Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Taxes

Jo Beverley here talking about taxation.

I find that taxes aren't mentioned much in historical romances, but they've been around for a long time, and I'm sure most Regency people felt as taxed to death as we do today.

Can you think of a historical romance that mentions taxes, or even better, uses them as a plot point? All those impoverished families in search of a rich marriage might want to look closely at their taxable assets instead. Get rid of the carriages and block off some windows.

I'm going to mostly describe the small taxes, but a word first about one we all know well.
Income Tax was introduced as a temporary measure (ha!) to help pay for the Napoleonic Wars. It began at a levy of 2 old pence in the pound (1/120) on incomes over £60 and increased up to a maximum of 2 shillings in the pound (10%) on incomes of over £200.  £60 was a modest income, but the tax would only be 120d, or 10 shillings a year. A comfortable income of £1,000 a year would mean paying £100 a year, which would pinch a little more. It was, as we'd say today, a progressive tax as the rich would pay more than the poor.

You can read more about the progress of income tax here. 

It was abolished in 1816 and didn't return until 1841, so the characters in my recent books, all set in 1817, didn't have that burden to bear. But let's look at some others. One interesting thing is that they're all designed to tax wealth, so they were more socialist minded than we might expect.

Window Tax.
This was introduced in the 17th century as a tax on wealth and had the advantage of not obliging people to disclose their income and being cheat-proof. Windows are pretty obvious. It levied 2 shillings per house, and then the amount went up according to the number of windows, up to 8 shillings if the property had over twenty windows. I'm sure the owners of Chatsworth and Blenheim really felt the pinch! Some people bricked up windows to reduce the tax.
The picture shows bricked up windows on one side of a house on St. James's Square in London. I can't be sure they were bricked up to avoid the window tax, but it seems likely.

On to the others.

1. Armorial bearings -- if you have them and keep a coach, £2-8s pa. If you have them and don't keep a coach but are liable to house duty £1-4s. All others, 12s

2. Vehicles. If you keep a four-wheeled carriage for pleasure, £12 pa and it goes up, getting more expensive per carriage so that if you have 9 or more you'll pay £163-7s pa. And people complain about vehicle licencing today! That would be two or three times the annual income of a skilled worker, so we could say the equivalent of £80,000 or more. (c$120,000)

If you're living simply and only have one two-wheeled carriage drawn by one horse -- tax due £6-10s.

There were taxes on carriages let for hire, and on every carriage made, plus taxes on selling them and doing nearly anything to them because owning a vehicle was a sure sign of wealth.

3. Horses. The carriages aren't much use without horses. Again, there's a sliding scale from £2 17s 6d for one horse, reaching  £6-12 for twenty. That seems quite moderate, so perhaps having a horse was not seen as such a sign of wealth as having a carriage.
 
4. Dogs. You can own one dog and be tax-free, but more than one will cost you 14s for each. Greyhounds were taxed at a pound per dog pa, presumably because they had no use except for racing. Though I haven't come across much about greyhound racing in the Regency.

5. Hair powder.  By the Regency that's out of fashion except for court, but if you do wear it you have to pay £1 3s 6d per annum for the privilege. Exempt are the royal family and their servants; clergymen whose income is less than £100; naval personnel below commander; subalterns or lower in the army etc etc. There's a very odd line in the regulations. "No person to pay for more than two unmarried daughters." Perhaps a typesetting error? Or if you're unfortunate enough to have many unmarried daughters they can powder at will?

6. Houses -- 1l 6s up to £2 10s

7. Servants. Male servants are taxed at £2 8s for one up to £7 13s for eleven and up. Note, bachelors pay an additional £2 a year for every manservant. Bachelors were generally disapproved of and dinged in any way possible. Disabled officers on half pay may keep one servant duty free. There's nothing about female servants, so I assume the penalty for male servants is because they were a status symbol, and also the legislators might feel men could be employed in more worthwhile jobs. Anyone giving a servant a false character could be fined £20. That could be a plot point!

And then there are all the taxes on tea, sugar, beer, lace etc etc etc

Are you surprised by any of these? It must have meant quite a bit of book keeping even in a moderate household, and an enormous bureaucracy.

What would you tax today to particularly zap the wealthy over-consumers? Sports cars? Expensive handbags and shoes? Enormous houses? Too many bathrooms?

Cheers,

Jo
Visit my web page for more about my books.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jane Austen Lives Again - Jane Odiwe

In my new novel, Jane Austen Lives Again, Jane is brought back to life in 1925 and has to get a job. Her doctor finds her a position as a governess to five girls in Devon, and though Jane is rather dreading the whole thing, she knows that without any money to live on she has little choice. Her only hope is that she'll have time to write in the evenings when the children are in bed 

Here's an excerpt from Chapter One - I hope you enjoy it!
 Jane and her doctor are travelling to her new home in Devon by train.

‘Manberley Castle sounds like a title for one of my books,’ Jane said at last, pushing all memories of the past from her mind. ‘The Miltons of Manberley has a lovely ring to it, perfect for a novel.’
Dr Lyford smiled. ‘I believe it dates back to the twelfth century, though I’m assured there are more modern additions. The last building took place in about 1815 so you should feel quite at home.’
‘And how did the Miltons come by their money?’
‘Well, they’re sugar millionaires, so I’m guessing their family history and wealth was built on the misery of others.’
‘Ill-gotten gains, how perfectly dreadful, and at the expense of so much human suffering, though in my day those who profited from the trade of their fellow men had no qualms in doing so. It is a fine thing to learn that such abhorrent practices are completely stopped. I hope the Milton forbears had a conscience, and helped to put right the wrongs of previous generations.’
‘I couldn’t say, Miss Austen. I am certain Sir Albert Milton is like most men of his class since the war; still trying to hang on to the life he’s always known and enjoyed, that of squire and landowner. But times are changing, and their way of life, though seemingly luxurious to many, is not quite as lavish or extravagant as it was once upon a time. I believe Sir Albert is still very much the gentleman of leisure, though his heir seems to have a lot more about him. He runs the estate, providing much employment for local farmers and workers. By all accounts William Milton is very much a modern man, not afraid to get his hands dirty.’
‘Quite right, too. I’m not certain I could be in the employ of a feckless family content only to laze away their days. You mentioned there is a lady of the house … is she an idle creature or am I to expect hidden depths? Is Lady Milton a useful sort of person or one inclined to lie out on a sofa?’
‘With five girls I expect she has her hands full, but I’m afraid I don’t know anything much about her ladyship or her children.’
‘Though you say she is a second wife, and I’m guessing William is the son of his first.’
‘William is in his late twenties, I believe, and the succession of younger girls most likely from a different mother, I shouldn’t wonder.’
‘But you do have a list of their names? I must try and familiarise myself with them.’
Dr Lyford took out his wallet from his jacket pocket, pulling a piece of paper from inside. ‘Yes, here we are. I’ve written them out and made some brief notes. I was able to talk to the housekeeper on the telephone. Her name is Mrs Naseby; rather an abrupt and evasive woman, but seemed able to distil the essential personalities of the children in one or two words. I thought it might help … give you an idea before you meet them.’
Jane grasped the paper and read. ‘Alice … kind and considerate, Mae … needs a tight rein, Beth … headstrong, Emily … has rather too much her own way, and Cora … reads excessively. Goodness, if I’d read this before, I’m not sure I would have agreed to your plans, though Alice sounds promising and Cora is clearly a little girl I could get along with.’
‘Which is precisely why I haven’t shown you this previously. I did wonder if it was a good idea, but I do think Mrs Naseby has probably not painted the Milton girls in the best light.’
‘I should say not. Heavens, whatever shall I do?’
‘Think of this job as a temporary measure. I couldn’t find you any other employment with your limited experience, and at least if you can stick to it, you’ll gain some valuable skills along with a reference at the end of a year or two.’
‘A whole year … or two.’ Jane found it hard to keep the dismay from her voice. She couldn’t help thinking about her dear friend Anne Sharp who’d been a governess to her niece Fanny. Sweet Anne who’d always been a constant source of pleasure, a clever, witty woman, cheerful and capable, the most uncomplaining person she’d ever known, and always determined to get the best out of life. If Anne had managed it, then so could she.
The train was pulling into the station. Dark, sullen clouds up above were brimming with raindrops like the tears she felt welling inside, and before she’d gathered her belongings, the heavens opened. Water fell in torrents, pattering on the roof of the Victorian waiting room, gurgling down the drainpipes and running in streams along the platform, dribbling down the name painted on the station sign. Jane rubbed at the misty glass with a gloved hand, and peered out anxiously. Stoke Pomeroy looked grey and unwelcoming, cold and dark, despite the fact that it was the beginning of June.
‘This is where we part company, Miss Austen,’ said Dr Lyford. ‘Now, you have my address and telephone number in Dawlish if you need me. I shall be there for six weeks before heading back to London.’ He looked at his companion of whom he’d grown very fond in the last few weeks. ‘Do call or write if you need anything.’
Jane took a deep breath. ‘I shall be perfectly fine, Dr Lyford, do not worry.’
‘Sir Albert said there’d be someone to meet you.’ The doctor opened the door, stepped onto the platform briefly and called the porter to take her suitcase.
‘Thank you, Dr Lyford, thank you for everything.’ Jane knew the words were vacuous, but it was impossible to express just how she felt. If only she’d written him a letter, she thought, the written word always came so much more easily. She watched him step back inside the train, shutting the door with a finality that left her shuddering with fear at the thought of being alone. Jane told herself to stop being so silly and extended her hand through the window, shaking his vigorously.
The guard appeared, doors slammed, a flag waved and the great beast ignited once more shunting off in loud roars leaving a trail of dragon’s breath behind it. Jane watched her doctor being taken away, and suddenly felt rather alone. No one else had got on or off the train apart from herself and she wasn’t quite sure what to do, as she waited. Struggling with her umbrella to prevent getting any wetter, she got it up at last and walked up and down the platform. There didn’t seem to be anyone waiting for her and then she wondered if perhaps there’d be a pony and trap with a trusted servant waiting outside beyond the gate. Handing her ticket to the man at the exit she stepped out of the safety of the station to discover there was nobody waiting for her there either, but there was a bench under a shelter so she took a seat and watched the rain gurgling in the gutters and bouncing off the road like large pennies.
Nothing could have surprised her more than the sight of a sleek black motor drawing up a few minutes later, and a liveried chauffeur stepping out to address her. Dressed in navy with a smart peaked hat and leather gauntlets, he took her case and opened the rear door with a flourish. ‘Miss Austen, please take a seat.’
Jane had never been in a car before, though she’d taken a trip into Winchester with Dr Lyford’s housekeeper on the omnibus. She was relieved to be sitting in the back of the vehicle and glad to see a glass partition dividing her from the driver in front. Forced conversation with a stranger was never a very useful activity to her mind, and she didn’t want to chat to the chauffeur. He didn’t look like the talking sort, and for that matter, wasn’t quite what she’d expected at all. He had a very cock-sure way about him, and an arrogant air, which made her feel most unsure of herself. Jane needn’t have worried; he didn’t speak though once or twice she caught him watching her through the rear view mirror which was unnerving, to say the least. She noted his dark hair underneath the cap, and the way he drove with his head on one side, his elbow resting on the window and one hand casually holding the wheel. He was speeding down the narrow lanes, which made Jane shut her eyes and hold onto the strap as she swayed from side to side. It wouldn’t do to be ill, she thought, as she opened one eye to see the world flashing past in a blur of green hedges and cow parsley.
They were ascending out of the valley when she saw her first glimpse of the sea, a slice of lavender ribbon under an oppressive sky, and as they wreathed along the cliff top road she saw the greater expanse below, white horses crashing down on the beach, and a strip of sand stretching along an endless coastline.
The car finally slowed and she saw the chauffeur’s hand reaching for the partition to slide it open.
‘I’m sorry if my driving is a little fast,’ he said.
Jane met his gaze in the mirror. He was staring intently again and she didn’t know where to look. It made her feel very uncomfortable and she had the feeling he was enjoying her discomfort.
‘I must admit I prefer a slower pace,’ she answered, ‘I am not used to being driven about.’
‘I’ll try my best to drive as you wish,’ he said, his eyes still on her face. Jane wished he’d watch the road, and although there hadn’t been another vehicle anywhere since they’d left the station, she was sure they’d meet with an accident sooner or later if he persisted on staring into her eyes.
There was silence for a while for which she was glad, and then the car turned off the road into a drive between tall rusted gates with ornate gateposts topped by crumbling stone urns. A gatehouse looked neglected, ivy climbed over the windows, which were fogged with green moss and mould. There was no keeper to welcome them or wave them through; there’d clearly been no occupants for a while.
‘Have you been a governess long?’ he said at last.
‘Not very long, no.’
Jane thought his questioning impertinent and pursing her mouth stared determinedly through the window at the overgrown tangle of laurels and rhododendrons on every side, bursting into flower and dripping in the rain. Her first impressions of the place were not exactly  reassuring, but she hoped things might improve as they reached the house.
‘The Miltons are an undemanding bunch,’ the driver went on, ‘though what some folk might call slightly odd or eccentric, I suppose.’
Jane regarded the back of the young man's head steadily. ‘I prefer to make up my own mind about people, I thank you, but in any case, I do not think this is a subject for conversation. I dislike gossip and I would appreciate you refraining from further discussion on my new employers.’
‘Just as you please, Miss Austen.’
He appeared to find her amusing, she noted, as he made no attempt to disguise the laughter in
his voice. He kept his eyes on the road after that and as they drove up the long drive the house made an appearance at last in open ground, a gloomy Palladian fa├žade that time seemed to have forgotten with rows of windows on either side of a central pediment. Crouched on a cliff top, the house would enjoy astonishing sea views, Jane thought, and with the stunning scenery of hanging woods on the other side where the village of Stoke Pomeroy could be seen happily nestled in the valley, she decided she’d never seen such a splendid situation. A tower, the only remains of the oldest part of the ‘castle’ formed an extension on the west side with crenellations, and gothic windows clearly added at a later date. But for the peeling stucco and an air of abandonment, the house should have been the jewel in the crown. Lashing rain and skies as green as gunpowder added to the general sense of despondency and Jane felt her spirits sink. The chauffeur swung the car round to the left and to the side of the building.
‘You’ll find the servant’s door at the bottom of the steps,’ he said, and without another word handed her out of the car and deposited her suitcase at her feet before getting back into the vehicle to roar away over the gravel drive.

Jane stared after him hoping she wouldn’t have much occasion to see him again. He thought far too much of himself, she decided, and with his brooding good looks she was sure he must create havoc amongst the maidservants. Overhead she heard the mournful mewing of wheeling gulls, and tasted the brine of the sea on her lips.  Taking a deep breath, she picked up her case, and opening the cast iron gate at the top of the stairwell made her way down the steps until she reached the small door at the bottom.

Jane Austen Lives Again will be available for pre-order on Kindle next week and published in November.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Getting to Know You – Joana Starnes

Hi, I am Joana, and I would like to start with a big ‘Thank You’ to Jane Odiwe and Amanda Grange for inviting me to contribute to Historical and Regency Romance UK. I am delighted and honoured to be here. 

Since this is my first post, I thought that saying a little about myself would be a good way to start.

I have been fascinated with history and the classics for as long as I can remember, even though for many years I thought this fascination, as well as writing fiction, would be nothing but a sweet indulgence as I went on with the sensible business of day to day life.

For many years, day to day life meant medical school, then lecturing in Physiology followed by a career in medical research – not quite the norm for a history fanatic and an Austen devotee.

Fast-forward a decade and a half and, although nearly everything has changed, my fascination with history and Jane Austen has not. As many before me, I discovered her novels in my teens, but real, full appreciation came much later, when I could begin to understand and delight in the social commentary, the playful narrative, the exquisite sense of humour, rather than merely follow a compelling story line.

Needless to say, the 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation was a turning point, though not because of the famous wet shirt. If anything, for a very long time I felt that, for all the exquisite suspense accentuated by the background music rising in skilful crescendo, the wet shirt scene rather distracted the viewer from the original message. Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s encounter with Mr Darcy in the grounds of Pemberley would have been fraught regardless of the aforementioned garment, wet or otherwise. She would have been mortified even if the gentleman had not been discovered in some state of deshabille, merely because she must have been painfully aware that she had no business to be found wandering through his grounds, after rejecting his proposal in so harsh a manner, and for reasons that had been proven at least partially wrong. Likewise, his own discomfort at coming face to face with her without any warning would have been sufficiently severe even without pond water seeping into his riding boots.

Such reflections aside, the scene is delightfully romantic, as is the other famed one, later in the music room. But that was not the only reason why I found this adaptation to be a turning point for me. The greatest attraction lay in learning all the fine details of its production. The painstaking efforts to research the location, the costumes, the hairstyles, the music the characters danced to, the games they played or the food they ate. All of a sudden, I wanted to learn more about the era. Details of daily life, mealtimes, travel, the plays they would have seen in town, what London must have looked like, what books they read, what artists were in fashion. What prominent figures dominated public life? What was the sequence of real-life events that influenced their present and their future?

And so it came to pass that soon afterwards I became a fixture at my local library and all the second-hand bookshops and National Trust properties within driving distance, and some a great deal further than that. Everything was fascinating. Diaries, letters, portraits, antique prints. And of course the Internet, an inexhaustible source of information, and I squirreled away everything that I could find. It was only a matter of time before I discovered that I was not alone in this growing interest – or perhaps I should say obsession – and that an entire industry, as well as countless websites, were devoted to Jane Austen and Austen-related fiction.

So it was also just a matter of time until my fascination with history and Jane Austen was channelled into writing works of fiction of my own.

I have so far published five Austen-inspired novels and, to my great pleasure and no less surprise, they were very well received. They include a Pride and Prejudice sequel, two variations involving characters from Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion, another that brings the protagonists of Pride and Prejudice into Poldark territory, to the far reaches of Cornwall, ‘into a world of deceit and peril, where few – if any – are what they seem to be’ and lastly my most recent novel released a few weeks ago, a Pride and Prejudice variation exploring a most unsettling love triangle.


More details about The Unthinkable Triangle and my four other novels can be found on my website (www.joanastarnes.co.uk), and also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/joana.a.starnes ) and Twitter (www.twitter.co/Joana_Starnes ). I hope you will visit and will like what you see.



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Other Anniversary this year

The Earl of Mar
While everyone is commemorating and celebrating the victory of 1815 at Waterloo, there’s another event that should be remembered this year, equally important to the British people
In October, 1715, the Jacobites were defeated. This was the nearest the Jacobites came to regaining the throne, nearer than the ill-fated campaign of 1745 that led to Culloden.
James II turned publicly Roman Catholic after he married his second wife Mary of Modena. After that, the clock was ticking, and in 1689, he was deposed. His daughter Mary, and her husband William of Orange gained the throne, followed by James’ other daughter, Anne.
Anne gave both to at least 14 children, and none of them reached adulthood. Just think about that for a minute. Anne’s tragedy led to a political crisis on her death in 1714. The Tories lost power, and the Whigs came to prominence. The Tories were not pleased.
It had already been decided by the oligarchy that George of Hanover was the next in line. If Anne had died earlier, Britain would have had an astonishing woman as queen, and what’s more, three Queen Regnants in a row, which is quite something. But Sophia died, and her son George came to the throne.
George couldn’t speak English very well and he’d locked up his wife, Dorothea, for adultery, so he came over alone. Well, except for his two mistresses.
The change in regime all played into the Stuarts’ hands. You think James II gave up? Not a chance, and his son, James Francis, known as the Old Pretender, took on the fight.
What with the change of political party, the French not being friends with the British and the Catholics in Rome decidedly not happy with Britain throwing one of their own out of the country, James Francis had a strong chance.
The Stuarts tended to come in two varieties – the idealistic, not-so-bright ones, (Charles I and James II) and the clever, cynical ones (James I, Charles II). They were also a bit fixated on two male names, which makes matters confusing for us. Guess what James Francis called his son? Yep, Charles.
James Francis was one of the clever ones. Later, when all hope of the Stuarts regaining the throne had gone, he set to politics, gaining leverage as a political influence in Europe. But in 1714, he prepared to attack.
What, you thought it was all about the Scots? They were just the patsys the Stuarts used (twice). Scotland was a easy way into the rest of the country, and the citizens were disgruntled.
In August, the standard of James 8th and 3rd was raised. That officially started the campaign. In return, Parliament said that anyone loyal to the Crown, whose landlord was a Jacobite, could take the land. Pretty sneaky move, that.
In October, the Earl of Mar had gathered 20,000 men and officially received James’s sanction. He marched. Or rather, he rode while the troops marched. They swept through Scotland, taking lands and castles with them.
The first battle was at Sherrifmuir. The Duke of Argyll, for the Crown, didn’t have nearly so many men, but he met Mar anyway. For some reason Mar retreated. Don’t ask me. Actually, don’t ask him either.
It was looking bad for the Crown.
Disaffected Catholics in England also joined the rebellion, although some sat on the fence and awaited events. A rebellion was planned, but Parliament got hold of the ringleaders and locked them up. The Scots lost the initial impetus. Hesitation and lack of experience proved their downfall, plus that other factor, the “Yes, of course I’ll join you,” factor, but when pressed, they changed their minds.
The turning point came in November, at Preston. The Battle of Preston was a really close-run thing, as Wellington was to say a century later. The Jacobites were winning until the government sent reinforcements, but it was still close. And bloody.
James didn’t land in the country until December, and by then it was all over. If he’d arrived sooner, or if the Scots had taken advantage of their superior resources at the beginning, they might have done it. They might have forced a split, and the Stuarts could have reclaimed Scotland, but they did nothing of the kind. They went home, which then was in Italy.
If the Stuarts were to regain the throne, they would have done it in 1715.
By contrast, the more famous 1745 rebellion was a blip.

Buy the Emperors of London series from Lynne Connolly and find out what happened after Culloden! (or did it?)

http://lynneconnolly.com/series/the-emperors-of-london/ 


Sunday, October 11, 2015

In Praise of Jean Plaidy

Jean Plaidy- even now the name conjures up warm, happy memories. Her novels were the first grown-up books I read as a teenager, in common, I suspect, with many other women of my age. It was her historical romances that gave me an abiding interest in Henry VIII’s six wives with what to me is a real, passionate understanding of each woman - I felt I knew each one personally. The first Jean Plaidy I ever read was ‘Murder Most Royal’, about Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and I remember the painful pleasure I felt with each of Anne’s triumphs as she became more powerful, even though I knew she was doomed. Catherine I just felt so sorry for; she didn’t stand a chance against the scheming of her greedy, selfish family; their total abandonment of her when she fell out of favour was heartbreakingly poignant. But it was Anne I gave my heart to; the book coloured my view of her so that to this day she is my favourite queen of England ever. I don’t care that she was selfish, arrogant and sometimes even cruel. She played the meagre hand she was dealt in life as a Tudor woman with subtle skill and nearly won. If only Elizabeth (my second favourite queen) had been a boy, her position in Henry’s court would have been unassailable.   
After that I was hooked and a visit to my local library was never complete without at least one Jean Plaidy book in my hand. There was a time when I could name all the Plantagenet kings and queens, all the Stuart kings and queens, and even knew which Hanoverian George was mad/ fat/ completely German and only saw Britain as a source of money. I remember writing about the Jean Plaidy books in my English language ‘O’ level, and waxing lyrical about how it made me feel as though I were transported back in time to each court. I often wonder what the examiner reading my paper must have thought. Still, I got a ‘B’ grade (and of course in those days, dear readers, as we know, the exams were much harder!) so I didn’t do too badly. I looked JP up on Wikipedia (fantastic resource – the novelist’s friend) and discovered that her real name was Eleanor Hibbert and that she wrote more than 200 books, including murder mysteries and crime thrillers. I now feel totally inadequate and so am signing off to try to complete my sixth novel. Only 194 to go!

Jacqueline Farrell writes historical and paranormal romances with The Wild Rose Press. Her two latest novels 'Sophronia and the Vampire' and 'Maids, Mothers and Crones' can be purchased from Amazon. Follow her on twitter @jacquiefw1 and on her website www.jacquelinefarrell.co.uk


Friday, October 09, 2015

Regency Quintet Christmas Edition

I'm delighted to tell you all that despite the fact that the weather is still mild, that Halloween and Bonfire Night have yet to come, the Regency Quintet Christmas Edition has been published. This is our third edition and we are all just a little excited about it. Not only does it have another beautiful cover, courtesy of Jane Dixon-Smith, but it also has three brand-new books within its covers. As the box set contains three new, never-before published books and two other brilliant stories, it's an absolute bargain at £1.99.

A Most Unusual Christmas, A Merry Christmas Chase and His Lordship's Christmas Bride were all written especially for this Christmas box set. Here are the brief blurbs for each book.

A Most Unusual Christmas by Fenella J Miller
Miss Cressida Hadley is delighted when Lord Bromley and his family are unexpectedly obliged to spend Christmas at The Abbey. However, falling in love with Lord Bromley hadn’t been part of her plan.

Winter Inheritance by Melinda Hammond
Governess Verity Shore longs for a little adventure, then Rafe Bannerman arrives to carry her off to Highclough and Verity discovers that life can be a little too exciting!

A Merry Christmas Chase by Monica Fairview
A penniless lady is caught poaching by a lord, but when she flees to her rich aunt’s manor, she finds the same man is her aunt’s house guest.

His Lordship’s Christmas Bride by Elizabeth Bailey
Isolde Cavanagh seeks refuge with her father’s old friend and finds a reluctant guardian in his son. Richard de Baudresey.

The Six-Month Marriage Amanda Grange
Desperate to escape her brutal uncle, Madeline Delaware enters into a marriage of convenience with Philip, Lord Pemberton. On the night of the Christmas fete they give in to their feelings but it is not until they vanquish a woman from Philip's past that they find the happiness they deserve.

This universal link viewBook.at/Regency5xmas will take you to your own Amazon.

I hope I've whetted your appetite for our Christmas Regency collection,

Still on the subject of Christmas, I also have a new Christmas story out that isn't in the collection.
Christmas at Castle Elrick is a Regency fairy tale, with Miss Verity Sanderson as  the beauty and Sir Ralph Elrick as the beast. He was severely injured in the Napoleonic wars and has been brooding in his castle for years waiting for Verity to reach her majority and come to him. Her father had promised his daughter to Ralph in return for his financial support. Verity decides marriage to a wealthy stranger is preferable to remaining with her step-mother and half-sisters and so she sets off, the week before Christmas, to become his wife. Castle Elrick is a cold, unwelcoming place situated on the bleak Northumbrian coast and Ralph and his small staff are not the only residents. Will Christmas be a celebration or will the ghosts of Castle Elrick force them apart?

You can buy Christmas at Castle Elrick from Amazon: US ($0.99)  UK (£0.99)


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

HMS Victory - Pretty in Pink?

It was reported in the weekend papers that HMS Victory, Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship, has had a historically accurate repaint and is now pink, which was the colour it was at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar. Previously the ship had been a mustard colour, which I thought was the standard Royal Navy paint colour for 18th century warships, but apparently not. When Victory was first built in 1765 it was plain varnished timber but later in the century, captains were permitted to paint their ships whatever colour they chose.

Whilst richer captains chose more ornate and expensive colours, Thomas Hardy, captain of the Victory, could not afford to customise his ship and so opted for one of the free pigments that the Royal Navy offered.  These would typically have included black, yellow ochre and red ochre. It was only after Trafalgar that Nelson’s famous yellow and black checkerboard design became standard. Earlier ships also had lots of decoration; The Royal George, for example, had a bust of King George II on its stern, and figures of Britannia, Neptune, Ceres, Mercury and Hercules. It also had rich interior decoration with mother of pearl handles on the cabin doors.


It was whilst conservationists were working on restoring Victory that they examined all the layers of paint on the ship – 72 – and discovered it’s original pink hue. Some have called the colour smoked trout, others pale terracotta. Ships like the Hermione, pictured right, were bright blue. Personally I see nothing wrong in pink. It was good enough for Nelson. What do you think?

Monday, October 05, 2015

Elizabeth Hawksley: Writing Tips # 11


Recipe: how to write that scene you’ve been putting off for ages.
Every now and then I come up against what I call the Scene of Doom. It’s a long and complicated scene which, for some reason, I’m simply dreading writing. You’d be amazed how clean and sparkling the house becomes, how the buttons I’ve failed to sew on for months are suddenly done, how tidy my study desk looks.
 
Elizabeth Hawksley
The worst example was in The Belvedere Tower. It was my ninth Elizabeth Hawksley novel and, by that time, I was much more confident about my writing. The Scene of Doom was at the end of my penultimate chapter when the important Poaching strand came to a head – if only I could write it.
 
The Belvedere Tower
This is the poaching strand situation:
My hero, Daniel, a wealthy northern businessman, has bought a run-down estate in Surrey. His gamekeeper, Uzzell, an outwardly respectable man, is secretly in cahoots with a London gang (comprising the vicious Gold Teeth and his side-kick, Moley) and selling the estate’s game on the black market. Uzzell pins the blame for the scarcity of game on the blacksmith Sam Wright, and his two sons, Phineas and Barty. Daniel has discovered the truth but he knows that Uzzell must be caught red-handed if he’s to be charged successfully.
 
A Victorian Poacher: James Hawker’s Journal
The Scene of Doom:
     1.  Place: the charcoal burner’s hut in a wood near the London Road where Uzzell  
          stores the game. Daniel and Sam hide nearby: they will deal with Uzzell. Phineas
          and Barty hide on the other side of the road to await the cart: they’ll disable the cart
          by unharnessing the horse. I hadn’t a clue how to deal with Gold Teeth and Moley.
2.      Gold Teeth and Moley arrive and Barty unhitches the cart. 
3.      Uzzell and Gold Teeth quarrel over money – Uzzell has a gun. The transfer of game
        to the cart goes ahead. Phineas coshes Moley and ties him up.
4.      Nelly, Uzzell’s fragile wife, has premonitions of disaster and sets out towards the hut.
5.      Gold Teeth realizes Moley is missing and that the cart is uncoupled. He yells.
6.      Uzzell flees into the woods and gets out his gun.
7.      Nelly lurches towards the hut.
8.      Daniel and Sam struggle with Uzzell and overpower him. The gun goes off.
9.      Gold Teeth fights Phineas and Barty. He’s captured but Barty is badly hurt.
10.    Nelly has been shot and is dying. Sam drives his sons back to the smithy, plus the
        prisoners – who will go in his cellar. Daniel stays with Mrs Uzzell.
11.    The dying Mrs Uzzell tells of a strongbox underneath the flags in her cottage. She
        dies. Loose ends are tied up.
Facing writing all this felt like climbing Everest. I didn’t even have it in order in my head. All I knew was that Daniel needed to come good and realize, finally, who was to be trusted, and he had to get involved with the fighting – he gets off with cuts and bruises and a cracked rib, but he’s shown his mettle. From now on, the villagers are on his side. For other reasons, I needed Barty to be badly hurt – but to recover.

And I was longing to write the love scene in the final chapter.
 
Horse’s harness from Self-Sufficiency by John and Sally Seymour
In desperation, I decided to write whichever scene looked easiest – which was the Mrs Uzzell leaving her cottage scene, followed by the London gang’s arrival where Barty unhitches the cart (thanks to the above picture). It was a bit like putting together a jigsaw; inevitably, the scenes had to be juggled around. Gradually, everything linked up and Everest shrank to a climbable hill.
In the last chapter, Daniel gets together with my heroine Cassandra, and the other plot strands are sorted satisfactorily. And I was able to send off the completed typescript.
 
The Gamekeeper at Home and The Amateur Poacher by Richard Jefferies
So, my advice boils down to this. Don’t be frightened of writing a scene out of sync. If it helps to unblock you, that’s all that matters. Yes, you may have to do a lot of tweaking and cutting and pasting, but at least you’ll get the scene done.
I hope it works for you.
Photographs:
Elizabeth Hawksley by Sally Greenhill
All other photographs by Elizabeth Hawksley
Elizabeth Hawksley

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Season of Mists




I love autumn, so much so that I have just republished one of my early Melinda Hammond books, Autumn Bride, with a fresh new cover!  This book is set on the tidal estuary of the Bristol Channel and a big part of the story is the high tides that accompany the turning of the year, which is why the cover features a turbulent sea.






However, I now live many miles from South West of England, high on the Pennines. Here we get such lovely autumn days that I wanted to share some of them with you. Clear skies bring the mist. Overnight it fills the valleys below us and leaves the  hills in glorious sunshine. However, some days we wake to a mysterious world where everything is shrouded in a thin, silvery mist and the sun glints through the trees.






This year there has been a good crop of blackberries in the hedgerows, and it reminded me of a scene from my latest Sarah Mallory novel – The Chaperon's Seduction. My heroine, Phyllida, goes blackberrying and finds herself paired up with the rakish Richard Arrandale, the man she is trying to avoid! I wrote this story last year, soon after I had made my own foray into the lanes to pick blackberries. I came back with fingers stained from the juice and with more than a few scratches. I was thankful for my strong waxed jacket to protect me from the sharp brambles – how much more careful would Phyllida and her friends have to be, dressed in their fine cottons and muslins.
Here is a short extract:-
 
***
‘Oh!’
A thorn had penetrated the soft kid of her glove and pierced her finger.
‘Keep still.’
Richard was at her side immediately and she found it impossible to remain silent.
‘I fear I have no choice but to obey,’ she told him. ‘The thorns have caught at my sleeve.’
He stepped closer and she was painfully aware of the hard wall of his chest against her back. Her mouth dried, he filled her senses. She breathed in the masculine smell of him, the mix of soap and leather and an indefinable hint of musky spices. Surely she was imagining the thud of his heart against her shoulders, but she could feel his breath on her cheek and she trembled.
‘Steady now.’
One hand rested on her shoulder while the other reached past her to lift away the offending thorny tentacle.
‘There, you are free.’
Free? How could she be free when her whole body was in thrall to him? When he was so close that she could feel the heat of him on her back? Phyllida shook off the thought and carefully withdrew her arm from the briars. When Richard removed his hand from her shoulder she felt it immediately, a yearning chill and an emptiness that was almost a physical pain. She stepped back and turned, only to find that he was close behind her, less than a hand’s width away, his broad chest and powerful shoulders filling her view, like a cliff face. She was distracted by detail, the fine stitching of his exquisitely tailored blue coat, the double row of buttons on his pale waistcoat, the snowy folds of linen at his neck. The hammering of her heartbeat thrummed in her ears. Surely he must hear it, see how shaken she was? She tried to speak lightly to divert his attention.
‘Thank you, sir. I fear I could not have extricated myself without ruining this gown.’
She stretched her cheeks into a smile and looked up, confident she could ask him calmly to let her pass, but her gaze locked on to his mouth and the words died in her throat as she studied the firm sculpted lips. She was distracted by imagining how they would feel on her skin. She swallowed, forced her gaze upwards but that proved even more dangerous, for his blue eyes held her transfixed. She was lost, unable to move. She could no longer hear the skylark’s distant trill, nor the laughing voices of those picking berries further along the hedgerow. The world had shrunk to just the two of them. Anticipation trembled through her when he ran his hands lightly up her arms and the skin beneath the thin sleeves burned with his touch. His fingers came to rest upon her shoulders, gently pulling her towards him as he lowered his head to kiss her. She made no effort to resist. Instead her chin tilted up and her lips parted instinctively as his mouth came closer.
It was the lightest contact, a slight, tantalising brush of the lips, but Phyllida felt as if a lightning bolt had struck her, shocking her, driving through her body and anchoring her to the spot. She kept her hands at her sides, clenched into fists to prevent them clinging to him like a desperate, drowning creature. She found herself straining upwards, trying to prolong the contact but it was over almost as soon as it had begun and as he raised his head Phyllida felt strangely bereft. The kiss had been the work of a moment, but it had shaken her to the core and she struggled to find a suitable response.
‘You, you should not have done that.’
There was a faint crease at one side of his mouth, the merest hint of a smile.
‘No one saw us.’
That was not what she meant at all, but it brought her back to reality. The thorny brambles were at her back so she sidestepped, breaking those invisible threads that had held her to him, even though it was like tearing her own flesh to move away from him. Distance gave her the strength to think properly again.
‘I did not mean that and you know it. Your behaviour was ungentlemanly, sir.’
‘You could have said no. You could have resisted.’
She scooped up the little basket and began to walk away.
‘I should not have had to do so.’
He laughed softly as he fell in beside her.
‘I believe I deserved some reward for rescuing a damsel in distress.’
She stopped, saying angrily, ‘What you deserve, sir—’
‘Yes?’
He was smiling down at her, sending her thoughts once more into disorder. Alarms clamoured in her head, it was as much as she could do not to throw herself at him and the glint in his blue eyes told her he knew it. With a hiss of exasperation she walked on.
‘You deserve to be shamed publicly for your behaviour.’
‘Ah, but the Arrandales have no shame, did you not know that?’
He spoke lightly, but there was something in his tone, a faint hint of bitterness that undermined her indignation. It could have been a ploy, a trick to gain her sympathy, but somehow she did not think so. With a sudden flash of insight she thought he was like a child, behaving badly because it was expected of him.
‘Oh, how despicable you are!’ she exclaimed. ‘I should be scolding you for your outrageous behaviour and instead—’ She broke off.
‘Yes?’ he prompted her gently.
I want to take you in my arms and kiss away your pain.
Phyllida was appalled. She had come very close to saying the words aloud. With a tiny shake of her head she almost ran the last few yards to where Mrs Desborough and Lady Wakefield were sitting under a large parasol.

The Chaperon's Seduction - Sarah Mallory. Harlequin June 2015

***

As a writer I often find myself writing "out of season" and I keep a list of the English sunrise and sunset times on hand, so that I can check up on the daylight hours. I also use pictures like the ones I have included here remind me of our changeable climate.  Sometimes writing about the heat of a summer's day can take quite a bit of imagination when the snow is falling outside!
 
The cool autumn weather makes it much nicer to stay indoors writing, and the longer nights are perfect for curling up in front of the fire with a good book.  So what do you like to read during the chilly winter evenings? Books about the summer, perhaps, or even hot, exotic locations.  Or maybe, like me, your thoughts are turning towards the winter, with holly berries, icicles and snow… do tell me!

Sarah Mallory/Melinda Hammond