Sunday, August 29, 2010
Blogging again this month to show you the long-awaited cover of Delight and Desire, the ebook prequel to Bride of the Solway, both out in September from the Harlequin website. Delight and Desire will be available from Wednesday in the Historical Undone ebooks series here, as an ebook only. Bride of the Solway is available here, both in print and ebook formats.
It's a pretty cover, I think. However, the thing that really intrigues me about this cover is that fuzzy section just below the heroine's left elbow. It looks as if someone didn't quite erase the picture underneath. Any guesses as to what it is?
I'm so intrigued that I'm going to offer a print copy of Bride of the Solway to the best suggestion for what it might be. The prize will go to whichever suggestion I think is best, which may well be the one that makes me laugh the most.
My own suggestion is that it's a phantom third arm for my heroine, complete with white evening glove. Now it's over to you, folks!
Friday, August 27, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Do you like historical romances with unusual settings? If so, then my new book, Krakow Waltz, might be one for you. It's out this month in paperback and as an ebook and is set mostly in what we now call Southern Poland.
Poland has had a chequered history and for most of the 19th century didn't exist as a country. Following the Napoleonic Wars, the Treaty of Vienna (1815) carved it up between the neighbouring powers: Russia, Prussia and Austria. However, the city of Krakow was designated as a self-governing "free city" and stayed that way until it was annexed by Austria in 1846.
Part of my family comes from Krakow, in fact my mother was born there, and so it's a city I've visited many times over the years. By some miracle, the historic centre survived the Second World War and so you can walk around today and get the feel of how the city would have been at the time my novel is set in 1817.
In the novel I names the streets where the main characters live and have set scenes in notable places that still survive today including the 15th century Collegium Maius (the oldest part of the University) and the famous 14th century gothic St Mary's Basilica in the main market square. If you visit Krakow do visit these places and if you walk the streets of the old town you'll be able to get a sense of how some of the action in Krakow Waltz is played out.
Balice forest, a notable venue for duels in the 19th century, is now where Krakow airport is situated. (A little like Hounslow Heath which is now London's Heathrow airport.) And Castle Szalynski in the countryside is loosely based on Niedzica Castle in Southern Poland. I revisited Niedzica the summer and will post some photos next time I blog.
To celebrate the publication of Krakow Waltz there is a giveaway contest on goodreads.com. Closing date is 31st August so hurry to be in with a chance to win one of three copies.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Sir Leslie Stephen, reviewing Jane Eyre in the Cornhill Magazine in 1877, thinks not. He says of Charlotte Brontë’s Rochester:
‘He does not appear to me to be a real character at all, except as a reflection of a certain side of his creator….He is supposed to be specially simple and masculine, and yet he is as self-conscious as a young lady on her first appearance in society, and can do nothing but discourse about his feelings… Set him beside any man’s character of a man, and one feels at once that he has no real solidity or vitality in him. He has, of course, strong nerves and muscles, but they are articles which can be supplied in unlimited quantities …
So, how do men think, feel and behave when in love? The diaries of the artist Benjamin Haydon (1786-1846) may help to answer this question.
Haydon liked sex as much as the next man. In April 1813, he wrote: ‘I felt this morning an almost irresistible inclination to go down to Greenwich and have a delicious Tumble with the Girls. … After a short struggle, I seized my brush, knowing the consequences of yielding to my disposition, & that tho’ it might begin today, it would not end with it.’
He was twenty-seven and beginning to look for something more than a quick ‘Tumble’. In August, he wrote: 'I begin to be weary, heartily weary, of vice. There may be pleasure in guilty enjoyment, for fear of discovery, & snatched in the hot, icy fury of passion, yet surely the confidence, the rapture of legitimate pleasure with a lovely creature, is a million times more exquisite.’
In April 1815, he meets a girl he fancies. It is evening; he is ‘accidentally’ alone with her:
‘She sits - you venture to sit near her! You slip gently from the edge of your own chair to the edge of hers, which you affect to conceal! and which she affects not to see! an involuntary sigh; you put your arm on the back of her chair without daring to touch her lovely shoulder - awed, for fear of offending, you dare, agitated and shaken, to touch her soft hand! She withdraws it not! You press with a start of passion the gentle, helpless hand to your full and burning lips!’
It reminds me of the Goin’ Courtin’ song in the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers:
‘You sidle up, she moves away
Then the strategy comes into play.’
And this is what happens next:
‘Your floating eyes meet hers, looking out under her black locks with lustrous tenderness. Down sinks her lovely head under your heated cheek, and you feel her heavenly breath, breathing quickly into your neck! You move your lips gently to meet hers, but are unable to reach it, buried as it is in your neck. O God! with the look of an Angel she turns up her exquisite mouth, & as you kiss it, your lips cling, with a lingering at every little separation and you suck ecstasy till your brain is steeped in steam! You press her with an intensity of grasp. She suffers all, trembling, depending, smiling. Does not this speak all a man could wish?’
The ending is delightful: ‘One bounds home like a deer, and rushes to rest that one may dream.’
Haydon, plainly, got a huge kick out of that kiss. And that’s all it was. They were disturbed by a servant and he comments that her reaction was ‘a dreaming sort of distraction at having been kissed by a Man’. Though, of course, that may just be male fantasy. Nevertheless, he obviously felt like a conquering hero.
Haydon’s diaries were private, written for his own pleasure. What I think is so interesting about them is that they offer a rare glimpse into how men really feel about love. For me, these extracts are an eye-opener.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Here are some of the highlights of the last seven years for me.
Finding out that Robert Hale, my lovely hardback publishers, wanted to publish the first one. Until then, I was known for my Regencies and Darcy's Diary represented a departure for me.
Even better was seeing the reaction from readers and hearing how much they loved the book.
Then there was the moment I discovered that Sourcebooks had bought the US rights to Darcy's Diary and that they were releasing it in paperback under the title of Mr Darcy's Diary. It was the first time any of my books had been published in the US and it was a brilliant moment.
Learning that Penguin had bought the US paperback rights to the other diaries, or at least the ones I had written at the time, ie Mr Knightley's Diary, Captain Wentworth's Diary, Edmund Bertram's Diary and Colonel Brandon's Diary.
Meeting some lovely fans at the recent RNA conference at Greenwich, London and hearing how much they loved the books, particularly Mr Darcy's Diary. I guess that's most people's favourite! I have a soft spot for Colonel Brandon's Diary, which recounts the story of his tragic first love before moving on to the events of Sense and Sensibility.
And last but not least, finishing Henry Tilney's Diary. It's taken me longer than the others, partly because it was more complex in many ways, and partly because I wrote Mr Darcy, Vampyre in the middle of it. But the main reason it took so long was because, when I originally finished it, I wasn't happy with it. I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong with it, but I knew that it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. So I did what every writer does in that situation, I put it away for a while and let my thoughts simmer.
When I returned to it, I knew what was wrong. I'd created several passages where Henry and his sister read aloud to each other, and the book they read from was The Mysteries of Udolpho. This seemed an obvious choice because it was Catherine's favourite book. But somehow Udolpho didn't really gel with the diary.
I knew I wanted to keep the idea of reading aloud from a genuine Gothic novel of the era, because I wanted to infuse the diary with the flavour of those books as their plots were central to Northanger Abbey, but Udolpho had to go.
Then began a re-read of many of the classic Gothics - until I came to A Sicilian Romance. Without giving away any spoilers, its theme of a dead wife, a cruel husband and mysterious goings on echoed the themes of Northanger Abbey and allowed me to comment on the main action whilst giving a flavour of the books that Catherine Morland loved to read - and confused with real life.
So Udolpho was out and A Sicilian Romance was in. Suitable passages had to be chosen and new scenes written around them, so that they not only gave a glimpse of Catherine's imaginary world but also pointed up the main themes of the novel.
At last it was finished. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and sent it off to Robert Hale - and waited. It was a tense time. Believe me, it's not easier waiting to see if a publisher likes your book when you're on your seventeenth novel than it is on your first. Luckily they loved it and it will be out in hardback next year.
I'll keep you posted on further developments. Until then, here is one of Henry and Catherine's early meetings, as recounted in Henry's diary:
Monday 25 February
What was my delight this evening to find that Miss Morland was at the Upper Rooms. I was amused to see that she smiled upon seeing me again, instead of pretending not to notice me or favouring me with a cool nod, both of which greetings are very much in vogue with the usual young ladies in Bath.
Remembering how much I had enjoyed dancing with her before I offered her my hand, but instead of accepting with alacrity she looked mortified. My pride was salvaged when she explained that she was engaged to Mr John Thorpe for the first dance and so she must decline. Mr Thorpe, however, was nowhere to be seen, leaving his fair partner to sit alone and embarrassed at the side of the room when she should have been enjoying herself. So much for the honour of Mr Thorpe! However, it gave me a pleasing insight into the character of the lady, for it is rare thing in Bath - or anywhere else for that matter - to find a young lady who will forego a pleasure merely because she has given her word elsewhere. Miss Morland, I felt, was worth knowing.
Thorpe at last arrived. Without a word of apology he said only, ‘There you are Miss Morland, I have kept you waiting!’ which even a young lady possessed of far less wit than Miss Morland must have already deduced.
I flattered myself that she would rather have had me as a partner, for her eyes kept drifting to me. I remarked as much to Eleanor, who quickly lanced my pomposity and said I was becoming conceited.
‘It it not remarkable that Miss Morland should prefer you to Mr Thorpe,’ she said. ‘Indeed, it would be remarkable if it were otherwise, for I can think of nothing worse than standing up with him. He cannot remember the steps of the dance and does not even try. He has bumped into three different people in the last three minutes, without a word of apology. I will say this for you, Henry, you know how to dance.’
‘High praise indeed!’
Eleanor’s hand was sought and although the floor was crowded, Miss Morland let her in. I had the satisfaction of seeing them dancing and talking together. I rather hoped Miss Morland would be free for the next dance but she was standing up again with Thorpe, and having been disappointed in my first choice I led Miss Smith on to the floor. Miss Smith, alas, was no substitute for Miss Morland, for if she was not laughing at a young lady who had torn her gown, she was regaling me with an account of her conquests.
‘Do you see that gentleman over there, the one with the blue coat? He has told me on three separate occasions how lovely I am and he has five thousand a year. Mama is certain he will offer for me any day. But I do not think I will accept him. I do not like his cravat.’
‘Then on no account consider it,’ I said. ‘It is possible to compromise in certain areas when choosing a partner for life, but never on a cravat.’
She looked at me in admiration.
‘That is exactly what I think,’ she said. ‘You are amazingly clever.’
‘It is very good of you to say so.’
‘Papa says I am the cleverest girl he has ever met. Captain Dunston remarked upon it as well. But I think he is a very stupid fellow.’
‘He must be,’ I said; a remark which she did not understand, but which made her smile, for she liked to think of me sharing her opinion of the Captain.
At last tea was over, and I found Eleanor and Mrs Hughes in order to take them home. Mrs Hughes exclaimed upon the chance of having met with her friend Mrs Thorpe again. She spoke of Isabella’s prettiness and John’s fine figure, which last was something of a slander on the word fine, for I never saw such an ill-looking fellow. From there she began talking of her own children, and we were glad to speak of them, for we were both conscious of the great kindness she is doing us by coming to Bath and acting as Eleanor’s chaperone.
Back in Milsom Street, Mrs Hughes declared herself tired and retired for the night but Eleanor and I sat up for some time, talking.
‘You seemed to be well entertained by Miss Smith,’ said Eleanor, as we sat by the fire in the drawing-room. ‘I saw you laughing twice and smiling often.’
I recounted our conversations and she said, ‘Oh dear!’
‘And you?’ I asked. ‘Did you make any new friends? Miss Thorpe, perhaps, or Miss Morland?’
‘Miss Thorpe is not to my taste, but I would like to know Miss Morland better,’ said Eleanor. ‘She has engaging manners.’
‘Did you have much chance to speak to her?’
‘No, very little, only to exchange commonplaces. We asked each other how well we liked Bath, and talked of how much we admired its buildings and surrounding country. I asked her whether she drew, or played, or sang, and whether she was fond of riding on horseback, and she asked the same of me.’
‘And what did you discover?’ I asked.
‘That she drew, played and sang as much as any other young lady who is not especially accomplished: that is, a little; and that she rides very little as she prefers to walk and there is not always a horse to be got.’
‘Well, that is honest enough! Would you like to see more of her, do you think?’
She considered the matter.
‘Yes, I think I would. Would you?’
‘I?’ I asked in surprise.
‘Yes, Henry, you.’
‘Now what makes you ask that?’
‘Because you have spoken of little else since we returned,’ she said.
‘Am I so transparent? It would seem so. Very well then, I will confess I like her, what little I know of her. She is interesting,’ I replied.
‘And, moreover, she likes you.’
I was flattered, and thought it was something to be added to Miss Morland’s store of virtues. But I did not allow Eleanor to see it.
‘She hardly knows me, and what little she does know of me she must think very odd,’ I said. ‘I talked nonsense to her when we first met, for what else can one talk in the Upper Rooms with someone one has never met before?’
‘But oddness is always forgiven in a man who is young and handsome.’
‘Be careful or such praise will go to my head.’
‘Why? I said that it is forgiven in a man who is young and handsome, I made no mention of you!’ she said with a laugh.
It was good to hear it. She has not laughed once these past two months. I am glad we came to Bath.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
In 1703 St Thomas’s church was built as part of the hospital and the roof space was taken over by the hospital’s apothecary to dry and store herbs and to make up remedies.
Amongst the less appetising cures is Snail Water, used as a remedy for venereal disease. The recipe is as follows:
Take garden snails, cleansed and bruised, 6 gallons
Earthworms washed and bruised 3 gallons
Of common Wormwood, Ground Ivy and Carduus [cardoon] each one pound and a half
Pennyroyal, Juniper-berries and Fennelseeds each half a pound.
Cloves and Cubebs [pepper-like berry] bruised, each 8 gallons
Keats was an apothecary student here and opposite the church is the site of his lodgings. He qualified but never practised.
St Thomas’ was a charitable hospital so most of its patients were too poor to pay for medical treatment. Anyone who could afford it would be treated at home, including having surgery performed, and, in the absence of any understanding of the causes of infection, this was probably a wise choice.
Patients were strictly segregated by sex, even when they were operated on. The men’s operating theatre does not survive, but in 1822 part of the roof space of the church was converted into an operating theatre for women. The entry then was through a now closed door and not, I was relieved to discover having climbed them, by way of the steep and narrow winding stairs that are the only way into the garret these days.
It must have been a terrifying experience to face surgery with no anaesthetic and in the midst of a crowd of students all craning to see what was going on.
The museum’s information sheet quotes surgeon John Flint South (1814)
…the first two rows…were occupied by the other dressers, and behind a second partition stood the pupils, packed like herrings in a barrel, but not so quiet, as those behind were continually pressing on those before…There was also a continual calling out of “heads, heads” to those about the table whose heads interfered with the sightseers…
As well as the blood-loss and pain there was a terrible risk of infection. The surgeon would operate in his ordinary clothes, merely changing his coat for another kept just for operations and rarely cleaned or changed. You can see an operating coat hanging by the door in the first view down into the theatre.
It was a relief to creep carefully down the twisting stairs in the church tower and escape into the foodie haven of Borough market, although oddly, my appetite was rather poor!
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
This beautiful carving was created in 2006 by Bulgarian sculptor Pencho Dobrev during an Arts festival in Caerleon near Newport in South Wales. Artists in wood from all over Europe took part and many of the sculptures were moved to adorn various gardens and public spaces. But this one remained alone and neglected, in a field near the river where the competition had taken place. So when I returned to Caerleon a few weeks ago I was delighted to see it had been moved.
Since the earliest days of the human race men have carved images using stone, wood or deer antler. Sailors spent their off-duty hours creating scrimshaw: detailed pictures and lettering on walrus tusks or whale teeth. The Chinese and Indians used ivory; taking hundreds of hours to create elaborate ornaments and jewellery. Michaelangelo's David and the Pieta are magnificent, marble almost transformed into flesh.
But for me this image, hewn out of a single trunk, is one of the most beautiful and moving I have ever seen. The carving speaks of loss and grief, of comfort offered and strength drawn from loving arms. It symbolises the pairing of man and woman, and the uniting gift of love. It is timeless. Where is it now? Standing beneath a massive beech tree in St Cadoc’s churchyard. Which seems to me the perfect setting.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Major Robert Anstruther tethered his horse and started towards the castle. Here, at Caerlaverock, he could be alone, to reflect on his future in the enfolding tranquillity of the moated ruin. He paused a moment to gaze up at the castle’s stout gate towers, their red colour deepening in the first rays of the setting sun. How many marauding armies had been repulsed from here, in the centuries when Scotland and England were separate, warring kingdoms? Nowadays, the kingdoms were joined and at peace, at least with one another. Wars were fought overseas.
As if to remind him of his own role in those wars, a sharp twinge of pain lanced through his injured leg. He muttered an oath and shifted his weight. He had expected to be fully fit again by now, and able to rejoin his regiment, but it would take some time yet. He grimaced. His army career must take second place for now, since his poor father could not survive much longer after that last seizure. Robert, as the only son, had had to promise to set about finding himself a wife.
In the gathering dusk, the mist was rising from the moat, starting to shroud Caerlaverock as if to hide it from prying eyes, like some fairytale castle. Such a magic and mysterious place should be home to the ghosts of ancient warriors, cut down in bloody battle, or perhaps to nymphs and naiads, rising from the watery depths, their golden curls glistening. Robert began to stroll towards the gate, musing on those strange thoughts. In all the years he had been coming here, in the twilight of dawn or dusk, he had never once met another human being. Nor a spirit, either. If they were here, they kept themselves well hidden.
Perhaps things had changed since his last visit, years ago? He had been out of the country a long time. He fancied that Caerlaverock was eternal, though. Its serene beauty never changed.
He had just crossed the moat on the rickety makeshift bridge and was going down into the dark narrows between the gate towers when he heard it—a silvery, tinkling laugh, floating on the drift of mist rising from the rushes. Some nymph was here, it seemed. And she had awakened just in time for the twilight that Robert so loved.
Intrigued, Robert crept down the stone passage, straining eyes and ears for any clue to where his nymph might be. Logic told him that he had imagined the sound, that there could not possibly be any fairy woman here, no matter how magical these ruins might seem. And yet he found himself putting one foot softly and warily in front of the other, in case a crunch of gravel should scare her away. If she was here, he wanted to see her, to touch her, before she melted back into the silent waters of the moat.
Another sound, carried on the mist. Not a laugh this time, but a song, a female voice humming a low, mysterious melody. It spoke wordlessly of lost love and heartbreak. Local legend said a water nymph would always mourn the love she could not have. But if an earthly man could kiss her, the nymph would be anchored to the human world for ever, and in thrall to the man who had shown her what human love could be.
Robert shook his head against his own fanciful imaginings, but he still crept silently forward to reach the open courtyard, beyond the gloom of the passage. He had to know.
She was there! High up on the battlements, on top of the tower, surrounded by mist, she seemed to be dancing on the air. It was difficult to see her clearly against the rays of the setting sun, but he had an impression of naked limbs clad in a damply clinging gown of filmy white, and a mane of red-gold hair hanging in loose curls around bare shoulders, glinting as it caught the dying light. She was dancing back and forth, weightless and floating, her naked arms raised towards the sunset.
She could not be real! But even so, no man could see such a vision without wishing to possess it. That seductive voice was luring him on, catching at all his senses. She must not be allowed to dissolve back into the mist. A water maiden’s kiss must surely be worth any risk? Kissing her, embracing her—would it be like trying to catch flowing water, impossible to hold, and as elusive as quicksilver?
Keeping to the shadows, he circled the courtyard until he came to the tower. He could hear her still, but she was hidden from him now by the vast bulk of the stonework. He crept up the spiral stairs, his eyes wide against the gloom, his ears attuned to the floating notes of her melody. The pain of his injury was pushed aside in his heart-thumping eagerness to reach the top, to snatch his prize. When he emerged, would she be gone? No, he could still hear her voice, drifting on the mist-laden air in long watery notes, sometimes so soft they might be no more than a breeze from the estuary and the sea beyond. But there was no breeze. The evening was totally still. Only the rising mist was moving, to protect the ruin from mortal eyes while its queen, this beautiful nymph, ascended her battlement throne. If he could capture her…
The light was just above him. He was about to emerge. He pressed his body against the wall of the staircase and stopped to listen. She sounded very near. He risked a rapid glance round the stonework and only just managed to swallow the gasp that rose in his throat. She was there! A beautiful illusion, perhaps, but almost near enough to touch.
She was smiling rather wistfully, humming still, and her eyes were closed. Her face was lifted towards the west. In the low sunshine, her curls were glowing like a fiery halo around her head. She seemed to be dancing with some invisible cavalier, holding out one long slim arm as if waiting for her partner to take it and kiss her hand. It was an invitation no man could resist. Robert stepped out into the light, clasped her outstretched fingers and pulled her into his arms, eager yet dreading the inevitable moment of loss when she faded into chilly, watery nothingness.
But she was not cold. Nor was she light as thistledown, like the fairies of his childhood tales. His nymph was cool and almost alive, as if she were already half-way to the earthly reality that he could offer her with his kiss, and with his body. He drew her closer and stroked a hand over her flowing hair, letting its silken strands caress his palm. Her magic was already possessing him totally. And he must possess her in turn.
His pulse was racing. His whole body was a mass of surging heat and desire. Yet his first kiss was gentle, hesitant, the merest touch on a mouth that was cool and unresponsive. Nymph-like, she was not ready to yield. But neither did she pull away.
It was enough. Now he began to kiss her in earnest, with only one insistent thought hammering through the raging chaos of his mind. If he could make his nymph respond to him, she would be earth-bound, and his, for ever! As the kiss continued, less gently now, he felt slim arms glide round his neck, touching his skin, his hair. He was making her ever more real. He would make her his! If he wanted to hold her, he must make love to her. But not by force. She could still flee, still melt into the mist. She must be made to want him, to long for him as he was now longing for her.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Thank you! It's lovely to be here.
Huge picture hats and charming straw bonnets; lashings of lace and tulle; yards of gathered floating muslin and bosoms upthrust by tightly boned stays. Powerful thighs encased in close-fitting breeches; elegant colourful tailcoats with flowing hair brushing the collar; white starched cravats and tasselled polished boots. Horses and carriages, vast estates and mansions filled with treasure. It’s a world of privilege and slowed down time, far from the rush and bustle of the twenty-first century.
Although the fictional Georgian world is necessarily a romanticised version, it harks back to an era of endless fascination. We know that the sharp class divisions and the inequities in life were unfair, that those who worked had to toil for hours to produce articles that would now be cut out in minutes by machine. We know life was harsh, that odours we would consider offensive were legion, that disease was rife and often incurable. But somehow the harshness adds to the piquancy of the period, pointing up the glamour enjoyed by the rich.
For the novelist, it’s an era riddled with possibilities. Where your modern author struggles to find legitimate obstacles to put in the way of achieving goals, the historical writer has them readily to hand. Communication can take days instead of being instantaneous; rules forbid women access to male dominated areas; travel is long and arduous; clothing is restrictive; food and drink can be inaccessible; and it is all too easy to become lost in a maze of dangerous alleyways or vast acres of uninhabited countryside.
Having recently shifted from romance to crime, I find myself faced with a whole new game of delightful options. Scientific advances are few and evidence depends on critical observation rather than forensic sampling. My sleuthing heroine has to have her wits about her and be able to get people in all walks of life to open up and talk. She needs to notice things, and she needs witnesses to help her draw conclusions about events surrounding the murder.
This is a world with little by way of police or procedure, but plenty in terms of blood, guts and stained clothing. It’s a world of easy death and frequent killings, but there was a working judicial system - flawed, but it was there. And the fascination of delving into the solving of murder mysteries has proved too tempting to resist.
But I can’t let romance drift out of my personal Georgian world. My heroine sleuth falls in love in book one, and each new book will feature a new romantic couple while my sleuth has her husband’s support to solve the next murder. I can’t give you the title as my agent is in process of selling it, but watch this space!
Meanwhile, I’ve started a critiquing and mentoring service designed to help unpublished authors reach publication standard. My main criteria are for authors to have choices about how much guidance they need, to make the service affordable and to be available for discussion afterwards.
I think it’s high time power over their own work was put back into the author’s hands. As novelists, we build our own worlds within the known one, and they are so personal we really ought to be allowed to have more control over what happens to them.
My Georgian world may be similar to that of another historical author, but each is unique, reflecting the writer’s own love of that particular past. What I love most about writing in the Georgian world is that I can invite readers into my particular world, which is close to the real one but belongs exclusively to me.
I so agree, Elizabeth, each of us has our own style and brings something of ourselves to our novels, but we all love the Georgian / Regency period.
If you want to know more about Elizabeth's critique and mentoring service you can contact her on eabailey @ tiscali.co.uk
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
An area that for more than two centuries was synonymous with a dangerous, illicit trade generates many myths and legends. As I discovered when I researched the background of the smuggling coast of Cornwall, locale for THE SMUGGLER AND THE SOCIETY BRIDE, even place names whisper of its smuggling past.
Pepper Cover, north of Porthcothan, was named for the boatloads of the spice that used to be landed there. North of Hayle, the coast road to Portreath passes Ralph’s Cupboard, where openings in the rock were used to store contraband. Hayle itself was also a landing point; tourists can visit a house, once a youth hostel, in which a sloping trench leads from the ground floor down to an arched tunnel that runs north toward the coast.
At Lelant, an old granite cottage (now a private home) used in the 19th century as a “kiddlewink” (beershop) had a cave excavated beside it for storing contraband, and it’s said the church at Lelant itself was used to store illegal spirits.
Perhaps because they would be less likely to be searched by zealous revenue agents, churches were sometimes put to use in the trade (with or without the knowledge of the local vicar.) South of Mylor, at Penrhyn, local legend claims that a tunnel led from the coast into St Gluvias' Vicarage. At Gunwalloe, caves along the beach were said to be linked by a tunnel leading to the belfry of a local church.
Mullion Cove in Mounts Bay was another favorite landing place. In fact, it’s said that the area residents were once so incensed when a government brig captured the cargo of a local smuggler that they raided the armoury at Trenance, opened fire on the brig, and recovered the smuggler’s illegal goods!
It wasn’t the only attack. At Prussia Cove, one member of the famous Carter smuggling family set up a small battery of cannons on the cliff to warn off revenuers; on one occasion, he fired on a cutter when it approached too close to his storage sites.
Caves were the most popular hiding places, but farms and outbuildings were also used, sometimes with “false walls” behind which contraband was concealed. The sunken road leading to Penpol Farm at Sunset Creek near Truro made that farm, with its caves and woods, a favorite haunt of area smugglers.
Reverend Hawker, vicar of Morwenstow, wrote many tales about the smuggling in his parish. One tells of the “Gauger’s Pocket” at Tidnacombe Cross, on the edge of the moor near the sea. Into this crevice, overgrown with moss and lichen and sealed by a moveable piece of rock, smugglers would drop a bag of gold for the local revenue agent in exchange for his cooperation in “keeping the coast quiet” during their run. (The picture on the right is of Morwentstow church seen from the sea.)
Near Padstow, another tale claims a farmer carrying goods inland, spotting a distant exciseman approaching, lifted a nearby gatepost from its socket, dropped the brandy tub into the hole, replaced the gate and greeted the king’s agent cheerfully when he passed by a few minutes later.
For more tales of Cornish smuggling, see http://www.timetravel-britain.com/articles/country/smugglers.shtml and the Smuggling Museum in Polperro: http://www.polperro.org/museum.html
I’ve always loved stories and legends (any wonder why I became a writer?) In Annapolis, where I grew up, there were several colonial-period houses with resident ghosts. My favorite has a mischievous spirit who, after the family were seated for dinner, would make a noise at the front of the house; when the family rushed out to investigate, he would blow out the candles in the dining room.
Are there any legends or tall tales associated with your area or home town? Houses where things go “bump in the night” or notorious deeds were done? Please share!
Read more about The Smuggler & the Society Bride at Julia's website www.juliajustiss.com/
Monday, August 09, 2010
It's been a while since I last posted but I've enjoyed reading everyone's news. Hopefully my life is back on track - at least until we have to start packing the house in order to move in November. We have the junk from 36 years to dispose off!!
I'm delighted to tell you that I sold my first long novella to People's Friend in June and it will be published in October and also three novellas to Linford Romance for large print. A Mistaken Identity, which I sold last year, is coming out soon - September 1st - but I have not seen the cover yet.
Here is the cover of my latest My Weekly Pocket Novel, To Love Again. The hero looks more like a Victorian villain than a romantic Regency gentleman. I hope his dour face didn't put off my readers.
Enjoy the remainder of the summer - think of me, with my head in a cupboard trying to decide what to throw away, whilst you laze about on the beach.
Saturday, August 07, 2010
I don’t mind admitting that if I had been born in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century I am not sure that I would have been as much of a traveller. My spirit would probably have been curious but whether I would have translated that curiosity into action is quite another matter because in that period it was not really the done thing for ladies to travel - unless they were following their husbands, of course.
There were some adventurous exceptions to the rule, and I came across one in the shape of Elizabeth, Lady Craven. Elizabeth was a woman who travelled beyond the more fashionable countries of Europe at a time when it was very unusual for any lady to do so of her own accord as a private individual. But then Elizabeth Craven was something of an original. Born in 1750, Lady Craven was a society beauty, famous for her published plays and her apparently excruciatingly bad verse and equally famous for her indiscreet love affairs. In 1780 she left Lord Craven and went to France, settling for a little in a house near Versailles. She did not like to stay in one place for long, however, and between 1783 and 1786 she travelled extensively around France, Italy, Austria, Poland, Bulgaria, Russia, Greece, and Turkey. Sometimes she journeyed in comfort in her liveried coach, accompanied by servants. Sometimes she rode side-saddle and alone.
In 1787 Robert Walpole suggested that Lady Craven publish an account of her travels, and A Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople appeared in 1789. In it Lady Craven describes manners, customs, and landscapes, pronounces Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's favourable account of Turkey a forgery, and constructs a self-image of redoubtable British vigour. A second edition appeared in 1814.
Lady Craven returned to live in England after the death of Lord Craven but the wanderlust was evidently in her blood because after her second husband died in 1806 she set off again, travelling to Germany and from there to Revolutionary France (Where she was accorded safe passage by Napoleon himself) and to Italy. She finally settled in Naples where, in her last years she was described “working in her garden, spade in hand, in very coarse and singular attire, a desiccated, antiquated piece of mortality, remarkable for vivacity, realising the idea of a galvanised Egyptian mummy,” a striking if not particularly flattering image of the old English aristocratic lady abroad!
Do you think you would have enjoyed travel in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century? Would you have ventured abroad alone?
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Sir John Moore had taken command of the British forces in the Peninsula in 1808 and set about harrying the French troops, all 200,000 of them with Napoleon at their head (very brave when he had only about 23,000 men!) He drew them northwards and retreated to Corunna and Vigo where the British Navy was waiting (he hoped) to carry his army to safety. Napoleon sent a significant proportion of his army to chase the British across the mountains to the sea, hoping to destroy the British Army once and for all. Moore stayed one step ahead of the French and he established himself in Corunna, but the French were too close and he knew he would have to fight them if the British ships were to reach the harbour safely. Moore was fatally wounded during the battle in January 1809 but he remained conscious for several hours (and must have suffered horrendously, having been struck by a cannon shot that "broke his ribs, his arm, lacerated his shoulder and the whole of his left side and lungs.") He lived long enough to know that the battle had been won.
He was buried in the ramparts of the town, wrapped in a military cloak and is still revered by the people of Corunna as a saviour – the photo shows Moore's Monument during the Bicentennial celebrations in January 2009 and the second photo below shows some of the re-enactors who attended the ceremony.
I found the whole of this tour from Portugal northwards through Spain, following the army's route, incredibly moving and there are so many exciting stories still to tell about this period of the Pensinular War, like the dumping of the government chest – a vast fortune was pushed over the side of a ravine to prevent it falling into French hands – and the tales of how the people of Corunna stood and watched in sympathy as the British soldiers, ragged and starving, marched into the town to make their stand against the French. The British had not behaved particularly well towards the Spanish people during their retreat and there were tales of looting and pillage, but the people of Corunna fought bravely beside the British troops to fight off the French long enough for the British ships to evacuate the army, and it is said that while the British were marching their troops through the town to the harbour during the night, the townspeople put candles and lamps in their windows to light their way.
Very little of this is mentioned in the Earl's Runaway Bride, but it provides a wonderfully strong back-drop for the story. I am very grateful to Ian Fletcher for his wonderful tour (http://www.ifbt.co.uk/) - it has given me ideas for any number of new stories about this fascinating place. All I need now is the time to write them....
Sunday, August 01, 2010
THE LOVEDAY VENDETTA published in hardback by Headline this month is the eleventh in the Loveday series. It takes the family drama to the second generation of this passionate, daring and adventurous family. But the younger Lovedays have not only inherited the family’s headstrong and wild-blooded traits that govern their tumultuous lives, they also have to face the curse of their ancestry and fight their own demons to conquer dangerous adversaries to recover their stolen heritage and uncover the truth behind the murder of a loved one…
The orphaned Bryn, who is Captain Adam Loveday’s ward, is determined to bring the murderer of his mother and brother to justice and reclaim his inheritance. His quest not only places his own life in danger but also that of Rowena Loveday, the oldest of the Loveday siblings. Rowena -ho has already faced the censure of the scandals created by her parents - is no complacent captive to her kidnappers, she is a formidable adversary towards anyone who would seek to destroy her reputation.
Beautiful and spirited she has long used her wiles to captivate handsome suitors, most of whom have seduction and not marriage in mind. Fiercely proud of her Loveday blood Rowena is determined to prove that she is a worthy daughter of that honourable heritage. Yet her mother’s reputation as a fortune huntress, adulteress and scheming daughter of the savage Sawle family of smugglers remains a blight upon her own good name and has made her distrustful of any suitor’s intentions.
Within the previous ten novels in the series there have been many dramatic love affairs and romances, but increasingly it has been the personality of the characters and their quest for excitement and adventure that has led them into exploits involving the major historical events of their times. In the later novels to keep the series exciting and fresh, although romance has been present, it has played a much lower key in the plots and the drama, and it is the psychology and motivation of the characters in their quest to triumph over adversaries and rivals that has taken a more important role.
So far the loyal fans of the series have demanded more of this and in THE LOVEDAY VENDETTA the younger generation continue to be ruled by their passionate natures as they face an enemy more evil and powerful than the Loveday family have ever encountered. Young and old must unite to protect their own. But will it be too late…
The knife edge atmospheric drama is fast moving and guaranteed to keep the reader turning the pages. The twist ending is a heart racing conclusion. THE LOVEDAY VENDETTA was the most rewarding and mentally challenging of the novels to write, but the diversity and high intensity of the family emotions drove the story forwards under its own momentum.
Although each of the books stand on their own, the series was written in chronological order of the family history. Rowena was born in the first book and the inner rivalry within the family set up the conflicts of future dramas to unfold in the lives of the family. Although mostly set in Cornwall their adventures take them to France during the Revolution and Napoleonic wars, America, Australia, and the London world of high society, the theatre and underworld.
The order of the series is Adam Loveday, The Loveday Fortunes, The Loveday Trials, The Loveday Scandals, The Loveday Honour, The Loveday Pride, The Loveday Loyalty, The Loveday Revenge, The Loveday Secrets, The Loveday Conspiracy, The Loveday Vendetta. All the books are currently in print by Headline and available through Amazon, The Book Depository and can be ordered from bookshops.