Thursday, 10 December 2009

A wonderful surprise



In All Honour, set mainly in Bath, has been shortlisted by
Red Roses for Authors
for their Christmas Award.
The reviewer said: 'This book is a great read, it has many similar qualities to G.Heyer's books. A must for lovers of this genre. I award this lovely book 5+ Red Roses. AS.'

Saturday, 14 November 2009

A new Regency tale - April and May


Rose Charteris is the practical member of the family. Arriving in Constantinople with a sick aunt and a lovelorn younger sister to care for, the last thing she expects or wants is to come face to face with Tom Hawkesleigh, the man who broke her heart four years previously. But in return for help, she is forced to work with him on an urgent secret plan for the Sultan.

The powerful and handsome Ottoman minister, Kerim Pasha, is bewitched by Rose’s English beauty. He whisks the English ladies away to his mansion and a life of luxury. It seems Rose must choose between East and West…



April and May published by Robert Hale, http://www.halebooks.com/
This title will be released in April 2010...
The cover is another splendid design by David Young, showing the hero and heroine in a kiosk as the sun sets over Constantinople.
What does the title mean?
Rose seemed to have found love and happiness on her first visit to London but that was cut short. It took almost four years before she had another chance to find love - so her spring and summer were widely separated.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Hats and cravats





















Before starting to write a story I need to gather people and places using photos, pages from magazines, whatever it takes to build up characters , wardrobes, homes, hobbies, and the places they live in and visit in the course of the novel.

As soon as I start to get the story written, the characters tend to take over and then I must just follow and record the events. But at the planning stage I'm still in control. This bunch are going to be wealthy and dandified, hence my obsession with hats and cravats. However, the biggest dandy may not be the one I now intend for that role....

[PS. Shhh...any excuse to gaze at a picture of Alan Rickman...]

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Regency Brighton


Brighton is another town with a great many Georgian style buildings. Its popularity in the early nineteenth century meant that a huge building programme was undertaken. This has given the town a rather grand and harmonious appearance. It is also useful as research material for a new Regency tale.

The small streets with their tiny cottages, the maze of medieval alleys, even the House of Correction, give the impression of a small town. Around this nucleus a new town grew all the way from Marine Parade to Brunswick Town. There are many fine examples of elegant villas and sweeping terraces of tall, colonnaded buildings so beloved by Regency architects.

Set at the end of the main road from London to Brighton and calculated to catch the visitor's eye as he arrived, was the Prince Regent's Pavilion. It is so incredible that normal criticism or comments cannot apply. The Prince loved his summer palace and was a generous and kind host to his guests. I have to confess that I would have loved to dine with him in that awe-inspiring dining room, under the massive chandelier with its mirror palm leaves glittering and twinkling above the candles. No doubt the other ornaments and decorations reflected the lights in fascinating ways also. And then I would have loved the Prince to take me on one of his tours of the kitchens, where fantasy gave way to practicality and he could demonstrate his pride in all the up-to-date gadgets he had installed there.

Just a dream.... but in my story, perhaps some of my characters can live the dream for me.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

All things Jane Austen - A Regency day out at Chawton


On a bright and beautiful September morning I took my French friend down to Chawton. Jane Austen's cottage and garden looked their best in the sunshine. The garden was full of colourful flowers and the peaceful atmosphere helped to capture a sense of what it must have been like to live there two hundred years ago.


You enter through a door surrounded by late-flowering roses, to find the interior full of items that bring Jane vividly before you. Her topaz cross and a delightful blue bead bracelet, her small writing table, the letters and papers concerning her books, the fine needlework she produced, all create a sense of her daily life in this home.

On that day, Chawton House, "the Great House" as the Austen ladies called it, was open to the public. This complemented the impressions gained at the cottage, of life as lived by the gentry in a less hurried era.


                                                 Chawton House - 'The Great House'


Diana demonstrates the language of the fan to her beau


A display of Regency era dancing by the Winchester Dance Group

We were fortunate to see a display of Regency dancing - a waltz and several quadrilles, performed in costume. Even more fortunate, we were able to join in the dancing at the end of the display, but I fear we did not perform with as much skill as our teachers.

Diana, the lady in the white dress in the photo, is using her fan to communicate with Regency gentleman David Caldo. Diana gave us a lesson in 'The language of the Fan'.


Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Suitable for a Regency hero


At first I was a bit bewildered by Desperate Romantics. Then I saw James Walton's review in The Telegraph, which said:
'Once you realise this is essentially cheerful nonsense, you can relax, give up trying to learn about art history and enjoy even the corniest moments. '

So I did enjoy it - the discovery of the models, the anguished painting, the sliding out of bed to write poems, the rich colours and settings and the dominating energy of Gabriel Rossetti.

Aidan Turner looks very good in period costume. In fact he'd be fine in Regency breeches and maybe he'll land a role in another period film soon. I could well imagine him as Lord Byron
hmmm.......


Sunday, 26 July 2009

In All Honour - a hero with a difference




'Why can't I meet a man like Greg in real life?'

Several people have asked this question after finishing In All Honour. Of course, it helped that Greg is over six foot tall, broad shouldered and has a pleasant, open look with glowing amber eyes and coppery brown hair. He is energetic, brave and kind but fierce in the defence of his family and his honour.


In her review of the book for MyShelf.com, Rachel Hyde says: "I often think that there are not enough Regency novels set in Bath, surely one of the main places that come to mind associated with this period. This book brings the town to life, with a good feel of the place and its pleasures and pastimes. I also enjoyed the amiable Greg, a pleasant change from the usual dominating alpha male and somebody it would be easy to like as well as be attracted to. The odd "gray" character might add spice to this type of tale however, where everybody is either very likeable or irredeemable villains but this is still a very enjoyable novel."

Greg appeared in The Wild Card and so he was already established as a nice guy. It seemed to me that the only way to balance this was to have a truly horrible villain. And the people who like Greg so much just love to hate Lord Percival. So I think my story gives pleasure in some rather different ways...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

A Treat #Nicola Cornick


I really enjoy reading Nicola Cornick's Regency stories. She brings the period alive and her characters always fascinate me. In addition the places are so well described that I can always see where the action is taking place and imagine the settings, whether ballroom or bedroom.


A couple of weeks ago, Nicola ran a competition to identify some ruggedly handsome heroes. Well, that was a most enjoyable exercise. She was offering a copy of The Scandals of an Innocent as a prize. And then she told me that I was the winner. The selection process involves her very handsome dog, Monty. Nicola explains how the choice is made on her own blog: A Passion for History, where you can also see a photo of Monty.

Anyway, I'm now a big fan of Monty as I have a big treat in store....Nicola's latest book to read - what a great way to spend a rainy evening. So far, my favourite hero from Nicola's stories is Lord Richard Kestrel but perhaps in a few days I'll be changing my mind.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Turkish Yoghurt




Turkey is the land of yogurt in all its glory and variety. Yogurt is served alongside your kebab or as a salad with chopped cucumber in it or mixed with aubergine and garlic as a mezze. It may appear cooked with rice and spinach, or as 'mountain soup' [yayla corbasi] with a dash of fiery red pepper and dried mint to garnish it; and finally many cakes and desserts have yogurt as an ingredient.


And then there is ayran, a drink made of yogurt mixed with water and a tiny pinch of salt. This is the most refreshing drink in the scorching heat of summer. The yogurt can be made from cow, sheep or goat milk. 

The photo shows the size of pots and pails of yogurt which would last a Turkish family two or three days. I put a four-pack of western style yoghurts next to one pot to compare....

Sütas, Icim, Pinar, Yorsan,.... They are all good brands and are deliciously creamy to eat - but Turkish housewives prefer to make their own yogurt, which is far superior. So it should be, given that they first developed yogurt making when they were still a nomadic people in Central Asia over a thousand years ago.





Friday, 12 June 2009

Kioskmania



In the interval since my last post, I've been travelling in Turkey. Although there were many other items on the agenda, I kept a keen lookout for kiosks to lounge around in.

This photo is of an open air kiosk in Konya. It is in a rooftop restaurant and is furnished with tables and chairs. No banquettes in this one! The structure gives an illusion of privacy to a family while they eat. The wooden slats form a simple but pleasing pattern. And there are colours and patterns even in the woodwork of the roof.
In the town of Konya some restaurants have set up each room like a different type of kiosk. Some are very large and ornate with silken curtains and impressive ornaments. They have antique tables and chairs in fine woods, These dining rooms are suitable for important celebrations for people in their best clothes.
Other kiosks in the same restaurant are very much closer to a nomad's tent. In these rooms you would sit or recline on a low bench covered with patterned kilims under a draped awning. The food is brought on large brass trays and placed on a low frame about two feet above the floor. When you sit cross legged or recline, you can't really eat too much. Perhaps it's worth trying the kiosk diet...?

Friday, 1 May 2009

The Kiosk in the garden

To us the word 'kiosk' represents a small structure where newspapers are sold. The word came into English from the Turkish 'köshk', meaning 'pavilion'. In the heat of summer it was more pleasant to spend as much time as possible in the open air. The kiosks were made of wooden slats and could be as simple or as ornamental as wished.
                                      
In many cafés in the south west of Turkey you can choose between a table and chairs or a kiosk. Taking tea in a kiosk is a lengthy and relaxing business. The cushioned benches are so tempting you may well have a little siesta before you can find it in your heart to get up and leave. Under the wooden roof of your temporary home with its decorative slatted rails, you can lie and watch the poplar branches sway gently in the breeze against the vivid blue sky.




As I love this element of Turkish life, it was inevitable that a kiosk would appear in my story, April and May,  set in Constantinople. Of course it is not just an agreeable place to sit during the heat of midday but the only safe place for conversations about planning great political changes. It is in the kiosk, too far away for any prying ears to make out what is said, that His Excellency, Kerim Pasha, can discuss the proposed vital military reforms with Tom Hawkesleigh.




There is a kiosk on the cover of April and May, although a more ornate one, reminiscent of the harem kiosk at Top Kapi Palace.

Friday, 10 April 2009

The Basingstoke Canal


The Eighteenth Century was a time of 'canal mania'. As the industrial and agricultural revolution developed rapidly, canals were considered to be a cheaper and more efficient means of transporting goods in bulk than by using waggons on the poor roads of that era.
Hampshire had a thriving agicultural trade and Basingstoke was a well established market town. It was decided to build a canal from Basingstoke to transport the agricultural produce of North East Hampshire to the markets of London. The canal would link with the Thames via Byfleet and so create a 70-mile waterway to the Pool of London. Construction began in 1778 and took six years.


The Canal was moderately successful in its early years, due to the Napoleonic Wars. Because of French naval action in the Channel, coastal traffic was disrupted and it was safer to send those goods that used to go by sailing ship, along the canal.


In In All Honour, however, the road network has been improved and the canal, always over budget and needing a lot of maintenance, is not profitable. Sir Thomas Thatcham has decided to sell his share in the Canal but is waiting for the market to improve before he can make a decent return on his investment.
           

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Lines of Torres Vedras


The Lines of Torres Vedras were a series of defensive forts to defend Lisbon against the French during the Peninsular War. They were ordered by Lord Wellington- and built in secrecy by Portuguese workers between September 1809 and November 1810.

It was the only way to prevent the larger French army from reaching Lisbon. The rapid construction of these three defensive walls was a complete success. When Masséna brought the French army up to the lines, he knew at once that he could not win a battle here. He asked his Staff why they had not known about them in advance.

'Wellington made them,' was the reply.

It was to get more funds for this building work that Greg Thatcham was sent to London in The Wild Card. Wellington had entrusted him with letters for several ministers as well as the Prince Regent.



Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Wild Card


Take a young man seeking adventure and action. He fights in Wellington's Peninsular Army against the French forces of Napoleon. But then he is badly wounded at the battle of Talavera and has to give up the military career he loves so much. He becomes moody and difficult.


Another young man lives the life of a society darling but he has no money. He must live by his wits. Into their lives comes a lively young lady, determined that she will not be married off to anyone, even though her mother has ordered her to make a good match. She longs to go back home and carry on helping her father the vicar with his good works.

B -u -t the two gentlemen are so very handsome and so admiring, she is tempted.... just a little....and at the same time she becomes aware of sinister undercurrents in society life. She has to prevent a spy from damaging her country, but at  a possibly fatal cost to herself.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I couldn't resist



I took my Turkish cousin to Bath for the day. She loved everything, starting with the Abbey and the Pump Room. And when she suggested snapping me in the same place as shown on the cover of In All Honour, how could I resist?

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The city of Bath

'Mr Allen...was ordered to Bath for the benefit of a gouty constitution.' Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. And so begin the adventures of Catherine Morland in the delightful, smart and lively city of Bath



Bath is a beautiful city, thanks to the harmony of the architecture and the honey coloured local stone. It was always an important place, due to the healing powers of its hot springs, first developed by the Romans. In the Georgian period there was a massive development programme to provide elegant and comfortable public and private buildings.
For Georgian society Bath was THE place to spend several weeks or months in the winter.They came to take the waters for their health but also to enjoy showing off their fine clothes as they walked along the wide pavements or in the Parade Gardens below the Abbey. There were coffee houses, circulating libraries, pleasure gardens and of course the Assembly Rooms, where they could dance, gamble and drink tea.
The truly sick were taken from their beds straight into a sedan chair [the staircases and doorways in Bath are all made wide enough for this service] and taken to the hot bath, which gave relief from rheumatic pain.

The Sedan Chair
[Image courtesy of http://www.bath360.co.uk/history-of-bath.html ]

Other complaints were treated by drinking a pint of the warm spring water three times a day. No wonder they sought out the amusements and entertainments to have something they could enjoy!


You can view many old scenes, etchings and paintings of Bath in the Georgian period at 
 Several of the characters of In All Honour are in Bath for their health. Another family is there because it was a useful way to prepare the young daughter, Lavinia, for her come-out in London. In Bath she can learn to dance without being too shy, she can join in the morning promenades, the tea parties, the concerts and gain poise and the necessary social skills of polite conversation and exquisite manners so that she will not be mauled in the tougher world of London society.
In addition, there were a number of schools or seminaries in Bath, for the education of young ladies. Sarah and her friend Lizzie spent several years in Miss Howard's Academy in Queen Square. Then as now, the shops were full of smart and enticing goods and the girls enjoyed their Sunday afternoon walk around the town, when they could get a glimpse of these tempting things.

Friday, 27 February 2009

The Gravel Walk, Bath


When Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth at last reach that happy moment when they understand each other and agree to marry, they need somewhere private to walk and talk and pour out their feelings. They set off through the streets of Bath to the Gravel Walk and take their time to go along this quiet way.

Each time I read 'Persuasion' I always imagine their blissful state, strolling slowly arm in arm as they go over the events that have brought them together and then savour the happiness of a shared future. The physical contact is also a thrill, after eight years apart. How I wish I could see them as they walk and stop, chat, move on a little, he catching her arm and pulling her close. Surely, however well bred she is, she is more than ready to snuggle up to him and maybe even exchange a few kisses.

This scene has fascinated me so much that in In All Honour I send my hero and heroine to walk along the same path. Of course, during that walk Greg is overcome by his feelings and by Sarah's beauty, so he cannot help kissing her. At this point Sarah thinks Greg has an understanding with her best friend, Lizzie, so she is upset by the kiss, even though she enjoys it. What a tangle life is!

She leaned closer, closer… Suddenly, both of them recollected where they were and jerked back at the same instant.
Sarah’s cheeks became very red but she kept her eyes on him steadily. She raised a trembling hand to touch her lips. Her breath was coming in little gasps. Greg’s eyes glowed as he watched her and his mouth curved into a breath-taking smile. They stood there, staring at each other, unaware of the wind, the cold and of various nursemaids and servants passing them in both directions.
It seemed a very long time before Sarah said: ‘We should not have done that. It was very wrong of us.’
‘I cannot believe that something so pleasant can be entirely wrong,’ protested Greg. He raised an eyebrow and grinned at her. After a moment in which she continued to stare at him, he added: ‘but if I have distressed you, I apologise.’
She looked down, veiling her eyes with long dark lashes. Her head was whirling. Why had he done it, when he was as good as engaged to her best friend? Why had she responded? And yet, somewhere in her mind, she rejoiced at that sweet contact, oh yes, and she wanted more of it. Which meant she must put herself out of danger, not just from the man she loathed but from the man she loved.


In All Honour pub: Robert Hale, March 2009

Kindle edition:   Sept 2011


Thursday, 26 February 2009

IN ALL HONOUR


In All Honour will be published by Robert Hale in March.

In 1810 at the end of The Wild Card, Theo's friend, Greg, has fallen in love with Amelia but she turns him down. Broken-hearted, he goes back to his military duties in Spain.

Two years later, he is cynical about women. Wounded at the battle of Salamanca, he returns to England to face a series of problems involving his family. As he tries to unravel the mystery, developments became more and more sinister.

Sarah Davenport is one person who could help him but she constantly avoids his company. Greg cannot deny she has links to the villains even if she seems to be an honourable young lady.
Sarah has her own reasons for trying to keep away from Greg. She accepts an invitation to stay with a friend in Bath where they plan to enjoy the social life, with visits to the Pump Room, the circulating library and Assembly Rooms. Sarah thinks she has escaped but then Greg also appears in Bath - and, horror of horrors, so does the unpleasant Lord Percival, who is hunting Sarah relentlessly.
Can Greg resolve the impossible tangle?

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Seeing HOW they do it


My current story, April and May, is the story of two sisters, Rose and Helena. The story begins in Constantinople [right] in 1804.


Starting a new story is splendid - new people and places to describe and a foolproof new plot. Only, it never is... the main characters quickly take over. By Chapter 9 or 10 they demonstrate their own particular interests. Now they go their own way and do quite different things from what was planned.

Keeping the main characters interacting can be a problem - especially when the heroine sails back to London, leaving the two male love interests in Constantinople. Fortunately they soon discover that they must come to London as well. And then the plot really thickens. Villains swarm all around but the real dangers are the emotions dominating the main characters' actions.

Love, rivalry, pride, fear, honour, determination, revenge and treachery, all have their part to play.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

RNA Awards Lunch, 11 /02 /09


Tuesday, 11th February was a difficult day for travelling. Snow or rain had fallen again overnight and ice and/or flooding caused havoc with public transport the length and breadth of the country. But that did not stop Romantic Novelists heading to the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington to join in the annual Awards luncheon. The cloakroom was full of brollies and boots but the dining room was full of delightfully dressed ladies and gentlemen. There was a happy noise of greetings and exchange of news, the clinking of glasses and the popping of corks.

The tables were laid with crisp white linen and decorated with black candelabra and red and black ostrich plumes. Name cards in beautiful script [which must have taken many hours work to write out for three hundred guests] told everyone where to sit [another headache to plan where to put everyone].

The food was superb. Each course was beautiful to behold and mouthwateringly good. Best of all, the hot dish was served hot! The lemon tart was made in heaven. And throughout, the conversation was cheerful and people made new friends and happily met up with old ones.

The shortlisted candidates for the two prizes arrived early, in a mood of pleasant anticipation. Whatever the final result, during the event they were basking in admiration from their fellow writers. The winner of the Romance Prize was India Grey, while Julia Gregson won the prize for the Romantic Novel of the Year.


My thanks to Pam [Kate Hardy] for letting me use her photo of four Romance Prize finalists.
L-R: Beth, Fiona, Kate, Jessica