Monday, February 13, 2017

Maybe Tomorrow

This month marks the release of my first timeslip novel. If I’d known they were such fun to write, I’d have written one a long time ago!
I was asked to write the story as part of the Enchanted Keepsake collection. There are some fabulous books here, and they all have the same theme. That a woman is condemned to travel through time, bringing happiness to others but never finding it herself.
In my contribution an American visitor to London finds a miniature portrait in a junk shop, and is rocketed back in time to the Regency. She meets Avery, Lord Northcote, the man in the picture. The person who sold her the miniature told her she had a return ticket. Once was all she had.But when disaster strikes she has a terrible decision to make.A few years ago I took a trip down the Thames to Hampton Court. I had a lovely day and enjoyed it very much. I never realized I’d be writing about it! And that is why I keep a diary. I dug up my account of the trip and recreated it for Tabby, and then, later in the story I show how the scenery has changed in two hundred years. It was an absolute treat to write and a great challenge.During the trip I saw a house I thought was absolutely lovely. It’s one of those Thames-side villas that
the fashionable of the Regency had built for weekend getaways (although they didn’t call it the weekend then!) and naughtier pleasures. During my research I found the perfect house, Marble Hill House, the residence of George II’s mistress, Henrietta Howard. It’s a gem of a house and although built a couple of generations before the Regency, I chose it because it’s lovely. It has a slightly racy history, but Henrietta held parties and received some of the most important people of the age. Ladies of society, of course, wouldn’t go there, but Henrietta was a woman of taste and refinement, encouraging poets, artists and other literary figures.
Describing houses then and now was a challenge and huge fun. I wanted to bring the London of yesteryear and today to life, to try to show how it might have changed—and how it stayed the same.Maybe I’ll write more timeslips!

Maybe Tomorrow

Two hearts beat as one - two hundred years apart!

Tabitha Simpson is on her honeymoon alone, after her fiancé cheated on her. In London she finds a tiny shop, where she buys a miniature portrait. The man in the picture calls to her, as if she already knows him. When she finds the full-size painting, magic happens, and she is transported back in time to 1816.

Avery is the Earl of Northcote, expected to marry and provide an heir. But when he finds Tabby on the sofa of his Thames villa, he is smitten. He doesn’t want anybody else. He will defy everybody and everything to have her.
But some things can’t be defied.

Tabby and Avery are madly in love, but they can’t stay together. Their lives are two hundred years apart.
When Tabby goes home, she knows she can’t return. Avery must spend the rest of his life without her, or find a way to join the woman he loves.

Buy the book here:
Amazon US Amazon UK Apple iTunes | Kobo | Barnes and Noble
Available in ebook or paperback.

Read the first chapter here

Thursday, February 09, 2017

How important is it to write a series rather than a stand-alone title?

I'm delighted to tell you that the third book in my bestselling series about the Duke of Silchester, "The Duke's Alliance", and his five siblings is now available on preorder. I'm writing two a year and the fourth one will be published the end of the summer. I can't wait to get onto the duke's story – although he does feature in every book.
This is the second Regency series I've done – the first was the three book 'At Pemberley' series of Jane Austen variations. Although I enjoyed writing these I was glad to write the final one as using somebody else's characters somewhat stifles the creative impulses.
Currently I'm writing the third book in the Victorian saga, "The Nightingale Chronicles", and there will be a fourth next year.
 I've also written the first book in a World War II series, "Ellen's War", Blue Skies & Tiger Moths, which is going to follow the life of a woman ferry pilot in the ATA. This will be launched in April. I'm very excited about this particular book as there aren't many fictional stories about these brave women.
I've written a stand-alone Regency which has yet to be published, and will write a Christmas themed Regency – but these will be the only stand-alone titles I do this year.
Series seem to do so much better than individual titles at the moment – I certainly enjoy reading about the same character in Bernard Cornwell and Christian Cameron's  brilliant series – so I suppose I'm not the only one.
This book is available as a pre order at the moment and will be released on 23rd  February.
Here is the blurb:

£1.99 /$2.99
Release day 23rd February
An Unconventional Bride is the third in The Duke's Alliance series. 
Mrs Mary Williams, a colonel's widow, arrives at Silchester Court with Miss Elizabeth Freemantle, who has been brought up as her sister. Beth is the Duke of Silchester's cousin and he is her guardian. 
Lord Aubrey, the duke's youngest brother, finds himself designated to oversee the London debut of both Lady Giselle, his sister, and his lively cousin, Beth, as the duke is called away to his estates in the North.
Although Mary is only four years older than Aubrey she is more worldly and well-travelled. Mary is not thinking of marrying a second time, she values her independence too much, and certainly not to a young gentleman like Lord Aubrey. 
Only when her reputation is lost, and marriage to Aubrey is impossible, does she understand that her feelings have changed.
Is it too late for them to find happiness together? Will the duke allow her to be part of his prestigious family?


Fenela J Miller

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Jane Austen: The Tyrannical General Tilney

General Tilney is surely one of the most unpleasant characters Jane Austen ever created. He’s greedy, hypocritical and a bully. Yet is it through him that the naïve eighteen-year-old Catherine Morland, heroine of 'Northanger Abbey' learns some important lessons about human nature.


When Catherine Morland first sees him in the Assembly Rooms she is standing beside Henry Tilney – a man she has recently met and finds very attractive. She notices that she is being ‘earnestly regarded by a gentleman…immediately behind her. He was a very handsome man, of a commanding aspect, past the bloom, but not past the vigour, of life.’  He learns forward and whispers something to Mr Tilney.

Catherine is embarrassed by the gentleman whispering. Is there something wrong with her appearance? Then Henry says: ‘That gentleman knows your name and you have a right to know his. It is General Tilney, my father.’  


It the first time that General Tilney’s attentions make Catherine feel uncomfortable, but it won’t be the last. What she doesn’t know is that the obnoxious John Thorpe, the brother of her friend Isabella, has been telling the General lies about her: that she has a dowry of between £15-20,000, and she is the heiress of the wealthy Allens, whose guest she is.

The General is immediately determined that Catherine will marry his younger son, the Reverend Henry Tilney. He invites Catherine to stay with them at Northanger Abbey.


His invitation (he goes on for twenty-three lines) is a mixture of boasting and fulsome flattery. He tries to impress her with name-dropping; he had hoped to see ‘the Marquess of Longtown and General Courteney, some of my very old friends here’ and then asks her if she could ‘be prevailed upon to quit this scene of public triumph, and oblige your friend Eleanor (his daughter) with your company in Gloucestershire.’ He ends, with hypocritical modesty:  his ‘mode of living is plain and unpretending; yet no endeavour shall be wanting on our side to make Northanger Abbey not wholly disagreeable.’  


His use of litotes (‘not wholly disagreeable’) is ironic, and makes it clear that, in fact, he rates the attractions of Northanger Abbey very highly. The whole speech is way over the top and, not unnaturally, Catherine is overwhelmed. ‘To receive so flattering an invitation! To have her company so warmly solicited!’  She takes it all at face value.

But, even as the carriage sets off for Northanger Abbey, Catherine begins to feel uneasy about his constant attention. Is she comfortable? He stops for lunch at an inn and bullies the waiters with impossible demands. He’s very fussy about his food and the ‘short’ stop takes over two hours. What would Catherine like to eat? He fears that he’s offered her nothing to her taste, when she’s never seen such a variety of food in her life before. In any case, they had a substantial breakfast before they set out and she’s not hungry. He makes ‘it impossible for her to forget for a moment that she is a visitor’.


The truth is that the general is a bully who manipulates Catherine into praising everything she sees, whether she likes it or not. Jane Austen leaves us in no doubt that General Tilney fails as a host because he’s not interested in his guest’s comfort. He only wants to hear praise of himself and his possessions.  

It gets worse once they reach Northanger Abbey. Catherine, whose passion is reading Gothic novels, is longing to see the ancient parts of the abbey but the General, having offered her a choice of seeing the house or grounds, says: ‘Yes, he could certainly read in Miss Morland’s eyes a judicious desire of making use of the present smiling weather. But when did she judge amiss? The Abbey would always be safe and dry.’ He has manipulated her into doing what he wants.


Poor Catherine! ‘She was all impatience to see the house, and had scarcely any curiosity to see the grounds.’ She ‘put on her bonnet in patient discontent.’  (A phrase which perfectly describes Catherine's feelings) The tour is a nightmare. The General hopes to learn that the Allens’ estate is inferior to his own. All Catherine can say of what she’s shown: ‘It was very noble – very grand – very charming!’ over and over again. General Tilney supplies his own praise. 

One of the lessons Catherine must learn, both with regard to her friend Isabella and with General Tilney is that people can say one thing but mean something quite different. She has already been confused by Isabella falling in love with her brother James, becoming engaged to him, and then encouraging the attentions of Frederick Tilney, Henry’s older brother (a far better marriage prospect). Duplicity isn’t in Catherine’s nature and she doesn’t understand why people behave dishonestly.


When the General arranges for them to visit Henry’s home at Woodston Parsonage, he insists: ‘You are not to put yourself at all out of your way. Whatever you may happen to have in the house will be enough. I think I can answer for the young ladies making allowance for a bachelor’s table.’

Catherine believes him. But Henry knows better, and leaves Northanger Abbey early in order to prepare a suitably elaborate meal.

Catherine exclaims: ‘But how can you think of such a thing after what the General said? When he so particularly desired you not to give yourself any trouble, because anything would do.’

Henry smiles but still leaves early for Woodston.


After Henry has gone Catherine finds herself pondering on the General’s inexplicability: That he was very particular in his eating, she had, by her own unassisted observation, already discovered; but why he should say one thing so positively; and mean another all the while, was most unaccountable! How were people, at that rate, to be understood? 

What is interesting here is that, for the first time, Catherine is discovering things ‘by her own unassisted observation’. Not only has she has stopped taking everybody on trust - Isabella has been using both James and herself – she has stopped living in her Gothic fantasy world; General Tilney has neither incarcerated his wife nor murdered her. And both of them alter the truth to suit themselves.

Jane Austen after Cassandra Austen. National Portrait Gallery.

Catherine is beginning to judge people for herself; and she is shortly going to need her new-found emotional intelligence. And, I would argue, the obnoxious General Tilney is, perhaps, the most important instrument of her maturation.

Photos of Powis Castle, Dunham Massey and Lyme Park standing in for Northanger Abbey taken by Elizabeth Hawksley 

Elizabeth Hawksley.