Sunday, August 27, 2017

Restrictions and Parameters in writing historical romance

We novelists do like giving ourselves problems. One of the ways we do this is by finding some kind of niche within our particular genre. As if it isn't bad enough that Regency has its own parameters and restrictions merely by the fact of being set in a particular period.

I always think of Regency romance as fairytales for grown-up little girls. I've never lost my love of the fairytales that enchanted me as a child, and writing Regency is a bit  like writing a fairytale.

For one thing "the past is another country", and for another there is still the basic boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl that is the standard romance trope. Within that the permutations are endless.

However, we are still restricted to the confines of the period, although we do have to take liberties or there wouldn't be any story! The truth of the matter is that marriage in the Georgian and Regency period was very much an arranged affair on the whole. Of course people fell in love, but often couldn't marry the love of their life. Engagements often went on for years and years while the man in the case followed his profession and stabilised his income to be able to afford a wife.

Jane Austen's Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice is likely closest to the norm. She married a man she despised because it gave her independence from her family, took her off her father's hands as an expense, and provided her with her own household to run. She was 27 and if she had refused Mr Collins, she would likely have remained a spinster, a drain on her family and obliged to help out wherever she was needed in exchange for her keep.

Thus we can't stick with that particular truth or where is the romance? And so we are writing a fairytale dressed up in the parameters of the time and with some or many of the rules broken - depending on the author's personal feeling about sticking with period detail.

You can also be stymied by the requirements of the publisher. For example, when I began writing for Mills & Boon many moons ago, I could include lots of secondary characters, plenty of adventure and some fairly chaste sex. Over time, editors began to request us to concentrate on the developing central relationship and keep periphery characters to a minimum, but ramp up the sensuality. Adventure went out of fashion and then came back in later.

There is therefore a freedom in writing for yourself and putting your own work out there. But we authors seem to be bent upon giving ourselves a headache. What do I do but decide to write a series about Cinderella heroines - that is, those women who (like Charlotte) have missed the boat or didn't "take", as well as those stricken with poverty, or who have to earn their own living, or those orphaned poor relations made into drudges. In other words, the no-hopers who either never expect to be married or are confident of being left on the shelf. These are my Brides by Chance.

Why, I hear you cry, is this a problem? Well, I've given myself the headache of finding ways for these girls to meet a hero when they aren't even debutantes (mostly) and to find a way for them to become respectable enough to be married to a hero who is at least an earl. It's vital for him to be a high-ranking peer or where's the Cinderella element?

Right now in the wip I'm struggling with Hetty, a heroine whose father has lost his expectations and thus she and her twin are now poor and unable to have another season, and the new duke of the district who just happens to be a recalcitrant type with an in-built resistance to conformity. Well, he has to, doesn't he? Otherwise Theo is not going to flout convention - which dictates he marry a female of high rank, excellent family and prospects - and plump instead for our highly ineligible disaster-prone miss with an excess of sensibility and a tendency to weep at the slightest provocation. She's a fighter though and gives as good as she gets.

Actually, I love having to be inventive to overcome the restrictions. Although I never know how in the world I'm going to do it while I'm writing the book. I just start with a heroine, a hero and a premise and off I go, hoping something will occur to me to make it all come right in the end.

Elizabeth Bailey
Brides by Chance link

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Pride and Prejudice For Ever!

 It’s now 200 years since Jane Austen died, but her books are immortal. As if to prove this point, Mammoth Screen have just announced a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, which should hit our screens in 2020. The news has been widely reported, showing the evergreen popularity of Jane Austen and her timeless novels. The Radio Times and Digital Spy both carried the story.
     So what do we all think about it? Comments on my facebook page have been mixed, with most people needing to know more before they make up their minds. What we know so far is that it will be made for ITV and adapted by Nina Raine, who promises us a darker version of the novel. Quite what that means is anyone’s guess. It could mean there will be a focus on the humour rather than the romance, or more emphasis on the plight of the Miss Bennets – in fact, it could mean anything. We’ll just have to wait and see. 

Meanwhile, Austenesque fiction fills the Pride and Prejudice - shaped hole in our lives. My own novels, including Mr Darcy's Diary, Dear Mr Darcy and Mr Darcy, Vampyre are all still very popular, and new books are appearing all the time. There are trilogies, novels, novellas and short stories – there really is something for everyone. Historical Romance UK’s own Monica Fairview has a wonderful trilogy, the Darcy Novels, out now. Mr. Darcy's Pledge starts the trilogy,  followed by Mr Darcy's Challenge, and Mr. Darcy's Pride and JoyAustenesque Reviews loved the novels and said: “I am quite enchanted with these delightful sequels by Monica Fairview!” 

As far as single novels are concerned, there are plenty to choose from. I counted over twenty new titles this month, including A Companion For Miss Darcy by Ellen Carstairs. This seems to be a popular theme, because I counted four further “companion” tales, including one by the excellent Joana Starnes. There are also novellas and short story collections for those who prefer shorter reads. A Stay at Pemberley by Caroline Bryant is an August release, and there are plenty more to choose from.
     It isn’t only Austenesque fiction that owes a debt to Jane Austen. Regency romance owes a debt to her, too. Mr Darcy is the inspiration for the arrogant, haughty heroes who fill Regency novels, and Elizabeth Bennet is the inspiration for intelligent, independent and forthright heroines.

For those who like Regencies, as well as Austenesque fiction, five of our blog authors have a new collection out for the summer. Midsummer Marriages is sure to keep you entertained, whatever the weather!

There isn’t enough space to mention every new Austenesque release here, but if you have an Austenesque release this month, feel free to include a link in the comments below. And don’t forget to tell us what you think about the forthcoming adaptation of Pride and Prejudice!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Air Transport Auxiliary - ferry pilots in WW2

At the moment I'm writing the second book in my three book series, Ellen's War – An ATA Girl. The first book, Blue Skies and Tiger Moths came out earlier this year. The second book follows Ellie Simpson from June 1940 until December 1941 – at least that's when I think it will finish. I don't really know until I get there. In this one she leaves the WAAF and joins the Air Transport Auxiliary. Therefore, this month I thought I'd tell you a bit about them. The trouble is I find the subject so fascinating I'm doing rather more research then I should and a lot less writing. This is why I love being a historical fiction writer – I can immerse myself in fascinating facts.
The ATA was started by the director of British Airways. He could see that when the second war started there wouldn't be enough trained pilots to protect Britain if they were used to ferry new aircraft from the factories and take back damaged ones for repair. Also there would be a suspension of civil aviation which meant these pilots would have no work.
The RAF had strict entry requirements and many of these civilian and commercial pilots would be considered unsuitable for operational service.
Initially just over a hundred men were recruited from all walks of life. It soon became apparent that these gallant few would not be enough to move trainers, fighters and bombers from storage units to RAF squadrons stop the RAF had thought they could use their own pilots for this but it became glaringly obvious after Dunkirk they would need every able-bodied RAF pilot in active service.
Most of these ATA pilots were limited to flying single engined training aircraft so they were given conversion courses so they could fly Hurricanes and Spitfires and multi-engine types.
Then Pauline Gower stepped in and convinced the powers that be that well-trained women could do the job just as well as men. So on January 1st 1940 eight women pilots were employed to ferry Tiger Moths and Pauline was appointed commander of this first group of women flyers.
They were based at Hatfield in a small office behind the de Havilland hangars. There sole job initially was to fly planes from the de Havilland factory to training airfields and storage units, for the most part in northern England and Scotland. This was the middle of winter and Tiger Moths were open cockpit. This was the first time in history women would be officially given the task of ferrying military aircraft and they did a wonderful job at it.
ATA girls in uniform.
By 1941 the women were at last cleared to fly class II aircraft, Hurricanes and Spitfires. More women from all walks of life were taken on until eventually there were twenty-two ferry pools – some pools like Hamble, Crossford and Hatfield were all women ferry pools but most of the others were mixed with men and women pilots working side by side.
Many foreign pilots also found employment in the ATA. They were known as " The Flying Legion of the Air," as there were men and women from thirty other countries in the organisation.
In 1943 female pilots who had previously earned 20% less than male pilots were at last given equal pay. By now they were flying all class of aircraft, with the exception of class VI flying boats. They flew using only a compass and gyro and could only take off and land when the weather was clear.
By the end of the war ATA pilots had delivered over 300 000 aircraft of 51 different types. The ATAs total complement consisted of 1152 men and 166 women. There were also aircrew, radio officers, ground engineers and ATC cadets. 129 men and 20 women were killed in service, including Amy Johnson.
Fenella J Miller

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A new book!

Forgive my dust, but I have a new book out this month, and I'm mad keen to tell you about it!
Fearless is the first book in The Shaws. While you met this family in The Emperors of London, now the most scandalous family in London gets to tell its own story!

When Lady Charlotte Engles receives an offer of marriage from an eligible suitor, she’s finally ready to let go of her long-held hope that her engagement to Lord Valentinian Shaw will result in marriage. For despite the betrothal their families made between them, Val shows no interest in leaving his reckless life behind in favor of one with Charlotte. But when her plea to end their arrangement ends in a heated embrace, suddenly Val seems reluctant to let her go . . .

The last thing Val wants is a wife, despite how desirous his lovely bride-to-be has become. But when he discovers sweet Charlotte is planning to marry a dastardly man, he feels duty bound to keep her safe, even if that means making good on his marriage pledge. Then Charlotte is taken hostage by her dangerous suitor and suddenly Val is ready to risk everything for the woman who has won his heart .

Buy the Book and read an extract:

Maybe you'd like a taster? How about a garden tryst?

“I ask one favor before we say goodbye. Because this will be goodbye, Charlotte. I will seek an interview with my father and you must speak to yours. They will negotiate how best to break the contract and then it will be over. You’ll be free to marry your Lord Kellett," Valentinian said.
She closed her eyes and swallowed. Yes, she would. “Could I ask my father first? Will you give me a few days?”
“Of course. We shall say that my behavior is too much for you to bear. That is only the truth, after all.”
He saw too much, but she would not deny it. “Yes.” Her stomach tied itself in knots at the thought of the ordeal that lay ahead. But she was set on the path now and she would see it through. At least she could offer a substitute husband, one who wanted to marry her immediately.
 “I’ll always be your friend, Charlotte. You must come to me if you ever need help.” He didn’t say it, but he inferred that her brother was no use. That was not strictly true, but as yet he was too young to have any influence on their father. In time he would make a fine duke, but to rely on a man five years younger than she—no, she would not think of it.
Normally she would have said thank you, drawn her hands away, and asked him to take her into the house. Today she wanted one more thing. “I want us to part with a kiss,” she said, but her voice shook on the last two words. Just once she would know what he tasted like, why women went wild for him.
He stared at her, eyes wide and dark.
“Never mind. I didn’t mean it.”
With a swift movement, he dragged her forward, tipping her off-balance so she fell into his arms. “Oh yes you did.” His voice deepened to a growl as he settled her against his shoulder. “You shall have your kiss, Charlotte.”
When she opened her mouth on a gasp, he brought his mouth down on hers.
Charlotte had imagined adult kisses, of course she had, but this was her first. That was why she’d wanted it from Val. He knew how to kiss. He must, with the numbers of lovers he’d had.
She wasn’t wrong. His lips caressed hers, brushed over them in a gentle caress, moving from one side to the other before settling in for a firmer touch. Unthinkingly, she reached up and curved her hand around the back of his neck. Under the crisp, white neckcloth, his bare skin waited for her. Inching a little higher, she discovered the nape of his neck.
Was it her imagination, or did he shudder?
He had his hands spread over her back. Even through her shift, stays and the heavy back pleats of her gown she felt them burning, touching her as if she belonged to him. They held her firmly, giving her the entirely erroneous impression that she was safe with him. Charlotte had never been safe from Val.
When he crushed his lips against hers, she moved closer, curving her body to press against him. Despite the many layers they both wore their proximity made her melt. His breath was hot on her cheek, and the stubble she could not see, only feel, rasped with delicious roughness against her chin.
He touched her lips with his tongue, delicately tracing. With a little gasp, she opened. His grunt was like nothing she’d ever heard from him before, unguarded and essentially masculine.
Firm, slick wetness caressed her when he touched her tongue with his, stroking her, exploring her mouth, delicately at first and then with more firmness, taking all she offered and demanding more.
When he sucked in a breath through his nose she realized she’d been holding hers. She followed suit, breathing through their kiss, letting him take her where he would. His moan vibrated through her mouth, and she swallowed it, hungering for more.
Was she really letting this man go? She should have hung on, demanded more, because she ached to know what came next.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Celebrating 25 books with Harlequin/Mills & Boon

My September release, Pursued for the Viscount's Vengeance, is my 25th book for Harlequin/Mills & Boon and it will be available for sale from mid-August.

I will be celebrating with a Goodreads Giveaway for the book later this month, so do look out for that, and I am also planning a major giveaway to celebrate reaching this wonderful milestone, so if you want a chance to win the prize enter then please do visit my Facebook and sign up for my newsletter (the button for this is on the left had side of the page).  Here is the link -

In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here is a sneak preview from the beginning of the book. First, when Deborah is at the assembly and knows someone is watching her....

Deborah’s spine tingled as she went down the dance. He was here again, the stranger in the shadows, watching her. She had never seen him clearly, but she was aware of him, it was as if she could physically feel his presence. As the dance ended and she accompanied her brother from the floor she glanced across the room. Yes, there was the tall figure of the man she had noticed around the town several times in that past few weeks. He kept his distance and was always just turning away whenever she glimpsed him, or disappearing into a doorway. He was plainly dressed, but he carried himself with such assurance that she was sure he must be a man of substance.

Not for the first time she thought of telling Ran, but what could she say, that she had noticed the stranger on several occasions? The man had not accosted her; she had never caught him ogling her. Indeed, he had never been that close to her, but somehow her body knew when he was in her vicinity. She sensed him, like a wild animal sensed danger.


Next, the moment Deborah and Gil meet for the first time - an unplanned encounter, that leaves them both shaken....

Deb had been lost in her own thoughts, hurrying to return the shawl her kind friend Lady Gomersham had loaned her and get back to Randolph, but the near collision brought her to a sudden halt. She was murmuring her apology even as the gentleman scooped up her parcel. It was then, as he straightened and looked at her, that she recognised him.
Manners were forgotten. Deborah stared at the man as he handed back her package. He had been a shadowy figure for some weeks, but fate had given her this opportunity to study him and she took it. She observed every detail: the near black hair, the slate-grey eyes set beneath curving dark brows, the unsmiling mouth and strong cleft chin. The lines of his lean face were too angular to be called handsome, but they were further disfigured by a thin scar that ran down the left side, from temple to chin.
All her suspicions were confirmed when he met her eyes. His was not the look of a man who had just bumped into a stranger. The intensity of his gaze made her tremble inside and set her pulse racing, but the next instant he had stepped back and was smiling politely as he tipped his hat to her and strode on. Deb clutched her parcel and remained frozen to the spot, trying to quieten her pounding heart. She must not turn back. She must not stare after him. Summoning all her willpower, she forced herself to walk on around the corner and out of sight, but for the rest of the day she carried his stern, unsmiling image in her head. The Man with the Scar.

So, who is the Man with the Scar, and why is he watching her? Deb can think of no reason why anyone should show such interest in her. Her conscience is quite clear and her quiet life has so far been completely uneventful. Now, however, everything is about to change.

Pursued for the Viscount's Vengeance is a rip-roaring adventure full of romance and danger. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope I shall go on to write another 25 romances!

Happy reading, everyone.

Sarah Mallory

Pursued for the Viscount's Vengeance will be released mid-August and available in bookshops and online.

And have you tried my Melinda Hammond Regency Romances? They are now available on Kindle.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Royal Coaches and Landaus

Earlier this week, I was invited to the Royal Mews Bloggers’ Breakfast. I’d never visited the Royal Mews before and I had the most fascinating morning. This post looks at a couple of things I learnt which I thought might interest you. You may already know them but my own knowledge, as I discovered, needed both correcting and expanding.

First: the landau. I remembered, of course, the obnoxious Mrs Elton, in Jane Austen’s Emma, boasting about her sister’s barouche-landau  - which she takes every opportunity to mention (presumably because Emma doesn’t have one at Hartfield). And, at the end of Persuasion, Captain Wentworth buys Anne ‘a very pretty landaulette but I wasn’t very clear as to what a landau actually was, and how it differed from other coaches.


A Semi-State Landau

According to the O.E.D., the word dates from 1743 and comes from Landau in Germany where this four-wheeled carriage was first made. Its top is in two parts so that it can be either half or fully opened. It looks a bit like an old-fashioned perambulator. I’d always pronounced ‘landau’ as if it were German (which it was, originally) with the ‘au’ bit rhyming with ‘Frau.’ I was wrong. It’s correct pronunciation is ‘landor’.
A State Landau looks much the same as the semi-state but is more decorated. The 1902 State Landau which carried the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge back from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace after their wedding, is upholstered in crimson satin and richly ornamented in gold leaf; it has four candle-lit lanterns and is drawn by four Windsor Grey postillion horses, that is, it’s driven by postillion riders.

A postillion’s Ascot livery. Notice the riding boots.  

The postillion’s state livery comprises a scarlet and gold jacket and a wig and cap. The jackets may change - they also have semi-state livery, Ascot livery and everyday dress - but they always wear white breeches and top boots.
The State Landau can hold up to four people and it’s perfect for those occasions where the occupants need to be clearly seen from three sides: two footmen, looking magnificent in their red and gold coats, sit behind the occupants.


Here I am, in a Semi-State Landau, waving

And, if you want to sit in one yourself, there is a replica Semi-State Landau in the Stable Block where you can do just that. It’s certainly comfortable to sit in but it’s probably not so much fun when moving as the floor of the landau moves both up and down and from side to side.
The second thing I learnt was the difference between a coach being ‘postillion driven’ and ‘coachman driven’.

The Glass Coach

This coach dates from 1881 and it was bought for King George V’s coronation in 1911. It is a particularly comfortable coach with excellent suspension, which must be a relief - not all of the royal coaches are so comfortable. Traditionally, it is the coach royal brides travel in to their weddings, including Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923; Princess Elizabeth in 1947; Princess Anne in 1973; and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. At least they didn’t arrive at the church door feeling sick. 

Coachman’s livery

You can see that there is a box richly draped with a ‘hammer cloth’ at the front for the coachman to drive the horses. His state livery is the gold and scarlet frockcoat shown above. He also wears scarlet plush knee breeches, pink silk stockings, and gold-buckled shoes, not to mention a wig and a wonderful tricorne hat with ostrich feathers. There is no seat behind for the footmen; they have to stand – though they do get to wear rather amazing hats which makes them look as if they’ve just returned from the Marlborough wars. Their job is to open the door and let down the steps for the occupants.  


The Gold Coach used at the Coronation

Here the Gold Coach, the one used in the coronation; this is postillion driven. The postilion rides the leading nearside horse of a team or pair and it is he who drives the carriage. The Gold Coach actually needs eight horses to pull it, so each pair has a postillion on the nearside horse. The nearside is the pavement side so, in effect, postilion–driven coaches have a right-hand drive. 
Most of the royal coaches can be either postillion-driven, or coachman-driven as the coachman’s box is removable. If there is a royal event where it’s important that the occupants are seen, then the coach’s box will be removed and the coach will be postillion-driven.
We were very lucky to have an excellent guide, Charlotte Regen, who is currently writing a book about the Royal Mews. She not only gave us the information in a lively and interesting way, she also told us the stories behind the coaches.