Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Daniel Defoe - Political Pamphleteer, Rebel Soldier, Novelist.

What could Daniel Defoe possibly have in common with the Duke of Monmouth?
Well, quite a lot!

If you didn’t know before reading this, then let me introduce you to the rebel soldier “Defoe”, who was a staunch supporter of Monmouth’s cause to topple James Stuart (James II) from his throne. Yes indeed, Defoe fought in Monmouth’s rebel army. 

Unlike Monmouth, Defoe evaded capture (contrary to many Wiki accounts of Defoe’s life and supposed Kingly pardon) and made safe escape first to the Scilly Isles and secondary escape to the Low Countries. There Defoe lived in exile for several months and made many friends in Flanders (family ties/origin Flanders) and with Hollanders, as had Monmouth. But, when William of Orange ousted his father-in-law from the English throne, the invasion thus notably referred to as The Glorious Revolution, Defoe had prior returned as a spy, his travels abroad bringing him home after the terrors inflicted by Judge Jeffrey upon Hampshire, Dorset, and Somerset.

In self accounts of his own life, Defoe is sparing on detail to do with the Monmouth rebellion, though did say: whilst hiding in a churchyard from royalist soldiers who were hunting runaways from the Battle of Sedgemoor, he read the inscription on a tombstone: "Robinson Crusoe" which later became the novel, apparently inspired as much by his escape from English shores to the Scilly Isles and shipwreck off the island. Was this poetic licence and showmanship on his part, perhaps not, given the seriousness of those who fled the battlefield at Sedgemoor. 

Defoe was a journalist of his time, noting and recording events and printing news sheets and pamphlets - a Pamphlateer who became a Musketeer in Monmouth's Rebel Army. 

Extra: Many of Monmouth’s supporters who evaded capture were known to the authorities but never found despite intense searches of houses by brutal means against existing occupants. Of those who escaped to the Scilly Isles and other island retreats and thought of themselves as safe and out of reach of the King’s hounds, were soon to learn the awful truth that the king’s vengeance had far from dissipated, even with the brutal finale of Monmouth’s decapitation. 

As naval ships were sighted on approach or anchored off-shore on those outlying islands so escapees were again forced into hiding or smuggled away in fishing boats to foreign shores. Defoe was in their number and with steel grit and determination he made it to the shores of Spain, took ship to  Oostende in Flanders (family ties/roots/origin) which was under Spanish rule, and slowly made his way to the Dutch held territories of the Low Countries.  

He returned to English shores as a spy for William Orange, and come the Glorious Revolution, Defoe rode to greet William ashore. He led a colourful life thereafter with literary merits, and as did so many more of his ilk he lived well, spent well, and died as near a pauper as man can when things go awry in financial matters. 

The most dreadful account of Judge Jeffreys enacting a despicable remit, was the sending of privates parts of notables "to the wives/mothers" of those who were hung drawn and quartered. A list of prisoners and their respective fates can be viewed here. 

Sunday, 30 June 2019

History is Infinitely Fascinating!

Taking the title of this post as guideline, how far can fiction tread on history and not impede or alter historical fact, and yet render history intriguing and thought provoking? 

I’m one of those authors who have it in mind historical detail (fact and rumour) is just as important for authors of Historical Romance as is it for hard-nosed authors of general Historical Fiction. If no authentic backdrop is apparent then how are readers to enjoy sense of time and place past? That's not to say huge sections of a book need be given to historical detail, that's the job of the characters who can reveal what they see, what they hear, and their knowledge of events as they unfold in their world. I also love it when author's provide family lineage, not as merely a family tree map, when again the characters themselves can afford greater depth aside from the main story. After all, what goes around can come around, and the past can reveal much about individual personalities and the outlook of elders and their respective influence on younger generations. Sometimes aspects of the past are shrouded until a key is found which will unlock elements that no one cared to talk about, or it was deemed no one would talk about after a particular event. The incident, whatever, may have been of little or greater consequence at the time, and over the years the telling can become distorted because a secret is never a secret if more than one person knows of that secret. And a dark secret is the underlying threat to the Dempsey family, because one man covets something the Duke of Leominster owns. Thus the crux at issue is what does a French marquis covet, the why of it, and why did he have an English duke assassinated (?) in book 1. 

Book 1

Amazon UK  ~  Amazon US 

In the novel “To Risk All for Love – The Dempsey Fortune” is where the demise of Louis Dempsey, Duke of Leominster heralds the beginning of a vendetta with roots as far back as three generations to King Louis XIV and the Grand Dauphin. Although the story revolves around the new young duke and his sister, and his sister is the leading light in the novel alongside her unusual hero, her brother unwittingly invites guests into their home who consist of French gamblers, and people masquerading as other than selves. The year is 1790 the era of the French revolution, and as events unfold mystery escalates, murders occur, and threat of death reaches a climax when all had thought the danger was at end and peace reigned once more until a letter dictates otherwise.

Book 2 

Amazon UK   ~ Amazon US 

Book 2 “To Tempt a Duke – The Dempsey Ring” the young duke is finally made aware of the Marquis de Chartre’s desired object which the French aristocrat believes will beget a greater object of desire. In the meanwhile the duke desires something that belongs to the marquis by absolute legal right, but there is no way they can strike a bargain and both gain their ultimate heart’s desire. Thus both plan counter moves to thwart the other’s ambitions, and whilst murders abound, and French spies are assisting the marquis in his endeavours, flames of romance burn hot, but who will concede defeat and win the day? There you have the baseline of the plot, but there’s so much more to the lineage of both men, and history itself came into its own as the tapestry of a tragic tale three generations past as the backdrop to the two books.

Grand Dauphin

In brief, the Grand Dauphin entered into a Morganatic marriage with Marie Émilie Thérèse de Joly, 'Mademoiselle de Choin' (2 August 1670 – 1732).
She was a French lady-in-waiting to King Louis XIV's morganatic wife, Madame de Maintenon. No children were, purportedly, born within the marriage of le Grand Dauphin and Marie Émilie, and yet there is evidence (Saint Simon chronicler) that Marie Émilie did give birth to one child, the rumour being the infant died shortly after birth, which was not unusual in the circumstance of (illegitimate royal infants) born to the French royal household by commoner wives.

Marie Émilie Thérèse de Joly, 'Mademoiselle de Choin'

There is no absolute proof a girl or boy was born and died, and no proof there were other infants born and removed. Much of the Dauphin and Marie Émilie's life together has been veiled and remains relatively vague whilst much speculation abounds. Despite rumour, all children born at Versailles to his once favoured mistresses, and the king's legitimate offspring were taken away and reared elsewhere. Many of the illegitimate children were farmed out to other households to cause no future embarrassment to the royal house of Bourbon, barring those of his most favoured mistress Madame de Montespan. On that basis of farming out infants I took poetic licence and created a link to the Dempsey family and the marquis based on rumours that became rife in the years of Louis XIV's court and the Grand Dauphin.

Louis XIV

And so I rest my case for fiction being fiction and letting fiction play with historical rumour, in that there was indeed a child or children begotten from the Dauphin and Marie’s Morganatic marriage, but King Louis being Louis probably removed any possible threat to less than pure royal blood standing in line for succession to the throne. The Grand Dauphin did on several occasions rebel in wilful manner but his father of a devious nature did thwart the younger except in the instance of the morganatic marriage. After all, Louis XIV had entered into same with Madame de Maintenon.

And then there are the aside factors in which houses to use as the fictional residences alongside known royal residences etc. The name les Muids equates to Hogs Head. Hogs head is a weight measure for wine = 300L (66 imp gal. 79 US gal). I therefore named the Dempsey's French residence as Château les Muids, and the inspiration for their château was a beautiful abandoned one.  Unloved but beautiful inside and out. 

This is my fictional Dempsey residence in France

In real terms there is a Château les Muids by that name and it is a hotel now, not merely a family residence and it was only built in 1790.  Which really reflects the later architectural influence of the late 1700s instead of 17th century architecture (1600s).

You can visit this hotel

What of ship parts etc in novels?  The taff rail surrounding the poop deck. 

Who would have thought how important research is even for 
Historical Romance novels?
But it all comes down to author pride and the constant learning curve, hence history is infinitely fascinating!  


Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Writing a Series of Novels is tough work...

These novels are driven by romance within history, the history aspect of prime importance. This isn't about major battles or memorable skirmishes, the series is about families in time of war, rebellion, and how they live, survive, and where love and devotion is tested not only by family loyalties but loyalties to king and county. Although the English Civil Wars entailed several major battles, and numerous skirmishes, much of the fighting was splintered and local to specific places as the rival armies  traversed the country from north to south, and east to west. 

I have always derived immense pleasure from reading series novels. In fact I love ‘em and long ago I had it in mind to pen a series of four novels. Hence the English Civil Wars, Charles II’s attempt to wrest England from Cromwell’s clutches, the Restoration of Charles II and the Monmouth Rebellion sprang to life, and one portrait was the inspiration: 

Who is, she and what might her life have entailed?

The stories as a whole have been in my head since some thirty years ago after a ghostly apparition of a horse appeared in the courtyard of our house, or not. Perhaps in truth, what I experienced on that day, albeit within the house where I lived, was mere sense of a time past, and yet, the bridle of the horse was real to the touch. Even so, life itself and other publishing commitments (books in popular genres publishers wanted to publish for guaranteed returns on investment ) prevented this series coming to fruition. But at last, they are here, or at least, they're on Amazon. Since quitting mainstream publishing and going Indie in 2011 I've settled to writing for me and for readers who love romance and life-like history in equal measure not merely dressed up historical romances. 

By the way, for anyone who follows my blog posts or knows me well, they also know how the majority of my stories come about, and if you’d like to know for yourself you can find out by reading About Me. That said, the two houses in this series, in part reflect aspects of two houses, being one where I was born and the other in which I lived with my first husband. 

But, getting back to the subject matter, there’s nothing more frustrating than having read a book and wishing when the end is reached, that the story had carried on. Often I’ve wanted to know what happens to the lead characters post HEA, but more than that, to learn the fate of secondary characters. And there have been occasions when a prequel could have added to a series. Hence, I came to the conclusion there was scope for one of those little informative prequels to my series after I'd written book one and partway through book two. The second lead character in book one was determined to redeem his reputation a little and in doing so enlighten readers as to his earlier days of frustrations in the court of Charles I.  

And here it is.m behold the prequel Debt of Honour the forerunner to Book 1 

By Loyalty Divided. 

Yep, it’s set within my favourite period of history The English Civil War. The backdrop setting is Somerset - Bristol/Bath and surrounding districts. Bristol at that time was the second most important city in England and several times it changed hands between Royalists and Parliamentarians throughout the Civil Wars. Yes, two wars, not one major conflict.

In By Loyalty Divided, the main characters are:
Morton Viscount Axebury, (rebel son of William Lord Gantry) who becomes a Captain of Horse in the Army of Parliament = New Model Army.
William Lord Gantry (Royalist Commander)
Anna Lady Maitcliffe – born within the confines of the royal court until Lord Gantry became her ward.

The plot is a love triangle, which inevitably leads to tragedy.

Secondary characters:
The Lady Georgina Mrs. Darnley (Parliamentarian) - his lordship’s sister 
Catherine Thornton and her brother 
Captain Thomas Thornton (Royalist). 
Prince Charles, 
Prince Rupert, 
Lord Wittlesham.   

The second novel in The Royal Series:

Toast of Clifton, needless to say Toast meaning hostess of note. This novel is also set within the West of England at the time of Charles II’s bid to regain the throne and crown of England.

Main characters:
Thomas Thornton
Elizabeth Mountjoy
Morton Lord Gantry
Anna Lady Gantry

Secondary Characters are Catherine Lady Wittlesham (nee Thornton), Lord Wittlesham, Charles II, Lord Wilmot and others.

Although Toast of Clifton is a story of intense and passionate love, past betrayal haunts the hero and when the chance to right a wrong comes his way he takes it, but to lose every thing including the love of his life is a high price to pay for heroism. For when the odds of being imprisoned and deported to the colonies is your lot, and your King is fleeing the enemy as well, who comes first: family or King?  

And then to Royal Secrets, in which  the eldest Thornton daughter, Justine, sets her heart on the second generation Viscount Axebury of whom her father thoroughly disapproves and not without cause. Battles of family loyalty ensue, not only within the Thornton and Gantry households, but at Court too. It can be dangerous to overhear royal secrets when plotting to rid a king of his queen are afoot, as Justine soon discovers and her life suddenly in peril.      

And then as the years pass the Gantry and Thornton children begin to take centre stage along with Lord Wittlesham's daughters. Old feuds, lust of youth, desires and recklessness are set to cause mayhem and heartbreak and many tears are shed as the young test the allegiance and loyalty of their elders during the heart-wrenching weeks of The Monmouth Rebellion!  

One of their number, Henry Gantry, is looked upon as a traitor to the Gantry family, his story is one of spies, emotional turmoil, and regrets aplenty. But he's a king's man and loyal to James II, whilst his brother and the Thornton's are loyal to the Duke of Monmouth. Family feuding aside, Henry soon faces the awful truth royal favour is as fickle as his wife's affections, and when he's confronted with love that knocks him sideways he's tormented by duty to king and crown and torn between the two women. Tragedy strikes a severe blow, and although Henry turns to kingly duties whilst grieving a great loss, it is a tuning point in his life, where sense of family suddenly means more to him than his king.         

Rebellion continues in Lady of the Tower - Monmouth's Legacy. 

The rebel in this case is Thomasina, the youngest of the Thornton family, who risks her own life by venturing to the battlefield where carnage prevails. Whilst in search for her brother-in-law in a selfless act of bravery on behalf of her sister, her mission is fraught with danger, more especially when she's caught and assumed to be robbing the dead!  Whilst love blossoms for Thomasina and Captain Owain Lascelles, the horror in the aftermath of the Monmouth Rebellion unfolds, and Judge Jeffreys reign of terror throughout Hampshire, Dorset, and Somerset impacts on their lives, their families, and friends.       

And then, to come in about a year from now will be the release of:
 To Risk All in the Name of Treason. 

Set during the time of the Glorious Revolution (1688-1689), though "glorious" is a slightly overrated word for the toppling of a king who scarpered when senior army officers went over to the enemy. This is the story of Lady Georgina Gantry and Ira Wittlesham (junior).

Whilst Georgina takes on the role of spy within the Court of James II, as a lady to the Queen's bedchamber, Ira spies from within the king's personal court and within the salons of fellow officers of his majesty's lifeguards.  

But as history tells us, much deceit was already rife during the immediate aftermath of the Monmouth Rebellion and the dreadful circumstances surrounding Judge Jeffreys bloody reign. Thus the run up to the coming of William of Orange to the throne of England, is depicted from 1685 when a plot to overthrow James II was seeded and grew into a secret club of army officers. Two of the most famous hedged their bets throughout in determination to be on the winning side thus they wore false faces at court as did several more courtiers and junior officers of their day, and the latter were the first to desert their lines in Salisbury and ride to greet William and join his forces.     


All the books are available via Amazon worldwide.


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Minor characters can be leading lights!

It is often said many readers dislike introductions to books by way of minor characters whose part is solely given to that of introducing the main protagonists. Thus, out of pure interest, does an opening to a novel annoy you if minor characters gradually introduce the lead characters? 

Ardent fans of Jane Austen are no doubt conscious of Jane’s use of minor characters as backdrops to the main story (Wickham), or as a means of secondary observant viewpoint (Mary and Caroline in P&P). Georgette Heyer often used minor character/s for the opening of novels and those characters proved vital to overall plots.

The portrait above inspired the creation of Chastity and Honour, essentially two minor characters and truthfully I never saw them as lead characters. Once I started writing the sisters materialised as very different in outlook and temperament. Chastity is sweet, impressionable, and a little rotund for her years. She suffers lack of breath when out walking. Whilst Honour (elder) being slim, she's obsessed with perfection all things, bitter of tongue, judgemental of others, and is her mother’s favourite. 

Subsequently, it is these two girls who introduce the lead characters within A Sinful Countess. Whilst stories of vampires thrill Chastity, prim Honour not only fears the storyteller, her reaction fuels the plot, and fuels conflict between two households. Neither sister could predict that of which will befall them all as time passes. And their individual personalities result in very different lifestyles and opposing opinions, as revealed later. I did wonder after having finished A Sinful Countess, whether to revisit Chastity and Honour at the point before they went their separate ways! Who knows, perhaps they do indeed deserve a book of their own.

Back cover blurb:

...rekindling flames from smouldering embers of lustful dreams is a risqué venture...

Whilst tales of Gothic horror deters visitors to Titchley House, the publication of Byron’s Vampyre added to the rumour the Countess of Villach has returned to her childhood home stirs untold curiosity at neighbouring Upton Park. Alas, fear in one girl’s nightmare stirs her uncle and father to action, but neither man is truly prepared when the past and present collide in a whirlwind of suppressed love and desire. Whilst Bryony Stafford, novelist extraordinaire, wars with the Earl of Wittlesea, his brother Captain Carleton is hell-bent on seducing the countess. He’s no saint and well aware scandal can taint the innocent, but can he win the woman he’s coveted for ten years or is she truly a Sinful Countess?

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Jane Austen Book Awards!

What can one say, but Thank You to the Jane Austen judges: sincere thanks.

Speeches are just not me...  

I hate award ceremonies and all that overt gushing and full-on bluster. Besides, other than Pat Jackson my editor, who has admitted time and again at having forgotten to edit because he became so immersed in the story, which is a morale boost in itself.  But, I am for the rest of the process entirely alone in formatting for e-book and paperback editions, and the painting of my own covers.  
So that's it, me...
Now I'll get off the stage and get on with the rest of the show.

And.... I'm in good company on second award!