Friday, August 23, 2013


Today I'd like to welcome Beverley Eikli to the Historical and Regency Romance UK blog as my guest.  She is the author of three Regency novels, published by Robert Hale, but in a week's time her first Regency espionage romance, TheReluctant Bride, published by Choc Lit will be out in paperback. 

Welcome Beverley!  Please tell us a bit about your new novel.

Thank you. Christina, it's lovely to be here!  The Reluctant Bride has had a long and convoluted history.  It was a simple 'marriage of convenience' story when it won the Romance Writers of New Zealand competition six years ago.  I then went on to publish three Regencies with Robert Hale, all the while researching the French Revolution and 'layering' The Reluctant Bride with a back story set during the September Massacres of 1792. 

The pivotal, life-changing events for my hero, Angus, however, occur during the retreat to Corunna in 1809, though the actual book picks up four years later when Angus calls on the woman he's loved from afar to tell her that her fiancé has just been killed in battle.  The lie he tells her, in order to spare her pain, comes back to haunt him after he's made her his 'reluctant bride.'

The Reluctant Bride won Choc Lit's ‘Search for an Australian Star’ competition late last year.

The Regency period is obviously very popular – what drew you to this particular era?  And is it your favourite time in history?

I first wrote Georgian-set stories but the practicalities of publishing meant that it was easier to sell a Regency at the time.  You could say that now I love the transition between the two periods.  I find the shift in culture and attitudes from the mid 1700s to the early 1800s fascinating and I love to reflect that in the mindsets of my characters, depending on their ages.

I understand that you like so called Beta heroes, why is that and what is it about them you find appealing?  (As you know, I prefer Alpha heroes myself)
Yes, you and your Alpha heroes, Christina :-)  Having said that, one of my most successful books featured an alpha hero.  I think Angus in The Reluctant Bride is a bit of both.  As a returning war hero he's proved incredibly courageous.  He's also brooding and burdened by events which forced his hand, yet he will do whatever it takes to win Emily, his emotionally distant new wife.  He's an alpha hero in that he sets about doing this with honour and action – but he's very beta when he treats her with more understanding than she deserves as she’s so stubbornly resistant to his overtures.  One of the challenges I had was showing Emily in a sympathetic light when she's so unkind to Angus to begin with.  But she's just lost her beloved fiancé and the main events in the story span eight months, which isn't terribly long to grieve.

Who is your favourite fictional hero?

I love Hugo in Georgette Heyer's The Unknown Ajax and Jamie Fraser in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. 

Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer – which of these two authors do you enjoy the most and why?

Very hard question.  I've read all of them and loved all of them.  I've always wondered, though, why there are so many BBC Jane Austen productions but no television adaptations of Georgette Heyer novels.  Unless we just don't get them here in Australia.

Have you ever tasted ratafia or macaroons?  And do you like the kind of research where you try things out for yourself?

I've never tasted ratafia but I love macaroons and in fact am going to try my first batch this weekend.  Australians love their pavlova and I always have lots of frozen egg-white read to whip one up in a flash.  I only discovered a few days ago that macaroons use egg whites.

When it comes to research, though, I can't resist making period costumes from authentic patterns.  Earlier this year I made some 1780s half boned stays and panniers and chemise to go under my 1780s polonaise, together with a Regency gown for my 'History Through Costume Talks'.  A few weeks ago I made my two daughters a couple of pretty 1850s dresses and capes for a 'Christmas in July' event we went to at nearby Sovereign Hill which recreates the gold rush era of the 1850s.

Blurb for The Reluctant Bride:-
Can honour and action banish the shadows of old sins?
Emily Micklen has no option after the death of her loving fiancé, Jack, but to marry the scarred, taciturn, soldier who represents her only escape from destitution.

Major Angus McCartney is tormented by the reproachful slate-grey eyes of two strikingly similar women: Jessamine, his dead mistress, and Emily, the unobtainable beauty who is now his reluctant bride.

Emily’s loyalty to Jack’s memory is matched only by Angus’s determination to atone for the past and win his wife with honour and action.  As Napoleon cuts a swathe across Europe, Angus is sent to France on a mission of national security, forcing Emily to confront both her allegiance to Jack and her traitorous half-French family. 
Angus and Emily may find love, but will the secrets they uncover divide them forever?

Buy links:

Many thanks for taking the time to be my guest, Beverley!

Thank you, Christina, it was a pleasure being here. 

Christina x

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why Was Wellington's Horse called Copenhagen?

I had heard of the Battle of Copenhagen, and knew it was a naval battle, but I had always assumed it had been against the French and had always wondered vaguely why Wellington called his horse Copenhagen when he hadn't fought at sea.

Then when I visited Copenhagen recently I climbed the 17th century Rundetarn (Round Tower) and discovered why. The Round Tower was the university’s observatory and has no steps until you get right to the top, just a beautiful circling brick slope. Close to the top is a chamber with exhibits and one of them, in a void under the floor, was a book from the university library with a large chunk ripped out of it and the shattered remains of a shell. The label explained that this was part of the dreadful damage done when the British bombarded the city in September 1807.

Wondering rather nervously why the Danes were so pleasant to the British if we had done that much damage – and confused about what had happened when I’d always assumed Denmark-Norway (as it was then) was neutral – I climbed to the very top of the tower and saw why it had been such an easy target. The views are fabulous (and for those who are fans of Scandinavian crime drama on TV, the bridge in the far background of the shot is "The Bridge").

When I visited the excellent Royal Danish Arsenal Museum I discovered what had happened.

Danish and Norwegian commercial shipping thrived during the French wars with Britain in the late 18th century – sailing under a neutral flag they did business with both sides. But by 1798 Britain had control of the world oceans and did not want to stand by while neutral countries traded with France and broke their blockades, so the British navy began to intercept cargoes destined for France.

Danish-Norwegian shipping began to sail in convoys with  naval escorts, leading to numerous armed skirmishes and in December 1800 Denmark-Norway joined a league of armed neutrality with Russia, Sweden and Prussia. Britain retaliated by sending a fleet under Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, with his second in command, Lord Nelson, into the Baltic. On April 2 1801 the British attacked ferociously with over 15,000 shots fired in four and a half hours. Many ships fled or were captured and Nelson came ashore and threatened to burn all captured ships, regardless of their crews. The government backed down, allowing Britain to take control of the Baltic and to cut off all cargoes that would benefit France.

The Danes now found themselves in an impossible position. The French marched into Zeeland and the British were in the Baltic – they were caught in the middle. The British government believed the French would invade and take over the sizeable Danish fleet and so asked them to hand over the ships. On the other hand the French were pressing them to allow their troops onto Danish soil. The Danes held out for neutrality but were so beleagured that in August 1807 they effectively declared war on Britain.

British troops under General Wellesley (later Wellington) fought the land battle of Koge, just south of Copenhagen and the city was encircled and bombarded by shells and Congreve rockets from land and sea between 5-7 September. There was vast devastation – almost 30% of the city was in ruins –  and the loss of over 2,000 civilian lives.

The Danes capitulated and the British took their naval stores and the entire fleet – including eighteen ships of the line and eleven frigates. It was not until 1814 that the Treaty of Kiel finally ended hostilities.

So now I know why Wellington called his horse Copenhagen – but I still don’t know why the Danes are so nice about it!

Louise Allen

Thursday, August 15, 2013

On-line Serials

My "Rapunzel Tower" complete with plait of hair

I've been reading Louise Allen's new on-line Regency story this week, An Experiment in Love. If you haven't found it yet, it can be found by clicking here , and I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Louise's story – which comes out as a shortish chapter every day, Monday to Friday – started me thinking about what readers like best in their on-line reads.

Do you like a daily chapter? Or would you prefer weekly, or monthly?

Do you want weekdays only, for the coffee break at work, or would you like weekends as well?

What sort of length do you prefer? A quick read, 5 minutes at most, or something longer? How long is too long?

I'd really love to know. We've done on-line serials on this blog in the past, usually at Christmas. Maybe if you, the readers, would let us know what you want, some of the authors here would be spurred on to write a new serial. I will admit that I've been thinking about it...


PS I couldn't think of any appropriate images for this topic, so I'm including a photo that is ...well... interesting. It does have a vague link to romance, if you're deep into fairy tales. And if you want to see it for yourself, you'll have to go to Lake Constance on the borders of Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Country Aristocrat

This might constitute a typical day in the country, but every day would have its differences and its own varieties.
The household of the mythical Lord Dervish of Dervish Park, Dervishire.
5 am – the kitchen servants rise, ready to build up the fires and prepare for breakfast.
6 am – the indoor servants are all up and about their duties, cleaning, laying fires and preparing clothes etc.
8 am – the family begin to rise. Most people rise early in the country. The maids bring trays to the rooms, with tea, chocolate and bread and butter. Some family members and guests are up for an early morning ride. They may have sent instructions to the stables the night before to that effect. Occasionally, they might hunt, though for the most part hunting was a pastime of county families, not the aristocracy.
9 am – the family are mostly up, dressed in simpler clothes than they’d wear in town. Lady Dervish is in her office, which might be her private sitting room, a morning room or a study, reviewing the menus for the day and attending to the business of the house. The housekeeper and the head cook will usually attend. Lady Dervish reviews all the household accounts herself, initialling every page. Many servants, as well as taking full advantage of the ‘perks’ which are part of their office, may also try to take advantage of a lax mistress, and ‘cook’ the books.
9 am. Lord Dervish is in the estate office, attending to estate matters. Depending on his preference, he will either approve the action his steward has decided to take, or supervise it all himself. This will include everyday maintenance of the estate, the home farm, which provides some of the food for the house, and legal disputes. Most large landowners had something running in the courts.
10 am. Breakfast. This is held after the family has been up for a few hours, and not first thing. It’s typically a running buffet, served in one of the more informal dining rooms. The family and their guests attend. The post is brought in, and the papers which have been delivered by Mail Coach to the nearest town and picked up by a footman earlier in the morning.
11 am. If it’s a designated At Home day, the family are at home to visitors. Dressed in something a little more formal then their everyday country wear, Lord and Lady Dervish, and perhaps their older children, will receive visitors in one of the lesser drawing rooms. Refreshments, in the form of tea, or a light wine, with bread and butter will be served. The practice of offering little cakes tended to be later, though Lady Dervish is fond of a fruit scone, and usually has them served.
Noon. There might be a light meal served, especially for the guests or family who have been out and missed breakfast. However, it is equally likely that they will return and ring for something to be brought to them.
2 pm The family go about their usual daily business. This might be going out to visit, if it isn’t an At Home day, visits to the poor, or even a shopping trip to the nearest town. Country houses tend to have set times for certain events like meals, and then the family and visitors would go their own way and only meet up at dinner.
6 pm. Dinner. The family and guests will have gone to their rooms to change perhaps an hour before. This is the time when they will ‘dress.’ Although the Regency styles of dress were less elaborate than their forebears, this still involves hair-teasing, goffering, discreet cosmetics and careful selection of clothes. The men might have elaborate folds for their neck-cloths, which a gentleman (according to Brummel) always executed himself.
Dinner would be served in one of the grander dining rooms, but not necessarily in the state dining room. The table would be laid with the first course, which often meant cold food, and a footman stood behind each chair to serve the guests. By this period (the beginning of the nineteenth century), most guests were seated continental style, man-woman-man-woman. The most senior guest in rank usually led the way into the meal, and the guests would know automatically which order they came in. I suspect the servants may have made enquiries beforehand to prevent embarrassment, especially for the larger house parties!
Dinner goes on for quite some time, perhaps a couple of hours. It consists of three courses, each of several removes (the dishes placed in a pre-ordained pattern on the table). Afterwards, the hostess, seated at the foot of the table, would stand up and lead the ladies out, to one of the grander drawing rooms. There tea and light refreshments would be served. The gentlemen remained behind. The servants clear the table and serve port and other wines, while the gentlemen settle to after-dinner chat.
Lord Dervish eventually leads the way to the drawing room to join the ladies. Some gentlemen might decide to go to the billiard room, others, the ones too drunk to be presentable, might be escorted upstairs by the servants.
The evening consists of card-games, piano playing, and general chat, unless this is the night of a ball. Bedtime is much earlier than in town, except on special nights.
Lord and Lady Dervish know which of their guests are having affairs, and provide bedrooms conveniently close, so a game of musical bedrooms ensues, with guests moving about until they are all settled in their bed of choice! 

Friday, August 09, 2013

An Essex Ghost Story - 'Catherine Canham - a beautiful bigamist.'

As I'm about to embark on a Jane Austen linked ghost story I've been reading  a delightful little book called "Ghosts of Essex" by Betty Puttick. There is a romantic one set in Thorpe-le-Soken, which is about a 15 min drive from Wivenhoe, in an old pub called The Bell. This place burnt down about 15 years ago and was rebuilt as an exact replica – I asked the landlord if the ghost was still there but he said the place was now no longer haunted.
This is how The Bell  must have looked in 1752
Catherine Canham (Kitty) was born in 1720 and was the only surviving child of Robert and Judith. She was extraordinarily beautiful and had a coterie of admirers,  including the vicar, Henry Gough, who lost his heart to the girl and despite his brother's advice "she's a beautiful creature who will play you a trick" asked for her hand in marriage and was accepted.
Unfortunately Kitty found life as a vicar's wife boring and was a constant source of gossip in the village. And then inexplicably she vanished. There were many theories about the disappearance: she had gone to see a doctor in London and not returned, another that she had a lover in London.
Much later it was discovered the latter story was true and Kitty had met a Lord Dalmeny who asked her to marry him. Kitty didn't hesitate. The unfortunate lord was unaware of her background, and  believing her to be single, he married her.In the next four years they travelled abroad enjoying a luxurious lifestyle, but Kitty were never been strong, and became ill in 1752. Realising she was about to meet her maker Kitty asked for pen and paper and managed to write "I am the wife of the Reverend Alexander Gough, the vicar at Thorpe-le-Soken in Essex. My maiden name was Catherine Canham. My last request is to be buried there."
Her young "husband" loved her so much that he forgave  her and promised to fulfil her last wishes. Her body was embalmed and encased in an elaborate coffin with large silver plates. This was then put in a plain wooden chest, her clothes and jewellery were packed up and her  grieving husband left Italy for France. There, using the pseudonym Mr Williams, he set sail for Dover, where he then borded another ship bound for Harwich. However there was rough weather and the boat was driven into the mouth of the River Colne and customs officers boarded it and suspected the chest was  contraband.
Customs men opened the coffin and found the body but now believed there had been foul play. Dalmeny admitted he was not in fact Williams of Hamburg, but a person of quality taking his English wife home for burial.
Thorpe church yard.
The coffin was placed in the vestry of Hythe Church and remained there until someone arrived to identify Kitty. The General Evening Post 15 August 1752 reported that the actual husband was obliged to go and identify Kitty. Gough threatened to kill Dalmeny for marrying his wife bigamously. However, their love for this lady was so strong it united them. Dalmeny said "affections for the lady was so strong that it was his earnest wish not only to attend  the grave, but be shut up forever with there with her".
Both husbands, united in grief,  in deep mourning, followed the magnificent hearse hand-in-hand to her burial in the church yard. Lord Dalmeny died three years later aged only 31, but Gough survive for another 22 years.
The Bell overlooks the graveyard at the back and was a natural place for Kitty to haunt.
The shadowy female figure has been seen to glide through a closed door, for example, and wardrobes have been moved and bedclothes disarranged. It was happening  in one room which is affectionately known as "Kitty's room". Items have been known to move across the floor, and things vanish. TA landlord at the pub had two guard dogs, but they would never go into the room.
The barmaid recorded seeing a quiche, left on the kitchen table to cool, shoot across and land on the floor when there was no one else there.
Catherine Canham must have been a remarkable woman for two men to have loved her so completely. She reminds me of Lydia Bennet - this was the sort of thing she might have done.

Fenella J Miller

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Lady and the Laird - Scotland in the Regency Era

The first book in my new series, Scottish Brides, has just been published and I've found researching Regency Scotland so interesting. I thought I would share a few of my favourite pieces of research.

Scotland in the Regency period is a fascinating era in which to set a historical romance. Long gone are the days of medieval warfare against the English. By the early 19th century even the Jacobite uprisings, culminating in the Battle of Culloden of 1745, were sliding into the mists of time.

In the mid 18th century the Highland soldier had been feared and mistrusted, seen as a bloodthirsty rebel who should not be allowed to carry arms. Within 60 years this view had completely changed. During the Napoleonic Wars the Highland regiments of the British Army undertook some of the most courageous and fierce fighting of the campaigns, drawing on that legendary Scottish bravery, loyalty and unquenchable valour that had driven them forward through their tempestuous history. By 1815 there were 48 000 Highlanders in the British Army and 20 Highland regiments. They were the pride of the army.

The old bonds that had tied the Highland chieftains to their clans were under pressure long before the’45. From as early as the 17th century many of the estates were falling into debt. A search for profit started to take precedence over traditional responsibilities. When government improvement schemes and a growing demand for Highland produce led to a booming economy, some chiefs were determined to keep all the profits for themselves and increased their rents, in some cases by 500%. As a result many families left the Highlands to seek out a better life elsewhere.

In the first book of my new Scottish Brides series, the Lady and the Laird, the hero Robert Methven is determined to reverse this process of neglect, exploitation and emigration. Although the links of clan and chief might have been weakened by economic hardship, the loyal ties that bound family and kin could still be strong. Robert is a new breed of highland laird, a self-made man. Like many of his countrymen, Robert left Scotland to travel and trade in Canada, carving out a career as an explorer and making a fortune in the timber industry. Life for the Scots adventurers in Canada was incredibly dangerous but explorers such as Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser became both rich and famous for their daring exploits. It was men such as these, whose portraits I saw in the Scottish Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, who inspired my hero.

The ties of responsibility and kinship call Robert home when he inherits his ancestral estates. On Golden Isle,
the land he holds in the far North of Scotland, he finds a community at war. I drew heavily on the history of the Shetland Islands for the book. French privateers were frequently seen in the waters to the west of the Shetlands and warning beacons would be lit in a chain across the islands when an enemy ship was sighted. Sometimes the pirates would raid the estates or threaten the lairds with the destruction of their lands if they did not give them supplies. In addition the British Navy was not above taking any man it could lay hands on into service via the violent press gangs. Sometimes the press gangs took boys as young as 14 into the Navy and left their families defenceless and destitute. It took a strong laird to keep his people together and protect them against the combined threat of enemies from overseas and the clearing of the land at home.

The lairds of the Northern and Western Isles had as much Viking blood as Highland blood, which is a pretty stirring combination. It embodies all the rugged individualism and determination that we look for in our heroes of Scottish romance. And although this is a time when claymores had gone out of fashion, your laird (and indeed his lady) would still be accessorised with a very handsome basket-hilted sword. Sword blades were often imported from Spain and Germany. Scottish sword smiths then added the hilts. The dirk was another essential for the well-armed highlander.

Speaking of accessories, highland dress, tartan, the plaid or kilt, had been one of the things that separated the Highlander from the “civilised” Lowlander. It was outlawed after Culloden and was not made legal again until 1782. Fortunately, by the end of the 18th century the Highlands were starting to be seen as wild and romantic rather than merely dangerous. In 1815 the Highland Society of London decided to collect tartans and identify them with the particular clans and tartan became an extremely fashionable fabric.

The visit of King George IV to Edinburgh in 1822 did much to increase Scotland’s popularity. It was the first visit by a reigning British monarch since 1650 and was orchestrated by Sir Walter Scott. Scott was determined that it would be a celebration of all things Scottish. He invited the clan chiefs to Edinburgh and specified that they should have an escort of Highlanders. The spectacle delighted the King and so the clan system with its tartan overtones was regenerated, at least in the popular imagination.

Finally a word about marriage… If you lived in Scotland, there was no need to run away to Gretna Green to wed, of course. Two major differences in the law between Scotland and England were that in Scotland the age of consent for marriage without the approval of a parent or guardian was 16 not 21 and there was no requirement for the reading of banns. It was thus a lot quicker and easier to marry in Scotland, which Robert and Lucy take full advantage of in the wedding of the Lady and the Laird. The US edition is on sale now and the UK one is out next month!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Chiswick House and Gardens: a hidden gem

Chiswick House, barely five miles as the crow flies from central London, is one of the capital’s hidden gems. Built in the 1720s as a summer villa, it is unusual in that it was actually designed by its owner, the 3rd Earl of Burlington, who was passionately interested in Palladian architecture. In 1714, the nineteen-year-old earl visited Italy for the first time. He returned with eight hundred and seventy-eight trunks full of paintings by the Old Masters, porphyry urns, statues etc., and a number of important treatises and drawings by Palladio himself.

He also brought back the architect William Kent who became a life-long friend. Kent acted as architectural tutor and adviser on the building of Chiswick House, designing the rooms, and helping his patron set out the gardens.
Chiswick House is curious in that it’s more of a summer house-cum-picture gallery than a house to be lived in; there were no kitchen facilities or bedrooms, for example. (For that, they used the old Jacobean house next door.) It was intended as a select venue for parties and picnics, and to house the earl’s library and pictures. Two Rysbrach paintings in the house, dating from the late 1720s, show beautifully-dressed ladies and gentlemen strolling around the grounds admiring the ornamental lake, the exotic birds and the Ionian temple, whilst busy gardeners go about their work to keep the place immaculate.

The house is a two-storey cube. Each storey has an octagonal room in the centre with rooms around it which are either galleries to show off the earl’s Italian acquisitions, or libraries. The ceilings are magnificently plastered, painted and gilded, many by William Kent, and the overmantels, chimneypieces and doors are equally splendid.
The sixty-five acre gardens have just been restored to reveal the original vistas and the numerous garden ornaments and buildings have been repaired. It’s a delightful place to wander round in – I just love sphinxes, and there are plenty for me to admire. There are also some magnificent trees, and swans sail majestically along the lake. And when you feel like a rest, there’s a very nice café where, if you wish, you can sit outside under a table with a parasol and admire the view.

The house itself is now managed by English Heritage and there is a charge for entry, but the gardens, which are owned and managed by the London Borough of Hounslow, are free for everybody to enjoy. And all this not much more than half an hour from central London. Why doesn’t everybody know about it?

Elizabeth Hawksley


Saturday, August 03, 2013


How can a humble street sign inspire a story?  Well, that is exactly what happened with my latest Sarah Mallory novel, a Regency Romance called Bought for Revenge, which was published on 1st August.

This sign is on a side lane off one of the main routes cutting east-west across the Southern Pennines. I drive past it regularly and it has always intrigued me. Burnt Acres Lane.  Did it once lead to a field where the stubble was regularly burned off, or was there perhaps a terrible fire?  So far I have not been able to find out any information about this area, but that hasn't stopped me from making up my own story! As I began to weave my own tale of what might have happened I remembered the  ruin of an old house a few miles away and the story really took off.

This house is called Holme Hall. It is just across the border in Lancashire and dates back to the middle ages, when it was a substantial manor house It was rebuilt in stone at the end of the 17th century and it is said to
be haunted (don't they say that of all old buildings?). It became a retirement home in the 1980s but closed at the beginning this century and suffered a devastating fire while it was standing empty and today is a ruined shell. However, I believe it has just been sold again, so I do hope that this wonderful old place can be brought to life again.

So, I had a house, and I had a working title for my new book - "Burnt Acres". I also decided to set the story itself here on the edge of the South Pennines, with its hills and moors and beautiful lush valleys. I have changed all the place names, but anyone living locally can probably recognise the location.

I began to plot the story of a dreadful house fire and a young man, Lucas Blackstone, who is determined to be revenged for the loss of his home and his family. Of course, all is not as it seems, and the innocent victim of his plans is my heroine, Annabelle. Before long Lucas finds that his growing attraction to Annabelle is a serious problem, since it seems he cannot have justice without ruining the woman he loves. 
Annabelle is a very kind and gentle girl, but she has a quiet determination about her. She refuses to give in to Lucas and sparks fly in their battle of wills. 

Bought for Revenge is one of my all-time favourite stories – so much so that I even re-read it when I received my author copies!  I do hope you enjoy it, too.

Happy reading

Sarah Mallory

Bought for Revenge - pub Harlequin August 2013