Thursday, 9 November 2017

Random bits of fun...

What women really talk about...


Here we have to imagine a Phone call to friend:

'What are you doing this evening? Thought we could get together over a bottle of best Vino.'

'No, no, can't come over this evening, I'm holding a dinner party for a character.'

'You what? Are you kidding?'

'No, I said character, as in novel, fiction novel.'

'OK, so who've you invited?'


First off I love Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, er Colin Firth, but I feel sure a conversation would drag in talk of books and estate affairs and little action would result from such an engagement.


Such a pity because he's devilishly handsome!

'He's a bit too suave, and so up his own... Well, you know what I mean.'  
--------------------

Then of course there's Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre, psst, (Toby Stephens - Black Sails)  though I fear his moody Rochester brooding nature and dour countenance may leave me suffering the pangs of boredom, and he has difficulty in raising more than a grunt in response to female chatter.

A pity because he has eyes that see beyond his immediate surroundings and seem so full of sorrow.
-----------------------


'Rochester? Oh yeah, but bet his carnal grunts are worth suffering the boring bits.'

So my choice then is that of Sharpe, Richard Sharpe,  (Beano) for I know conversing will be no hardship with this bold warrior. In truth I fear words will be few and humour all the greater.


We shall dine, partaking of black Russian caviar and champagne, best beef and claret, and lemon mousse. With brandy for him and coffee for me we shall retire to the orangery. What then, who knows, and I wager it won't all be chat - much laughter!

Friend on phone: 'Oh my, Oh my. Always knew you had the hots for Sean Bean. On my way. It's so long since we caught up on things. See ya - kissy kissy.'

Reply as phone goes dead: "Another girlie night reminiscing over characters in novels it is, then."  
  

Monday, 30 October 2017

Ladies Riding in Regency era.



Why did ladies rarely ride a horse in Hyde Park/other parks during the Georgian/Regency?

Namely keeping horses in London was cripplingly expensive unless they were in constant use as carriage teams. Most driving horses were ride/drive trained for riding astride by postilions and or grooms in times of need, exercise, shoeing et al. Secondly, leisure riding horses were somewhat scarce on the streets due to differing wars, in particular the Peninsular Wars, which greatly affected the years running up to and during the 9 yrs of The Regency. Basically it was equally expensive to keep more than one working horse at this time and one had to be remarkably wealthy to purchase "one" let alone keep it in peak condition for all eventualities. 



Postilion


Devonshire House

Few houses, barring the Duke of Devonshire and a few notables had private mews stabling. Secondly ladies side saddles were made to order to fit the ladies seat and length of upper leg (vital) for excellent balance/seat, one couldn't simply leap to a side saddle - a task not impossible from the ground with modern side saddle apron and jodhpurs, but damn near impossible in full riding attire of times past, hence a block, or serious assistance was required to mount one's horse. 




Saddle circa 1800s
Notice the left knee grip turns upward, unlike modern day side saddles. 




More modern side saddle

Aside from that, taking a ride in Hyde Park was all about one's "equipage" meaning the quality of one's carriage and horses. Though it is to be noted mounted cavalry officers/soldiers oft rode in the parks, hence romantic encounters with ladies out walking or riding around in carriages! 


Also there was a turnpike, in other words, one had to pay to gain access to Rotten Row,  to enter Hyde Park. 


The earlier Old King’s Road became the Hyde Park bridle path, which in turn became the renowned Rotten Row. Hence strict rules were applied to RR. All horses and carriages were required to abide to walk or trot. No reckless driving or riding was acceptable, given that many vehicles, high-perch curricles and High Perch Phaetons - in particular - were prone to topple over if carelessly driven at excess speeds. 

Specific areas of Hyde Park itself were set aside from the pedestrian walking paths and driving route, so that riders could partake of a canter or two. Albeit horses could be exercised along Rotten Row very early of morn by grooms and stable hands, horses led in hand by mounted grooms thus banned, which prevented ostlers at inns and jobbing handlers from exercising 1-2 horses in hand whilst mounted. 

Dress code and turnout was of prime importance and expected high standards were thus met by the rules. So who enforced the rules?          


Rotten Row 


High Perch Phaeton



High Perch Curricle


People, even the aristocracy, walked for leisure far more than we do today. And despite the general filth of narrow alleyways in the days when Gardy loo was bawled from overhead windows seconds before a chamber pot or other was emptied to the ground below, by the later Georgian period the greater thoroughfares/streets of London and Bath/other were regularly cleaned by dung boys with hand carts who collected droppings and sold them to gardeners at houses and to the larger gardens/grounds of Vauxhall et al for grand flower beds. Were the boys orphans exploited by unscrupulous orphanage or little businessmen in their own rights and supplementing a poor household? A story in there methinks...




Notice the old open sewer/drain running through the middle of the street/alleyway. Notice also the beginnings of roof drainage (shootings) and tap/sink drain pipes appearing on the facades of houses during the Regency. The Duke of Wellington was one of first to have a heating system and supply of hot water taps to sinks and baths. 

But sadly, the Thames remained the greatest stench source, as did the remaining open sewers/drains yet to be included into underground sewers.Hence sedan chairs were still in use in London and other cities for getting around places where shoes could be ruined/soiled with foul effluent. So be a tad wary in having a female character who rides, leaps off her horse and mounts at will without assistance of a strong groom or mounting block of sorts.



Victorian Print 

Believe it, putting a left foot to stirrup and then having to cross the right leg between horse and rider to achieve the correct position of right leg to upper pommel/horn of a side saddle is a dangerous manoeuvre and utterly impossible with full flowing skirts. One would have to display a vast amount of leg, not to mention skirts in a dreadful mess and impossible to untangle.


Jumping side saddle is safer than it looks - though it requires greater skill to keep one's balance in a saddle made in the 1700s and 1800s. Due to the shape of the lower pommel/horn.  




See modern apron and position of legs in jodhpurs within above pic being that of a Western ride side saddle. 
The extra foot support is not on any of my English saddles as a the jumping pic shows.

As an aside, it wasn't until Victorian times when stables hiring out "hacks" came into full swing, and ladies too could hire a horse and escort (groom) - a safety measure in case of mishaps. Hacks being the term for hired horse as were Hackney cabs/carriages. 


This particular design became a regular sight in Victorian London, the drivers of black cabs as of today, having to undergo "The Knowledge" before they were licensed to operate a hired cab. The Knowledge entailed memorising routes and street names - basically knowing the ins and outs of London thoroughfares and its side streets.  
Earlier hackney carriages resembled 




Reportedly this one is a sketch 1823 - note it has draw curtains - a damn weird contraption.

Before in earlier times cabs were strangely less basic more a Brougham in design, each carriage company with it's own style. Private hire company carriages were commonly called "Drags".





Last but not least, the Sedan Chair which could lay claim as having the longest life of all in terms of use worldwide, though at its most fashionable in England from the late 17th century through to The Regency 19th century.  Its decline was rapid around the 1820s as horse breeders were once again selling horses for private use, and with the coming of the first steam engines and railways, thus the carriage and mail coaches suffered the same rapid decline as the Industrial Revolution stepped up a gear with steam driven machinery in all walks of industrial life. Sadly the country suffered for modernisation as city smogs became far more potent than they had been before, grime on houses and streets changing the face of beautiful buildings to black encrusted edifices to modernisation. Not until the mid 20th century did the big clean up begin with high pressure sand and water cleansers to bring once magnificent building back to the former glory, which continues to this day with restoration projects!            



Captain Gronow snippit:  Of the Park that, as lately as 1815, it looked a part of the country. Under the trees grazed not only cows, but deer, and the paths across it were few and far between. As you gazed from an eminence, no rows of monotonous houses reminded you of the vicinity of a large city, and its atmosphere was then "much more like what God made it than the hazy, grey, coal-darkened halftwilight of the London of to-day. The company, which then congregated daily about five, was composed of dandies and women in the best society; the men mounted on such horses as England alone could then produce. The dandy's dress consisted of a blue coat with brass buttons, leather breeches, and top-boots; and it was the fashion to wear a deep, stiff white cravat, which prevented you from seeing your boots while standing.


"Many of the ladies used to drive into the Park in a carriage called a vis-à-vis, which held only two persons. The hammer-cloth rich in heraldic designs, the powdered footmen in smart liveries, and a coachman who assumed all the gravity and appearance of a wigged archbishop, were indispensable. 


The carriage company consisted of the most celebrated beauties, amongst whom were conspicuous the Duchesses of Rutland, Argyle, Gordon, and Bedford; Ladies Cowper, Foley, Heathcote, Louisa Lambton, Hertford, and Mountjoy. The most conspicuous horsemen were the Prince Regent, always accompanied by Sir Benjamin Bloomfield; the Duke of York, and his old friend, Warwick Lake; the Duke of Dorset on his white horse, the Marquis of Anglesey with his lovely daughters, Lord Harrowby and the Ladies Ryder, the Earl of Sefton and the Ladies Molyneux, and the eccentric Earl of Morton on his long-tailed grey. 

In those days 'pretty horsebreakers' would not have dared to show themselves in Hyde Park; nor did you see any of the lower or middle classes of London society intruding themselves into regions which, by a sort of tacit understanding, were then given up exclusively to persons of rank and fashion. Such was the Park and the 'Row' little more than half a century ago.

The equipages were generally much more gorgeous than at a later period, when democracy invaded the Park and introduced shabbygenteel carriages and servants.



If you enjoy novels and novellas with heroines who ride, you may enjoy Lady Louise de Winter



One grave transgression in her past and Lady Louise de Winter, has accepted all hope for love and romance is but a dream she dare not embrace. Aware her semi-closeted existence on the Harcourt Estate is no more, and a substantial inheritance awaits her pleasure, her friend Count Casarotto suddenly brings his personal troubles to her door and seeks sanctuary. Worse, pursued by officers of his majesty’s regiment of horse, Louise endeavours to conceal his presence despite qualms as to his innocence. What is more, devastatingly attracted to the senior officer, Louise battles to retain sense of propriety as burning desire within takes hold. But despite Major Fitzwilliam’s reassurance he cares not a jot about her past, the truth remains she is not as other young would-be brides. Therefore, dare she give her heart into his care?

Amazon UK     Amazon Com

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

17th-18th-early 19th Century furniture.

From crude basic early chairs of ye olde England and Scotland, Tudor and Jacobean are notable, often beautifully carved wood-workings, and later came the more elegant styles of the royal courts of Louis XVI, and the Georgian/Napoleonic era, thus knowing a common “Settle” from a “Settee” or “Sofa” takes on new meaning for authors researching these periods in history.




After all, who really looks at a Settle and sees it as a basic template for Settee, and where did the sofa derive from? And yet, all three are merely a glorification of former designs from differing places. 


Jacobean Settle circa 1600s.  There were box settles too and ornate carving, some of the settles with drawers, some with cupboard doors beneath the seat, some with lift up lids.  



A Georgian Box Settle - note storage space, and it's remarkably plain. 


Early 18th Century Settle

During the latter half of the 17th century (English Restoration) Charles II wished to emulate the glories of the French Court, and regardless of expenditure, he had the royal apartments within the royal palaces refurnished and refurbished with plush-padded settees, chairs likewise padded and covered with tapestry cloth.



17th Century "Settee" - a refinement of a settle -  the design lasted throughout Charles II era into the Georgian. 


By the dwindling of the Stuart era, Queen Anne, furniture of Queen Anne’s reign became far less chunky leg-wise and decidedly elegant with a feminine lightness to structure and lighter fabric coverings, and continued thus into and throughout the Georgian era.



Queen Anne Chair - likewise Queen Anne Settee followed the same pattern for open-end armrests.


Queen Anne "Sofa" - here we see the high solid sides!


In the short period of the Regency era, the resurgence for Roman architecture applied to the building of many houses in the early 18th Century became fashionable and readily noted at Chatsworth, Blenheim Palace etc. So too, by the mid-Georgian period stone plinth stools and seats of Roman times became apparent with wooden replicas in the form of plush settees, chaises, and long footstools.


Here we can see the scrolling aspect and the high sided  "sofa".


Chaise Longue


Roller Stool - Roman influence.


Arm Bench - Roman influence. 

So where do sofa’s fit into the equation, one may ask? Then we must look to Eastern Europe and the countries bordering Asia, to Persia as was (now Iran), to Turkey, and Arab nations, where high-backed, high-armed sofas were commonplace.




 Arab -Asian Sofas



By the mid Victorian era, chunky furniture once again became in-Vogue, but I’ll not go there for much of it was ugly and I don’t pen novels in that period of history. At any rate, that’s my excuse to stop at the end of William IV’s reign.

Look out for next historical aside with Wardrobes and Armoires. 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Busting Decorative Myths of the Regency Era.

Busting Myths – in particular the Georgian Regency myth that aristocrats clambered to have their walls pasted and wallpapered with damask print and beautiful bird prints, is far from true. Aristocrats during the Georgian period considered silk-clad walls as not only a mark of decorative panache it also became the mark of their wealth, as had vast wall tapestries of old within fortified manorial houses, castles, and palaces.


Frieze work

By the end of the Stuart era (Queen Anne) when velvet as a favoured upholstery fabric had already been superseded by damask print, we see in the Georgian period where silk print, from damask to stripes, the latter very much in vogue prior to and the early years of the Regency era. In many houses oak panelled walls were renovated, the upper removed and replaced with silk panels with glorious effect, and those with silver and gold thread shimmered in candle light even though silk itself reflected light.


Silk Clad Wall

With new found wealth of the Georgian age, a good many of the grand estates built on slavery in foreign parts, not least in the West Indies, (though the British were not alone in the practise of slavery, which included the French, Dutch et al) and as grand new houses and estates appeared on the English landscape, likewise whole streets in towns and cities were erected (Bath, Cheltenham, London et al, and Bright Helmstone latterly known as Brighton in the era of the Regency).


Silk Cladding. 


With new wealth came new builds and large windows to create light and airy rooms, French windows opening onto terraces, and so too desire for elegance escalated with grand orangeries, and long before the Victorians went wild with glass house construction. Victorians went to town with conservatories from modest to spacious, from lean-to to freestanding, thus almost every garden in Victorian England had a greenhouse of one sort or another, often erected by occupants, except for the very poor who lived in back-to-back houses with tiny yards.

  





Many of the grand new houses adopted Grecian themed interiors with glorious single colour panels with not only plaster frieze work to ceilings but to walls, not unalike Jasper Ware as can be seen with Wedgewood ware crockery, ornamental dishes, bowls, pots ‘n’ all. 



The reason for no wallpaper being the first wallpapers of the Regency era were rather garish and more attuned to walls at theatres, music halls, and those lacking taste, as many said of the Regent himself, as tending tasteless in dress.






Ghastly, were they not? 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

When Characters Take the floor!



My guest today is Therese Countess Roscoff.


To express how pleased I was to learn my story would be featured here, at Francine's blog, thrilled me, but now that I am here, it is all a little daunting. Where to begin I ask myself, and short of saying my early life embodied a humble existence within the back streets of London is to understate it, and yet as a child love abounded in the place I called home. As we all know circumstances beyond our control oft contribute to a life we accept and live through whilst dreams of a fairy tale existence are merely that, dreams. How then did I become a Russian grandee, you may well ask. In truth my good fortune was entirely due to a regular client of mine, and my trade was of the innocent variety at that time. He was a man of intellect, moral uprightness and of a kindly disposition who saw something in me that had never entered my head as a means of better revenue than I could attain from my corner pitch. Through him I learned much about deportment, voice, and how to present myself to the best of my abilities, along with the added assistance of professional persons who practised artifice with flair and perceived wisdom.

And so my world changed from a bleak pitch and mean pickings to a life in which I could ably provide little gifts for the woman who had given her life to my upbringing. To witness her hard work made less hard by my contributions to household funds filled me with sense of pride, for never could I fault her in the love she had bestowed upon me through harsh and good times as befalls the less well off in society. To say my new position placed me within the upper echelons of society is to some extent true, though truer still to say the grandees frequented my place of work. Oft times there were those who displayed great appreciation and affection for my contribution to that which they deemed as entertaining, exciting and oft dramatic. It was on one occasion of extreme appreciation that I met Valetin, Count Roscoff, who was the most handsome and gallant man who had kissed my hand, needless to say I fell instantly in love with all that he embodied. Subsequently a whirlwind romance ensued and before long I was married and became a courtier at the Empress Catherine’s Winter Palace in St Petersburg. My life with Valetin was short, his death a tragedy and a sober moment in my life with the added realisation I had been swept away on a dream, a dream I should never have accepted so readily. Such is life and the foolish romancing of youthful innocence, but I had in my time in St Petersburg acquired two innocent waifs who reminded me of my past life, and to them I gave my heart as they in turn gave me theirs.

With my little family I moved to Venice and their set up home, though we did indeed travel a great deal in the first few years to all the places Valetin had taken me en route to his homeland, thus Vienna became a favoured place until the day I ventured to Naples. There by introduction I met Emma Lady Hamilton, Lord Hamilton, and Admiral Lord Nelson, and Emma and I became friends, and the King and Queen of Naples likewise sought my company. You see a countess was acceptable in the grand settings I frequented, and with a trusted page at my side, he too learned a great deal about other titled persons by way of fellow pages; as did I from frequenting the salons and private apartments of Italian and visiting grandees. And whilst in attendance at one of Emma’s evening soirees I met Lt Herne, the man who turned my world upside down, inside and out, and of whom I fell madly, deeply in love with, and that is where my story and his truly began. What happened thereafter I must leave unsaid, else there will be no mystery for you to unravel and determine whether I of all people could be a thief, the notorious Venetian Jewel thief. After all, I was far from poor with a good widow’s pension and sound allowance from my deceased husband’s estate, and yet I felt threatened and when tragedy struck within Naples, worse befell me and my world came close to collapse until... Perhaps you will understand the dreadful dilemma that befell me and why I had to do what I did. Thank you for being here and I pray you will enjoy Francine’s interpretation of my life as it unravelled and at how a new romance hauled me from the dark depths of despair.




Saturday, 22 July 2017

Writing Sequels...

Writing a sequel to a best selling novel, which despite a few reviews held #1 - #10  (up and down that scale) for four months, one always wonders if the sequel will draw the same interest. Who can say what makes one book do better than others, but even best sellers can slip and slide into obscurity for a while and in some cases they make a come-back all on their own without any advertising at all. 

And so I took the plunge and gave Marcus Fairweather, the Earl of Sheldon his own book (a novella), and all on account of his being a likeable rogue. Be assured he is no better in this book to begin with, until he encounters Squire Thorne's wife. Marcus being Marcus is not in the least deterred by the fact May is a married woman, not even when she seems oblivious to his charms, or did she feign as much? 

Thus the Duke of Malchester, he whom married "The Reluctant Duchess" plays no part in Marcus' story, but then, Marcus is a bit of a dark horse, and when one becomes embroiled in a dubious murder, the least people who know of whom you are bedding in secret can be a saving grace! 

  


There's more to this story than merely lustful intent, romance, and murder, there's also a strange mystery attached that indeed holds the key to murders committed back in 1685 and an act of family treachery. 

The Book's Blurb:

A scandalous moment of surrender to Marcus Fairweather, Earl of Sheldon and May Thorne is riddled with guilt: all despite the fact her debauched husband’s passions are sated anywhere but in the marital bed. Worse, when Squire Thorne is brutally murdered, her legacy is determined by a clause in her late husband’s will. Thus wedlock to his lawyer, a man of zealous moral and religious bent is utterly abhorrent to her. Nonetheless, the lawyer is of mind to enact the clause in haste, and his ardent advances are somewhat intense and unsettling. But who shot Squire Thorne poses a mystery – the lawyer, the earl, or a strange intruder who steals nothing? In the aftermath of death a long-held family secret is finally revealed, and when a shadowy figure looms in her moonlit bedchamber, she fears the outcome...  



Sunday, 18 June 2017

Pushing Romance and Romantic Boundaries.




As an avaricious reader of books, and quite long in the tooth age wise, of all the wonderful books read to date, there are four that I treasure. Namely that of War & Peace (Tolstoy), The Magus (Fowles) and The Green Mantle (Delderfield). All the former were penned by men, and I learned much from a man’s perspective of love and how men view women. 

But the fourth book is Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek. It is the one book she laid claim to as a romantic novel.

In a personal sense, I am of mind her writing is romantic in itself, albeit most of her books have a dark side. To give a brief summary of Frenchman’s Creek, let us imagine the glorious spectacle that was the court of Charles II (the Merry Monarch).




Amidst the glittering array of Charles' courtiers, hell-rakes and courtesans abound, and unseemly amours cause marital strife, while common whores share the King’s bedchamber. But one young wife has had enough of lies, deceits and court politics. She takes flight with her children and retreats to her husband’s remote Cornish estate. Expecting peace and tranquillity, trouble of a very different kind exists in the waters off the Cornish coast. Subsequently, Dona – Lady St. Columb – has no idea that far more excitement and daring than experienced at court is about to turn her world upside down and inside out. Had a soothsayer told her she would fall in love with a French pirate captain, she would have laughed at such a silly notion. But Captain Jean Benoit Aubrey is not your average pirate. He’s well-educated, well-read, and Dona falls deeply, madly in love with him. She indulges in dangerous and daring escapades with her lover captain. But all good things must come to an end, and the end in this novel is not always as many readers expect. Without doubt, Frenchman’s Creek is a clean novel sex-wise and reader imagination fills in the gaps. Some people love Frenchman’s Creek, while others hate it.

But you see, in the same way the heroine dared to break with convention so does the author. Daphne du Maurier, who gives us a thrill-packed action romance and then steals an HEA right from under the reader. But could she have done otherwise? A sacrificial choice must be made by Dona, Lady St. Columb. She must choose between true love or that of her children and husband. What one has to remember is that in the 17th century women risked everything for love outside of marriage, where men risked nothing. Perhaps the emotions are so strong in this novel because it reflects in part a decisive moment in the author’s life: though that is a story in itself.  

In the same way Daphne broke with convention and her novels daringly ventured to the darker side of life and emotions, she also highlights the dangers of illicit affairs and the subsequent fallout. I too throw romance novel conventions to the wind as an author. Perhaps I outgrew the typical romance novel formula at a young age because they all followed the expected norm of hero meets heroine, they fall in love, conflict arises, and ends with a fairy tale HEA. Of course authors did and still do strive for originality by leading their characters along differing paths, differing situations, and differing places, but the heroine always ends up with the expected hero. But perfect fairy tale romances sell, don't they? Whereas shock plots upset readers. Well yes, but Daphne's novels pushed boundaries, not in sexual matters per se, she was cleverer than that by setting precedence for huge emotional flash points, and I really love it when I encounter novels where the author has thrown the fairy tale plot to the wind, picked up the broken pieces and rearranges them to beget an unusual plot, a daring plot to test the mettle of the characters. That's precisely what Daphne du Maurier does in Frenchman's Creek.

Whether sacrifice entails convention and the safety of what is, or the thrill of the unknown, Lady St Columb is faced with a crucial heartrending choice. She must choose between the love of her life, or her husband and children... Her final choice for many readers is the right one, for others not so. But you see, it's not really a Happy Ever After, it is compromise and sacrifice and the what-if will haunt her, perhaps to her dying days. Similarly in Daphne's novel The King's General, tragedy, selfish need, and a what-if abound!   

It is the what-if factor that fascinates me, and writing romance for me is a roller-coaster ride with no guaranteed HEA. Characters can be fickle, arrogant, and they don't do as expected. They sometimes rebel, or unexpected events occur and cause trauma. Some heroine's stand and fight for what they want whilst others turn away and take flight. Similarly a hero may want and as good as takes what he wants, with permission of sorts, whilst another hero may be confronted with walls at every turn and he has to climb them and jump through fired hoops to gain what he wants. But what of the hero who gained what he wanted and loses it and is left with the dilemma of What did I do Wrong? Could you as an author write a tragic love story which is just as much a romance as the standardised  romantic novel?  I have, and I even penned an erotic novel in which the heroine learns the difference between lust that is only skin deep, and that of true love. But, I am a rebel at heart. 

If I've intrigued you with writing unconventional romance novels, as well as steamy romances and you'd like to see a list of my books, please browse the "my books at Amazon" feature on the bar top of this page.              

Monday, 12 June 2017

New Cover artwork!

Just occasionally I have an overwhelming desire to create new covers for published books, so I  do just that, and my latest is for The Royal Series. 

I wanted a more romantic feel to the first novel in the series, and this fits the bill: 


Love & Scandalous Seduction. All set against the backdrop of the English Civil Wars 1642 -1649. co-starring Charles Prince of Wales (Charles II) and Prince Rupert.

Orphaned at royal court, Anna Lady Maitcliffe has embraced freedom from courtly restraint whilst residing at Axebury Hall Estate. Wilful and impulsive she wins hearts with ease, but Viscount Axebury duly rejects her romantic overtures, not once but twice and for good reason. Civil War is marching across England and he will soon be regarded as the enemy.

Distraught by his rejection she turns to another for solace, an older suitor whom she trusts above all others. Seduced by her feminine wiles Lord Gantry's overt desire to possess her gives rise to new meaning of amour. Nonetheless she is trapped in a loveless betrothal. Fate suddenly intervenes and throws her and the viscount together, but hell lies before them and claims terrible dues in payment for their undying love for each other.


Similarly I wanted a romantic feel to Toast of Clifton:


This steamy romance is set against the backdrop of Charles Stuart’s attempt to wrest England from Oliver Cromwell’s clutches (1651), and takes the reader to that of the royal court in exile. As swordsmen and musketeers fight for supremacy their women face the tragedies of war. 

Once renowned as the Toast of Clifton, Elizabeth Mountjoy strives to shake off rumours she was ever mistress to Charles II, for she’s madly in love with Captain Thomas Thornton: a Parliamentarian Captain of Horse. Unfortunately, past betrayal haunts Thomas, and when the chance to right a wrong comes his way he once again fights for the King. But to lose his estate lands is a high price to pay for heroism in defeat. Worse, the love of his life suffers the wrath of one of Cromwell’s officers, and Thomas is finally forced to decide who must come first whilst in exile, wife or King? He’s not alone in facing a dilemma, for the King too is forced to put his country first before his heart as court intrigues in exile take precedence.



And likewise with Royal Secrets:


After all, they are essentially romance novels as well as family sagas.  

A 17th century romance involving forbidden passion, lust, betrayal, abduction and all set within Restoration England and the royal court of Charles II.

It's 1669, and Justine Thornton's heart is lost to that of Richard Viscount Axebury. Although wise and malicious counsel from family and friends warn of his reputation as a courtly rake, a chance encounter with James Scott Duke of Monmouth causes her heart to waver and suddenly her life seems infinitely charmed. But family indiscretion at the court of Charles II turns Justine's life from one of carefree bliss to that of surviving rogue intrigues and political ambitions. 

As old and new feuds take precedence at court Justine becomes party to information that cannot be allowed to reach the King's ears, for not only does she pose a threat to one of the King's mistresses, the King’s brother too will be called to account for his actions. Upon Justine’s sudden abduction the heroic camaraderie of Viscount Axebury and the Duke of Monmouth pose an even greater threat to her kidnapper, and her father the Earl of Loxton is soon face to face with an old adversary. But who will prove to be Justine’s champion, the viscount or the duke, and can the king’s mistress be toppled from her elevated position?




Is Writing Author Notes Necessary for Historical Romance Fiction?



 

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Is the writing of author notes necessary for historical fiction, more especially romance fiction? The straight answer is, yes, if characters lives are set against specific historical events and real persons of note. It's far too easy to say, but it's only fictional romance when in fact as soon as a real-time great battle is featured, a political storm, or a king loses his head, the novel is no longer mere fiction it has crossed the line into a recorded historical moment in time. Therefore the author is obliged to enlighten with at least a summary of events prior to and post the featured event/s, There will of course be readers who are cognisant to that period in history whilst many readers will be far from knowledgeable of your chosen subject matter, and likewise many readers have idealistic impressions of times past garnered from historical fiction novels. 

Sometimes short author notes suffice. At other times the story requires no enlightenment, the obvious is there, but on occasion there are times when long notes seem wise. I really did ponder the following notes for the above book, and then I remembered an American reader having said in a discussion that she knew little about the period of the ECWs, and although she had read one of the other books in The Royal Series, and albeit regional in content, as much as the entertainment and romantic value of the story she also valued the learning aspect, the desire to read more ECWs novels. A coup? Damn it yes, because I'd got her interested in a period she had never read before. And but a week past I received a lovely email from another reader who had indeed purchased the above novel (English male) and he was so impressed by the story and my author notes he purchased and read all the presently published Royal Series novels and awaits the next in the series with enthusiasm. This was from a man who wouldn't ordinarily have read a romance novel quote: ...never judge a book by its cover is the saying and as war novels go it was excellent and on a par with Bernard Cornwell with added spice worth reading. Not a word was skipped Ms Howarth, not a single word. You have yourself a convert and one who will look more closely at novels with romance headers... He went on and praised the author notes, so I thought I would post them here, for it's so hard to write author notes that don't sound too damnably tutorial in tone...                

There is no disputing the fact the 17th century – for the United Kingdoms’ of Scotland, England, and the Principality of Wales, and the former Commonwealth Protectorates – paid witness to a bloody period in history. There are many theories as to why the first Civil War (1642) erupted and all have merit in their own right of reasoned analysis. Unfortunately, few historians venture to the greatest impact on the populous such as that of the legacy bestowed by James I to his people. At a time when Bishops, priests and pastors held power of religious intellect, the preaching and teachings of the holy-scriptures were delivered in verbal context from the church to the people. Thus, when King James (VI Scotland) was declared by Queen Elizabeth I, as her successor on her death, it was he James (I England) who afforded new purpose to the people with his translation of the Bible from Latin to plain speak English. His great feat duly awakened aspiration within his subjects to read the scriptures in their own homes, hence his literary endeavour as good as opened the lid of Pandora’s Box.
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The people, the greater by no means simpletons, a great majority were multi-lingual in English and French let alone Welsh, Gaelic et al. But James translation of the Bible was suddenly theirs’ to behold, to turn the pages, and of those who were illiterate in the written word, suddenly this wondrous book willed incentive to learn the words as writ. James I had provided a means for the people, in simple terms of religious beliefs, to communicate directly with “God” and they did. Once they were educated in one medium, a whole new world of the written word was available to the masses via pamphlets and documents. James I by selfless literary intellect effectively spawned a literary revolution within the masses.

(Of course I am aware James didn’t translate the ruddy bible himself. That he delegated the job to numerous translators, and I also know others had translated the bible beforehand, but it has to be said the KJ bible was put into mass print at his instigation!)
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As this book has nothing to do with James I in terms of story, nor directly to do with his son Charles I, a brief pass through history is nonetheless a means of understanding the religious differences at the time of Cromwell’s rise to fame (or infamy) during the years of the first English Civil Wars, and how those differences impact within the Royal Series of novels as a whole. For in truth, differing religions had a smaller part to play at the time of the first Civil War than did the fact the general populous could no longer be manipulated by church teachings. More than half the peoples were beginning to refuse to accept the divine right of a monarch to rule as that of God’s edict. Any further right to impose taxes and levies upon his people at will without recourse to the Commons Parliament, a body elected by the people to represent the people and protect their rights to at least subsistence living – before taxes could be levied against them – added further fuel to seething discontent. What is more, wealthy merchants and merchant guilds were equally incensed by proposed increased levies against imported goods by royal command, thereby cutting their profit margins. Thus the earlier Civil Wars were only in part stirred by religious bent.
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However, the Monmouth Rebellion was indeed a religiously motivated rebellion against a Catholic monarch who became the King of a Protestant nation. Fear had prior arisen during the reign of Charles II, that if his brother became king, then James would in a short while bring about the dissolution of the Protestant Church of England and re-instate the Catholic Church of France, if not the Holy Roman Church, the very same Henry VIII had rid the country of for personal reasons. Thus throughout the reign of Charles II, many aristocrats, parliamentary figures, ecclesiastical clergy inclusive bishops, and ordinary folk had foreseen the grave issue of no male heir come the death of Charles II, and many strongly believed, and a few had indeed claimed to have witnessed marriage papers declaring Charles II (when Prince of Wales) had married the Duke of Monmouth’s mother Lucy Walter, not once, but twice. There is far too much about this particular period in history to venture into in great detail here, but a few questionable notions arose throughout in my research project, and that is why I never take history as writ, and indeed look to the reasons why history becomes distorted and why with a detective mind-set, events, times, dates declared within memoirs (James II), and others’ diaries, private letters, and state papers, even names, simply don’t always add up. In order to evaluate some nuance of the truth of what really occurred, one should remember the victor, in any dispute, war, whatever, holds sway on how that event is recorded.
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Further to the general mystery, “there must have been some truth in the matter of a marriage/s between Lucy and Charles (?)” else why at the time of Lucy’s “so-called disgrace” was great effort made to retrieve “papers” that were detrimental to his majesty and to any subsequent marriage proposals to European princesses, and all whilst the royal court was in exile on the Continent? The greater question, if Charles was not married to Lucy Walter, what possible threat as his mere mistress could she pose to a future contracted marriage? Scandal and rumour were part and parcel of court life, some true, some false, and some created for nefarious purposes. At the same time, Queen Henrietta Maria, (Charles mother) dispatched a trusted agent to the County of Pembrokeshire to retrieve church papers (marriage record) at Rhos Church (Rosemarket), though unfortunately for Mr Proger (agent) – at that time – Lucy’s brother Richard Walter was High Sheriff of Pembrokeshire.
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There are many strange coincidences (sad fate) regarding people who had direct connections with Lucy, for as you know from having read this novel, there is mention of William Lord Russell, who was headed for treason. Here I now present you with a piece garnered from Lord George Scott, a descendent of the Duke of Monmouth, which clearly provides a little background to Lord Russell’s deeper insight to Monmouth as the legitimate son of Charles II, in that, the Earl of Shaftesbury was the prime instigator in the parliamentary exclusion bill crisis, and was indeed a friend of William Lord Russell (married to Lady Rachel Vaughan, this lady prior married to Lucy Walter’s cousin), who knew Lucy well. No wonder then Lord Russell was viewed as a dire threat to James Stuart’s desire to become King of England. Aside from all that, twenty years after Lucy’s death calumnies against her name persisted, and were cast from James Stuart’s suite. Therefore, is it pure speculation to suppose James’ sole purpose for denigrating Lucy and the King’s son for so long, the only son (illegitimate or otherwise) from amongst Charles’ offspring, whom he treated in the manner of a royal blood prince, thus viewed by James as a serious rival for the crown?

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While I shall hope and pray I have conveyed the Catholic perspective by way of Henry Gantry, who early on in the book, as you know, allies himself to James Duke of York, later James II. So too, the perspective of Protestants are reflected through the eyes of the Thornton family, Henry’s parents and his brother.
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The greatest tragedy post-Battle of Sedgemoor was not only the dreadful botched heading of Monmouth on Tower Hill July 15th 1685 – deliberate butchery or otherwise – it was the Bloody Assizes presided over by Judge Jeffreys, which culminated in a blood bath greater than that encountered on the battle field. So gruesome are the official accounts of the gross injustice inflicted upon those who were tried and sentenced, truly sickens one. Of those who were hung drawn and quartered, as noted by honourable ecclesiastical witnesses, many were butchered whilst still alive before their bodies were left hanging from every available tree alongside the highway from Glastonbury to Bridgewater, from trees elsewhere, and from gibbets in town squares across Somerset and Dorset. Of the most noted rebels, their private parts were lopped off, packaged up, and dispatched to their loved ones as a salutary warning to never again rebel against the King. It was a terrible revenge enacted in the name of James II, and as Justine said: “The name Monmouth is now engraved on the West Country. We are his headstone, the mark of his loss and ours.”
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Some accounts claim 400 rebel soldiers were killed on the battlefield, and only 24 royalist soldiers perished. The latter figure is considered iffy, and merely an exercise in propaganda, for in greater consideration of 80 royalist soldiers killed during a previous skirmish at Philips Norton (Norton St Philip), the rebel soldiers had thoroughly thrashed the hides of the royalist forces on that occasion. But, of the rebels who were captured at the Langmoor Rhyne (rhine), and chased through the surrounding corn fields, 1,200 were taken prisoner. Others were hunted down further afield, routed and rounded-up, and they too were later brought before Judge Jeffreys. The figure of 3,000 horse and foot making up the total of Monmouth’s army on that fatal day gives rise to how many of them succeeded in evading capture? Further to all that, one has to remember of the I,000 + rebels who were known to have deserted Monmouth’s army a few days beforehand on written promise of merciful pardon by James II – so long as they provided their names to local militia upon dispersal – the majority were dragged from their homes, arrested and the “lucky ones” were deported to the colonies. That was the true fact of the King’s merciful promise, barring exceptions where rebels turned informer and thereby retained their heads and body parts. Amongst the escapees from the battlefield was that of Daniel Defoe, who escaped to the Scilly Isles, he who became a novelist, his most famous works: Robinson Crusoe & Moll Flanders.
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To the novel:
Albeit the novel is in part Henry’s story, it is also part of a greater tapestry set against the backdrop of two main family estates, and the royal court. The whole series duly spans the years from the first English Civil War beginning the year of 1642 through to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. True to his nature, and due to elements of his past, the Hon Henry Gantry has traversed a troubled path to and throughout his early adulthood – perhaps more evident within previous books, and through his perspective I have endeavoured to portray the Catholic aspect of James rise to power as that of a Catholic monarch within a Protestant nation. As for the Protestant perspective, it could not be otherwise, than through the thoughts and actions of the Thornton and Gantry families, barring Henry who had converted to Catholicism before the story begins.
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Had he met his grandmother, the Lady Arabella Gantry, a woman of strong religious bent, she may well have encouraged him to look to the priesthood when he was young and troubled, as opposed to seeking his destiny within the royal court. For me, Henry is a complex character, a love-hate bond existing between us, but in the next book “Lady of the Tower” an honourable gesture enacted by Henry, whilst on the Sedgemoor battlefield, post-battle, strengthens his resolve to build on family loyalty afore that of the King.
       

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