’s Prize is set, there were no lifeboats. If a boat was in difficulties, rescue for the men aboard depended on another boat being close enough to help. Only too aware of the dangers they faced each time they went to sea, men crewing cargo ships, sailors in the naval fleet, and fishermen rarely learned to swim, reasoning that if their boat went down in a storm or was sunk in battle if there was no immediate chance of rescue it was better to drown quickly.

Watching the lifeboat made me realise that despite the advances in technology that have given us satellite navigation, radar, mobile phones and self-righting life-boats, for anyone in trouble at sea rescue depends ultimately on the courage and selflessness of other men and women, people who - each time there's a "shout" -willing put their own lives at risk in an effort to save others.

Jane Jackson.
Devil's Prize Robert Hale January 2008.
Available from libraries, bookshops, &

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Gothic Horror - in Battersea!

At the end of last year I went to see Punchdrunk Productions’ version of The Masque of the Red Death, a fantastic promenade performance where the audience move freely around the whole building while the cast act out their scenes. We were all instructed not to talk as we moved around and we were given plague masks – expressionless white masks that added to the spooky atmosphere. Some of us even found our way to a wardrobe room where we were issued with hooded cloaks. It was quite amazing to join a queue of silent, masked figures waiting patiently to be cloaked by an extremely tall gentleman whose facial expression remained stony throughout the whole procedure.

There were curtained, smoky corridors, stone stairs led down to a crypt and the main staircase – a beautiful Victorian marble affair – was decorated with additional statues and became a wonderful back-drop for much of the evening’s action, which was based on the horror stories of Edgar Allan Poe. The low lighting – candles or very dim lamps – produced a claustrophobic effect – I had a very strong desire to switch on a light, which of course I could not do. There were lots of shadowy corners and corridors and the effect was very disorienting.

There was a bar area where one could relax (but only slightly): masks could be removed, drinks purchased and there was Music Hall style entertainment – but even this had a dark edge as the audience recognised characters they had seen in other rooms.

As a writer of historical novels I enjoyed the way the past had been recreated – I strained my eyes to examine the pen and ink drawings in the low light and to read the hand-written wine-tasting notes in the wine cellar, I peered into dark corners where I was sure someone was lurking and I was amazed at how much the other senses come into play when the lighting is poor – rooms smelled of incense or perfume and the touch of a woman’s rough woollen sleeve was almost shocking. EVeryone was brought together in a "ballroom" for the finale, a wonderful display of dance and physical theatre - bodies being flung around like rag dolls and the Grim Reaper making his entrance to finish it all off!

I loved it - I can’t say I understood everything that was going on, but then, that’s true of every Gothic heroine, is it not?

Although my books have their share of mystery and adventure, I have never written a gothic novel, but after this experience I am tempted to try it!

This production is still going on in London but it is extremely popular, and when I last checked the website, it was a sell-out.

Melinda Hammond

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ladies indulge yourself.

BBC4 Double bill Pride & Prejudice 7.10-9pm Saturday 16 February

Indulge yourselves tonight ladies.Guard the remote control with your life. Put your feet up on the sofa with a glass of wine, a box of chocolates, even the smelling salts if you are the swooning type. Tonight is the night for the most memorable scene of all. For those who missed the first two episodes last week, this is the definitely the week to watch as Darcy not only declares his feelings for Elizabeth but goes for that swim…..

Meanwhile back in our world I was excited to receive the cover for The Loveday Secrets due out in hardback in May. I love the evocative background with the waterfall and moor. Headline have again come up with that magical touch.

This is book nine in the series and when a friend asked me if it was difficult to come up with fresh ideas for the plots when you know the characters so well I came back with I did not know their secrets. And then I realised that no matter how well you know your own family and friends they can always surprise us with a revelation from their past . How often has dear Aunt Ethel said something tantalisingly intriguing about a family member and when questioned remarked ‘we do not talk about that.’ I could not wait to discover these aspects of my fictional character and found it the most fascinating book of the series to write.

A family as tempestuous as the Lovedays has many dangerous secrets…

Kate Tremayne

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Brighton Encampments

After war was declared against the French in February 1793, several military encampments were set up along the south coast.Over the following years the fields surrounding the area became enormous tented army camps filled with Militia from all over the country.
A plan of the first encampment was printed on the fabric of a lady's fan, which was probably produced as a souvenir and can still be seen in Worthing museum.
The Prince of Wales, who was the Colonel in Chief of the 10th Light Dragoons had a tent far superior to any ever seen before on a battlefield. It had several ante rooms and even a kitchen. The newspapers often reported that the Prince took his duties very seriously, suggesting he did his share of night watch. However, his comfortable home often tempted him to abscond and on 2nd September 1793 a huge storm swept away many of the tents leaving those who rushed to his rescue to think they need not have bothered.

The 1794 encampment was on top of Brighton's Race Hill.When a message came to say that the French had landed on the seashore, panic ensued and the soldiers rushed down to the beach to defend the coastline. As they appeared in unfamiliar uniforms, the fishermen and bathing women set about them mistaking the soldiers for the enemy. It turned out the message had been nothing but a false alarm, sent by the Prince who thought it would be a huge joke.

'Brighton Camp' was written in 1796 and became a popular song and dance of the day. I imagined Lydia Bennet hearing it played by the military fifes and drums during parades.

I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill, and over the moor and valley,
Such a heavy thought my heart do fill, since parting with my Sally.
I seek no more the fine and gay, for each does but remind me,
How swift the hours pass away, with the girl I left behind me.
With the girl I left behind me.

There were regular encampments at this time between the years 1793-1803 and Jane Austen must have thought there could be no place more likely to tempt her wayward character, Lydia Bennet.

'She saw herself the object of attention to tens and to scores of them at present unknown. She saw all the glories of the camp-its tents stretched forth with beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and to complete the view, she saw herself beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with six officers at once.' From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Odiwe

Lydia Bennet's Story available on Amazon

Thursday, February 14, 2008

RNA favourite heroes

Members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association have voted Johnny Depp as the Number One Perfect Romantic Hero in a poll to mark Valentine’s Day. According to these authors, a romantic hero should be gorgeous, deliciously sexy, intensely masculine and have a commanding presence.
‘We should be qualified to judge,’ one writer commented. ‘After all, we create these heroes on paper every day.’

The top ten male celebrities voted the Perfect Romantic Hero were:

1. Johnny Depp

2. Daniel Craig

3. Sean Bean

4. Richard Armitage

5. Hugh Jackman

6. Colin Firth

7. Alan Rickman

8. Pierce Brosnan

9. George Clooney

10. David Tennant

So do you agree with the poll? Who would come at the top of your list of romantic heroes?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Met By Chance

A new book out in time for Valentine's Day!

There’s more to this man than satin and lace.

After a serious riding accident, Perdita Garland is back in society. Unfortunately the first man who catches her interest, Charles Dalton, Marquis of Petherbridge, turns out to be a popinjay with a spoiled daughter in tow. And his equally spoiled sister is flirting with the same fortune-hunting suitor who almost cost Perdita her life. What’s a lady to do? Warn the marquis of the danger, of course.

Charles knows that English society finds his manners and dress astonishing, but they cover a man broken by a disastrous marriage to a faithless wife. Now a widowed father determined not to be fooled again, he is nevertheless charmed by Perdita and the steely strength of will under her fragile exterior. If only the lady would mind her own business.

But when his impulsive sister elopes and kidnaps his daughter, he finds himself wishing he had listened to the little busybody. And Perdita, feeling partly responsible for the disaster, boldly sets out to help him put things right.

Alone in a strange city with his lordship, plunged into danger, Perdita discovers there is more than meets the eye under the pampered skin of the marquis. There is strength, power…and passion beyond her wildest dreams.

Met By Chance, from Samhain Publishing

There's more to this man than satin and lace!
Order Page:

A sharp exclamation, swiftly bitten off before the profanity entirely escaped his lips made her pay complete attention to the man by her side. “Good God, what is she doing here?” he cried, in a completely different tone of voice.

If she was less surprised, Perdita might have admired his skill in bringing his horses to a swift halt, and even more by his athletic leap from the vehicle, while his tiger scrambled to take the reins and climb up beside her. He started in the direction of the trees, a discreet gathering of oaks and sycamores, intended, she assumed, for added privacy, if needed. A flash of yellow drew her attention to a parasol wielded by a lady with her back to them, her hand resting on the arm of a man Perdita knew and had long wished she didn’t.


Charles was halfway to the trees before he realised just how improper his behaviour was. He didn’t stop walking, since the deed was done, but he owed Lady Perdita a deep apology for his behaviour. The trouble was, once he saw Millicent heading for the undergrowth he knew precisely what would happen next.

Exactly what happened last time. Only this time the result might not be as favourable as the last. His sister was an accomplished flirt, and didn’t know where to draw the line. The last time it had taken a fortune to quiet the budding scandal. Kissing a man in the corridor at the Opera they had, not unnaturally, been seen. She was at it again, and Charles intended to save himself considerable expenditure by finishing it now.

They were some way ahead, Millicent and the unknown man, and Charles hadn’t caught up with them by the time they disappeared between the trees. Only a flick of blue from Millicent’s gown betrayed their progression to the rear of the copse, where it was darkest. Charles quickened his stride, until he heard something behind him and turned to see the cause of it.

Damn! Lady Perdita was determinedly following. Why couldn’t she have waited in the phaeton? He would have to take her into his confidence now. Charles frowned when he saw her stumble on the rough ground. He had no choice. He waited for her.

Her breath came in short gasps, and it was only then he recollected her accident, the one that had broken both her legs. His agitation had driven the memory momentarily out of his mind. Lady Perdita had only been ambulant for a year, and still felt the effects of such severe injury. He’d felt as much last night, when he’d danced with her. He cursed his carelessness that made him forget.

She stared at him, getting her breath back. “Don’t stop! Go after them!”

Astonished, Charles held his arm out for her. “Come. We’ll go after them together. How did you know?”

She shot him a frowning look. “What else could it be but an impending scandal? Who is she?”

“My sister Millicent.” The hand on his sleeve tightened, but she did not use him as support, instead using it to help her quicken her stride.

They reached the trees. “Where are they?” he wondered. In the time he’d taken his attention from his sister to attend to Lady Perdita, Millicent had disappeared.


All he could hear was her laboured breathing, slowly settling.

Then he heard a giggle, some way distant. “There!” He set off as quickly as he could, considering he had to consider someone else. He didn’t have to tow her, although his pace was probably too quick for her.

The trees here, past the sycamores, were old elms, interspersed with newer saplings, an artificial construct. Not being familiar with Hyde Park, he wasn’t sure where they led. Although reading his mind she said, “This comes out by the Serpentine. There will be people there.”

He let out the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. “She’s a flirt,” he said, lightly, “but too young to have complete control of herself. I returned from France to find her deep in trouble, and having extricated her from that, I have no desire to see her do it again.”

“She could empty your coffers.”

So she realised just how he’d extricated Millicent last time. He glanced at Lady Perdita’s face, and saw total understanding there. He hoped he saw discretion, too. His irritation with his sister grew. He had been enjoying his drive, and enjoying her company. Millicent had ruined it. He dismissed his twinge of regret and plunged on, determined to do his duty.

Lady Perdita kept up, gamely refusing to lean on his arm, but determinedly keeping pace with him. When he glanced at her, he saw her lips tightly compressed, a sure sign of strain. He prayed the swift walk would do her legs no damage and fervently wished she’d remained behind.

They came out of the trees suddenly, a small copse, but artfully designed. People strolled this side of the bank of trees, enjoying the fine day and the view of the small river winding through the park. The sunlight blinded him and he blinked while his eyes adjusted to the altered circumstances. Then he spied his sister and the unknown man. She stopped walking, and faced her suitor, ready for his kiss.

Charles watched, aghast, as Millicent moved closer to her swain. How much this time? Two thousand? Three? More?

Then another couple moved out of the trees, heading for the Serpentine. Charles recognised them at once. The Earl and Countess of Ilford. Incorruptible leaders of society. If they saw this little scene, the game would be up, and his sister married to a man who was likely a fortune hunter, prepared to milk Charles and his family of everything he could get, and more importantly, make Millicent’s life a misery.

He felt a tug on his sleeve, and he turned, but without taking his attention from the awful scene being enacted before him. When he finally looked at Lady Perdita, the entreaty in her eyes startled him. Her hand curled behind his neck, and he bent towards her, rather than resist. Then he realised what she was about.

A distraction. Perfect.

Their lips met. Feeling hers part under his, Charles succumbed to the urges never far under the skin since he’d met her last night and clasped her closer, so she couldn’t get away even if she wanted to. Her mouth hot under his, he pushed her lips further apart with his own, so he could enter her with his tongue.

Exquisite hot, damp, warmth. Something he hadn’t felt for five years. The welcoming, feminine form moved closer, and his hands tightened on the warm silk of her gown, giving himself up to the kiss, forgetting everything but their startlingly intimate embrace.

When she gasped, he pushed his tongue between her lips in exploration, found the firm, sweet roof of her mouth and stroked it, as though caressing her bare skin with his hands. She was open to him, unknowingly offering all she could give, and if it weren’t for the time and the place he would be tempted to take it.

His own thoughts reminded him of the time and place. Allowing courtesy to dictate his actions, he slackened his grip, removed his tongue from her inviting mouth and finished the kiss with a quiet, closed mouth caress.

Charles allowed himself a moment to gaze at her, so close, her wondrous blue eyes as dazed as he knew his own must be. Then, brought back to the immediacy of the situation, he drew back and looked around him.

Lynne Connolly

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

As we approach February 14th we'd like to wish all our readers a happy Valentine's Day. The origins of the day date back to the third century when St Valentine annoyed the emperor Claudius II. Claudius had him thrown in jail, where he fell in love with the gaoler’s daughter and sent her a letter signed, From your Valentine.

The day has been celebrated down the centuries. Some notable supporters of the day were Charles, Duke of Orleans, who sent a Valentine’s poem to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, after he was captured at the Battle of Agincourt and King Henry V, who had John Lydgate write a Valentine note for Catherine of Valois.

But perhaps the greatest supporter of the day was Henry VIII, who made February 14th "St. Valentine's Day" by Royal Charter.

We hope that your Valentine's Day brings you everything you wish for!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Would Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) be shocked?

Would the gorgeous Mr Darcy, pictured on the left in the infamous wet shirt, have been shocked if he had met the young lady on the right in his garden?
This is my latest cover from Ulverscroft LP and for some reason the artist has portrayed her in what look like her undregarments- and Victorian ones at that!
The heroine is, in fact, ash blonde and very aware that she is an aristrocat and is a stickler for convention. She would rather die than appear clothed in this way. Her arms bare, and her neck line plunging - and in the garden too!
Lady Allegra Humphry was shocked to the core when her head groom was obliged to place his arms around her when she fainted, I can just imagine her reaction if she met Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) emerging from her lake in a dripping wet shirt.
Would he have been shocked or enchanted?
This LP version of,THE MESALLIANCE is available from Amazon and to borrow from a UK library. My latest book, A DEBT OF HONOUR, (set in Constable country, Dedham, Essex) is out at the end of this month.
Fenella Miller
Best wishes

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth

My spies tell me that today is the day when the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice starts to be shown on TV in the US. For those who haven’t seen it yet, there’s a treat in store. At least, most Austen fans on this side of the pond think so.

I have two vivid impressions of watching the first episode. The script, by Andrew Davies, seemed to have used more of Jane Austen’s original dialogue than any other adaptation I could remember. What’s more, the actors delivered Austen’s witty lines to perfection. Mr Bennet, in particular, seemed to me to be ideally written and cast: sharp-tongued and long-suffering, certainly, but self-indulgent and weak, as well.

And then there was Colin Firth as Darcy, brooding like a volcano about to blow.

All Austen fans will have their own mental image of how Mr Darcy should look and sound. Was this Mr Darcy too silent, too brooding in the early stages to be true hero material? For the women of Longbourn and Meryton, Darcy’s single status and ten thousand pounds a year had made him as handsome as it was possible to be. Until it was decided that he was proud and disagreeable, of course, and shockingly rude.

It can’t be an easy role for any actor, especially in the early part of the story. Darcy begins by being admired, and fawned upon. But then he becomes detested. He has to be taciturn, and moody, and abrupt when forced into speech. What's more, he has hardly any lines to say. None of that makes for a character that is easy for us, the viewers, to like.

Do we empathise with Colin Firth’s Darcy because we already know how the story will end?
Or because we’ve seen a trailer for the later, sexier Darcy?

Or is it because Firth takes us behind the prickly exterior to the man beneath?

There’s something special about this portrayal, I think. That wistful quality when he gazes out of the window at Lizzie playing with the dog. Is this Darcy a man who never enjoys such carefree, simple pleasures? Is this a man who always has to consider the consequences before be speaks, or acts?

Later, in perhaps the most famous scene of this adaptation, we see Firth’s Darcy doing all of those things, as he changes his way of living, driven by his desire to earn Lizzie's regard.. He indulges in simple pleasure, just because he wants to. He gives no thought to possible consequences. Yet the consequences are real, and wonderfully embarrassing, both for him and for Lizzie Bennet. It makes the viewer smile. And warm to the Darcy that Firth has become.

Just in case there are some viewers out there who haven’t yet heard what happens in that famous scene, I’m saying nothing more here (though I'm afraid that Wendy has given the game away in her earlier post). It’s not authentic Jane Austen, of course, but it’s true to the spirit of her story. And when you see it, you’ll know exactly what I mean.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Pride and Prejudice - Colin Firth

Those of you in America who haven't yet seen Andrew Davies' 1995 critically acclaimed adaptation of Jane Austen's best loved novel are in for a treat when the first episode hits your television screens tomorrow. A strong cast, led by Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, bring Austen's Britain to life so impressively that when it was first shown in the UK it attracted a whole new generation of fans to Austen's novels.

David Bamber, in turn pompous and obsequious, makes a superb Mr Collins whilst Alison Steadman's portrayal of Mrs Bennet, cringe-makingly embarrassing at times, reminds us there were were few stratagems a mother with five daughters to marry off wasn't prepared to stoop to in order to see them comfortably settled.

Ehle shines in the role of the principled and spirited Lizzie Bennet but it's Colin Firth's Darcy, with his searchingly aloof expressions and brooding good looks that stays with the viewer long after the credits have rolled. His powerful performance conveys the impression of arrogant superiority attributed to him in the book but manages to hint as well at a heart brimming with sensitivity lurking beneath his fastidiously correct exterior.

By and large the adaptation remains true to the book but there are, of course, a few deviations, the most widely documented being the famous scene where Darcy returns to Pemberley a day earlier than expected. The weather is warm and impulsively he strips off his outer garments and dives into the lake. His emergence, dripping wet, clothes stuck to his impressive torso, earned him a cult following of adoring female fans at the time. Firth himself was reported to be surprised by this, wondering how anyone could find him even remotely sexy!


Wendy Soliman

Mills & Boon 100th birthday party

The cover artwork is the copyright of Harlequin Mills & Boon Ltd. The cover I am featuring was A Damnable Rogue, which won the RNA Romance Prize of 2004

Yesterday, wearing my Anne Herries hat, I went to the 100th birthday party of this wonderful publisher. Harlequin Mills & Boon is probably the largest and most successful publisher of romance worldwide. Its books are enjoyed by millions of readers, because you can always rely on them to cheer you up and banish the blues.

The party was held at the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square, London. There were torches flaring outside and girls dressed as pink flamingoes on stilts waving feathers at arrivign guests. Inside there were wonderful flowers, a candyfloss stall and the champagne was flowing. It was a 'sad crush' as they liked to say in Regency times. So many people talking all at the same time that it was difficutl to hear the tenor and the speeches.

All the ladies were given a beautiful scented red rose and we all had goodie bags as we left. It was a glittering occasion and should bring the publicity in for the publisher. I am proud to be an HMB author and I am glad I went to the party. I met some friends and also an author who was popular in the fifties. It was quite a night and something to remember! Anne Herries

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Reticule

"All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?"

"Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know anyone who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard of a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished." From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Chapter 8.

Handbags! Where would we be without them? Recently I decided to find out more about the reticule, those bags made of net or beading or brocade that ladies carried. Being able to knit, net or crochet a purse was considered a feminine accomplishment in the late Georgian/Regency period. They were usually fastened with a drawstring, but later in the period a clasp replaced the string. The straight lines of Regency gowns did not allow for pockets and so a lady had to carry all items of importance in her reticule, or "ridicule" as it was also sometimes called. These purses were often circular or lozenge-shaped and in the same way that a handbag complements the outfit it goes with, the bag was often chosen to match a particular gown.

Here are some guidelines from the Jane Austen Centre for making your own reticule:

Materials: green silk, purple morocco [fine soft kid as from gloves] and pasteboard. Cut the bottom out of pasteboard the size you wish, and cover it with the morocco, bringing the morocco a little up the sides as a finish, the pasteboard having first been turned up for that purpose. Then sew on the four pieces of silk, and complete with a drawing string of sewing silk below to match the silk of the bag.

If we compare the contents of our handbags today with the reticules of the past, there aren't that many differences. Here is a list of the items one lady carried in her reticule:

A pocket handkerchief, a bottle of scent, a fan, a small parcel for the post, some small change, a snuffbox and powder, a mirror, smelling salts and a love letter!

In celebration of the approach of Valentine's Day I am offering visitors to my website the opportunity to win their own reticule for those all important love letters. This reticule is made of velveteen and contains a pen, pearl mirror and an advanced copy of my forthcoming Edwardian book, The Last Rake in London. To win your own reticule just log on to!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Andrew Davies talks about adapting Jane Austen

PBS have put an interview with Andrew Davies on Youtube, so if you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for! You can watch it by clicking here

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Repeal of obsolete laws

People often ask where writers get their ideas from. The answer is that they come from all over the place. They can be sparked by anything: an overheard phrase, a picture, a piece of music etc.

Something recently caught my eye which sparked various ideas in my mind, because I saw on the news that a number of obsolete laws in the UK are being repealed, including a law from 1792 which made it a criminal offence to give a false reference for a servant.

Several 'false reference' story ideas popped into my head: a good servant whose mistress gives her a bad reference because she doesn't want to lose her; or a bad servant whose mistress gives her a good reference because she wants to be rid of her.

Either one of them would lead to an interesting set of circumstances as far as Regency romance is concerned, the good servant perhaps leaving anyway and finding someone who would take her without a reference. But who would it be and why would they do that? A recluse, perhaps, scarred by the war, who found it hard to get a servant because of his disfigurement? This idea would lend itself to a Beauty and the Beast type of story. Or perhaps the maligned servant would decide to go into employment on her own account and open a milliner's shop, stepping into a new world and a new set of possibilities.

The bad servant would perhaps get a position in a good household because of her glowing reference and then create havoc, maybe because she drinks or is a slattern or a thief.

If the story was set before 1792, what would the new employer do about it? Without legal redress, would they accept the situation, or try to pass on the servant in the same way by giving a false reference, or try and curb the servant, or would they call the last employer a liar, leading - if both were men - to a duel? Or, if a man passed a bad servant on to a woman - a widow, perhaps - would she go and see him to remonstrate with him, and where would that lead? Would he be contrite? Would he tell her she was making a fuss about nothing? Would he laugh at her? Would he say that the servant worked well for him?

And if it was set after 1792, then would the new employer use the law, and where would the legal process take them? Would it form the backdrop for the book, with the hero and heroine meeting this way, perhaps with the hero being a lawyer and the heroine being a defendant wrongly accused? Or would it be a minor incident which put the heroine in a bad temper, leading to an altercation with the hero at their first meeting? Or perhaps her bad temper led to an error of judgement with serious consequences; so serious that she decided never to ride / drive a carriage / argue again? With the hero then helping to heal her.

Would the servant remain in the book as a minor character, perhaps for comic relief? Or would they disappear from the book once events had been set in motion?

All those ideas came from one small item of news. It remains to be seen if they ever transform themselves into books!

Amanda Grange

Sunday, February 03, 2008

You may have seen in our newsletter that this cover of Dance for a Diamond has been nominated for the 2007 cover awards, the winner to be chosen later this year by the members of This is a particular favourite of mine as the girl is perfect for my heroine, who describes herself as "a poor little dab of a girl, nothing to win the heart of a man of fortune or fashion!”

The following extract is from Dance for a Diamond and describes Antonia Venn's first meeting with Sir Laurence Oakford. Sir Laurence has just asked her if she has any talents:

She smiled suddenly, a full, radiant smile that lit up her face.
'Yes, I dance! My dream is to set up my own dancing school, then I need be dependent upon no man.' She looked at him. 'You think it is a foolish idea?'
'Not at all.' he said politely. 'But what about marriage?'
'What of it?'
'I thought it was every young woman’s ambition. I have a sister who seems to think of nothing else.'
She pushed away her plate.
'For me it is out of the question. You said yourself, sir, that I am ruined.'
She cut off a piece of cheese and nibbled at it, watching him. The glow of the candles softened the harsh contours of his face but did not disguise the lines of strain about the eyes. She noticed for the first time the thin scar along his jaw. A rapier, perhaps, or sword….
'Well ma’am?'
His cold tone did not disconcert her.
'I wonder how you came by the scar on your face. The Peninsula, perhaps? You are a solder?'
He ran a finger along the mark.
'Yes. A French sword. But its owner was not so fortunate. I killed him.'
She shuddered slightly.
'I am sure it was necessary.'
'Unfortunately, war makes such things necessary.'
'But the war is over. Bonaparte is safe confined on Elba and that is all behind you now.'
'Aye. Though with this damned leg wound I could not fight an I would!'
'You are alive sir. You must be thankful for that.'
'Ha! I wish to God they had left me to die at Burgos.'
She laid down her knife, shaking her head at him.
'Shame on you, sir. How dare you say so? You think yourself ill-used because you have been wounded, and that not even sufficient injury to call you ‘cripple’! Yet there are many widows in this country who would be glad to see their men with such slight disfigurement - aye, and many orphans, too, who will no longer see their Papa!' she stopped, aware that he was scowling. She said stiffly, 'I beg your pardon sir – I speak out of turn.'
'Since I arrived back in England no one has dared speak thus to me.'
'Perhaps they do not wish to add to your pain.'
'Instead they have allowed me to wallow in self pity. Yet you, a stranger -' he threw back his head, listening to the voices from the passage, a man’s deep voice was followed by a shriek of laughter. Abruptly he stood up and limped across to the bell-pull. Its summons was answered almost immediately by a liveried servant. 'Order my carriage.'
She looked up. 'You are going?'
'Yes – and so too are you. Get dressed, and fetch your things. We are leaving here.' His brows snapped together as he observed the look in her eyes. 'Good God, I have no designs on you! I will give you your fare and set you on the night mail to Bath – how will that suit you?'
'You would do that, for me? But – but why? When I – I have failed so miserably to – to ...'
He smiled grimly.
'Because you have failed so miserably! Now quickly, we must make haste if you are to catch the mail.'
Ten minutes later Sir Laurence walked through the hall with the young lady on his arm. She was wearing a sober brown pelisse and a plain, high-poke bonnet covered her soft brown curls, while in one hand she clutched a small cloth bag. Madame opened her eyes very wide at the sight of the couple and looked a question at the gentleman, who shook his head at her.
'I regret, madam, that I feel you will never succeed with this young person. She has no looks, no figure and nothing to fix the attention of any man.' He drew out a small leather purse, which he handed to the astonished woman. 'She also has friends who could make life very difficult for you. I think you would be advised to forget that she was ever here.'
He swept the young woman out of the house and into the waiting carriage before the startled dame could find her voice.
'Oh dear. Will she be very angry, do you think?'
'Not when she has counted the guineas in that purse. Do you care?'
'Not for Madame, but – is it true?' she asked in a small voice.
'That I am so – unattractive.'
He laughed and there was genuine amusement in his voice as he answered her.
'Of course not – you are well enough, but it would not do to tell Madame so.' He took the yellow rosebud from his coat and held it out to her. 'With a little polish and a more becoming dress you would be quite taking. Satisfied?'
She nodded, smiling faintly and leaned back with a sigh of contentment against the luxurious padded seat. The carriage bowled through the dark streets, past shadowy buildings with the occasional lighted window until the pace slowed and they swung into the yard of a busy coaching inn. The gentleman leaned our of the window and directed a series of questions to one of the ostlers, who tugged at his forelock and offered the information that yonder was the Bath Mail and it would be setting off within the hour. Bidding his companion remain in the carriage, Sir Laurence climbed out and went across to speak to the driver. A few minutes later he returned, holding out his hand for her to alight.
'I have purchased your ticket to Bath.' He pressed more coins into her hand as he led her across to the mail-coach. 'This should be enough to hire you a gig or some such thing to get you to your relatives, with a little extra for refreshment on the journey. You should be safe at home with them by tomorrow night.'
'Thank you, sir.' She dropped the coins into her reticule. 'If you will give me your direction I will ensure you are repaid –'
His finger pressed against her lips.
'I want no thanks for this – tomorrow I fear I shall have the very devil of a headache and will doubtless remember nothing, so you had best forget it, too.'
Her hands clasped his and she stared up at him, as if trying to memorise every feature.
'I shall never forget you – I had prayed that some sort of angel would rescue me.'
He bent his head to kiss her, holding her to him. She did not resist and for a brief moment he considered putting her back into his carriage and taking her with him. He might make her his mistress: after all it would be better than the situation in which he had found her. As the thoughts ran through his head he met the glance turned so trustingly upon him and he pushed her away.
'Get thee gone, child, before my good intentions desert me. Wait! Here, take this,' he drew the solitaire from his little finger and held it out to her.
'Oh – but – no sir – I could not!'
'Yes –' he placed it in her palm and wrapped her fingers about it. 'It was purchased for a most unworthy recipient, if you were to throw it in the river it would still be put to better use than the one I had intended.'
She put her hand up to stroke his cheek, running her finger along the fine scar on his jaw.
'She has hurt you very much, I think, sir.'
'Aye. I’ve learned a hard lesson, and I won't make the same error again. Now go, child. Take your seat.'
He bundled her almost roughly into the mail-coach and from the small window she watched as he limped across the lighted yard towards his waiting carriage, the evening cloak flapping about his shoulders like the wings of some dark angel.

Melinda Hammond

Saturday, February 02, 2008


When we have a book published we have to let people know about it. Posting the news in a blog like this is one of the ways. But there are others. I'm very fortunate to have a pal who runs his own Public Relations company. So each time a new book of mine is published, I invite him over, feed him coffee and home-made cake, and give him as much information as possible about the book's background, the characters, what prompted me to write that story, the fascinating bits of research I uncovered, etc. then leave it to him to pick what he thinks will make the most attention-grabbing press release.

Another excellent form of publicity is local radio. But this is far more nerve-wracking! Publication day for Devil's Prize was Thursday 31st of January. Donna Birrell from BBC Radio Cornwall came over to my house in the morning to do a pre-recorded interview about the book. (I fed her coffee and home-made cake too!) We ended up chatting for an hour, and she phoned me the following day to say that she had so much material she was making two shorter interviews out of it instead of one long one, to be broadcast on her afternoon show after 2.30pm on Wednesday and Thursday the 6th and 7th of February. I was delighted, pleased that I had come across well, and hugely relieved that it was all over!
If you'd like to hear the interviews, you can listen live on-line. Just go to:

Jane Jackson. Devil's Prize, published by Robert Hale. Available from

Friday, February 01, 2008


First published 1999 ADAM LOVEDAY was the first of a historical drama series starting in 1786 about the Loveday cousins. This year sees the publication of the ninth book about this wild-blooded family. When another reprint was needed the cover was also updated in line with the current look of the series. Hailed as a sweeping family drama, although the series follows the family’s lives chronologically, each book must stand on its own and each story has its own element of romance.

Extract from Adam Loveday introducing the fortune-huntress Meriel who brings passion and upheaval to the family.

Halfway across the square a male voice called her name from the direction of the lych-gate. Meriel’s heart leapt and she ran towards the church. It was Adam. A figure detached itself from the shadows but as the moonlight fell on the man’s face disappointment smote her.

‘St John, why are you hiding in the churchyard?’ The twins’ voices were similar enough to have confused her.

‘Waiting for a chance to see you, my pretty.’ His tone was low and coaxing. ‘I have a gift for you. Something elegant to match your beauty.’

Meriel was intrigued. She had no money of her own and her father was miserly. St John held up his hand and from his fingers dangled a pair of scarlet stockings. Meriel’s eyes widened with delight. She had never possessed anything so fine and was determined to have them.

Even so, she was wary of his intentions. ‘I could not accept such a gift.’ Her manner was coquettish and her voice heavy with reluctance. ‘It would be immodest.’

How so, when they are given as a token of the esteem in which I hold you?’

She still hesitated and, knowing of the rivalry between St John and Adam, she did not want St John bragging to the brother she preferred. ‘Then why do you not come openly to the inn? Do you think my affections can be bought?’ She allowed her anger to show. ‘I have a regard for my reputation, even if you do not, sir.’

Meriel’s reputation was important to her. She had no intention of remaining in this remote fishing village all her life. She would never end up a drudge like her mother. She wanted a life surrounded by every comfort: jewels, velvets, a grand house and a host of servants. She dismissed the limitations of her birth. She had wit and beauty. This last year she had come to know how men lusted after her. So far she had kept herself pure. Her maidenhead was her greatest treasure. It would be bartered for a wedding band and then only to a man who could provide her with the life she craved. She had faith that Adam Loveday would carve his own wealth and destiny. Unfortunately, it could take him several years.

‘How sadly you wrong me. I have the greatest admiration for you.’ St John hid his irritation at her prevarication. He had sought her out in secret wishing to avoid a confrontation with her ready-fisted brothers. Perversely, her manner whetted his appetite to conquer her and win her from Adam. For that triumph he was prepared to be patient.

His expression was contrite. ‘I had no wish to offend. The purchase was made on impulse. Now what am I to do with these?’ He laid the stockings on the seat beside the lych-gate. ‘They are of no use to me. Perhaps some passing maid will take a fancy to them and think fortune has smiled on her. I bid you goodnight, Mistress Sawle.’

He bowed and took her hand to lift it to his lips. Meriel snatched it back and walked away, her head titled at a haughty angle. When she heard St John ride away she ran back to the lych-gate and retrieved the stockings.

Her mind was busy calculating. Adam had always been her favourite but St John was the one who would inherit the family estate. This autumn held a world of possibilities for her. And she was a woman determined to make the most of them.

Reviews: ‘The whole spectrum of society is present in this fast-moving and exciting story. It also reflects the author’s understanding of the social and economic factors that drove the lives of people at this time.’ Historical Novels Review

‘For anyone who loves a sweeping Cornish drama, the Loveday books are a shining example of their genre.’ Western Morning News

ADAM LOVEDAY is reissued by Headline on 7 February
Kate Tremayne