Thursday, July 31, 2008

Colonel Brandon's Diary is out today!

Colonel Brandon's Diary is out today! I'm really looking forward to finding out what readers thing about it. I absolutely loved writing it. Colonel Brandon has such a roller coaster of a life, with his first love affair ending in tragedy and then, miraculously, he finds another love.

Like Persuasion, it has a theme of 'seconds' but whereas Persuasion has a theme of second chances, Sense and Sensibility has a theme of second attachments. I really came to admire Colonel Brandon when writing the book because he had the courage to love again.

I wonder if that is why Jane Austen made both Wentworth and Brandon military men - they both have the courage to try again.

If you'd like to read an extract please visit my website by clicking here

Amanda Grange

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jane Austen on Film and the Flete Estate

I've just finished writing another Jane Austen Sequel, one inspired by Sense and Sensibility. I loved the Emma Thompson/Ang Lee adaptation which was made in 1995 and so when I had a special birthday looming on the horizon, I thought I would celebrate it in the house where a lot of the film was shot, at Efford House on the Flete Estate, Holbeton, in Devon. My birthday is in November, but the weather was surprisingly mild and we had a few sunny days which were heavenly. I knew the house would look a little different from the way it looked in the film; its windows were given Georgian proportions and the door was given a canopy and columns, but it was still lovely to walk in the Dashwood sister's footsteps up to the entrance and imagine gorgeous Greg Wise, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman coming to call! Inside, the rooms are recognisable, especially the Dashwood's dining room, which really does have a chimney that smokes! My family didn't know it as they unsuspectingly arrived for what they thought was a party, that they would have to act out their parts - poor things, I hear you cry - at least I didn't make them dress up! It was a very inspiring place to be, the surrounding countryside is gorgeous. There is a beach within walking distance and the people in the village were very welcoming and friendly. The most wonderful sight was the sky at night. The house is far away from street lights and any noise from town life, which is what I am used to in suburban London. On the night of my birthday the sky was very clear and the velvet night studded with stars like diamonds. I did not want to go to bed even in the early hours and stayed for as long as I could sitting on the window seat in my bedroom enthralled by the view. It was a truly memorable birthday treat.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse.
(traditional rhyme)

I didn't see any ladies on white horses during a recent visit to the market town of Banbury in Oxfordshire. However, I did see a rather fine original example of a Regency gentleman's overcoat, circa 1820, in the Banbury Museum:

I love the wide, open collar, exactly fashionable for the period and the kind of style favoured by Beau Brummell. The overcoat looked very heavy and stiff, a practical garment for keeping out the weather. It also looked in surprisingly good condition, considering it is nearly two hundred years old.

A perfect greatcoat for any Regency hero!

Kate Allan

Monday, July 28, 2008

Richard and Rose

I'm delighted to announce that the Richard and Rose series has been signed to Samhain.
Richard and Rose was the first series I ever sold, way back in the days of NBI, and it's very different to anything I've written since.
For a start, the series is in the first person. A strange experience. It was as if Rose was standing just behind me, telling me the stories in her distinctive voice, very different to mine. Deeper than my voice, stronger, although she does have a sexy whisper!
I know it's just me (well nearly!). But after years and years of research, just because I loved the Georgian era, I didn't have to think about what she'd do if... or how she'd react when... She just did, and she did it in character.
The whole series is about one couple. Each book has an ending, but if you want to, you can read what happened to them next. That was a reaction to the soap operas on TV! I got tired of couples who fell in love, married, had affairs, split, all because the writers of said soap operas got more drama from manipulating these poor people around. I wanted to show that a successful relationship has a lot of work behind it, and it changes with circumstances, sometimes for the better.
I have to admit, that was drawn from real life. Mine. I've been with the same man for a very long time, married to him for twenty years. We had our bad times, our good, but looking back, when we decided to work at our relationship instead of walking away, it led to a deeper understanding and a stronger bond.
Richard and Rose are always in love but sometimes circumstances strain them. They work through it, and they get better and stronger.
Sometimes romance is just like real life.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Napoleon Gets Everywhere!

I am currently working on the third book of the Aikenhead Honours Trilogy. It’s the story of the youngest of the Aikenhead brothers, Lord Jack Aikenhead, and it’s set in France during the Hundred Days between Napoleon’s return from Elba and the Battle of Waterloo. The story is called His Forbidden Liaison and will be published next year.

Napoleon certainly got around Europe. There are reminders of him all over the place. I’ve blogged before about his impact on Venice, where the French conquest ended the Venetian Republic in 1797.

Recently I was on the Danube, researching the Congress of Vienna and the various locations for the second book of my trilogy, His Reluctant Mistress. Vienna is a wonderful city and I’d like to go again, to spend a lot more time in the places we had to race through, like the Spanish Riding School and the Belvedere.

While we were on the Danube, we also spent half a day in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. In the days of Napoleon, it was called Pressburg, and was part of the Austrian Empire. It’s a delightful city, very small, but well worth a visit. The old part is like a smaller version of Prague with the same types of buildings and the same sweetie colours to them.

My surprise in Bratislava was in the main square, outside the French embassy, where I encountered this:

And from the front he looks like this, calmly gazing across the square. What I don’t understand, though, is why one foot is bare, and the other is booted. Anyone got any suggestions?

The locals don’t seem to object to his presence the way the Venetians did. Maybe it’s their sense of humour that accounts for the bare foot? That humour is certainly everywhere. Here’s my favourite example of Bratislava sculpture. I came round a corner, and there it was, on the edge of the pavement, coming out of a manhole. It made everyone smile.


A Reluctant Bride

This has been an interesting week for me. Copies of my seventh book for Robert Hale, The House Party, arrived when I was out and had to be collected from a distant Post Office. The box was battered, but luckily the books inside were undamaged. The next day postcards to use for publicity, which I hadn't ordered, arrived from Hale.
The following morning a second parcel arrived this time from D C Thomson. Puzzled I opened this- I knew I had a novella coming out in September, but this was very early for my author copies. I undid the parcel to find eight copies of A Reluctant Bride; I had totally forgotten about this Regency -in fact thought it wasn't due out until sometime next year.
It is now available at Tesco,and W H Smith and no doubt other supermarkets. It is also going up on www.regencyreads in the next couple of weeks.
So, two books out in July - and three more coming later in the year. This will make five new titles and two Large Print coming out in 2008. I shall have to keep busy if I'm going to match that next year!
Fenella Miller

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Homeless Heiress

Here is a small excerpt for you.

Captain Richard Hernshaw paused, glanced back into the menacing darkness of the narrow alley behind him and frowned. He was being followed. The instinct he had acquired over several years working for the British government as a secret agent, was on full alert. He knew that he was taking a risk by agreeing to meet his contact here in the rookery of these terrible slum streets, but the man would not dare to show his face elsewhere for he was a rogue and perhaps worse. The meeting had gone well and Richard had what he'd come for, but since leaving his contact, he had picked up a shadow. The question was – who was following him and why?

He needed to know the answer to that question, because of the papers he was carrying, which were important and could be the answer to a mystery that he and other colleagues had been searching for in recent times. It was feared that an attempt on the lives of several prominent men in the government and, even that of the Regent himself, was being prepared, and Richard believed that the names of the ringleaders were in the documents he carried inside his coat pocket. If the person following him knew that he had them, he might be in danger – of losing both the papers and his life.

Better to attack than be attacked! Richard turned the corner, and pressed his back against the wall, waiting for whomever it was to catch up with him. His suspicions were proved correct for an instant later a small, dark shadow came hurtling round the corner. He stepped out, and grabbed the rascal's arm, gripping it tightly.

'Let me go!' A voice cried in a tone halfway between anger and fear. 'Watcha think yer doin'?'

'That is exactly what I was about to ask you,' Richard said, his gaze narrowing at he looked down at the rather grubby face of a street urchin. He smiled as he saw the indignant look in the youth's eyes. 'You have been following me for a while now, lad. I don't like being followed unless I know why.'

The youth rubbed his hand under his nose and sniffed hard. 'Weren't doin' no 'arm, sir,' he said defiantly. 'Let me go or I'll kick yer!'

'You would be sorry if you did,' Richard replied. He hesitated, his hold slackening a little as he considered. A lad like this might be after his purse but he was far from the sinister enemy he had imagined. A smile was beginning to tug at the corners of his mouth when the youth lunged at him, kicked him in the shins and wrenched free, setting off at a run back the way he had come. 'Damn you!'
Richard realised instantly that he had been robbed. The boy's hand had gone inside his jacket, removing the package he was carrying seconds before the toe of his boot connected with Richard's leg and caused him to loosen his hold enough for the lad to break free. He felt a surge of annoyance - how could he have fallen for a trick like that?

If you would like to win a copy of this book please go to my website and enter the competition there - at the bottom extreme right.
Love to you all Anne Herries

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The strange byways of research!

We've all said it before and no doubt we will say it again - research can take you in some strange directions sometimes!

Last week I was researching "the beautiful Lady Craven", the flamboyant and some would say rather wayward wife of the 6th Baron Craven. In 1780 the couple built a house called Craven Cottage, a villa on the Thames at Fulham, with the proceeds of lottery winnings. The site of the villa was later to become Fulham Football Club and it was said that the original house was on what is now the centre circle. Lord and Lady Craven lived at Craven Cottage for two years before separating in a scandalous case that riveted London society. Lady Craven discovered that her husband was openly keeping a mistress. He in turn accused her of having an affair with the French ambassador.

Amongst all the salacious details in the book I was reading was something that caught my eye. Apparently the Cravens and their guests used to go hunting, play bowls and also play a game called "tlachtli" which was based on a ritual game invented by the Aztecs! Even more startling were the details of the game - players had to score a ball through a hoop using only their hips! This set me wondering how on earth tlachtli came to be played by the aristocracy in England and whether it was considered rather daring to play such a physical and even rather suggestive game!

After the death of Lord Craven, his widow went on to marry the Margrave of Anspach and to entertain on a vast scale at Brandenburgh House. Snubbed by some of the ladies of Regency society and by King George III himself because of her rather racy reputation, she ended her colourful life in Naples in 1828.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Writing a hero's diary, Henry Tilney - part 4

If you'd like to read the previous posts on this subject, then scroll down to 6th June, 21st June and 6th July

Here is the rough draft for the opening of Henry Tilney's Diary, as discussed in my previous post on 6th July

The opening scenes take place 9 years before the events of Northanger Abbey, which is why they are taking place in 1790

Friday 2 July
Frederick came home roaring drunk again this morning and demanded a thousand pounds from my father to cover his losses at the gaming tables. My father, no stranger to the first half of Frederick’s complaint, began roaring himself, and said that Frederick had disgraced the name of Tilney.

‘By God, boy! It’s the army for you. I’ve been lenient with you for long enough.’
Mama implored him to change his mind, saying that Frederick was too young to join the army, to which my father replied, ‘Eighteen? Too young? If anything it is too old.’ Then turning to Frederick he demanded, ‘Well, Sir, what have you to say for yourself?’
Frederick smirked and fell into a chair.
‘That the women will not be able to resist me in uniform!’

‘Puppy!’ roared my father.
‘Please, dear, do reconsider,’ implored my mother. ‘Frederick is the heir. He cannot go into the army. What will happen if he is killed?’
‘He’ll be killed if he stays at home. He’s forever putting his horse at breakneck jumps, and drunk or sober he’s been in more duels than any man I know.’
‘But think of the estate,’ said Mama; a concern which fooled no one, for she cares very little for the estate and a great deal for her firstborn son.

‘If Frederick is fool enough to get himself killed then Henry will look after it,’ shouted my father, who has not yet mastered the skill of normal conversation but continues to speak as though he is on a battle field.
Mama pleaded with him for some time but to no avail, and at last she left the room, closely followed by my father, who was still shouting his dissatisfaction with his eldest son.
If I had a taste to step into Frederick’s shoes I would be well pleased with the turn events have taken, but alas! I have no desire to inherit the estate. It is not well managed and I have no desire to spend my time trying to reclaim it from the brink of disaster.

‘Have a thought for me,’ I said to Frederick, as he staggered drunkenly to his feet. ‘I would much rather inherit the family living than the family estate, so take care of your neck. I do not want to see it broken.’
He smiled broadly as he lurched towards me, then he put his arm round my neck, told me I was his best friend and passed out on the floor.

Saturday 3 July
‘Inherit the estate? Oh no, my dear Henry, it would never do,’ said my sister Eleanor, laughing, as we strolled through the gardens this morning. ‘You could never play the part of a firstborn son. You are not nearly reckless or rakish enough.’

I've no idea if this opening will remain. I will edit it many times before it goes to the publisher, and I might change it completely, or begin the book elsewhere, but somehow I don't think so. It accomplishes a lot in a small space. It introduces us to Henry and his family and it gives us some indication of their personalities. It also sets the scene for later events, such as Frederick running off with another man's fiancee and General Tilney trying to make his children marry wealthy spouses.

Next time I'll be talking about the Gothic influence on Northanger Abbey and my thoughts on working the same influence into Henry Tilney's Diary.
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

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Jane Austen Magic

After a fantastic weekend at the RNA Conference in Chichester we stayed down in Hampshire for a week in a cottage. Faced with a Monday of pouring rain we realised how close we were to Chawton, Jane Austen’s home from 1809 until a few days before her death in 1817 – it seemed the obvious destination.
As we arrived in the village the rain stopped, the sun came out and the garden was filled with the scent of roses – magic.

And it got better. Surprised to see the admission prices had been covered by a notice saying ‘Free’, we discovered that we had arrived on the 199th anniversary of Jane’s arrival at the house with her mother and sister Cassandra on 7th June.

The interior is fascinating and evocative, laid out in a way that displays family relics yet preserves the feel of the house at the time the Austen’s lived there. Particularly moving is Jane and Cassandra’s bedroom with their niece Caroline’s description of the last time she saw Jane, sitting by the fireside in that room, just before she died.

More cheerful is Jane’s little donkey carriage, the patchwork coverlet the Austen ladies made and the pretty Gothic window that her brother had put into the drawing room so the ladies could sit and look out onto the garden.
And, of course, irresistible to an author, is Jane’s tiny writing table in the dining parlour. I stood there hoping some of the genius would rub off!

Also in the dining parlour is part of the dinner service that Jane, her brother Edward and her niece Fanny went to buy for Edward at the Wedgwood showrooms in London – exactly as she describes it in a letter to Cassandra.

It was a slightly eerie feeling, exploring the house exactly to the day that Jane would have come here for the first time, looking at it with unfamiliar eyes. I’m looking forward to visiting in June 2009 when major celebrations are promised!

Louise Allen

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Prince Regent's priorities

Having completed and sent off my latest historical romance, Wild Justice, I’m now beginning research for my next book. It’s amazing how bits of really interesting information turn up in the most unlikely circumstances.
Two days ago was my Dad’s 93rd birthday and he decided to celebrate with a patio party for 28 guests. The average age was 80, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more lively and talkative crowd. A large table under an enormous umbrella was loaded with food, and a bowl the size of a baby's bath brimmed with fruit punch spiced with strong cider, mint and six thinly-sliced oranges. There were a few bottles of wine as well.
An hour after the guests arrived later the noise was at pain level and all that was left on the table were a couple of paper plates and one wilted stick of celery. My father’s friends know how to enjoy themselves.
I spent an intriguing half hour talking to someone who recently retired from running a business designing and making medals for - among others - the Sultan of Oman. From him I learned that in 1804, while George 1V was still the Regent and Britain was fighting the French in the Napoleonic Wars, instead of channeling every penny he could lay his hands on into the war effort, the Regent was diverting considerable sums into having made the first silver-gilt wine labels in the world. All Europe’s other royalty used silver wine labels. Of the two images above, the left shows the wonderfully crafted style of the wine labels, and the right the warm tones of silver-gilt. Thirty-six of these labels form part of the silver-gilt Grand Service used at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

Jane Jackson.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New Melinda Hammond e-books!

I am very excited because a brand-new Melinda Hammond is being published in September as an e-book by Samhain Publishing! This is a story I really loved writing, combining an impossible Georgian love affair with a modern day romance and just a hint of the supernatural - a little different from my other Melinda Hammond titles! The cover, I think, is gorgeous - I hope you agree. MOONSHADOWS is not published until September, but I just had to share this with you!

“Everything’s going wrong with my life - my boss wants to get me into bed, and I am being haunted by my ancestor’s three-hundred-year-old lover!”

Jez Skelton has two men in her life (three, if you count the Georgian nobleman who haunts her dreams). Piers Cordeaux is a rich, successful businessman and incredibly attractive. Harry Gillam is a young engineer, just making his way in the world. Piers has everything, Harry very little. Jez knows the choice between the two men is clear-cut: she is determined to remain loyal to Harry, but when he is sent abroad, Piers’ attentions become harder to resist. On top of all this, she learns about her eighteenth-century ancestor, Sarah Methven, whose story seems to run strangely parallel to her own. Can she avoid the same unhappy ending?

You can find out more about this book at Samhain publishing at

AS IF THAT WASNT' ENOUGH EXCITEMENT, MAID OF HONOUR is soon to be published as an ebook by Regency Reads! MAID OF HONOUR is one of my traditional Regency adventure romances, already in print with Robert Hale Ltd. I haven't seen the cover yet but I have included covers of my three existing Regency Reads e-books to give you some idea.

When her mother is incapacitated, Lucilla Chambers reluctantly agrees to take her place and act as chaperone to her sister, the beautiful young widow, Lady Lairne. Her attempts to protect her sister bring Lucilla into conflict with the notorious Dominic Vanderley and soon she finds that it is her own honour that is threatened. She flees to the safety of her childhood home, but soon she is caught up in the hasty preparations for war. With Napoleon Bonaparte marching through France towards his fate, a shadow hangs over Europe, a shadow that will touch Lucilla’s young life with tragedy and suffering before she can find the happiness that she is seeking.

For more information on my Regency Reads books go to, and watch this space for more details!

Melinda Hammond

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


If you'd like to keep up to date with our books and share our news, as well as having a chance to enter our great competitions to win copies of our books, don't forget to sign up for our newsletter.

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Review of The Loveday Revenge

It does not matter how long you have been published or how many novels you have written a good review still sets your heart singing that you have produced something worthy of praise. When we write about people and events that we are passionate about it makes all our hours of solitude and research worthwhile. I was so delighted by this review I wanted to share it with you. This was a review given by

With its cast of unforgettable characters, sweeping locations, nail-biting intrigue and poignant family drama, Kate Tremayne’s saga following the lives and loves of the Loveday family is a must-read for readers who yearn for those wonderfully old-fashioned, full-bloodied and intense family sagas by Susan Howatch and Winston Graham.

Kate Tremayne’s Loveday saga gets better and better with every book! Romantic, passionate, intriguing, breathtaking and engrossing from beginning to end, once I started The Loveday Revenge, I found myself unable to put it down. Full of characters that linger in the mind long after the last page is turned, nefarious scheming, heartwrenching romance, powerful emotion, love, lust, greed and family secrets, The Loveday Revenge is sheer perfection from start to finish.
If you want to find out the reason why readers and critics all over the world are falling in love with the Loveday family, then pick up a copy of The Loveday Revenge, and get ready to be swept back in time with these enthralling books which I just cannot get enough of!

Kate Tremayne
For more about the Loveday books click here

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dido Elizabeth Belle

This painting of two young girls depicted at Kenwood House which was their home is of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her half cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray.
Dido was born around 1763, the daughter of an African slave and Sir John Lindsay, a Captain in the Royal Navy. Lindsay sent Dido to live with his uncle, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield and Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench. Lord Mansfield had a sympathetic view toward the abolition of slavery declaring in the Somersett case that slavery was illegal.
Dido's role within the household seems to have been as a companion to her cousin. She tended the dairy farm and helped Lord Mansfield with his work as a secretary might. Although she was educated to a level beyond most women of the day and enjoyed a comfortable life, her position in the family was a difficult one, living somewhere between the life of a family member and the servants. Dido was not allowed to join the family when entertaining, except after dinner.
Between her father and Lord Mansfield she was left quite a wealthy woman when they died. In 1794 she left Kenwood to marry John Davinier who is believed to have been a clergyman.
It has been suggested that Jane Austen's Mansfield Park was named in reference to Lord Mansfield and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed the parallels in the positions of both Dido and Fanny Price within the family circle and wondered if Jane Austen knew her story. Like Dido, Fanny was neither a servant or considered of a high enough status to be considered really part of the family.
Sadly, Dido did not enjoy a long life, dying around the age of forty one in 1804.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Guest blogger - Hazel Statham

We'd like to welcome Hazel Statham to the blog as our guest blogger. She's here to talk about her new Regency, His Shadowed Heart. Over to you, Hazel!

Thank you so much, ladies, for allowing me to participate in your blog. I am the world’s worst blogger but I would like to tell you about my new release ‘His Shadowed Heart’.

Can a shadowed heart be healed? Can love grow where least expected? The Earl of Waverly believes not. How wrong can he be!

After the death of his first wife, Richard Moreton, Earl of Waverley believes his heart irreparably damaged and constantly repudiates his sister’s efforts to draw him back into society with the purpose of finding a new bride. His wife had died giving birth to a daughter, Julia, and he now centres his whole life around the child.
He refuses to even consider taking another wife, until he meets gentle Caroline Northam and hope blossoms. Now he finds that a heart he had thought irreparably damaged was merely wounded and love grows. Dare he share that love with his wife or will memories of the past rise to haunt him?
Caroline Northam is an orphan, shunned by society because of her father’s suicide. Dependent on relatives’ generosity, she contents herself with caring for her cousin’s children before being forced to return to her aged aunt. She has a gentle and caring nature, but beneath her shyness lies a lively mind. At the couple’s first meeting, she finds the earl abrupt and aloof. However, he takes her completely by surprise when, at a ball held at her cousin’s house, he singles her out, insisting that she is placed under his sister’s aegis.

Her own heart immediately engaged, Caroline falls under the spell of this charming lord and wishes nothing more than to ease his melancholy. Nonetheless, she is totally unprepared when he arrives at her cousin’s house to make her an offer. The marriage is to be in name only, and though he speaks no words of love, she is unable to resist and accepts. However, she is not prepared for his coolness on their wedding night when memories of his former wife invade the bridal supper and he unfeelingly dismisses Caroline from his company.
Over the ensuing months, nefarious deeds and strange happenings conspire to keep the couple apart. Can their love survive the test or will the perpetrator emerge the victor. Only time will tell.

I fell in love with the Regency period when, at seventeen, I read ‘Regency Buck’, my first Georgette Heyer novel. I had been writing since I was fifteen but the rich tapestry of this era immediately influenced my writing and I wanted nothing more than to recreate my own Regency world.
That world opened up to include the Peninsular War, which I touch briefly on in most of my books. I also have a short story, ‘The King’s Man’, on my website where I tell of a sixteen-year-old boy going off to the war and the ravages it wreaks on his life. I believe in making the story fit the fact, not the fact fit the story, so if I state fact, it is as accurate as I can make it. I enjoy the research that goes hand-in-hand with the writing of historical novels, knowing that it can only add depth and credibility to my work.

‘His Shadowed Heart’ is my third published Regency and I have three more waiting in the wings. I love this era and will continue to portray it as closely as I can. On my website you will find excerpts and reviews of all my current work.

Thank you, Hazel, the book sounds fascinating!

‘His Shadowed Heart’ is available both as an e-book and paperback and can be purchased from Wings ePress and Fictionwise as well as Amazon

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Cost of Living

All the recent talk about recession got me thinking about the cost of living in Regency times. In Venetia Murray's book, High Society in the Regency Period, she tells of Mary Berry who, upon her engagement to General O'Hara, prepared an estimate for their future expenses. They were not rich in comparison with the company they kept and could only just afford to sustain their role in society.

Mary's budget included every comfort necessary to a small establishment in London and deduced that an income of just over £2,000 a year was the absolute minimum upon which they could entertain agreeably all those friends who should prefer a neat plain dinner or supper, and our agreeable society, to a French cook and dull company.

The budget included the wages of seven indoor servants and a coachman and £800 for the general to spend on himself but she had cut off all your extravagancies, your saddle horses, your separate carriage and one of your men-servants. This is not as selfish as it sounds since she has allowed herself only £200 a year for personal expenses, including clothes - a fraction of the amount most women in their circle spent on dressing.

At the other end of the scale, a large proportion of families existed on an income of £50 a year or less, which equates to about £2,000 today - well below the poverty line - leading Murray to conclude that the dichotomy between rich and poor must have been infinitely greater two hundred years ago than it is today: a difficult argument to refute.

Wendy Soliman

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Last weekend, as many of you will know, was the RNA annual conference. This year, it was at Chichester, in the south of England, near Brighton. Of course, as a Regency novelist, I should have been off to the Brighton Pavilion, but in fact there were much better things to do, and I didn’t leave the campus. We had a wonderful, and thoroughly inspiring weekend, as ever. There was time to catch up with old friends over the odd drink in the bar, there were amazing talks and workshops to start the creative juices flowing (as Fenella has already mentioned), and there were books everywhere. What more could a writer want?

In my case, what I wanted were copies of my own new book, His Cavalry Lady, the first of The Aikenhead Honours Trilogy. Sadly, I didn’t have them. They’re not published until September, so it was asking a lot to have my own copies at the beginning of July. All I was able to do was to display a copy of the hardcover version, so that delegates could see what the cover would look like when it was available in the shops.

I came home from the conference on Monday, driving part of the way through blinding rain, and sat down with a cup of tea. I’m afraid I then fell asleep. Obviously, I must have been working exceptionally hard all weekend or that would never have happened, would it?

And on Tuesday morning, the postman rang the bell to deliver — yes, you’ve guessed it — a box of copies of His Cavalry Lady. I’m running a competition on our newsletter for a signed copy of it and I can now promise that the winner will receive her prize as soon as the draw is made at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to read an extract of His Cavalry Lady, you can find it on my website here.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

RNA 2008 Conference Chichester - Pride and Prejudice rediscovered.

The conference this year was held at Chichester University. The drive down was through rolling hills and stunning scenery and Bishop Otter campus exactly where I expected it to be; unlike Leicester University which proved remarkably elusive last year.
There were too many excellent seminars, talks and meetings to list them all here; they covered such subjects as, "What Is Romantic Fiction, Anyway?", how to polish your manuscript, what publishers and agents are looking for, what happens to a novel from the time it's taken, to its publication; plus talks from Jill Mansell, Claire Lorimer, Katie Fforde, and Jane Wenham-Jones.
Melanie Hilton gave us a light-hearted, hands-on look at some of the more unusual, as well as better known, sources for researching Regency costume. We were invited to bring along our own Unmentionables!
One of the best parts of any conference is the opportunity to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and talk writing all weekend. I learnt that "Pride and Prejudice" was originally called "First Impressions" and took Jane Austen over 16 years to write.
I have started reading it again and am enjoying it just as much this time as I did the first. Having seen several TV and film versions over the years I had expected my enjoyment of the original to have been somewhat spoilt, however I am finding it as fresh, witty and delightful as if it was new to me.
Fenella Miller
The House Party will be released by Robert Hale and on www.regencyreads at the end of July. It can be bought from and on Amazon UK for around £13. Don't forget you can also order it from your local library in the UK.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Homeless Heiress

My latest Regency romance is The Homeless Heiress/Anne Herries/HMB. I didn't like the cover for this one as much as some of my others but it seems to appeal to readers. I am still working on my latest Regency trilogy but the third book is under way now and should be finished in a couple of weeks, which is just as well as the deadline is August.

We haven't had many period films on the TV recently, which is a shame. It seemed that we had a run of them for a couple of years or so. I hope they will do something for the winter.

This last weekend I watched the finals at Wimbledon and I must say that I thought Nadal would make a super hero for a Regency romance. That long hair tied back and in the right clothes....This is a game I play all the time when watching sport or other programmes, choosing men I think would look good on the cover of my next book. Mind you, he might be even better as the pirate I am thinking of writing about soon!

It was a wonderful final and there's nothing much to watch on TV now that the tennis and Doctor Who are over. We really need some good period films.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Writing a hero's diary, Henry Tilney - part 3

You can find previous posts about the writing of Henry Tilney's Diary on 6th and 21st June.

One of the most difficult decisions for me when I write the diaries is, Where should I start? In Mr Darcy's Diary I started with Darcy sending Georgiana out of London for the summer and then discovering that she was about to elope with Wickham. In Mr Knightley's Diary I started at the same point that Emma starts, with Emma's governess about to marry. In Captain Wentworth's Diary, Edmund Bertram's Diary and Col Brandon's Diary I started with the backstory, taking Wentworth back to his first meeting with Anne, Edmund back to his first meeting with Fanny and Brandon back to his first love affair with Eliza.

With Henry Tilney's Diary I was planning to start it with Henry going to Bath, just previous to his first meeting with Catherine, but when I read the last page of Northanger Abbey again I realised I wanted to start the book much, much earlier. This is the passage that made me change my mind:

The anxiety, which in this state of their attachment must be the portion of Henry and Catherine, and of all who loved either, as to its final event, can hardly extend, I fear, to the bosom of my readers, who will see in the tell–tale compression of the pages before them, that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity.

The means by which their early marriage was effected can be the only doubt: what probable circumstance could work upon a temper like the general’s? The circumstance which chiefly availed was the marriage of his daughter with a man of fortune and consequence, which took place in the course of the summer — an accession of dignity that threw him into a fit of good humour, from which he did not recover till after Eleanor had obtained his forgiveness of Henry, and his permission for him “to be a fool if he liked it!”

The marriage of Eleanor Tilney, her removal from all the evils of such a home as Northanger had been made by Henry’s banishment, to the home of her choice and the man of her choice, is an event which I expect to give general satisfaction among all her acquaintance.

My own joy on the occasion is very sincere. I know no one more entitled, by unpretending merit, or better prepared by habitual suffering, to receive and enjoy felicity. Her partiality for this gentleman was not of recent origin; and he had been long withheld only by inferiority of situation from addressing her. His unexpected accession to title and fortune had removed all his difficulties; and never had the general loved his daughter so well in all her hours of companionship, utility, and patient endurance as when he first hailed her “Your Ladyship!”

Her husband was really deserving of her; independent of his peerage, his wealth, and his attachment, being to a precision the most charming young man in the world. Any further definition of his merits must be unnecessary; the most charming young man in the world is instantly before the imagination of us all.

Concerning the one in question, therefore, I have only to add — aware that the rules of composition forbid the introduction of a character not connected with my fable — that this was the very gentleman whose negligent servant left behind him that collection of washing–bills, resulting from a long visit at Northanger, by which my heroine was involved in one of her most alarming adventures.

Here is a backstory indeed! One that involves a second love affair, that of Eleanor and her Viscount. Given that Eleanor and Henry are very close, it must have formed part of their conversations together at the time, and I saw that this would be a very good way for me to explore the relationship between the two siblings.

Then I realised that if I was going to explore the relationship between Eleanor and Henry I would also like to explore the relationship between Frederick and Henry.

It has some similarities to the relationship between Tom and Edmund Bertram. The older son, the heir, is in both cases a hopeless case, indulging in the usual heir-like pastimes of getting drunk, gambling and womanising. The younger son is in both cases destined for the church.

But there the similarity ends, because whilst Edmund is a serious young man, Henry Tilney is witty and light-hearted, almost a male version of Lizzy Bennet.

I decided I wanted to capture the family dynamics in the first few diary entries. Next time I'll be posting the rough draft of these entries so I hope you'll come back and read them!

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

Friday, July 04, 2008

Regency Delights at the V and A

The V&A held a Regency evening on 13th June and I went along, notebook at the ready - but not, alas, in full costume as some of the visitors did.

There was drama and violence with experts from the Royal Armouries at Leeds reconstructing duels and demonstrating the use of the single stick and quarter staff, using the space of the central courtyard to great effect. Having learned all about "Angelo's deception", a lethally effective move, I'm now looking for an opportunity to incorporate it into a fight scene in The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst. Afterwards we were able to handle genuine small swords and everyone was amazed at how light they were.

As a little refined relief from all this aggression we repaired to an elegant drawing room for parlour games. I can now play hazard and loo and have mastered the rules of teetotum, a game of such mind-numbing simplicity that it was a favourite amongst ladies who needed all their attention for gossip and watching the passing scene.

Rather more challenging was the dancing lesson. An elegant couple demonstrated the minuet, using an amazing amount of space in the process, then taught the entire audience - over 100 people - a round dance called La Pistole which involved pretending to shoot one's partner at regular intervals. I suspect that is going to make an appearance in the work in progress as well.

And finally, still fanning ourselves, we were taken on a guided tour of some of the Regency collections. I will certainly be making a return visit to the V&A to spend more time gazing at gorgeous gowns and completely over the top Classical ornamentation on everything from tea cups to bookcases.

Louise Allen

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Colonel Brandon's Diary

I'm just dropping in to show you the beautiful cover for Colonel Brandon's Diary, which is out on July 31st. It shows him as a young man, before he met Marianne Dashwood and his world was changed for ever . . .

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Heroes and Villains

The working title of this book was originally The Loveday Justice which I thought that while the family had to bring their arch enemy to account for his evil deeds, it sounded upbeat and put my heroes in a good light. About a third of the way through the writing after a discussion with my insightful editor it was suggested it was changed to The Loveday Revenge for greater impact. Revenge is a much darker theme than justice and I felt needed to be written in a suspenseful and dramatic way. Fortunately it did not involve too many changes to what had already been written but the end product was so much more powerful than I had thought possible. The Loveday Revenge has been described as the most emotionally intense and suspenseful of the series so far. I am delighted to say that it has been the fastest and biggest selling of the series.

Dashing memorable heroes need strong and well motivated enemies to bring out their strengths and failings.

Here is an extract that shows the motivation of the family’s arch enemy Harry Sawle. He has been one of the main protagonists throughout the series and recently the Loveday’s have always won in a battle of wills. Harry is hidden in the garden spying on the family.

Harry Sawle flexed his hands and then balled them into meaty fists. The knuckles were scarred from the scores of beatings he had given out over the years. They had made him an undisputed ruler amongst the smugglers. He no longer had to use his fists, unless he wanted to feel the pleasure of hearing bones crunch or flesh cave in at their industry. Now he paid others to do his dirty work. He may not be respected amongst the community but he was the most feared. That was accolade enough. He had also become rich, certainly richer than St John Loveday. Then within a year everything had changed and he had been brought close to ruin due to the men gathered in that room.
His blood boiled with the force of his anger. There was no place in his heart for compassion or mercy. A burst of easy laughter within jerked him from this malignant reverie. He saw their laughter as a further affront. It was time the proud Lovedays were brought to heel and learnt that no one crossed Harry Sawle and lived to tell the tale.
He could pay thugs to kill his enemies but that would be too easy for these adversaries: he wanted them to suffer first. A sardonic grin puckered his scarred cheek. The flesh was blackened from a musket misfiring during a confrontation with Senara Loveday. Every time he caught his reflection in a mirror or window he was reminded of his hatred for that family. Had he not poisoned the herd at Trevowan and also the calves at their cousin Hannah’s farm. She had cost him a cargo interfering with his smuggling activities last year and she would learn what it felt like to lose a great part of what you had worked for over the years.
St John would also feel his wrath. He had dared to issue a warrant for his arrest. That arrogant pride must be humbled and St John humiliated before he met his end. And that would be just the start of his revenge, Harry vowed. There would be more – much more.
Then there was Peter. The one Harry had dismissed as the weakling, pious Loveday with no backbone. The parson had proved his mettle last year and showed that he could be a formidable opponent. Worse still, he continued to preach out against the evils of smuggling from his pulpit. Harry glowered into the room where the young preacher paced the floor addressing his elders with a confidant air. His manner was that of a general on the battlefield whose troops listened to him with respect.
His eyes narrowed and fury scorched his gut. Inside the richly furnished house Adam Loveday held court as proud and influential as any Lord of the Manor. He was one of the most respected and liked men for miles around. The renovated building built in a bygone age of grandeur had once been owned by nobility and was testimony to Adam’s wealth. That the house had been a partial ruin with half its roof missing and only the skill of the shipyard’s carpenters had made it possible for it to be restored economically never entered Harry’s mind. He saw only its present glory.
The smuggler spat onto the grass. Adam had risen high and achieved so much more than himself. As a younger son Adam should have been content to serve in the navy and attain a modest paying commission. Not only had Adam inherited the shipyard but his innovative ship designs had made it one of the leading yards in the county. Adam, out of all his family had the most to lose. Harry grinned evilly. That was how it should be and would make this vendetta all the sweeter.
Adam was his main adversary – his greatest threat. They had been enemies for most of their adult lives and too often Adam had got the better of him. Adam had dared to pit to his strength and wits against him; had never backed down from a fight and for all his fine manners, it had been Adam who usually emerged the victor. That would now end. Adam Loveday would suffer at each persecution inflicted upon his family by Harry’s men. Adam would be the one who paid the highest price.
Sawle watched from his hiding place as the family departed. His punishment upon each of these enemies must be carefully planned. He knew his victims well, their strengths and their weaknesses. Each would pay the ultimate price for their treachery against him.

For more information on the Loveday series and my writing world click here
Kate Tremayne