Friday, January 25, 2013

200 years of Pride and Prejudice!

Elizabeth and Darcy - Jane Odiwe
On Monday we will be celebrating 200 years of the publication of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"!
I can imagine how excited Jane must have been when she finally received her copies of her "own darling child" as she referred to it in a letter to her sister Cassandra in January 1813. Her book, which has become one of the most popular novels of all time, had taken 17 years to achieve publication.
"First Impressions", as it was initially entitled, was started some time in 1796 when Jane would have been coming up to her 21st birthday. Jane had recently fallen in love with a young Irishman, Tom Lefroy, a nephew of a neighbouring friend in the village of Ashe. Unlike Elizabeth Bennet who took her time to fall in love with Mr Darcy, it seems that Jane and her new friend behaved outrageously, flirting and dancing together in a way that caused a certain amount of gossip. Tom was packed off home before any more damage could be done - neither of them were in a position to marry though Jane joked that she expected an offer of marriage from him! In later life, Tom admitted he had been in love with her. I always wonder if he was the model for so many of her heroes, though looking at his miniature Mr Darcy doesn't spring to mind. Tom looks sweet, not proud and aloof, but perhaps some of Elizabeth's thoughts echoed Jane's own feelings about Tom in this sentence. "She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talentswould most suit her."
Jane had already penned a novel in letters, "Elinor and Marianne", which later became "Sense and Sensibility" but it seems she was particularly pleased with her new novel. Her family also enjoyed her readings and her father was so impressed that he sent it off to a publisher in London. However, Thomas Cadell was unimpressed and declined it by return of post.
The Meryton Assembly, Pride and Prejudice - Jane Odiwe
Having experienced a few rejections myself, I can imagine how Jane must have felt. Her novel was put away though it seems she did tinker with it from time to time. Jane's family moved to Bath when her father retired and later to Southampton. During this time, Jane's beloved father died and she, her mother and sister became increasingly dependent on her brothers. Finally, in 1809, her brother Edward gave them a cottage on his Chawton estate and Jane returned to her writing, revising and editing the works she'd started in her youth. "Sense and Sensibility" was first published - Jane paid for its publication and on its success, Thomas Egerton paid £110 for the copyright of "Pride and Prejudice". Jane had hoped for £150 - she said, "I would rather have had £150, but we could not both be pleased".
The only reference to Jane on the frontispiece was the declaration that it had been written by the author of "Sense and Sensibility". Writing was not considered a profession for a lady and so no one knew who had written it. Jane had a bit of fun with a neighbour, Miss Benn, reading it aloud to her but not revealing that she was the author! The novel was a success and talked about, so much so, that her brother Henry who had become her negotiator, could not help boasting about the fact that "Pride and Prejudice" had been written by his sister. Soon, everyone was talking about the Hampshire lady who was the daughter of a clergyman.
Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy - Jane Odiwe

Jane was always thinking about her characters. In May of that year when she stayed in Sloane Street with her brother Henry she went to a painting exhibition in Spring Gardens. She wrote to Cassandra describing the event.

It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased, particularly (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs Bingley, excessively like her.
I went in hopes of seeing one of her sister, but there was no Mrs Darcy. Perhaps, however, I may find her in the great exhibition, which we shall go to if we have time. I have no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds's paintings, which is now showing in Pall Mall, and which we are also to visit.
Mrs Bingley's is exactly herself - size, shaped face, features, and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say Mrs D. will be in yellow. 

Charles Bingley with his sisters, Mrs Hurst and Caroline Bingley - Jane Odiwe

Although Pride and Prejudice was well-received, it is a fact that after her death in 1817, copies were remaindered. It wasn't until the publisher Bentley brought out a collector's edition in the 1860s that the book gained in popularity once more.

There are lots of events going on to celebrate and I'm so excited to be involved in some. Tomorrow I'm giving a talk at my local library in Chipping Barnet, North London, between 6.30 and 7.30.
This week the BBC visited me to do a little interview - if I escape the cutting room floor it will be shown on BBC Breakfast, Monday, 28th January.
Later on that day, I will be participating in the Jane Austen Centre's Live Readathon, which is taking place in Bath from 11.00. You can watch the day's event here - it's being streamed on the internet and I will be on at 17.10.

I'm sure Jane had no idea what she was starting when she wrote her wonderful novel that has given so many millions of people such pleasure!

Jane Odiwe

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Double the Romance

The beginning of 2013 has been a busy time for me, with two books released in e-book format within the first week of the year! 

First of all, my new full-length novel The Gilded Fan came out.  It’s the sequel to The Scarlet Kimono, although it can be read as a stand-alone, and both novels are set in the 17th century, partly in Japan and partly in England.  The heroine of The Gilded Fan is the daughter of a Japanese warlord and an Englishwoman, and as a half foreigner she is forced to flee the country of her birth when the Shogun (ruler) decides to evict anyone with foreign blood.

She considers England a barbaric country and I had great fun writing about her arrival in Plymouth.  And although she thinks she has overcome the worst of her problems when she is welcomed by her mother’s relatives, she doesn’t realise that things are about to get much worse – the English Civil War is just starting!

Here is the blurb:-

How do you start a new life, leaving behind all you love?

It’s 1641, and when Midori Kumashiro, the orphaned daughter of a warlord, is told she has to leave Japan or die, she has no choice but to flee to England. Midori is trained in the arts of war, but is that enough to help her survive a journey, with a lecherous crew and an attractive captain she doesn’t trust?

Having come to Nagasaki to trade, the last thing Captain Nico Noordholt wants is a female passenger, especially a beautiful one. How can he protect her from his crew when he can’t keep his own eyes off her?

During their journey, Nico and Midori form a tentative bond, but they both have secrets that can change everything. When they arrive in England, a civil war is brewing, and only by standing together can they hope to survive …

(It will be published in paperback on 7th February.)
My other new release for Kindle was Once Bitten, Twice Shy, a Regency novella, which was previously published by My Weekly Pocket Novels and Linford Romance.  It features a hero who has sworn never to marry again and I have to admit I loved writing about a heroine who might make him change his mind!

Here is the blurb for that:-

Once was more than enough!

Jason Warwycke, Marquess of Wyckeham, has vowed never to wed again after his disastrous first marriage, which left him with nothing but a tarnished reputation and a rather unfortunate nickname ‘Lord Wicked’. 

That is, until he sets eyes on Ianthe Templeton …
Ianthe lives in the shadow of her beautiful twin sister, Serena and longs to escape the “mindless entertainments” she is forced to endure in London. She soon finds herself captivated by the enigmatic Wyckeham and tempted by his promises of a new life in the idyllic English countryside …

But can Wyckeham and Ianthe overcome the malicious schemes of spiteful siblings and evil stepmothers to find wedded bliss? Or will Wyckeham discover, all too painfully, that the past has come back to bite him for a second time?


Monday, January 21, 2013

Regency Snow

We have snow in England at the moment, but the weather isn't as severe as it was in 1814, when it was so cold the Thames froze solid. Ships were trapped up and down its length like flies in amber and people walked across the river from one bank to the other. Booths were set up on the ice, selling all manner of food and drink, and entertainers were out in force. There were hawkers and piemen, stilt-walkers and fire-eaters, and there were pedlars who sold ribbons and ballad sheets from trays hanging round their necks. It must have been a wonderful sight.

I used the harsh winter of 1814 as the background to one of my Regency romances, One Snowy Night (previously published under the title of Rebecca's Refusal).

When the book opens, Rebecca is travelling to London to hear the reading of her grandfather's will. Her carriage is driven off the road by snow and she is forced to take shelter at an inn, where she meets the handsome but impossible Joshua Kelling. After an argument over the last room, Rebecca is glad she will never have to see Joshua again. But he turns up in London in the most unexpected circumstances and the freezing weather forms a backdrop to their sparring, as well as something more sinister, because someone is trying to kill Joshua.

At first it seems like a series of accidents: a horseman apparently loses control of his animal on the slippery road, almost knocking Joshua over; a stone is thrown through a window from the snowy streets outside. But as the "accidents" continue, Rebecca realises that Josh's life is in danger, and is forced to confront her feelings for him.

If you like a touch of mystery with your romance, and you'd like to settle down with a snowy novel in our wintry weather, then you can find One Snowy Night on Kindle (cover above) or in paperback (cover below) on all Amazons including Amazon UK and Amazon US

Even better, the Kindle version is at a bargain price!

You can find more information on my website
 Amanda Grange

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Exploring Jane Austen's Cromer

  "You should have gone to Cromer, my dear, if you went anywhere.
Perry was a week at Cromer once, and he holds it to be the best
of all the sea-bathing places. A fine open sea, he says, and very
pure air. And, by what I understand, you might have had lodgings there
quite away from the sea – a quarter of a mile off – very comfortable…”
Mr Woodhouse advises on sea bathing in Jane Austen’s Emma.

 Perversely, given that it is snowing as I write, I thought I’d tell you about my recent discovery of Cromer as a Georgian and Regency seaside resort. Of course, it is no discovery to anyone who knows Emma better than I do, but I had always thought of Cromer, just along the North Norfolk coast from where I live, as a Victorian and Edwardian resort. It has a Victorian pier, some magnificent hotels on the cliff top and most streets seem to be full of late 19th and early 20th century seaside villas and lodging houses.

We took advantage of a sunny day last week to have a walk there so I checked the Pevsner architectural guide first and discovered its late 18th century fame. Mr Pratt, author of Gleanings in England (1794) is enthusiastic about the surrounding area but critical of the town itself which has “mediocre buildings and foot-piercing streets.” He obviously ran foul of the Norfolk cobbles!

Thomas Potts’ Gazetteer of 1810 tells us that Cromer as a “straggling place without form or order” with 676 inhabitants. “It is chiefly inhabited by fishermen; who catch great quantities of crabs and lobsters from May to October.” Cromer crabs, flourishing on the unique chalk reef just offshore, are still a famous local delicacy. Potts goes on, “It has for some years past, been a summer resort of much genteel company, on account of its conveniences for sea-bathing, and the pleasantness and beauty of the surrounding country.”

There was a bathing house on the beach, long since vanished, and of course, bathing machines in abundance. Pratt says “…the Beach itself is an object of particular attraction. It is broad, firm and smooth, I think, beyond any I have seen.” And Cromer beach is still just as he described it, as you can see in this chilly picture.

The little amateur sketch with two bathing machines at the top of this post is of somewhere on the South coast I think, not at Cromer, but the machines are just the same kind with their umbrella-like hood at the front to protect the modesty of the ladies and to screen them from the sight of the men, who always insisted in bathing naked.

There is not much obviously left of Georgian Cromer, but the Albion Hotel is of that date, although it now has a Victorian pub frontage. The view of the beach was taken from The Crescent, shown here, an elegant terrace of the Regency period that would have been much in demand by the more prosperous visitors. In contrast, Jetty Street, is one of the streets of the old fishing village with its modest houses and bay windows each designed to give the lodgers at least a glimpse of the sea.


Have you ever been led to explore anywhere -  other than Bath of course! –  as a result of reading a Jane Austen novel?

Louise Allen

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Is shopping, after all, the oldest profession?

Becoming closely reacquainted with “Tom Jones,” and thus the mid-eighteenth century has reminded me of a few things.
First, that I love that era. I’m as in love with it as I was when I discovered it at the age of nine, as in love as when I wrote my first novel set in the era at the age of thirteen. Now, sadly lost to posterity. I wrote it on the plastic toy typewriter that I got one Christmas. I learned to type in secret so I could do the story, and my parents soon swapped the toy typewriter out for a portable manual version. I wore it out. I read voraciously, and bought another typewriter. And in case you’re wondering, I learned to type in secret because at the school I attended, if you typed you were branded “secretary” and the careers people stopped worrying about you.
Luckily that story has long gone, and the others I wrote afterwards. I recounted the stories in breathless detail to my schoolfriends, who listened, some politely, some impatiently and a few with interest. Story of my life, if only I’d known it then.
The working class imperative for a “real job” followed, and I took the university route, ending my working career as a marketing manager for an fmcg (fast moving consumer goods) market. I had an epiphany then. I was sitting in the office, writing a program with detailed statistical analysis to decide which flavour of powdered pudding mix should go into which stores that month. It was nine pm, and I had no energy for a social life. And I thought, “Why am I doing this?” The answer was that it was well paid. That was it. And I didn’t have time to spend the money properly, by which I mean sauntering around shops hunting up bargains and taking my time deciding what to buy. One of life’s pleasures. One my Georgian forebears knew only too well.
I went in a circle. I carried on working, but went home, bought an electric typewriter and wrote another book. I got the bug again. And guess what, it was a historical. Up to that point, I’d only written to amuse myself and to satisfy that need inside me to get stories down on paper. Writers put this urge in whimsical ways, like they have characters shouting at them, or people urging them to write, but basically, that’s what it is. The need to tell stories. Weird, but no weirder than the desire to chip away at a rock until a shape emerges, or take a brush and daub at a blank canvas.
So, shopping. I get a great deal of pleasure from shopping, offline and on. I don’t make decisions quickly, and I drive my family mad, standing in front of display deciding if I should go with this or that colour, this or that option. But I enjoy it. And so did our Georgian ancestors. In fact, I don’t think there’s been a time when shopping wasn’t an enjoyable activity to a decent percentage of the population. I’m not sure about the ancient Egyptians, but hey, it takes effort to look that good, and you’re not telling me that one brand of kohl was no better than another, or that it might not be fun trying them out and deciding on preferences.
The Georgians had bow-fronted shops. Some of them still exist, this being after the Great Fire wiped out the previous generation of shops, all but the row in High Holborn, and even those had bow fronts added. Nice big windows for staring and imagining, and deciding. In the Georgian era, a “toyshop” was for adults. It contained delicious and expensive trinkets like fans, snuffboxes and the like, tokens lovers could buy for each other, items of appreciation a would-be suitor could buy for his lady love. The trinkets that have survived are largely under glass these days, which seems a shame. What was designed as something exquisitely frivolous, to be handled and enjoyed, is now sacrosanct and precious, the fan spread out in a special case and kept out of direct sunlight, instead of being fluttered before a pretty face, its spangles catching the light and flashing its “look at me” welcome.
A few years ago I attended a seminar in London held by the fabulous Lucy Inglis. What she doesn’t know about Georgian London, isn’t worth knowing. It was a hot day and most of the attendees were historical novelists, or more precisely, novelists of historical romance. So half way through, after the windows were opened and water drunk, out came the fans. Most writers of Georgian fiction tend to have one about their person. Just ask one. Fans are incredibly useful, much better than the nasty plastic electric hand-helds, more efficient, and what’s more, prettier. Even better, they work off a calorie or two. I have several, and when people go to Spain, I get them to bring me fans back. Those wooden filigree ones that are sadly so fragile, but great to use and cheap enough to discard when broken. Or, in my case, use for doll’s house projects.
Snuffboxes—not for snuff, but I’ve always had a weakness for boxes, and pretty little boxes are the best of all. Now we’re into miniaturisation, what a fun place to keep micro SD cards and those little button batteries. More stylish than a plastic case, hmm?
One of the world’s greatest mysteries to me is with everything getting smaller, why do we need such big bags? But we do.

Lynne Connolly


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Regency Speak?

This month I thought I'd post something a little different - set a challenge to see how much Regency cant/ language you understand. The question mark in the title is because Georgette Heyer is thought to have invented quite a few of hers, although Regency writers and readers have adopted them as factual. Not all of these are hers - most come from the great Jane Austen.
Try the quiz and then check answers at the bottom of the page.
No cheating - let me know how well you did. There were a few I didn't know.
1. top-heavy                                                                       a. chimney sweep
2. try to break someone's shins                                            b. horse
3. vowels                                                                            c. illigitmate children
4.bender                                                                             d. drunk
5. buffer                                                                              e. short jacket
6.crib                                                                                  f. bright and lively
7. flue faker                                                                         g.coat
8. prad                                                                      
9. prig                                                                                 i. blush
10. stumping it                                                                     j. gossip
12.shoot the crow                                                               k. borrow money
13.on-dit                                                                             l.sixpence
14. flying one's colours                                              
15.corky                                                                             n.thief
16.reticule                                                                           o. mad
17.pelisse                                                                            p. walking
18.spencer                                                                          q. leave without paying
19.dicked in the nob                                                            r.purse
20. side-slips                                                                       s.I.O.Us

My latest Regency, The Duke's Dilemma, is available on Amazon.
best wishes

(s3, r16,q12, p10,o19,n9,m5,l4,k2,j13,i14,h6,g17,f15,e18,d1,c20,b8,a7)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Top Ten Jane Austen Characters

With the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice fast approaching, I imagine that there will be lots of Jane Austen related articles in print and online. I saw the first of these yesterday, a list of the Ten Best Jane Austen Characters by Paula Byrne, in the Observer newspaper. You can read it here. Paula Byrne's choices included some of the lesser known Austen characters such as Isabella Thorpe, described as "boy-mad... chasing unsuspecting young men along the streets of Bath" and Sir Walter Elliot "almost a caricature of dim-witted upper classes" as well as Mr Darcy, "Austen's most sexy hero... the ultimate conquest."

I couldn't resist playing the game. Choosing your top ten Austen characters opens things up much more than favourite heroes or heroines or which book you like the best. There is so much wonderful choice. Here are three of my favourites:

1. Lady Susan Vernon. Lady Susan made an impression on me from the first. Even as a child I recognised that Lady Susan was bad with a capital B and yet there is something charismatic and compelling about her. All the way through the novella I'm hoping she gets her just desserts but at the same time I can't help but have a sneaking admiration for her. Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park strikes me as the sort of woman who will develop into a Lady Susan when she is older.

2. Mrs Gardiner in Pride and Prejudice. I like Mrs Gardiner. She is warm and wise, a good friend to Elizabeth Bennet. Sometimes it is easy to overlook understated characters and not appreciate their steady qualities. Mrs Gardiner is the aunt I would like to have myself.

3. Frederick Wentworth. I don't dispute the description of Mr Darcy as sexy and the ultimate conquest but give me Frederick Wentworth instead. He's less aloof, more open about his feelings and I'm a sucker for a man in uniform (unless it's George Wickham).

What about you? Any favourites?

Saturday, January 05, 2013

My Weather Diary

When I was a teenager, I was given a five year diary. As each year was allotted only five lines, I decided it was useless and chucked it to the back of a drawer.

Many years later, when I started writing historical novels, I noticed that if I wrote a winter scene in, say, August, I couldn’t remember exactly what being cold felt like. What plants, if any, were out in the garden, what birds were around, what temperature was it? I wasn’t sure. And it’s those little touches, like one’s ears going pink with cold and stinging, which bring your story alive.

So I retrieved that old five-year-diary, now transformed into my useful new weather diary. What should I include? Daylight hours were essential. I was brought up in the country and many of my stories have a country setting, so I needed to note the weather, the temperature – in Fahrenheit, of course - and what nature was doing. What birds were around? Had the dawn chorus started – or stopped? What were the trees doing and what flowers were blooming? What was happening in the farming year?

I put down anything I think would be useful to me as a novelist. For example, in October, I note what date I start wearing gloves.

Today, January 5th, daylight hours in London are 8.07 am to 4.07 pm. It is also the first day that is actually longer. On December 21st, the winter solstice, daylight hours in London are 8.04 am to 3.54 pm. I noticed that the evenings continued to get longer, even though the sun began to rise fractionally earlier. For example, daylight hours on December 26th are 8.06 am to 3.57 pm, and on January 4th they are 8.06 am to 4.06 pm.

Why is this? It puzzled me for years. The answer is the perihelion effect.

At the solstices, the sun is at its closest to the earth. The earth is not a perfect ball, the poles are very slightly flatter. The result is that, over the solstice, the days are fractionally longer than 24 hours. I promise you that, when this was explained to me properly by a chap of a scientific bent, I understood it perfectly – for about twenty minutes. Please feel free to correct me!

This is what my weather diary notes for January 5th over five years:

Year 1 50º F. Pleasant and spring-like. I went for a walk, blackbirds and robins are singing again. Saw a tattered-looking red admiral, normally they hibernate. Limes tree twigs glow pinkly in the winter sunshine.

Year 2 37º F. Snowing hard! It crunches underfoot. Bare trees show remains of large untidy magpie nests. Note: in winter, birds roost in woods, not in their old nests. Outside, my ears sting and my breath puffs like a dragon.

Year 3 48º F. Warm but wettish. Long, dangly catkins on hazels. The occasional violet and periwinkle out in hedgerows.

Year 4 37º F. Cold grey sky. Sleet forecast. Brr! Snowdrop spikes up.

Year 5 41º F. Bloody cold and frosty but bright. Plane tree magnificent in winter sunshine. My rosemary’s in bloom and the jasmine looks very pretty.

It has proved its worth over the years; I wouldn’t be without it now.

A very happy New Year to you all.

Elizabeth Hawksley

Photos: top: limes glow pinkly in the winter sun
            middle: winter jasmine
            bottom: magnificent London plane 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Notorious Coale Brothers - Book 2

Following on from my story about scarred soldier Dominic Coale, Beneath the Major's Scars, this month sees publication of Behind The Rake's Wicked Wager, about Dominic's handsome brother Jason, Viscount Markham.

When I decided to write two books about twin brothers, I decided to make them very different.  Having twin sons myself I know that although they may look identical and sometimes they behave in the same way, they are very separate people and I wanted to get this across by creating two very different heroes.  Dominic is the serious twin and this trait is heightened by his army career and the hideous scars he now carries. 

Jason, however, grew up knowing he would one day be Viscount Markham. He enjoys the trappings of privilege and being very handsome (naturally!) he comes to accept the flattery and adulation of women as his due.  Clearly this alpha male is in need of a set-down!

He meets his match in the lovely Susannah Prentess. As beautiful as he is handsome, Susannah seems immune to his charms and for once he has to resort to some pretty base tactics to make her notice him.  Of course, all is not what it seems, and they are soon leading each other a merry dance, and not just in the Bath Assembly Rooms.

I hope you have as much fun reading Jason's story as I had writing it – I wanted Behind the Rake's Wicked Wager to be a sparkling Regency comedy and I hope you will enjoy it. 

Oh, and I wrote a short story about their younger sister, too - The Tantalizing Miss Coale  - what a start to the New Year!

Sarah Mallory

No London beauty has managed to tame the incorrigible
Jasper Coale, though many have lost their reputations
trying. In sedate Bath on a family errand, the viscount
expects to find little in terms of entertainment—certainly
no female company to tempt him.
Miss Susannah Prentess’s discreet card parties in
Royal Crescent offer a welcome distraction. And the glint
in Susannah’s hazel eyes tells Jasper he’s met his match at
last. But is she game enough to accept the
most outrageous wager of all?

The Notorious Coale Brothers
They are the talk of the Ton!