Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Regency recipes

We've just been talking about food on one of my Regency elists and I know that a lot of our blog readers are interested in the subject, so I thought I would share this wonderful book, Regency Recipes, with you. I bought my copy from the Brighton Pavilion shop and I've had a lot of fun trying out the recipes for things as different as white soup, spiced beef in red wine and stewed cucumbers.

One of my favourite parts of the book, however, is the recipe for Everlasting syllabub. "The original syllabub consisted of cider flavoured with lemon zest, nutmeg and brandy, into which you actually milked a cow."

It goes on to say, "In the absence of a cow, you poured in warm milk from a teapot held high. This produced a drink with the right frothy topping."

Ah, a kind of Regency cappuccino then!

Amanda Grange

The ipad!

What does the ipad have to do with the Regency era? I hear you cry. Well, just this, the ipad now has a good selection of Jane Austen paraliterature including books by blog members Monica Fairview and Amanda Grange.

Yes, you can now read Monica's The Other Mr Darcy and Amanda's Mr Darcy, Vampyre on the latest gadget, the ipad. Just look for the Classics 2.0 page on the ibookstore, or search for the books, to have your very own timeslip adventure, where the twenty-first century meets the eighteenth century!

Friday, June 25, 2010

An Afternoon with the Romantic Novelists' Association

Last Saturday I attended a London meeting of the Romantic Novelists' Association. I've been a member for some years, but being a little shy of large groups of people I must admit I'd avoided going to one before. The very lovely author Victoria Connelly (centre) who is at present writing an Austen inspired Trilogy very kindly offered to 'hold my hand' and introduce me to the members of the London group who always meet in Bloomsbury, in a pub which is very close to a favourite bookshop and cafe of mine. I was also very keen to meet wonderful Amanda Grange who through the New Writers' Scheme gave me so much help and support when I was trying to become a published author. Victoria and I met beforehand in the National Portrait Gallery, so that we could go and pay homage to Jane Austen - the lovely watercolour painting executed by her sister Cassandra. I never tire of seeing this beautifully painted portrait which is not only very tiny, but is painted with such delicate strokes. We visited all the portraits in the Regency rooms as well as a quick visit to the Tudors - another passion of mine and Victoria's. After lunch in the crypt of St. Martin in the fields church, we went onto the meeting. I was made to feel so welcome and it was lovely to meet Amanda at last who gave a talk on her publishing journey, imparting lots of inspirational wisdom for published and unpublished writers alike. I met Fenella Miller and Elizabeth Hawksleyfrom the Historical Romance UK blog, and Juliet Archer, another Austenesque author, as well as many other friendly faces. I had a lovely day out - so thank you Victoria, and Amanda, and everyone else for a wonderful time! Thanks also to Jan Jones and Liz Fenwick for their initial encouragement on Twitter - I don't think I would have made it to a meeting without your help. You do not have to be a published author to join the Romantic Novelists' Association in the UK. If you've ever thought you might wish to write, here is an excellent place to start!

Jane Odiwe

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I often think it must have been wonderful to live in the Regency era but today I'm glad to be in 2010. It's boiling hot and even though the clothes in the Regency era were light and flimsy they must have been onerous on a day like today, with their long skirts - to say nothing of the obligatory pair of gloves. I'm glad to be able to go about in a short skirt and a T shirt today!

My latest heroine is blessed with a hot summer in my new Regency short story, The Dashing Miss Langley. It's a fine morning in 1819 when Annabelle sets out on a journey which will change her life. Although she is wealthy and twenty-seven, and as such she is very much in charge of her own life, Annabelle finds that everything changes when she meets Daniel again at a country inn. You can read the start of the story here, and if you want to find out what happens next you can find the whole story in
The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance, which is out today.

It's an odd thing, but before this year I've never had a short story out and now The Dashing Miss Langley is my second this year. I really enjoyed writing it and I'm busy thinking up some new short story ideas. They're a lot of fun to write!

What about you? Which do you prefer to read? And if you're a writer, do you like writing short stories or do you prefer writing novels?

Amanda Grange

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jane Austen and Names

I have long been fascinated by Jane Austen’s choice of first names for her characters and my research into the subject has shown that she both mirrors and comments on the customs of the time.

Continuity is important in showing family connections, as the Elliot entry in the Baronetage shows: ‘with all the Marys and Elizabeths they had married.’ (Persuasion).

The convention is for the eldest son and daughter to be named after their parents, as Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, née Maria Ward, do in Mansfield Park. Jane Fairfax in Emma is named after her dead mother. In Persuasion, Charles Musgrove’s elder son is named Charles, and so on.

Money also has an important role in the choice of name. In Emma, John Knightley is a younger son with no estate of his own. The Hartfield estate, where his wife Isabella was brought up, has no male heir, so, as the elder daughter, Isabella will inherit. The financial importance of this is echoed in their eldest son’s name. ‘Henry is the eldest; he was named after me, not after his father,’ says old Mr Woodhouse, Isabella’s father. Plainly, such a departure from the norm needs an explanation. Otherwise, the John Knightleys are traditional – or possibly ambitious: their children are Henry, John, George, Isabella and Emma. I’ve often wondered if John and Isabella had an eye on Emma Woodhouse’s fortune of £20,000 when naming little Emma.

If a child has little in the way of fortune, then a wealthy god-parent is essential. In Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield, Mr Primrose’s wish to call his daughter Grissel is ignored. Instead, ‘A rich relation taking a fancy to stand godmother, the girl was, by her direction, called Sophia’. Mr Primrose is not wealthy; he falls in with the godmother’s wishes.

Another wealthy godfather is Mr Darcy, senior. His son is named Fitzwilliam, which is his aristocratic wife’s maiden name - and it cannot be an easy name to live with. Its use as a first name certainly indicates that Lady Anne Darcy’s superior breeding is of major importance to the Darcys. Jane Austen may also intend it to say something about its owner’s pride in his rank.

We are not told the senior Mr Darcy’s first name. However, his daughter is named Georgiana, rather than Anne after her mother, and George Wickham is his god-son. Jane Austen’s contemporary readers would have picked up these clues and realized that Mr Darcy’s first name was George.

They would also have assumed that Anne Elliot was named after her well-to-do, childless godmother, Lady Russell. Doubtless, Anne’s spendthrift father, Sir Walter Elliot, hopes that Lady Russell will leave her fortune to Anne.

Names, therefore, are not chosen because the parents like them, but with regard to family connections or a hoped-for inheritance. In Mansfield Park, we don’t know Mrs Norris’s first name, but we do know that she is Betsy Price’s godmother – and the poor girl is going to need a dowry. Mrs Price would almost certainly have named her daughter after her sister – and hoped (probably in vain) for a legacy.

We can tell more. Most people at that date had only one Christian name. A second name indicates something significant, as we see with William Walter Elliot, the heir to the baronetcy and Kellynch Hall in Persuasion.

There is also the class factor. Most of the female servants in the novels have Old Testament names: Mrs Price’s maid, the slap-dash Rebecca; Mary Musgrove’s maid Jemima; and Hannah who closes doors quietly at Hartfield. These names came in with the Reformation and were taken up by Puritan families, eager to demonstrate their religious convictions. They were rarely used by the upper-middle classes at this period.

By contrast, Jane Austen’s heroes and heroines usually have names of Germanic or New Testament origin rather than from the Old Testament. Names like, Mary, Elizabeth and Anne, or Henry, Edward and Edmund have been used since the Middle Ages.

Occasionally, Jane Austen uses a name as a pointer to character. Take the dreadful Augusta Elton in Emma. The name Augusta came in with the Hanoverians and might be considered somewhat parvenu. George III’s sister and mother were both called Augusta, and his nine sons include: Frederick Augustus, Edward Augustus, Ernest Augustus and, in case you missed the point, Augustus Frederick. Jane Austen neatly indicates Augusta Elton’s social pretensions in the name she gives her.

Frederick is another Hanoverian name: as well as the Frederick Augustus and Augustus Frederick we have already noted, George III also had sons called Adolphus Frederick and William Frederick. Doubtless, Captain Wentworth’s father had ambitions for his son and named him accordingly.

a. What is Mrs Bennet’s probable first name?
b. What is Mr Bennet’s probable first name?
c. If Lydia Wickham named her daughter ‘Jane’, what would she be hoping for?
d. Why did Lady Catherine de Bourgh name her daughter ‘Anne’ rather than ‘Catherine’?
e. What will Mr Collins name his eldest daughter?

Elizabeth Hawksley

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Revenge, Romance, Treachery, Ghosts of the Past, Passion - it must be Silk and Scandal!

Exactly two years ago my editor emailed me - would I be interested in being one of six writers for a Regency continuity? The answer, without having to think about it, was Yes! - the questions came later when we realised that we had the exciting challenge of not just writing the books, but also creating the whole backstory and the overarching theme that would take us from the first to the last book.

Hundreds of emails - 2,000 now - a Yahoo group and the eight books were completed by mid 2009 and number one - The Lord & the Wayward Lady - is out this month.

I was fortunate enough to write the first book, to start the story and give a glimpse of the tangle of threads that we had created and that the others - Julia Justiss, Christine Merrill, Gayle Wilson, Annie Burrows and Margaret McPhee - would pick up to weave into their individual books. Then in 7 I had to gather them together and hand over to Christine Merrill who completed the tapestry with the final book.

We were writing at the same time, so it has been a joy to have all eight in my hands now and see how our very individual voices work together. They are being published at the same time in the UK and in North America but with very different covers - the UK one is at the top left. The UK series also has additional material from our researches.

Here is the opening of The Lord and the Wayward Lady. Dan, Marcus Carlow's tiger, proves to have no instinct for approaching trouble at all!

January 5th 1814. London
‘Just look at that blue sky, guv’nor. Mornin’ like this, all’s right with the world and no mistake.’
‘You must be in love, Dan.’ Marcus Carlow, Viscount Stanegate, observed as he looped his reins and took the corner from Piccadilly into Albemarle Street at a brisk trot.
A waft of onions from behind him accompanied an indignant snort from his tiger. ‘You won’t find me shut up in parson’s pound, guv’nor. Nah, just look at it: all crisp and sunny and fresh. A perfect day - proper lifts the spirits. Nuffin’ could go wrong on a day like this.’
‘After a remark like that a superstitious man would take to his bed, order the doors to be bolted and expect disaster.’ Marcus grinned, steadying the pair as they took exception to a large party proceeding along the pavement in a flurry of bandboxes and fluttering scarves.
It was a damned good day, Dan was right. The sun shone, the air was crisp, the fog had lifted and the intriguing Mrs Perdita Jensen was showing unmistakeable signs of a willingness to accept his carte blanche.
Yes, if one disregarded a father whose poor health was wearing down his mother’s spirits, one sister whose aim in life appeared to bring him to an early grave with worry, another whose sweet innocence was equally conducive to anxiety, a brother who, when he was not putting life and limb at risk on the battlefield, was set on becoming the wildest rake in town, then one might, indeed, believe that nothing on earth could go wrong.


But the Carlows' world is about to be turned on its head with a vengeful ghost from the past on a mission to destroy not only their family but everyone descended from the three friends at the heart of an old scandal. The unlikely tool of this vengeance is Nel Latham, impoverished milliner, and as Marcus learns more about her he realises she is not all she seems: soon he has to chose between passion and honour.

...‘Take me to Bow Street then,’ she bluffed, as though that in itself were not enough to have her instantly dismissed without a character. ‘See if the magistrates think that innocently delivering a parcel justifies being locked up and abused.’
‘Abused? In what way do you consider yourself abused, Miss Smith?’ Lord Stanegate sat there, hands folded, apparently relaxed, looking as unthreatening as six foot of well-muscled and angry man could look. ‘I can ring for a cup of tea for you, while you consider your position. Or I could send for my sisters’ companion, should you require a chaperon. If you are cold, the fire will be laid. Only I will have an answer, Miss Smith. Do not underestimate me.’
‘There is no danger of my doing that, my lord,’ she responded, keeping her voice calm with an effort. ‘I can see that you are used to getting your own way in all things and that bullying and threatening one defenceless female, however politely, is not something you will baulk at.’
‘Bullying?’ His eyebrows went up. ‘No, this is not bullying, Miss Smith, nor threatening. I am merely setting out the inevitable consequences of your actions - or rather, your inaction.’
‘Threats,’ she muttered, mutinous and increasingly afraid.
‘It would be threatening,’ he said, getting to his feet and walking towards her as she backed away, ‘if I were to force you back against the bookshelves, like this.’ Nell’s heels hit wood and she stopped, hands spread. There was nothing behind her but unyielding leather spines.
Lord Stanegate put one hand either side of her head and glanced at the shelves. ‘Ah, the Romantic poets, how very inappropriate. Yes, if I were to trap you like this and to move very close -’ He shifted until they were toe to toe and she felt the heat of his thighs as they brushed her skirts. ‘And then promise to put my hands around your rather pretty neck and shake the truth out of you - now that would be threatening.’
Nell closed her eyes, trying to block out the closeness of him. Behind her, leather and old paper and beeswax wood polish were comforting scents from her early childhood. In front of her, sharp citrus and clean linen and leather and man. She tried to melt back into the old, familiar, library smell but there was no escape that way.
‘Look at me.’
She dragged her eyes open. He had shaved very close that morning, but she could tell his beard would be as dark as his hair. There was a tiny scar nicking the left corner of his lips and they were parted just enough for her to see the edge of white, strong teeth. As she watched he caught the lower lip between them for a moment, as though in thought. Nell found herself staring at the fullness where his teeth had pressed, her breath hitching in her chest.
‘No.’ The thought of his hands on her, sliding under her chin, his fingers slipping into her hair…
Welcome to the world of Silk & Scandal!
Louise Allen

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Views

For hundreds of years the farms around my village were worked the same way: rotating cattle and crops on the fields. The cattle provided a natural fertilizer which was then ploughed in to feed the next crop which might be barley, oats, wheat or potatoes. But costs and quotas have brought massive changes. The prize-winning dairy herd I used to watch from my office window has long gone. The farmer died and now his widow has little choice but to lease the fields to contractors who arrive in force with their enormous machines. This year four adjoining fields were ploughed, harrowed, spread with artificial fertilizer and planted with potatoes all within a week. Since the green shoots first appeared through the soil they have been sprayed four times: twice with selective weed killer and twice with something else which, because they are main crop, may be a blight retardant. And yet this same industrial-type farming can be beautiful. On the other side of the village another farm covers both sides of a headland. Six huge fields on the south-facing hillside have been planted with linseed which is just coming into bloom. From a distance the fields look like a huge lake. It's stunningly beautiful. And because the hedges have been allowed to grow wild there are masses of bees and other insects busily pollinating the flowers and providing food for all the young fledgelings.
The path in the picture is hundreds of years old and was once the main way for animals and people between the farm at the top of the hill and the mill quay at the head of the creek in the village. People also used this path to walk up past the farm and down the other side to the rowing-boat ferry that would take them across the river to Point and Feock from where they would walk to Truro. I love the sense of continuity that comes from living in a place where past and present are so closely entwined.
Jane Jackson.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Irish Soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars

It seems a long way from France to Ireland by sailing ship, especially when there’s a war on, but during the 1790s the French made several attempts to invade Britain via Ireland.

On one occasion, in August 1798, a French force landed in County Sligo in the north-west of Ireland and held out for 17 days before surrendering. The final attempt to invade was later in 1798, when a French force was intercepted at the mouth of Lough Swilly on the north coast. There weren’t any more attempts, but the British government didn’t know that, of course, and continually worried that the French would still come.

One of the key defences against invasion was the Martello Tower. The British built over 200 of them starting in 1804. This one is at Magilligan Point, on the north coast of Ireland, guarding the entrance to Lough Foyle which is only 25 miles (40 km) east of where the 1798 invasion was attempted. There was another double-gunned tower on the opposite bank. So between them, they controlled the vital narrow entrance.

In fact this Martello Tower wasn’t begun until 1812. That might seem quite surprising when we remember that the British Navy had smashed the French at Trafalgar in 1805. But there was another war on by then, between Britain and the USA, so no doubt the British were still worrying about invasions.

The soldiers who manned the tower would have looked like this.

Retired Irish soldiers might spend their twilight years in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, built in the 1680s and operated on the same lines as the Royal Hospital Chelsea. It didn’t close until 1928.

Its splendid inner courtyard is rather reminiscent of a French palace.

When it was built, there were mutterings that it was much too fine a place for people like old soldiers!

Do you think it was?


Monday, June 14, 2010

Crime in the Georgian era

I’m currently writing the next Richard and Rose book. They’re my Georgian detectives, and murder and mayhem often crosses their paths, so I had to do a fair bit of research into mid-Georgian policing. Or rather, the lack of it.
I’m constantly astonished by the attitude of the populace at the time. It was growing obvious that some kind of regular, civilian police force was needed, but the main reason for the lack of it until 1832 was the resisitance of the populace. It was a vote loser, so members of Parliament didn’t push for it. The view was that they didn’t want what amounted to an army telling them what to do, and they considered the subsequent crime wave a small price to pay.
Britain wasn't entirely without law enforcement before 1832 and the advent of the “Peelers.” The Thames River Police predates it, for instance, and is the oldest police force in the country. I’m super excited because a writer friend has arranged a tour around the museum soon. I can’t wait to discover more. The Customs and Excise departments (two separate departments in the Georgian era) supervised the incoming and outgoing of goods from the country, but they were woefully understaffed, although they might recruit from the army, especially in peacetime.
Each community had its constable, but they were not like the constables of the present day. Magistrates had more powers than they currently had, and the law had a completely different structure, often misunderstood by researchers.
The Waltham Black Act of 1723 heralded a series of Acts of Parliament that imposed draconian laws on the criminal system. So you could be transported or hanged for stealing a penny loaf. The Act was repealed in 1827, heralding a new era of law enforcement and a new approach to it.
The laws at the time weren’t absolute, as they tend to be now. They were up to interpretation by the court or the magistrate. So if the court decided to value a penny loaf at half a penny, then the criminal received a lesser crime. And if the defendant could read a passage of scripture and it was their first offence, then they could claim “benefit of clergy” and they were released. The Benefit of Clergy rule was introduced to promote literacy, and by the 18th century, when most people could read, it had becojme an anachronism. It was usually the same passage, and so the defendant, if a regular offender, might learn it. However people weren’t as peripatetic as they are now, so they would probably come up before the same magistrate, who would probably remember them.
The most famous magistrates were Henry and John Fielding of Bow Street. Henry Fielding, who was the author of books such as “Tom Jones” (highly recommended!) died in 1754, and after that his brother John took over the role of magistrate of Bow Street. They produced White Papers proposing law reform to Parliament, and it is from these that much of our information on the period is derived. They identified the three main “big” crimes, ie organised crimes and the ones that were most expensive to the country as poaching, smuggling and counterfeiting. Because of the countrywide nature of the crimes, they proposed that a unified force should be established to counter them. To that end, they were allowed to form the “Bow Street Runners,” a group of men who would pursue and prosecute organised crime. There were twelve, or maybe twelve pairs, the wording of the original document is obscure. That’s all. Twelve (or twenty-four) for the whole country.
I’d better stop here. I’m neck deep in bloody murder in my WIP!

Monday, June 07, 2010

The ancient laws that inspired the Brides of Fortune Trilogy

I’m thrilled that my Brides of Fortune trilogy is being published in the UK starting with Confessions of a Duchess this month. The covers for the US and UK versions of the series are very different but I love both styles.

When I was sorting out some files recently I came across the notes I made before I started writing the series back in 2007. The spark for the whole trilogy idea came from an article I read in a national newspaper. A businessman had bought the title of Lord of the Manor of a village in Kent. Once installed, he discovered that there were various ancient rights and privileges associated with the title. He decided to revive these and put forward the idea, amongst other things, that people should pay to walk their dogs on the village green and to park in front of the village shop. Not surprisingly there was an outcry from the villagers, who objected to this high-handed behaviour on the part of their new “lord”!

This gave me the idea for the “Dames’ Tax” whereby all unmarried women in the village of Fortune’s Folly are obliged to give half of their wealth to the lord of the manor if they do not marry within six months of him coming into the title. Whilst I freely admit that the Dames’ Tax was pure invention on my part, I did research various other real taxes existing at the time. These included the tax on dogs, which was in force until 1882, the tax on male servants, abolished 1852, and the tax on racehorses, which only ceased in 1874. These were all taxes paid on a national basis.

Most local taxes, known as “scots” were abolished in England after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, so in order for Sir Montague Fortune’s revival of local taxes to have any historical authenticity I had to find a way in which his village might be exempt. One way that presented itself was for Fortune’s Folly to have been a church enclave where the abolition did not apply. Thus the series starts with Sir Montague discovering to his glee that the abbey church in Fortune’s Folly had exemption from the 1660 abolition.

Many of the medieval taxes were paid to the church and naturally many others were weighted heavily in favour of the lord. However the Fortune’s Folly villagers, to get their own back for Sir Montague’s greed, in turn revive those taxes that give them the advantage: Pontage, by which they charge a fee to cross the bridge in the village, pannage, the right to let their pigs roam in the lord’s woods, and foldage, sending their sheep to manure Sir Montague’s beautiful rose gardens!

Probably the most well known of the early taxes was the droit de seigneur. In England this was known as the amober, the sum paid to the Lord of the Manor to waive his right to sleep with the bride the night before her wedding. William the Conqueror was famously supposed to have been conceived after the droit de seigneur was invoked.

Book 3 of the series, The Undoing of a Lady, is inspired by this idea, but with a twist. It is the Lady of the Manor who exercises her ancient rights, kidnapping the hero to stop the wedding!
It fascinated me that some of the ancient laws and taxes are still legal in the UK today. Mostly these are laws such as wood penny, which is still applicable where I live: for the payment of a nominal penny a year to the local landowner we have the right to take his wood for our fire. Other laws and taxes serve as great inspiration for story ideas but I would not want to see them revived…

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Rediscovered Delights.

Those who follow my occasional tweets will know I have recently moved all my books into brand new bookcases (oh the bliss of having enough shelf space – until I buy more books that is). In the process I have rediscovered a few gems, books I have acquired over the years and while they cannot really be justified under the serious heading of “research”, they are certainly fun to read!

For example, there’s a lovely little book from 1950 entitled “The Book of Queer Stories” (one wouldn't perhaps use that title now) featuring delightfully odd little tales from the likes of G K Chesterton, H G Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson(and what is it about these writers that they had to have a third name or initial? Perhaps I should be Melinda H Hammond, or Sarah Jayne Mallory... but I digress)

Also, I found an interesting little tome from about 1980 called “Where There’s a Will” by Robert S Menchin. Now this can be classed (loosely) as research, since it contains fascinating extracts from wills written over the centuries (including one written on a tractor mud-guard by a dying farmer and another scratched onto an eggshell).

I liked the nineteenth century Englishman who left his wife “one shilling, in recompense of her having picked my pocket of sixty guineas and taken up money in my name, without my leave or license" and another who left his wife just five shillings. “It is sufficient for her to get drunk for the last time at my expense.”

John Aylett's will was proved in 1781. He wanted his executors to "lay out five guineas in the purchase a picture of a viper biting the benevolent hand of the person who saved him from perishing in the snow……and…. in memory of me, present it to Edward Bearcroft, Esq. a King’s Counsel, whereby he may have frequent opportunities for contemplating on it.This I direct to be presented to him in lieu of a legacy of three thousand pounds which I had, by a former will, now revoked and burnt, left him.”

And finally there’s the case of Charles Millar, a Canadian who left a large part of his estate “ the Mother who has…given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children.” Eventually four Toronto mothers, each with nine children, shared the prize of $568, 106 (and one of the poor women declared that she was now going to start practicing birth control!)

Wills are often used in plots, but in future I shall not be worried if I include one - however implausible the reader may consider my fiction, this little book proves that fact can often be even more bizarre.

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory