Monday, June 30, 2008

A Redcoat Dressed as a Young Lady-Whatever Next?!!!

One of the aspects of writing a Pride and Prejudice sequel that I enjoyed immensely was taking a small incident and making it my own in Lydia Bennet's Story. Jane Austen mentions the following event in a few sentences, almost as an aside. I thought it would be fun to imagine just what happened when Lydia dressed up one of the officers to pass him off as a lady. Here Jane Austen has Lydia telling her sisters about it in Pride and Prejudice.

"Dear me! we had such a good piece of fun the other day at Colonel Forster’s. Kitty and me were to spend the day there, and Mrs. Forster promised to have a little dance in the evening (by the bye, Mrs. Forster and me are such friends!); and so she asked the two Harringtons to come, but Harriet was ill, and so Pen was forced to come by herself; and then, what do you think we did? We dressed up Chamberlayne in woman’s clothes on purpose to pass for a lady — only think what fun! Not a soul knew of it, but Colonel and Mrs. Forster, and Kitty and me, except my aunt, for we were forced to borrow one of her gowns; and you cannot imagine how well he looked! When Denny, and Wickham, and Pratt, and two or three more of the men came in, they did not know him in the least. Lord! how I laughed! and so did Mrs. Forster. I thought I should have died. And that made the men suspect something, and then they soon found out what was the matter."

The following extract is from Lydia Bennet's Story. The officer Chamberlayne is dressed as a girl by Lydia and her friends with the help of a gown and a wig borrowed from Lydia's Aunt Phillips. Lydia's friends and Colonel Forster are in on the joke-only the other officers haven't a clue as to the young lady's identity.

Penelope’s description of Edward’s dress and toilette diverted them so excessively, that when one of the officers, Mr Chamberlayne, called half an hour later, he was not only kidnapped for the rest of the day but forced into allowing them to dress him likewise. Kitty ran to her Aunt Phillips’s house just around the corner to procure a gown and a wig, whilst the rest of them prepared to get him ready.
Lydia and Harriet trapped young Chamberlayne in Harriet’s dressing room as soon as he could be persuaded to accompany them upstairs.
“We promise we won’t come in until you are ready to have your corset laced,” Lydia called through the door, to the amusement of the other girls who hovered outside, “but do not take too long. We would not wish to take you by surprise. In any case, there is no need to be so shy, Mr Chamberlayne. Harriet has seen it all before. Just say the word if you need any help; we’re awfully good at undoing buttons, you know!”
Harriet, Penelope, and Isabella did all they could to smother their giggles. Lydia was in her element. “I’ll lace his corset so long as you all help to pull,” she commanded as the door opened to admit them. Penelope and Isabella stood on the threshold with their mouths gaping wide open, unsure whether they should join in. “Don’t just stand there, Pen, give me a hand,” Lydia cried, as the young officer was set upon before he knew what was happening. “Isabella, help me pull harder. Quick, before he changes his mind! It will all be over in a minute, Mr Chamberlayne; stand still, I beg you.”
By the time they had done with him, they were all feeling rather jealous of his pretty looks and even he admitted he was a beauty. He was laced and frocked in a muslin gown with a scarlet cloak and a bonnet topped with feathers and flowers. He had eyelashes that any young miss would be proud to possess and they all agreed (even he) that a little rouge and powder went a very long way to improve the complexion! Colonel Forster came in just ten minutes later, after being disturbed by all the noise, and was almost fooled until Lydia could not resist telling him the truth.
A while later some of the other officers arrived, all looking quite as splendid in their regimentals as ever. Lydia thought Mr Wickham looked particularly dashing this morning, his brown curls waving over his head to fall on his stiff, braided collar. His eyes met hers as he entered the room. So brazen was his expression that she caught her breath and felt obliged to turn immediately to Kitty as if she had remembered something of great importance.
“Have you heard any interesting or diverting snippets of gossip lately, Mr Wickham?” quipped Mr Denny as he walked through the door.
“Why, now you come to mention it, dear fellow,” Wickham replied, taking up his stance for all to see him, “I did hear two handsome young ladies in earnest conversation on my way here.”
“How splendid! Pray, Wickham, were these delightful creatures known to you?”
“Why yes, two of the fairest girls in Meryton struck up a most enchanting discourse.” Mr Wickham laughed at his own comic efforts and pitching his voice several octaves higher, with his lips pursed, he played his joke, impersonating Kitty and Lydia by turns.
“Kitty, that fellow over there is vexing me greatly,” he smirked and simpered, looking straight into Lydia’s eyes, with a pat of his curls, before he leapt around on the other side to take up Kitty’s corner. “How can that be, Lydia, when he is not even looking at you?” he trilled next, with one hand on his hip. He paused, as they all started to shout, before delivering his final assault. “That, my dear Kitty, is precisely what’s vexing me!”
The entire company could not, or would not, scold him they were laughing so much. Lydia thought him shameless and had soon told him so, as she did her best to disguise her embarrassment. She felt him watching her, but when she dared to look again, she was disappointed to see that she no longer held his attention. Suddenly, every eye was turned upon the young lady whom the officers had not seen before. Lydia was highly amused to see every soldier smooth his hair and adjust his cuffs, before vying for a position where they could admire her more closely.
Colonel Forster performed the introductions so seriously that it was near impossible for Lydia and the others to keep their countenances. “I am particularly pleased to be able to present our own dear Chamberlayne’s sister, "Miss Lucy", who has come to enjoy Meryton’s society for a few days.”
“Lucy” bobbed a curtsey and fluttered her eyelashes, paying particular attention to Denny, and said, “I have heard so much about you all and much of you, Mr Denny, sir, but indeed no one prepared me for such handsome soldiers nor for such gallantry. I declare I love a redcoat more than I ever knew.”
“She is rather shy,” whispered the Colonel in Denny’s ear, “but I am sure you will put Chamberlayne’s little sister at her ease. Unfortunately, the man himself has had to pop out to see the saddler on business in the town, leaving her to our tender charge. I do not think he will be long, but she has been fretting for him ever since he left.”
Of course “Lucy” was not upset or in the least bit reserved and immediately took to flirting and teasing and making such a play for Mr Denny that his complexion took on the same hue as his scarlet coat. They were all excessively amused to observe how he became increasingly attentive as the morning wore on. How they did not immediately laugh out loud Lydia was unable to account.
“Do tell me all about yourself, Mr Denny,” begged “Lucy,” seating herself next to him in very close proximity on the sofa. “I have heard there is not another soldier so brave as you.”
“I am sure we are all as courageous as one another here, Miss Lucy,” Denny answered, twisting his hat nervously. “May I say what a pleasure it is to be introduced? It is always felicitous to meet with such handsome relations of one’s fellow officers, and indeed, the word handsome does you no credit. I had no idea Chamberlayne had such a beautiful sister. Where has he been hiding you?”
“It is too true, kind sir,” answered “Miss Lucy,” “I have, until recently, been much hidden away at home, but now I have come to Meryton I hope I shall be able to enjoy every society…and your company would be truly beneficial to me I believe, Mr Denny.”
“Do you care to dance?” Denny simpered. “It would be my pleasure to partner you at our party this evening if you would be so kind as to consider a humble soldier’s wishes.”
“Mr Denny!” “Lucy” cried, jumping up excitedly. “I could not wish for anything better; you may engage me for all of my dances,” she declared, forcing all observers to snigger behind hands and into handkerchiefs. They were in stitches holding onto their sides with mirth. Mr Chamberlayne was so convincing, such a talented mimic whose voice was pitched just like a young girl’s.
Mr Wickham, who had not been enjoying the fact that his efforts to attract “Miss Lucy” had been impeded, took over Denny’s part, and it was only when he remarked on the likeness between “Lucy” and her brother that Harriet and Lydia could bear it no longer. They laughed till they thought they should each suffer a seizure, which of course, made the men very suspicious.
“Lucy” broke down and declared that he could not endure such a falsetto modulation any longer but begged he might be allowed to keep the dress on for dancing later, to which there was a vast deal of laughter and jeers of derision.

Jane Odiwe

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Men in Pink

I've written Regency romances, but my real love is for the mid-Georgian era.
My books centre on the year 1754. Why? I don't know, I just picked it. I love the fashions of the 1750's when the huge domed hoop of the 1740's reduced to manageable proportions, when hairstyles weren't the exaggerated poufs of the 1770's and when men weren't ashamed to wear pink silk.
Actually, that aspect fascinates me. I've always been interested in androgyny, and men who weren't afraid to show their feminine side. Men who are incredibly sexy and yet play with makeup and don't stick to the male 'uniform.' David Bowie in a kimono, striding across the stage as Ziggy Stardust, Freddy Mercury in black nail varnish, Johnny Depp in black mascara. In fact, living examples of what Quentin Bell described as "conspicuous outrage."
In the eighteenth century, men dressed flamboyantly, unashamedly peacocks and at this time common everyday dress included a sword, something abandoned by the Regency era. Gorgeously embroidered waistcoats, even the buttonholes masterpieces of the embroiderer's art, and, by the way, most commercial embroiderers at this time were male.
Yet they fought and loved lustily, spoke their minds and inhabited the male bastions of the coffee house and gentleman's club. They knew they were men, and they would have scorned anyone who told them that pink was in any way derogatory to their male nature. "Come closer and say that," I can almost hear my dandy hero, Richard Strang, saying.
The politics of the era fascinate me, too, in fact, I'm more likely to read an eighteenth century newspaper than I am a modern one! I love the magazines, gossip rags (you thought "Hello" magazine was a new idea?) and periodicals. The more I read, the more I enjoy the era, when people weren't ashamed to proclaim themselves individuals with their own lives to live, their own way.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Gentlemen's Club

Since the gentlemen's clubs were the only location where eligible men were - temporarily at least - safe from the ambitious match-making mamas of their day, it's hardly surprising that they feature so prominently in novels written about the Regency period. The clubs were bastions of male solidarity where members could enjoy the company of their peers, savour a decent glass of claret and, perhaps most importantly of all, indulge their love for gambling.

The best known and oldest of the clubs is, of course, White's, which developed from the original White's Chocolate House and dates back to 1698. The original building burnt down and the club moved a few doors along St. James's Street, where it still exists today. Famed for its bay window, the territory of the fashionable Brummell and his cronies, members were elected to Whites by a committee of twelve and competition for inclusion was fierce. The famous courtesan, Hariette Wilson, is reputed to have said that no man was refused entry if he could tie a good knot in his handkerchief, keep his hands out of his breeches pockets and say nothing.

But if the young bucks felt safe behind the hallowed portals of White's, the same could not be said for another club, where attendance by the fashionable was all but mandatory and mamas and their charges were at liberty to work their wiles upon their hapless victims against the backdrop of the most exclusive marriage-mart within the ton.

Almack's high-born patronesses ruled with a rod of iron. They met weekly to decide who should be allowed admittance and obtaining vouchers if you were not amongst the favoured was all but impossible. Birth and fortune alone did not necessarily guarantee admission, whereas beauty, wit and a reputation as a graceful dance might persuade a patroness to favour one's cause. The rules for conduct laid down by the patronesses were rigidly adhered to. Anyone arriving after eleven o'clock, no matter who they were, would be refused admission. But in spite of the unremarkable suppers and carefully regulated dancing, Almack's was still the place to find a marriage partner and remained in vogue for the duration of the Regency period.

Wendy Soliman

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I’ve blogged before about spooky coincidences I’ve met during my writing. Here’s another one. This one’s not about Scotland, but Vienna.

The second book of my Aikenhead Honours trilogy, His Reluctant Mistress, is set mostly in Vienna during the Congress. By European standards, Vienna was a very small capital, with only about 200,000 inhabitants. During the Congress, another 100,000 visitors arrived and most of them stayed from September 1814 until May 1815. The city was bursting at the seams.

The Viennese were, at first, very proud to be hosting the Congress which was not expected to last more than a couple of months at most. The Austrian Emperor, Franz, ordered splendid preparations to be made, especially for the many royal guests. Three hundred carriages were freshly varnished in dark green, with the imperial arms picked out in yellow on the doors, and 1400 horses, plus grooms and coachmen, were organised to serve them. Many Austrians volunteered for duty. The humble people were paid and usually worked as domestic servants, often with spying on the side. Sons of noble houses volunteered to serve without pay as equerries and pages in the palace.

One really mind-boggling problem was protocol. When the palace is full of emperors and kings, who takes precedence? Monarchs were very prickly about that sort of thing. There are rules for it nowadays, but in 1814 there had never been such a gathering and there were no established rules.

In the end, it was decided that monarchs would take precedence according to age. That meant that the oldest monarch at the Congress, the King of Württemberg, went in to dinner first among the royal visitors. Unfortunately for the charming young Austrian Empress, whose dinner partner he was, the King of Württemberg was a most disagreeable man, coarse and ill-humoured. He was so enormously fat that a half-moon had to be cut out of the dining table to accommodate his huge belly. Vienna called him the Württemberg Monster.

The Württemberg Monster was also homosexual and was much taken with the handsome young sons of the nobility who were acting as pages. Over dinner on one occasion, he made advances to one of these young men, but he made the fundamental mistake of addressing him using the “thou” form of German (du) which is used only for family and intimates. The young man was affronted. His deference to a monarch vanished. He drew himself up to his full height and announced to the King of Württemberg that he was a baron and that even his own sovereign, the Austrian Emperor, would never dream of addressing him in such a familiar and demeaning way.

And the coincidence? In His Reluctant Mistress, I named my villain — who was created long before I read about this incident — the Baron von Beck. The young nobleman who confronted the King of Württemberg, and who is almost the only minor aristocrat named in the reference books on the Congress, was called, coincidentally, the Baron Beck. The real Baron Beck was obviously an upstanding young man. My villain is neither young nor upstanding, but I haven’t changed his name. I decided that it was just meant to be.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Extract from 'The House Party'

My next book The House Party is due for release - both in hardback by Robert Hale and, for download, with - at the end of July.

Here is an extract from the first chapter where you first encounter the heroine, Penelope Coombs, and her redoubtable Aunt Lucy, Lady Dalrymple.

I hope you enjoy it.

'What did you say, Aunt Lucy?' Penelope Coombs stared at her aged aunt with undisguised amazement. 'Attend a balloon ascent?'
'My dear, have I not told you how enthralled I have become of late with all things aeronautical?'
'No, Aunt, you have not. Indeed I can say without fear of contradiction that this is the very first time you have ever expressed so much as a passing interest in the matter.'
Lady Dalrymple patted the chaise-longue making the feather on her maroon turban flutter. 'Do come and sit down, my dear, your pacing is making me dizzy.'

Penelope paused at the far side of the drawing-room the hem of her pale green muslin skirt swirling around her ankles. 'I cannot sit still. I'm certain that the letter from London will come today.'
Lady Dalrymple snorted. 'In my opinion the whole thing is fustian. Your poor father would turn in his grave if he knew how you intend to spend his money.'
'That's doing it too brown, Aunt Lucy. I only intend to invest half my funds in shipping - and there will be more than enough left over to keep us both in luxury for the rest of our lives.' Penelope walked over to join her aunt. 'What is all this about balloons, Aunt? Tell me more?'
'If you stop perambulating around the room for five minutes I shall be happy to do so.'
'Very well. I suppose your tale will pass the time'

'I came by a poster advertising the ascent a week ago and quite made up my mind to attend. There are to be rides for the public and I am determined that I shall be first in the line.'
Penny gazed at her elderly aunt with affection. 'You're almost eighty years old, Aunt Lucy. Ballooning is for the young and agile.'
'Stuff and nonsense! I am fitter now than some people half my age. It is because of my approaching name day that I wish to do it. The good Lord might call me back at any moment. Can you think of a better way to go than when one is already half way to heaven?'
Penny chuckled. 'Now I know you've run mad. Are you trying to tell me in a roundabout
fashion that you hope to perish in the basket of the balloon?'
'What a ridiculous notion? Of course not. I have a list here of ten things I wish to experience before I depart this world and a ride in a balloon is but third on it. I am determined that I shall accomplish them all before I turn up my toes.'
Penny held out her hand. 'Please show me, Aunt. My heart quails at the prospect of discovering the two items that precede the ascent.'
Lady Dalrymple placed the paper in the outstretched hand, her eyes lowered, not wishing her astute great-niece to see her expression. She considered that her imaginary list was a masterstroke. When Penny had been obliged to return to the family home, on the sudden demise of Sir John Coombs just over a year ago, it had been in the happy expectation of receiving an offer from Edward Weston.

Lady Dalrymple smiled as she recalled the exact words on the bill advertising the forthcoming balloon ascent.
This event has been fully funded by the Earl of Rushford. Lord Weston is a founder member of The Suffolk Aeronautical Association.
With any luck his lordship would attend the event bringing several of his gentlemen friends. Whatever her personal feelings on the matter Lady Dalrymple was of the firm opinion that any earl was better than none.
Penny scanned the neatly penned list with growing consternation. Number one was a visit to Paris, number two a trip along the canals of Venice and number three, an ascent in a balloon. 'Aunt Lucy, I know Bonaparte is imprisoned on Elba but I don't believe it to be safe to travel abroad at the moment.'
'Which is why, my dear, I intend to start with number three. It is fortuitous that such an event is to take place in our neighbourhood. It is high time you were seen in public again. What is the point of having a new wardrobe in the first stare at fashion if you do not intend to be seen wearing it?'

'Very well, I concede. Tomorrow we shall drive into Ipswich. However reluctant an aeronaut I am, I cannot allow you to take a flight unaccompanied. If you insist on this folly then we shall suffer the experience together.' Penny grinned. 'Don't look so smug, Aunt Lucy, I promise you might well regret your determination to cheat the laws of nature. From what I have read on the subject many people experience nausea and all return frozen to the marrow.'

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Times Archive On Line

The entire Times archive is now available on-line and, for the moment, is completely free - all you have to do is register at
It's a staggering resource - everything is there - adverts, announcements, news, gossip - right from the very first edition.
These scans are from my personal collection of Regency newspapers, two snippets almost at random from February 29th, 1812, but the fantastic thing about the on-line archive is that everything is indexed. Not only does this mean you can locate exactly what you need - but you also see the whole edition if you want, leading to hours of serendipitous meandering.
It really should come with health warning for authors - I've never come across such addictive displacement activity.
Louise Allen

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stand and Deliver - Some Ladies of the Road

My new Regency Historical, Unmasked, hits US bookstores in July and is already available on the internet. It features the adventures of the Glory Girls, a band of highwaywomen who fight to right wrongs and address social injustice in a world where women's roles were often restricted by the traditions and demands of society.

When I was researching Unmasked I had a fine time reading about the exploits of female highwaymen. Highway robbery on horseback required physical strength, courage and aggression, qualities which David Brandon in his book Stand and Deliver notes are not necessarily the prerogative of the male sex! The first recorded female highwayman was Moll Cutpurse who was apparently a hoyden who was adept with her fists and a quarterstaff! In the days of the Commonwealth she held up General Fairfax when he was crossing Hounslow Heath and relieved him of a fortune in gold coin.

Another famous lady of the road was Catherine Ferrers, whose exploits were turned into the film "The Wicked Lady." Catherine apparently turned to a life of crime because she was bored with her marriage to an older man! She enjoyed seeing strong men quail when she pointed a pistol at them.

The outfit of choice for highwaywomen was the exact dress of their male counterparts; masks, cloaks, tricorne hats and riding boots, and they rode astride since side saddle would probably have given the game away!

There is more about Unmasked, plus and extract and special celebration contest on my website.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Writing a Hero's Diary - Henry Tilney, part 2

You can find the first part of my meandering blogs which are following me through writing Henry Tilney's Diary by scrolling down to my last post on 6th June

Working out the timelines for the diaries is never easy because Austen doesn't usually mention specific years in her books, the exception being Persuasion which starts with a list of dates from the baronetcy and frequently talks about "the year six".

In Northanger Abbey no specific year is mentioned, but there's a good clue as to when it was set in Chapter Six. Isabella says to Catherine:

". . . when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

I looked up the publication dates for the books mentioned and found they were as follows: Castle of Wolfenbach,1793; Clermont,1798; Mysterious Warnings,1796; Necromancer of the Black Forest,1794; Midnight Bell, 1798; Orphan of the Rhine,1798; and Horrid Mysteries, 1796.

Given that Isabella and Catherine are talking to each other in February, it can't be any earlier than February 1799, because all the above books are already in circulation.

This also fits in very neatly with the fact that Austen started to write it in 1798/1799.

After that, it was just a question of printing out a blank calendar and adding the various events of the book on the relevant months, then checking in the almanack to add the days to the dates, eg to see that the first of February was a Friday.

Next time I'll be talking about how I take one of the most difficult decisions in the diaries, where to start.

Amanda Grange

Available books in the Austen diaries series are Mr Darcy's Diary, Mr Knightley's Diary, Captain Wentworth's Diary, Edmund Bertram's Diary and Colonel Brandon's Diary. They're available from bookshops or from Amazons including Amazon US and Amazon UK

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Regencies and Romance in Manchester!

Manchester Central Library has become a hotbed of passion and romance! Last week saw the launch of Mills & Boon’s Book Exhibition celebrating their centenary (isn't the corset wonderful? It was created from M&B covers by artist Ros Burgin for the M&B Exhibtion.

The library staff decided to expand on this theme and hold its very own Regency Day on Saturday. Regency Pleasures and Pastimes was the library’s celebration of all things Regency. The library staff raided the bookshelves and archives for books on Regency costume, customs, music and history and used these as the backdrop for their Regency-based activites - they had singers performing Regency songs, displays of embroidery, fan-decorating and Regency doll-dressing for the children, accompanied by Regency refreshments (I can recommend the cloudy lemonade). I think the cut out dolls are super - I have a couple now taking pride of place on my bookshelves!

All this took place in the main body of the library, and quite an audience stopped to listen to the wonderful singing. There were displays of some of the library’s reference books, showing dance steps and positions (and a wonderful little booklet of Cotillions printed for a dancing master) as well as beautiful fashion places from the period. Then, in the Conference Room, I teamed up with Harlequin Mills & Boon author Nicola Cornick to give a talk on Writing the Regency Novel. There was a vase of beautiful pink roses on a table between us, a fabulous marble fireplace at our backs and we discussed various aspects of the Regency novel with a friendly and interested audience (including one or two familiar faces).

After setting the scene by explaining a little about the Regency period, Nicola discussed the character that more than any other typifies the Regency hero – the rake. Many of Nicola’s own heroes are rakes, reformed by the love of the heroine, but only after the requisite amount of suffering! One thing we are both agreed upon: fascinating as rakes may be and however much we love to read about them, in real life we would not care to be involved with men whose lives revolve around racing, gambling, drinking and womanising!

Nicola and I are both passionate about working for historical accuracy in our novels and I spent a little time explaining how I try to recreate the spirit of the Regency times, reading about the period, exploring the music and literature to get a feel for the use and flow of the language.

It was a pleasure to discuss this fascinating topic with Nicola and we also gave a few hints and tips to the aspiring writers in the audience. I only hope they enjoyed it all as much as I did.

Our presentation was followed by jay Dixon’s talk on Georgette Heyer, whose historical romances sparked the whole Regency Romance genre. With captivating insights into the writer’s life and works, jay explained how Heyer explored various writing styles and created the Regency novels that are enjoyed by millions of readers world-wide. Like many other writers, I discovered Heyer in my teens and my love for her work is as strong as ever – I still return to her books as my “comfort reads” when I need to pamper myself!

You can read more about the exhibition and Regency Day on my website,

Monday, June 16, 2008

Plot and Theme

After twenty years of writing I thought I had pretty well sussed out the intricacies of plot development and theme. So it came as a bit of a shock when I delivered the second book in the Loveday series to my editor to be told the plot was fine but it did not really have a theme.

I believe in learning from my editors and take on board anything that will make the novel stronger and more memorable. But I was puzzled. I had thought the theme of this book was how the family coped with facing financial ruin when their money is lost through a bank’s bad investments. My editor agreed with this but diplomatically suggested that we could lift the story to a new level by expanding aspects of this theme. The original title of the book was The Loveday Legacy and this was changed to The Loveday Fortunes. Suddenly I was inspired to bring in some new twists as I played around with the different meanings of the word fortune as regards both money and fate. Against the backdrop of growing revolution in France, the family struggle to overcome ruin and tensions rise as sacrifices must be made and conflict flourishes as changing fortunes strain a family already buckling with internal rivalry and jealousy.

It was the best advice an editor ever gave me. The following titles of The Loveday Trials and The Loveday Scandals helped me delve into the psychology of the family and their adversaries as one family member was put on trial for murder whilst others in the family faced the trials of new crises that beset them. When some of their actions were causing scandals that could destroy their lives and reputations with dire consequences the destructive force of a scandal tests everyone's integrity and survival. The Loveday Honour, The Loveday Pride and The Loveday Loyalty gave me plenty of ammunition to explore how individuals used these personal traits according to their strengths or weaknesses, and provided dramas created by both the good and the bad sides of these emotions. I love working out the psychology behind a character’s motivation to defend family honour by fighting a duel, or feel honour must be upheld no matter the personal cost, or how pride can be our saving grace or our downfall.

Using a theme in all its diversity can add a deeper dimension to a plot and bring in some surprises and twists that make a novel a real page turner.

To find out more information on the Lovedays or my writing world click here

Kate Tremaayne

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jane Austen and romance in Lyme?

There is a story handed down by members of Jane Austen's family that the author fell in love with a young man during one of her West Country holidays about the year1802. Her niece Caroline wrote of it in her old age having had it passed to her by Jane's sister Cassandra, although Caroline thought that perhaps the romance had happened in Devonshire, not Lyme. No names were recorded but the story goes that he returned Jane's affection and that he promised to meet her again. Sadly, it was not to be; the sisters heard later of his untimely death. I've often wondered if this young man inspired Persuasion and because Jane wrote so lovingly of Lyme, whether in fact her romance did take place in Lyme.
The Austens stayed in Lyme in 1803 and again in 1804, this time with Jane's brother Henry and his wife Eliza. The photograph below shows Pyne House on the left, where it is believed that Jane Austen stayed. The little house is on the main road down to the sea, on Broad Street, a short walk away from the promenade and the Cobb. The Austens were in Lyme for a September holiday and there is evidence to suggest that they stayed as late as November. Again, in Persuasion, Anne Elliot and the party from Uppercross visit Lyme in November and the description of Lyme - " 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;" - suggests that Jane was writing from first-hand knowledge.

Jane Odiwe

Friday, June 13, 2008

Seductive Secrets

I've been drooling over this cover since I first saw it, and delighted it was to be for "Seductive Secrets," the first in a new trilogy set in the 1750's. Like most of my books, it's ebook first, print to follow later. And it's finally out.
"Seductive Secrets" is also All Romance Ebooks' Book of the Month at their book club, and I have several engagements, online and off, to do with that.
So without further ado, may I present -

Seductive Secrets, the first in the Secrets Trilogy
By Lynne Connolly

Can she trust him with all her secrets?
Isobel carries baggage from her first marriage. But Nicholas, Marquis of Cardington, thinks he can cope with them when he proposes marriage to the beautiful widow he’s loved all his adult life. He hasn’t even started to uncover her pain. Only on their wedding night does he get some idea of the terrible secret Isobel has harbored for the last eight years.
Isobel married Harry after jilting Nick, but now Nick is back and he won’t take no for an answer. But the blackmailers who drove Harry to suicide are back, too and their want their pound of flesh.
Isobel must learn to trust Nick with her life and all her secrets 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 - the first in the Secrets trilogy
Can she trust him with all her secrets?
ISBN: 978-1-60504-042-4
From Samhain Publishing

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Bittersweet Proposal

I am delighted with the cover for my latest book, A Bittersweet Proposal, due to be published by Robert Hale on the 28th June, and since it was selected to feature on the cover of Hale's latest catalogue I guess they must be happy with it too.

A while ago I posted an extract from the book, introducing you to my hero, Marc Rothwell, the new Earl of Broadstairs. This is how the reader first makes the acquaintance of his future wife, Harriet Aston.

The atmosphere was taut with expectancy as Harriet Aston totted up the endless column of figures for the third time.
'Have you discovered the discrepancy yet?' asked James anxiously.
'Shush, James!' scolded Charlotte, peeping at her exquisite profile in a nearby mirror and carefully patting a stray curl back into place. 'I am sure Harri will resolve the matter more quickly without interruptions from us.'
'Interruption does not signify, I am afraid, since I am quite unable to balance the books.' Harriet cast her quill aside with a defeated air. 'But there can be no further doubt that we are exceeding our income.'
'Oh, Harri dear, surely not?' cried Mrs Aston vaguely. 'And we have been so very careful recently. Not one luxury has passed the threshold and I am sure we could not have been more frugal.'
Harriet sighed. As always her mother had her head in the clouds and not the slightest notion of economy. 'Five dozen wax candles, Mama,' she chided gently. 'Did we not agree that wax is ruinously expensive and that tallow will serve our needs just as well?'
'But, Harri, tallow smokes quite shockingly and causes poor Thomas to wheeze until he can scarce draw breath. You know how he suffers so with his weak chest.'
Harriet's nine-year-old brother offered up a timely cough, his wan expression accompanied by a disproportionately mischievous grin. Harriet shook a finger at him but had the good sense not to pursue the subject of the candles, knowing it was a lost cause. Instead she looked with ill-disguised horror at the next account on her father's desk.
'Five yards of spider-gauze -'
'Ten would have better suited Charlotte's requirements but I was mindful of your instructions to economize,' Mrs Aston assured her daughter proudly.
Harriet's despair rendered her temporarily speechless.
'Ye gods!' she exclaimed, when she saw the next account. 'Flemish lace, Charlotte? Would not something less expensive have served?'
'You are being very mean-spirited!' cried Charlotte indignantly., 'If you had your way I would disgrace the family by going to Town dressed in nothing better than nankeen.'
'No, of course you must look your best, Charlotte, but you must realize that -'
'Besides,' continued Charlotte, openly admiring her countenance again as she fiddled with her golden curls, 'all your scoldings about extravagance are a waste of breath. I am sure to make a splendid match when I am seen about town, thus saving us all from the workhouse.' She swirled round, her beautiful face alive with animation. 'But in order to snare a rich husband I must give every appearance of being comfortably situated.'
'Indeed you must, my love,' agreed Mrs Aston, patting her daughter's hand.
'We all fervently hope that your plan will succeed,' said Harriet, losing patience and sounding more acerbic than she had intended. 'But in the meantime we must eat, and contrive to keep the business ope4rating if we wish to retain a roof over our heads. We must also find a way to send the boys to school before they run completely wild. Did you really need to order four new bonnets, Charlotte?' she queried, looking with dread at the outrageous total at the foot of the milliner's account.
'You are most unkind, Harri!' cried Charlotte, stamping her foot. 'It is very exhausting being expected to save the family single-handed, and the least you could do is be supportive.'
'Pray do not frown, darling,' cajoled Mrs Aston, 'it will leave a permanent crease on your lovely brow.'
'She is just jealous, Mama,' said the beauty, her scowl giving way to an angelic expression. 'She has no notion how tiresome it can be, being constantly admired for one's appearance.'

With competition from such a beauty how can it be Harriet who attracts Lord Rothwell's interest? To find out make sure you order a copy of A Bittersweet Proposal - ISBN 978 0 7090 8566 9 - from your local library. And remember all Hale books are available at discounted prices, postage and packing free, direct from

wendy Soliman

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I’ve just finished His Reluctant Mistress, the second book of The Aikenhead Honours Trilogy. Much of the story takes place during the Congress of Vienna but it involves quite a lot of travelling. How did people get from A to B, and how long did it take, especially when the weather was bad?

We tend to assume that travel in those days was very slow. It didn’t have to be. When the Duke of Wellington was sent to take command of the allied forces in Flanders, he left Vienna on 29th March 1815, arriving in Brussels on 4th April. His mode of travel was not easy, though. He travelled by carriage with two companions, Colonel Fremantle and fourteen-year-old Lennox. Their meals were cold, though splendid: foie gras and fine claret are mentioned. They were allowed exactly 4 hours of sleep a night. Wellington remained as well turned out as ever. No wonder he was called the Beau. But the other two slept by the fire in their clothes and probably looked thoroughly disreputable by the time they reached their destination.

Even ladies could travel at an astonishing pace when it suited them. The Duchess of Courland, ex-mistress of King Louis XVIII’s foreign minister, Prince Talleyrand, was in Paris on 19th March 1815 when the King fled the city for exile in Flanders. Napoleon was reported to be approaching Paris. (The reports were right. The following day, Napoleon was carried shoulder-high into the Tuileries palace.) The Duchess fled for Vienna to seek refuge with her daughter and Prince Talleyrand. She reached there late on Friday 24th March, having covered the distance in just 5 days. Her daughter was less than pleased to discover that, in her panic to escape, the Duchess had left her two small grandsons behind!


Sunday, June 08, 2008

My New Regency

Wedding flowers taken by my sister

The Homeless Heiress is the latest of my Regencies to be published by HMB and will be out in July. I have another coming in December and there will be a trilogy next year. However, I am hoping that they will publish my Melford Dynasty next year at some point; this is the first trilogy in a long series of books. They are out in America, and two will be in ebook, but not here yet.

The Regency continues to be as popular as ever, both here and in America. A Regency I had out in USA went to number two at the historical section of fictionwise; this is out in ebook and trade paperback and has just started to sell in Kindle.

Some of the authors put up such lovely pictures. Today for a change I am going to put up something different. LOL Anne Herries

Friday, June 06, 2008

Writing a hero's diary - Henry Tilney

I've just started my new Austen retelling and I thought I'd keep an account of the writing process on the blog. It will probably be rambling as I have an untidy mind, but I hope it will be interesting for anyone who likes reading the diaries and maybe for writers and aspiring writers, too.

When I finished writing Colonel Brandon's Diary at Christmas I decided to take a break from writing as it's tiring and I wanted to be fresh for the next diary. But I'm not very good at taking a break, and although I didn't write anything I was thinking all the time.

I knew that I wanted to write Henry Tilney's Diary next, because then I would have written a diary for each of Austen's novels, but I'm very bad at doing what I ought to be doing and I found myself thinking about Edward Ferrars.

I'd been uncertain which diary to do when I was retelling Sense and Sensibility, but I decided rather randomly on Colonel Brandon's Diary, which left Edward Ferrars's story untold. I thought I would probably write it after Henry's diary, but I kept wondering about Edward. Why hadn't he inherited the family estate and fortune when his father died? He was an older son and so, by rights he should have done so.Why did he fall in love with Lucy? What arts did she employ? Or was it just a question of proximity?

I decided I'd write Edward's diary next instead of Henry's diary, so I read Sense and Sensibility again and made notes - I'd already done this for Col Brandon's Diary, but I needed different notes so I couldn't reuse them.

Then I imagined what it must have been like for Edward when his father was alive, his relationship with his father, and I began to write some early scenes from his childhood.

Then I came across this portrait of Walter Scott, and I thought it looked like Mr Bennet:

I thought it was a pity that I wasn't going to write Mr Bennet's Diary because it would have made an ideal cover, and then I laughed at myself for even thinking of writing Mr Bennet's Diary. And then I started thinking about it and I realised it would make an interesting book because it would deal with Mr Bennet's courtship of Mrs Bennet and explain why he married such an unsuitable woman. It would explore the reasons for his disagreement with Mr Collins's father - I've always wondered about that - and the reasons why they stopped speaking to each other. And then it would follow Mr and Mrs Bennet through their early married life, with the birth of their daughters, and his close relationship with Lizzy and Jane. Then the gradual realisation that no son would be forthcoming, and his withdrawal to the library, where he could feel safe from feminine chatter. And then of course it would follow him through the events of Pride and Prejudice, with him paying a call on Bingley, meeting Mr Darcy, and chasing Lydia to London. And finally his thoughts on Mr Darcy's marrying Elizabeth.

I got so carried away by the idea that I wrote the opening diary entries, and then realised, rather guiltily, that I was meant to be writing Henry's diary. I also realised that, as I couldn't keep away from the keyboard and I couldn't keep my thoughts from Jane Austen, I was ready to start work again.

The first step was to reread Northanger Abbey and immerse myself in the world Austen created. The second step was to then read the book again more slowly and make detailed notes, particularly noting down any mention of days or months as they would be essential for writing the diary entries. And then it was time to work out the timeline.

I'll be posting more about this on 21st June, so I hope you can join me.

Amanda Grange

Available books in the Austen diaries series are Mr Darcy's Diary, Mr Knightley's Diary, Captain Wentworth's Diary, Edmund Bertram's Diary and Colonel Brandon's Diary. They're available from bookshops or from Amazons including Amazon US and Amazon UK

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Portrait of a Pirate

I collect faces – ugly faces, pretty faces, strange faces – but always interesting faces that seem to have a story behind them.
I don’t know who this is, when he was painted or whether he was real or not. He’s lurked in my collection and at the back of my imagination for about eighteen months.
Now I know who he is – ‘Red’ Matthew McTiernan, captain of the pirate vessel Sea Scorpion in the sixth and final story in my series Those Scandalous Ravenhursts.
Despite his unflamboyant appearance, McTiernan gets his nickname from his habit of leaving his victims’ decks running with blood, so Clemence, the heroine of The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst is wishing she was anywhere but in the cabin of the Sea Scorpion’s enigmatic navigator, Nathan Stanier.
I haven’t discovered yet how Captain McTiernan is going to receive his come-uppance. I am sure it will be a suitable fate for one of the nastiest pirates in the Caribbean, although I doubt if I’ll be able to conjure up the Kraken from the depths to dispose of him!

Louise Allen

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Romance and Regencies in Manchester

This month Mills & Boon celebrates its centenary year with the launch of its book exhibition - And Then He Kissed Her - in Manchester. Some of us are lucky enough to be going to the launch party this week, and the exhibition will be open to the public from 6th June until 31st July. Mills & Boon have always supported historical romantic fiction, and I am looking forward to see just how this genre has changed over the past one hundred years.

As part of the library's romantic theme, on Saturday 14th June Nicola Cornick and I will be taking part in a day of Regency Pleasures and Pastimes at the library. The festivities start with refreshments and Regency song, then Nicola and I will be talking about historical fiction. This will be followed by Regency crafts and pastimes for children and families – make a fan, dress paper dolls etc. and there will also be a talk on Georgette Heyer, Queen of Regency Romantic Fiction, by jay Dixon, freelance editor and author of “The Romantic Fiction of Mills & Boon.”
Libraries have something of a reputation for being stuffy, boring places, but this is definitely not the case for Manchester!
Melinda Hammond /
Sarah Mallory

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A new venture for the Lovedays


If you enjoy the Loveday series of novels I hope you will also enjoy the new blog I have created which will give you insights into the Loveday characters, their world and my writing career, and also historical facts about the period.

The blog has been set up in response to many requests by visitors to my website who want to know more about the characters backgrounds, their adventures, conflicts passions and romances and also about the settings of the scenes in Cornwall and elsewhere. It is intended as an interactive blog for readers of the Regency period and those interested in how the Loveday characters and their world were created.

To visit the blog click here

Kate Tremayne