Saturday, October 31, 2009

Jo Beverley, a book tour to launch a line.

Thanks to the Historical Romance UK blog for letting me post as a guest here.

I was born and raised in Lancashire, but I've lived in Canada since 1976, and my books have been published in New York. Which is lovely, but I've always wanted one published in the UK, and finally it's happened. To make it even more wonderful, the release of Lady Notorious (My Lady Notorious in North America) is happening just as I'm settling back home.

Because I'm here, my UK publisher has put together a small book tour to launch their new line of romantic historicals and my book, which is officially published on Wednesday.

Lady Notorious takes place in 1763. Lady Chastity Ware is a social outcast, confined to a cottage on her father's estate near Shaftesbury, but when her widowed sister flees to her for help, bringing her very young baby, Chastity is determined to get her to Maidenhead and safety.

So she steals a coach.

But the man in the coach is Captain Lord Cynric Malloren, bored with convalescence and ready for adventure. He insists on taking part. -- or taking over, as Chastity sees it. She soon has to admit that he comes in useful when they realized they not only have a villain after them, but the army as well.

My publisher's brilliant idea was to set my tour to follow their route, visiting some of the eighteenth century inns in the novel. That will take me to Shaftesbury, Salisbury, Winchester, a detour to Southampton, and Maidenhead. You can check out all the details here. There's a special evening launch event in Salisbury on Wednesday. It's free, but the room in the old coaching inn can only hold a few people, so it's important to book a place by e-mailing

Lady Notorious was originally published by Penguin-NAL of New York, and won a RITA award, the top award of Romance Writers of America. It's appeared on many "best historical romance" lists.

Reviews said:
Beverley beautifully captures the flavour of Georgian England.
American Library Journal.
Delightfully spicy…skilfully plotted and fast-paced…captivating.
“…sensitive prose, charismatic and expert plotting will keep readers
enthralled from first page to last.” Publishers weekly.

There's a stop in Cardiff, and then after a break I hit my home territory of the north, including Blackpool, where I went to grammar school; Morecambe, where I was born and raised; and Whitby, where I now live. The other stops are Stockton, Newcastle, Scarborough, and Leeds. Again, the details are all at the link above.

The other launch book is Fallen Angel (Thunder and Roses in the US) by my good friend, Mary Jo Putney. You can find out about all the upcoming books at Everlyn's web site.

I do hope to meet more of my UK fans and make contact with new readers, too.

There's an extract from Lady Notorious on my website here. It's from the US original, so there may be some US spellings in there. Lady Notorious has been put into proper English usage.

A question -- what do you think is the defining characteristic of the 18th century and the Regency as a setting for romance in the past?


Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Quiz

There's a fun quiz for Halloween over on the Mr Darcy, Vampyre blog and a chance to win a copy of the book, so why not come on over? See you there!

Amanda Grange

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Willoughby's Return, Publication Day, November 1st, and Blog Tour

There's just about a week left before the official release of Willoughby's Return, which is very exciting. I've been thrilled to receive my author copies from Sourcebooks - it's wonderful to hold the book in my hands at last!

I'm doing a blog tour which I'm looking forward to very much - I hope you will join me.
Smexy Books 26/10/09
Psychotic State blogspot 27/10/09
Jane Austen's World 10/11/09
Book Nerd Extraordinaire 2/11/09
Everything Victorian 3/11/09
Savvy, Verse and Wit 4/11/09
A Bibliophile's Bookshelf 5/11/09
The Bookworm Blogspot 6/11/09
Books Like Breathing9/11/09
Fresh Fiction12/11/09
Love, Romance, Passion 11 & 13/11/09
I'm going to be doing interviews and 'talking' about the inspiration behind the book, as well as my artwork, which I must admit has been a little neglected of late. In celebration of the publication there will be some new paintings, some fun stuff, quizzes and the like, as well as prizes! So keep an eye open on my blog Jane Austen Sequels from November 1st!

I loved writing about the relationship between Marianne and her husband Colonel Brandon. They love one another deeply, but are often guilty of not communicating (in a very English way) on subjects that are dear to their hearts. What people say to one another and what they keep back is a fascinating subject for me. I thought the relationship that the Colonel shares with his ward Miss Williams alongside the relationship with her child who is also Willoughby's daughter would create a certain tension between them. Punctuated by outbursts from Marianne followed by silences on the subject as she listens to her sister's advice, I felt the conflicts would most likely end in reserve and avoidance.
Margaret Dashwood is just the age for falling in love - her story is woven in with Marianne's. Will Margaret find her true love within the pages of Willoughby's Return?

Jane Odiwe

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Mistress of Hanover Square

The third in the Hanover Square series is now showing up on amazon, though it doesn't actually come out until January. At the moment the next publication is the double volume of Society Affairs with another author. For me this is the republication of my RNA prize winning book, A Damnable Rogue but I think for the other author it is a first publication. I am not sure why this happens sometimes. I am sure she would wish for a separate book but I hope it does well for her sake, especially if it is a first publication.

I am thinking ahead to Christmas now, because Nicola mentioned her Christmas books, which are always good. The members of this group usually do a Christmas story for our readers, either together or separately. What I am thinking of doing is a fourt part story, which I shall publish on the blog, perhaps starting in November or maybe all in December.

Christmas always looks so special when you see the period costumes, the skaters and the snow falling. I love cards with the old fashioned look and so I enjoy doing a special little story for our readers here. I am hoping we shall have some of those lovely cards on the blog at Christmas that Jane does or just some of her motifs.

If anyone has an opinion about the story - whether it should all be December or spread out a bit please leave a comment. Meanwhile I shall leave you with a picture of the last of the Hanover Square books.

Love to you all, Anne Herries

Monday, October 19, 2009

On the Road

Like many historical authors I spend a lot of time puzzling over how long journeys would take, how people got from A to B and how much it would cost.

Imagine my delight when I found an expenses claim from a lawyer called Jonathan Oldman to Sir John Musgrave of Edenhall, near Penrith, for a journey from Edenhall to Kempton Park via London in December 1795.

Helpfully, Mr Oldman took a variety of conveyances – the stage, a post chaise, the Mail and hackney carriages in London - so I was able to discover that a post chaise, its driver, the turnpike charges and food along the way cost £6 14s from Edenhall to York. He then changed to the stage coach to London which cost 3 guineas plus 4s 6d for tipping the drivers and 5s 6d for his luggage with 11s 6d for food along the way.

It is difficult to pick out the detail of his expenses in London because he lumps some of them together, but a night at the White Horse, Fetter Lane cost 6s and he then tipped the chamber maid, the waiter, paid for shaving water and caught a hackney to the Chertsey stage and that cost him 4s 11d in total.

The stage coach and driver’s tip from London to Kempton Park was a mere 5s each way.
On his way back he incurs £1 14s 8d in “sundry expenses” which suggests that perhaps he took the opportunity for a little fun – or perhaps I am maligning a sober lawyer. Certainly his laundry wasn’t included in that – it cost him 5s 6d.

Jonathan Oldman took the Mail home, travelling from London to Penrith at a cost of £5 with £1 for luggage and £1 7s 9d for tips and food. Overall his employer was out of pocket to the tune of £17 19s for his expedition.

I’d love to know what necessitated the journey and it is fun to imagine what a Cumbrian lawyer would have thought if he knew that a romance author would be poring over his expenses claim over two hundred years after he submitted it.

Louise Allen

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Halloween blog tour for Mr Darcy, Vampyre

I'm going on a blog tour in the second half of October for Halloween. These are the dates and destinations:

19th A Bibliophile’s Bookshelf
20th Fang-tastic Books
21st Night Owl Romance
22nd Romance Junkies
23rd Pop Syndicate’s Book Addict

26th Anna’s Book Blog
27th A Journey of Books
28th Fresh Fiction
29th The Book Faery

For a new extract, check out Twitter in the week of Halloween.

The celebrations will finish with a quiz on the Mr Darcy, Vampyre blog on the 30th.

Hope to see you there!

Amanda Grange

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Heart of Stone

I'm delighted to announce publication on 1st November of my latest historical romance, Heart of Stone. This is my 26th novel, a powerful passionate story, and one I loved writing.

In 1840’s Cornwall 25-year-old Sarah Govier supports herself and her illegitimate son, Jory, on the income from Talvan, the granite quarry she inherited from her father. But businessman Kinser Landry has good reason for wanting Talvan and will stop at nothing to get it. With her problems mounting, Sarah turns in desperation to James Crago, a gunpowder manufacturer who owns land adjoining hers.
After twenty years as soldier and diplomat in India, Crago, 37, returned home, his face horrifically scarred, a wound sustained during his attempt to help the girl he loved escape a despotic raja. Local reaction to his appearance has turned him into a recluse.
Rejected by society, emotionally bruised and deeply wary, neither Sarah nor James is prepared for the powerful attraction that erupts between them. Will they survive the plots against them? Can they overcome the past? Find the courage to love again?

Heart of Stone by Jane Jackson is published by Severn House, price £18.99. Available direct from Severn House or

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Celebrity watching, 1814 style

A few days ago, Nicola blogged with an extract from her story in Loves Me, Loves Me Not, the RNA's 50th Anniversary Short Story Anthology. Nicola’s story The Elopement is a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek tale that I’m sure everyone will enjoy.

My own story in the anthology takes place in London in 1814, during the celebrations for the end of the Napoleonic Wars. (London wasn’t to know that Napoleon would escape from Elba and start it all over again, of course.) The city was full of foreign royalty. Everyone, from the highest to the lowest, wanted to be able to see these illustrious visitors. Like today’s celebrity watchers, Londoners wanted to be able to tick off all the names on their lists. And that’s where the trouble starts…

The Trophy Hunter’s Prize

June 1814
After the searing brilliance of India, London seemed subdued, like a watercolour by a novice artist who had mixed his paints too thin. Andrew Mortimer shivered a little, in spite of the summer sunshine.

He straightened his elegant new coat and continued to stride down Piccadilly towards the park, where there should be open space, and fresher air to breathe. Before long, however, the dense crowds slowed him almost to a standstill. Yet they seemed good-humoured. With a nod here and a word of excuse there, he might make his way through.

‘’Ere! Wot d’you think y’re doing?’ cried a large florid woman when he tried to edge past her. She looked him up and down, noting the expensive clothes and the unusually brown skin. ‘Furriners,’ she muttered darkly. ‘Never did ’ave no manners.’

Still, she had made a little space for him to pass. Andrew managed to reach up to touch his hat and said, in his most affected English drawl, ‘Why, thank you, ma’am. Most kind.’ The woman’s jaw dropped. Very satisfying.

He had gone only a few yards further when he was forced to stop altogether. The huge crowd seemed to draw breath, as one, then it let out an ear-splitting roar and surged forward towards the Pulteney Hotel, carrying Andrew with it. He had to put all his efforts into keeping his balance. When he was at last able to look about him, he saw that the Tsar of Russia had appeared on the hotel balcony above them, which was clearly the reason for the lusty cheering. And, not three yards from where Andrew stood, a small figure in a pale dress was being trampled in the crush.

He yelled a warning. No one seemed to hear. If she was to be rescued, he would have to do it himself. He flung himself at the men who barred his path. He shouted at them. No reaction. There was just too much noise. As he pushed and pushed, his mouth came close enough to yell into one man’s ear. The man moved a fraction.

Andrew forced his body through the tiny gap. He could almost touch her now. Just a yard or so more. Her muslin skirt was spread across the filthy roadway. How was it that these men did not realise the harm they were doing?

They were all gazing up at the Tsar, their arms raised, their mouths open to bellow their delighted approval of the hero who had defeated the tyrant Bonaparte. The London mob had made its choice of the young and virile Emperor of Russia over their own fat, frivolous Regent.

Andrew was close enough now to see her. She was dirty, young, and frightened. She seemed to be screaming for help. But he could hear nothing. With a huge effort, Andrew shouldered aside two men who were in danger of treading on the girl. He reached down, grabbed the little figure by the arms, and heaved.

Nothing. He redoubled his efforts and heaved again.

It was like pulling a difficult cork. One moment her body was stuck fast. The next it had popped out and Andrew was toppling backwards with her. But he did not fall. The wall of people held him upright.

In his arms, the girl was still screaming and now, with her head against his shoulder, he could hear it very well. It hurt. He used his chin to nudge aside her broken straw bonnet and put his lips against her ear. ‘Pray hush. You are safe now, I promise you.’

She uttered one final, piercing scream. Then putting her mouth against his ear, she cried, ‘Safe? You are like to ruin me, you numbskull. Look at my gown.’

He looked down. Her skirt still lay spread on the ground in a drift of filthy muslin pinioned by enormous boots. Like pressed flower petals edged with footprints. The lady in his arms was dressed in little more than a shift, and torn stockings.

The girl in the ruined dress is Kate de Lacey, named for Little Black Dress author and RNA stalwart, Kate Lace, to whom my story is dedicated. But if you want to know what happens to my Kate, you’ll need to buy the book. You won’t regret it if you do; it’s a gorgeous collection and I’m very proud to be part of it.

Best wishes and happy reading

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Covent Garden

The book I’m currently working on has a lot of scenes set in a house of ill repute in Covent Garden. So off to the research I went.
I loved doing it. I could visit Covent Garden as it is now on a recent visit to London and then go home and read and read.
Covent Garden was originally the garden to a convent, but that is long gone. The current layout was designed by Inigo Jones in the 1630’s, designed as an upmarket residential area with fine houses and an open piazza in the middle.

It never really caught on as an area for the rich to live in, but it became a playground for them instead.
In the early mornings, Covent Garden was a market for fresh produce. London was surrounded by market gardens, which grew the vegetables and fruit that fed the population of the largest city in the world. Every morning, carts would bring in the produce, and sell it to the populace. Housewives, maids, servants in large houses, owners of the eating houses, would turn up to buy it, and until very recently, they still did. Congestion put an end to Covent Garden Market, but in the mid eighteenth century, it was going strong.
Later in the day, the market gave way to the nightlife. With the two biggest theatres in London nearby, the piazza could be thronged with traffic, taking people to Drury Lane or the Opera, and picking them up again afterwards.

And then there was the shadier side. Many of the houses surrounding the piazza, and some of the smaller places were houses of ill repute. Brothels. They catered to most tastes, and half of fashionable society – the male half – would frequent the area in search of not so innocent enjoyment. Not only brothels, but places of bawdy entertainment and gaming hells. Gambling in Georgian England has often been described as a disease, with fortunes passing over the tables, whether it was in the salons, the coffeehouses or the hells.
One book helps modern researchers enormously. Harris’s List was a best seller of the Georgian age. It was a guidebook to London – with a difference. It was constantly updated and featured ladies of the night. All except the unfortunates who walked the streets, too numerous to account for and not the kind of woman the average London tourist would be interested in.
So my hero visits a place called Mother Brown’s. It did exist, but not in the house I chose for it, and not with the same reputation. Mother Brown’s is the best, and is a gaming house as well as a brothel. The tables are “straight,” and God help anyone who tries to mark the cards or weight the dice!
Lynne Connolly

Monday, October 12, 2009


I am hugely enjoying the new BBC adaptation of Emma. I wasn't sure if I was going to like it after episode 1, because there are always niggles with any production, but episode 2 won me over completely. I love the way Sandy Welch has interpreted the characters. Emma and Mr Knightley spar like Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, giving a screwball comedy edge to the production at times which is fresh and funny.

I wrote my own interpretation with Mr Knightley's Diary but I'm really loving someone else's take on things. I wish Emma wouldn't slouch so much, but slouching aside, I find her very likeable. What's more, she's very different to the other Emmas, and that's hard to do after so many. It's difficult to find a new way to approach the characters that still rings true.

Mr Elton is here very like Mr Collins, perhaps too much like Mr Collins at times, but I love the way he sits far too close to Emma in the carriage on the way to the party from which poor Harriet is excluded.

I liked Frank Churchill the moment I saw him, in fact he's shaping up to be my favourite Frank Churchill. Something about his face, his figure, his whole demeanour, is like a twinkle in the eye. Frank is out for fun, and thinking about the consequences will take second place to having a laugh, which is just the way Frank should be.

But it's Emma and Mr Knightley who steal the show. They spar and squabble, they make up and fall out, they play with the children, in short they seem made for each other, which is not something I've seen before. The only people who don't realise they are made for each other, at the moment, are themselves.

All in all, there is a real feel good quality to the production. The settings are lovely, the snowy scenes are pretty, the whole thing often looks good enough to eat.
Now if only Emma would stop slouching, my happiness would be complete :)

Amanda Grange

Friday, October 09, 2009

Two Gentlemen From London

My latest book from Robert Hale is released this month. On October 10th I will be at The Forum, Norwich, for an informal launch. As I have not received any copies of the book it's going to be very informal!! I have lots of earlier titles to sell, so do come along and see me if you are in the area.
This is the first few pages of Two Gentlemen From London - hope you enjoy it enough to order it from your local library.

'Miss Bentley, lawks a mussy! They're here. Young Fred saw the carriage turn into the lane not ten minutes ago.'
Annabel Bentley dropped the jar of bramble jelly she had been about place on the shelf in the pantry. 'After so long? I had thought Mama and I safe from him.' Stepping over the sweet mess on the flagstones she gathered up her skirts, calling over her shoulder as she ran. 'You and Tom know what to do; we have about thirty minutes before they arrive.'
How had he found them? They had been so careful these past years, had not even attended church or visited Ipswich themselves. Her heart pounding, she ran upstairs calling her mother.
'Mama, we are discovered. We must get organized or it will be too late.' She had hoped never to be reminded of that black time again.
Lady Sophia appeared from the south facing chamber she used for her studio, as usual she had paint streaks on her face and fingers. 'Are you quite certain, my love? I can hardly credit that monster has been able to find us.'
'Well, he has. Mary and Tom are putting on the holland covers, we have to clear your studio.'
In the beginning they had practiced this exercise several times, but as the months, and then the years, slipped by they had stopped rehearsing. However, the boxes were ready and it was the work of moments to fill them with the paraphernalia.

'Quickly, open the panel and I'll start taking things through.' Annabel tried to recall how long it was since she had checked their intended hiding place. It must be almost a year, the two secret rooms would be dust covered, but it was too late to worry about that. There was the clatter of footsteps and their servants arrived to disguise the bed chambers they had been occupying with covers.
'Miss Bentley, everything's ready downstairs, we shall have your rooms done in a trice. Fred is moving the horses, I reckon we'll be prepared in good time.'
'This room is finished; all we need is sufficient food and water for today and tomorrow. No doubt you will be obliged to offer accommodation tonight, but when he finds he's mistaken, he will surely leave first thing.'
'He'll not get a meal he'll enjoy tonight, I'll make sure of that.'
'Thank you, Mary. I cannot imagine why the three of you have stayed with us so long in this isolated place, but we could not have managed without you.'
'Bless you, miss, it's been our pleasure. You mustn't worry. If you and Lady Sophia get settled, we'll be up with what you need as soon as we've done here.'
Annabel stepped into the hidden passageway, relieved to see her mother had not been idle, the sconces were burning and she had sufficient illumination to fasten the panel behind her and to pick up one of the remaining boxes.
The passageways and narrow staircase led from top to bottom of the ancient mansion. The place had once been used by smugglers and although the exit to the beach had fallen into disuse years ago, it was still possible to get from the kitchen to the hidden apartment in the attic.
She followed the twists and turns without hesitation, it was fixed in her mind. She could hear her mother moving about ahead of her and guessed she would be setting up her easel.
'There you are, my love. I shall run back and fetch the last box whilst you check we have

everything we need up here. I fear the bed linen will be damp after so long.'
Annabel didn't bother to argue that she was younger and fitter and should be the one to go back, for it would be untrue. Her mother was barely eight and thirty, and she nineteen on her last name day, they would be taken for sisters if ever they appeared together in public.
These secret rooms had been constructed when the house was built. There was no way to enter them via the attics, the only panels that opened were in the room that had been used as a studio and the boot room in the basement. She walked across to the low doors that opened onto the roof.
She pulled them back and stepped out, knowing she could not be seen from below. Brandon Hall, originally built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, now had a false edifice making it appear what it was not. Behind the brick frontage, hidden between two chimney breasts, was a space more than large enough to walk about. She carefully removed the brick that filled the peephole.
Her throat constricted and her hands clenched. Fred had not been mistaken. Already half way down the long curving drive was a smart, black travelling carriage. They had not received a visitor since they had joined Great-Aunt Beth, nobody knew they were there. It could only be her stepfather, Randolph Rushton, and his loathsome man of affairs.
A vivid flash of lightning split the sky. She counted, had reached five, when the thunder followed. The storm they had been anticipating all day would be upon them within the hour. She prayed the river that ran parallel to the lane would not flood, the last time it had done so it had been a week before the road was passable.
Her mother appeared at the door, her face pinched and pale. 'Come in, my dear, we must get ourselves settled whilst it is still light enough to do so. You know we cannot risk more than a single candle once it is dark.'
'Very well, Mama, the carriage will be here imminently. We can't move about once it arrives, you know how sound echoes down the passageway.'
The coach rocked violently. 'God's teeth! Sinclair, are you certain we have taken the correct turning?'
Colonel Robert Sinclair grinned at his companion. 'The yokel the coachman questioned a while ago directed us along this godforsaken track. It's your family we're visiting, Dudley, not mine, remember.'
'My sister said she lives in rural splendour, not that she lived somewhere as inaccessible as this.'
The horses slowed to a walk and Robert lowered the window. 'I can see something carved into the gatepost.' He leant out and could just make out some letters under the verdigris. 'Yes, it's definitely Brandon Manor.' He shouted up to the coachman. The groom sitting next to him on the box, hung precariously over the edge to listen. 'This is it. The drive is in no better state than the lane. Take it carefully, I don't want my horses lamed.'
'Very well, Colonel, we'll take it steady.'
The driver waved his whip in acknowledgement and Robert resumed his place on the squabs. This was turning out to be a more interesting excursion than he'd anticipated. When Dudley had suggested a visit to darkest Suffolk to see his sister Amelia, he had agreed. Since Waterloo, and reduced to half pay, even a sojourn in the country seemed preferable to kicking his heels in town, and having too much time to dwell on his loss.
'I know your sister has been widowed, but surely her finances are not so parlous that the estate has fallen into disrepair?'
'To tell you the truth, I know little about Brandon Manor or her dead husband. She met and
married Sir John Barton whilst I was on the Peninsular with you fighting Napoleon. She has two

children, I misremember their names, but from what I recall, Barton was a young man with deep pockets. Amelia wouldn't have looked at him otherwise.'
Robert smiled. 'She always said she would marry money; but I'm surprised she chose someone who lives so remotely. I doubt she has much social life stuck out here in the back of beyond.'
The sky was rent by a sheet of lightning closely followed by the rumble of thunder. 'That's all we need, a storm. The going is too poor for us to make faster progress; I fear we're going to be caught in a downpour.'
'At least we will be well looked after when we arrive. Amelia keeps a good table. This journey has been beyond tedious, I cannot wait to stretch my legs and enjoy a decent meal.' Simon Dudley shuddered. 'The repast we were given last night beggars belief.'
'It didn't prevent you from finishing it,' Robert said dryly. The carriage dropped into another pothole tilting dangerously; he was catapulted from his seat. 'Dammit! That's the axle gone. God knows how we're going to get it fixed out here.'
He untangled himself from his friend and reached up to grasp the door which was now above his head. 'Did I hurt you?' Major Dudley shook his head. 'I must get out and help Jethro with the horses. We're still a mile from the house; I fear we're going to have to walk.'
The team might be in imminent danger of entangling themselves in the traces. He prided himself on having four incomparable matched bays and had no intention of letting any one of them injure themselves. Heaving himself upright he smashed the door open; he thrust through the opening to roll down the carriage to the ground.
His driver was before him and had his knife out to slice through the leather. There was
no sign of the groom. He ran to take hold of the bit of the lead horse, he pulled the animal's head
down and spoke soothingly until it calmed. 'Where's Billy?'

'I ain't had time to check, sir, he went over the side and I've not seen him since.'
There was the thump of boots as they hit the ground behind him. 'Dudley, my groom's hurt. Check on him.' He knew his friend wouldn't question his orders; after all he'd been following his commands during the years they had served together in the same regiment.
'A concussion, he's out cold, but his pulse's steady. How the devil are we going to get him to the house?'
'I can see help arriving; there's a pony and trap heading this way. I find it decidedly odd that Amelia can provide us with nothing better than that.'
Dudley shrugged. 'I suppose it might have been sensible to have informed her of our coming.'
'Good God! How did the regiment survive with you in charge of transport? I should not have agreed to accompany you, or use my carriage, if I had known we were not expected.'
The trap clattered to a halt beside them and an elderly retainer scrambled out, a younger version, obviously his son, close behind. 'It's going to rain something heavy any time now, sir, so we best get you to the hall before it do.'
Robert nodded. 'My groom is injured, take him and our bags. Major Dudley and myself will ride.' The man touched his cap and vanished to the far side of the tilted carriage to collect the patient. He was about to swing up on the horse he was holding when something the man had said made him stop. 'Is this Brandon Manor?'
The two servants staggered around, the comatose body between them. The older man answered. 'Bless you, sir, no it ain't. This is Brandon Hall. Brandon Manor is ten miles away, at Upper Brandon. This here place is Lower Brandon.'

Fenella Miller
Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley is available from The Book Depository and Amazon for £11.99

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Too Early for Christmas!

Nicola Cornick writes: It feels far too early for Christmas but clearly that’s not the case for publishers and booksellers. Last week, on a day that has been called Super Thursday, UK publishers launched 800 new books aimed at the Christmas bestseller lists!

As though to emphasise the fact that there are only 11 weeks to go, I received copies of my two US-published Christmas anthologies, The Heart of Christmas, which contains a reprint of the story The Season for Suitors and Together By Christmas which has the first print publication of my very short novella The Unmasking of Lady Loveless. Together by Christmas also features the wonderful story Mistletoe Masquerade by our own Louise Allen and it’s a great pleasure and lots of fun to be sharing an anthology with Louise!

October is novella month for me really as I am also very proud to have a short story, The Elopement, in the RNA’s anthology Loves Me, Loves Me Not. I’ve included a short extract from the story below.

That’s it for books from me until next summer, when MIRA will be publishing my Brides of Fortune trilogy in the UK. I’m currently working on a new trilogy for HQN so I’ll be beavering away on that and also hoping to have a bit more time for research trips, talks and visits to historic houses – starting with Duart Castle, which I’ll be visiting next week whilst on my holidays!

Extract from The Elopement:

“It was a fact universally acknowledged in the village of Marston Priors that Amanda, Lady Marston, although young, was the unchallenged arbiter of good manners.
“For,” as Mrs Duke said to Mrs Davy, “if Lady Marston feels it is inappropriate to travel even the shortest distance in a carriage without one’s personal maid, I am sure that you will never see me defying convention by going out alone.” Mrs Davy, who could not afford to employ a lady’s maid, agreed glumly.
It was therefore all the more surprising that on the morning of a fine April day the Marston household was rent by screams of shock and outrage emanating from Lady Marston’s bedchamber.
Amanda Marston had woken slowly and luxuriously that morning, as was her habit. She knew that the day was well advanced because Benson had drawn back the curtains and the spring sunshine was dappling the beautiful new Axminster carpet and drawing out all its rich and vivid colours. For a moment she lay still, admiring her taste in decoration. She knew she had an eye for design. It was one of her greatest accomplishments and showed impeccable judgment.
The scent of the hot chocolate lured her and she reached out a languid hand for the cup. Her fingers brushed the crisp parchment of the letter and she picked it up absent-mindedly, still mulling over whether the bed drapes required refurbishment and if so whether pale green would be an appropriate colour. And the material… Gauze, perhaps, although that might look dangerously like a harlot’s boudoir… Not that she knew anything of such things…
She read the first line of the letter with vague attention, the second with concentration and the third with outrage.
“My dear Amanda
It is with great pleasure that I can inform you that I have eloped with Mr Sampson. I have always hankered after participating in an elopement so you may imagine my pleasure now. I believe that the usual form of words on these occasions is: “Pray do not come after us.” I am of age several times over and know my own mind, so there is no point in either you or Hugo trying to fetch me back. Indeed, I hope you will both wish me happy. Your loving grandmother-in-law, Eleanor Pevensey.”
Amanda gave a shriek, an action that startled her as much as it did the footman on duty on the landing outside. Normally Amanda never screamed, not even in a ladylike manner over a dead mouse or small spider. Secretly she had always considered having the vapours to be a vulgar way of attracting attention to oneself. Now, however, she shrieked again as the true import of the letter struck her.
Lady Pevensey had eloped.
Lady Pevensey was entrusting herself and all her lovely fortune into the hands of a penniless curate.
Of all the outrages perpetrated by her husband’s seventy seven year old grandmother this was by far the most shocking. Lady Pevensey had been living at Marston Hall for six months and Amanda had found the old lady’s disregard for convention a serious trial. Lady Pevensey rode to hounds, swore like a trooper and forgot all about visiting hours but none of these offences against propriety was as dreadfully scandalous as an elopement.
Amanda realised that she was shaking so much that drops of chocolate had spilt on the beautiful linen of her bedclothes. Never had she felt so overset, not even when the silk for her new evening gown had been quite the wrong shade of rose pink. This was an entirely different sensation. She felt genuinely distressed. It was such a novelty that she almost stopped to examine her feelings but there was no time to spare.”

Nicola Cornick

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Other Mr Darcy: Reflections

I'm currently in the midst of a whirlwind blog tour to celebrate the launch of the Sourcebooks paperback edition of The Other Mr Darcy in the US, and two of the most frequent questions that keep coming up were: Why Caroline Bingley, of all Austen's characters? And why an American Mr Darcy?

I was reading somewhere that at the turn of the 19th century an English gentleman and an American “gentleman” from one of the prominent families in Boston were virtually indistinguishable. I was intrigued by this. I found myself wanting to explore that issue, because I really couldn’t imagine that they could possibly be the same. Even if their education was very similar, they were the product of completely different environments. I started imagining situations where the subtle differences would emerge, and the language they thought they had in common would lead to misunderstandings.

At that time I had gone through a spree of reading and watching Jane Austen dramatizations. I felt strongly that I wanted to write Caroline’s story. It seemed to me that Jane Austen is more forgiving of the men in the novel than the women. Wickham tries to run off with Georgiana to steal her fortune, spreads slander about Mr Darcy, seduces a fifteen-year-old and ruins her reputation, and leaves behind him a string of debts everywhere he goes.

Compared to him, Miss Bingley is angelic. Yet it is not Wickham who emerges as the villain of the piece. It is Caroline! True, she is a social snob. She looks down at the Bennets and makes snide remarks about Meryton society. She wants to secure an advantageous marriage. In other words, she is, at least at the beginning of the novel, the female equivalent of Darcy. But Darcy is redeemed later because he falls in love with Elizabeth, and, in his own words, is “properly humbled.”

If there is redemption in love, as Jane Austen implies, perhaps if Caroline were to fall in love, she could be “properly humbled” as well.

Somehow, in the way that these things happen when you’re writing, these two concepts crossed and then merged. I realized that Caroline needed exposure to something that would shock her out of her placidity. She needed to meet a man who was just different enough from the gentlemen she was accustomed to that he would throw her orderly world into disarray. It seemed to me that, if Caroline could be forced outside her comfort zone, she would be capable of changing. Because, despite some people’s view of her as a hardened criminal, Caroline is still very young. Charles Bingley is only twenty-two, and she is referred to as his younger sister, so she cannot be more than 21, possibly younger. Anna Chancellor does a wonderful job portraying Caroline in the BBC production, but she makes her seem older than she is. In the 1995 film version, Caroline is younger, but hardly appears on the screen. Lost in Austen's Christina Cole is closest to my image of Miss Bingley, though they do take a lot of liberties with Jane Austen's character!

A young Caroline, slighted in love, as she is with Darcy, might well be able to change.

In a nutshell, that’s how this other Mr Darcy — Robert — came into being. In a way I pictured the encounter between him and Caroline as a clash of cultures. Robert Darcy is from a country which, at that moment, is at war with England. It is a colony that, despite having won its independence, is still struggling to separate itself from its former rulers. Robert comes to England to inherit Darcy property, but he carries with him a healthy dose of scepticism towards the cultural rules and regulations which Caroline sees as carved in stone. Yet, at the same time, he is a Darcy, and very much part of that social order, even if he wasn’t raised in England. So he’s incomprehensible to Caroline, because he knows how to behave with propriety, but he doesn’t always choose to do so. The very idea of choice is a real eye opener for her, trained as she has been at her select boarding school. For Caroline, things are very clear. In order to be successful in society, one has to learn the rules and then follow them blindly. After all, that is what defines a woman who is gently bred.

But Robert brings with him a different perspective. I really can’t envision this new Mr Darcy as being from anywhere else. The New World at the time, with its pioneering spirit, was a challenge to the Old World. And I see Robert Darcy as throwing the gauntlet, so to speak, to Caroline, who takes it up, and grows because of it. Though it isn’t a one way relationship, any more than the relationship of England to the (former) colonies was a one way relationship. He, too, has to learn to accept his position in life, and to accept the inescapable responsibilities that come along with it.

For it is out of these challenges, and out of their parallel journeys of self-knowledge, that Caroline’s and Robert’s story emerges.

If you're interested in following some of my posts in The Other Mr Darcy blogtour, you can check out my Blog Schedule.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Busy Autumn!

Melinda Hammond writes: October sees the UK publication of the paperback version of my latest Sarah Mallory novel – The Wicked Baron. It was lovely to receive my copy of this novel, it's such a sunny story with much of the action taking place during the summer at a beautiful Italianate villa in Buckinghamshire. Just the thing for these chilly autumn evenings!

Life has been extremely busy for me during the summer: my first e-book, Moonshadows was published in paperback in July, and since then I have signed a contract with Harlequin Mills & Boon for another three books – that will take me well into next year! And of course besides writing the books there is the fun of puffing them off! As Sarah Mallory I gave a talk at Crompton and Shaw Library a couple of weeks ago, which was great fun: it is so lovely to be able to talk about something one really enjoys.

I am also taking part in the Calderdale Writers Roadshow. I will be at Halifax Central Library on Saturday 10th October where I will be reading from The Wicked Baron in the morning, and conducting a writers' workshop in the afternoon, on character creation.

I had hoped that by the autumn life would have become a little quieter,but I seem to be busier than ever!'

THE WICKED BARON – Sarah Mallory
(Mills & Boon Historical)

When he returns from his lavishly opulent lifestyle in Paris, Luke Ainslowe's reputation as an expert seducer of women precedes him. The ladies of the ton are torn between scandalised outrage and the desire to become mistress to the most dashing rake London has ever known…

Innocent Carlotta Durini refuses to become the Baron's next conquest. For she lost her heart to Luke once before, and now believes herself impervious to his lethal brand of seduction. But what if the Wicked Baron refuses to take no for an answer?

Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory

Friday, October 02, 2009

Short stories for the autumn

Several of us have short stories in the new anthology, Loves Me, Loves Me Not. It celebrates 50 years of the Romantic Novelists' Association and includes stories by Nicola Cornick, Amanda Grange, Joanna Maitland and Louise Allen as well as two of our previous guest bloggers, Elizabeth Bailey and Elizabeth Chadwick.

My short story is called Just Desserts. It takes place on a snowy night at an inn, when Wickham and Willoughby meet by chance and discuss their unhappy marriages. There is another gentleman in the shadows, but his experience of marriage is completely different.

Here's an excerpt:

An ill-humoured gentleman in a many-caped greatcoat entered. He removed his coat and threw it over a chair, sending droplets of water flying everywhere. He threw himself down beside the fire, muttering, ‘Women are the very devil.’
‘There is nothing wrong with women,’ said the man in a red coat sourly. ‘It is wives that are the curse.’
‘Ah, there speaks a married man,’ said the newcomer with a wry smile.

‘George Wickham,’ said the man in the red coat, introducing himself.
‘John Willoughby,’ returned the other.
‘At least your wife is rich,’ said Wickham.
‘An heiress,’ said Willoughby, putting one leg over the arm of the chair. ‘Miss Grey, as she was. A great catch. Everyone told me at the time that I was the luckiest of men.’

‘And so you were!’ said Wickham, impressed. ‘I saw her myself, and I would have been glad to marry her. She had fifty thousand pounds, had she not?’
‘Aye; and she has it still, for she will not part with a penny.’
‘No?’ asked Wickham, looking at Willoughby’s expertly tailored new coat and his shining boots.

‘Maybe a little, then,’ admitted Willoughby grudgingly. ‘But only so that I will look well in public and make her friends jealous. When I think of the woman I could have married . . . ’

Amanda Grange