Monday, October 31, 2011

Colonel Brandon's Diary - UK paperback

I'm absolutely thrilled that the UK paperback of Colonel Brandon's Diary is finally here. Its publication date was chosen to coincide with the bicentennial of Sense and Sensibility and it's a beautiful edition, I just love the cover. It's taken from the same portrait as the hardback cover, but it shows more of it, so that we see "Brandon" is holding "little Eliza" by the hand.

When I set out to write my retelling of Sense and Sensibility, I was intending to write Edward's diary, but as soon as I came across the short passage in which Brandon recounts his tragic past, I knew that his was the diary I had to write. From optimistic youth to devastated young man to bereaved adult - and then, miraculously to a man of hope and love again, courtesy of Marianne Dashwood - I loved every minute of writing his diary, and I hope you love reading it, too.

Here's a taster from the middle of the book, when Brandon challenges Willoughby to a duel.

The carriage pulled away. The horses’ hooves sounding strangely muted and the turning of the wheels was no more than a grating whisper as the carriage bumped over the cobbles.
‘This damnable fog,’ said Green, peering out of the window. ‘I hope it clears by the time we reach the heath or you will not be able to see each other, let alone fire.’
We were in luck. When we stepped out onto the heath we could see for twenty paces, enough for our business.

There was no sign of Willoughby’s carriage.
Ten minutes later Willoughby arrived, attended by two men who looked nervous, as well they might. They were dandies, not soldiers, and had probably never been seconds in their lives.
‘I will give him another chance to change his mind,’ said Green.
He went over to Willoughby, they had words, and Green returned, saying, ‘The duel is to go ahead. It is for you to choose the distance, Brandon.’
That done, the seconds met in the middle and loaded the pistols in each other’s presence to ensure fair play, then Green and Wareham returned to hand me my weapon.

‘Willoughby’s man is to count the paces. After the count of ten, you may turn and fire at will. Is this agreeable to you?’
‘It is.’
‘Then let us get it over with.’
I removed my coat. Across the heath, Willoughby removed his. The fog was lifting minute by minute, and I could see him clearly. We came together and stood back to back. His man counted the paces. One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five . . . I thought of Eliza abandoned and left all alone . . .six . . . seven . . . eight . . . nine . . .
I turned.

He turned, too, his arm already raised. He rushed his shot, firing without taking proper aim, and the bullet went wide, so wide I did not even feel it pass. He blanched, and dropped his arm. I saw his knees begin to buckle. I lifted my arm. And then he turned and I thought that he would run. But the horrified look on the faces on his seconds curtailed his cowardice and he turned back towards me, white faced and trembling, turned sideways on to present as small a target as possible.
For Eliza, I thought.
I took aim.

But as I did so, I saw not Willoughby and not Eliza, but Marianne. I imagined her face as she heard that Willoughby was dead; I imagined her grief, and I was horrified, for, if she was still enamoured of him, she would not grieve easily or quietly, but would suffer with all the depth of her being. If I killed him, I would cause her great pain, and with her nature, it was a pain she would not be certain of overcoming. And so I raised my arm and fired into the air.
Willoughby fell to his knees, and had to be assisted to his feet by his seconds.
I walked over to him and looked at him in disgust.
‘You are not worth shooting,’ I said.

Then Green brought me my coat and we climbed into the carriage. It pulled away, jolting over the heath before turning on to the road.
We went back to Green and Wareham’s lodgings. By the time we reached them, a wind had sprung up and it had driven most of the fog away, revealing a cold, clean light as a pale sun broke through the clouds.
‘You deloped,’ said Wareham, as we went inside. ‘Why?’
‘Because there is another young woman caught in Willoughby’s toils,’ I said, as I took off my outdoor clothes and threw myself into a chair, ‘and I feared that, if I killed him, she would love him for ever.’

Colonel Brandon's Diary is in UK bookshops now, or you can order from The Book Depository which offers free worldwide postage and packing, as well as Amazon and other sellers.

Amanda Grange

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dangerous To Know

Dangerous To Know/ Linda Sole
Now published in kindle and at ARE

This is for the readers who wanted Northaven's Story!


The Marquis of Mooraven yawned behind his hand, and, having gathered up his winnings, rose from the table more than two thousand guineas richer than he’d been when he sat down. He felt no elation, though there was a time when he’d needed every penny he won from his gambling, but that was before his Uncle Tomas obligingly left him his title, estate and fortune. He had several titles to his name, amongst them earl, marquis, twice over, baron and count, but was using his uncle’s for reasons of his own. In time, he might end as a duke by way of his mother’s family being in danger of losing every male heir in the line. The dowager duchess had summoned him only two days before he left for Paris.

‘My husband’s father had the deed of title altered so that if his male heirs failed his daughters might inherit the dukedom as well as the estate. As you know, my only surviving daughter died last year and her infant son is sickly. My three sons have died. That leaves you, Mooraven – my sister-in-law’s grandson. Sorry as I am to say it, if the child dies you will become Duke of Rothmere.’

‘How tiresome for you,’ Mooraven drawled. He had crossed swords with the dowager before, and though he did not dislike her, knew that she disapproved of him with every bone of her body. ‘You must guard him well, ma’am. I advise you to employ the best nannies – and have him seen regularly by a doctor of good repute.’

‘You almost sound sincere.’ The elderly lady fixed him with a hawkish stare. ‘Did I not know you for a rogue and a scoundrel I might believe you had no interest in the Rothmere fortune.’

‘If that is your only concern, you may sleep easily in your bed,’ Mooraven replied, a faint smile on his sensual lips. ‘I may run through my fortune once more if I suffer heavy losses at the table, but I have more sense than to gamble away my entire inheritance. I assure you I wish young William nothing but good fortune.’

‘I am an old woman,’ the dowager said. ‘I may not have long to live. Rothmere has no male relatives to care for him – except you, though you are in truth too far removed. I dare not hope that you would take an interest in his welfare?’

‘Should I hear of your unfortunate demise, which I hope may be some years distant, I would offer my help – such as it is. I should not have thought you would care to have your precious heir subjected to my influence?’

‘Needs must when the devil drives.’ She arched her brows at him. ‘Are all the stories true, Mooraven? I hear that you have ruined virgins, fleeced green youths at the card table and only God knows what else. A little wildness in youth is acceptable, but surely you have sown your oats by now? Where is your pride? You have good blood in your veins. Show a little decency. Marry and settle down before it is too late. If you continue this way no decent woman will have you.’

‘What makes you think it is not already too late?’ A faintly mocking smile played over his lips. ‘Do you not know that they say I have sold my soul to Lucifer?’

‘Do not be ridiculous! I should not believe such tales – but I do believe that you have ruined young women for I knew one of them. Miss Hazelton’s mother was once a friend of my daughter…’

‘Since you know me for the rogue I am, why should I deny it? All you need to concern yourself with, duchess, is that your heir is safe from me – and if need be, I shall be his guardian, if not his mentor.’

‘I thought the girl sly,’ the duchess said, surprising him. ‘I should not be surprised if she lied. Very well, I shall not ask for your confidence. You have given your word and I may rest easy in my mind.’

‘I trust you are not ill, ma’am?’

‘At the moment I am perfectly hale, sir.’

‘Then I may go to Paris with a clear conscience.’

Mooraven had kissed her hand and taken his leave. He sincerely hoped that it would be many years before he was called upon to keep his promise. His work was not yet done. He had an enemy to track down and bring to justice – justice for men foully betrayed. His brow darkened with anger as he thought of the years that he had borne the scorn of men who had once been his friends. They believed him a traitor or at the very least a drunken fool. Though provoked to bitterness and humiliated almost beyond bearing, he had never given them or anyone else a hint of the true story. Until he had found and punished the true traitor he must keep his silence.

Lost in his thoughts, Mooraven did not notice the woman until she knocked into him as she passed. The scent of her perfume alerted his senses and he turned his head to watch her leave the room. She was dressed in black, the most beautiful woman he had seen in an age – a woman who turned all heads.

He’d noticed her briefly earlier in the evening. She had been losing steadily at the tables all night and the glitter in her eyes had prompted him to ask his neighbour who she was.

‘She is the Countess Madeline Dupree,’ the man answered. ‘She was wed to a vile depraved brute who died of some unspeakable illness a few months ago. Until his death she was never seen in company. Now she comes regularly to parties where she can gamble. I lost a thousand francs to her one night. Couldn’t concentrate on my cards when she has such perfect flesh and that gown reveals more of her charms than a man can stand without ravishing her…’

Mooraven had smiled, because the gown dipped daringly to reveal a glimpse of her silken skin and breasts so full and perfect that they must have most of the men in the room lusting after her. A deliberate ploy to make them careless with their cards perhaps – though she seemed to be losing that night.

Why had she knocked into him so heavily? It was almost intentional…a sudden thought made him thrust his hand into his pocket to search for the purse of gold he’d carelessly thrust there when he rose from the tables. His searching fingers found nothing but his kerchief. The gold had gone. She had taken it! For a moment his senses reeled: the countess a thief? Impossible one would think and yet she had lost heavily at the tables.

His gaze narrowed as he went outside, looking for the woman in black. Ahead of him in the dimly lit Paris boulevard he could see her walking swiftly. A burly servant accompanied her but Mooraven’s instincts were alerted. Why had she no carriage? A woman of her breeding and wealth walking the streets with only one servant? He was a tall heavily built man and carried a stout cudgel – but she was still taking a huge risk. The jewels she’d been wearing about her neck had been worth a small fortune – if the diamonds in that collar were genuine, of course. The stones had sparkled enough in the candlelight, which gave him no cause to doubt their worth.

Why would a woman like that leave a card party in the house of a prestigious member of the French aristocracy, to walk home through the streets on foot? It didn’t make sense. He was certain she’d taken his purse and now his hunting instincts were aroused.

He wanted to know more about the mysterious lady in black.

Keeping to the shadows, Mooraven followed the woman and her bodyguard. It seemed that she had not far to go for after walking the length of three streets, the pair stopped outside a large and impressive house. The woman turned to her companion, clearly thanking him for his services. From their gestures, Mooraven thought she was telling him to leave her, but he was hesitating, arguing. After a moment or two he gave in and walked off. The door of the house opened and the woman went in.

Mooraven waited in the shadows until the giant had disappeared. He was about to approach the front door when it opened again and a figure came out. This time it was a youth, who walked swiftly in the same direction the countess’s servant had taken a few minutes earlier.

Mooraven drew back into the shadows, not wanting to be seen by the youth. Once he had disappeared, he approached the house and knocked at the front door. Countess Dupree had some questions to answer.

The knocker sounded eerily, as if the house were empty and now that he looked up at the windows above, he could see there were no lights. It was odd for a house like this would normally be filled with people and the windows would shed light into the street until they were shuttered for the night. He frowned and looked for a side entrance, but tall iron railings prevented entrance to the back of the house. Glancing about him to see if anyone was around, Mooraven then scaled the railings and jumped down into the dark passage at the side of the building. No light was coming from the windows of the house as he felt his way around to the back. A bank of clouds hid the moon and here the little light that came from lamps outside a few of the neighbouring houses was not sufficient to show him where he was going.

For a few minutes he could only feel his way but gradually his eyes became accustomed to the dim light and he could make out shapes sufficiently to find himself at a back entrance to the house, through what was obviously a conservatory.

There was not a single light in the house. Had the countess retired immediately? It was unusual not to leave at least one lantern burning somewhere. By morning the candle might have burned down, but at night there ought to be a few lights throughout the house. What kind of a house was this? Where were all the servants?

Mooraven’s instincts told him that he had stumbled on a mystery. Suddenly, a thought struck him. The youth he’d seen leaving the house – could that possibly have been the countess in disguise?

If she had courage enough to walk through the streets of Paris at night dressed in her finery with only one servant, she might dare to risk walking alone as a youth. While most would think the countess worthy of attention, a slight youth might pass unnoticed.

Why was she leading a double life? Why had she stolen his purse – and where was she going?

Mooraven was thoughtful as he stared up at the house. His business in Paris was already dangerous enough. He was using an assumed name. No one knew who he truly was or what he did and it must stay that way. He ought not to let himself be distracted from the business in hand, but his curiosity was aroused.

He knew he could not just walk away from this situation. He wanted to know more about the countess and what she was doing…

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Chesterfield Lecture

I’ve just given the Annual Chesterfield Lecture to the Friends of The Ranger’s House, Blackheath, London. It’s the first time I’ve been asked to talk to such a knowledgeable group in such a classy venue – a superb early 18th century red brick mansion, once the home of Lord Chesterfield, statesman, wit and letter-writer. In 1728, he became British Ambassador in The Hague. Whilst there, he acquired a superb collection of Dutch paintings, and then had to add a wing onto the house in order to show them off them.

First we had a delicious buffet dinner, provided by the Friends, in the basement of the house and then we trooped upstairs to the crimson gallery – not forgetting to put on our coats – there is no central heating. Well, the Friends put on their coats and, in some cases, their scarves, but I felt that, as lecturer, I couldn’t go that far. I hoped that the adrenalin would keep me warm.

The crimson silk gallery, where I was speaking, was magnificent with its fabulous paintings, glittering chandeliers, superb plasterwork, and a couple of classical nude marble statues flanking me on either side.

The talk I was giving was one I’d given before – how I became an historical novelist and it included snippets from my juvenilia – the six novels I wrote between the ages of ten and sixteen. I knew that Lord Chesterfield had also written: his famous letters to his illegitimate son are a mixture of worldly-wise pieces of advice and cynical and witty observations on the world. Surely they could provide me with a quotation to act as an introduction to my talk. After all, I was giving the Annual Chesterfield lecture, I felt I owed him a compliment or two.

What did he have to say on women, I wondered.

This is what I found: Women, then, are only children of a larger growth: they have an entertaining tattle, and sometimes wit; but for solid reasoning good sense, I never knew in all my life one that had it, or who reasoned or acted consequentially for four and twenty hours together.

He goes on to advise his son: A man of sense only trifles with them, plays with them, humours and flatters them … but he neither consults them about, nor trusts them with, serious matters.

Hm. No, I decided, I would not be paying Lord Chesterfield a graceful compliment. I would give him a courteous but neutral mention and hope that his portrait in the next room didn’t crash to the ground in the middle of my talk in horror at hearing a mere female giving a lecture in his name.

Fortunately, the talk went very well and there were no untoward intimations of
spectral disapproval.

Elizabeth Hawksley

Top: The Ranger’s House, the front entrance: courtesy, The Ranger’s House,

Centre: dinner: photograph by Elizabeth Hawksley

Bottom: The Gallery, the Ranger’s House: courtesy, The Ranger’s House,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Practical Hints to Young Females

When looking for dispacement activity to avoid doing the housework I like to thumb through Practical Hints to Young Females on the Duties of a Wife, A Mother And a Mistress of a Family by Mrs Taylor of Ongar. My edition is the 5th, dated 1815, so she appears to have had good sales.

The tone is set by the frontispiece showing an elegantly, but modestly, dressed mother at work on her sewing and encouraging her small child to read a book.

Mrs Taylor considers education to be a good thing for females but warns Many a female, because she has been educated at a bording-school, returns home, not to assist her mother, but to support her pretensions to gentility by idleness, dress, and dissipation.
Once a young lady has been fortunate enough to find herself a good husband she is reminded that When he vowed to take you for better or worse, he staked the happiness of his future life; a treasure for which the most ample portion is insufficient to compensate.    
 The young wife is warned that she may well have married expecting "uninterrupted felicity" but by degrees the discovery will be made that you have maried a mortal, and that the object of your affections is not entirely free from the infirmities of human nature.                                                                                               

The solution to any marital disharmony is to search one's own character and to realise one's own faults, thus learning to forgive your husband's. If he should be morose, fretful, or capricious, liable to sudden sallies, or the prey to constant irritability, the cure [is effected by] sweetness and the coolness of a reasonable mind. A wife must always contemplate her husband's virtues rather than his failings.

Of course, the main cause of maritial disharmony is money, so you must study to keep strictly within the household budget and note that much loss is sustained by purchasing articles of housekeeping in small quantities....Weekly payments are forcibly recommended in order to keep a close check on tradesmen's accounts.                                  Servants are a major cause of concern to any housewife and she must take note that A good servant can always find a good situation...nor ought those who have adopted the mistaken economy of giving low wages...expect good service.                                                                    In every kitchen there ought to be a library...and nothing beyond the comprehension of kitchen readers be admitted.  The advice on managing servants appears quite enlightened with an emphasis on plenty of praise where it is due as well as a fair wage for the job. It is poor encouragement to a servant if she is invariably blamed for what is wrong and never praised for what is right. The old retainer must also be looked after and the inexperienced, young mistress of the household would do well to watch and learn from good domestic staff.

There is an entire chapter on the dangers of becoming a step-mother with a warning to decide, well before committing oneself to a widower and a father, whether one can love his children!

The final chapter is given over to advice to The Husband and he is told that it will serve his comfort best if his wife is allowed to run the home and has sufficient housekeeping allowance to do so - and he is reminded that it is important to regularly express affection and regard for his wife.

Now - I'm off to give the scullery maid a rise in pay and to admire my tall, handsome footmen.

Louise Allen

Monday, October 17, 2011


 I've been spending every morning with my 96-year-old father recently. I'm his carer now, and while I get him washed and dressed – something he hates no longer being able to do for himself – I've discovered a way to divert his attention.  We reminisce.  His recent memory is very poor. But his recall of events of fifty years ago is crystal clear. 
A few days ago we were talking about the St Mylor Players, our village's local drama group.  From the 1950s into the late 1970's the Players put on dramas, comedies, pantomimes and variety shows.  
In the late 1950s - when men were the wage-earners, women remained at home raising the family, and Women's Lib hadn't been invented yet - a particular 'turn' in one variety show nearly brought the house down. It was Dance of the Flower Fairies.  
The 'fairies' wore white tutus, white socks, and headdresses of white crepe-paper roses. Each carried a white lily made out of crepe-paper.   So far so unremarkable.  What stunned the audience was that the 'fairies' were my father, District Surveyor on Cornwall County Council (top right); John Garvin, a stocky Scot who managed to keep the Church hall's ancient and unpredictable electrics operational without catching fire or causing a power cut (well, only once);  Frank Roscora, a telephone engineer as round as he was tall; and Rodney Prout, plaster technician at Falmouth hospital and the Society's producer.  
The music was played on a gramophone in the wings, and my mother – a dancer in her youth – had worked out the choreography.  The introductory music started, the curtain rose to reveal the 'fairies’ – two with moustaches they had refused to shave off - in graceful pose.  There were several moments of shocked silence then the dance began.  
Mum had threatened the ‘fairies’ with dire consequences if they hammed it up.  They played it absolutely straight and it worked brilliantly.  Within twenty seconds the audience were crying with laughter and stuffing hankies in their mouths so as not to miss a moment.  
When the dance finished there was uproar as people clapped, stamped and hooted.  The 'fairies,' who had all been extremely nervous beforehand and boosted their courage with a strong whisky each, swept into deep if ungainly curtseys, gave the audience dazzling grins, then lumbered off the stage streaming with sweat and greasepaint. 
The photograph above was on the front page of all the local papers.   All except Dad are dead now but remembered with fondness and admiration.  I treasure these morning chats as Dad is happier and I am reminded of things I had totally forgotten.

Jane Jackson.

Taken To Heart  pub. Robert Hale, October 2011  £18.99


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Waterloo -- making the point

Last weekend I was in Windsor for the first time. (It was a family engagement, arranged more than a year ago, so sadly it had to take precedence over the RNA Regency Day in London. The Regency Day was fantastic, so I hear. But so was Windsor.)

I hadn't visited the castle before and I was totally bowled over by the Queen's picture collection. As I made my way through the state and semi-state apartments, I kept coming up against huge portraits that I'd only seen in books, or on TV programmes. Like that famous portrait of Queen Elizabeth I as a thirteen-year-old girl, dressed in a stunning red gown. At the other end of that same wall was her father, looking cold and menacing.

For me, the highlight was the Waterloo Chamber. It was created by George IV in order to make a statement about the allied victory over Napoleon. George IV commissioned Sir Thomas Lawrence to paint portraits of all the key people who had combined to defeat Napoleon. (He included himself, naturally!)

The room is huge, and dominated by a portrait of a triumphant Wellington at one end, brandishing the Sword of State. You can see the portrait here and read something about it here.

Around the walls are Lawrence's portraits of the generals, like Bluecher; the rulers, including the famous portraits of Alexander I of Russia, Frederick William III of Prussia, and Francis of Austria. The diplomats who organised the redistribution of Europe at the Congress of Vienna are also there: Castlereagh, Metternich, Hardenberg, Nesselrode, though, as far as I could see, Talleyrand, being French, was not included, even though he played an important part at the Congress.

The portraits can all be seen on the Lawrence pages of the official site for the Royal Collection. The finest of them is supposed to be the portrait of Pope Pius VII, for which Lawrence had to travel to Rome in 1819 for 9 sittings with the Pope.

My only complaint was that visitors were allowed into the ends of the Waterloo Chamber but not the middle, so I couldn't get a really good look at some of the amazing portraits. Next time, I shall take binoculars.

I haven't included jpegs of the pictures. I have a feeling I might be hauled off to the Tower if I did! But if you follow the links, you can see them for yourself.

One interesting tale you might enjoy. When the Queen was entertaining the French President at Windsor, he was treated to a performance of Les Miserables in -- guess where? -- the Waterloo Chamber. And no, they didn't take down the portraits, or change the name of the room. He had to live with it. (Was that also the time that he had to arrive at Waterloo Station? I think it might have been. What a nasty sense of humour the British do have...)


Friday, October 07, 2011

A Visit to Buscot Park

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Buscot Park, a late Georgian mansion near Faringdon in Oxfordshire. I am planning to use Buscot as the inspiration for the country house in my next book and I was particularly interested in the internal layout and also in the furniture. Lord Faringdon, who still lives at Buscot, has a very fine collection of art, ceramics and Regency furniture on display in the house and it was fun to stroll through the rooms and see them as they would have been at the turn of the 19th century.

The original mansion and park at Buscot were built between 1780 and 1783 for Edward Loveden Loveden at a cost of of over twenty thousand pounds (about seven hundred and eighty thousand pounds in today's terms). The house was built by local crasftsmen using local materials but also incorporated some recycling of slate and stone from other nearby mansions that were being pulled down at the time. The result was a grand house with nine bays, a double flight of stone steps and an impressive Orangery, all surrounded by a deer park and pleasure gardens with two lakes.

The Entrance Hall, with its stone flagged floor and porphyry scagliola pillars dates from 1780 and most of the furnishings are from the Regency period. It certainly creates an impression as you walk through the main door! A suite of a long couch and two armchairs in the Egyptian style that became fashionable after the Battle of the Nile was, to my eyes, completely over the top, made of ebony, painted with gilt and featuring large carved black lions! The suite was made by Thomas Hope, pioneer of regency furniture design, and the pieces are illustrated in his 1807 book Household furniture and interior decoration. A matching clock on an ebony stand towers four foot high. The hall also boasts an astonishing ornate gilt metal chandelier in the French fashion dating from about 1806 which is similar in design to those at St James's Palace.

The Dutch Room, one of the drawing rooms, contained an interesting piece of furniture in the shape of a small cabinet. Under the lid is a notice that reads: "Newly invented musical game dedicated to Princess Charlotte of Wales." Unfortunately we weren't allowed to play it! Strolling through Buscot's reception rooms, I could see how influential had been the taste of the Prince Regent in the different fashions in furniture throughout the period. There were the French fashions, the Egyptian fashion and furniture in the "antiquarian" style which the Regent also enjoyed. In the Drawing Room was a "Carlton House desk," named, according to Ackerman's Repository of Arts of 1809 - 28 "from having been first made for the August personage whose correct taste has so classically embellished that beautiful place."

One of the interesting things about Buscot House was that despite the size and the grand interiors it actually felt quite cosy. The bedrooms were comparatively small, which must have helped in terms of keeping them warm in winter. As I wandered through the interconnecting rooms downstairs I realised that in the Regency period even a large country house could be made to feel like a home.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Something Old, Something New...

I think October is going to be a month os contradictions.  It has started with a wonderfu Indian summer - the weather here up on the hill has been hotter than anything we had during the summer months - and yet we are prepared for frosts, if not snow, by the end of the month.

And at the same time I received my advance copies of The Dangerous Lord Darrington in hardback, I am also gearing up for the launch of an e-book for Carina Press - Casting Samson. So I have in my hands the "old technology" of a printed book, and a hardback, at that, and on 17th October I will see a new book published using the very latest technology.  And who knows where this publishing revolution will end?

Casting Samson is my first Melinda Hammond novel for a long time, and it is in itself a contradiction. It is the story of a present day English village (think thatched cottages,a stream running by, old church and quaint characters) and its links to the past, to the Crusades and the Templars, in fact! I describe it as The Vicar of Dibley meets Ivanhoe, because it is part comedy, part serious but most definitely three love stories all intertwined.  I have added a short extract on my website, ( so do take a look and let me know what you think of it.

By contrast, The Dangerous Lord Darrington (which was published in North America last month) is another Sarah Mallory Regency romantic adventure  with a mysterious old house, a handsome hero, a beautiful heroine, secrets and scandal.

So, which one do I prefer?  An impossible question, the two stories are so different and I love them both, but as the saying goes - variety is the spice of life!

Casting Samson - Melinda Hammond, pub. Carina Press October 2011
The Dangerous Lord Darrington - Sarah Mallory, pub Harlequin Mills & Boon (NA Sep 2011, UK Nov 2011)

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Dick Turpin ... as legend has it

Last month I went to see a new play exploring the truth and legend behind Dick Turpin. The play is a fast-paced musical called Dick Turpin’s Last Ride. It was on at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds and is now on tour around the UK (do see it if you can).

It was a fabulous play - I reviewed it here - and it really brought it home to me how ‘History’ is in the hands of the best narrator - and how we as historical novelists should be very careful with our research.

18th century illustration, Newgate Calendar
The real Dick Turpin, for instance, was a thug, a bully, a thief, a murderer and a rapist. He was reported as such after he swung from the gallows in 1739 and his name lay disgraced in the lists of criminals.

illustration from Rookwood, 1849
Yet the Victorian novelist William Harrison Ainsworth - in need of a plot device - borrowed that name, borrowed someone else’s epic ride, stitched them together... and by investing him with a more likeable character and livelier writing than anything else in his largely forgotten Gothic novel Rookwood, turned ‘Dick Turpin’ into a legend which others have themselves borrowed and embellished through the years.

romanticised highway robbery by Frith
An awful warning, I think, of the dangers in using real historical figures in fiction but not bothering to find out how those people would actually have acted or reacted.

Jan Jones