Monday, August 27, 2012

The Bastard

Hi everyone.  Just wanted to tell you about this new Anne Ireland book.  It is published by Leap of Faith Publishers.  It is a saga of love, hatred, revenge and betrayal.  You can find it at Leap of Faith, Amazon Barnes and Noble and some other outlets.

Recently, I put A Shocking Scandal on free promotion. Unfortunately, during the rewite of the plot I did some name changes and didn't quite get them all when I revised.  I've now revised again and think I got them all.  I shall put it on free again next month or when I'm able so if anyone got the faulty book please replace it with my apologies.  I suppose it went up too quickly.

New Mills and Boon Christmas Special coming in November and another Dynasty in December.

Love to all, Linda /Anne.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Searching for Captain Wentworth - my new book.

Searching for Captain Wentworth - Jane Odiwe

My latest book, Searching for Captain Wentworth is published on September 7th - though it is possible to order it now through Amazon and the usual channels.

I wanted to write something a little different from my usual Jane Austen sequel and have always wanted to try my hand at a contemporary romance. I decided to combine the two in a time travel book, another favourite genre, and I enjoyed writing it enormously!

At the beginning of the book, my heroine Sophie has a broken heart and is feeling very fed up with the world. At the invitation of an aunt, she takes herself off to Bath for a holiday and finds herself living next door to the house Jane Austen lived in 200 years ago.

It's not long before strange things start happening and when Sophie finds an ancient glove dropped by her mysterious neighbour, Josh, she is whisked back into the past where she meets Jane Austen and her brother Charles, a handsome lieutenant on the frigate, Endymion. Sophie is soon enjoying the delights of balls and parties with her friends, living the life of her ancestor and namesake, Sophia Elliot. Whilst her friendships with the Austens could not be better or more exciting, Sophie has to contend with her family who are a nightmare! Her father is a snob and her sisters are far from the affectionate siblings she always dreamed of having.

In the present, Sophie's friendship with Josh gets off to a shaky start. She cannot help being attracted to a man who loves Jane Austen's Persuasion as much as she does - though she's determined not to fall for any man again. Besides, it seems Josh is already taken ...

Torn between her life in the modern world and that of the past, Sophie's story travels two hundred years and back again as she tries to find her own Captain Wentworth. And as she comes to believe that may depend upon not only upon risking everything but also changing the course of history, she learns that she isn't the only one caught in a heartbreaking dilemma. Her friend, Jane Austen has her own quest for happiness, her own secrets and heartache.

I've blended fact and fiction together, drawing on Jane Austen's life, novels and letters in an attempt to create a believable world of new possibilities behind the inspiration for Jane Austen's beloved novel, Persuasion.

"Searching for Captain Wentworth" is a new delightful, unmissable read for anybody loving Austen-inspired fiction. Maria Grazia - My Jane Austen Book Club Blog

I'm speaking at The Jane Austen Festival this year on September 19th at the BRSLI on Queen Square, Bath, so I'm very excited about that and would love to see you there!

There's also an International giveaway of my book on Misty Braden's Book Rat Blog - there's still time to enter! I'll be giving away prizes on my blog on publication day - hope you can join me!

Jane Odiwe

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Going to the Ball ...

Ever since I was a little girl reading fairy tales, I’ve wanted to go to a ball.  The real Cinderella type event, complete with glittering chandeliers, handsome beaux and – most importantly – beautiful ball gowns.  The kind that features in most historical romances, especially the Regency ones.  If only …

I have been to what passes for a ball these days – a couple of American high school Proms and a university ball – but I must admit they fell a bit short of the perfect vision I had in my mind.  Possibly because my escorts weren't exactly ideal - one was a boy I didn’t really want to go with and another a boy I had to bribe as he didn’t really want to go!  Not the stuff of fairy tales really, is it?

And my dresses?  Well, they were very pretty and I was pleased with them at the time, but they weren’t what I would call proper ball gowns - I would have liked something a lot more glamorous.

So what should a real ball gown look like?  To find out, I recently went to the Victoria & Albert museum in London where they have an exhibition at the moment called ‘Ballgowns:  British Glamour Since 1950’.  It’s right next to the section of antique clothing, where you can find real Regency ball dresses (like the one in this drawing), so I had a look at those first in order to have something to compare with.  Then I headed into the new section and I wasn’t disappointed.
There were ball gowns in all manner of weird and wonderful styles – some stunningly beautiful, some downright strange and (to my mind) very unattractive.  And although I found the Cinderella type dresses I’d longed to wear myself, I discovered that I actually liked the simple styles best.  The kind of dress that flatters the wearer and enhances someone’s figure without being too over the top.

The materials used made a huge difference.  Latex, ostrich feathers, silvered leather and knitted foil might make you look twice at someone, but were just too peculiar for words!  Much more glamorous were dresses made of yards and yards of tulle with a silk under-skirt and bodice (the layers of tulle added depth and made for an ethereal quality – as in this drawing).  Or the ones sewn out of just silk, which shimmered beautifully on its own or was enhanced by the addition of Swarovski crystals, beads or pearls.  For me, silk and satin proved to be a definite must.

As the exhibition catalogue said, ball gowns have not followed fashion as much as other types of clothing, although I had no trouble pin-pointing which era the various dresses on show were from.  What they all shared though was that extra effort the designer had made, as well as the costly materials and ‘wow-factor’ that showed they were to be worn only for a very special event.  Even today, ball dresses are often hand made in order to make them unique and they incorporate the owner’s personal tastes.

We don’t often have occasion to wear such gowns these days, but it’s still fun to look at them and dream.  There are debutantes every year, of course, and I sometimes take a peek at their outfits in various magazines just to see what this year’s styles are like.  Movie premieres and events like the Oscars provide more chances for a few lucky ladies to show off stunning dresses and I admit I enjoy this vicariously.  They help me to imagine what someone going to a real ball must have felt like in all her finery.  And there are the royal occasions when visiting heads of state and their partners all dress up, providing some wonderful magazine spreads as well.

If you’re at all like me, in love with the idea of balls and ball gowns, I recommend seeing the V & A exhibition – it’s well worth a visit!


(Drawings © Josceline Fenton – the first one a ball dress ca 1820-25, English, and the second a dress in a similar style to some of the ones in the current exhibition where photography was not allowed)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pride and Pyramids

Pride and Pyramids is already out in the US, and already available elsewhere in all ebook formats, but the print version is not yet out in the UK. All that will change next Monday, when Pride and Pyramids hits the shops over here.

The book is set fifteen years after the end of Pride and Prejudice, and it shows Elizabeth and Darcy living out their happily ever after at Pemberley and at Darcy House in London. But when Mr Darcy's cousin, Edward Fitzwilliam, arrives, the Darcys are captivated by his enthusiasm for Egypt. Elizabeth's adventurous spirit is awakened and the Darcys - Elizabeth, Mr Darcy and their six children - set off for Egypt with Edward.

Whilst Elizabeth and Darcy are the centre of the book, there are plenty of new characters, too, not only Edward, but Sophie Lucas (who is Charlotte Lucas's youngest sister) and Paul Inkworthy, an artist, who accompany the Darcys. Paul, of course, is necessary to capture the trip in permanent form as there were no cameras available!

In this extract, Paul is capturing some of the exotic scenes to be found in Egypt. I found Travels in Egypt and Nubia by Giovanni Battista Belzoni particularly useful for research. Belzoni was a kind of Regency relic hunter, and his account of his experiences was invaluable in enabling me to add authentic descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of Regency Egypt to the novel.

Paul Inkworthy looked at the camel driver in front of him. He tried to keep his mind on his subject as he sketched the man’s long, flowing robe and character-full face, instead of letting his thoughts wander to the far more interesting subject of Miss Sophie Lucas.
Sophie had come to occupy his mind far more than was wise over the last few weeks. It had been impossible to escape her on the sea voyage, despite his noble intentions to stay away from her, as he knew full well that a poverty-stricken artist had nothing to offer a woman whose father was a knight. But now that they had arrived in Alexandria he knew that he must gradually withdraw his attentions, which had been more marked than they should have been, given that he was not in a position to support a wife. And so he had set out early that morning in order to remove himself from temptation.
Reminding himself that he was on the trip as the Darcys’ artist, he forced himself to pay attention to his work. He had promised Mr Darcy a faithful representation of all the varied scenes of Alexandria: the boats coming and going along the river; the little boys driving donkeys; the camels with water jugs on their backs; the men with their copper faces and their long robes; the women with their black hair and eyes; all the noise and confusion of a busy Egyptian port.
He finished the sketch of the camel driver and then flicked back through his sketchbook, marvelling at the opportunities that had come his way since setting out from England.
The earliest sketches were of the Darcys in their London home: Darcy standing in front of the fireplace; Elizabeth walking in the garden, with the wind whipping her skirt about her ankles; the children at work and play. But these soon gave way to a collection of drawings and paintings of the sea voyage, which had provided him with a chance to produce character sketches of the sailors as well. It had also given him an unprecedented opportunity to perfect his rendering of tall sailing ships, as well as to capture an endless array of seascapes, from calm to storm. In addition, the ports they had visited had given him a chance to sketch places as varied as Southampton and Malta.
And now he was in Alexandria, where the light effects alone would provide him with a year’s study as he sought to capture the way the air shimmered in the heat and the way the water dazzled under the full glare of the sun.
He picked up a half-finished painting and put it on his easel, returning to the scene he had abandoned half an hour earlier and, newly inspired, capturing the heat haze that had defeated him before.
He stood back to look at his painting when he was done, squinting against the bright Egyptian sun.
            ‘Exceptional,’ came a voice at his shoulder. ‘I have seen many artists at work here and they have all captured the scene in front of them to great effect. But you have caught the wind in the sails, the movement of the water, the bray of the camels and the scent of the spices. I have long been searching for an artist to record my travels and I have been on the point of making arrangements with three of them, but something always held me back. I was looking for something more, though I didn’t know what that something was. But now I know.  Whereas another artists will bring Egypt into my living room, you, dear sir, will transport my living room to Egypt.’

The man who accosts Paul is a wealthy English baronet, but it soon transpires that the baronet is not all he seems!

You can read the opening pages and find reviews on Amazon US  and   Amazon UK  , where it's available to buy now on Kindle. It's also available now from all bookshops in the US and will be available from book shops in the UK from Monday. Enjoy!

Amanda Grange

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Icecream Time

Summer has arrived at last and with it, the desire to eat ice cream!  The passion for ices is not a new one of course. By the beginning of the 19thc ice creams and water ices were an expected luxury at fashionable dinner parties. In the summer ladies would sit in their open carriages in Berkeley Square, in the shade of the great plane trees and eat ices while their male escorts lounged alongside.
The print above is of a French ice cream parlour with one young lady eating what looks like a strawberry ice while the others consult the menu board and flirt with the waiter.
These days we have fridges, freezers, ice cream makers and unlimited ice, but how did a 19thc cook manage to create ice-cold confections in the summer? Ice was cut from ponds and lakes in the winter and stored deep underground, packed in insulating straw in specially designed icehouses. Every stately home had one and in London establishments like Gunters would buy theirs from specialist wholesalers – some of whom cut their ice from the Regent’s Canal. By the 1840s ice was being shipped from the States and from Norway and special ice wells were dug to store it.
Once you had your ice (and had presumably removed the frozen pondweed and the occasional newt from it) it was crush and put into a pail. The pot containing the ingredients of the ice was put into this pail and then the ice was sprinkled with salt, lots of it, which lowers the temperature still further. I asked my scientist husband what the physics involved was and he said, “Complicated,” so I haven’t pursued it!

So here are some recipes for you to try. They all come from The Complete Confectioner of 1815, by the wonderfully-named Frederick Nutt. My copy of the books, as you can see from the title page, was originally owned by Mrs Davis of Moor Court and I don’t think she, or her cook, used it much because it is in pristine condition.
Please note – I haven’t tried any of these myself, so you are on your own if you attempt them!
The first ice cream recipe, for Barberry ice Cream, gives the method to be used for all the others (spelling and punctuation are Mr Nutt’s!):
Take a large wooden spoonful of barberry jam, and put it into a bason with one pint of cream; squeeze one lemon ion, mix it well; add a little cochineal to colour it; put it into the freezing pot and cover it; put the freezing pot into a pail and some ice all round the pot; throw a great deal of ice in the pail, turning the pot round for ten minutes; then open your pot, and scrape it from the sides, cover it up again, and keep turning it for some time, till your cream is like butter, and as thick; put it in your moulds, pit them into a pail, and cover it with ice and salt for three quarters of an hour, til you find the water is come to the top of the pail; do not be sparing of the salt, for if you do not use enough it will not freeze: dip your mould into water, and turn it out on your plate to send to table.
Among the familiar flavours are some less common – biscuit, brown bread, China orange, burnt filbert, burnt (I think we would call this caramel) and parmesan cheese.
The water ices  are very similar in method, although the ingredients are sieved very carefully before being frozen.

Louise Allen

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stretching my writing muscles

After an emotionally draining year caring for my Dad who died at the end of June, I desperately needed a break.  Opportunity knocked in the form of Writers' Holiday. I've been going every few years ever since Anne and Gerry Hobbs set it up 27 years ago. My early visits were as a delegate, and I attended the courses and lectures anxious to learn everything I could from professional authors who, having been there and done it, were so generous with their time and expertise.  
A few years later, after I'd had several novels published, I was thrilled to be invited to lead a course.  As far as I was concerned the only thing I was qualified to teach was what I had learned by doing. So the course I offered was The Craft of Novel Writing.  In the blurb I made it clear that I was not laying down rules, or claiming that mine was the only way, just that it had worked for me and might work for others.  I was really nervous and thought if ten people came I'd be thrilled and it would justify Gerry's invitation. Fifty-two turned up so we had to move into the lecture theatre. It was exhausting, inspiring, we all had a terrific time, and I was invited back to lead further courses.

But this year attending as a delegate offered me the chance to meet up with old friends and enjoy a refresher course in the techniques of writing.  Though I've 27 books published I still suffer doubts; still have days when my confidence is at basement level and dropping.   The longer I continue writing, the more I realise there's still so much I can learn. So though my original plan had been to use the escape from normal life to make progress on my current book, I decided instead to take each day as it came and enjoy every moment.  

After spending the first half of the week sitting in on Lesley Horton's Intermediate Novel course, Moving it On, I spent the second half at Stretching Your Writing Muscles given by historical novelist Elizabeth Hawksley, one of our HNUK bloggers and an inspiring teacher. 

As a reader I greatly admire the ability of poets to evoke emotion and images using very few words. But as a writer I have always preferred the broad canvas of a novel.  So when Elizabeth allowed us eight minutes in which to write a haiku, I had a rabbit-caught-in-headlights moment.  

Haiku is a Japanese form of poem containing 17 syllables. Not 17 lines, just 17 syllables. I knew that.  What I didn't know, and it was briefly paralysing to be informed, was that the first line must contain 5 syllables and evoke an image, the second 7 and a mood, and the third 5 and an observation.  My immediate reaction was I can’t. But I was there to have my writing muscles stretched, though I hadn't expected the rack!

We could choose any subject. My mind was blank. When Elizabeth suggested A Winter Evening I grabbed it like a lifebelt. Most of my lined A4 sheet ended up as scribbles.  But when Elizabeth called ‘time’ I was astonished to realise I had my 17 syllables.  Some of those read out were awesome.  Mine certainly wasn't. But I'd achieved more than I expected. Which reminded me of a very apt quote: Try, and you very well might. Don't, and you certainly won't.  I arrived home refreshed, invigorated and re-enthused about my book. Taking that brief step back helped me make a giant leap forward.   

Jane Jackson

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Napoleon and the Austrian Empire

I posted last month about the polyglot army of the Austrian Empire, with information gleaned from my visit to the Military Museum in Vienna.  But there's lots more stuff to see there.  Just looking at the exhibits gives a visitor a potted history of the French in Austria and Italy.

One of the first exhibits to fascinate me was this poster, dating from about April 1799.  (Napoleon was in Egypt at the time, so we can't blame him for this, though he'd been fighting in Italy in 1796-7)  The French text reads as follows:

"On the 9th of Floreal of the Year VII 
At nine in the evening
troops, assassinated
the minsters of the French Republic
Bonnier, Roberjot and Jean Debry
who were tasked by the Directoire
with negotiating the peace
at the Congress of Rastadt.

Their blood smokes... it will obtain vengeance."

It wasn't clear from the exhibits whether bloody vengeance was exacted by the French or not.  But they were bloody times, as we know, so it's probable.

Napoleon had conquered Italy after two separate campaigns and accepted the presidency of the Italian Republic in 1802.  I can't imagine he took much persuading!!   

Then, after he made himself Emperor of France in 1804, he crowned himself King of Italy as well, in 1805.  This picture, by Andrea Appiani, shows Napoleon in his pomp as King of Italy. 

But not everything went his way.  Eventually, he met defeat as well as victory.  First in Russia, and then later against a European alliance.

This is the famous picture by Johann Peter Krafft of the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig, in October 1813, with the three monarchs receiving the news of their victory.  The armies were huge, about half a million men in all, probably the biggest armies in the field until the First World War.  The casualties were also huge.  Tens of thousands of dead and wounded.

Left to Right: Tsar Alexander I, Emperor Francis of Austria, King Frederick William III of Prussia

The monarchs, as this detail from the Krafft picture shows, look proud of their success.  Also remarkably clean, I'd have said.  That could be just how the painter thought he should show them.  Alternatively, it could be because they were a long way from any actual fighting.  Take your pick. 

Eventually, Napoleon was beaten in France and was exiled to Elba.  The Vienna Museum has this coat with the legend "Russian officer's coat reportedly worn by Napoleon on his journey from Fontainebleau into exile on Elba in 1814, worn because it was feared there would be attempts on his life."  Is it true?  We can't be sure.  Lots of other paintings show Napoleon wearing this sort of coat at earlier stages of his career.  And since the museum's legend to the Krafft painting gives the date of the Battle of the Nations as 1817 (by which time Napoleon was fixed in St Helena) I'm not prepared to take everything the museum says as gospel.
Even if there are mistakes, though, I do still think it's worth a visit.  (It's a pity about the reflections on the glass cases, though.  I couldn't keep them out of my photographs.)


Monday, August 13, 2012

The Map Book

My grandfather was a builder. In the 1930’s, he was helping demolish an old house in the middle of Leicester. The house contained a library, and they piled up all the books and put them out for rubbish collection. My grandparents had a family of nine children and lived in a tiny house, so they didn’t have much room to keep things, but my mother held on to one of the books.

Screaming yet? Yes, I know. The story makes me shudder. My grandfather saved a few books he thought were interesting, and one of them was one my mother still treasures. We call it the Map Book, yes, with capital letters. The cover has fallen off, and the pages for Leicestershire are more worn than any of the others. The book is a mess, and we keep it in a portfolio these days.

I scanned it. Yes, I did. But I badly wanted a copy for research, so that was my only option. A few years ago I shared it with some authors, and I like to think that it’s helped in research.

The book is a comprehensive map of England and Wales, with each county having a separate section. One of the prints is labelled 1815, but the actual book was produced in 1819. The title page says it’s for coachmen and it would have been hugely useful

One of the appendices in the book lists routes through England and Wales, with the names of all the coaching inns and the places where respectable travellers can stay. It has each stage of the journey, so that when I want to plot a journey for my characters, I can follow one of these, and have them stay at the actual inns. Since I write books set in the 1750’s, I have to double check, but once I have the route, that’s relatively easy. For instance, turnpike roads made travel faster and more comfortable, so I’d check that the road existed in “my” era, and when it became a turnpike. And the inns that were there in 1819 might not have been there in 1754. They usually were, but not all inns were venerable institutions!

The separate sections for each county gives the county town, what it’s like, when market day is, and the other principal towns, as well as the large houses of note.

I’ve read it from fallen cover to fallen cover, and I can lose myself in this book. Apparently there were many other books like this, and they were produced regularly, some of them annually. Coachmen on the large coaches would have them as part of their kit, and interested travellers could plot routes and have them in their libraries, like the unknown person who owned the library in Leicester.

I thought you might like to look at a couple of plates, so I’ve picked the rather more battered Leicester ones.

Lynne Connolly

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Play at Cards

Play at                                                               
Regency Cards
I've just finished writing a Regency romance in which the characters play cards so I thought I would blog about the various games that were common in Jane Austen's time.
The table or room was often set aside the card players at any social gathering. In fact some parties were held just for the guests to play cards.
"The table or room set aside for card players is almost inevitable at any social gathering. Indeed, some parties are held for no other reason. Nearly everyone plays cards, so context often determines how enjoyable the game will be. Lively games with charming partners are enjoyable pastimes, while parties with no purpose other than making up with tables with dull company are to be appalled. In any event, everyone plays cards at some point, but his best to familiarise yourself with the rules of some of the most popular games."
Whist: related to the modern game of bridge, was often played and the rules are the same now as they were then.
Vingt –et –un: also known as Blackjack and Pontoon. Again the rules with the same 200 years ago as they are today; players try and assemble a hand that adds up 21.
Speculation: I don't think this game is played nowadays. It required two or more players, a standard deck of 52 cards and fish (counters) for betting or purchasing cards.
Each player receives an equal amount of fish. The dealer has six fish and the other players four fish each. Each player is dealt three cards. The dealer turns over the next undealt card and this is the suit of the trumps. The dealer turns over his first card. If this is an ace of the trump suit the game is over and the dealer wins the pot. If it is not an ace, the dealer may sell or auction the card to any other player, using fish for payment.
Gentlemen at Play
The next player then turns over one of his or her cards and decides to keep or sell it. This is repeated until all the cards originally drawn are revealed. In order to determine the winner the person in possession of the highest card of the trump suit, whether it had been dealt or purchased, wins the pot. The strategy is not to use up all your fish in buying cards.
Card Party

Piquet: this game as many striking similarities to the modern game of poker. The term ‘carte blanche’ originates here. This means if you have no court cards you declare that and receive 10 points immediately.
Quadrille: this is a popular game often favoured by older people. It is a game similar to whist but played with a deck of 40 cards and with many strange rules. Trump cards are always the same rather than changing game by game, and players bid or pass on each trick based on their current hand.
Loo: this is also similar to whist but with a flexible number of players. Stakes tended to be higher, as one bid and rebids on each trick in which one participated. In gambling halls the stakes could be ruinous, the country house parties loo was mostly harmless.
Cribbage: in the Regency cribbage was usually the five-card variety rather than the six-card cribbage that is played today. Each player is dealt five cards, and a score is determined by combinations of the cards in their hand or those discarded during the play, called ‘the crib’. The tally of points is recorded on a special pegboard and the first player to reach 61 points (over several hands) wins. I think this is how it's played today.

Reading about the card games has made me want to play some of them. I can remember when our children were tiny and we couldn't afford to go out, we would set up a card table and play Piquet and Bezique. (This was a 19th century French derivation from Piquet.)
We would buy a bottle of a cider called Pomagne and have an egg curry. Ah! Those were the days.
Best wishes
Bride for a Duke and The Duke’s Reform  available on Amazon Kindle.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Newhailes - A Georgian Gem

A couple of weeks ago I visited Newhailes, a Georgian country house near Edinburgh. I was looking for a house to use as a model for the one owned by my heroine, Lady Mary MacLeod, in my current manuscript. Lady Mairi is a very rich widow with a town house in fashionable Charlotte Square in Edinburgh New Town and it was essential that she also has a country mansion. Newhailes was the perfect model and I had a wonderful visit.

Newhailes was originally built as a “villa,” a small country house built for Edinburgh’s wealthy lawyers and merchants whose business interests meant that they spent most of their time in the city but who also wanted a country retreat and the kudos that went with landowning. The architect was James Smith, who also found the time to father an astonishing thirty two children from two marriages. In 1709 he sold the estate to the wealthy and influential Dalrymple family, a dynasty of lawyers, for the modern day equivalent of two and a half million pounds. The Dalrymples extended the house and created an astonishing “designed landscape” around it.

Stepping into Newhailes feels like stepping back into the Georgian era as the house retains so many of its 18th century features and has a very strong atmosphere. Not only do the majority of the rooms reflect their Georgian and Regency style and purpose but they also feel very “lived in” because the house has not been polished and repainted, it isn’t spick and span but shabby – in a rather “faded splendour” sort of a way. As a result it feels less like a stately home on show and more the sort of place you might meet one of the servants scurrying along the tunnel, an extraordinary passage buried under earth banks designed to make the busy servants invisible to the eyes of family and guests so that they didn’t spoil the view!

During the Regency period the house belonged to Miss Christian Dalrymple, daughter of the previous owner, Lord Hailes. On the death of Lord Hailes the title had passed to a cousin and Christian was in the act of packing up to leave Newhailes – on the assumption that the cousin had inherited the house as well – when her father’s will was found behind a window shutter. The estate was not entailed and it had been left to her.

Miss Dalrymple’s journals give a fascinating insight into life in the house in the Regency era. She used Newhailes’ enormous library, once the jewel of the Scottish enlightenment, as a drawing and dining room and held glittering parties there. In April 1829 she records: “The day of our great ball… We dressed and prepared the room… The whole was thought to go off well… The company I thought was rather too numerous, over 170. Dancing continued till near four, not in bed till five.”

In the Georgian period the Library at Newhailes was considered to be “the most learned drawing room in Scotland” according to Samuel Johnson. It was huge – almost the size of a house in itself at a time when very few people possessed sufficient books to justify a special room for keeping them in. The shelves occupy the total height of each wall and are adjustable, a very unusual feature of 18th century libraries. However it was my least favourite room in the house, simply because the books are gone now and the shelves are bare, which looked wrong and felt as though the heart had gone from the room and the house. Many of the books were sold in 1937. The remaining 7000 were passed into the care of the National Library of Scotland in 1971 in lieu of death duties. 

By the time of Miss Christian Dalrymple the library was already suffering. In June 1815 she wrote in her journals: “It rained heavily: the water poured through the unfinished roof and we were forced to take down one side of the books in the library.” Later in December 1816 she wrote: “A man from the bookbinders examined my books and found them not in a good state and vigorous measures necessary to prevent the worm from spreading.”

Miss Dalrymple also kept a note in her journals of various domestic issues she had to deal with. She had a variety of problems with the servants, from secret marriages to over-zealous pruning of her favourite fruit trees. Drunkenness was a particular problem. In 1802 she records: “Hired a girl for my maid and afterwards I found by her behaviour I would have no comfort in her; was in great dismay and lost my night’s rest.” In 1812 she wrote: “Caused the stable boy to be dismissed for various misdemeanours.” In 1820 she “went through the painful task of dismissing the coachman for drunkenness.” There were also tragedies such as a drunken servant drowning in the well in the garden after a heavy night out in Edinburgh, and in 1834 the ploughman’s wife dying after setting her clothes on fire.
Guests could also prove a problem. In 1825 Miss Christian records the visit of a very clumsy guest: “Mr Inglis here. He broke cups and saucers in the China closet.”

In Miss Dalrymple’s day the “designed landscape” around the house was seen as an integral part of the house and estate. Visitors would walk along the raised promenade through the parkland to take in the views out to sea and then take refreshment in the tea house. In 1815 Miss Dalrymple wrote: “Mrs Lindsay came to call; took her to the Summer house where there was luncheon and a fire.” In the afternoons and evenings the shell grotto provided a place for reading and contemplation, with candlelight reflecting off the glass, precious stones and iridescent shells in the interior and the setting sun reflecting off the exterior. Not a bad way of life – unless you were one of the servants scurrying along the tunnel out of view of the owners! Newhailes really was a place full of inspiration and story ideas!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

‘Jane Austen Stole my Boyfriend’ by Cora Harrison

A few months ago, I reviewed a most enjoyable young adult novel for the Historical Novel Society: Jane Austen Stole my Boyfriend by Cora Harrison, published by Pan Macmillan. It is a lively story, based loosely on fifteen-year-old Jane Austen’s visit to her Leigh-Perrot relations in Bath in 1791, and tells of Jane and her seventeen-year old cousin Jenny’s adventures there, as seen through Jenny’s diary.

Jenny is an orphan and, except when invited to stay with the Austens, lives with her brother Edward-John, a meek man who is hen-pecked by his mean-minded wife, Augusta. When handsome Captain Thomas Williams falls in love with Jenny and asks for her hand in marriage, Augusta bullies her husband into forbidding it. Distraught, Jenny confides in her cousin.

Jane, meanwhile, has her own love life to consider. She has met Newton Wallop, heir to an earldom, and she rather fancies being a countess. But of course she will help Jenny. She enlists the aid of Harry Digweed, a young man she’s known all her life. Jenny realizes that Harry is in love with Jane – but does Jane return his affection?

What I enjoyed about this book is that Cora Harrison has plainly done her research – but deploys it with a light touch. Jenny’s diary is interspersed with Jane’s witty observations – based heavily on her Juvenilia. The girls are involved in various real life episodes, like Mrs Leigh-Perrot’s arrest on a charge of shop-lifting and her subsequent trial.

Late eighteenth-century Bath, with its splendid Assembly Rooms, the fashionable shops, the Pump Room and so on, are all there. I loved Jane’s barbed pen depictions of various acquaintances and relations, many of whom who will later reappear, transformed, in her adult novels. The moralizing Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, for example, surely owes much to Jane’s cousin, Philadelphia Walter.

My one complaint is that the book’s title has nothing whatsoever to do with the story. In fact, I must confess that when I saw the cover, my heart sank. It looked as though it was going to be a silly piece of cod Regency chick-lit, with 21st century girls in fancy dress. Thankfully, I was wrong.

By the time this is posted, I shall be in Somerset. I hope you all have a great summer.

Elizabeth Hawksley

Friday, August 03, 2012

My Fantasy Olympics, Regency Style

You can't get away from it – well, not here in the UK anyway. The Olympics are everywhere, and even when I retreat into my Regency writing world those darn games still get in!

August sees the launch of the Castonbury Park series – 8 books by 8 authors, a sort of Regency Downton Abbey – for me taking part in that seemed like a marathon in itself, but we will all be blogging and tweeting about it over the coming weeks and months so I thought today I would take a little time out and indulge in a little fantasy of how the Olympics might have looked in Regency times (well, my Olympics, anyway).

We all know that the Regency bucks were mad on sport and I think the Prince Regent would have loved the idea of the games!  It would have to be held at Brighton, of course – just imagine the Pavilion as the venue for the opening ceremonial ball and then, perhaps a beacon at Beachy Head plus a dance at the assembly rooms and a fair or two for the common people .And of course Prinny would want to design the uniform for the British athletes… he might ask Brummell to help.  On second thoughts, probably not. Brummell's designs would be far too elegant and tasteful. 

All those Regency Corinthians would be in their element, for we could have boxing (bare fists, of course)  and we could make use of those duelling skills that all Regency heroes seem to have, so there would be fencing and shooting.
And swimming – how about Byron to represent us? After all he was a good swimmer and swam the Hellespont (and men swam naked in those days, so wouldn't that be fun!)

Horse racing, of course and possibly curricle racing. In one of my Melinda Hammond books, Autumn Bride, I had curricles  racing along a flat, sandy beach with the tide hurtling in, adding an extra element of danger. Great stuff, but no good on Brighton's pebbles, so perhaps that would have to take place on the Downs somewhere. Then there's rowing, and sailing -   Fencing and shooting of course, making use of their duelling skills.

And for the ladies? Well, archery would be a suitable sport, and riding was acceptable. After that, well perhaps we might have to include tatting, or knottingfringe.  But perhaps we could have a team event of dancing, after all those country dances are fiendishly complicated, and the participants deserve medals (especially those heroes and heroines who can make such delicious conversation whilst taking part in the dance). NOT the waltz, though, that might upset those of a more sensitive disposition.

What do you think?  Is there anything -or anyone - you would like to include in these fantasy Regency olympics?  Do let me know.

Sarah Mallory/Melinda Hammond

The Illegitimate Montague - book 5 in the
Castonbury Park Series - is published in December 2012