Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Regency Trilogy

I have written a Regency trilogy of short books under my Linda Sole name : Happy Christmas Mr Jones, Annabel's Christmas Surprise and Mary's Sacrifice.  All three are doing well but the 1st one has been a bestseller for me, and all three are very cheap, as befits novellas.

On the Anne Herries front, I had a book out in December - A Stranger's Touch, Gunpowder Plot and there is a double Regency with a much respected author out at the moment - Date with a Regency Rake.

I have not posted for a while because I was unable to enter the blog but today I've managed it.  it isn't my day and if I can schedule it I will, otherwise I'll post today and hope to be forgiven because it is such ages since I did post.

I have some interesting news about a saga for mainstream but can't say much just yet - except that it seems a dream has come true.  Will tell more when I am certain.

Love to all my readers and friends on the blog.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Jane Austen's Secret

Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mr Collins - Jane Odiwe

Jane Austen's secret was the fact that she had two books published but no one knew she had written them. That is until her brother Henry, who acted as her agent and helped her books to become published, spilled the beans.

When writing to her brother, Captain Frank Austen, then stationed in the Baltic, September 1813, Jane Austen refers to the fact that their brother Henry has revealed that she has written Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. 

'I know it is all done from affection and partiality, but at the same time let me here again express to you and Mary my sense of the superior kindness which you have shown on the occasion in doing what I wished. I am trying to harden myself. After all, what a trifle it is, in all its bearings, to the really important points of one's existence - even in this world.'

She must have felt equally grateful to her eldest brother James and his wife Mary for the silence they kept about Jane's authorship despite what must have been a great temptation to act otherwise. Their son Edward, had read both books and enjoyed them enormously, but had never been told that his Aunt Jane had written them. When the news got out, he was at school at Winchester and not quite fifteen when he wrote the following poem.

The Austen Family - Jane Odiwe

To Miss J. Austen

No words can express, my dear Aunt, my surprise
Or make you conceive how I opened my eyes,
Like a pig Butcher Pile has just struck with his knife,
When I heard for the very first time in my life
That I had the honour to have a relation
Whose works were dispersed through the whole of the nation.
I assure you, however, I'm terribly glad;
Oh dear! just to think (and the thought drives me mad)
That dear Mrs. Jennings's good-natured strain
Was really the produce of your witty brain,
That you made the Middletons, Dashwoods, and all,
And that you (not young Ferrars) found out that a ball
May be given in cottages, never so small.
And though Mr. Collins, so grateful for all,
Will Lady de Bourgh his dear Patroness call,
'Tis to your ingenuity really he owed
His living, his wife and his humble abode.
Now if you will take you poor nephew's advice
Your works to Sir William pray send in a trice,
If he'll undertake to some grandees to show it,
By whose means at last the Prince Regent might know it,
For I'm sure if he did, in reward for your tale,
He'd make you a countess at least, without fail,
And indeed if the Princess should lose her dear life
You might have a good chance of becoming his wife.'

Picnic at Box Hill from Emma - Jane Odiwe

 I love this poem and affectionate tribute to Jane Austen who did not become the Prince Regent's wife but was certainly recognised by him. Jane was not a fan of his however, and though she was asked to dedicate her novel Emma to him, I am sure it was not easy for her to do so. The dedication is effusive, a little over the top, and I wonder if she was being a little satirical.

To his Royal Highness
The Prince Regent,
This work is,
By His Royal Highness's Permission,
Most respectfully Dedicated,
By his Royal Highness's
Most dutiful and obedient
Humble Servant
The Author

Several scholars have noted the fact that there are hidden meanings and riddles within the text of Emma. One particularly brilliant suggestion is that Jane made her own hidden attack on the Prince of Wales in a secret solution to the charade in chapter nine, and is written about here.

As for Henry, the brother who could not keep Jane's secret that she was a writer, I think it wonderful that he was just so proud of her that he wanted the world to know!

Jane Odiwe

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Old vs New

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by old things – antiques, books, jewellery, newspapers, letters and clothes from a bygone era.  I’m not really sure why, but I’m always drawn to them and modern items never seem to affect me the same way.  While I can see that modern architecture and décor can be attractive, I would hate to have to live in a newly built house for example.  And minimalist chic and clean lines leave me cold – to me they look sterile and unwelcome, instead of warm and inviting.  I want old, worn and with unexpected twists and turns or nooks and crannies.  Perhaps that explains why I write historicals!

Looking back, I was probably influenced by my grandmother who had a flat full of furniture and bric-a-brac she’d inherited from various ancestors.  I spent a lot of time with her and she told me stories about each item – who had owned them and where they came from.  The fact that they had a history made them seem more precious somehow (and it was a great way of remembering the family tree too).  And while my parents visited the newly opened IKEA store (yes, I’m that old – we used to regularly go to the very first IKEA store ever opened in southern Sweden), I was admiring my gran’s Rococo style sofa with its ornate feet and green silk damask upholstery.  I couldn’t understand how anyone could prefer ugly, square settees to something so pretty!

Rather than hankering after new sets of duvet covers, I asked my gran to make me traditional sheets, complete with handmade lace edgings and embroidered initials.  And I badgered my mother into giving me her “bridal chest”, a large oak chest for storing linen and other things I might need once I married.  A very old-fashioned notion that really appealed to me, but which now seems lost.  These days couples who are getting married just go to the nearest department store and make a list of what they want, they don’t save up for years beforehand just in case.  I never told my friends about this as they probably would have thought I was weird, but I carried on hoarding – sheets, table cloths, towels, napkins, all old or made the traditional way.  I still have them all.  And porcelain, lots of it!

So what is it about old things that fascinates some of us so much?  After all, they are really just second hand furniture and objects that are often used, damaged or at least a little “tired”.  To me, it somehow feels as though they were made with more care and perhaps even love.  It took a lot of effort to create them without the use of modern machinery and it also made each piece individual, different from anything else.  They give the impression of comfort and warmth, and a house furnished with antiques feels loved and lived in.  Maybe it’s just me being fanciful, but I feel a link with people in the past by using and caring for the same things as they did.  Owning my great-great-aunt’s sewing box gives me a connection with her and every time I open it, I think of her.

My children think I’m taking things to extremes by striving for a so called “shabby chic” look in our home, even going so far as to take lessons in how to use various paint effects to make furniture look old.  But I enjoyed this so much, I’m now eyeing up everything in the house wondering how to “improve” them.  To each his own, I suppose, and if I can’t convert my children into antique-lovers, I’ll just have to try with the next generation when it (hopefully) comes along!

As fans of historical fiction, do you all love old things too?  I'd love to know!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Mysterious Madame Lanchester

Late Georgian and Regency fashion plates are a passion of mine and I have a large collection. The most familiar, and usually easiest to obtain, are those published in Ackermann’s Repository and in La Belle Assemblée. The Lady’s (also Ladies’) Monthly Museum, Fashions of London and Paris and The Lady’s Magazine. These are all English. The Journal des Dames et des Modes is the source of most of the French fashion plates that collectors find today.
These are all from journals that were A5 size or lightly larger. What is a thrill (and an expensive one at that) is to come across the gorgeous Quarto sized plates from Le Miroir de la Mode.
Despite its French title this was an English production, the work of the mysterious Madame Lanchester, or, more prosaically, Mrs Ann Lanchester. Madame Lanchester, a fashionable modiste and designer, produced designs for Ackermann, Fashions of London and Paris and La Belle Assemblée. She had a shop in New Bond Street c 1803-4 and St James’s Street in 1806-9.
For less than two years, between 1803-4, she published Le Miroir de la Mode to promote her own work. The first print is shown at the top in the cheaper uncoloured version. It was also produced with a vibrant red pelisse. Below is a detail of another plate showing the detail fo the drawing.

It was an incredibly lavish production and only the wealthiest ladies could have afforded it. There were two plates in each issue and the text was given in English, French and Italian. The plates were hand coloured and each had a tissue overlay.
Where Madame Lanchester got the money from for this extravagant publication is a mystery, because in January 1803, when she was in Sackville Street, and described as ‘dealer and chapwoman’, she was declared bankrupt. In the previous year this advertisement had appeared in the Morning Chronicle (24th April 1802).

part of the SUPERB and VALUABLE STOCK of MADAME LANCHESTER of Sackville-street.
Messrs. ROBINS beg most respectfully to acquaint the Nobility,
Gentry, and the Public, that they SHALL SUBMIT BY
AUCTION, on the Premises, in Sackville-street, on Wednesday
And two following days, at 12 o’clock.
THE truly elegant and unparalleled ASSEMBLAGE
of the various elegancies of DRESS, ornamented with
superb LACES, the property of MADAME LANCHESTER, going
in a few months to Paris, consisting of White and Black Lace,
Veils and Cloaks of the most delicate patterns, rich laced Caps
And Sleeves, Spencers, Morning Calsons, Handkerchiefs and
Equivoes, Pelices, Morning and Evening Dresses, beautiful
White and Black Laces, ornamental Gold Watches and Trinkets,
a few Boxes of Rouge etc. The whole of the Dresses
Made up in that style of fashion for which Madame Lanchester
Has become so eminently distinguished. – May be publically viewed
On Monday and Tuesday prior to the Sale (by Catalogues only).
Which may be had at 2s each, on the Premises, and of Messers.
Robins, Covent-garden.
It gives a good idea of the stock held by a fashionable modiste, but presumably the explanation that she was going to Paris was merely a front to cover the financial problems that caused the bankruptcy less than a year later.

However, she must have recouped her fortunes somehow, established herself in New Bond Street and published her short-lived magazine. Between 1806-9 insurance company records place her at 59, St James’s Street but in 1810 she was again declared bankrupt. After that, nothing is known of Ann Lanchester and all we are left with are the exquisite plates to provide serious temptation for collectors on the rare occasions they come on the market.
Louise Allen
Scandal in the Regency Ballroom April 2013

Friday, March 15, 2013

Finding a desert heroine

After I blogged about the Berber tea ceremony last month, various people suggested I must put it all into a book. Thanks, guys, you really got me thinking. And maybe I will. So to whet your appetite, here's some more of the places and sights you might find in that story, if (when!!) I write it.

winding medina alleys

The old walled city in Marrakech, the Medina, is incredibly picturesque and characterful, like this narrow street here. Walls jut out and alleyways go off under and between buildings. Very easy to get lost. In spite of that, and the lack of street lighting, it felt very safe when I was there, but, in my story, an unwary heroine could easily be waylaid.  (I am writing fiction, after all, and I get to decide what happens!)

Where might my waylaid heroine end up? Well, if she became a wife or a high-ranking concubine, she might end up in a house as magnificent as this one (now the Dar Si Said Museum). This is the entrance to the great audience chamber which was a male-only preserve. The noble who owned the house would receive petitioners there, though he himself sat apart in a side chamber – equally magnificent – to demonstrate his high status.

great audience chamber entrance

The decoration of such chambers was utterly astonishing. Sadly, not all of it is particularly well preserved. You get the best impression from looking at the ceilings which have suffered less than walls and floors from the ravages of time.

Here you can see the stunning painted wood ceiling and part of the tiled frieze beneath.

audience chamber: painted ceiling and tiled frieze

This is a relatively undamaged section of the wall carving in the great chamber, all done by hand and clearly expensive.  Yet another sign of the owner's high status. When it was new, it would have been even more colourful than this.

wall carving in great audience chamber

Our heroine would not have had access to the great chamber; at least, not when there were other men about, but she would have been able to use the garden, in the centre of the house.

As in all such houses, the central courtyard garden was a place of calm and beauty, with water and fountains and beautiful plants and flowers. In truly grand houses, the central courtyard was really large. What you see here is perhaps one-eighth of the whole.

courtyard garden, Dar Si Said museum, Marrakech

Water, so precious in desert countries, was central and it was celebrated, as here, with fountains and beautiful tiling. When the garden was lush and green, particularly in spring and early summer, this would have been a glorious place to be, with the high walls shading the harem ladies from the hot sun as well as the prying eyes.

tiled courtyard pool, shaded by canopy

a Marrakech concubine?

Our harem lady might have looked something like this, perhaps, in elaborate robes and a huge amount of silver jewellery. Her hair appears to be completely covered, so I can't tell what colour it is, but her skin is very fair.  Perhaps her hair is, too? 

And yes, her bare skin is on show, right down to her waist. Somehow that doesn't quite fit with the demurely lowered eyes, does it?  I sense a spirit of mischief hiding there.

Maybe I've found the image of my heroine. What do you think?  Would you like to read about her?  I'd love to know.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Language of the Past

Working on “Tom Jones,” trying to write as much like Fielding as I can has made me aware of a few things more sharply than ever before.
I always try to keep my historical romances “in period,” that is, not using anachronistic words. Even if the reader doesn’t know the words, sometimes it “sounds” wrong, and jars the reader out of the story. I’ve found some strange things over the years. For instance the phrase “having sex” is twentieth century in origin! I discovered that one because something about it chimed wrong for me, so I looked it up. Before the twentieth century, “sex” meant gender, nothing else. So you can use “her sex” which would mean that thing that made her female, but not use “sex” for the act.
I learned that if it “sounds” wrong, if your inner ear stops and thinks, then it most likely is wrong, and needs a bit more research!
One of my words got through me and three editors before one picked it up. “terrorise” is another twentieth century word, although the word “terror” has been around a long time. Making a verb from a noun is a relatively recent habit, so all these are worth closer scrutiny.
Since I was writing an erotic story, I needed sex words. Don’t worry, no really naughty ones here, you’ll have to buy the book for those! But how to find the period appropriate ones? Answer; the porn, naughty literature and ephemera like journals and letters. Pepys’ diary, the poems of Lord Rochester and “Fanny Hill” helped me a lot there. Plus, they were fascinating reads. Read past the sexy bits and the accounts of day-to-day life are treasure troves for the researcher!
As is, of course, “Tom Jones.” From the foul-mouthed country gentleman Western, to the genial Allworthy, the range of characters and lives depicted are not only wonderfully vivid but varied and involving. If I hadn’t already known about the way they dressed, the food they ate and when, and how they socialised, I’d have learned from this book.
But it’s dangerous to take research from one source only, and “Tom Jones” is a vital example of this. Fielding belonged to a group of men who were, in the more modern parlance, jingoistic. They supported Britain, England really, hated the French, and the strong influence that French had on the language and customs. His friends were David Garrick and William Hogarth, both of whom get a name-check in the book. He regarded himself as a classical scholar, so the book is peppered with Latin quotations.
The group was very largely of the Country. Town was represented by the Whigs, the aristocracy, people who admired French and Italian fashions and art, and their speech was often full of quotations and phrases from both languages. Not so “Tom Jones.” If, when I’d been inserting my author bits, I’d have used French and Italian words, or even used words with a relatively modern French or Italian etymology, it wouldn’t have sounded right, wouldn’t have worked with Fielding’s more robust language and vocabulary.
Taking part in this project has been a joy, because I have learned so much. I have been researching the Georgian era since I fell in love with it at nine years old, and I’m still learning. There will always be new things to discover, new aspects of living at that time.
So does this make any difference to you as a reader, and do you really need to know all that?

Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Housekeeping Book by Susanna Whatman

Laundry day.
Susanna Whatman began this book in the first year of her marriage, 1776, to James Whatman a paper maker. She was mistress of Turkey Court in Kent and she detailed much of her housekeeping instructions for her servants in a book that she kept for twenty-four years. This is a fascinating account of the way a household was run in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
In it we learn that washing the wooden floors caused them to turn white so she recommended that they were 'dry-rubbed'. Carpets were turned face down and walked on for a while in order for the dust to be driven from them.
Four layers of cartridge paper were stuck together and placed on top of the mattress - this was to collect the dust and make it easier to keep the bed clean. The paper was changed twice a year. I had no idea mattress protectors were in use so early on.
Another thing we discover is that all furniture had to be a hand's width from the stucco walls - this prevented chunks of wall being knocked off when anyone sat down. Wish I'd thought of this before my husband knocked a hole in the wall with his recliner chair.
Mrs Whatman paid her house bills weekly, including butcher's bills, candles and flour. However, soap, wax candles and grocery came down from London and were paid for by draft by Mr Whatman.
Here is an extract of a letter sent from her town house to the butler, William Balston.
27th June 1800
'This is glorious weather for hay making, but sadly hot for being in London. I hope the sun is kept from the pictures and furniture. the blinds will not always exclude it. I am often obliged to shut the shudders. Remind them of the blinds in the Hall: they sd be down by the middle of the day.'
This could  be Susanna and her butler.
(The spelling is hers.)
I wonder why she was still in London so late in the year - the Season was finished and the gentry would be back in the country. I think that although wealthy, Susanna wasn't part of the ton as her husband's money came from trade. Maybe James had business there and she, like a good wife, preferred to remain with him.

When modern women go away the last thing they worry about is the sun getting on to the pictures. Susanna had little to fill her time but housekeeping and she obviously took this very seriously.
I. like most writers, don't 'do' housework - far more interesting things to occupy my time.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Susanna Whatman's life.
Fenella J Miller
A House Party - available on Amazon.UK & -£0.99

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Regency Islington

I’m lucky enough to live in a Regency terraced house in Islington, a typical example of early 19th century speculative building. My street was built in sections of about ten houses, which were then sold to finance the next stretch, and so on. My section was originally called Claremont Row and dates from 1818. The name pays tribute to the memory of Princess Charlotte of Wales had died in childbirth the previous year, and lived at Claremont House.

At the top of the street, there is a section called Brunswick Terrace which neatly indicates the builder’s support for Caroline of Brunswick, the Prince Regent’s estranged wife. One might argue that both these names make a political statement: the Prince Regent was unpopular for his extravagance.

At first glance, the houses look uniform but look more closely and you’ll see that in each section the windows, fanlights, balconies and door knockers are slightly different, and some are very attractive. Others have been altered by time, not to mention the Luftwaffe, which demolished most of the opposite side of the street in October 1940. The result is that there isn’t a right angle in my house!

So, what sort of people lived in my street? It was built to service the posh folk living in the nearby squares. Typically, there are a few small shops at each end, and the rest of the street housed the respectable working class. My house was a baker’s shop and has a large front window to display the baker’s buns and bread. The oven in the basement produced a huge amount of black, gritty-tasting coal dust – as I discovered when the house was re-wired. Still, at least the house must have been warm!

Old shop front, Richmond Avenue
Next door was owned by a master tailor, and then came the inevitable pub. The middle houses were in multi-occupancy with commercial clerks, milliners, needlewomen, cooks, shop assistants and many other trades, together with their families.

Albion coaching inn

A short walk takes you to the much classier Richmond Avenue, built in the Egyptian style. Here, obelisks and sphinxes the size of lions guard your front door – a proud reminder of Nelson’s destruction of Napoleon’s navy in The Battle of the Nile in 1799. Nearby is the Albion, an old coaching inn. Cricket was played here on summer evenings and cows grazed nearby. Nowadays, the old stables’ stalls for the horses have been turned into cosy retreats for customers. The cobblestones are still there, though, and you have to watch out if you’re wearing high heels.

Richmond Avenue plus sphinxes
I enjoy living in a Regency house. I like the high ceilings and the pleasing proportions. It has two rooms on each of three floors (the basement is now a separate flat) so there are a lot of stairs. Still, trotting up and down all day – my study is at the top of the house – is doubtless good for me.

Elizabeth Hawksley

Monday, March 04, 2013

Competition Winner

I  put all the names in a hat and pulled out................

Jan Jones!  Congratulations, Jan.  Your copies of Beneath the MAjor's Scars & Behind the Rake's Wicked Wager are on their way to you!

Sarah Mallory

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Winning the RoNA Rose - twice in a row!

Winning the RoNA Rose award for the second year running was just astounding, and I felt like a real celebrity as I made my way through the crowd to collect my trophy and my glass star from Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley, especially when photographers jumped out before me and the cameras started flashing! 

The RoNA Rose award was instituted by the RNA in 2003 as The Romance Prize and after a short spell as The Love Story of the Year it became the much more glamorous-sounding RoNA Rose, but intention remains the same, to recognise the best in novels that centre on the developing love affair between the hero and heroine .  It is judged by a panel of readers, members of the public, and the results are kept very secret, hence the excitement and nervousness of the short-listed authors at the award ceremony.  The winner of the RoNA Rose is presented with a beautiful glass star to keep and also there is a beautiful silver rose bowl that each winner holds for one year.  When the Romance Prize was initiated, Harlequin Mills & Boon presented the RNA with the rose bowl in memory of Betty Neels, and RNA member and one of the readership's favourite authors, so you can imagine how special this is to me.

You can see from the photo that Judy very kindly held my star and my trophy for me while I made my little speech. I can hardly recall what I said at the time, but it was filmed and is now on You Tube, so I know I was there (and thankfully I kept it very short!).  Here's the link, just in case you want to see how nervous I was!

The shortlist of six novels was evenly balanced – two medical romances (both by Scarlet Wilson – how's that for an achievement!)  two contemporaries by Fiona Harper and Heidi Rice and two historicals by myself and medieval romance author Carol Townend. Having read all of them I was just incredibly pleased to be included amongst such talented writers – and I very nearly didn't enter!

Beneath the Major's Scars was published so late in the year that I was on tenterhooks, waiting for my author copies to come through so that I could send them off to the award organiser. I must say that I was relieved once they were posted off, and said a little prayer to wing them on their way.

The book has a special meaning for me, because it is one of a pair of novels I wrote using twins for the main characters.  Having twin boys myself I always wanted to use twins as heroes (or course my characters are both gorgeous and extremely handsome, but that's as far as the similarities go with my own lads!) I wanted to show that twins might look identical but they can have very different personalities, so I tried to make the two books very different – Dominic in Beneath the Major's Scars is the younger brother and as was common in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, he was a soldier, fighting in the Peninsula until he was horrifically injured and sent home to England, where he locked himself away in a lonely house on Exmoor, shunning society.

His twin, Jasper, is very different, his good looks have not been spoiled by a sabre-cut and he loves society, of course it helps that as the rich Viscount Markham he is a very eligible bachelor. So where Dominic needs a woman to prove to him that life really is still worth living, in Behind the Rake's Wicked Wager, Jasper definitely needs to be brought down a peg or two!

So now it's back to my desk, writing my next book, but I keep looking at the two stars and the rose bowl and wondering if I can possibly top that next year. It would certainly need lots of hard work and inspiration to get anywhere near, I think, so I will continue to strive to write the best books I possibly can.

To celebrate my success, I am giving away my "twin books" and will send a copy of both Beneath the Major's Scars and Behind the Rake's Wicked Wager to one lucky person – just comment on this post and I will pick a winner at random tomorrow (Monday 4th March).  Good luck!

Sarah Mallory.