Friday, May 30, 2008

Jane Austen in Lyme

Summer is almost upon us though perhaps you wouldn't know it by the rainy weather at present! Regency seaside resorts became very popular in the late 1700's/ early 1800's. Jane Austen loved Lyme Regis and even used the town in her book Persuasion. Here are a couple of extracts from a letter she sent to her sister Cassandra on Friday, September 14th 1804. ...I continue quite well; in proof of which I have bathed again this morning. It was absolutely necessary that I should have the little fever and indisposition which I had: it has been all the fashion this week in Lyme...The ball last night was pleasant, but not full for Thursday. My father staid contentedly till half-past nine (we went a little after eight), and then walked home with James and a lanthorn, though I believe the lanthorn was not lit, as the moon was up, but sometimes this lanthorn may be a great convenience to him. My mother and I staid about an hour later. Nobody asked me the two first dances; the next two I danced with Mr. Crawford, and had I chosen to stay longer might have danced with Mr. Granville, Mrs. Granville's son, whom my dear friend Miss A. offered to introduce to me, or with a new odd-looking man who had been eyeing me for some time, and at last, without any introduction, asked me if I meant to dance again. I think he must be Irish by his ease, and because I imagine him to belong to the honbl. B.'s, who are the son, and son's wife of an Irish viscount, bold queer-looking people, just fit to be quality at Lyme.

I think the following description from Persuasion sums up Jane's own feelings about the place. She rarely used description of this sort to such an extent. Anne Elliot travels to Lyme with her sister Mary and husband Charles, his sisters, Henrietta and Louisa, and the hero of the book Captain Wentworth.

After securing accommodations, and ordering a dinner at one of the inns, the next thing to be done was unquestionably to walk directly down to the sea. They were come too late in the year for any amusement or variety which Lyme as a public place, might offer. The rooms were shut up, the lodgers almost all gone, scarcely any family but of the residents left; and as there is nothing to admire in the buildings themselves, the remarkable situation of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which in the season is animated with bathing-machines and company; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger's eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better. The scenes in its neighbourhood, Charmouth, with its high grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and still more its sweet, retired bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low rock among the sands make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide, for sitting in unwearied contemplation; the woody varieties of the cheerful village of Up Lyme; and, above all, Pinny, with its green chasms between romantic rocks, where the scattered forest-trees and orchards of luxuriant growth declare that many a generation must have passed away since the first partial falling of the cliff prepared the ground for such a state, where a scene so wonderful and so lovely is exhibited, as may more than equal any of the resembling scenes of the far-famed Isle of Wight: these places must be visited, and visited again to make the worth of Lyme understood.

If you go to Lyme you will be pleased to see that it has not changed much since Jane Austen's day. Many of the buildings have survived from that time and the little town has a Regency air.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Release: Seductive Secrets

Seductive Secrets - the first book in a new trilogy.

To survive, she’ll have to trust him with all her secrets.

Nick is back.

After eight years of facing public scandal and private humiliation with her head held high, Isobel’s courage fails when the man she never stopped loving returns and asks her to marry him. Once he discovers her secret, he won’t visit her bed more than once. And she can’t bear his rejection.

Nicholas, Marquess of Cardington, is confident he can cope with the baggage Isobel carries from her first marriage. It doesn’t matter that the beautiful widow once left him to elope with another man. After all, he was partly to blame for that disaster. All that matters is he has always loved her, and now she’s free to accept his proposal.

Only on their wedding night does Nick learn the terrible secret Isobel has harbored for eight long years. To win his wife’s trust will take every ounce of tenderness he possesses - when what he really wants is to show her the passion he saved for her and her alone.

But just as Isobel begins to believe her heart is safe with Nick, the blackmailers who drove her first husband to suicide reappear. And they want their pound of flesh.

Isobel must finally trust Nick will all her secrets—and her life—or their enemies will destroy them both.

Nick took Isobel straight through the rose garden to a spot a little more distant but
still in sight of the house. A wooden seat stood as if to view the sunset, not straight on to it, so it wouldn’t dazzle them but angled perfectly so they could enjoy it without any glare. Isobel knew better than to ask. Of course, the garden designer had placed it there deliberately.

“I’m not sure I can run this house as well as your mother,” she confessed.

He sat down and stretched his arm over the back of the seat but didn’t touch her. She felt strangely secure now, considering her state of nerves a short time earlier. “It doesn’t matter as long as you bring your own style to it.”

“I suppose I should have spent some time here first, so that your mother could instruct me on my duties.”

He grimaced. “Heaven forbid! You know how to go about things. You need no instruction from my mother.”

Up until then she’d watched the golden sun, sinking lower towards the horizon behind a rosy glow of soft cloud over the lush green park but now she turned to him instead, his fervency pulling her away from the lovely spectacle before them. “The house is perfectly run. The food is hot, the furniture clean, everything beautifully appointed.”

“Precisely.” When he saw her puzzled look, he laughed. “The perfection always made me feel superfluous. Unwanted, unneeded, except as a vessel to carry a name to the next generation. And what’s the point of that? I wanted to do something, make something of myself but my little kingdom always drew me back. This always came first.” He swept his arm wide to include the grounds, the house dominating the landscape, everything as far as the eye could see. “In the olden days I might have been called a king. Now the only battles I fight are the little ones in the law courts. There’s always something going on, the boundary disputes, the prosecutions of poachers, that kind of thing.”

“Would you like to be a warrior?”

He considered it, pursing his lips in thought. She watched, wondering how a man could be so handsome. She’d never been immune to his powerful beauty. That had been half the problem. “Only in my romantic heart. There, the small boy still lives. He fights dragons to win the heart of his fair lady, solves fiendish riddles, lives in a castle. In reality, the dragon would be a slimy lizard, the riddles pointless and the castle cold and dreary. Don’t you think so?” He was smiling now. When he smiled at her, his hauteur fell away; only warmth remained.

“And the lady an old crone, past her first youth?” She smiled back.

He grew solemn. Isobel lowered her lashes, uncomfortable under his intent gaze. “Not in the least. That’s the only real thing about the whole dream. I have the lovely princess here and I’m not letting her go.” He leaned a little closer, and Isobel held her breath, fear rising in her throat. Only for a moment. They were in the open air, fully dressed, within sight of the house. There was no danger here.

She let him kiss her. When he encircled her with his arms, she didn’t feel trapped and not at all panicked. He’d expect such intimacies of her. She steeled herself when his arms tightened, as he lowered his head to kiss her.

His lips met hers and pressed, his breath sweet with the wine he’d drunk at dinner. He didn’t push her, but seemed to be waiting for her response, for her to give him permission to go further.

She gave it. Her lips opened a little when his tongue brushed against them, and with a slight sound at the back of his throat, he gently probed her mouth. Isobel started in shock but didn’t pull away. She’d have to get used to it, that was all.

His tongue entered her mouth with disturbing intimacy, and his lips pressed open against hers. There was nothing more to come, there couldn’t be. She could enjoy this. Isobel fought her panic down and relaxed into the strength of Nick’s body. She began to enjoy his kiss.

He stroked his tongue against the roof of her mouth, soothing and exciting her at the same time. She ventured to touch his tongue with hers, and he rewarded her with a responsive caress. His arms, not holding her still any longer, moved, smoothing her back in a series of gentle strokes. He pulled her closer but not crushingly so, and she didn’t feel trapped at all. Safe even, cradled in his arms.

Isobel ventured to slide one hand over his chest. His waistcoat and shirt lay between her and bare skin, and this somehow gave her sanction. He didn’t appear to object but made another sound, a warm, soft sound. She dared to slip her hand around to his back, to hold him as close as he held her.

He finished the kiss but didn’t release her. Instead, he dropped feather-light kisses on her jaw, the corner of her eyes and her forehead, and then leaned into her, holding her close. She closed her eyes and rested against him, feeling oddly safe. Before tonight men had been her fear, a source of trepidation and sometimes terror but this man radiated security and tranquility.

In a wash of warmth, Isobel knew she’d made the right decision, knew she’d be safe and cared for here. She felt him rest his cheek on her hair, wondered what he was thinking, how he was feeling. She daren’t ask him, not yet. It might break the spell.

“You make me feel like a knight,” he murmured, as though he’d read her mind. “Ready to fight dragons for my lady.”

She gave a shaky laugh. “I’m not your lady yet.”

“Yes you are. You always were.”

Seductive Secrets. Out on June 10th at Samhain Publishing

Lynne Connolly,

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jane Austen - at last, someone hits the nail on the head

Austenblog is one of my favourite blogs, containing as it does a great deal of information about Charles Dickens - oops, I mean Jane Austen. If you want to find out about a lock of Jane Austen's hair which has been reputedly sewn into a mourning brooch or a new adaptaton you don't have to trawl the web, you can simply tune in for your daily fix of Jane.

Today's entry is so good that I've pinched it, though in all honesty the credit really goes to David Baddiel, who wrote the following in The Times Online.

"Both in the film Becoming Jane and the TV movie Miss Austen Regrets, Austen was depicted as a waspish cynical tomboy, clever with words if not so clever with men: a sort of Regency Sue Perkins. In the TV movie, there was a greater stab at complexity, as the character grew bitter with age - an Elizabeth Bennett who never nabs Mr Darcy - but in both there was, I would hazard, an incipient underlying sexism, based on the notion that Austen’s work was underpinned by her own failures in love.

Because here’s the thing about Jane Austen. She was a very great genius. She is possibly the greatest genius in the history of English literature, arguably greater than Shakespeare. And her achievement is not that much to do with love, although that was her subject matter. It’s to do with technique. Before her there are three strands in English fiction: the somewhat mental, directly-reader-addressing semi-oral romps of Nashe and Sterne and Fielding; the sensationalist Gothic work of Horace Walpole and Ann Radcliffe; and the romances of Eliza Haywood and Fanny Burney.

However great these writers are, none could be read now and considered modern. When Austen gets into her stride, which she does very quickly with Sense and Sensibility, suddenly, you have all the key modern realist devices: ironic narration; controlled point of view; structural unity; transparency of focus; ensemble characterisation; fixed arenas of time and place; and, most importantly, the giving-up of the fantastical in favour of a notion that art should represent life as it is actually lived in all its wonderful ordinariness. She is the first person, as John Updike put it: “to give the mundane its beautiful due”, and her work leads to Updike as much as it does to George Eliot.

I have no idea how a mainly home-educated rector’s daughter came by all that, but I know that imagining her as a kind of acerbic spinster flattens out this genius. It becomes all about the subject matter and not at all about the huge creative advance her work represents."

What he said.

Amanda Grange

Sunday, May 25, 2008

His Cavalry Lady

I thought you'd like to see the cover for His Cavalry Lady, the first book of my forthcoming trilogy, The Aikenhead Honours.

His Cavalry Lady will be published in the UK in July in hardback, and in September in paperback. Publication in North America will be early in 2009.

There will be more about The Aikenhead Honours trilogy on my website as soon as I can get the updates done. But first, I have to finish book 2 of the trilogy, called His Reluctant Mistress. It's due at the end of May -- yes, that is the end of this week! -- so you'll perhaps understand that website updates will have to wait a bit longer. I'll let you know when they're done.

After that, I'll be starting on book 3, His Forbidden Liaison. I'm really looking forward to that one since the hero, Jack, has been in the first two books and is really getting very impatient for his own story to begin.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Can You Guess?

I've come across a variety of slang words that fooled me as to their date. I'd like to share some of them with you. I wonder how many you can guess correctly? Are they Regency, early Victorian, late Victorian or even 20th-century?
The answers will be at the bottom, so don't look there first!

1. noddle 2. forks 3. gawp 4.four-eyes 5. snooze 6. puppy-love 7.guv 8. toff 9. mate
10. buddy 11. bender 12 pie-eyed 13.whatsit 14.dirt cheap 15. hush money 16. rubbish
17.goner 18. shirty 19. miffed 20 tell it to the marines

Meanings, I hope are not needed. Most of these are still in use today.

Fenella Miller
Debt of Honour Robert Hale - borrow from UK libary or buy from Amazon etc.
Also avilable as download from

1.1509 2.1700 3.1682 4.1873 5.1789 6.1830 7.1879 8.1851 9.1380 10.1788 11.1845 12.1904 13.1882 14.1821 15.1709 16.1824 17.1847 18.1846 19.1824 20.1806

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Diary of a Regency Lady

This is the url for the whole of The Diary Of A Regency Lady.
I have managed to finish it and put it up at my story blog, where you will find other excerpts and stories and one whole book.

I do hope you will find time to read it and enjoy it, and I am sorry I didn't put it up regularly as I ought.

Best wishes, Anne /Linda

Back at Last!

I am so sorry that I have missed quite a few posts. I keep forgetting the days and even when I tried to schedule the last one it didn't work for me. However, I am going to do it again and hope that it works.

My current Regency with HMB is The Unknown Heir. The next will be The Homeless Heiress, which is out in hardback this month and paperback July. The titles sound similar but the books are not related. I am currently working on a new Regency trilogy but there is another single title later in the year.I have been trying to finish The Diary of A Regency Lady. It is getting there and next time I post I hope to tell you that it is up at my story blog. The best way to get into my blogs is to visit my website and just click on the blog you want.

I am also writing the third in a saga series, part of which takes place in WWII and I've just finished an Anne Herries saga trilogy - which may explain why I forget blog dates and haven't yet finished the diary. I will finish it eventually, but the publishers keep asking for more books and I think that is what my readers truly want - but I will get there!

Love to you all, Anne Herries/Linda Sole

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Savannah!

Today is National Maritime Day in the United States of America and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all our friends and readers in the US a very happy day!

On May 22nd 1819 the steamship The Savannah set sail from Savannah, Georgia, on the first successful trans-Atlantic voyage partially made under steam propulsion. Although originally she had been laid down as a sailing vessel, The Savannah was also outfitted with a steam engine and paddlewheels. The engine was used sparingly on the voyage - The crossing took a total of 648 hours and all but 85 of those saw the ship using her sails rather than her engines.

However, in the days when such crossings were made exclusively under sail, the appearance of The Savannah off the coast of Ireland caused some consternation. Seen from a distance with smoke pouring from her funnel, she was assumed to be on fire and the revenue vessel Kite was despatched to her rescue. The officers on Kite were astonished at the way The Savannah steamed away from them after they had rushed to assist what they thought was a ship in distress!

The News of the Nation later commented that “Visionary Yankee ingenuity has stolen a march on British Empire sea leadership and at the same time has blazed the way toward a new means of travel between the Eastern and Western hemisphere.” The British weren’t going to give up, however! The first crossing under steam power alone was made in 1838 when two British steamship companies sent rival ships to New York within a few days of each other. These days hopping across "The Pond" is a much quicker business and the world feels a smaller place. It is extraordinary to think, though, that the first partially steam powered trans-Atlantic crossing took place during the Regency period!


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mr Darcy's Diary now available as a pdf download

For those people who prefer etexts of their books, Mr Darcy's Diary is now available as a pdf download as well as a paperback. It's available from the Sourcebooks website by clicking here

Captain Wentworth's Diary is now available on Kindle as well as in paperback by clicking here

Mr Knightley's Diary, Lord Deverill's Secret and Harstairs House are also available in various ebook formats, by clicking here

I hope you enjoy them!

Amanda Grange

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Complete Lack of Inspiration

How is it possible to go on holiday to somewhere as lovely and historic as Tuscany and to come away without any romantic ispiration at all?
I've just spent a week near San Gimignano (the one with the towers) on a 'Walking & Wine' holiday. Somehow I managed to forget that Tuscany goes up and down rather a lot and I also managed to find myself with a tour leader who is Danish ex-army and super fit. Madness, but at least, I consoled myself, I would come back with a notebook full of ideas.
But no, not a spark of inspiration. Is the scenery too lovely, the locals too handsome, the wine too strong?
I wimped out of a day's walk - described by our leader as 'a nice hard climb to a ruined castle' as the culmination of a four hour yomp - and settled by the pool with a bottle of local wine, a picnic and the laptop. At least I could make a start on The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst, the last of my Those Scandalous Ravenhursts series. By the time the others staggered back I'd drunk the wine, eaten the picnic, swum in the pool and written all of 200 words.

But I did manage to get on to the set of the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, being filmed in Siena. The scene takes place during the dramatic Palio horse race and you can glimpse the stands through the archway.

Daniel Craig was, sadly, not in evidence, but here is one of the locals who may well, once I get back to the less picturessque surroundings of my study, provide me with some future inspiration.

Louise Allen

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ups and Downs

I felt terrific on Friday as I actually reached the final pages of my current book, Wild Justice Now all that remains is a final edit, which will take me about a week, then off it goes to my agent. The moment I have posted it, everything I could have done differently/better will flutter in my head like demented butterflies until I receive her reaction. But I won't have time to sit and fret, as my next immediate task is to produce a blurb for the book jacket. It's fun but demanding, given the enormous competition, to try and write a paragraph that gives a flavour of the story, catches a browser's attention and persuades them this is a book they really want to read - all in 120 words or less.
After that I put together a package of photos of locations and/or properties that appear in the book, plus a brief physical description of my two main characters. This is for the cover artist. So far so good.
But yesterday at lunchtime I phoned the self-service banking dept of my bank for a balance and realised something was wrong. Further investigation revealed I had become another rising statistic - my card had been cloned and my account almost emptied. As this had happened to my husband nine months ago I knew what to do. I know I'll get the money back, and should receive a new card in about a week, but I'm still furious.
Any weeds in our garden won't know what hit them when I get out there today.

Jane Jackson.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Joy of a Conference

Last weekend I went to the latest West Country Writers Association Congress in Bristol.

What could persuade me to leave my lovely Pennine home and travel over two hundred miles to a Conference? Of course it is always good to come home to the West Country and the speakers are invariably interesting but the Congress is more than that – it is meeting up with old friends - like novelists Helen McCabe, Jean Saunders and Fay Sampson - making new ones and the interaction between so many different types of writers, journalists, poets, novelists, translators, writers of non-fiction – we are all wordsmiths, but the diversity of styles makes for a most interesting weekend.

This year at Bristol there was even more interaction in the form of a workshop (the WCWA Congress takes the form of a country house party, so workshops are not the norm). We were split into groups, each group was given the same set of characters but a different genre, ranging from chick-lit to war, and we were set the task of putting together a plot in just an hour!

This proved a wonderful ice-breaker, and even those who declared they were not writers entered into the spirit of the session – the biggest challenge was to stick to the task and not digress into creating full life-stories for each of the characters! Our group was given the genre of the supernatural, and we were soon engrossed in discussions of ghosts, monsters and possessed children. Jonathan’s knowledge of war and military campaigns helped us with our setting (a fishing village in the Channel Islands), Fay set to work producing a lovely first paragraph, Barbara desperately wanted to work a giant squid into the story and Jo pounced on the idea of a teddy bear creating a spooky link with past generations. At the end of the session each group read out their efforts, and what superbly different efforts they were! Never has an hour passed so quickly – even the deafening roar of a tropical storm beating on the roof of our conference room could not dampen our spirits: the conference was off to a very lively start!

You can find more information on the West Country Writers Assocation at

Melinda Hammond
A Rational Romance – pub Robert Hale Ltd

Sarah Mallory
More Than a Governess – pub Harlequin Historicals

Friday, May 16, 2008

Murder your darlings!

Murder your darlings!

This is one of the first and hardest lessons we have to learn if we want our work published. Usually it refers to editing techniques of cutting out purple prose, scenes that do not forward the plot or show something new about a character, or hysterical use of flowery adjectives. It can also mean that in the need to maintain conflict, which is the governing force behind any unputdownable novel, sometimes we literally do have to murder our darlings (a major character in the book).

Book 9 of the Loveday family drama series THE LOVEDAY SECRETS was published on 1st May in hardback by Headline. And this was the dilemma I had to face to keep the plot fresh and the conflict and tension high. A Loveday had to be sacrificed. In other books in the series it was always satisfying dealing with an adversary who has caused chaos and destruction to others’ lives. Most memorable was the evil smuggler Harry Sawle in The Loveday Revenge who had been the terror of the local community from book one. I had great fun devising suitable ends for the bad guys but whenever it came to a member of the family who I have anguished over throughout the nine books, it was not so easy. But I have done it before.

First there was Captain William Loveday (who drowned himself after discovering his wife’s incestuous relationship with her brother and killing them). Then the tissue box came out when Edward, the twin’s father died from wounds cowardly administered by an old enemy. And now for the sake of an unpredictable and exciting plot I steeled myself to kill off another Loveday, armed with two boxes of tissues this time and a demise that tugs at the heartstrings with catastrophic consequences for the family. And who is the Loveday who dies… ah that is a secret revealed only to the readers.

And it is not the only secret revealed. It is time of reunion for the family: joyful in the return of Japhet and his family to England, and suspicious when a long lost cousin the ne’er-do-well Tristan Loveday returns to stir up shameful echoes from the past that threaten the reputations of more than one Loveday. And also a marriage is in crisis… will love and loyalty prevail or will pride and honour be its downfall?As always the passions of the Lovedays run high and woven through the drama of their lives are new romances, intrigue, emotional intensity and a wild-blooded lust for life.

All newsletter readers there is still time to enter this months competition. I am giving away two paperback copies of Loveday novels of your choice.

Kate Tremayne

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A New Cover for Lydia Bennet's Story

This is the new cover for Lydia Bennet's Story which is being published in October by Sourcebooks - I hope you like it. I am absolutely thrilled with it; I think the designers have done a wonderful job. The illustration is by Brock and shows Lydia and Kitty being introduced to Mr Wickham.

The following extract is from Lydia's journal when Lydia learns that her favourites are about to leave for Brighton.

Saturday, May 8th

My world as I know it has ended! I have received such dreadful news today that I do not think I shall ever recover! I met with Mr Wickham (who looked as handsome as ever in his scarlet coat) in the High Street in Meryton this morning, and he informed me that the regiment is leaving to be encamped at Brighton for the summer! I could not believe it, nor disguise my disappointment, and asked him what on earth we shall all do without the society of all the officers we have come to know so well. His replies were gentlemanly and thoughtful, yet he seems keen to be gone and spoke of little regret. I daresay he is anxious to take his disappointed hopes away with him, though it has to be said, his excitement for the Brighton venture was plainly evident, especially when he spoke of an appointment he must keep at his tailor. New clothes for the seaside would be absolutely vital, he explained. It could not be said that the militia did not know how to dress, and the entertainments would be such that he would be letting the Colonel down if he was not turned out just right. Oh, if only I could go to Brighton and sample its delights! Lord! Life is so unfair!!!

I do wonder what Mr Wickham will feel when he sees my sister Lizzy again—what will she have to say on the matter? Her hopes of marriage may yet be doomed with the man she so clearly admires. I could not help but watch his progress down the street as he left me—oh, how many times will I have that pleasure left?
I hastened on to Harriet’s, hoping that by some small chance, the report might have been a false one, only to have it confirmed and find my dear friend in a state betwixt excitement at the prospect of spending several weeks in Brighton and distress at leaving all her friends behind. She had the most wonderful idea to persuade papa to take a house for the summer and, although my mother and I have petitioned him with the details, he is adamant in his renouncement of any such plan. If only Jane and Lizzy were here, I am sure they could persuade him of the benefits to the entire household.

I cannot live with the idea of Meryton devoid of all its dear redcoats. How I shall miss darling Denny, Pratt, and Chamberlayne. I will never dance with Mr Wickham again. I think I shall die!

I am going to Bath today to attend the Jane Austen Centre's Regency World Awards. I love going to Bath and I'm really looking forward to spending an evening with other Janeite friends - hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Historical Romance in E-books.

As many of you know, I write for small publishers who produce work in electronic format first, before the print copy comes out.
Without a doubt the e-book market is more developed in the US than anywhere else, with readers like the Kindle and Ebookwise only available in that country, but with the new mini-laptops like the Asus eee, more sophisticated cell phones and the ready availability of the pda, more and more people are turning to e-books for their fiction fix.
So what has that to do with the historical novel?
The publishing business in the US is in a state of flux and editors are chasing books that will hit the market hard and bring them money fast. At the moment, the erotic romance rules. Tomorrow it could be Inspirational, or Western, or anything as long as it catches on. A few years ago, the historical romance, primarily the Regency romance, ruled supreme. Then came a spectacular fall when many writers of historical romance tried new genres, and sales plummetted. The reasons for the fall are still being debated. Now historical romance is making a cautious comeback.
All this time the historical romance flourished in ebook format and the one casualty of the collapse in the market - the traditional Regency romance (think Georgette Heyer, where the books are as much comedies of manners as romances) has found a foothold. Even Harlequin/Mills and Boon has revised its expectations, and now historicals are as likely to contain scenes of intimacy as anything else on the market and writers who prefer not to enter the bedroom have been phased out or persuaded to try their hand at a bedroom scene or two.
Several publishers, like Belgrave House, who publishes reprints of old romances in electronic form, Awe-Struck books which has a long-established imprint of Regencies called Phaeton and now Ellora's Cave which has brought out some excellent Regencies in its Cotillion imprint with its mainstream branch, Cerridwen, have stayed true and the books have been a modest success.
My historicals come out with Samhain, and while I do write the occasional hot and heavy scene, I do try to keep the history right, and use accurate and involving plots.
The return of the historical in the print market has mainly been for the sexy, heavy on the romance book by big name authors. A few new authors have emerged, but in the same type of book. The growth of the erotic has been influential in all genres (says the erotic romance author!)
Don't get me wrong - I prefer my reading to have a heavy dose of sex. I love reading about it, I enjoy writing it, but a diet of one thing alone leads to satiation and ennui. So I'm delighted to see certain publishers still believing in, and publishing, the traditional romance.
If you've never tried the electronic historical romance, give it a go! You'll discover new treasures and re-acquaint yourself with authors you used to love and who have now turned to e-publishers for their books.

Belgrave House:

Samhain Historical Romance

Cerridwen Cotillion
Awe-struck Phaeton line:

Lynne Connolly

Now out in print!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Etiquette Regency Style

Manners might not always be in evidence in today's society but two hundred years ago it was a very different story. In Daniel Pool's excellent book, 'What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew' the following is an example of just some of the rules a well brought up young lady was required to abide by.

1. If unmarried and under thirty, she is never to be in the company of a man without a chaperone. Except for a walk to church or a park in the early morning, she may not walk alone but should always be accompanied by another lady, a man, or a servant. An even more restrictive view is that 'if she cannot walk with her younger sisters and their governess, or the maid cannot be spared to walk with her, she had better stay at home or confine herself to the square garden.'

2. Under no circumstances may a lady call on a gentleman alone unless she is consulting that gentleman on a professional or business matter.

3. A lady does not wear pearls or diamonds in the morning.

4. A lady never dances more than three dances with the same partner.

5. A lady should never 'cut' someone, that is to say, fail to acknowledge their presence after encountering them socially, unless it is absolutely necessary. By the same token, only a lady is ever truly justified in cutting someone: 'a cut is only excusable when men persist in bowing whose acquaintance a lady does not wish to keep up'. Upon the approach of the offender, a simple stare of silent iciness should suffice; followed, if necessary, by a 'cold bow, which discourages familiarity without offering insult.'

On heavens, it's only eleven in the morning. Excuse me whilst I dash off and ditch the pearls!

Wendy Soliman

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Venice — La Serenissima

Venice may be La Serenissima, queen of the Adriatic, but my short visit there last month was anything but serene. I was desperately trying to catch up on research for my current book, His Reluctant Mistress, the second part of The Aikenhead Honours Trilogy. Most of the story takes place in Austria, but part of it takes place in Venice, where my heroine has lived for years.

I had roughly a day and a half to see and record everything I needed. With hindsight, I realise that wasn’t long enough, even though I had worked out a schedule for myself so that I could visit all the key places for my story. Apart from some of the normal tourist venues, I needed to visit the Maritime Museum and the opera house, La Fenice.

You may remember that La Fenice was burnt down just a few years ago as a result of arson, though it has now, at last, been rebuilt. Now you can even get there by gondola. Very romantic. But I really wanted to see inside it so, having spent the first morning dodging the rain in the Doge’s Palace and the Museo Correr, I was going to spend the afternoon at La Fenice. Or so I thought.

It didn’t work out that way. There are tours of La Fenice, but only between 1.30 and 2.30 in the afternoon, on certain days of the week. I had arrived, totally soaked by the pouring rain, at 2.45 p.m., and I was leaving the following morning. I got as far as the foyer of the opera house and stood there, dripping, and gnashing my teeth. It was some consolation that they were able to sell me a DVD of the restoration project, which included quite a lot of historical material about how La Fenice used to look. But I was still disappointed.

It’s difficult to try to probe the history of Venice under Napoleon. Almost all the books and histories stop in 1797, the year when the Venetian Republic fell and French rule began, and then start again after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Venetians say they still hate the very idea of Napoleon. Perhaps that’s why there is so little visible information about the seventeen years after the Republic ended?

I was told that, very recently, the local council bought a statue of Napoleon which had stood in Venice at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The council thought it would be proper to restore it to its original place, since it was part of the city’s history. Venetians disagreed, vehemently. There was a huge outcry that such a thing had been bought by the city.

It seems the council compromised. The statue is now in the Museo Correr, but tucked away under the stairs so that it can’t really be seen. I think it’s the Venetian version of “out of sight, out of mind.”


Friday, May 09, 2008


It's strange to think that beneath the elegant, high waisted gowns women still wore corsets. The dresses hang straight so one wonders why did they need these underpinnings?
The red effort is modern, but is a replica of the garments worn by Regency ladies.
Of course the female servants, and working women, would not have worn anything so restricting - but then they didn't wear the high-waisted style, they tended to have the waist in it's proper place.
If you have a yen to make one for yourself then you can obtain a pattern like this one from various on line stores. Even if I was dressing in a Regency gown, I wouldn't try and squash myself into one of those instruments of torture!!
Fenella Miller
A Debt of Honour out now - from Amazon UK & USA also, as an e-book.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

UK National Year of Reading

This year is the UK's National Year of Reading, a country-wide campaign to encourage people to join libraries and to read for pleasure or personal advancement. The slogan is 'Reading - Anytime, Anything, Anywhere'. UK Regency authors Louise Allen and Nicola Cornick have been appointed as Writers in Residence for Hertfordshire and Wiltshire respectively, and will be getting out into the community to promote the joys of reading, offering talks and workshops and an insight into a writer’s life and a Regency author’s life in particular.

Harlequin Mills and Boon said of their involvement in the programme: `We are thrilled to be part of the National Year of Reading during our centenary year, because if anyone knows the value of a good book, it's our fantastic Mills and Boon authors!' We look forward to going out and talking about reading, writing and the Regency!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Captain Wentworth's Diary is out today!

The paperback of Captain Wentworth's Diary is out today!

It's available from bookshops in the US and elsewhere in the world it's available from online sellers such as Amazon UK

I loved writing this book. I've always wondered what happened when Anne and Wentworth first met in 1806 and this book gave me a chance to write my version of what might have happened.

Although Jane Austen doesn't give us much information about this time in their lives, she says that Wentworth was young, handsome and brilliant, a bold and confident young man who was sure he would soon win promotion.

Anne was pretty, and because she suffered a loss of spirits when she and Wentworth parted, we know she must have been more spirited than the young woman we see in Persuasion.

And so I started the book when Wentworth, newly promoted, goes to spend his shore leave with his brother and falls in love with the young Anne Elliot. They become engaged, but are then separated by Lady Russell.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the moment when I allow Wentworth and Lady Russell to meet, just after Anne has told him they can't be married. He's very angry and berates her for her meddling. Then he goes back to sea.

The second part of the book carries on through the events of Persusaion, showing them all through Wentworth's eyes.

I hope you like it!

You can find reviews and extracts on my website at

Amanda Grange

Monday, May 05, 2008

Costume exhibition in Bath

The Jane Austen Centre in Bath is housing an exhibition of costumes from some of the recent Austen films,including Miss Austen Regrets.

For anyone who's never been to the centre, it's well worth a visit at any time.

It houses a permanent exhibition which tells the story of Jane's experience in the city between 1801 and 1806 and the effect that living here had on her and her writing.

For this year only, the exhibition includes 'Costumes from ITV's Persuasion' featuring the dresses worn by Sally Hawins as Ann Elliot. The stunning costumes are the work of BAFTA award winner Andrea Galer.

'We are completely changing the feel of a large part of the exhibition,' said Centre Director David Baldock,' new lighting and props, sound effects and colourways will give our visitors an exhilarating experience. We are all looking forward to the transformation.'

The exhibition looks wonderful, so if you're anywhere near Bath, pay it a call!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Why Write Historicals?

Watching this programme - which I thought superbly written and acted - made me realise why I love writing historical fiction, and why I have set my recent books in the late C18th. A few years ago I read that as writers we all have favourite themes which we explore in various ways through our books. Often these themes are rooted in our own life experience, but so buried that we aren't even aware of them. Looking back over my own books I saw immediately that this is certainly true for me. My theme is women's autonomy, or lack of it. Many of today's young women have no idea how circumscribed life was in the past. Women exchanged a father's protection for ownership by a husband in marriage arrangements that frequently involved property. For all women marriage conferred status. The stupidest woman, provided she had a husband, could consider herself superior to her far more intelligent sister who, either through accident or design, remained unmarried. And society colluded. Men ran the world (so the theory went) women supervised the home and raised children. Tough luck on women who wanted more, women who had talent and a driving need to express it. Writing or painting as a hobby was acceptable, provided it didn't take up too much time or interfere with wifely duties. Fathers, husbands and brothers might mismanage or gamble away family security, but a woman wanting to earn money from her talent? What was the world coming to?
Miss Austen Regrets... perfectly expressed the choice Jane felt she had been forced to make and what it had cost her.

Jane Jackson.

Devil's Prize Robert Hale. Jan 2008