Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lady Of Shadows

My new Anne Ireland book is available now through Museitup.com or amazon in kindle. You can also upload it to your computer if you do not have a kindle.  A big sweeping Medieval story in two books it forms part of a series, called Sisters of the Ring.

In a time when women were often persecuted, the sisters existed to help each other. Most wanted only to help the sick and poor but some sought power from the dark lord.

The lady had powers beyond her sisters but she was innocent and did not understand them.  Rhianna was forced to marry the man whose father killed her mother, but she falls in love with him.  Discovering she is not a virgin he thrusts her from his bed.  Can Rhianna ever convince him that she was raped by her cousin - and can she find happiness?

Hope you enjoy this book, which is special for me.

Love to all

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Romantic Ruins

Raglan Castle
I don’t know what it is about ruins that make them so romantic, but personally I find them irresistible.  There’s something incredibly atmospheric – if slightly sad and wistful – about a ruined castle or abbey and I love to just sit there and daydream about the past!

The Moat at Raglan
I’m lucky enough to live fairly close to a spectacular one - Raglan Castle.  Situated on top of a hill in the picturesque landscape of south-east Wales, it’s not far from the border to England and therefore in a very strategic place.  It was apparently one of the last medieval castles to be built in either of these countries and it must have been absolutely glorious in its hey-day!  Even now, when nothing remains except for some towers, walls, staircases and the lovely moat, it gives a sense of splendour and it’s not difficult to imagine what it was like.

The views from the top of the Great Tower are breathtaking, quite literally in my case since I’m not a fan of heights and find it a bit scary up there.  In contrast, there is a small and very dark basement room with no views at all apart from a glimpse of sky. I’m guessing this was used as a prison, but I didn’t like that much either and couldn’t wait to get back out!  And I when I visited it was fairly warm, so imagine being stuck in the cold, dark and damp of winter down there – horrible.  There are various other buildings inside the outer walls (some with their beautifully carved window frames still in place) and courtyards, all showing that it must have been a very large complex indeed.

The buildings currently on the site date from between the 15th and 17th centuries, and were owned by the Herbert and Somerset families respectively.  When they lived there, it was apparently a luxurious dwelling surrounded by parkland, water gardens and terraces, although still a proper, fortified castle.  It was held by the Cavaliers during the Civil War, but sadly the Parliamentarians took it in 1646 after a 90 day siege, and then deliberately sacked it so that it couldn’t be used again for military purposes.  A lot of the building materials were looted and reused elsewhere.  Particularly sad to note for us book-lovers is that Raglan Castle’s library, reputedly one of the finest in Europe, was also destroyed.  By the time Charles II ascended the throne, the Somerset family decided not to try and restore the place, which seems a great shame, but it is still beautiful.  If you haven’t been there, I would thoroughly recommend a visit as I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
Some of my other favourite ruins include Tintagel Castle, perched so precariously up on a cliff overlooking the sea, and Urquhart Castle next to Loch Ness.  Do you have a favourite one and, if so, why do you like that one in particular?  I’d love to know.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pride and Pyramids

I’m starting to get very excited about the release of Pride and Pyramids on July 1st. It’s long been a dream of mine to write a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, and although I’ve written a bit about the  Darcys after their marriage before, this is the first full-length novel I’ve written about them (apart from Mr Darcy, Vampyre, which is a paranormal and so I’m not counting it here.)

 The first time I wrote about the Darcys post- marriage was in Mr Darcy’s Diary, which continues for a few months after the wedding. Then of course I wrote Mr Darcy, Vampyre, which is a what-if story. Then, set in the real world again, I wrote a novella called A Christmas Present for the anthology A Darcy Christmas. It gave me a chance to write about the birth of the Darcys’ first child, a little girl named Elizabeth after her mother, but called Beth by everyone.

 When I turned over various ideas for a full length novel, I came up against a variety of stumbling blocks: there were already a lot of books about the Darcys settling into Pemberley and continuing with their lives and I couldn’t see the point of writing another one; then, too, there was the problem that a book needs tension and conflict to keep the pages turning, but I didn’t see the Darcys settling into a future of tension and conflict. I didn’t want to give them affairs or miscarriages or marital difficulties. I wanted to give them a happy ever after.

 The problems seemed insurmountable, until one day I was chatting to one of my friends, Jacqueline Webb. Jackie and I have known each other for years. We met at an RNA chapter meeting and as we both write historical romance we had plenty to talk about, as you can imagine. Well, on this occasion, we got onto the subject of Pride and Prejudice and the difficulty of writing a sequel. Jackie had already written a book set in Egypt and suddenly something clicked. Egyptology was very big in Jane Austen’s day and no one had ever taken Elizabeth and Darcy to Egypt before.

 Emails flew back and forth as our ideas began to take shape. We knew that Mr Darcy’s father died an early death, and this could be owing to a weakened constitution following a mysterious trip to Egypt with Colonel Fitzwilliam’s father – something which was accurate for the period. We decided to give Colonel Fitzwilliam a younger brother who had been inspired by his father’s adventures and who would infect the Darcys with his enthusiasm. The book would have excitement and adventure courtesy of their travels (together with tombs and pyramids and a very spooky Egyptian doll)  and plenty of romance courtesy of Elizabeth and Darcy’s ongoing love for one another.

 We were both seized by the idea and set to work. The book quickly took shape, and when I pitched it to my editor at Sourcebooks, Deb Werksman,  she loved the idea. She loved the book, too, and we all love the cover.  It has just the right feel for the novel, and, best of all, it includes a portrait of Elizabeth and her youngest daughter.

The portrait is by Elisabeth le Brun, a real life painter who is mentioned in the novel as she is about to paint a portrait of the Darcy family. I have always loved her portraits, and Darcy echoes my feelings when he says how much he admires le Brun’s informal style, and how well it will suit Elizabeth.

 The advanced reading copies have already gone out, and I was thrilled to see this advance review on Goodreads. I hope you love the book as much as we do!

Amanda Grange

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gardening Gloves On Ladies!

I have just managed to spend an entire day in the garden without being rained on! This was so lovely that I thought I would share some Regency prints with a gardening theme in the hope that they will inspire you, even if it is raining again when you read this.

The garden was very important to the Regency lady as part of her elegant surroundings, a way of displaying her taste and income. Having the latest plants, the most fashionable furnishings and statues and a range of interesting walks for her guests would all be of importance. I am not sure whether these two are a married couple or whether a little light flirtation is about to take place! (Le Beau Monde or Literary & Fashionable Magazine August 1807)

The formal garden close to the house was the place for ornamental plants, but anyone with an estate would also have pleasure grounds with shrubberies and woodland walks. Picnics could be held there and there is definitely some rather scandalous behaviour taking place in this detail from a print in the French Modes et Mannieres series.

If you could afford it you would have a gardener, of course, like this chap drawn by Pyne in his book of examples for aspiring amateur artists to include in their own compositions. Their employers, however, often developed an interest in hands-on gardening themselves - which probably was not very popular with the real workers!

This printed plate above shows a gentleman showing off what I first thought was a flower. But close examination shows that it is actually a cutting - it even has the correct sloping cut at the bottom. Presumably it is from some exotic new plant he has acquired for his collection. I suspect his companion is feigning interest - perhaps she would prefer a rose in flower.

Ladies could be involved in gardening too, although their idea of appropriate clothing was not quite what we would put on for some vigorous digging. This print from Ackermann's Repository for 1820 shows an elaborate walking dress and pretty straw bonnet. A certain informality is implied by the untied bonnet ribbons and the loose neckerchief and the lady is not wearing gloves. She appears to have just been watering some foxgloves.

And finally, also from Ackermann, here is a gorgeous outfit for strolling in the garden or posing on a Classically-inspired stone seat. I somehow don't think this lady is going to be potting up foxgloves in that outfit!

Louise Allen

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ale flutes

Ales and elegance
In the Georgian and Regency periods ale was drunk by everyone from labourers to the gentry. One reason for this was that water purity could not be guaranteed. Another was that at this time farms and country houses were brewing their own ales of different strengths. Small beer – a weak thirst-quenching brew - was a staple at harvest time when each man was allowed a gallon a day.  Strong ales were brewed for the country gentleman’s table, often laid down and kept for several years in anticipation of a coming-of-age, wedding, or the birth of an heir.
Before the C16th household beer was drunk from horn cups.  As most farms had horned cattle, the raw material was easy to obtain and making horn cups quickly became a recognised craft. Demand was high as they were light, strong, and easy to carry when travelling.
While the horn cups used by servants and labourers were simple in design, those made for the wealthy often had rims decorated with silver or pewter.
By the mid C16th glasses were becoming more popular among ale drinkers. Most were imported from Venice and made of soda glass. The milky appearance of this glass disguised the cloudiness of home-brewed beer and ale.
By 1670 not only were brewers developing methods that enabled them to produce clearer ales, George Ravenscroft had invented lead-based glass.  This was much clearer and, swiftly growing in popularity, it soon replaced Venetian glassware.  
C18th English ale glasses bore no resemblance to the chunky glass tankards of today.  Because ales were much stronger the glasses were smaller. Only four or five inches high they held approximately two and a half ounces.  They were also elegant, beautiful, and comparable in design and decoration to wine glasses. 
Ale flutes appeared in the mid 1700s. Made of high-quality glass they had a narrow elegant bowl on a long decorative stem with a circular foot, and only an engraving of hops or barley on the bowl distinguished them from those used for champagne.  
When a laid-down ale was served at a country-house celebration, the staff always prepared for extra work as guests who mistakenly believed ale to be less potent than wine were often discovered unconscious throughout the house and garden.  Found and put to bed they returned home in the morning considerably wiser.

Jane Jackson.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Goodbye, Richard and Rose

This month I said goodbye to Richard and Rose. But it’s not always as easy as that, is it? Richard and Rose have been with me as long as I’ve been a published author. I’ve recounted their adventures in eight books, from their meeting in a ruined house in Yorkshire to their final (for now) adventure in Lisbon.
The books weren’t meant to have places as titles, but it turned out well, as it happened. I’m not the best at titles, but this just happened, as so much of the books did.
Anyway, here’s an extract for you and a buy link. If you haven’t read them before, it’s probably best to start with “Yorkshire,” since the series is about the same couple.
For those of you who have shared the stories with me, thank you.

They can escape winter’s cold, but their nemesis has a long, icy reach.

Richard and Rose, Book 8

On a ship bound for Portugal with her children and the man she loves, Rose should be blissfully happy. Except Richard treats her like she’s made of porcelain. She’s recovered from the childbed fever that nearly killed her, yet he won’t share her bed and it’s driving her mad.

To win him back body and soul, she resolves to use every wicked, seductive trick he’s taught her. Until a possible attempted murder on board puts them both on alert for the trouble that seems to dog their every move.

Richard is almost relieved to have something to investigate. He loves Rose too much to risk losing her—which is exactly what could happen if he gets her pregnant again. When it becomes clear a series of accidents is no such thing, they realize an old enemy has caught up with them.

It’s imperative for Richard and Rose to work together to defeat this foe, but their new distance could prove their undoing. Especially when Mother Nature conspires to make them endure one last, desperate test of their love… 

Product Warnings
The earth is moving for Richard and Rose, but this time it’s not entirely their fault. 

October, 1755
A shiver shook me as I stood at the ship’s rail. I wasn’t aware that Richard had noticed until soft fabric slid over my shoulders and touched my forearms. I should have known better. These days, Richard rarely kept his attention far away from me. He was ever alert for signs of fatigue or discomfort, but that made me more aware, more jumpy, not less.
“Thank you.” I didn’t recognise the shawl, a delicate confection of light woollen material in pale blue, lined with silk, embroidered with tiny flowers. I turned my head so our lips were close. “This is lovely. When did you get it?”
“At our last port of call. I saw it in a shop window, and I wanted to see you in it. It said ‘Rose’ to me.” Once he would have kissed me. Now he drew back and smiled, the signs of tension difficult to see. But I knew him too well by now. The tiny lines at the corners of his mouth deepened, freezing the smile in place.
He took his hands away from my forearms, although several layers of fabric lay between my skin and his. Every time he withdrew from my touch, I felt him drawing away from me. Every time he did it, he could do it that much easier, that much more naturally. His eyes held wariness new to us, and something else I shied away from defining, but in my heart I knew to be fear.
Fear that I’d leave him, fear that I’d die. When I’d lain in the throes of childbed fever, he’d watched while I fought for my life, held my hand, pleaded with me to stay with him. If not for him, I might not have come back.
I hated the weakness, and even though months had passed since the physicians had declared my life out of danger, I still felt waves of fatigue, even though I improved every day. More than anything else, I hated the way my husband avoided touching me. He did it now, his fingers barely skimming over the shawl as he withdrew from me.
I turned back to the sea, letting the fresh wind whip away my stinging tears. Tears caused by self-pity, brought on by exhaustion, with a good dash of frustration. I couldn’t pin Richard down to explain or discuss our current dilemma. I’d have more success catching grains of salt. I wanted, more than anything else, for him to hold me while I slept. I wanted the caresses and the kisses that made my days complete. I wanted what we’d had until last July. I wanted my husband back.
I turned back to him and smiled brightly. “We should see the port soon.”
The coast fringed our sight, a low, blue-purple edge to the grey, white-tipped sea. By now I could hardly detect the swells that moved our ship and brought us closer to our destination, hardly hear the slap of the sea against the body of the ship. It didn’t hurt that we occupied one of the most well-equipped vessels in existence. The staterooms were so luxurious they wouldn’t have gone amiss at Versailles.
This situation between us was driving me insane. The politeness and care from everyone, especially Richard, the perfection of everything I touched or handled, the way even the boards beneath my feet on deck were thoroughly sanded and scrubbed every day before I awoke—I wanted some good, old-fashioned real life. I wanted to smell the horse dung in the streets, hear the raucous voices of traders, see a room where the floorboards dipped and shifted from years of honest use. I wanted to smash a glass, destroy a porcelain plate, mar this perfection, but I couldn’t. The yacht didn’t belong to me, and while the owner, my brother-in-law Gervase, wouldn’t object if I destroyed the whole of the grand dining room below, I couldn’t repay his generosity that way. Our frequent stops ashore, ostensibly to explore the places we reached but in reality to rest, had come as a relief to the glorious perfection of the yacht and the way everyone treated me like fragile glass.
“You’re tired. You need to rest.” Richard drew the wrap closer around me, covering my already well-covered bosom, but when I lifted my hand to touch his, to steal just a little of the contact I craved, he moved his hand away, as if he hadn’t seen my gesture. I knew better, but I said nothing. “We won’t arrive in Lisbon for a few hours yet. Plenty of time for you to recruit your strength.”
I couldn’t deny my growing fatigue. “I would perhaps like to go downstairs for an hour.”
“Are you hungry? Would you like to eat something?”
I shook my head. “No.” I’d long tired of the constant pressure to eat and build up my stamina, but I’d lost a lot of weight, so I did my best to regain it. I could no longer indulge in pleasing myself alone. I had children to care for now.
I took his arm when he held it out to me, enjoying the feel of his hard muscles under the green wool of his coat. It was the nearest I’d been to touching him for some time. I took anything I could get these days, a beggar for contact with him.
I descended the steep stairwell below as if born to it. At first I’d found negotiating the yacht difficult, but I’d accustomed myself to the stairs, just as I’d grown used to the gentle but constant movements under my feet. The white-painted corridor led to a series of staterooms, and the gentle sound of a child’s laughter drifted out to us as we approached. Our daughter, Helen, every day growing more enchanting. I would visit her later. And our other children, still babes in arms, who did not yet recognise me as their mother, but they would, in time.
Richard opened the door and ushered me into a spacious stateroom, which I occupied on my own. Before my illness Richard and I had never spent a night apart. Now we never spent a night together.
“Shall I send Nichols to you?”
Defiance shot through me. Why should I be the only one suffering? “No, thank you. You can help. You always said you knew your way around a lady’s garments better than any maid.” I smiled but received none in answer. Only a still watchfulness, his classical features set in an expression of repose. I tossed my new shawl on a chair. “If you could just help loosen my stays at the back, I’ll be perfectly comfortable.”
I unhooked my gown at the front, let it slide off my shoulders and fall to the floor. All I could feel behind me was a hot breath on my nearly bare shoulder. Just one breath. He stepped back.
I hoped the restraint was hurting him as much as it hurt me. After all, these days it wasn’t of my doing. I waited, and then felt his fingers on the strings of my stays. Hard, viciously ripping at the laces, as if he wanted to get the task over with as fast as possible. When he touched my skin, his fingers skimmed past the stays to linger on my shoulder blades, and I revelled in his touch, however slight. He sucked in a deep breath, his gasp harsh in the near silence of the stateroom.
I wouldn’t tell him I could have done it myself. These stays hooked down the front, the back laced to fit me. My maid Nichols would curse when she found the laces undone. She would just have to put up with it. I wanted to force him back into some kind of intimacy. Surely he couldn’t keep this distance up for much longer.
I turned back and smiled, keeping it friendly. A sultry invitation would have him running. “Thank you.”
He spun around and dragged down the covers on the bed. The scent of lavender from the sheets wreathed around us. I’d come to associate that aroma with closeness. It perfumed our sheets, my private linens, and warmed from body heat, escaped when we undressed. But that was before my illness. Now it meant loneliness and solitude.
I loosened the outer petticoat and the quilted one I’d chosen to wear that day in place of panniers, leaving me in my stays, shift and under-petticoat. Then I kicked off my shoes. That should be enough to tempt him. My breasts were more exposed than hidden, my arms bare, the shape of my body easily visible.
Not that I expected it now, but constant repetition of this scene would weaken his resolve. I would not lose the battle to recommence the intimacy that had made both of us so happy such a short time before.
He forced a smile and glanced at the bed. “In you get. I’ll have Nichols wake you in two hours.”
I climbed in, trying to tempt without being obviously provocative. He tossed the sheets over me and left without a backward glance, without bending to kiss me. He hardly looked at me. I dashed away incipient tears and set myself to my repose. Although I didn’t really need it anymore, I would take all the respite I required to ready myself for the fight ahead. The fight to get my husband back in my bed.
Buy the book from Samhain here and from Amazon here.

Lynne Connolly

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Duke's Reform

Available from Amazon Kindle
 Yesterday I published a brand new Regency on Amazon Kindle. This is an exciting experience for me.  Being able to release an unpublished book so easily is amazing. Of course there are expenses - but publication is free.
 I actually receive a higher percentage in royalties from my two publishers but believe I will sell more copies of The Duke's Reform with the price kept low. Editors etc. at the digital first houses are paid on sales - they haven't made a fortune from me. I know of one author, with the same house as me, who has sold only 20 copies of her book since last November. (I've already sold twice that of The Duke's Reform in 24 hours.) How is anyone going to make money from that? I think Kindle is going to become the place both established and new authors look at first.
Here is an extract - hope you enjoy it enough to buy the book. 

Chapter One

Grosvenor Square
Alex glared at his lawyer. How dare he have the temerity to interfere with his life? 'Dewberry, you forget yourself. When I take a wife is entirely my concern, kindly don't forget that.'
      'Forgive me, your grace, but I owe it to your father to speak plainly. Your dissolute lifestyle these past five years is a matter of grave concern. If you are determined to destroy your health in this way then could I ask you to find yourself a suitable wife and set up your nursery before matters overtake you?'
      'I have no wish to marry again, I have nothing to offer apart from my title and wealth. I cannot expect a young woman to accept me as I am.' Dewberry's look of astonishment almost made him laugh. 'The sort of woman who would be satisfied with just that is not someone I would wish to bear my children.'
      'There are dozens of eligible young ladies in the marriage mart this year who would think themselves fortunate to be selected by yourself. You are a handsome man, if you will forgive me for saying so, your grace, and in your prime.'      
'On the outside perhaps, but I no longer have it in me to be a caring partner. It would be a marriage of convenience; my wife would have to understand it will be a business arrangement. She to provide me with children and I, in return, to keep her in luxury for the rest of her life.'
He yawned, it had been a late night and he had not yet been to bed. The black crow was staring at him expectantly, he'd get no peace until he agreed.
      'I shall do as you suggest.'
      The elderly lawyer beamed. 'I should be happy to arrange for you to meet suitable young ladies, there are several debutantes who would be ideal.'
God's teeth! 'I shall do my own selecting, Dewberry.' He raised one eyebrow. 'I do not expect my search to become common gossip.'
      The man coloured. 'Of course not, your grace. Anything that is said in my chambers remains confidential. However, your appearance at Almacks …'
'Almacks? I'd rather have my teeth pulled them go there. I shall attend a few functions and see for myself what is on offer.'
      He strode from the office determined to get away from Town. Whatever Dewberry said matchmaking mamas would soon be on the lookout. He didn't want to go to Newcomb, he would go to Norfolk and do some shooting. Keep his head down until he was obliged to appear in public when the Season started in March. He'd find a few cronies to accompany him, there were always fellows willing to follow his lead as long as he picked up the bill.
Lady Isobel Drummond stormed out of the library. To be ignored by her parents unless they
required her assistance with her many younger siblings was one thing, to be told it was her duty to marry a wealthy man in order to save the family from ruin, was quite another.
      Gathering her dogs from the kitchens she snatched up her cloak and pushed her feet into the wooden clogs she used for gardening. She had to get out, get away from the house, give herself time to recover her composure. She paused, she would dearly love to run upstairs and change into her habit. A wild gallop across the Fens was exactly what she needed, but that would mean risking meeting her weeping mother and furious father. No, far better to walk.
      Othello and Ebony barked and raced around her in circles, as eager as she to be away from Drummond Hall. It was a blustery November day, a hint of snow on the wind whipped from the sea. Thank God she did not have to make a decision about going to London to join her aunt and uncle for the season until after Christmas.
      Deep in contemplation she failed to hear the rattle of a carriage approaching at speed. Ebony barked sharply and she looked round. Instinct made her throw herself prone, her bladder almost emptied as a team of horses, followed by the wheels of the carriage, thundered above her. For a moment she was unable to move, shock rendering her almost insensible. Then righteous indignation flooded through her and she pushed herself onto her knees. She came face-to-face with a veritable giant, and not a particularly friendly one at that.
      'God's teeth, woman, what the hell do you think you're doing wandering down the middle of highway? I could have killed you.'
      Spitting mud in his direction she glared back into his furious face. 'Are you insane, sir? This is not a toll road but a country lane. What would you have done if there had been a flock of sheep across your path?'
      In answer he reached out and hauled her to her feet, then dropping to his knees, with firm hands brushed off the worst of the debris from her person. At every touch she flinched, unused to any gentleman taking such liberties. For some reason her anger dissipated to be replaced by a strange internal heat that followed the path of his fingers. She found herself gazing down at his dark hair which curled intriguingly over the collar of his many caped coat.
      Enough was enough. 'Desist at once, sir, I have no wish to be manhandled by you. I am quite capable of removing the dirt for myself. You had best look to your team, your carriage is in imminent danger of tipping into the ditch.'
His head shot up; his eyes were a peculiar shade halfway between blue and black, his nose patrician and his lips mobile. Warmth spread across her breasts and into her face. She could not tear her glance away; she was pinned like a butterfly on a board by the glitter in his eyes. Then it was gone and he was towering above her.
      'Dammit! Out of the way, madam, haven't you done enough damage already this morning?'
      The spirited team stamped and tossed their heads in impatience and the rear wheel of the vehicle began to slide inexorably backwards. Without thinking, she raced to the lead horse and snatched the bit. The gentleman shouted from behind the carriage.
      'Good girl, move them forwards as rapidly as you can.'
Ignoring his instructions, she was well able to handle his horses without his highhanded
intervention, she urged the chestnut sideways, following her instincts. Going this way would move the wheel away from danger far more efficiently. The team threw their weight into the traces and the carriage shot forward removing the wheel from danger. Unfortunately the irascible gentleman fell headlong into the ditch instead.
      The air was blue, she thought it wise to absent herself as hastily as possible. Quickly checking the brake was on and the reins securely tied around the pole, she prepared to creep away. Although it wasn't her fault he'd fallen, no doubt he would blame her for his foolhardiness as he had done before.
      She prepared to make a run for it. Too late! A dripping figure emerged from behind the horses and strode towards her. She couldn't help herself; her scream echoed down the lane. Suddenly two black shapes hurtled past and for the second time the unfortunate gentleman was tipped backwards into the noxious water.
      Not waiting to see him emerge and seek revenge on the person who was responsible for dumping him twice into the ditch, she raced full pelt down the lane. She scrambled over a five barred gate and tore across the meadow scattering cows in all directions in her head long flight. Her dogs were beside her, tongues lolling out, obviously delighted with the game.
Alexander shook his head, sending foul water in all directions. He scraped the muck from his eyes and watched his quarry vanish down the lane. Who the devil was she? Dressed like a servant but quite obviously gently born. She was a conundrum. He stepped out of the ditch and propped himself against the carriage wheel in order to remove his boots and tip out the water.  It was fortunate they no longer fitted him as snugly as they'd used to.
      He tossed his sodden cape on to the box and stared gloomily at his ruined topcoat. The blue superfine jacket had cost him a pretty penny and it, like the rest of his garments, was quite beyond salvage. The young woman was right to castigate him, he had been driving far too fast. He shrugged, he seldom drove any other way, caring little if he came to grief. However, he had no wish to take anyone else with him if he went, and certainly not the lovely young termagant he'd just encountered.
      He checked his horses were none the worse their experience and then leaped into his carriage and recovered the reins. His breeches were so wet he slid from side to side as the curricle gathered speed. He had no option, unless he wished to nosedive over the edge he must return to his hunting box at a walk.
      His mouth curved as he recalled the shapely young woman with abundant russet curls and sparkling green eyes. His groin tightened as he relived the delightful few moments when he'd been removing the debris from her person. Perhaps that old fool Dewberry was right; now was the time to put his house in order and find himself another wife.
      For the first time in many years his pulse quickened. He would discover who the young woman was - perhaps she would do? He frowned. What was he thinking of? The last person he required as his wife was a spirited girl who would make demands on him that he would be unable to fulfil. He had his mistress to take care of his bodily needs. What he wanted was a meek submissive girl, of impeccable pedigree, who would be prepared to remain in the country and provide him with the necessary heir. 

best wishes

Thursday, June 07, 2012

River Pageants

One of my favourite aspects of the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations was the Thames River Pageant.  It was a magnificent spectacle. Throughout British history the River Thames has played a vital role as a highway and it has witnessed many river pageants, fairs and celebrations. It connected royal palaces and pleasure gardens and was itself a focus of entertainment and merrymaking. In 1662 there was a famous “Aqua Triumphalis” when the Lord Mayor and the City of London entertained King Charles II and his bride Catherine of Braganza with a display of 10 000 ships. Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary of “the most magnificent triumph that ever floated on the Thames, considering the innumerable boates and vessells dress’d and adorn’d with all imaginable pomp”, with “musiq and peals of ordnance from both ye vessels and the shore”.

During the 18th century the Thames, London's "grandest street," featured in a number of paintings of great events such as the annual Lord Mayor's Procession. In 1806 it was packed with boats when Lord Nelson's body was taken from Greenwich to lie in state at Whitehall and in 1814 the frozen Thames hosted a celebration of a different sort, the Great Frost Fair. One of the other events depicted on canvas is the departure of King George IV for Scotland in 1822 showing the Royal Yacht surrounded by Thames barges and steamers at Greenwich, with a crowd cheering him on his journey.

The 19th century saw several big pageants on the Thames. In 1817 the Strand Bridge at Waterloo was opened by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Wellington, attended by a grand military cavalcade. New London Bridge was opened in 1831. There was a flotilla on the river and a grand banquet in a pavilion on the bridge itself. One commentator wrote: "every part of the river's bold and extensive sweep was crowded with vessels laden as heavily as possible with spectators." All the boats were decorated with rainbow colours.

A splendid exhibition at the National Maritime Museum called "Royal River" gives a taste of Royal river pageants through the last 500 years and a wonderful slideshow on the BBC website also gives a flavour of the many different pageants on the Thames throughout history and the type of boats taking part.