Saturday, March 26, 2016


Hi, Jo Beverley here, writing about one of my favourite plot lines.

MOC = Marriage of Convenience, though in historical romance novels the union is usually inconvenient for at least one of the parties. It's an "arranged marriage", perhaps not to everone's liking, and/or a forced marriage.

It's a particularly powerful drama if it's a union of enemies, but that requires situations unlikely in today's most popular period, the British Regency. In fact, arranged marriages can be tricky to set up in the civilized Regency. They're easier the further back in history we go.

For example, in the middle ages dynastic marriages were fairly common, as were the marriages or pledged unions of children, who are less likely to object -- at the time, at least. Fantasy settings can often be created for MOCs.

By the time we get to the Regency, the notion of affectionate marriage ruled, providing fertile ground for many novelists, including Jane Austen. A hundred years earlier most people would have consider the plot of Pride and Prejudice absurd, and would wonder why Elizabeth wasn't forced to the altar with Mr. Collins for the good of the family. Or, looked at another way, why rich Mr. Darcy didn't simply visit Mr. Bennet and say, "I wish to marry your daughter Elizabeth. Let's draw up the settlements."

A crucial turning point was the Marriage Act of 1754, but I don't have time or space to get into it here. Follow the link above to learn more. Why does the article date it at 1753 when I date it at 1754? Because that's when it was passed, but it didn't come into effect until 1754, which was a distinction important in my novel, The Secret Wedding.  That starts with a forced wedding, which was only possible before the Act.
In comparison to an Austen novel, consider a true case from 1719. 
Charles Lennox, Earl of March, heir to the Duke of Richmond was only 17  when his father summoned him from his education and ordered him to marry Lady Sarah Cadogan to settle a gaming debt. The bride, aged 14, was brought from her schoolroom. She was simply bewildered, but he protested at being married to such a dowdy creature.
The marriage took place as ordered, but wasn’t consummated and Lord March left on the traditional Grand Tour. He returned to England three years later in no hurry to meet his wife again. Instead, he attended the theatre, where he saw an enchanting lady in an opposite box. He asked someone who she was, and was told she was the reigning toast of London, Lady March.
He hurried to her side.
Their meeting must have been interesting — Did she remember his insulting words? Was she annoyed that he’d ignored her for so long? But however their early days went, they became a deeply devoted couple. He died in August 1750, aged only 49, and she died a year later of grief.
They were the parents of the famous Lennox sisters, subject of the book and television series The Aristocrats.

Why does the arranged marriage story appeal so much? 
I invite your answers to that question, but here are some of my suggestions.

We are intrigued by the forced intimacy of strangers, regardless of whether the book contains explicit sex or not. Simply learning to live together is challenge enough.

An arranged marriage removes responsibility and/or the pressure of affection. Neither party has to woo or negotiate, or try to decide if the marriage would be wise or not. If it doesn't work, someone else  is to blame.

In a novel, it can get the hero and heroine together quickly. That can be difficult in a historical setting where for many people society did its best to keep spinsters and bachelors apart. If the hero and heroine already dislike each other or are natural antagonists, so much the better.

Do you have some other ideas? 
Do you particularly like arranged marriage stories?
Do you dislike them? Why?

I like to write MOC books, for the reasons above. 

On April 5th, my latest will be available in print and e-book -- The Viscount Needs a Wife
The new and reluctant Lord Dauntry decides a sensible wife will relieve him of many of his problems. A friend suggests widow, Mrs. Kathryn Caterill, who definitely needs a new husband. 

You can read the set up in two excerpts, the first one beginning here.

Happy Easter


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Cornwall and ‘The Falmouth Connection’

I have yet to find a more romantic place than Cornwall. Romance hangs in the air on secluded beaches that make you think of smugglers and dark deeds, or on deserted woodland paths where ivy trails from the surrounding trees fashioning ghostly shapes in the witching hour. There is exquisite romance in the overgrown garden of old country houses, with their granite walls glistening in the damp and salty air. Which is why I had chosen Cornwall for the setting of one of my Pride and Prejudice alternate stories, ‘The Falmouth Connection’.

I love writing Pride and Prejudice what-ifs and designing various scenarios for our favourite couple. And why is it that so many of us simply cannot leave Elizabeth and Mr Darcy well alone? Because they are the perfect couple, little as they know it to begin with, and we want – we need – so much more of them. Because it’s reassuring to believe that there is such a thing as destiny; that there is a red thread guiding us through trails and tribulations towards the happily ever after. Because it’s wonderful to think that no matter what heartless obstacles are set before them, Elizabeth and Mr Darcy would still be together, and everything is well in the world.

Let me take you today to beautiful Cornwall, to the secluded gardens of Cotehele, my inspiration for Landennis Manor in ‘The Falmouth Connection’. This is a variation that begins at Hunsford around the time when Mr. Darcy decides to go ahead and make his disastrous first proposal. He does not get the opportunity – and we all know that it’s for the best. But he has no inkling and is severely disappointed when Elizabeth is suddenly summoned to Falmouth to meet a great-aunt she never knew she had. Little does Mr. Darcy know that as a result they would both become embroiled in a tale of deceit and peril. There would be smugglers involved, of course – it is 18th century Cornwall after all. But smugglers are the least of Mr. Darcy’s worries as he finds himself forced to question other people’s motives and especially Lord Trevellyan’s, a landowner of great consequence whom he suspects to be a dangerous man and, worse still, a rival. And then there is a troublesome French connection and all manner of secrets and lies, in a land that feels alien to Mr. Darcy. A land where few – if any – are what they seem to be…

So much for the ‘cloak and dagger’
And the romance?
Do read on and see. 

The scene is set in a garden very much like this one:

But you will have to imagine it in the middle of the night. It’s very late and there is no moon, not anymore. It’s very dark, much darker than in this nighttime picture. Too dark, in fact, to see what is before your very eyes. A few hours earlier, Elizabeth had been obliged to venture out – and she had found more than she had bargained for in the woods surrounding her great-aunt’s gardens. And now she is returning to the house after a series of troublesome encounters, only to discover that the eventful night is not over yet!


Breathless with the swift trek uphill and with the terrors of the night, Elizabeth hurried to the house. The garden door would not be open, surely. Would they hear her if she knocked? Perhaps not. Perhaps she should walk around to the main entrance.

She rushed forth noiselessly over the damp grass – and stumbled into something or someone in the darkness, only to find herself caught and held tightly in strong arms that would not let her fall, yet at the same time prevented all escape!

Before the cry of utter horror could leave her lips, a deep voice, warm and earnest, stilled her struggles and set her thoroughly at ease – for she would have recognised that voice anywhere.

“Sshh. You are safe. You are safe. You need not fear me. Forgive me for startling you thus! You have nothing to fear. Thank goodness, you are safe!”

The words did not sink in. Not yet. Not quite. But their fervent cadence reached her, along with the overwhelming certainty that this was not some unknown aggressor. It was Mr. Darcy – and she clung to the folds of his cloak with all her might, shaking like a leaf. Not for fear, though. The fear vanished as though it never was, to be replaced by the strangest weakness. Had he not held her, she might have collapsed, for her knees felt useless, about to give way, and her head was swimming.

‘It must be the shock,’ some wispy threads of reason sensibly claimed, but at this point she could barely heed them.

Still shaking, and still gripping the folds of his cloak with trembling fingers, she could not think straight. She could only feel. And the only feeling she could readily identify, from the tumult and confusion that seemed to reign inside her, was unspeakable relief that at long last this was someone she could fully trust. Someone who came from her own safe, sane world, and not from this terrifying other, where one could not tell one’s friends from one’s foes!

She was not cold – at least she did not think she was – and yet she felt herself shaking from head to foot with a violent shiver. Or was it a sob? Or both? Most certainly a sob this time, and then another, deep and wracking. She could not control them, which was terrifying in itself. She struggled for breath – and yet did not withdraw from the tight clasp of those arms, but unconsciously drew nearer.

Support and succour and safe haven. How strange that she had never felt as safe before. It was the oddest certainty that nothing could harm her now, and the relief made her positively dizzy, after the events of this long night, without a doubt the most frightful she had experienced in her entire tame existence.

The sobs subsided, tempered by the novel thought, and no less by the equally novel, barely perceptible sensations. A light touch of warm lips on her brow, sliding to her temple. Cold fingertips brushing against her cheek – and yet the trail of their caress was not cold at all. It was hot. And tingling. Another touch of a cold fingertip on her lower lip, in a light stroke, so light that she could barely feel it.

Her senses, previously dulled by the dizzying weakness, came suddenly alive, like hissing candles lit in very quick succession. She felt his breath upon her cheek, warm, rapid and uneven, and her own breath turned fast and shallow, as though to match the pace of his – then grew faster still when the narrow gap was closed, and his lips touched her cheekbone. They lingered there, dropping light, feathery kisses, and the cold fingertips were on her chin now, tilting her face upwards – or perhaps she had already done so of her own accord; she truly could not tell.

“Elizabeth…” she heard him whisper, his lips still trailing a soft line on her cheek, and then the whisper gave way to a harsh intake of breath – and his lips were on hers. No longer soft and tentative, but searching. Deepening the kiss, over a length of time that seemed to be measured in thundering heartbeats. Her eyes flew open, yet she could barely see his face. The moon had long since hidden behind clouds and they were in the deepest shadows. She reached up, her hands seeking blindly until her fingertips encountered the hard jaw, the cheeks, ever so slightly rough, not perfectly clean-shaven any longer, and she explored their shape, strangely glad of the darkness as she stroked their contours, never before touched, yet ever so familiar just the same.

Under her touch, the jaw tensed, and she could hear his breath becoming ragged as the kiss deepened even further into something her thoughts could not encompass. In truth, there was no room for thoughts, not anymore – otherwise she might as well begin to wonder what on earth was she doing in the gardens of Landennis in the middle of the night, kissed breathless by none other than Mr. Darcy, whose offer of marriage she had refused a few hours ago!

There was no sense, no reason, just the exquisite kiss and the night that suddenly felt warm and gloriously perfect, after the reign of fear and of doubt. Come to think of doubt though, she might as well begin to doubt her sanity for allowing this to happen – but as his hands roamed across her back, clasping her so fiercely that she could barely breathe, she closed her eyes again, relishing the madness and the bewildering sensation of homecoming, into strong arms that would keep her safe.


If this sufficiently romantic ;) ? If so, I hope you'd like the rest. Thanks for visiting and I would love to hear from you.

                           Books by Joana Starnes on

Friday, March 11, 2016

Marie Lloyd – Queen of the Music Hall and Unwitting Victim of the American White Slave of 1910

 This month I have been researching the Edwardian era for my novel about suffragettes and decided to give one of my characters the name ‘Maud’. I then got sidetracked (as one does on the internet) by the poem, Come into the Garden, Maud, which led me to Marie Lloyd, the Queen of the music hall.
Born Matilda Alice Victoria Wood in 1870, Marie led a fascinating life, made all the more spectacular due to the fact that she was operating in the days when women were expected to behave with decorum and reserve, and were pilloried if they did not conform to these ideals.  Her cheeky delivery of songs, with suggestive nudges and winks were considered vulgar at the time, but still made her very popular. Her personal life was tumultuous as well. She married three times, divorcing twice and several times ended up in court giving testimony against two of her husbands on the grounds of what we would now call domestic violence.
But for me one of the most interesting anecdotes of her life occurred in 1896 when she performed in front of a local council. The council in question were considering refusing to renew a local music hall’s entertainment’s licence on the grounds that the lyrics to songs sung there were offensive. Marie was summoned to the council and sang three of her best-known songs with such charm and innocence that the council could find no fault with the rendition. However, she was so incensed at their interference and judgmental attitude that she then launched into a performance of Come in to the garden, Maud. This was a popular ballad of the time, adapted from the poem by Tennyson, and performed by the daughters of the middle class in many a drawing room. Marie proceeded to execute it in such a way that it sounded filthy and was so crudely suggestive that the councillors didn’t know where to look.
The other incident in her life that I found fascinating happened when she travelled to America in 1913 to appear at the New York Palace. She was with her boyfriend of the time, Bernard Dillon. They had been together since 1910, although Marie was at that time still married to her second husband. When Marie and Bernard arrived in New York they were refused entry as they were not married, as they had claimed when applying for entry visas. They were detained and threatened with deportation on the grounds of ‘moral turpitude’. Dillon was charged under The Mann Act (often known as The White Slave Act) in that he had attempted to take into the country a woman was not his wife; Marie was charged with being a passive agent. After a lengthy enquiry, a $300 fine each, and an imposed condition that they were to live apart while in America, the couple were allowed to stay until March 1914.  The Mann Act was named after Congressman James Mann of Illinois, making it a felony to transport any woman or girl for the ‘purpose of prostitution or any other immoral purpose’.  Its stated intent was to address prostitution, but in reality it was a backlash against the considerable freedoms that women were finally experiencing as they were gradually being liberated from the strict social confines of the time. It therefore became less a weapon in the war against prostitution than to be used to prosecute inter-racial and unapproved pre-marital and extra-marital relationships. The penalties would be applied to men whether or not the woman involved consented and if she did, she would be considered an accessory to the offense. Marie and Bernard were therefore caught right in the cross-fires and Marie was so humiliated by this incident that when the tour finished she vowed never to sing in America again no matter how much money she was offered.
Although Marie died in less than glorious circumstances, penniless and alcoholic she was in her own way as much a crusader for women’s rights as the Pankhursts.  During my research I developed quite a soft spot for her, so expect to see her playing a small role in my next novel, provisionally entitled ‘Grace’.
Jacqueline Farrell writes historical and paranormal romances with The Wild Rose Press. Her two paranormal novels ‘Sophronia and the Vampire’ and ‘Maids, Mothers and Crones’ and her historical romances, ‘The Scarlet Queen’ and ‘Dragonsheart’ are available from Amazon and all good e-book stores. Follow her on twitter @jacquiefw1 and on her website   

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The reasons why I love being a historical fiction author-publisher.

Last week I released The Duke and Miss Bannerman – again.
I wrote this book many years ago and sold it to DC Thomson, then to large print with Linford Romance. It then went to a US e-book publisher, which folded, and the people who worked there started Musa. It then came out with them. I got back the rights to this book two and a half years ago and since then it has been languishing on my PC waiting for an opportunity to reappear.
The book has been re-edited and proofread again – you wouldn't believe how many things were wrong with it. How did two supposedly professional editors miss the major historical error? I referred to the duke as "my lord" instead of "your grace" throughout the book.
Therefore this is its fourth reincarnation. Hurrah for e-books is all I can say at this point. I know a lot of writers disapprove of Amazon but for me they have turned my career into a success story. Indie publishing is no longer looked down on but is considered a professional choice for many writers.
Of course, a few years ago, if my then agent had found me a major deal with one of the big five I would have been delighted. How things have changed.
However, I'm now content with my writing life and have no desire to become entangled with an outside authority. I have control over my writing output, my covers, when I publish and what sort of book I produce – why would I want to relinquish control of all that? 
Another crucial issue for me is being able to set the price of my books – there's no getting away from the fact that readers want cheap books. Indie published e-books now make up 45% of the American market on Amazon and traditionally published books have less than 25%. The only reason for this, as far as I can see, is that our books are competitively priced. A new Lee Child e-book costs the same as the hardback – how silly is that?
 Also, I doubt that I could earn much more, even with one of the big five, than I do at the moment.
Although I am mainly known for my Regency romances I also write WW2 and Victorian sagas. I couldn't write in three different genres if I was with a traditional publisher – they would expect me to stick to the one that was the most successful. I know very successful traditionally published writers who no longer enjoy their writing because they are obliged to produce the same sort of book year after year.
I wonder how many of you actually know whether the books you are choosing to buy have been produced traditionally or by an indie publisher.

Here is the blurb for the book:

This Is a 'Pride & Prejudice' story – he is as proud as Darcy and she as prejudiced as Elizabeth. 
A marriage of convenience to Peregrine, the Duke of Essex, is the only way Rosamond Bannerman can save her family from ruin. Her twin, Amelia, is too sensitive for such an undertaking. 
However, Rose finds Perry arrogant and proud whilst he thinks Rose pert and impolite. He considers her sister Millie a more suitable bride but when Rose takes her sister's place, her actions compromise them both. 
The duke is obliged to offer an arrangement neither party is happy with.

Click US  $1.99
Click UK  £1.50

Saturday, March 05, 2016


I've just been re-reading Pride and Prejudice, and I found myself wondering what, if anything, could be said in Mrs Bennet's favour.

At first glance, she seems to have nothing whatsoever to recommend her as a wife or mother. Jane Austen says of her, ‘She was a woman of mean understanding, little information and uncertain temper.’ Furthermore, her manners leave much to be desired; Mr Darcy, in his letter to Lizzy, writes about Mrs Bennet’s ‘total want of propriety’ and poor Lizzy herself, ‘blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation’ when her mother came to see Jane at Netherfield. Lizzy knows, all too well, that her mother's behaviour seriously lessens her chances of making a good marriage.

Jane Austen: National Portrait Gallery

However, whilst admitting that Mrs Bennet’s behaviour could be embarrassing, nevertheless, I came to the conclusion that Mrs Bennet had also given her daughters some very useful qualities.  

Lovers: from The Lady’s Pocket Magazine

For her point of view, ‘The business of her life was to get her daughters married,’ and in this she is entirely single-minded. Far from being of ‘mean understanding’, Mrs Bennet is absolutely clued up here. Her daughters have got to marry; if they don’t, their financial situation will be perilous indeed. After Mr Bennet dies, Mr Collins will inherit his estate. Would he offer them a home at Longbourn? I can’t see any of the sisters wanting that. Their only work option is to be a governess; and we know how sketchy their education was. ‘We never had any governess’ Lizzy confesses to Lady Catherine.

From: Correspondence between a Mother and her Daughter by Ann Taylor, 1817

So what did Mrs Bennet give her daughters? I began to think about why Mr Bennet married her. Jane Austen tells us he was, ‘captured by (her) youth and beauty and that appearance of good-humour which youth and beauty generally give.’ And if Mr Bennet, a well-educated man, could be taken in by youth and beauty, why shouldn’t other eligible men fall for her beautiful, good-humoured daughters?

Genetically, Mrs Bennet has passed her beauty down to at least four of her daughters. When Mr Bingley first pays a call on Mr Bennet ‘he had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much.’ Beauty and good-humour are very useful qualities for girls who are not rich.

Promenade Dress, 1809. Lydia in Brighton?

Furthermore, I would argue that she also handed down a sort of sexual self-confidence in  relationships with men. Jane Austen mentions Lydia’s ‘high animal spirits and a sort of natural self-consequence’,  and she means, surely, sex appeal. When Lydia returns to Longbourn after her shot gun marriage, she is described as: ‘untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy and fearless.’ How many of us have heroines with very similar qualities (except, perhaps, being noisy). None of the Bennet girls are shrinking violets - and their outgoing self-confidence certainly doesn't come from Mr Bennet who prefers to shut himself up in his study and read.

From: Costumes Parisiens, 1827

Lizzy, too, has inherited the magic ingredient of sex appeal. Consider how Darcy reacts to her at Netherfield, early on in the story: ‘There was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman and he was by her.

She’s beautiful and she’s sexy; and for that she has Mrs Bennet to thank. Of course, she has other, more solid qualities, too, but it is these very basic ones which initially attract Darcy to her. I decided that you could do a lot worse than have Mrs Bennet as your mother.

I rest my case.

Elizabeth Hawksley

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Surgeons, Doctors and a new Sarah Mallory novel!

My very latest Sarah Mallory novel, Return of the Runaway, is published next month, so I thought I would give you a sneak preview of the cover.

When I sent Lady Cassandra off to France after her scandalous elopement in The Chaperon's Seduction (Book 1 of The Infamous Arrandales series) I had no idea what would happen to her, only that she would have to come home eventually, having met the love of her life (I am writing romance, after all!)

In 1802 the Treaty of Amiens brought a brief lull in hostilities between Britain and France, but neither side expected it to last. War was declared again in May 1803 and Bonaparte ordered the arrest of all British males between the ages of 18 and 60 in France and Italy. Cassie and her husband were among those detained, but when Cassandra is widowed and wants to return to England, her journey is not straightforward and she needs help. Enter Raoul Doulevant, a surgeon from Belgium who has his own reasons for wanting to leave France.

The story was partly inspired by a book I picked up by chance one day on a market stall. It is called Escape from the French and is the story of Midshipman Maurice Hewson. In 1803 he was captured near Brest and marched to the Fortress of Verdun. Eventually he managed to escape and after a dangerous journey overcoming illness, police, customs officers and inquisitive strangers he reached safety in Austria. The narrative of the rigours of his journey were extremely useful to me in imagining Cassie and Raoul's flight.

Although Return of the Runaway is set more than a decade before Waterloo, it was my research for the famous battle of 1815 that inspired Raoul's character. It was then that I learned about Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey, Chief Surgeon to the French Army. Larrey was described by Bonaparte as "The most virtuous man I have known" and even Wellington noticed his courage under fire.  (This is a portrait of Larry on the left, and I think he looks quite heroic, don't you?)
Larry was instrumental in improving the medical support for the army and he also developed the flying ambulance, a light carriage that could be used to transport the wounded away from the battlefield.

Bringing together the granddaughter of a marquess and a Belgian surgeon gave the story an added twist, for at that time surgery was not considered a gentlemanly profession, so Raoul is even less acceptable to Cassie's family than her first husband. Doctors were gentlemen and would be invited to dine with the wealthiest families. They might study Latin and Greek at university and attend lectures on medical procedures, but they rarely had any practical experience - their profession was not supposed to include any manual labour (a gentleman did not do any actual work!).

As a surgeon, Raoul was considered a tradesman because he worked with his hands and actually carried out operations and was paid for his work (doctors too were paid, of course, but discreetly). The role of surgeons had changed in France since the revolution, and it was one of the reasons Raoul went to study at the Hôtel Dieu, a major hospital in Paris. Surgery was also becoming more respectable in England too, and after the founding of the Royal College of Surgeons of London in 1800, it was customary for surgeons to take the examination for Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons and put MRCS after their name. 

So, I had the background for my book and I put Cassie and Raoul through a great deal before they reached their happy ending…. But if you want to know how they achieved it, well, you will just have to read the book!

Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory
Return of the Runaway – Sarah Mallory. Published by Harlequin April 2016


Winter Inheritance – Melinda Hammond. Out now on Kindle