Monday, September 29, 2014

Traditional Regency romance

Like many other people, I grew up reading and loving Georgette Heyer's Regency romances. They are full of wit and humour, with likeable heroes and heroines as well as a full range of other characters. One of the appealing things about Heyer's romances is that the heroines are of all different ages and types. Some are young debutantes, some are blue stockings and some are maiden aunts.
My Regency short story, The Dashing Miss Langley, has a maiden aunt for the heroine, but Annabelle Langley is not a wallflower by any means:
She was a striking sight, her Amazonian figure clad in a sky blue pelisse and her fair hair topped with a high-crowned bonnet.
She is full of common sense and knows just how to handle her niece, Caroline, when Caroline is convinced she's fallen in love with the gardener's grandson. Instead of arguing with Caroline, she remarks:
'If Able is your choice, then what business is it of mine?'

When she tempts Caroline with a trip into the country and offers to teach her how to drive the carriage. Caroline can't resist. But when a storm drives them off the road, the dashing Miss Langley encounters an old love at the inn, after which her own romantic difficulties take centre stage.Will she be reunited with him, or will circumstances once again push them apart? And what of Caroline? Will she marry the gardener's grandson?

The story was originally included in The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance but it's now available on Kindle as a single story. Quite what Georgette Heyer and the dashing Miss Langley would have thought about books being downloaded out of thin air and being read on a device small enough to fit into a reticule, who knows?!

The Dashing Miss Langley is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US as well as all other Amazons.  If you're a fan of traditional Regencies, I hope you enjoy it

Amanda Grange

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


While reading about the life of William Wickham, Britain’s first spy master, I came across a reference to ‘the notorious and disgraced Lord Camelford.’  Obviously I had to find out more.
        Born at Boconnoc near Lostwithiel in Cornwall – the house purchased by the Pitt family in 1717 after selling the famous Pitt diamond to the Regent of France (the diamond ended up in the hilt of Napoleon’s sword) - Thomas Pitt was a cousin of both Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and William, Lord Grenville, secretary of state at the Foreign Office. 
        Thomas spent his early years in Switzerland then returned to England and was enrolled at Charterhouse School.  He later claimed those years were the happiest of his life. So why did his father want to move him to a different public school? Whatever the reason, in a sign of things to come, Thomas rebelled and enlisted in the navy as an able seaman.  
        By the age of sixteen he had already acquired a reputation for bad behaviour. Yet when most of the crew abandoned HMS Guardian after she struck an iceberg near the Cape of Good Hope Pitt remained on board. Aided by the remaining crew he helped Captain Riou bring the ship safely into Table Bay.
        Pitt then joined Captain Vancouver’s ship, HMS Discovery on a voyage of diplomacy and discovery. Because all officer berths were taken he again signed on as an able seaman.  
        In Tahiti he was flogged for trying to buy the favours of an island woman with a piece of broken barrel hoop. He was flogged again for unauthorised trading with Indians at Port Stewart, flogged once more for breaking the ship’s binnacle glass while fooling about, and finally clapped in irons after he was discovered asleep when he should have been on watch.  
        In 1793 his father died, elevating Thomas to the peerage as the second Baron Camelford, an event that would have lethal repercussions for Captain Vancouver.    This same year when one of the ships on the expedition returned to England, Vancouver sent the unmanageable Pitt with her. But Pitt jumped ship in Hawaii. After being discharged from another ship and shipwrecked off Ceylon, eventually he got back to Europe, seething at what he perceived as ill-treatment by Capt. Vancouver who had returned to England in 1795.
        Pitt challenged Vancouver to a duel which the captain declined saying he was unable ‘in a private capacity to answer for his conduct in his official duty.’ So Pitt stalked then attacked him on a street corner in London.  While accusations and rebuttals flew back and forth in the press, an ill and exhausted Vancouver died.
        In 1797 Pitt was promoted to lieutenant and given command of HMS Favourite over the head of her first lieutenant, Charles Peterson, who was his senior.  Refusing to serve under Pitt, Peterson transferred to HMS Perdrix.  When both ships were in Antigua in 1798, the two men quarrelled over rank.  After Peterson three times refused Pitt’s orders, Pitt shot and killed him.
        Pitt was court-martialled but acquitted, probably due to Admiralty panic over the recent Spithead and Nore mutinies.  He joined another ship but was arrested for trying to make an unauthorised visit to France, then at war with England.
        Leaving the navy he returned to London but his behaviour didn’t improve. Fined for knocking a man downstairs during a quarrel, he fought a mob that smashed his windows because he hadn’t lit lamps to celebrate the peace with France.
        Yet in 1799 he donated £1500 towards the establishment of a school in Soho Square.
His volatile temper led him to challenge his friend, Captain Best, to a duel over an uncomplimentary remark Best was supposed to have made to Pitt’s latest fling who had previously been Best’s mistress.
The following day Best asked Pitt in the name of their friendship to withdraw his challenge. Fearful of being called a coward Pitt refused.
On 7th March 1804 they met in a field near Holland House. Pitt fired and missed. Best’s shot left Pitt paralysed and bleeding internally. He died three days later, leaving instructions that Best was not to be charged. He was twenty-nine years old. The title died with him.
        Despite his strong sense of honour and proven courage, Thomas Pitt’s violent nature and frequent legal battles saw him condemned as mad.  Today’s medical knowledge might offer a less scathing diagnosis. 

Jane Jackson.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Two series set in the same period? What was I thinking?

I’m currently writing two new historical romance series for two different publishers. How do I tell them apart?
They’re set in the same period, the 1750’s, but the premises are very different. One is straight-down-the-line historical romance. The “What if…?” that kicked the series off was plausible. What if the Jacobites continued to plot in the 1750’s? What if a new threat appeared, a branch of the Stuart family with a legitimate claim to the throne and more plausible heirs than the Young Pretender and his brother? By the 1750’s, Charles Stuart had degenerated into a bitter, fat, drunk, and his brother Henry had become a Cardinal in the Catholic Church. But what if more lurked, somehow?
That series started with a family. A duke and his five sisters decided to name their children after the Roman emperors. So their outlandish names led to them banding together. And when the Jacobite threat came – well, the gloves came off.
My other series, Even Gods Fall In Love has a completely different “What if…?” What if the gods of ancient Rome returned to Georgian Britain? This was prompted by a contemporary remark in a letter, that the aristocracy behaved like the Olympian gods, and expected to be treated that way. So what if they really were the gods?
The series takes the premise that the gods are reborn, Dalai-lama style, in new bodies. So some (not all) of the aristocracy are gods. This of course takes the series a completely different way, into the historical paranormal category.
I want the historical details in both series to be right. Even if the gods weren’t there, even if there wasn’t a branch of Stuarts, I wanted both ideas to fit into a genuine eighteenth century context. So the research I do for both series is broadly similar. When I wanted a whorehouse for Connie to take shelter in for “Rogue in Red Velvet,” I went to Covent Garden and took pictures, chose the house and took note of the doors, windows and general placement. If I hadn’t been able to do that, I’d have gone to Google Maps and the history books, as I do when I write my American-set contemporaries.
But the series have turned out to have very different feels. I thought the Emperors of London would be deadly serious, but the twists and turns have given me characters who don’t always want serious. They want to live and breathe, and have their laughs as well as the tears. That’s one way I differentiate. If I make the characters as real as I can, then they breathe the life into the series. They  might walk the same streets, eat the same food as the gods, but they don’t behave the same way.
I didn’t want these series to interact. I’ve done that before, and it can get messy! So the series are separate. You won’t find Olympian gods in the streets walked by the Emperors. It’s possible that Bonnie Prince Charlie might turn up in a gods book, but he was a real character. One of the people I created for the series never will appear.
The gods series has also created its own character. It’s a trifle darker, and the high concept has given it a character of its own. I’ve just created a London club for it, which will be mentioned in the second book and featured in the third, and I have mazes, ichor, and madmen. All of which has to be researched!

I think what I’m saying is that if you pick up an Emperors book, you might like to take a look at a gods book, but don’t expect the same people to turn up!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Historical Novel Conference

On Saturday I was part of the HNS conference as I sat on a panel with Maureen Lee, Bernadine Kennedy and Jean Fullerton. There were ten different talks and workshops on at the same time and we were delighted that we attracted a good audience. The talk was about the perils and pitfalls of writing 20th century fiction - but a lot of what was said also applies to writing in the Georgian and Regency era. Dialogue was one of the subjects discussed and both the panel and audience we all agreed that using dialect doesn't work and that it's better to change the rhythm of the speech to indicate that the speaker is historical. Gadzookery is not popular! Another area talked about was research. Although there is no danger of anyone having been alive during our period to dispute our facts, it is perhaps easier to research modern history as there are not only books but aural records to refer to. Too many historical details can ruin a story for the reader - we all agreed that history should blend in to the story not dominate it. Characters and plot are always more important than the history, whatever era you are writing in.
Regency books are different to other historicals in that they are a sub-genre with their own rules and reader expectations.They are always romantic, often contain an adventure and must have a happy ending. That they must also be historically accurate goes without saying. I was unable to go to any of the other interesting talks and workshops and wished that I could have done. The conference was well attended and well organised. I am looking forward to 2016 when the next one is in London again. Fenella J Miller

Friday, September 05, 2014

Surnames in Jane Austen’s Novels

I have just been re-reading Maggie Lane’s brilliant Jane Austen and Food. In it, she makes the perceptive point that Mrs Norris in Mansfield Park is ironically named - from the French nourrice, a nurse. She behaves in the most un-nurturing way towards Fanny Price and seems to take every opportunity to put her down. 

I began to think about other Jane Austen surnames which might be significant in some way. Fanny Price’s own surname, for example, could also be viewed as ironic. For much of the novel, she is seen to have little value. Her own mother is happy to give her away to her rich relations, surely a traumatic experience for a timid ten-year-old girl. And Henry Crawford values her only as a plaything when he aims ‘to make a small hole in Fanny Price’s heart’.

Fanny is not taken in. Underneath her shy and retiring exterior, she is spot on in her judgement of the Crawfords and, when Henry proposes, she courageously refuses him, in spite of her uncle’s strong disapproval of such wilfulness. She is, as Sir Thomas, Edmund and even Henry Crawford himself eventually realize, priceless, with a moral worth beyond value.

Even the cloddish Mr Rushworth’s name carries a hint of irony. Maria rushes into her engagement with him, unable to bear the humiliation of Henry leaving without declaring himself. And worth is not a quality we associate with Mr Rushworth – or, indeed, Maria.

We might note, too, Mary Crawford’s letter to Fanny about Tom Bertram’s illness. She makes it clear that, if Tom dies of his fever, then a future ‘Sir Edmund Bertram’ would sound very well.

In Emma, there is surely more than a touch of irony in Frank Churchill’s name. Frank – that is, honest and open – he is not. And Churchill carries associations of Christian good behaviour, which, again, is wide of the mark. By contrast, Mr Knightley’s name suits his character and we see him taking the time and trouble to be kind to Miss Bates and Harriet Smith, both persons of little social consequence.

In Sense and Sensibility, the name Dashwood might be interpreted as an oxymoron.  Marianne certainly has the dash which leaves Elinor with too much of the phlegmatic, though steadfast, wood. Elinor needs more dash and Marianne needs to be more grounded (wood), which is exactly what happens over the course of the book.

Persuasion is, perhaps, the novel with the most interesting surnames. We know that Sir Walter Elliot is very aware of the value of a good name. He is scathing of Anne visiting an old school friend Mrs Smith: ‘A mere Mrs Smith – and everyday Mrs Smith, of all people and all names in the world to be the chosen friend of Miss Anne Elliot…’  Anne makes no reply, though she is well aware that her sister’s friend, Mrs Clay, a woman with no fortune, and ‘no surname of dignity’ is covertly making up to her father.  

Mrs Clay’s surname sounds suitably cloddish and sticky but she has enough guile to elope with William Elliot, Sir Walter’s heir, at the end of the book. 

Sir Walter himself is overly concerned with appearances. At the end of the book, when he learns that Anne is going to marry her former love, Captain Wentworth (a match which had gravely displeased him ten years earlier), he decides that, (Captain Wentworth’s) superiority of appearance might be not unfairly balanced against her superiority of rank; and all this, assisted by his well-sounding name, (a name of ‘worth’) allows him to give them his blessing.     

The surnames in Pride and Prejudice make a different point. Both Darcy and Lady Catherine de Bourgh have surnames of Norman-French origin, thus demonstrating their aristocratic credentials.  However, and this could be an example of Jane Austen’s ironic sense of humour, the maiden name of both Darcy’s mother and Lady Catherine was Fitzwilliam, a surname which indicates illegitimacy as fils (French: son) was used for the illegitimate children of kings or princes. Fitzwilliam might be an aristocratic name, but there’s a definite whiff of irregular behaviour about it.

The one book which doesn’t appear to use surnames to indicate anything about their owners is, surprisingly, Northanger Abbey. Why, I wonder.

All pictures are from The Ladies’ Pocket Magazine
Elizabeth Hawksley


Wednesday, September 03, 2014


As a writer I am often asked where my stories come from. Clearly they have to come from somewhere, and I call it my dream factory.  Today I thought I would show you around.  So, welcome, come on in….

First there is the Creative Section, where new stories or scenarios are dreamed up. This department has several offices, including the car or even the train, for I often think out plots or ideas while I am travelling. Then there are the lanes and moors around my home. The first picture (left) is an ancient trackway where I walk regularly. The moors are particularly spectacular at the moment, with the heather in full bloom

And I also have a helper: this Willow, a member of my creative team – he doesn't say a lot but I often use him as a sounding board for my ideas. To date he has never made one negative criticism!

This next picture is the sort of sky that inspired my recent book The Scarlet Gown: it is set in Yorkshire and my characters are caught in a storm on the moors, easy to imagine when you have this sort of cloud hanging over you.

Then there's the Research & Development Department, where I sort out details of the setting, the historical background, perhaps find some Regency or 18th Century costumes. And of course I have to give my characters A Life. Characters need to have a back story, perhaps a career and sometimes a home. R & D involves libraries, the internet, lots of my own reference books and also places like this,
Lyme Park (aka Pemberley, for some of us!). Wandering through an old property can be very helpful in working out the layout of a character's home, or getting the feel for just how cold and draughty these stately piles must be in winter, not to mention all the hard work involved in lighting fires or getting hot water up to a bedroom!

Then  we come to the hard work – putting it all in order and turning it into a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. This cluttered space is the assembly line, where the dreams and nebulous ideas are pulled together into a (hopefully) coherent whole. (Notice the two stars in pride of place on the top - my Rona Rose Awards from the Romantic Novelists Association. They inspire me to keep going).  I spend so many hours here, typing away, until at last I am happy enough with the result to send it off to my editor.

If we are sticking with this analogy, then Harlequin must be the production line, because they take my typescript and after a bit of judicious editing my dreams are whisked away and turned into a book, not only a digital version but a lovely printed paper version, and here's a selection of recent titles that now sit proudly on my shelf.

So, I hope you enjoyed your whistle stop tour: I am going to get back to work now, but before I go just one more picture – at the end of the day, I put my feet up and relax after a hard day being creative and my assistant needs his rest too: he likes to be covered up cosily so he can sleep, ready for another hectic day in the dream factory!

Sarah Mallory / Melinda Hammond
Never Trust a Rebel – Sarah Mallory, Harlequin Historical, pub. September 2014
A Lady at Midnight – Melinda Hammond – published as an e-book.