Saturday, January 29, 2011

Demon + Magic + Forbidden

Hi, this is Jo Beverley.

Anyone reading my February publications might think I write paranormal romance, what with a magical statue and a great earth demon. In a way it would be true, because I love dabbling in fantasy and sf, but in fact weird stuff is part of history.

In my Regency romance, Forbidden Magic, my heroine owns a family treasure, an ancient statue called a sheelagh-na-gig. These naked female figures that some might think obscene were, and sometimes still are, found in church walls. There's debate about whether they were warnings of the evils of sex and women (very early Christian, alas) or part of goddess-worship.

As with most magic, Meg's sheelagh grants wishes, but with a sting in the tail. The sheelagh provides a magical solution to Meg's poverty -- an earl offering marriage, but the Earl of Saxonhurst definitely brings a sting. In addition, Meg can't bring herself to let him know that she owns and has used such a scandalous object.

You can see a picture of a sheelagh-na-gig here.

Scroll down a ways, past all the crosses. I didn't post the picture because they really do shock some people.

You can read an extract from Forbidden Magic here.

Forbidden Magic will be out soon, in print and e-book. In the UK, you'll probably have to get the print edition on line from Amazon or The Book Depository.

My other offering is e-edition only. It's an early novella from a collection that's long out of print, so I'm delighted to see it available again. If you don't have an e-reader, you could read it on your computer. Not ideal, I know, but a possibility.

This one is Georgian and involves a rake, the vicar's daughter, and a pagan ritual in rural Suffolk. There were, maybe still are, plenty of rural pagan rituals. This one takes a twist on a certain calendar date, and thus the great earth demon Waldborg rises....

I can remember thinking, back in the early '90s, that it was amazing what one could get away with in a novella! You can read the beginning here.

It's available in all e-formats, but the Kindle edition is here at the lovely price of 1.72 pounds. Give it a go.( My inability to easily type the pound sign on my North American keyboard is also historical. In 18th century books they did the same.)

I hope you enjoy these offerings.

I'm in Spain at the moment, so here's a picture from the Alhambra.

How do you feel about paranormal elements in historicals? How do you get your historical romances in the UK? Do you wish you were in Spain? Are you in Spain?

Any and all comments of a few lines or more will be entered in a drawing for a copy of Forbidden Magic. Apologies, but on this blog the winner must have a postal address in the UK.

All best wishes,


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Letters From a Regency Lady

First of all my apologies for not blogging before Christmas. I slipped on the ice and broke a bone in my shoulder. For a while I was too unwell and in too much pain to type. However, I am back now and the letters continue.

The cover is for a Medieval book available from kindle only at the moment.

March 1816

Letter from Lady Horatia to her lover

My dearest, it is with relief that I write to tell you that Robert is at least a little better this morning. We had a long talk yesterday and I think it has helped him to come to terms with his grief. Forgive me if I do not explain but it was told me in confidence.

Robert has asked if you will visit us soon. He wishes to meet you, dearest, and he is very much on our side. I know that my brother would stand by us if we chose to leave England together. Melton knows that I wish for a divorce but as yet he remains unwilling to grant my request. If you are certain that you feel able to leave everything behind and seek a new life together please come to me here soon.

Robert has urged me to do what will bring me happiness in life and I believe that I can never be happy without you. However, I could not leave my brother until he is able to cope for himself. I know you have been patient with me and I beg you to remain so until we can take our happiness at last.

Your own Horatia

March 1816

Letter from Lady Horatia to her husband Lord Melton

Sir, I write to tell you that I have decided I shall not return to your house, either in London or the country. When our son was lost nothing remained to us. I beg you to forgive me, but I know that you do not love me and I hope you will find consolation in your mistress.

Such bluntness is necessary at this time for we must speak plainly to one another. I do not wish to remain your wife. I beg you to reconsider and divorce me, but if you refuse I shall simply go away.

Forgive me if this causes you pain. I cannot think it ought for you have never offered me love. Yet I would have had us part as friends were it possible. Please believe that it was never my intention to hurt you.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mr. Darcy's Secret - my new book!

I'm thrilled to be able to tell you that in less than a week Mr. Darcy's Secret is out! I would have loved to have included a picture of the lovely cover, but I'm away at the moment, and Blogger won't let me. I can't quite believe this is my third novel inspired by Jane Austen - I wanted to continue the story of Pride and Prejudice, writing about the first year of marriage for Elizabeth and Darcy and also find a happy ending for Darcy's sister Georgiana. I've had a wonderful time doing lovely research which took me to Derbyshire and the Lakes - there are some definite upsides to being a writer!

If you'd like to know more please visit my blog at Jane Austen In the meantime, here's a sneak peek - a conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet:

“Who would have thought it, Mr Bennet,” said his lady talking over the top of him, “that I should live to see two of my daughters so exceptionally advantaged in married life?”

“Quite so, my dear,” replied he, “though I must add that however well placed I believed my daughters might find themselves, I had always planned on exceeding my own five and forty years to witness their felicity. Indeed, possessing the knowledge that your own long surviving line of aged relatives are still thriving as I speak, I must confess that I am a little astonished to think you had supposed to be dead before our daughters attained the matrimonial state.”

“Oh, Mr Bennet, you speak such nonsense. But you will not tease me out of my present happy disposition. And, I must say, I received some comfort from the fact that Miss Bingley and her sister Mrs Hurst were forced by a rightful sense of obligation and due civility to treat our family in the correct manner today. Oh, yes, Mr Bennet, I cannot tell you how much it gratified me to see the smug, self-satisfied expressions they generally display upon their ill-favoured countenances, quite wiped away. I thought Miss Bingley looked likely to choke when I turned to see Elizabeth and Jane walking down the aisle by your side.”

“I did not observe any greater condescension towards our family than that which they usually bestow, Mrs Bennet,” replied her spouse, “though I must admit I did not really pay them any great attention. My own thoughts and looks were only concerned with our dear girls.”

“What a double blow it must have been for Miss Bingley. I expect all the while she was hoping that Mr Darcy might break his promise to Elizabeth and leave her at the altar. And I am sure, whatever she might have said on welcoming Jane to the Bingley family, that the sincerity of her wishes was entirely false. Well, I cannot help feeling our advantage over those Bingley women. And Mr Darcy was as charming and obliging as ever. I think him quite superior to dear Mr Bingley in many ways, even if I hadn’t always liked him.”

“I’m sure Mr Darcy would be delighted to hear it.”

“I daresay he would, for he certainly needed to earn my good opinion after the way he strutted about Hertfordshire with his proud ways. However, I’m not entirely convinced by Lizzy’s partiality, whatever she might protest on his having been misunderstood and winning her round. A man ought to have a tongue in his head, indeed, especially a man of such consequence.”

“I should hate to hear you on the subject of despising a man if this is your approbation, Mrs Bennet. And I loathe to be contradicting you, once more, but I cannot agree with you. I believe Lizzy to be very much in love with Mr Darcy, as much in love, as dear Jane is with her Mr Bingley.”

“Well, I certainly think I might fancy myself in love if I knew I was married to the owner of Pemberley with a house in town and ten thousand a year, at least!”

“I am sure such good fortune helps love along. No doubt, my own prospects animated the feelings you had whilst we were courting.”

Mrs Bennet looked at her husband in exasperation. “Oh, Mr Bennet, it was nothing like the matter. There is no comparison. The wealth of Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley is a hundred times your consequence, as well you know. La! With Jane and Lizzy so well married; ’tis enough to make me distracted!”

Mr Darcy's Secret, Sourcebooks Landmark, February 2011
Copyright Jane Odiwe

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jane Austen's The Watsons

One of my favourite books is John Coates’ completion of Jane Austen’s fragment, The Watsons, published by Methuen in 1958.

I have read a number of completions of The Watsons but, to my mind, nobody has come anywhere near John Coates’ achievement. His book has wit, intelligence, a moral dimension (so important to Jane Austen) and the characters are varied, lively and behave in a manner which is true to the period. It is impossible to tell where Jane Austen’s fragment ends and Coates’ continuation begins.

In a fascinating article at the end of the book, Coates explains how he tackled it. He was convinced that Jane Austen’s ‘leisurely opening’ showed that she intended The Watsons to be a long book. In his version, the original is less than a quarter of the book.

Furthermore, he dared to alter the original where he felt it to be necessary. As a novelist himself, he needed both characters and incidents to be fresh, and not a pale imitation of ones in existing Austen books. He goes on to discuss the plusses and minuses of the original fragment. There are plenty of potentially interesting characters:

We have an ailing father, four unmarried daughters, and one married and one unmarried son. We have a bachelor peer in the neighbourhood with a flirtatious bachelor friend, a mother and an unmarried sister. We have a highly eligible clergyman with a widowed sister nearby. In the town of D. we have an almost unlimited quantity of officers from a colonel downwards, a young girl with rich parents and two eligible men, the sons of a banker. In the distance there is a rich elderly doctor, a young man who jilted the eldest of the four sisters, and finally a wealthy aunt who has just made a misfortunate second marriage to an Irishman.’

I think most of us would agree that all this is promising material. However, Coates points out that, as the fragment stands, the characters could easily become ‘too dull, too unpleasant or too like an existing Austen character.’

A good example is Penelope Watson whom he sees as ‘a mixture of the two unpleasant Misses Steele – even to the extent of chasing a doctor. I wanted a foil to my rather correct heroine, and Penelope as she now stands is my creation.’

The heroine, Emma Watson, ‘threatened to turn into another Fanny Price’. He re-names her Emily and gives her enough spirit to keep her distinct from Fanny whilst retaining her gentle but firm character.

The result is a book which succeeds triumphantly on its own merits. I’ve always loved it. It’s a great read; nothing jars, and it is both emotionally and intellectually satisfying. In my view, John Coates has done Jane Austen proud. Amazon gives it 5 stars but can only offer two extremely expensive second hand copies.

I can’t understand why it hasn’t been reprinted.

Elizabeth Hawksley

Friday, January 21, 2011

An excellent start to the Austen year

This year is a very special one for all lovers of Jane Austen as it's the bicentennial of Sense and Sensibility. Little did anyone know in 1811 that the quiet publication of Austen's first novel would start a centuries long, worldwide love affair with her work. This love affair is often attributed to film and TV success, but Austen's novels had already been loved for a century (more or less) before cinema and TV were invented.

Reading her books, it's easy to see why. They're not only extremely well written, with realistic romances and full of social commentary, they're also extremely funny.

One of the funniest is Northanger Abbey. I keep waiting for someone to update it in the manner of Clueless, because the story of a naive teenager being carried away by Gothic novels is as recognisable today as it was in the early nineteenth century.

In the absence of such a gem, we have some Northanger Abbey based fiction coming up this year. One book is my own Henry Tilney's Diary, which is out in May, but before that there is Margaret C Sullivan's brilliant novel, There Must be Murder.

Henry and Catherine Tilney are content with their married life: a comfortable parsonage, their dogs, and one another. The idea of returning to Bath a year after they first met there seems like it can only add to their happiness; but Catherine finds that Bath still carries social dangers that she must learn to navigate. What is the nature of Henry's past relationship with a beautiful young woman? Why is a rakish baronet paying Catherine such particular attention? Is General Tilney going to marry the woman known in Bath as The Merry Widow—and what did she have to do with her husband's death? And will Henry ever be able to keep his Newfoundland out of the river?

Revisit the winter pleasures of Georgian Bath with your favorite characters from Jane Austen's hilarious Northanger Abbey, and prepare for a bit of romance, a bit of mystery, and a very nice story indeed!

My copy is already winging its way to me from Amazon
and I can't wait to read it. Not only is the story tempting, but it's beautifully illustrated by Cassandra Chouinard. If you follow the Amazon link and use the "look inside" facility, you can see some of the illustrations.

All in all, a very good start to the year!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Prison of War

I was fascinated by the Time Team programme last year about the excavations at the Norman Cross Napoleonic prisoner of war camp. All that can be seen of that establishment now is a faint outline in aerial photographs and a monument by the side of the A1.

But there was another camp that has survived, although in a very different form - Dartmoor Prison.
In September 1810 Ackermann's Repository printed this double page spread of the new prison (erected at a cost of £200,000)with a lengthy article "to pay a just tribute of applause to the judicious regulations, which ensure kind treatment and humane attention to the unfortunate victims of war." Whether the 6,000 prisoners who could be incarcerated here would have viewed it in quite that light is open to doubt!

"Perhaps a more healthy spot might have been selected", the article concludes, having reviewed the climate of Dartmoor, but otherwise the tone is of considerable admiration. Bedding is aired daily "when the weather allows", the hospital "is kept in the most exact state of cleanliness and order" and "every patient, previous to admission, undergoes a proper ablution in the bath." Whether the other prisoners ever managed to have a bath is not stated.

"The prisoners of war...wear a yellow uniform, occasionally striped with blue. So conspicuous and universal a dress renders their escape impracticable, supposing them at large beyond the prison walls."

The prisoners elected their own representatives to meet with the prison authorities to discuss problems with rations or accommodation and "a well supplied daily market is held in the agent's square where provisons of every kind are sold at a moderate price." It was presumably here that the prisoners would sell the handywork that they produced from bone and other scraps - and which now fetch such high prices as antiques!

The smaller enclosure to the right of the picture is the barracks which held 5-600 hundred men and their officers with Plymouth regiments taking two month turns of duty at the prison. 180 soldiers were on duty inside the prison itself at all times.

The author of the article considers that they have "a severe duty" but this was alieviated for the officers by invitations to Tor Royal, the seat of Thomas Tyrwhitt, Esq. MP for Plymouth who lived a mile and a half from the barracks. There they might expect "an amenity of manners, suavity of disposition, and inhaustible fund of anecdote and a hearty welcome to crown the hospitable board."

At the termination of the is said to be in contemplation to convert this vast building into a receptacle for convicts, whose labours on the moor will prove highly important and beneficial to the nation and an incredible saving in the enormous expense incurred both at home and in transportation."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Backing the Wrong Horse?

In this month's guest spot I'm delighted to welcome Christine Merrill author of the second and final books in the Regency Silk and Scandal continuity. This month Taken by the Wicked Rake concludes the eight-book series and reveals the truth about the mysteries that have threaded through the other seven books. The villain gets his just desserts and Verity Carlow, younger sister of my two heroes, finds her true love.

Christine had to do a considerable amount of research into Romany life and lore for this book, right down to the horses used. But heroes are allowed to be slightly different - aren't they? Over to Christine -

* * *

When we continuistas had to choose a horse for my Gypsy hero, Stephano Beshaley, I remember there was some talk amongst us about the best type. I can’t remember who actually made the decision. Possibly me. I know I was all for it when he got the heroic standard, big, black horse.
I really don’t know much about horses, despite the fact that I live in the country. They walk by the house sometimes. They may be invited into the yard to eat apples. We have boarded other people’s horses, since we have an empty pasture. I have managed to get through the experience without actually learning anything, other than that I like to look out the window at horses. They are pretty from a distance. They are even prettier if they have owners coming daily to feed, water and brush them.

My husband had horses as a teen, and never wants to own another one. He sees them as things that require continual maintenance, and that take a deep breath and blow out their guts when it is time to be ridden, making it impossible to get the saddle properly cinched. And then they laugh when the saddle slips and the rider falls off. And then they run away. And you have to chase them…

Though we started dating in high school, I never got to meet his horses. When I learned they existed, I behaved like a typical teenage girl, and asked if we could go riding.
He said, “No. They don’t like to be ridden.” Apparently, the Merrill horses were only decorative.
It has been thirty years. He bears a grudge. No horses for us.

But I am writing historicals. And all of my heroes should have Andalusians. As stated, I know nothing at all about horses. But my first response, on seeing an Andalusian, was “Oh, God, I want a horse!” They are big and glossy, with flowing hair like an equine Fabio, and extremely proud, arched necks.
I think I can justify them as available and appropriate to the period. They are a centuries old breed from the Iberian Peninsula, and so would be appropriate for any returning war heroes. Regency men had a lot of time on their hands, and a good knowledge of horse flesh. Since Stephano is part English, a world traveler, and definitely of a theatrical nature, I think he would want a showy, good looking, slightly exotic horse.
It would be like having a Ferrari with legs.

But he is also a Gypsy. There would have been a much better horse, considering the fact that I gave Stephano a vardo wagon. I never even considered the more appropriate Gypsy Cob. This is a breed of uncertain bloodlines, but firmly based in the UK, and bred by the Romany. They are piebald or tobiano, with shaggy, feathered legs and are big boned and ideal for pulling wagons. They will graze on what they can find. And apparently, these horses are also sweet tempered, since the Romany sold any horses that weren’t, and bred only the nice ones.
These horses are also called Gypsy vanners. Probably because they pull vans and don’t spook or get tired. If an Andalusian is a Ferrari, a Cob is definitely a station wagon.

There is no alpha hero in the history of romance that would choose a station wagon over a sports car. I rest my case, with apologies to real Gypsy Horses everywhere.
* * *
I found this lovely print by Henry Alken above that is probably the sort of Ferrari horse than Stephano would have liked, although I am sure he would not have had the tail docked.

Louise Allen

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The end of a beautiful friendship

The Richard and Rose series is in many ways my flagship series. The first book in the series was the first one I had published, and with rewrites, it’s a bestseller at Samhain today.
it’s the only series I have written that is far better read in order. It’s the only one with the same couple at the centre of each story. It’s the only series I’ve ever written in the first person.
And yet, readers love it. It was different, and in many ways, it still is. I had planned this series for years, knew the first three books in detail before I’d put fingers to keyboard. While I steered my children through the first five years of their lives, I kept myself sane by planning scenes in detail, which were finally realized when I wrote the series. Things just slotted in. I’ve never written so fast, or so slowly. It took years to put those scenes into place, and then they just flew.
I’m just starting to write the last book in the series. It’s the eighth book, and it will be called “Lisbon.” The seventh, “Maiden Lane,” has gone through edits and it’ll be out in March, with a lovely cover. Well I love it, anyway.
Saying goodbye to Richard and Rose is proving more traumatic than I’d ever imagined. I’ve made the plan, and usually I’ll write the book start to finish. When I’ve done it rarely needs much editing, as I edit as I go—something writers are told not to do, but it works for me.
I know where they’ll end up, in fact I’ve been planning this book since I started with “Yorkshire.” I worked out the dates to fit, and while I didn’t know the details until I started to plan it, I did know what I wanted to happen.
Do writers of long-running series featuring the same characters all feel like this? I don’t think so. When Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes, it was with a sense of relief, only to have to bring him back to life by public demand. Christie kept Poirot alive almost as long as she lived.
I just feel sad. Enough to remind myself that this is the end of the first cycle. It brings to a close a number of plot threads that have woven themselves throughout the first series, despite my best efforts to deal with them earlier.
I started this series, thinking that Richard would be a mild-mannered minor aristocrat, someone who ‘belonged’ just enough for aristocrats to trust him with their deep and dirty secrets. In the mid eighteenth century, the police force didn’t exist, and while crimes were usually prosecuted, it was far more haphazard than today, and crimes against property often had to be privately prosecuted. The aristocracy ruled, and they tended to keep their affairs to themselves, unless it was something as shocking as the Ferrars case, when Lord Ferrars cut his valet’s throat. But Ferrars was an odd fish, and had his enemies. Suicides could be hushed up as “accidents,” and murders might be dealt with in house, so to speak. I saw my hero as someone who would be like a consulting detective of the eighteenth century. I still have to write that hero.
Instead, I got Richard Kerre, Viscount Strang, heir to one of the richest earldoms in the country. When I wrote that scene in “Yorkshire,” when the two protagonists encounter each other in a derelict courtyard, I’d seen it. I sometimes “get” scenes like this, and if I don’t write them down, I lose them. But this one was too good to let go. I based the house in the story on Calke Abbey, a derelict stately home that the National Trust decided to preserve in the state they’d found it. It’s a fascinating place, very eerie, where anything could happen. So I made it happen. It formed the backdrop to Richard and Rose’s first explosive meeting.
It seems like no time at all, but now I’m writing the last one. And I’m sad. Although I could always come back and write another cycle in the future.
I do plan some spinoffs. My editor is very interested in seeing a story about Richard’s cousin Freddie. He arrived as a walk-on character, and just ended up staying. Now he’s getting his own story. I’ve just “got” his heroine, so I can start on his story to compensate for saying goodbye to Richard and Rose!

Richard and Rose
Yorkshire – meeting and falling in love.
Devonshire – smugglers and courtship
Venice – honeymoon and card sharps
Harley Street – secrets and married life
Eyton – great country house secrets and childbirth
Hareton Hall – the smugglers return, with a secret from Richard’s past
Maiden Lane – back in London, and some things are resolved.

All the books are available at Samhain Publishing. There are excerpts and links on my website.

Lynne Connolly,

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Strange New Year

This is the first post from my new home in a small riverside village in Essex. We moved from our over large, ancient home in acres of woodland to a small modern house surrounded by other houses and with a courtyard garden. On the plus side I'm five minutes from a bus stop and a station and there are plenty of shops as well.
I don't want to be back in the old house - too cold - too far from shops and creature comforts and far too much needed doing to it - but it still feels as if I'm living in a smart holiday home. Even with all (well half - most of my books and kitchen stuff are in the garage) my things around me I don't feel as if I belong here.
It has been over four weeks since I wrote anything new and this is a real worry. I'm doing edits/blurbs - answering e-mails and so on but have yet to put on my headset and start writing.
I've got as far as opening a couple of files, even tweaked what was there, but nothing fresh is forthcoming.
I wonder if any of you have experienced the same thing after moving house? How long does it take to settle in and take ownership of a new place?
It's a strange new year for me -but with three books coming out with Aurora -the Regency branch of Aspen Mountain Press - I've a lot to look forward to.
I hope everyone has a successful and prosperous 2011.
best wishes
Fenella Miller

Friday, January 07, 2011

Regency Bicentenary

A very Happy New Year to everyone! 2011 is a special year for all Regency authors and readers as it is the bicentenary of the start of the Regency period. In late 1810, George III was once again overcome by illness, this time brought on by the death of his daughter Princess Amelia. Discussions began in parliament on the establishment of a Regency and in February 1811 the Regency Act was passed. I've been searching around for any events planned to commemorate the passing of the Regency Act and have found only one so far - a splendid exhibition at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton called Dress for Excess: Fashion in Regency England. There's a link here. Not only will George's enormous breeches be on display, so will his coronation robe and many other items of male and female fashion from the period. I'm looking forward to the exhibition very much. There's also an event about "The Romantic Regency Shirt" that sounds rather fun!

I hope there may also be some events in Bath, Cheltenham and other "Regency" towns. What do you think is an appropriate way to celebrate the Regency? I'm thinking about a sumptuous eight course dinner like the one served for the Prince Regent and Tsar Nicholas at the Royal Pavilion in 1817...