Thursday, April 29, 2010

The heroic three leaders

The UK Election comes into its final week before polling, and the third and final televised leaders' debate is on this evening. There have been comments that the TV debates have made the election even more about personalities than policies but on the other hand policies have been raised and discussed between the party leaders in front of millions of people: the electorate.

(Elections in Regency times were more straightforward: very few had the vote, and most voted as instructed by their local aristocracy.)

In the past week I've been conducting my own straw poll among female friends: which historical romantic heroes could the party leaders best portray?

Gordon Brown seems to be closest to those in the Byronic mould: dark, brooding, and even a little menancing. "He's definitely Heathcliffe," one friend said. "All that hidden passion we've not yet seen."

"Are you sure Mr Rochester isn't a better fit?" I argued.

"Maybe Cyrano de Bergerac, or even Max de Winter," another suggested.

Meanwhile David Cameron has more sharply divided opinion. "This is a difficult one," one friend said. "He can be both serious yet also fun-loving. Perhaps he would be a good Mr Bingley, or Henry Tilney."

"You mean lightweight?" another friend came in with. "He's a token hero to be accepted at face value. We don't really know what's behind it. Like Luke Skywalker."

"Luke Skywalker is not an historical romance hero," I pointed out. "Can we stay on topic?"

"He's my Mr Darcy for sure. Tall, handsome-" third friend came in with.

"No, Clegg is Darcy!" Friend number one. "He could give Colin Firth a run for his money."

It seems she's not the first person to liken Nick Clegg to Colin Firth as Darcy.

"I think Nick Clegg would be a good Dr Who..."

"Can we please stay on topic!"

--> Readers, what do you think the roles for Brown, Cameron and Clegg would be in historical romance?

Kate Allan

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Regency Letters Five

05. April 1816
From Lady Horatia Melton to her husband

Dear Melton
I hope that this letter finds you in good health. I fear that I cannot yet tell you when I may return to London. My sister is still in low spirits and my mother has had a chill. I believe I must stay with them for at least another month.

You may have seen Robert while he was in London. He has just visited with us and was in good health and spirits. I am happy to tell you that he met a young lady he admired. Miss Susanne Smith is just sixteen and not really out but he was able to be of service to her when her hat blew off in a sudden gust of wind. It turns out he knows her older brother well and has been invited to spend his next leave with them. Of course Susanne is much too young to think of an engagement yet but Robert has some years yet to serve and I daresay in another three or four years – if they continue to like one another – we may have some interesting news.

I ask you to forgive any neglect on my part but I do not think you will miss me. You have so many friends and amusements that it cannot be of concern to you where I choose to reside.

Your wife Horatia.

05 April From Lady Horatia Melton to her brother Robert Jenson

My own dear one.

Words cannot express how happy I was to see you. Our walks together were a joy and I was gratified that you gave your approval of my friendship with a certain person. He is the most delightful man, do you not agree? His kindness, concern for Antoine, Mama and myself are I am sure perfectly honest and deeply felt. I know you feel I must be very careful not to arouse suspicion or gossip. I have tried to conceal my feelings even from my sister, but when the three of us were together there was no need and I am certain you saw my happiness.

I know you will understand when I tell you that I long to be free of a marriage, which has ceased to mean anything to me, but for your sake, Mama’s and my sister’s, I shall do nothing in haste. Mama would be terribly upset and shocked, and Bathurst might forbid my sister to see me. I should not like to be estranged from my family. However, my main concern would be for you, Robert. I know that it is your intention to take up politics once you leave the army and a scandal could only harm your chances.

Yet my heart tells me that I cannot face an empty future. My dearest friend tells me that we should live abroad. He believes my mother, sister and Bathurst would eventually forgive me and I might be allowed to visit when the scandal has blown over. I have asked him to be patient. If Melton would agree to an amicable separation there need be no scandal. I could just go abroad for the sake of my health and a divorce could follow in a year or two.

Take care of yourself, my dear one. Please write when you have the time and I shall do the same.

Your loving sister as always.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Anything But A Gentleman

I'm delighted to let you know that one of my out of print Regencies, Anything But A Gentleman, is now available as a download on Regency Reads. It was my second published novel and it holds a special place in my heart. It is set in Cornwall, a place I love, and Marianne is one of my favourite heroines. And of course Luke is one of my favourite heroes, despite the fact that he is anything but a gentleman!

When the book opens, Marianne is trying to look after the family estate as her brother has gone missing and her father has retreated into a world of his own. A new neighbour, Luke, Lord Ravensford, adds to her problems, and yet she can't seem to get him out of her mind. When she discovers that her brother has become embroiled in the revolutionary events in France, she sets out to rescue him, and there is only one man she can turn to for help - Luke.

Balls, house parties, adventure and romance all mingle together to make one of my favourite books. I hope you like it!

The top picture shows the download cover, and the bottom picture shows the out of print hardback cover.

Amanda Grange

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy St George's Day

St George is England's patron saint and since a child I have always wanted to do something special to celebrate his day. Whilst not wishing to steal any limelight from anyone due to post today let's enjoy the glorious sunshine and celebrate our national saint.

On April 23rd 1973 my daughter was born. Then on April 23rd 1975 my son was born. This was not the longest labour in history for twins. It has made St George's Day very special for our family and it is always celebrated in style.

Also today marks the birth of our greatest penman William Shakespeare and the 23rd April is also the date he died. He was the creator of all the best plots and the inventor of the best known cliches now to be avoided. As writers this is another excuse to raise our glasses and dip into the chocolates for a toast.

How do you celebrate St George's Day?

Kate Tremayne

Thursday, April 22, 2010


As you know, we've just joined Twitter and I'm starting to get the hang of it.
Sign in - easy.
Write a short comment - not so easy, but the letter counter helps.
Retweet - yes, I can do that.
Check what everyone else is saying - yes.
Joining in the conversations - no, don't think I've quite got the hang of that yet but I'm working on it.

Then on to more advanced things. Thanks to Krista Davis on the Cosy Chicks blog I'm sort of getting to grips with hashtags but I'm still not sure about a few things so if there are any Twitter experts out there, help would be appreciated. Here are the things I can't work out at the moment.

I've noticed that some people say, Thanks for the shout, and I seem to remember reading somewhere that it's polite to give shouts, but I've no idea what they are.

What are the lists about?

How do I use things like #FF ? I know it means Follow Friday but it doesn't really help me as I just get an image of Robinson Crusoe following Man Friday's footsteps across the beach, and even though I'm a twitter novice I'm pretty sure this isn't what it means :) If I put it in my tweet, does it mean I will follow someone on Fridays? Or will I always follow them? Or will they follow me? Or does it mean I should follow the link and follow someone else? Or . . . the trouble with a writer's imagination is that I can think of a hundred possibilities and it's very possible that none of them are right.

The same with #MM #TT etc - help!

And as I sit here looking out onto my untidy garden ( soon to be tidy, I hope) I'm trying to work out if Jane Austen was lucky or unlucky that Twitter wasn't around when she was writing, because the one thing I have discovered about Twitter is that it's addictive. So that's where I'm heading off to - just as soon as I've finished writing the blurb for my Christmas novella, which will be out as a part of A Darcy Christmas in November. Yes, I know it's only April, but everything happens months in advance in the publishing industry!

Amanda Grange

Glamour at Leighton House

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the re-opening of one of the most extraordinary houses in London: Leighton House. Frederic Leighton (1830-96), artist and President of the Royal Academy, was the only person ever to live there and it was built to his personal specifications. It’s function was essentially public; a place to host his famous parties and entertain guests or prospective clients, together with a magnificent studio complete with a separate entrance for his models. By contrast, Leighton’s bedroom is austere and plain, with a single wrought iron bed, bare wooden floor with a bear skin by the bed, and small bathroom next door.

I saw it immediately prior to its closure: shabby, with intrusive modern wiring and pipes, it reminded me of an unloved Victorian aunt – a presence, undoubtedly, but dowdy.

Now, after a 1.6 million pounds restoration, Leighton House is utterly transformed. You step into an exotic middle-eastern harem which has somehow merged with a Victorian artist’s studio. The famous Arab hall has beautiful medieval blue and white tiles, brought back by various friends – including the explorer Sir Richard Burton (with whom, I suspect, most of us would fancy a night). It has a black marble pool in the centre. Leighton’s guests regularly fell into it whilst admiring the tiles.

The newly gold-leafed ceiling glows. The gold mosaic frieze with peacock decoration, designed by Walter Crane, somehow fits perfectly with the Arab tiles, and that, too, glimmers. Even the old shabby stuffed peacock at the turn of the stairs has had a make-over and its jewel-like plumage shines. (How do you dry-clean a peacock?)

The drawing-room wallpaper (pink and gold) has been restored and the floorboards round the central carpet are painted turquoise. The magnificent pink, turquoise and white glass chandelier sparkles. My favourite piece here is the marble fireplace which is directly under the window, which has mirror shutters. Leighton knew just how to give his house that touch of the unexpected.
You would think that Leighton House would need a bevy of servants to run it, together with a vast kitchen. In fact, Leighton lived very simply, with just a man-servant. There is no proper kitchen. Usually, Leighton dined at his club and had caterers in for parties.

It’s all far too classy to be bling but it is still, nevertheless, jaw-dropping. And now is the time to see it whilst it is still pristine and dust and cobwebs have not dulled the splendid colours. It is also immensely cheering and inspiring. Pictures courtesy of Leighton House Museum, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Elizabeth Hawksley

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cover Story

I'm in the unusual position of having three different covers for the same story out simultaneously and they are so very different I'm interested to see what the reaction is to them.

The story - Disrobed and Dishonored - was originally for the Mills & Boon Undone! e-book series of short, highly sensual novellas and the cover for that is the one on the left with the garter. Very pretty, mildly risque.

The tale is one of a highwayman who is not all he seems and a young lady of undoubted virtue who has an urgent need to become rather less virtuous. The Ravenhurst clan add to the general complications in the way of true happiness for this unlikely couple - but they have a naughtily good time on the way to their Happy Ever After.

The Undone! series has been proving popular, but I know readers have been asking for them in print format as well, so I was thrilled when found out that my story was to be included in the first North American print anthology - Pleasurably Undone! - which is the rich purple/crimson cover below with the elegantly half draped nude shown below. Sensual, sexy and elegant, I thought.

I was even more excited when Disrobed was included in the first UK anthology - a different selection, all Regency stories, and including one by fellow blogger Nicola Cornick.

Harlequin Mills & Boon usually have very different covers for the UK and North American markets, so it was intriguing to see what they would come up for with this jacket and I was very pleased with the result on the right because I think it is sassy, sexy and - selfishly! - it happens to suit my story very well.

What's your opinion? Do you buy a book by its cover - and which of these three most appeals to you?

Louise Allen

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Living history

The Great Office.

For a historical novelist one of the great pleasures of living in Cornwall is that in many of the towns there are areas that have remained unchanged for centuries. Helston – a town featured in several of my recent books, and the one I’m currently writing - is an excellent example. Helston was one of the first towns in Cornwall to achieve borough status when King John granted it the first Royal Charter over 800 years ago. This charter cost the people of Helston 40 marks of silver, a great deal of money. But it also granted them freedom from national taxes, the right to control local trade, and to demand tolls.

The Great Office at No 5 Cross Street, (which features in Taken to Heart, my current work-in-progress) was built in the early 1700s in what was then Helston’s grandest road where the town’s professional gentlemen, the lawyers, bankers and businessmen, built houses that reflected their wealth and status.

For over 200 years The Great Office has been the address for numerous firms of solicitors. The town’s first bankers - pursers (treasurers) looking after the accounts of local mines - also had offices in this imposing building. And though over the years the property has been extended, the fa├žade remains unchanged, as does its name.

Next time I'll tell you the scandalous history of one of Helston's ancient inns.

I now have a new page on my website where I shall be posting interesting bits of research, plus news, views and photos. So do drop by.

Jane Jackson.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Can short be satisfying?

For some reason, I'm thinking about short stories this month, perhaps because of the RNA's Elizabeth Goudge trophy, awarded at the Conference in July. This year, because it's the RNA's 50th anniversary year, the theme is to be Anniversary so I'm trying to get my mind into gear for an anniversary short story. The major difficulty, for me, is the length. Maximum of 1400 words. Quite a challenge for a writer who's used to producing 80,000 or so. Can short be satisfying too? [Sorry, couldn't resist. Possibly best not to answer that one...]

However, thinking about the Elizabeth Goudge reminded me that I did write a short story about Jack, the hero of His Forbidden Liaison. It was published as a hero spotlight on the eHarlequin website, but I don't think many readers found it, since it wasn't very well signposted. There is so much material on eHarlequin that it can be a nightmare to navigate. I had difficulty finding my story myself!

So for existing fans of Jack, and readers who may become fans in the future, here he is, back in London after his adventures in France, and still a spy...

London— May, 1815

What man in his right mind would be a spy?

It was long after midnight. It should have been pitch black, for there was no moon. But fleeting patches of light from flambeaux or link-boys drew the eye, throwing the shadows into even deeper relief. The last carriage clattered across the cobbles, its flickering lamps soon swallowed up by the gloom. From the lurking darkness, low voices murmured, occasionally broken by a husky laugh and, once, a woman’s scream, quickly stifled.

The very walls were menacing. Covent Garden at this hour was no place for a lone man to linger.

Jack felt a wry smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Would his contact arrive at all? He had no way of knowing. He leaned back against the cold stone and drove his hands deep into his pockets, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. Such was the lot of a spy. Simply to wait.

That scream again.

Jack recognised real fear in the woman’s voice this time. Whoever she was, he could not ignore her plight. He sprinted lightly towards the sound, his fists clenched, all his senses alert.

In a narrow alley of overhanging buildings, a man held a woman pinned up against the wall, his hands around her neck. Her skirts had been pushed up above her waist. She was struggling valiantly, trying to knee him in the groin, but he was choking the life out of her. In a moment, she would be unconscious.

Jack grabbed the man by the shoulder and spun him round. The ruffian’s filthy face registered shock, followed by exploding fury, just as Jack felled him with a straight right to the chin. The man hit the stone wall and slithered down into an untidy heap on the ground.

Rubbing his knuckles, Jack rapidly assessed his options. The man should be taken in charge, but Jack dare not quit his post. A lone woman could not do it, especially not a woman of this class. The blackguard would have to remain where he lay, with only a damaged jaw as punishment for his crime.

Beside him, the woman was automatically trying to smooth down her skirts. Only when that was done to her satisfaction did she straighten and raise her hands to her injured neck.

He knew her! That beautiful stretching body was unmistakable.

‘Why, it’s Hetty, isn’t it? Good evening, ma’am.’ Jack had no hat to doff, but he bowed to the lightskirt as if to a countess. Hetty was no common harlot. Only gentlemen frequented the house where she worked.

She had been smiling her thanks, but now her eyes widened in recognition and she laughed, though the sound was hoarse in her bruised throat. ‘Get along with you, Lord Jack.’ She let her gaze drift over his immaculately tailored evening clothes, his pristine white shirt and the silk-lined cloak hanging carelessly from his shoulders. The large ruby pin nestling in the folds of his cravat made her eyes goggle. ‘Taking a bit of a risk wearing that here, ain’t yer?’

‘Aren’t you taking a risk by walking here alone?’ he flashed back. At least he was armed; she was defenceless.

Hetty shrugged in response, seeming to accept that he was right.

Jack said nothing. He knew better than to probe further, for she would simply tell him—with a chuckle—to mind his business. He had rescued her from her folly. She was too sensible to repeat it.

Hetty glanced down at her assailant. ‘I hope you broke his jaw,’ she said, with venom, letting Jack take her elbow and usher her out of the lane. ‘Where you been these last months?’ She narrowed her eyes assessingly, now that his face was no longer in shadow. ‘You look different. Still a handsome devil, but different. Older.’ She dropped him a curtsy. She had never done that before.

‘Dare I hope that you think I look wiser, too, Hetty?’

‘What, you? The maddest gambler and scapegrace in London? It’d take more than a couple of years in your dish to change your wild ways.’ She let her gaze soften. ‘Want to come back for a nightcap?’ Her voice had sunk to a seductive murmur.

He shook his head. ‘Prior engagement, I fear.’

‘Another night then?’ Hetty smiled her most inviting smile.

Jack realised he should have expected this. He had always tipped well. All the muslin company knew that.

He hesitated, unwilling to give her a straight answer. There were some things—private, deeply-cherished things—that a man did not share. ‘My evenings are …er… devoted to other pursuits, these days. Will you get home safe? I’m afraid I am not free to escort you.’

Hetty grinned. ‘Lord love yer, I’m a working girl. Don’t you worry none about me. I’ll hurry. And I promise I’ll keep away from the shadows.’

Relieved, Jack put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her lightly on the cheek. Then, remembering his duty, he bowed to her once more and turned away, strolling lazily across the square to resume his vigil. He had long ago concluded that a spy’s lot consisted of long periods of boredom, punctuated by rare bursts of frenzied action. He found himself grinning into the challenging gloom. He had probably had his full quota of excitement for tonight.

Hetty stared after his retreating back. Not the same man at all, she decided. No longer a playboy. And no longer a boy, either. Some woman—some very lucky woman—had caught Lord Jack Aikenhead and shown him the value of life and love, values that only a grown man could appreciate. Who was she? And how on earth had she worked such a miracle?

Hetty shook her head. Chances were that she would never know.

But if you would like to learn about the woman who tamed London’s most outrageous playboy, you can read their adventures in His Forbidden Liaison.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Betting Chance

I have a new release this month! Since I'm off to the Romantic Times Convention in the morning, very early, I'm going to have to give you an excerpt and run. If you're coming to RT, I'm at both booksignings, teaching at the precon and I'm on a panel on the Wednesday with Linnea Sinclair, Cat Adams, Donna McMeans and Karen Miller. I'm also taking part in the Cougar Growl on Thursday, and hanging out with cover model Jimmy Thomas at some point. See you there!
So without further ado, here are the details and an excerpt from  A Betting Chance.

 Sapphira Vardon needs five thousand pounds to avoid a cruel marriage and a grim future, and there’s only one path for her. Don a mask and an assumed name, and risk everything to win at the gaming tables. First, though, she has to get through the door. Luckily she knows just whose name to drop.

Corin, Lord Elston, is curious to find out who used his name to gain entrance to Mother Brown’s whorehouse and gaming hell. The enigmatic woman who calls herself Lydia isn’t the sort of female usually found here. Behind her mask and heavy makeup, she’s obviously a respectable woman—who plays a devilish hand of cards.

Sapphira is desperate to keep her identity a secret, but Lord Elston’s devastating kisses and touches demand complete surrender. And once he learns the truth, there’s more at stake than guineas. Corin finds himself falling hard for a woman who’s poised to run. A woman who’s about to learn that he only plays to win…

“I wish you’d trust me with your secret. I might be able to help,” Lord Elston said.
“I don’t know you.” Not in any recognized meaning of the word. The connection Sapphira felt to him had to be her imagination. He couldn’t feel it, not this wild needing.
“I think we should get to know each other better. I want you to trust me.” He touched her chin, his forefinger stroking her skin. She wanted to purr like a cat, but instead she moved back. Before she could retreat out of his reach he tilted her chin up so she had to meet his direct gaze. His eyes bored into her soul. “There’s something about you—I don’t know.” He bit his lip. It was the first time she’d seen any vulnerability about him and she found it meltingly seductive.
She couldn’t risk weakening. She put her guard back up and kept it firmly in place, reminding herself that he was a stranger, that she didn’t know him. “I told you, I can’t do that. I’m here to play cards, no more.”
“I love a challenge,” he murmured, and lowered his head.
The first touch of his lips against hers paralyzed her. Recognition—of what she still didn’t know—shot between them and she opened her mouth to protest, but he used it to his advantage and licked her lips before he slid his tongue into her mouth.
Now shock held her rigid. Nobody had ever kissed her like this. She hadn’t imagined it possible. She’d seen the caricatures in the shops with their sometimes explicit content, watched a man fondling a whore, seen mercenary transactions take place in the street—she’d thought herself reasonably au fait with sexual matters, for a virgin.
She’d been wrong. She knew that watching and experiencing were two different things but had never known it could be so devastatingly different. The intimacy floored her, and she could do nothing other than reach out for something to steady herself.
The memory of that other kiss—that disgusting, slobbering kiss George Barber had forced on her—returned in full measure. This didn’t compare, couldn’t. She wanted to press closer to Elston, not jerk away, put as much distance between them as she could. Nothing like that. If anything had told her that she couldn’t go ahead with marriage to George Barber, this did.
Corin cupped the back of her head as her hand made contact with his velvet-clad arm. She clutched it, praying for control as he took his time exploring her mouth, caressing her with soft strokes that made her heat up right down to the forbidden area between her thighs. He held her safe, didn’t move his hands or try to unfasten her clothing. One arm curved around her waist, the other over her wig. She wanted his hands under it, in her hair, cupping her head intimately. One of the strings of her mask loosened.
She jerked back, her hand going to her only protection against discovery. “No, don’t!” Her voice was breathless, whispery, but at least it still worked. As did her common sense.
“I want to see you.” He sounded as out of breath as she did.
“No, you can’t.” She reached up and retied the one string he’d managed to undo. Luckily the other one still held firm. He’d dislodged her wig, and she pulled it back into place, but he must have seen that she was a brunette.
“Why not? Will I know you?”
Having regained her composure, enough to confront him anyway, she shook her head. “It’s highly doubtful. But you might see me somewhere else.”
“And you’ve lost that accent. I knew you’d assumed it, but there’s still a tinge left. Are you a Londoner?”
Born and bred. “I’ve visited London a lot,” she said, hoping desperately to put him off the scent. She had to get out of here before he guessed more. Before he had her out of her clothes and spread out on the bed for his pleasure. How could she have been so stupid?
But she had to pass him to get to the door, and he caught her skirts. “A challenge, sweet Lucia. Just between us.”
“Because of the danger. Because you want a bit of excitement in your life.” If only he knew she’d have more excitement than she’d ever wanted soon. But she appreciated that he didn’t threaten her. He could have her barred from this house with very little trouble, but he hadn’t done it.
She turned around, willing at least to listen, but keeping some distance between them, as much as this small room would allow. He sat there in his splendid clothes looking every inch a prince. A wicked prince. He released his clutch on her skirt, and she resisted the urge to put her hand where his had just been, to touch the residual warmth. “Well?”
“Let me get to know you better. You intrigue me. Can you meet me, talk to me, with your mask and maquillage off? Can you look me in the face without your protection?”
“No.” She couldn’t do it. With no mask or makeup he’d see every expression on her face, and he’d know she was his for the taking, however hard she fought against it.
He leaned back, smiling. “A challenge, then. A bet, just between us, with no money at stake. If I recognize you and challenge you in public without your disguise, you promise to meet me at a place of my choice.”
He smiled. “I want you, sweet Lucia. I want to see your face while I’m making love to you.”
Before she could repress it an image flashed into her mind. Him, naked, admiring her naked body, kissing it, touching it. Oh she wanted it so much, but she couldn’t. Mustn’t. She held back her shock. Barely. “And what’s in it for me?”
His rich laugh filled the small space with joy. “I hope to give you pleasure as I’m taking it.”
She pulled out of his grasp, put her hand on the door latch. “I can’t.” Then she was gone, hurrying toward her servant, Frankie, as fast as she could without colliding with anyone or losing her foothold.

A Betting Chance
In this game of hearts, winner takes all!
ISBN: 978-1-60504-973-1
From Samhain Publishing

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Inspiration for the Royal Pavilion?

Last weekend I was out walking in the Cotswolds and almost literally stumbled across Sezincote house and gardens. I had no idea that a house like this existed in the Gloucestershire countryside and thought at first that I was seeing things.

Colonel John Cockerell, a grandson of the nephew of Samuel Pepys, bought the Sezincote estate in 1795 when he returned from Bengal. He had been in the service of the East India Company and on his death in 1798 left the estate to his brother Charles. Charles Cockerell, created a baronet in 1809 and MP for Evesham, employed another brother, the magnificently named Samuel Pepys Cockerell to design him a house on the estate in the Indian manner. SP Cockerell was an architect of some standing, Surveyor to the East India Company and he worked on the design for Sezincote with the artist Thomas Daniell, who had spent ten years in India making aquatints, watercolours and oils of Indian buildings and landscapes. Daniell had an unparallelled knowledge of Indian architecture and at Sezincote he and Cockerell designed a house that on the outside at least was a mixture of Hindu and Islamic detail. The style was reminiscent of the reign of Akbar, the Mogul Emperor who ruled from 1556 to 1605. Akbar deliberately mixed the Hindu and Islamic elements in architecture in an effort at cultural integration. Thus the pillars, the horizontal beams and the many depctions of the Lotus at Sezincote are inspired by Hindu design whilst the chattris (small minarets) and other elements are Islamic. The dome, a characteristic of Muslim architecture representing heart and heaven and a symbol of peace and tranquility, shows strong Persian influence.

Sezincote's charming and interesting architectural fusion is apparently not reflected inside the house, which is classical, or in the garden, which is decidely English. Although the house was designed and built for an eighteenth century generation who loved and respected Indian culture, by the time that it was completed in 1812, British attitudes towards India were changing. Nabobs such as the Cockerells were often looked down upon and were suspected of decadence. Some nineteenth century visitors to Sezincote described it as "grotesque."

Sezincote is, however, claimed to be the inspiration for the Prince Regent's Royal Pavilion at Brighton, though when I was reading about the house I could not find any information on how this happened. It is said that the Prince Regent chose an Indian style for its picturesque qualities and The Royal Pavilion is decorated in the chinoiserie style inside, of course, which is very different from both the Indian inspiration and the classical interior of Sezincote.

Sezincote opens to visitors in May and I shall definitely go back for a wander around the house and gardens and to marvel at this architectural jewel sitting in the Gloucestershire countryside!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Joys of Spring-Cleaning

Funny the things you find when you start spring cleaning. When I was "tidying" my Sarah Mallory website to add my latest Mills & Boon Historical, Wicked Captain, Wayward Wife, I discovered a short story! It was one I wrote and added to the website some time ago but life has been so busy recently that I had forgotten all about it!

One of the lovely villages I discovered when researching for my very first Mills & Boon Historical, More Than A Governess, was called Rushton Spencer. I was determined to use it in my book, so I put my characters into a local inn (using the real-life Royal Oak as my model). However, while we were wandering around the village – in high summer – I had the idea for something quite different, a winter story.

The small church of St Lawrence is built on a small hill some way from the village and can be seen from the road. I did take a picture of the church but you will have to trust me on this, it is nestling amongst the trees and if you look carefully you can just make out the graveyard!
There is a footpath from the village leading to the church, and a very pretty walk it is, in summer. In my imagination I could see the church standing stark against the sky on a cold moonlit night with a blanket of snow covering the ground. There would be travellers at the inn, and perhaps a child lost in the snow……
This Christmas Story is still on my website, so if you want a coffee-time read, feel free to visit you will fin ditlisted in the index onthe left hand side of the home page. I'd love to know what you think!

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory Wicked Captain, Wayward Wife by Sarah Mallory Paperback published in the UK April 2010

Thursday, April 01, 2010

20 Romances, 11 Funerals, 19 Births and so much more

An historical romance is so much more than two people falling in love and living happily ever after. We have dramatic historical settings and events to colour the world of our characters creating, conflict, adversity and adventure.

When I started plotting the latest in the Loveday series, which will be book 12, I needed to ensure there would be no repetitions of plot to keep the series fresh and original. It meant analysing what had been covered in the previous novels involving this dashing, diverse extended family.

The novels have so far covered 19 yrs from 1787 to 1806 starting with two generations of Edward Loveday (a shipbuilder); his two sisters (one married to a London banker and the other a formidable spinster); also his two brothers (a reformed rakehell now a parson and the other a naval captain). Between them they have eight children (a wastrel, a naval officer and government agent, a loveable rogue, a farmer's wife, a pious lay preacher, an illegitimate daughter, and a banker who would be a playwright. This gave me a main character list of 20 family members and there are also their spouses family and backgrounds and most importantly several vengeful protagonists.

This was a broad canvas for the romances, rivalries, conflicts and adventures in the first books, but as the series gained in popularity new themes and escapades were needed to keep the readers captivated. Over the so far published 11 novels there have been 20 romances, 11 weddings, 6 funerals, 2 criminal trials (for a framed murder and highway robbery), 19 births, at least 5 mysterious deaths, 6 infidelities, 2 unrequited loves, 2 bankruptcies, 2 abductions, 4 duels, 4 sea battles, suicide, seduction, attempted bigamy, incest, a wife committed to bedlam, an occasional murder, several scandals and satisfactory reprisals, dark secrets and revelations and these are only some of the dramas...

The exciting world history happening at the time the series is set has been a marvellous backdrop for intrigue and adventures. The main storyline may be set in Cornwall, London, France with their Revolution and war with England, but the plots have also taken the characters to Bath, Virginia, and three of the novels included scenes of transportation and survival to the early penal settlement in New South Wales.

As you can gather the Lovedays wild-blood, both in the women and the men, lead them into dramatic situations, and although the novels chronologically follows the lives of the family with main characters stories interwoven throughout, each book also has to stand on its own. With so many strong characters I have been able to vary the dynamics with different members of the family taking the major role in a particular novel whilst keeping abreast of family fortunes and vendettas.

Working out the psychology and motivation of the lovers, family and adversaries has been an absorbing challenge and in book 9 The Loveday Secrets I introduced a new cousin who the others believed dead. His life had been very different from the privileged wealth and position of his cousins. A former guttersnipe he is bent on destroying his cousins but his triumphs are short lived and to save their own reputations the Lovedays must unite and put aside old rivalries. This stirs up a marvellous hornet's nest of passions and repercussions and a battle of wills which is brought to a head in The Loveday Conspiracy.

But with readers beseeching me to continue the family drama, it was time for the next generation to come of age with their lives bringing new conflicts which again place the family in danger in the forthing The Loveday Vendetta published this year. And so the drama continues with the original cousins far from sedate and settled and new revelations to throw the family into discord and crisis. I can't wait to write the new romances and adventures and opening up a fresh world of research into the continuing war with France and excitement of Regency England.

All the Loveday novels are available and this month The Loveday Trials, The Loveday Scandals and The Loveday Honour have been reprinted to ensure there is no break in continuity for new readers discovering the series.

For more news of the novels and the Loveday family click on my website at the side of the blog page ,where you can also access extracts from all the novels and also the The Loveday Books blog.

Happy Easter to our readers.

Kate Tremayne