Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ode to a Vampire

This is my latest romance from M&B
It is a Medieval, out now in paperback and soon in ebook.

I wrote a little poem. I also have a couple of Vampire ebooks out as Anne Ireland. The curse of Beauty and a Modern Vampire

Ode to a Vampire

Midnight in her hair; I turn and she is there.

She walks the darkest hours; I feel her mind, I know her kind.

She will have my soul, yet still I heed her call, my lady of the midnight air.

Upon my face her breath will mean my death, yet in her arms I’ll lie before the night is gone. For her sweet

kiss I’ll give my life and leave my gentle loving wife and all my friends and in their place no peace have won.

No more sunlit hours, no happy days I’ll know; instead I’ll walk the night at her side, my lady of the dark

night air. I’ve fought her song so long but now her call I heed. My soul cries out in need. She lifts her hand

and I must go. As she is now so shall I be, a terrible sweet aching agony possesses me.

Farewell my life, my friends, my sweet children too.

She calls and I will answer for she owns my soul, my mind, my very breath.

Midnight in her hair; I turn and she is there.

Hope you enjoyed the poem.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Jane Austen Made Me Do It!

When Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose contacted me about a new anthology she was putting together I knew straight away I'd like to be a part of it especially as I'd be sharing the wonderful company of fellow authors Amanda Grange, Monica Fairview and Jo Beverley.
Our brief was to write a 5000 word short story for the anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and as long as it related to Jane Austen in some way we were invited to let our imaginations take flight. The result is a collection of 22 stories-a veritable chocolate box of tales inspired by Jane Austen, some historical and some contemporary.

Amanda Grange's story is Mr. Bennet Meets his Match.
On his daughters’ wedding day, Mr. John Bennet’s mind drifts back to the events of twenty-three years before, and the events leading to his own marriage . . . Encouraged by his parents to marry sooner rather than later and thereby provide a new generation of Bennet heirs for the estate, John laughed at their hurry. However, a meeting with his Cousin Collins, who was next in line for the entail, and an unfortunate accident, made him reconsider his position, and the proximity of the lively, pretty Miss Jane Gardiner sealed his fate.

Monica Fairview's story is Nothing Less than Fairyland.
In this gently humorous story inspired by Jane Austen’s novel Emma, the day has come for Mr. Knightley to move into Hartfield, but Mr. Woodhouse is still not reconciled to the marriage. Trouble looms on the horizon, unless Emma can quickly come up with a way to convince her papa to accept Mr. Knightley’s presence.

Jo Beverley's story is The Mistletoe Kiss.
Elinor Carsholt is living on the charity of a connection of her late husband’s in the village of Chawton, facing a dismal future for her three young daughters, until she begins to hope that her oldest daughter Amy has caught the eye of local baronet Sir Nicholas Danvers. Amy must have been sneaking out for clandestine meetings, which disturbs her, and there is a ten-year age difference, but still, it would be the saving of them all.
When she and the girls go out on Christmas Eve to look for holly, ivy, and mistletoe, Elinor is still undecided and rejects Amy’s urging to go to Sir Nicholas’s estate in search of mistletoe, but then local resident Miss Austen drives by in her donkey cart and pauses to chat.Elinor doesn’t really approve of Miss Jane Austen, for she’s been told she writes novels, which Elinor thinks a bad influence on young female minds, but she has to be polite. Miss Jane turns talk to love and marriage, expressing far too romantic a view, but she also assures them all that Sir Nicholas would be delighted if they searched his orchard for mistletoe, changing the course of their lives.

My story is Waiting.
Captain Wentworth and his beloved Anne Elliot have waited almost nine years to be together. At last all misunderstandings are swept aside. They have declared their love for one another, and all that remains is for their union to be blessed by Anne’s father, the irascible Sir Walter Elliot, and for the family members to be told. As Anne and Frederick ponder their futures each is reminded of the past, and all that has happened.
Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen novel, and so I knew straight away this was the story I wanted to write. I'd always wondered how Anne Elliot's family would react to the news that she and Captain Wentworth were going to be married, and I also couldn't resist having them look back to the time when they first met. It was such fun writing the characters of Sir Walter Elliot, Anne's sisters Elizabeth and Mary, and of course Anne and Frederick Wentworth too!

Here's a short excerpt:

Captain Wentworth was awake early to witness the greyness of the day, mists rising in a smoking pall above the city along with the icy rain which lashed at the windows of his lodgings in a manner fit for any storm at sea. His spirits were high, though to tell the truth, he was more than a little nervous at the prospect of the interview he was about to face. As he adjusted the cuffs at his wrists, he glanced out of the window to observe the dash of carriages rolling round the square depositing new arrivals in Bath.

Had it only been yesterday when the unimaginable had happened at last? Frederick recalled every second of the encounter, revived every feeling. They’d met in Union Street. He’d been almost afraid to witness her reaction to the heartfelt letter he’d sent. But he needn’t have worried. Her eyes had spoken the sentiments she could not immediately express. Anne Elliot had taken his arm, and he’d sheltered her from the rain with his umbrella.

From his viewpoint past the railings on the other side of Queen Square, Gay Street effortlessly progressed up its steep incline, elegant façades on either side ascending to the Circus much as he and Anne had advanced before turning off to find the relative quiet of the Gravel Walk. Heedless of the sauntering politicians, bustling housekeepers, and flirting girls around them, they had confessed all their hidden, secret feelings, buried for so long.
“She loves me, as I love her,” he said out loud to confirm the truth to himself. He wanted to open the window and shout it out to the muffin man below. “Anne Elliot never stopped loving me from the day we parted. Oh, that my stubborn pride had not prevented me from seeking her out sooner. I’ve wasted almost nine precious years when we could have been together! I admit; I felt very differently all those years ago when she rejected me. I held her in contempt then, although sweet Anne, I now believe, was perfectly justified in withdrawing from our engagement. I was proud, made to feel that I was not good enough for a baronet’s daughter, and the truth of it stung me to my very soul. But there is little point in grieving over the past; I must look to the future with the girl I love most in the world by my side. My only fear, nay dread, concerns the interview I am to have with her father this morning. Not that his consent really matters. Anne will not be persuaded against her wishes this time, not like the first time. We are older, and, I hope, much wiser, both secure in the knowledge that our love is ever true and constant. But, this will not do, I have an appointment with Sir Walter, and I must not be late!”

I had a lot of fun writing this story-if you know a Janeite, why not pop it in their stocking this Christmas?!

Jane Odiwe

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Books Under the Christmas Tree?

The rapid approach of Christmas made me think about books for presents and titles I have particularly enjoyed adding to my collection this year. I thought I'd share five of them that might make useful additions to your own list for Santa, or provide inspiration for gifts for history-buff friends.

My first is from Shire Publications, but is a much larger volume than the familiar Shire guides. Peter Matthew's London's Bridges covers them all from Hampton Court Bridge to Tower Bridge with excellent photographs and historic images. I've found it invaluable for working out what was in existence at a particular date and what it looked like then. But beside that practical use, it is full of fascinating stories and facts.

Staying with the watery theme, the next title is James Stevens Curl Spas, Wells & Pleasure Gardens of London. This contains exactly what it says on the cover - a comprehensive survey of every one of these attractions from the 17th to the 19th centuries. There are the famous, such as Sadler's Wells and Vauxhall Gardens and the obscure - Finch's Grotto Gardens, Acton Wells, the Bayswater Tea Gardens and the Devil's House. As well as the facts about each site there is a fascinating exploration of the social background.

My absolute favourite exhibition this year was the National Portrait Gallery's Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power & Brilliance. The effect for me was of eating very expensive chocolates while wrapped in warm velvet - luxurious, sensual and completely addictive! The catalogue, which is loaded with illustrations, is the next best thing to being able to smuggle a Lawrence home with me. (And for sheer swash-buckling gorgeousness, any author in search of a hero couldn't go far wrong with the portrait of Charles William Vane-Stewart, later 3rd Marquess of Londonderry. Phew!).

A rather less flamboyant man is depicted in The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman: the Life & Times of Richard Hall, 1729-1801, edited  by his 4-times grandson, Mike Rendell.
This is packed full of everything from household accounts to observations on ballooning, the wild beasts at the Talbot Inn, the weather, the games the family played, recipes - an absolutely fascinating lucky dip into the life of a Georgian gentleman of the middling sort. My only criticism is the lack of an index.

Fully indexed and with a useful bibliograhy is Coachmaker: the Life & Times of Philip Godsal 1747-1826 by John Ford. Godsall was one of the top coachmakers of his time and left a detailed record of his business and his social and domestic life. He was incredibly well connected - a son in the household of George III, one daughter married to an MP, another to Nelson's attorney. He even supplied a carriage to Napeoleon's mother! He travelled all over the country and this beautifully illustrated book includes information on Cheltenham, the theatre, food and drink, gardening and a host of other topics as well as fascinating insights into carriage-making. 

And finally, if you need a stocking-filler, there is my Walks Through Regency London - ten walks through modern London taking you into the world of the "long Regency" and illustrated throughout with original Regency prints.  It is available from my website at £7.50 plus postage.
Have you any books you'd recommend for Christmas? I'd love to hear about it if you have - there is just room on my bookshelves for a few more.
Happy Christmas shopping!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Do-It-Yourself Regency Romance

This is a post that I, and several other authors, at least two of whom are on this blog, compiled a few years ago. Interesting how it holds the test of time!
The only thing I'd ask is that you don't take this completely seriously! (as if you would!)
I won't name the other authors for fear of leaving someone out, and in case they prefer to preserve their anonymity.

Writing a Regency Romance (excluding Scottish romances)
Choose one of the following in each section.
 Writing a Regency Romance (excluding Scottish romances)
Choose one of the following in each section.

The hero is:
1.    A rake about town
2.    An army officer (captain or above, please, no lieutenants)
3.    A widower with small children
4.    A pirate duke (marquis or earl will do at a pinch)
5.    A spy who is also a peer of the realm

The hero is never:
1.    Geeky, spotty or bald.
2.    overweight
3.    Reasonably cautious and sensible.
4.    Shorter than the heroine.
5.    If he wears spectacles, he isn’t dependant on them and can lose them at convenient times without any ill effects.

The heroine is:
1.    A clever, beautiful ingénue
2.    A bookworm not interested in society or husband hunting
3.    An older spinster looking for a husband for her beautiful younger sister
4.    A governess or housekeeper, usually the daughter of a peer fallen on hard times
5.    A young girl forced to wear a male disguise and work as a secretary/groom or something similar.
6.    A young American heiress, despising English society.
7.    A highwayman/urchin/thief by night, a respectable member of society by day.
8.    A young woman fighting to save her family from financial ruin, caused by the gambling habit of her brother or father, or even both.

The heroine is never:
1.    A respectable young woman with a good fortune looking for a future husband.
2.    A war widow, who has lost her husband in the Napoleonic wars and has now returned to society.
3.    The daughter of a City gentleman, looking to increase her social standing. This is Bad because it makes her look mercenary.
4.    Less than stunningly beautiful, clever and accomplished, even if she tries to hide these facts at the start of the story.

They meet:
1.    In a country inn, where they get snowed in.
2.    In a ballroom, where she hates him on sight.
3.    At the gates of a country house, where she mistakes him for the gardener or he mistakes her for a maid.
4.    On the road, he in his phaeton, she in her travelling carriage.
5.    At the altar.
6.    In a gaming hell where she is the stake.
7.    At a secluded lake where the heroine or hero is taking an impromptu bath.

They never meet:
1.    By being introduced by their parents, who want to see if they would like to make a match of it.
2.    By promenading in the park at the fashionable hour.
3.    They have always known each other, because society is small, and they are, in fact, distantly related.

1.    Hate each other on sight, but are filled with lustful thoughts
2.    He loves her, she hates him.
3.    She loves him, he hates her.

They never;
1.    Take a liking to each other without it being accompanied by lustful thoughts.

Note: 2 and 3 must be accompanied by a Big Misunderstanding. They must always fancy each other’s pants off on sight, or It Isn’t A Romance.

The first time they make love is:
1.    In the marriage bed (boring unless they met for the first time at the altar)
2.    In a small antechamber set conveniently close to a ballroom
3.    In a summerhouse
4.    In a small cottage where they’ve taken refuge from the storm
5.    In his library where she has gone in the middle of the night, barefoot, in search of a book to read. He is already there in his shirtsleeves, drinking.

The villain:
Choose one or two of the following:
1.    The hero’s brother who wants the title. He is usually handsome, etc, but not as handsome etc as the hero.
2.    The hero’s ex mistress (see below)
3.    The heroine’s father. He is usually a gambler who has lost the family fortune and now wants to sell the heroine in a card game.
4.    A man who wants the heroine, but isn’t prepared to marry her. He may abduct her, take her to Gretna, etc. to achieve his wicked end. He will not rape her, though it is usually a near thing. He often seems to be a pleasant character.

Secondary characters:
1.    The hero’s best friend. Usually another peer, with a set of problems of his own. He will get his own story later. Repeat as necessary to create a series.
2.    The heroine’s sister. She provides plot problems, adds comments, and is there because she’ll get her book later.
3.    The heroine’s closest friends. See heroine’s sister.
4.    The hero’s ex mistress. Jealous, experienced, may be the villain. When she is not, she is always jealous of the heroine, and she plots against her.

You may pick as many of the following as you wish, to give color to your story:
1.    An urchin, cheeky but very poor, a boon companion of the hero or heroine. This may be actually the heroine in disguise.
2.    An old retainer, a maid who used to be the heroine’s nurse. She is referred to by her Christian name and magically has all the skills required of a good lady’s maid.
3.    A valet. He may be either scoundrelly and talk with Dick Van Dyke Mockney, or superior, and talk like Jeeves.
4.    A butler. Superior, tall, talks like Jeeves, or short and fat and an old retainer who knows all the family by their first names, prefaced by “Miss” or “Master.”
5.    A Bow Street Runner, usually less intelligent than the hero or heroine. Always on the side of good, he is upright and honest (unlike the usual run of BSR’s in RL)
6.    An old man, who the heroine is required to marry to restore the family fortunes.

So what are you waiting for? Get writing!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wheat Clover and Coleseed

I was thinking what to post this morning on this grey November day and remembered I had a wonderful little book called "Seedtime & Harvest", the diary of an Essex farmer, William Barnard of Harlowbury.There are two entries on either side of today's date.
Nov 7 (1812)
The land is now more firm than it has been for some time. I have drilled 9 acres Upper stoney & finished sowing Wheat yesterday in Grassy piece, nearly the whole of which I have drilled & and have done 4 or 5 acres of my pea land over again; I fear Sweetendiness will be a very deficient plant. I had lodged 43 wether sheep in Hillyfield & last night 3 were slaughtered, the Offal left & carcasses taken away. I sowed 10 stetches of white wheat hither side of Nine acres & on the thirteenth stetch from this side began to sow 1 Quarter of Buncle Wheat I bought of Fresland. Grassy piece is now sowed with Day's Wheat except about three roods next to Woody piece.
Nov 10 (1821)
This has been a fine week since the 5 but on the 4 we had great storms of wind & rain. I have plowed at the other farm & carted haulm. My house was broken into & robbed of a gun,a coat, knives & forks, spoons, a desk and &c & without anyone being disturbed by them on the night of the 7th.

The spelling and punctuation are his.

I find it quite extraordinary that in both entries he reports he has been robbed as if it is commonplace and no more important than planting his wheat. In the first entry rustlers killed and took three sheep and and in the second his house was broken into and a substantial amount removed.
I love the way his farm is named so sensibly- Grassy piece, Woody piece etc.
I have no idea how much a a 'stetch' is or what 'haulm' might be. Any suggestions?
I think it's a pity Sweetendiness was a deficient plant or we might still have something with that wonderful name.
Fenella Miller
I now have four books with Musa Aurora Regency and 'Christmas at Hartford Hall' coming out in December and another one next year.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A Regency Moment

Last month, at the Regency Readers’ Day in London, I had the opportunity to try on Regency costume, courtesy of Jane Walton of Hands on History who specializes in both original and reproduction historical costumes. It was a taste only because Jane’s rack of clothes was in a public room and there was a limit to how far I was prepared to undress. Fortunately, my underwear was respectable so I stripped off my outer layer and Jane handed me a shift.

The shift was the basic item of female underwear; made of hard-wearing linen and easily washable. We know that, in 1789, Jane Austen bought enough Irish linen to make six shifts and four pairs of stockings. It was also surprisingly warm, which was just as well because it was a chilly autumn day.

Then I was handed what looked like an outside pillow-case with sleeves. This was my muslin gown and, at first, I just couldn’t see how one wore it. Jane explained that the drawstrings around the neck, wrists and under the bust allowed it to be gathered in and assured me that ‘one size fits all’. Sceptically, I put it on. Jane adjusted the drawstrings, arranged the gathers and, instantly, it was transformed into a charming gown. I looked at myself in the mirror and began to feel Regency. Together with the shift, it felt both light and warm. Suddenly, all those Regency heroines wearing the flimsiest of muslins in cold weather began to be credible.

I realized that turning a length of muslin into a wearable garment would be quick work for experienced needlewomen like Jane and her sister, Cassandra. Jane Austen’s letters to Cassandra are full of shopping for muslins. When staying with her brother Henry in London in 1811, for example, she went to Grafton House, and bought ten yards of a ‘pretty coloured muslin’ as well as some ‘bugle trimming’, silk stockings (extravagant!), a ‘very pretty little bonnet’ and a pelisse – but the buttons were expensive.

It was time for my spencer, a cropped jacket in a red, thick velvet-like kerseymere (I’d always wondered what kerseymere looked like) with some distinctly military silver frogging. It was close fitting, boned and it made you stand up straight.

Then came the poke bonnet. Oh dear, it looked as though I was going to be blinkered like a horse. But no, in spite of appearances to the contrary, the brim started quite far back on the head and I could see perfectly easily. Jane tied the ribbons in a de rigeur bow at the side.

So there I was and it all felt surprisingly warm, comfortable and natural – see photo. Shame about the watch, though.

Elizabeth Hawksley

Thursday, November 03, 2011

It's that time of year again!

I know it's only November but I am going to mention the dreaded "C" word. After all, the shops are already full of glitter and presents and the television is showing ads for the latest perfume and all those things you never realised you needed. And the publishing world is gearing up for the festive season, too.

My latest Sarah Mallory is on the shelves now, as part of a Christmas Special called One Snowy Regency Christmas.  I love the cover of this book, it looks like a beautiful Christmas card, but I wanted to share with you the painting that was the inspiration for this book.

We were on holiday on Exmoor, staying at the beautiful little village of Porlock and when we were at one of the local inns, the Ship, I saw a copy of the painting below.  It is called "Journey's End" by a local artist, Maurice Bishop.  Once I had seen it I knew I just had to have a copy, and at the same time my mind was working overtime, thinking of a story that involved my hero and heroine being snowbound in a house on the moors. I also wanted to use Porlock, so I changed its name of the village to Mersecombe, but kept an inn called the Ship.

Then, as we were making our way home from the holiday, my editor rang to ask if I could write a special Christmas story.  The timing could not have been better, and the result is "Snowbound with the Notorious Rake."

So, what do you think of when you see "Journey's End"? I have a framed print on my wall now (signed by the artist) and I must admit, I think there may be several other stories to come out of this yet…..

I am very grateful to Maurice Bishop for allowing me to use this image, and if you want to see more of Maurice's work, go to

Sarah Mallory

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Geffrye Museum

Tucked away near Shoreditch is the Geffrye Museum. It doesn't look like a museum from the outside, it looks like a long, graceful Georgian almshouse set in a pleasant garden - which is what it used to be.

Today, it is a lively, vibrant space housing interiors-through-the-ages. You walk from a hall in 1630

past a drawing room in 1830 right up to rooms on the more recent past. It is fascinating to see how tastes change - and how growing affluence is reflected in the furnishings.

There is more to the museum than just a collection of rooms, however - small gardens outside also reflect the changing times with different plantings and different designs.

Fascinating - well worth a visit.

Jan Jones