Saturday, December 25, 2010

Jane Austen writing in December 1798 - Jane Odiwe

Steventon Rectory.
This painting was inspired by drawings made by Jane Austen's neice, Anna Lefroy.
Jane Austen had just turned twenty three when she wrote to her sister Cassandra on Christmas Eve, 1798. Her letter opens with the news from Admiral Gambier that their brother Charles is to be sure of winning promotion as soon as an opportunity can be made for a commission on a frigate. One cannot help thinking of the comparison with Captain Wentworth!

With regard to your son now in the `London' I am glad I can give you the assurance that his promotion is likely to take place very soon, as Lord Spencer has been so good as to say he would include him in an arrangement that he proposes making in a short time relative to some promotions in that quarter.

A little further on we see her mischievous wit as she writes:
I returned from Manydown this morning, and found my mother certainly in no respect worse than when I left her. She does not like the cold weather, but that we cannot help. I spent my time very quietly and very pleasantly with Catherine. Miss Blackford is agreeable enough. I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal. I found only Catherine and her when I got to Manydown on Thursday. We dined together and went together to Worting to seek the protection of Mrs. Clarke, with whom were Lady Mildmay, her eldest son, and a Mr. and Mrs. Hoare.

I cannot help wondering about Jane's relationship with her mother who seems to have often been fancying herself ill on numerous occasions. There's an undercurrent here, I think, of a certain exasperation.

Jane had been staying with her friend Catherine Bigg-Wither at Manydown Park, a substantial property in the Steventon neighbourhood. (Incidentally, it was Catherine's brother, Harris, who proposed to Jane in 1802, but that's another story.) Jane had clearly not found enough interest in Catherine's visitor, Miss Blackford who is described as 'agreeable enough', but it's the next line that shows Jane at her most caustic, and I think, funny! I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal. I have this quote on a magnet on my fridge door!
Christmas at Steventon
Jane and Cassandra

She goes on to describe a Christmas ball she has attended, and here we find the youthful Jane reminiscent of Lizzy Bennet, teasing and flirting, dancing and abusing her suitors! She obviously loved dancing like the heroines in her books as she dances all twenty.

Our ball was very thin, but by no means unpleasant. There were thirty-one people, and only eleven ladies out of the number, and but five single women in the room. Of the gentlemen present you may have some idea from the list of my partners - Mr. Wood, G. Lefroy, Rice, a Mr. Butcher (belonging to the Temples, a sailor and not of the 11th Light Dragoons), Mr. Temple (not the horrid one of all), Mr. Wm. Orde (cousin to the Kingsclere man), Mr. John Harwood, and Mr. Calland, who appeared as usual with his hat in his hand, and stood every now and then behind Catherine and me to be talked to and abused for not dancing. We teased him, however, into it at last. I was very glad to see him again after so long a separation, and he was altogether rather the genius and flirt of the evening. He inquired after you.

There were twenty dances, and I danced them all, and without any fatigue. I was glad to find myself capable of dancing so much, and with so much satisfaction as I did; from my slender enjoyment of the Ashford balls (as assemblies for dancing) I had not thought myself equal to it, but in cold weather and with few couples I fancy I could just as well dance for a week together as for half an hour. My black cap was openly admired by Mrs. Lefroy, and secretly I imagine by everybody else in the room.

Cassandra was staying with her brother Edward and his family at Godmersham Park at the time and Jane was delighted to hear that she had enjoyed dancing at Ashford and had had supper with Prince William-Frederick and all the august company of the wealthy society in Kent!

Tuesday. - I thank you for your long letter, which I will endeavour to deserve by writing the rest of this as closely as possible. I am full of joy at much of your information; that you should have been to a ball, and have danced at it, and supped with the Prince, and that you should meditate the purchase of a new muslin gown, are delightful circumstances. I am determined to buy a handsome one whenever I can, and I am so tired and ashamed of half my present stock, that I even blush at the sight of the wardrobe which contains them. But I will not be much longer libelled by the possession of my coarse spot; I shall turn it into a petticoat very soon. I wish you a merry Christmas, but no compliments of the season.

The weather was very cold and snow was expected.

I was to have dined at Keane to-day, but the weather is so cold that I am not sorry to be kept at home by the appearance of snow. We are to have company to dinner on Friday: the three Digweeds and James. We shall be a nice silent party, I suppose.

I'm always glad that Jane was able to go after all though she gives nothing of the details!
Wednesday. - The snow came to nothing yesterday, so I did go to Deane, and returned home at nine o'clock at night in the little carriage, and without being very cold.

These are just a few highlights - you can read all of the letter here.

Happy Christmas everyone! Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays to all our visitors - may the New Year bring you joy and happiness!

Jane Odiwe

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Glimpse of Fashion

I used to knew a delightful picture framer. We became good friends and enjoyed many happy conversations about this and that whenever I brought a picture in to be framed. One day, he presented me with a large brown envelope. Inside were nineteen assorted costume prints from the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries.

He told me that a neighbour was just about to throw them out and he’d rescued them. ‘Give them to me!’ he’d cried. ‘I know a lady who would just love them!’ The neighbour was glad to get rid of them and this lady was thrilled to have them. Here are two of them.

The first is a Promenade Dress of 1809 from Ackermann’s Repository. The lady is gazing out to sea, shielding her complexion from the injurious effect of the sea breezes with the latest Pagoda parasol, fringed around the edge. I just love that shawl with the sophisticated dark red design on the petrol blue.

The other one is dated 1829 and comes from Costumes Parisiens. There is no other identification. My guess is that the couple are in evening wear: both are wearing the de rigeur white gloves. The lady holds a fashionably small fan and her skirt is shorter than a day dress would be to allow her freedom of movement to dance – and the gentleman to catch an intoxicating glimpse of her ankles. The gentleman himself is definitely wearing dancing pumps with the distinctive bow at the front – and note how he sports the very latest in beards – little more than a trim around his face. Very 1829, my dear!

But it’s the lady’s hair which fascinates me. It’s obviously dressed for an indoor activity because she couldn’t possibly wear a hat with a hair-do like that! Just look at it! All those curls, twists and knots. How on earth did it stay up? Such a distinctive hair-style must surely have a name – any help here would be gratefully received. And how on earth does she get her breasts (delicately suggested by the shading) up so high? According to my research, the bodice was kept in place simply by its tight fit and was without bones.

I’m wondering about the colour, too. Wasn’t pale mauve a half-mourning colour? In which case, why was the lady preparing to dance at all? Going to a ball whilst in half-mourning was surely not on. However, in my copy of The Ladies’ Pocket Magazine of 1831, I see that ‘lilac’ is noted as a fashionable colour, so perhaps it’s a question of tone, and the skirt’s colour is certainly quite bright.

Or perhaps her tiresome elderly husband popped off a year ago, and she’s making up for lost time. Her finger is pointing towards the gentleman in a somewhat indiscreet manner, so possibly…

Happy Christmas, everyone.

Elizabeth Hawksley

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Bumper Month

I can hardly catch my breath this month with three books out!
The seventh in the Regency Silk & Scandal continuity, and my second contribution to the series, is The Officer and the Proper Lady. My hero, Hal Carlow, is a cavalry oficer in Brussels just before the battle of Waterloo and his heroine, Miss Julia Tresilian, a most respectable young lady, is there too, in search of a husband.

Instead of an eligible gentleman, Julia falls for Hal, the worst rake in the cavalry. For once in his life Hal is set on doing the right thing, but when he is left for dead on the battlefield he finds he has underestimated well-behaved Julia, who will do anything to save the man she loves. The story can be read alone but it also brings the series to the point where the old scandal has become lethally dangerous. All will be revealed next month!

Also out in December is the third in the The Transformation of the Shelley Sisters trilogy. Innocent Courtesan to Adventurer's Bride is the story of youngest sister Celina. She has taken refuge from her bullying father in her aunt's brothel but an accusation of theft sends innocent Lina fleeing to the depths of the Norfolk countryside. She thinks she is taking refuge with one of her aunt's elderly ex-clients, but the arrival of his heir, the adventurer and scholar Quinn Ashley, a man with his own demons to fight, plunges her into more danger - and into love.

The third book is a complete departure for me - non-fiction. I love walking in London to locate places and people, often long gone, sometimes, surprisingly, still to be found. When I looked at my notes I realised that I had the makings of a walks book that would allow me to share this pleasure with enthusiasts for the period and so Walks Through Regency London was conceived.

There are ten walks - I had to stop somewhere! - taking in the St James's area; Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens; Mayfair North; Piccadilly and South Mayfair; Soho North; Soho South to Somerset House; British Museum to Covent Garden; Trafalgar Square to Westminster; The City from Bridewell to Bank and Southwark and the South Bank.

I used illustrations from my collection of Regency prints to illustrate the book in full colour - some fashion prints, some sporting, but mainly views of London from Ackermann's iconic Repository. Along the way I found places and objects I never expected - a startlingly lifelike waxwork of Nelson in Westminster Abbey; the location of Warwick House where Princess Charlotte escaped from her father to run away to Princess Caroline; Napoleon's "nose" and the surviving columns from Carlton House. I have drunk beer in Tom Cribb's own pub and in the only galleried coaching inn left in London; seen the scales that Byron and Nelson were weighed on; looked at a cell door from Newgate and admired the first public male nude statue in London.

The cover illustration is St George's Hanover Square in 1812.
For more information and how to get a copy see or email me at

A very happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year to everyone!


Friday, December 17, 2010


We've got a white world once more - and before Christmas! A rare occurrence in Cornwall. Even here the amount of snowfall can vary hugely, with several centimetres on high ground, and not a flake to be seen in two miles away. Back in the 1960s snow lay a foot deep in our village. No cars could get in or out. Our two regular postmen walked from the nearest town with cash for the post office so people would have enough money for rent, coal and food. Supermarkets hadn't yet arrived and everyone shopped locally and every back garden had a veg patch; a few fruit bushes and, if you were lucky, an apple or plum tree. Bartering was a way of life and is coming back as more people grow their own on allotments. A few weeks ago my husband was offered use of a south-facing, well-drained field for a minimum of ten years. He thought he'd died and gone to heaven. This field has never been cropped and was very overgrown. But after several days work with a brush-cutter - a kind of strimmer on steroids that requires the operator to wear a heavy duty rubber parachute-type harness onto which a sling clips to hold the machine. It has a handlebar similar to a bicycle but wider and both a metal blade and cutters of plastic sheathed serrated steel wire. He has to wear a full-face helmet, ear protectors and heavy gloves, and the thing is so heavy he can only work for about ten minutes at a time. But it's amazing, cutting through tangled brambles with half-inch stems like a hot knife through butter. I followed behind - a long way behind - gathering up what he had cut with a long-handled fork with curved tines called an "evil" - an apt name - and hauling it to a pile which, when we finally burn it, will be visible from space. Since man founded settlements people have been growing their own food. Concern about the use of chemicals in food production is inspiring ever more people to grow their own. It's hard work, but also enormously satisfying to harvest a crop you've watched grow from seed. And because you'll have more than you need, you swap surplus runner beans for someone else's new potatoes or strawberries. Spring seems a long way off while there's snow on the ground. But sitting by a warm fire with a pile of seed catalogues brings it closer.
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a new year that offers all you hope for.

Jane Jackson

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Here in Hereford, we're waiting for the next dollop of snow to land on us. Hereford is a mistletoe growing county. It's been picked and sent to market for Christmas by now, but you still see huge balls of it everywhere, as you're driving around. And of course, as we're full of apple orchards for all the cider we make, there are plenty of the kind of trees that mistletoe seems to like.

In the Asterix stories, as fans will know, the mistletoe grows on oak trees and is cut by the druid with a golden sickle. Well, round here, I have never seen mistletoe on an oak tree. It's on all kinds of trees, except oaks. Perhaps you've seen some on an oak in your part of the world?

When I was writing my Christmas story, The Earl's Mistletoe Bride, (published in the UK in the double volume shown here) I wanted to create a mystery with a Christmas twist, so I spent some time researching the lore surrounding mistletoe. One of the customs I loved, and used in my story, is that of removing a berry from the sprig of mistletoe every time a couple kisses under it. That produces a pleasing urgency for the writer. If her eager hero doesn't grab his girl at the first opportunity, he may lose out when there are no berries left. Can't have that, can we?

There are lots of other mistletoe customs, too, not all of them positive. Did you know, for example, that mistletoe isn't supposed to be used in churches? The reason isn't certain. It may be the tradition that the cross was made from mistletoe; or perhaps because druids allegedly used mistletoe in human sacrifices. So no mistletoe in the Christmas bride's bouquet, I'm afraid, pretty though it would be.

All best wishes to you, and to those you love, for the festive season.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Dan Cruickshank - The Secret History of Georgian London

I’d like to do something a little different this month—review a non-fiction text that wasn’t written by anyone on this blog, or their colleagues. But this book is so good, so useful to the student of the era that it’s almost a necessity.
Dan Cruickshank is an architectural historian. He was responsible for the wonderful TV series, “Around the World in 80 Treasures,” and several BBC series on the history of architecture. He’s a scholar with a very sound and solid background in the world of academe, but he wears his academic credits lightly. Most of all, he’s a brilliant communicator. On his TV series, he draws the viewer in with his combination of deep knowledge and breathless enthusiasm.
His approach is that of the “Marxist” history style, in which the people who actually built the structures and the specific and particular are as important as the people of power, who caused the buildings to be made. Since 1999, he’s been working on his epic “Secret Life of Georgian England,” and the book contains a fascinating mix of the particular and the general that makes for a wonderful read.
Author Sarah Mallory reminded  me of this book recently. I’d been meaning to buy it for some time, but it was on my Amazon wishlist for a while before I found it on offer at ASDA and took the plunge. I started reading it as soon as it arrived, and now at the end, I know it won’t be the last time I read it.
His basic premise is to show how the sex industry helped to build London in this era of massive rebuilding and development. London, already a large city in comparison to the other known cities on the globe, gained in size massively in the Georgian period (1727-1830). Great mansions were torn down and the space used to build the elegant Georgian terraces. The West End was developed inot the squares and streets still seen today. But this was an example of mass building projects and Cruickshank claims it was only because of the demand for reasonably priced terraces and the fact that attractive properties sold better. It’s a compelling argument.
The centre of the sex industry in Georgian England was Covent Garden. The Garden, originally laid out and imagined for the upper classes never caught on as such, but being near the theatres and other places of entertainment provided a good base for the brothels, bagnios and coffeehouses of the period.
Cruickshank starts his journey with Hogarth’s “Rake’s Progress,” a great series of paintings, long lost in a fire but known from the many engravings Hogarth bought and sold. Ostensibly a morality tale, they showed the wages of sin in detail, and one of the most well-known paintings in the series shows a scene in the Rose Tavern, a well-known Covent Garden brothel. Hogarth shows the scene in great detail, even depicting some of the characters of the time. The companion series, “The Harlot’s Progress” shows similar scenes, but not an orgy.
At about the same time, the most famous erotic novel of the time was released. “Fanny Hill” by John Cleland shows the progress of a harlot, but unlike the unhappy heroine of Hogarth’s series, Fanny has a happy ending as did many of the women of ill repute of the times.
The sex life of London encompassed many women, many careers. At its worst it led to the kind of sordid, disease-ridden life that ended in Bridewell or an anonymous death in the gutter. At its best, it led to leadership of a certain kind of London society, even in some cases respectability, although that was limited and very rare. It led to the growth of some of London’s suburbs, for example Hampstead Heath. Some of the demi mondaine patronised artists, giving them much-needed commissions.
The poorhouses and orphanages were partly populated by the offspring of a society where birth control was little understood and haphazard. Thomas Coram’s charitable institution at Great Ormond Street, recently opened to the public as a museum, contains tokens that the unfortunate women left with their children, pathetic reminders of a life spent when just to exist was a privilege.
Cruickshank brings all this to live and more, illuminating previously dark corners of London life, exploring and describing with a meticulous attention to detail and yet never losing sight of the overall picture.
For researchers and historians, this is an essential addition to the bookshelf. For the general reader, it’s a fascinating and brilliantly readable account of a little-explored part of London’s history.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

London Particular

As I look out of my office window, all I can see today is hoar frost and freezing fog. It looks very beautiful but also very cold – and very treacherous!

In the early nineteenth century it was the winter fog as much as the ice and snow that created problems for our forebears. The bad weather of 1813/1814 started with a dense fog that lay over London on the 27th December. Travelling was almost impossible. One of the Prince Regent’s outriders fell in a ditch at Kentish Town on a journey to visit the Marquis of Salisbury at Hatfield House. The entire party turned around and returned to Carlton House. Many hackney carriages veered off the road, the Maidenhead Coach overturned injuring several passengers and the Birmingham Mail could not get further than Uxbridge.

In November 1833, Richard Rush wrote of the London fogs:

“The fog was so thick that the shops in Bond Street had lights at noon. I could not see people in the street from my windows. I am tempted to ask, how the English became great with so little daylight? It seems not to come fully out until nine in the morning, and immediately after four it is gone.

On the 22nd of the month, accidents occurred all over London, from a remarkable fog. Carriages ran against each other, and persons were knocked down by them at the crossings. The whole gang of thieves seemed to be let loose. After perpetrating their deeds, they eluded detection by darting into the fog. It was of an opake, dingy yellow. Torches were used as guides to carriages at mid-day, but gave scarcely any light through the fog. I went out for a few minutes. It was dismal.”

The combination of poor weather and the smoke from coal fires created the “London Particular.” Thick shrouds of black fog could envelop London for days and weeks. The fogs were dangerous for Londoners and hundreds died of asthma and other breathing difficulties caused by the condition. Dickens used the phrase “London Particular” in Bleak House to describe the fog and in 1871 a correspondent from the New York Times described “a fog of the consistency of pea soup.” Pea soup was subsequently re-named as “London Particular” in a rare example of soup imitating life!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Value of a Posed Portrait

by Monica Fairview

I’ll admit this isn’t a subject I’ve given much thought to until lately. I was reading David Noke’s biography of Jane Austen when I came across a portrayal of Jane’s brother Edward, who was adopted into the aristocratic Knight family. Nokes describes Edward's process of integration into his adopted home as gradually became so complete that by the time Edward was twenty-one and doing the Grand Tour, he was “effortlessly affecting an aristocratic cross-legged pose, leaning nonchalantly on his walking-cane with a classical carving at his feet."

I wondered as I viewed the portrait how much a pose such as this contributed to Jane Austen's imaginary Mr Darcy.
Which got me thinking about poses and the whole culture of portraiture as such – so unlike the flash photography of today, which creates instantaneous images. The whole idea of portraiture is that it gives you time to “assemble yourself,” to create your own image, so to speak, or to be “assembled” by others, as for example Emma does with Harriet Smith. Harriet Smith is the “natural” daughter of an unknown family. As part of her attempt to make her appear more eligible to marry Mr Elton, Emma draws a portrait of her as a "standing memorial": "a little improvement to the figure, to give a little more height, and considerably more elegance." Of course, it backfires, because Mr Elton is more interested in the artist than in the subject of the painting.

In my novel, The Darcy Cousins, I have a scene in which Georgiana Darcy goes to Plymouth to catch a sight of Napoleon on board the Bellerophon. Of course hundreds of people gathered around the ship and artists rushed to take advantage of the rare opportunity to paint him. Napoleaon, quite willing to play the game, would grace people with half hour appearances. I was interested to compare his pose in the well known portrait by Eastlake with his earlier far more collected pose, the Hand-in-Waistcoat pose for which he is famous. The pose can also be called the Imperial pose, as it is based on the hand-in-toga Classical sculpture.

Note how on board the ship he has given up the Imperial pose in favour of a much more nonchalant aristocratic type of pose. But it's also striking that in all three portraits the left arm is hanging down while the right is bent -- as if that all too casual hanging arm must be counteracted by a suggestion of activity.

Speaking of images, by the way, it is apparently an “urban myth” (?) that Napoleon was short. The myth is based on his measured height of 5 foot 2 inches. However, this measurement uses the French foot, not the standard English measurement. He was actually average height, but generally looked short compared to his Imperial Guard because they had a basic height requirement of 5 foot 10 (French) -- the equivalent of 6 foot 2 inches. In this case, choosing to be surrounded by others who were much taller than him was a mistake serious enough to have him written into history as a short man!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Snowy Romance

Hi everyone. With the current icy weather sweeping the UK I remembered putting a very snowy scene in my slightly supernatural tale, MOONSHADOWS, so I thought I would share it with you.To set the scene, Jez is travelling back from a business appointment in the Midlands with Piers, her devastatingly attractive boss. Despite their mutual attraction she is determined to be faithful to her boyfriend. However, there is someone else - or something - also atracted to Jez.....

The volume of traffic in the town was keeping the roads clear, but by the time they reached the motorway it was snowing hard, thick flakes flying towards them and building into a white frame on the edges of the windscreen. The traffic slowed to a crawl. Piers tuned the radio to the traffic reports.
“Heavy snow falling in the Midlands… M69 closed north of Coventry… M1 closed north of junction 20… A46 southbound blocked by a jack-knifed lorry…motorists are advised to avoid the area for the next few hours…”
“Sounds as if everything’s coming to a standstill.” Piers leaned forward, staring out at the swirling snow which was now beginning to coat the road signs. “We’re approaching a junction. I think we should get off the motorway while we can. We could be snarled up in traffic for hours. What do you think?”
“Whatever you say—I don’t know this area very well.”
He pulled onto a slip road and headed off the motorway.
Jez peered out of the window. “Where are we going?”
Piers did not answer immediately, for the car hit a patch of ice and he fought to stop it careering into the bank. Not wanting to distract him, she did not repeat her question. As they drove away from the motorway, the roads were almost deserted and soon they were driving through an unfamiliar white landscape.
“I’m heading for the Manor. It’s only a few miles from here, and I think we should get off the road until the weather improves.”
She stared at the white verges, where the snow was beginning to pile up. “No chance of that for a while, I think.”
Piers turned on the radio again, but the weather reports were not encouraging. Snow was forecast for several hours, strong north easterly winds, drifting. Jez kept her eyes fixed on the snow-covered road and wondered how Piers could find his way. The sports car slewed occasionally on the slippery roads, and she reluctantly admired his skill in keeping the powerful engine in check. The snow was beginning to build up on the road itself, forming deep drifts against any obstacle. She began to fear that the low Aston Martin would soon find it impossible to get through.
“Here we are.”
She looked up and saw the lights of the Manor shining through the trees ahead of them. They slid into the drive and crawled towards the hotel.
“Shall I drop you at the door?”
“No, let’s park and I’ll walk back with you—if you stop on this you might not get going again.”
Once they had parked, Jez climbed out of the car and pulled up her collar against the chill wind as Piers collected her luggage, then they set off towards the welcoming lights of the entrance. Her heels slipped on the icy ground and she instinctively put out her hand. Piers took her arm and walked her quickly across to the entrance. As they entered the hotel she felt her face glowing in the sudden heat. Piers put down the bags, grinning at her as he pulled off his gloves.
“I didn’t like to say anything back there, but we came very close to getting stuck a couple of times.”
“I know. And I was beginning to think we were lost. I didn’t see a road sign for miles. Lucky you know this road so well.”
“Come on, let’s get cleaned up.” He lifted an eyebrow. “One room or two?”
“Two,” she said firmly.
She watched as he spoke to the receptionist. She felt an almost physical blow as she realised again just how attractive he was. His black hair was gleaming with melted snow and the turned-up collar of his dark coat gave him the look of an adventurer. A buccaneer, she thought, or latter-day pirate…
Down, girl! she told herself. You’re on dangerous ground. She hoped Piers could not read her thoughts as he turned to speak to her.
“Do you mind a room in the old wing? It’s all they have left.”
The receptionist was eager to explain. “A lot of our guests should have been leaving tonight but unfortunately, due to the snow, they can’t get away…”
“No, no, that will be fine. I was in the old part of the house last time—” she broke off, blushing, and was grateful that Piers appeared not to notice.
He picked up her bag, glancing at her key. “Room forty-six. Come on then, I’ll drop you off. My suite is at the end of that corridor.”
“Hang on—if they’re so busy, how did you manage to get a suite?”
He grinned and leaned closer to say quietly, “I told you, I own the place. Come on.”
When they reached room forty-six he unlocked the door and carried her bag into the room.
“Hmm, a bit small—are you sure you don’t want to share mine?”
“It’s fine.” She took her bag and gave him a push towards the door. “Go and have a cold shower, Piers.”
He grinned. “I’ve booked dinner for nine, that suit you? Good. I’ll call for you at eight thirty.”
Jez shut the door, smiling. How easily they slipped into this bantering. He found her attractive and it showed—she might not be able to reciprocate, but she was human enough to be flattered. She thought of him now as a friend, and as long as the banter did not get out of hand she could relax in his company.
She glanced at her watch: time for a shower and a change of clothes. The little bathroom was cramped, the obligatory en-suite built into the bedroom. This was obviously one of the smaller rooms, used only when everything else had been taken. The wall panelling was probably original and the faded velvet drapes were in need of replacing. Even the lighting was substandard, with the lights by the bed and over the mirror not working at all. She grinned. She’d complain to the management—better still, the owner.

After showering, Jez pulled on the heavy towelling bathrobe she found hanging on the bathroom door. She took off the shower cap and shook out her hair. It was still damp from the snow and curled wildly about her head. She suddenly remembered Kate’s comment about pre-Raphaelite tresses—perhaps she would drag a comb through it and leave it loose tonight.
Jez yawned, suddenly feeling very tired. It had been a very long day. She walked to the window to pull the curtains but stood for a moment, her head resting against the wooden frame, watching the snow. It was still falling heavily, large feathery flakes hurtling against the window before being whipped away by the blustery wind that moaned around the old building. The movement was relaxing, mesmerising.
Suddenly, Jez was aware that she was not alone. Someone was behind her, very close, and the subtle smell of sandalwood filled her senses. A hand stole around her waist.
“Oh Piers, I thought we had agreed.” She could not resist him. With her eyes still closed, she tilted her head back, silently willing him to kiss her neck. His lips were gentle on her skin, the merest touch. The bathrobe fell open and she gave a long, shuddering sigh as his hand moved up to caress her breasts.
“No, no don’t.”
“You know you want me.” The words were a whisper, almost inaudible, close to her ear. “Don’t fight me, I’ll never let you go now. Ah, Sarah, Sarah.”
Jez started. She opened her eyes and for a moment stood rigid, a cold chill running down her spine.
“Piers?” She forced herself to turn around.
The room was empty.
She pulled the bathrobe around her and tied the belt in a knot, trying to control the shivering.
“Where are you? Who are you?” she whispered, her eyes straining to pick out the slightest movement, the faintest shadow.
The room was empty, but she did not feel alone. Her words echoed around the room, unnaturally loud, bouncing off the panelled walls. She slumped on the bed and reached for the telephone. Dead. Jez forced her trembling legs to move and stumbled to the door, but it resisted her attempts to open it. She took a deep breath. She must not panic. She dare not lose control. Slowly she tried the door again, but still it would not open.
“This fear is in me,” she said aloud. “This is my imagination. There is nothing to be afraid of.”
Had she heard it? Perhaps it was just the wind outside. She felt a draught on her face, as though something had come close, disturbing the air around her. Suddenly she wanted to be out of that room. She banged on the door with her fists.
“Help! Anyone—help!” She hammered and kicked the door, screaming. In her distress she did not hear the footsteps in the corridor, or the voices.
“Someone in that room, sir? Yes, I’ve a master key—but it’s not locked. I can’t open it, they must be leaning against the door—”
“Jez? Move away from the door. Jez—”
She was crouched against the door, sobbing with fear. Someone was pushing at the door, trying to get into the room.
“Jez, we can’t open the door unless you move away. Move back.”
She shifted slightly and the door opened wider, enough for someone to enter. Piers was the first through the gap, dragging her out of the way to allow two hotel porters to follow him. They stood in the doorway, looking anxiously down at her.
After a quick glance around the room, Piers nodded at them. “It’s all right. I’ll handle this now. Thanks.”
The men hovered, looking concerned. “Perhaps we should get a doctor…”
Kneeling beside Jessica, he shook his head impatiently.
“Do you think you’ll get anyone to come out in this weather? She’s fainted, that’s all. I’ll take care of her. You can go.” He waited until they had left the room, then said softly, “Jez. Jez, it’s all right, I’m here. Come on now.” He lifted her to her feet.
“There was someone here—I thought it was… He t-touched me, c-couldn’t open the door—” She was shaking uncontrollably.
“No-one’s here, love, only me.”
She stared at him for a long time, unable to focus. Then gradually recognition returned and she clung to him, sobbing.

Samhain Publishing

This was a bit of wish fulfillment-I have always wanted a Piers to rescue me (in fact, when I was walking home through the snow on Wednesday night I would have loved him to come along!). However, I am not sure I would want the haunting....

Sarah Mallory / Melinda Hammond

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Latest Loveday Publication

Writing the Loveday series has been a dream beyond my wildest expectations. For eleven years and eleven novels I have lived and breathed this family’s passions, adventures, romances and conflicts. I have loved every minute of it. The series certainly tested my creativity and ingenuity to avoid similarities in so many characters or repetition of plots and settings. The chronological order of the novels covered over twenty years of wars, sea-battles, romantic escapes, rivalries, political intrigue, social upheaval and close encounters on both sides of the law and the inevitable consequences. During my research and writing I have experienced a roller-coaster ride through the exciting times of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Within every novel characters, although driven by their motivation and passions, have to develop and are changed by their experiences. The eleven novels have allowed me to cover the historical and social dramas of events in Cornwall and London as well as those in France, America and the newly founded colony in Sydney cove.

My greatest challenge to date was the development of Rowena Loveday who was born in the first book of the series. In THE LOVEDAY VENDETTA she is seventeen. Throughout her childhood she had been defiant and wilful and undoubtedly spoilt by her doting father. She was mischievous and often resentful of her wealthy cousins that provoked her into jealous rages and causing trouble amongst her siblings. Whilst this made great drama in her younger years, by the time she is a young woman and about to take her place as the heroine in the latest novel, she was not the most sympathetic of characters. To her credit was that her childhood had been difficult and she had had to face more traumas than her cousins. I loved her spirit that refused to be cowed or defeated, but as an adult for her to win the empathy of the readers, I had to get into her psyche as she battled to win respect and overcome the prejudices of her past and the misunderstandings that had surrounded the dramas she had created.

I did this by allowing the reader to understand her suffering and her desire to win the respect of her family and prove herself equal in blood and honour to her family.
Here is an extract when she pours out her heart and need for acceptance in a letter to her dead father. This was a device I used sparingly but I hope you agree that it enabled the reader to understand this complex woman.
May Day Eve 1805
Dearest Papa,
Why did you leave me? Was my love not enough? Or was I to blame? Was I too like Mama and you could not look at me and not see her betrayal? These questions scream in my head and you were the only one who could answer them. What could I have done to stop you taking your life? I should have been a better daughter. I thought everything would remain the same forever, that you had not a care in the world. Or was that the drink making you deny how close we were to ruin. Were those, older and wiser than myself, who should have seen what was happening too wrapped up in their own lives to disregard the obsession that destroyed you? I, who loved you, thought you infallible. But they should have seen your pain. They betrayed you and I cannot forgive them.
At your death my world crumbled. What did new dresses and a fine house mean then? They were nothing without you. Oh, Papa, I need you so much. Everyone is against me. They do not look at me and see Rowena they see Meriel. I am cursed with my mother’s looks but it is not her blood than burns through my veins. It is yours, which drives me to prove that I am a Loveday – that my wildness is the heritage of men who would be conquerors, who rule their lives as they ruled the sea as buccaneers. I am proud to be a Loveday. Why will others not see beneath the image of my mother to the heart of Rowena?
I am condemned for sins that were not mine. Not that I could blame you, Papa. If I had not been conceived you would not have been forced to wed a tavern wench. Did you also blame my birth for ruining your life, Papa? Is that why you found more pleasure away from our home than within it?
I was so angry when you died, Papa. I hated everyone. What had they done to save you? I wanted them to pay for their arrogance. I was an embarrassment to them. A reminder of all they wanted to forget.
They sent me away to school so that they did not have to trouble themselves over me. Only you would have understood, Papa. Only you truly loved me. Why did you forsake me, Papa? Why did even you not love me enough to throw off the shackles of convention so that we could start a new life elsewhere?
When will this pain of missing you end? How can I show you that I am a worthy child of your blood?
Your devoted daughter

The handwriting with its extravagant flourishes and twirls ran together where Rowena’s tears had fallen on the paper. This was the only way she could release her pain. The only way she could try and find an answer. The only way she could pretend that her father was still close to her and could be proud that she could redeem the honour of their name.
She closed her eyes willing answers to come to her. The paper crinkled in her hand as tension ripped through her. The silence tore at her heart. No answers whispered in her ear. She was again forsaken. Then following the ritual she always performed at these times she touched the corner of the paper to the candle flame and watched it
devour the words wrenched from her heart. At the last moment before her fingers were burned she dropped the paper into a bronze bowl and stared at it until the flames died down and only ashes remained. She ground these to a fine dust with a wooden pestle, and then opening the window allowed them to drift on the breeze. With them went her simple prayer that they would travel through the ether to the afterlife, the words conveyed to her father. It was important that he would understand and not judge her.
No one else would witness the depths of her turmoil. Her pride would not allow her torment to be known. The words were the essence of her soul, her conscience, her way to make sense of all she had lost and to prove that she was not her mother’s spawn, she was her father’s daughter.

THE LOVEDAY VENDETTA is published in paperback by Headline on 9th December

I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and enjoy the snow while remaining safe and warm.

Kate Tremayne