Saturday, 1 February 2020

Free Chapter Read - The Waterloo Legacy





The Waterloo Legacy
~
Chapter 1
~
Pennard Hall, Somerset 1815: 24th June
   ~
Having escaped to the garden, sitting alone and utterly devoid of distractions, it was so very difficult to brush aside the image of light blue eyes turning smoky grey in sunlight, and of manly lips curving to a quirky smile. Would that she could erase that special memory of her heart’s desire and the relaxed manner of his basking in the afterglow of mutual bliss. But it was all too vivid: even the remembered sweet scent of flattened meadow grasses, where they had lain surrounded by moon daisies swaying gently on a balmy summer breeze.
   Both had known the love expressed between them was oh so wrong, but heady euphoria had taken hold in the madness of the moment. Although it was true love back then, illicit love, he still expressed undying love within his letters: letters she kept hidden.
   Oh how oft she had pondered over portraits hanging in the upper gallery, and studied the likeness between her son and that of Earls’ of Weston down the centuries. Mathew’s appearance bespoke untainted bloodlines, as did that of the present earl’s younger brother, whilst her husband, the earl, resembled none of the former.
   It was quite bizarre, for Michael Melrose, Earl of Weston, was fair, with light brown eyes, and florid features. Albeit of good height, he was so unlike the taller, dark-haired, blue-eyed Melrose trait, it was little wonder there were those within society who had looked upon Michael with a curious eye. Similarities to his mother, the dowager countess, had always excused his appearance. But his sister, May, had let slip observations from time to time of a curious bent in relation to her brother’s likeness to that of an unrelated family; and the very fact the family were not of Isobel’s acquaintance, she had no means to verify May’s comments.
   Thus daydreaming, and duly caught unawares, a sudden flash of pink in her peripheral vision drew her attention, and her heart sank. Oh lordy. So often, when she slipped away to write in her journal, someone would come looking for her.
   “Izzie . . . Izzie . . .” came a plaintive plea from her sister-in-law. “Where are you?”
   Holding her breath whilst tempted to take flight, instead she remained seated behind the trunk of a favoured walnut tree, half hoping the lovely May would pass her by unnoticed.
   “Izzie. . . Izzie, I know you are out here, somewhere,” yelled May, quite unladylike in manner, followed by a sharp: “Isobelanswer me.”
   If May was resorting to Isobel then something was amiss, and she called out in response: “I’m here, by the walnut tree.”
   May flew to her side, cheeks flushed almost as pink as her muslin day gown, her bright blue Melrose eyes alight with excitement. “It’s over. Can you believe it? Oh how glorious it must have been for Michael, for Luke, and your brother?”
   Isobel’s heart somersaulted; part joy, part apprehension. “Over . . . you mean . . .”
   “Yes . . . Yes . . . They’ve done for Boney, all over again, despite rumours of a humiliating retreat and desertion of Brussels.”
   “May, excitement is all very well,” said Isobel, snatching up her journal before getting to her feet, “but remember you are a lady, not a soldier given to barrack room slang.”
   “Oh piffle and stuff-shirt,” declared May, a hand thrust to her hip in recalcitrant stance. “I’m quoting Luke’s very words, and might I remind you, I am more than of age. Besides, it’s officially declared Wellington was victorious at Waterloo. It’s all clearly written within the London Gazette, and dated twenty-second of June.”
   Isobel laughed whilst smoothing out creases from her skirts. “Have we letters, then?”
   “From Luke,” replied May, leaning forward to scoop a soft weave carriage wrap from the seat, which circled the tree.
   “Oh, then no news from Michael?”
   “Not as yet, and Luke had so little to say, hence mother is beside herself with worry.”
   “For what reason, when we are blessed with the end of war?”
   “You know mother and her intuition,” said May, as they began strolling from the lower lawn to the upper paved terrace.
   “Well yes, I do, but on such a joyous occasion as this, we should be of mind in how best to celebrate the homecoming of our heroes.”
   “My thoughts exactly, though I wager mother will never sanction preparations for a grand affair for their homecoming, which could be weeks, perhaps months hence.”
   “Why ever not, pray?”
   “My intuition tells me mother has a suspicion Luke might have been holding something back. His missive was very short, of which he dispatched post-haste on the nineteenth,” declared May, whilst trailing her fingers over a marble statuette of a shepherdess with a lamb tucked under arm. “Mother will in no way condone any celebration of Wellington’s victory, until both her sons are standing before her.”
   “But that is nonsense, for it is I who shall organise a celebratory ball for their homecoming.”
   May let slip a sigh of delight in one breath; and in the next breath, as they hurriedly ascended steps to the upper terrace, sense of unease spilled forth. “I wish you and mother liked one another better.”
   Linking her arm in May’s, she chuckled. “Your mother and I like one another well enough.”
   “Piffle. Only in respectful manner, as you do with each other’s acquaintances and friends.”
   “Is that not better than mere tolerance of each other?”
   May sniffed; pointed in extreme. “I try my very best to bridge the divide between the pair of you, and I fail miserably so. And yet, both of you are as one when it comes to Mathew.”
   “Oh May . . . he’s but a child.”
   “I know, and believe me when I say: I am not in the least bit jealous of your son.”
   “Nor should you be, for your mother dotes on you.”
   “I think not, for it is Michael she dotes on. After all, don’t all mothers dote on their first born?”
   “As Mathew is my first and only child I cannot in all honesty answer that question,” nor dared she reveal the truth, for Mathew was special, very special to her. “I hope, if ever I am blessed with more children, I shall love them all with equal measure.”
   “So shall I, if ever I should find a man who will wed a girl of height matching that of a young buck. Oh, harebells, Izzie. I am all but an old maid.”
   Aware of movement within the drawing room, the garden doors before them, Isobel lowered her voice. “I would give anything to have your height and graceful countenance. Besides, you are but twenty and three years, and you have admirers at present, and soon shall have a veritable array of young titled officers returned from war and seeking a wife.”
   May paused in step and laughed: mocking in tone and mocking self. “I’m about as graceful as a goose, and although Luke is by far, a head taller than Michael, I can stay abreast of Luke at any time.”
   Preferring May’s company to that of the dowager countess, now standing watching them from the drawing room, Isobel dallied too: “I always found it impossible to keep abreast of Luke, for he used to set a gruelling pace.”
   “Yes, but you are so dainty, and Luke . . . Oh, but I don’t recall your walking out with Luke.”
   “It was but a couple of times, when Michael was indisposed with estate matters, and Harry was here, at the time.”
   “Well, of course Luke and your brother became good friends, and no doubt still are. Oh, just think, Izzie. Think what it will be like when they are all here: finally at home.”
   “Precisely, and what could be better than a grand ball to bring old friends together?”
   “But we have not set eyes on them in so long, I dare say Michael’s dark moods will be darker still or pray, knocked out of him, entirely. I do pray it is the latter.”
   Isobel commiserated with May in regard to Michael’s moods, but said: “He had much to contend with before leaving home shores, and perchance, what he saw as a weighty burden back then, will seem less so upon his arrival home. After all, he earned Wellington’s respect as that of his military attaché and spymaster in Vienna.”
   “I have oft pondered why you ever married Michael. And yes, I know it was more or less an arranged marriage, or at least, so arranged you had little choice but to go through with it.” May’s eyes purposefully collided with hers, an overtly inquisitive expression. “I have no right to ask, but do you love him, Izzie, truly love him, or is it familial love as might be between good friends?”
   “I barely knew him before we were married. Our courtship was conducted by formal letter after we had danced but a few times at Almack’s. Then of course, during that grand picnic party here at Pennard, with parents and friends in attendance, he suddenly announced our betrothal, of which my father had already approved. Thence an engagement ball was held two weeks later. All, I might add, planned and plotted between your mother and my parents without my knowledge, and as you well know, Michael and I were then married but one month, and he went off to war.”
   “As did Luke, two-months later.”
   “And Harry, likewise,” intoned Isobel, not letting May ponder too long on past events
   “Yes, but Luke and Harry had already said they were going to war, and neither of them had any of the responsibilities Michael had. By rite of his title, he should have stayed here to protect us women. What if Napoleon had won every battle and then sailed across the water with his army? What of us? What might have become of us?”
   “Don’t you see, May? That is why he went. Michael went to war to defeat Napoleon, to protect us and the country at large. They all went for that very reason and just when it seemed safe to venture home, Napoleon escaped from Elba, and thence they were again forced to take action.”
   “I might forgive Michael, in time, but I shall make my thoughts known to him. Besides, I think his recklessness in rushing off to war was to show Luke and Harry he was no liver-bellied coward.”
   “Harry would never have accused Michael of cowardice for staying here, and I cannot imagine Luke thought any differently. Do allow Michael a little respite from war on his return, before slapping a war of words to his ears.”
   May laughed. “Oh I shall like as not box him about the ears and forgive him there and then.”
   The garden door fronting the drawing room was thrust wide, and the ever imposing portly dowager countess duly stepped forth in a purple silk gown. Her countenance was somewhat austere with grey hair pinned up and tucked beneath a black lace frilled mobcap as though the silly woman had taken to mourning a great loss rather than celebrating a glorious victory. Though for once, a smile as broad as her beam suddenly swept to her face.
   “Well, Isobel, what are your thoughts on the matter of Napoleon’s defeat?”
   “Much as your ladyship’s, I should imagine, and I am so very pleased to hear Michael will be coming home,” said she, when in reality she was living in dread of his homecoming.
   “At first I had wondered at Luke’s less than informative correspondence, and having feared the worst I dressed appropriate for the coming of bad news, and now it has occurred to me, what else was there to say, other than ‘Napoleon is done for’.”
   “Precisely, your ladyship. After all, if something was amiss, it would be stated within the letter.”
   “Then dear girl, how shall we celebrate their homecoming?”
   “I had thought a ball would be a grand gesture, not only for them, but for friends and fellow officers.”
   “Then a ball it shall be, and the preparations I shall leave in your capable hands.”
   “Did I hear correctly, mother?” queried May. “You want no say, in how the ball must be organised?”
   “Good heavens. No, not at all. I am away to London; on the morrow.”
   Shocked by her mother’s statement, incredulity swept to May’s face. “Might I ask why?”
   “It is merely a matter of business I must attend to before Michael sets foot in the house.” With that said, the dowager countess let slip a furtive smile. “It’s nothing too awful, but as my eldest son is a stickler for well-balanced ledgers, there are a few discrepancies in need of setting to rights.”
   “Mother,” exclaimed May. “You have not borrowed monies from . . . Oh, but you have, I can see you have.”
   “Yes dear, I lost heavily a week or so ago at carding, and must repay my dues forthwith, else my eldest boy shall see the error of my ways.”
   May’s brows arced, her tone erring moral high ground. “Michael, will like as not, curtail your expeditions to Almack’s, should he get to hear of your laying high stakes.”
   “I think not,” rallied the dowager countess, “Who shall tell him, eh? More to the point, he‘s my son, not my keeper, and I shall do as I will.”
   “As you will,” murmured May.
   “As I will,” intoned her mother, a dark look.
   And with a dismissive wave of the hand the dowager countess turned about and hurried back inside the house.
   May, let slip a deep sigh: “I do believe mother has just threatened to cut out my tongue should I breathe a word of her gambling to Michael. And how do you suppose she hid the discrepancies from Mr. Pomphrey?”
   Isobel laughed, and made toward the drawing room. “I suspect Michael was well aware of your mother’s penchant for carding long before he set sail for the Peninsular. As for Mr. Pomphrey. The dear man is simply petrified of your mother, albeit he is supposedly this household’s advisor and holder of the earl’s purse in his absence.”
   “I dare say, but how is mother to repay borrowed monies, when she was clearly short of funds in the first place?” May stopped mid-stride, as though struck by lightning. “Oh no. . . Do you suppose her intention is to sell something? Jewellery perhaps . . .”
   “If that is her only means of replacing stolen money, then it might . . .”
   “Stolen?” screeched May. “How can it be construed as stealing to borrow money from the housekeeping kitty?”
   Pausing before entering the house, Isobel lowered her voice. “Let us take the scenario of a cook, any cook in any household. Or a manservant for that matter, who borrows money from the kitchen’s kitty, being that of the tin set aside for paying the fish boy and the coal merchant. Would your mother consider such action, as the stealing of monies from the house?”
   “Well yes, of course she would.”
   “Then how is your mother’s borrowing of monies from the house any different?”
   “Oh Izzie, there is no comparison.”
   “I disagree, and if your mother has to sell a jewel or two in order to replenish that of which she has spirited away, it might serve to rein back her carding hand a little.”
   “Yes, you are right, and heaven knows what Michael would say to the discovery of a theft.”
   “Precisely, and I suspect he would suppose the thief dwelt below stairs, and what of us then? Could we stand by whilst servants are questioned, humiliated, and accused of stealing money, when not one of them had a hand in the kitty tin?”
   “There is that, I grant you, but neither would I dare betray mother.”
   “Perhaps not, and I dare say it would fall to my shoulders to protect the innocent from false accusations.”
   “But Izzie, you are the countess, and you, must do, as you see fit.”
   “Oh, I see. So it is I who will be placed in the perilous position of having a quiet word with Michael, that is, if your mother should fail to cover the shortfall in household funds.”
   May screwed up her nose in mischievous manner. “He is the lord and master, and you his wife. Moreover, I would not truly have the courage to shame mother in Michael’s eyes. He is her favourite, after all.”
   With that said, May brushed past her, and fled into the house.
   Heavens above, his sister nor his mother knew him at all well, or instead chose to ignore the fact he would likely accuse his wife of having overspent on frivolous items of a fashionable bent. How then could she plan a welcome home ball and account for its expenditure?



Saturday, 30 November 2019

"The Quiet Ones are the Ones to Watch!"



When a new book is released and time seems to vanish! 

Where do the days and weeks go? I wish I knew, and wish I had a PA to keep my correspondence up to date, and keep my blog updated. Thus wish on I must...


Pemberley

Anyhoo, Georgiana Darcy's Secret Letters was released a while back. It's a steamier novel than Mr. Darcy's Mistress, and throughout I kept telling myself - just remember how shy Georgiana was and depicted by Ms Austen as of a retiring nature. 

After all, Georgiana barely said boo but had almost eloped with George Wickham a year prior to his elopement (abduction) with Lydia Bennet. 

Ponderous thought on that!!

The old adage "the quiet ones are the ones to watch" (is in general referral to men) but it is true, Ms Austen implied Georgiana was shy (retiring). But an elopement isn't conjured out of Scotch mist, is it? 

And so, with Georgiana set free on the page she decided she had learned from bitter experience and would not make the same mistake again. Thus, how can one get into trouble with writing letters to a young man who dared to send one in the first place?



Assured letters cannot land her in a naughty pickle she  indulges a young officer's bent to exchange of mutual correspondence. But such can convey the best of a person and hide secrets, just as letters themselves can be kept secret. 

Oh lordy, Georgiana soon discovers, as one might with growing confidence, she begins to reveal more than one would wish for and that in itself may pose a problem that can only be resolved with face to face interaction. And well, once paper is cast aside and flesh and blood man stands before one, all that must be said is much the harder to convey. More so if his close proximity is somewhat desirable.



There you have it, once kissed there is no turning back from the joy of budding romance, and whilst discretion is uppermost and neither wishing to spoil their cosy correspondence dare she indulge more favourable pastimes? 

That first touch, that first beat of unbridled passion could become her undoing and when the past looms to haunt her, dare she really trust her heart this time? 

From the wilds of the Derbyshire Dales to the elegance of Pemberley, it is to the Scottish Borders and the man who wins her heart where she finds true happiness.   


Iolaire House
  


   Amazon UK       Amazon US

   

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

JAFF novels VS Jane Austen Originals.


Thoughts on how differently people interpret historical romance novels written by the likes of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, and how they interpret Regency based novels written by modern day authors. Jane wrote lighthearted romantic comedy of manner plots, and the Bronte sisters wrote dark romantic dramas. But today I’m focusing attention on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.



There were no rules in writing romance, nor was there a romance genre in olden times!

If you’ve ever read “Romance and Legend of Chivalry” by A. R. Moncrieff you would see how romance tales were a thing of poetic prose, 500 and more years past, which gradually developed into fairy tale romances of Knights and Fair Maidens derived from fact and mingled with fiction. It is easy to visualise the knight riding away to do battle the weeping maid waving from the battlements of a mediaeval castle, and will he return or is this the last time she will see him?

Or, take the white (good) knight jousting with the black knight (baddy), most often the latter is in lustful wont, the former in love with the same woman. The same old romances of legend are still written today in differing romance genres. The fairy tale Snow White and the Wicked Queen (step-mother) a rival in the Beauty Stakes, and no less dramatic in Pride and Prejudice between Elizabeth and Caroline, with Caroline longing to snare Darcy. (a mere snip of characters impressions from Snow White with a touch of Cinderella rags to riches is there in Jane Austen’s Bennet tome) Both are old tropes and each time as exciting as the author cares to make them and expand on them.




We can snatch almost any sequence from a fairy tale as read to us as children and find it in modern authors’ renditions of Regency romances a million times over. There were no rules in the chivalric novels for an HEA. King Arthur’s Guinevere loved Sir Lancelot, but neither could be together, their love was pure and untainted by sex, and shared at a discreet distance according to the chivalric Christian based tales, whereas who knows, they could have been lovers! Later novels depicted them as lovers, so you take your fairy tale characters as did Jane Austen and you play theatre manager with them and have them perform on stage to your script. And yet, around the globe similar if not identical fairy tales were accountable to the Greek classics, Persian classics et al.

Whereas the romance genre of today as developed in the 20th century rapidly acquired pseudo set rules, namely rules set in stone by Mills & Boon of the early years:

 The Begin  - boy meets girl and

The Middle – they’ve fallen in love, or deny they have to selves, or something arises to keep them apart – known as Contention. (Contention can range from parental disapproval, circumstances beyond their control re military/other, or to the fact one may not trust the other sufficiently and for numerous reasons. Basically the author chooses a plot structure or writes on a wing and prayer known as Panster or Pantser = by seat of pants).

The   End - contention resolved and the HEA – Happy Ever After is guaranteed

All well and good as basic templates for romance, but what of follow-on novels and prequels – before and after a couple are married?

Prequels give huge insight to the main protagonist/s, and provide information relevant to their previous existence.
Sequels depend greatly on excitement and thrills aplenty, but where is such to stem from, if the sequel is a merely a couple who have each other and all is rosy in the ongoing romantic closet. Unless something dramatic happens – an accident, fear of death, tragic consequences for the family, murder, mayhem with a spate of burglaries, kidnap, blackmail, otherwise, what is the author conveying if the plot merely revolves around a happy couple, other than the author has fallen in love with her characters and simply cannot let go of them.
Sequels  can and do lend opportunity to explore other characters from a previous book, and again scope is endless in how they progress to an HEA.


Caroline Bingley and Darcy

Fan Fiction is not a new phenomenon. It’s been around for a long while, but Jane Austen Fan Fiction has experienced an explosion of new and old talent authors treading the dangerous corridors of hallowed ground. Ms Austen reigns as far as die-hard fans of her works will tell you, and woe betide anyone who dares to alter her plots.

But Fan Fiction Variations are alternative Jane Austen makeovers. And why not, and books in this sub genre of JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) ranges from Regency era to modern reflections of her plots, and Time-Travel too.

So what to do when writing a JAFF sequel with Jane Austen’s characters? That is anyone’s guess and authors go in all sorts of directions. But as I said above, writing a book about a married couple when the honeymoon is at end requires a great deal of author imagination, because whilst Jane Austen provided fully-fledged characters and a plot template to work from, authors of sequels and prequels are flying alone with no laid out Austen plot. Imagination is key to creating the former life of a Jane Austen character based on the barest snips of information in the original novel, thus creation of an ongoing life experience of existing characters tests author ability to create a new environment. That is not an easy task, for there will always be those who will expect Jane Austen formal prose before all else, and other readers will prefer more modern less formal text and a more modern character attitude: irrespective of formal etiquette within the given historical era.

Authors know they cannot please all readers, and whilst some will write to established fan base tastes, other authors will write with a broader perspective to wider readership, or write for the pleasure of experimentation in a new genre. We all start somewhere in our writing careers, and whether you’re with a publisher, whether you’re Indie, or whether you’re an old timer as I am and have had conventionally published novels under differing pseudonyms, and now Indie novels under present nom de plume, you will know how tough the industry really is. But always, always, authors who love writing historical romances and love history, they will do their damn best to write an HR with historical input seamlessly interwoven to add that little essence of historical authenticity.

Jane Austen had no need to include historical fact to render her books historical in content simply because she was writing novels contemporary to her time. But when we are writing Regency novels we add aspects of a heroine’s outfit, or other in colourful description, because a book is not a movie, even though authors can make a book read as though rolling on screen with those very descriptions. A carriage is a carriage, yes, not necessarily. It can be any number of horse drawn vehicles, but it is always a conveyance, whether on two or four wheels. Does it have one horse, two, or four abreast, or two in tandem pushing that conveyance, and remember horses don’t pull they push when in harness.

I’ll use my own Pride and Prejudice as an example in stepping out with a mystery element, for when the old routine for the master of a vast country estate kicks in, and Mr Darcy’s Pemberley was in Jane Austen’s novel a sizable estate, how is an author to seek out something to render the novel more than a mere continuing love affair?

P. D. James, the great English crime novelist wrote a P and P sequel as a murder mystery Death Comes to Pemberley. I thoroughly enjoyed it, other readers trashed it, so no there is no accounting for personal tastes, and I did get the feeling from reading Amazon reviews an awful lot of authors who read it had no idea who P. D. James was, or that numerous TV series of her books have graced BBC and ITV for ions, as did Death Comes to Pemberley.

And so, I went out on a limb and depicted Elizabeth’s adjustment to life at Pemberley as a testing time for her. After all Elizabeth would initially be faced with a very different kind of life at Pemberley. Think back to how Jane Austen suddenly gave Elizabeth a vast empty house devoid of chattering siblings and an excitable mother in the last chapter. I thought hard about the experience of being presented with a remote house far from family and friends at a time when telephones didn’t exist, and letters had to be written, sent, and reply waited upon. Similar happened to me when first married, and the telephone was a lifeline! I therefore assumed the silence of Pemberley would be deafening for Elizabeth, and Darcy did have an estate to oversee, and God forbid his harbouring a secret which amounted to a belated wedding present.

Elizabeth is a character of curiosity in the original novel and she’s observant, and questions others motives, judges some worse than others, and can misconstrue things in a contrary manner. And when one pokes one’s nose into another’s private correspondence, well, it may not be good for one. In my novel curiosity gives rise to overt imagination on Elizabeth's part when she reads a letter not meant for her eyes - does Darcy have a mistress?  Remember cases of 21st century wives cutting up Saville row suits, keying or paint daubing hubby's swanky car when dejected by discovery her husband had a mistress? Of course you do. But in Regency England a wife was a chattel, her husband's property, and by law he could exact his conjugal rights by force, slap her arse, and any money or property she owned before marriage (Elizabeth Bennet had neither) it automatically became the property of her husband on marriage.

Elizabeth is suddenly in a strange house with no friends immediately to hand, and if she confronts Darcy over a letter she will be subject to accusation of prying into his private correspondence, and the potential for a row that may destroy what is or was a perfectly good marriage. Yes she dwells on her findings, but she is also beholden to her husband for the roof over her head, food on the table, and wifely allowance. Bide her time she must, and bite her tongue rather than admit to poking her nose into Darcy’s affairs, but as the blurb states, nothing is as it seems, “oh what a web of deceit is spun, when authors practice to deceive a heroine and readers alike with a mystery thread!” The novel actually, as someone else said, has a triple happy denouement, and it does.

So why do readers and viewers interpret books and movies differently, and how many are influenced by others opinions? Not surprisingly only one reader has grasped part of the context of my story - which is the underlying French Farce aspect and Comedy of Errors. Most readers could only think in terms of a squabbling married couple, which in the story they are not, but they do spar with words in competitive spirit, and Elizabeth’s prickly edge amuses Darcy. But why would a reader say it has an unhappy ending, when it has three happy endings? What is the purpose of that comment? I’m totally baffled by it.

The one thing Jane Austen told us about Elizabeth & Darcy = they sparked off one another, and despite love blossomed between them Darcy was not a man that would change over much in his set ways. Darcy was meticulous in everything he did, as Jane Austen tells us. Thus I had Darcy retaining copies of letters sent to others. Copies of letters sent was a well known practice in the past in how to keep up with what was said in previous letters and a means to allay repetition of same subject matter in follow-up correspondence to friends and family. And thank God many persons in the past did so, for those letters have proved invaluable to historians and authors alike. And Behold, for, at the beginning of the book Darcy reads through an old letter, an incriminating letter where he declares he suffered a moment of self doubt in proposal of marriage to Elizabeth, and worse, that he had made a second fool of himself. Elizabeth never sets eyes on that letter— else she may have shot him on arrival back at the house. The letter in question was written before he was actually wed to Elizabeth, during a spell of self doubt. But how many couples or individuals suffer pre-wedding fears and ponder their sanity, especially men?

I decided one could either write a mushy extended post wedding love story (and nothing wrong with that) but once married if there's no contention as in the original Pride & Prejudice, and no build up to romance then Jane Austen's characters have lost that very spirit which made them who they were. Darcy was no great romantic, he blundered in his first proposal and insulted Elizabeth for a second time, and yet he as good as sleep walked into a marriage proposal by default of declaring his feelings had not changed. He didn't actually on that wintry walk ask Elizabeth "Will you marry me" but she assumed it was so and he went along with it as any man who is less than able to express himself to best advantage— unlike the smooth talking Wickham!



Sometimes I do wonder if readers actually grasp Jane Austen's wicked sense of mischief! And there is a lot of underlying mischief in Jane Austen's writings. She sometimes sets her characters up for heady heights of passion and then a crashing downfall, and another hero to the rescue, and I’ll wager you know which plot I’m referring to, yes, Sense and Sensibility. Whereas in P/P contention between Elizabeth & Darcy was stretched out with gradual sense of other, equally any nuance of romance was a fragile thread throughout.

In effect Jane Austen created two characters of similar personality, both outspoken; both opinionated; both given to quick and misguided judgement of others (Elizabeth nonetheless duly enchanted by Wickham initially, whilst her opinion of Lady Catherine is later justified). Darcy has Caroline in tow with Bingley, and clearly Caroline is acceptable and part of his small entourage, and Caroline assumes she will become Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy. Why did Caroline assume Darcy was interested in her? We don’t really know the answer to that question, because we don’t know if Darcy had prior given that impression. After all, he was fairly inept in communication with females, and Caroline was in his company prior to his visit to Hertfordshire?


Lady Catherine de Bourgh

In first impressions of Elizabeth he is rude about her appearance. This is instant “contention” and Caroline enhances Elizabeth’s faults and that of her family thereafter in blind belief it will be to her own benefit. Either way, Elizabeth and Darcy are at odds, and as we know tension builds as physical desires overwhelm Darcy the more he encounters Elizabeth – a natural enough response for any young man, and from physical desire love blossoms but he blunders with his ardent proposal by immediately insulting her. (blundering idiot)

But is it love Darcy feels for Elizabeth or raw physical desire at that point, hence his insult? He has an estate, he requires an heir, and one could assume his attitude to be that of “better a woman who sparked him to a raging furnace of desire than the sniping Caroline.” And yet, when one stops and thinks and compares Elizabeth and Caroline, they do have more in common than at first glance. They not only become rivals from Caroline’s perspective, Elizabeth is not immune to the fact Caroline dislikes her as much as she dislikes Caroline, nor can Elizabeth ignore the fact Caroline has Darcy at her elbow, or seemingly that is so, for wherever Bingley and Darcy are, so is Caroline. Both Elizabeth and Caroline have cutting tongues, as we witnessed in Elizabeth’s retort to Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s insulting remarks. So in some respects one can see why Darcy may have been attracted to Caroline prior to meeting Elizabeth.

Nevertheless, infuriated by Darcy’s blundering and insulting proposal Elizabeth would have liked to tear his hair out and shred him, and yet, when she later sets eyes on Pemberley reality hits her in all that she could have had. Can she in all honesty, have prior forgiven him his insult at that point in time? Pretty damn unlikely in real life, methinks.

But then again, one has to look at the fact she is a product of her time, a time when marriages were not always the result of a love match! He is nonetheless handsome, and a man of substantial property income, which is not to be sniffed at nor snubbed, and she plays her cards to perfection as a markedly demure young lady caught snooping and duly flutters her eyelashes.

Darcy senses all is not lost, that Pemberley has achieved what he could not, and he would still prefer Elizabeth in his bed than Caroline. There you have it, he has to learn to hunt his prey, run it to ground and conquer the day, so he dreams up how, and decides introduction to his sister will show he is a caring man, and you know the rest. Elizabeth looks on him in a new light, but Wickham, dastardly Wickham intervenes by eloping with Lydia, and in turn tears Darcy and Elizabeth apart. Darcy’s ultimate good deed in paying Wickham to wed Lydia, and the purchase of a captaincy in the regular army, renders Darcy worthy of Elizabeth’s hand in marriage. And why not for who else is lining up to court Lizzie? No one. Thus, on that wintry walk Elizabeth swallows a dollop of humble pie in gratitude to Darcy’s purse, and his unstinting kindness to the Bennet household. Darcy in turn conveys for the first time heartfelt feelings, not a proposal of marriage, but could be construed as such if wanted and Elizabeth bites off his hand (metaphorically speaking). Even though her father views it an ill advised alliance, whatever Elizabeth wants her father agrees to, and Darcy did it right and proper by approaching the father in orderly fashion. The end.



Don’t you just love evaluating characters and why the author chose them and set them up for a rough ride to romance? Given the era and the fact war was raging on the Continent in Jane Austen’s time, the scope for JAFF novels is endless.  

Sunday, 1 September 2019

New Release The Last Betrayal


Back cover blurb:

Versailles depicts the very essence of King Louis XIV, but amidst secret executions, abductions, and imprisonments, two men have served Louis’ every whim, never questioning the why of it, now one of those men has imprisoned the other at the king’s command. Has Lady Fate or the hand of God provided a chance escape to King Louis’ former Intelligencer, and can revenge ever be sweet for king or commoner? With the past revisited and finally laid to rest, love blossoms as a new life beckons, and the lovers pray they can cross the border to safety. With the revocation of the Edict of Nantes a tidal wave of fear has swept across France, thus a secret society formed by Huguenot merchants from within safe havens abroad assists those in need. In the meanwhile a secret society in England to dethrone James II brings the merchants together as a united force to uphold the Protestant faith under the royal standard of William of Orange. War is nigh, and can a Frenchman be trusted as William’s spy extraordinaire?

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So chuffed to receive the Historical Readers' Award for this novel.
The Award Editorial Review:
What a thrill-packed spicy fan fiction sequel this is.
The background setting is France during the reign of Louis XIV. Dare it be said the author has either delved deep into research of her subject or has an uncanny familiarity with this period in history. The plight of the Huguenots and the ghastly consequences after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes is laid bare in this stylish sequel to the TV series Versailles. Fervour for the series in my house was met with ‘oh no, is that it?’ when a cruel cliff-hanger scene left devotees of Fabien Marchal in limbo and in horror there was no more episodes to come. There is no absolute proof it is Fabien in this novel, or is there? If not, was Fabien Marchal his full name and who was his father. All these questions have answers, and more. In any case, the hero’s dark side we witnessed from the TV series matches this hero who is plagued with memories. He is effectively damned by who he is and all that was undertaken in the name of the king. It is a common enough phrase to say the love of a good woman will sort him out, and that may be true if a poignant past would cease to torment him (a tissue box advisable). Then, when a spirited young woman tends to the needs of his horse her verve is somewhat refreshing to the jaded hero. She is then set to become his torment of a different kind when trusted into his care, and he is bound by sworn promise to deliver her to the care of her older brother. While the road to freedom is paved with many perils two familiar figures from the TV series are found en route and needy of help, and our hero rides to the rescue of royal blood. And so it goes all the way through this engaging novel with wonderful cameos very much in the vein of the Three Musketeers as the hero and heroine make of life thrown their way. All the while historical facts are interlaced with fiction as the hero tells us of his past in vivid colour. Interestingly the timeline begins in 1685 in France and ends in 1688 with a happy conclusion after the coronation in England of William and Mary of Orange. The Last Betrayal was recommended for the Historical Readers’ Award and is hereby granted the gold award, and goes without saying it is well written.

What inspired this novel!

After watching the BBC TV series Versailles, its historical accuracy was a little thin on the ground at times and the characters never aged as the years and decades passed them by. But poetic licence is always granted with movies. Whilst I do think fictional characters can take on associated roles with named persons from history, to actually replace or imply the famous person didn't exist and yet inspired the creation of a character seems a bit pointless and can alienate historical buffs! 

Throughout the series the producers and scriptwriter never really "highlighted" the fundamentals of who Fabien Marchal was and what he did was sort of tacked on for dramatic effect, and yet he was based on a real person of the era who did have a heart beneath his cold calculating exterior. 



It is said Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, Chief of all Police Forces, inspired the creation of Fabien Marchal. Gabriel was a visionary in  his own right, his profession was that of lawyer, judge, and not least the installing of street lights within Paris in great hopes it would deter criminals and assist in catching the devils. 

Why the scriptwriter simply chose to stomp on historical fact and instead fictionalised the character Fabien as a lone wolf, (more head of security at Versailles than Chief of Police), was a shame because Fabien never really played the role of chief and never called on The Guard of Paris or the soldiers of  Isle de France to fulfill duties to his command, as did Gabriel. Instead he rode occasionally in company of the King's Musketeers. So much more could have been achieved with Fabien, basically more substance to his character and who he was when off duty.


Tygh Runyan as Fabien Marchal

Whatever one may think Fabien clocked up a huge following of female fans, or should that be Tygh Runyan has a huge fan base. I really liked the character and felt he was never fully fleshed, that his fictional status rendered him only part whole. Whereas the majority of the cast barring secondary fictional characters were infamous with in depth historical backgrounds.    
  
In keeping with his fictional role I've created a plausible past to fit with his fictional persona. There is a tragic twist and accountable to an incident when he became a prisoner of the Spanish. After all, I kept asking myself what in his past made him so cold and detached in nature but nothing was forthcoming as the series Versailles progressed. Equally I kept puzzling what truly impacted on him to finally turn him against his king and the king against him (?) because the scene that determined his downfall didn't make sense on its own. The whole point about fictional characters set against the backdrop of a period, thus becoming a part of the series structure, is the golden opportunity to reveal the cause of a character's make-up. 

There always has to be an underlying what drives them factor, and what weakness if any can be touched by another. He had an Achilles Heel, but what was it? Thus I hope I have portrayed his inner self - the reason why his cold persona is his defensive shield. And of course, historical fact has a huge part to play in this sensual Romantic Swashbuckling novel. Inevitably the hero encounters love, true love along the way, but can he lay his past to rest?  

Don't forget you can expand the image by clicking it. 

In the novel the hero is masquerading as other than self, and for good reason, because he's on the run and is an escapee from custody. Equally, events in his youth are revealed and that's what sequel novels are for, the fleshing out of characters who were short-changed (scant on personal details) and letting them shine in their own right. 

Historically, King Louis' revengeful streak knew no bounds, for Huguenots were on the run where able, all fleeing from persecution and seeking peace in other countries. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes proved to be a disaster for Louis, but all that is revealed within the book. 


Admiral Abraham Duquesne, Marquis du Bouchet

As many authors and scriptwriters claim poetic licence in books and movies, so have I with the creation of the hero's blood father. At a time when men had a mistress or many in their lifetimes, it is not absurd from reading the biography of Admiral Abraham Duquesne, Marquis du Bouchet (1610-1688) that he probably had a mistress, in particular prior to the birth of the hero. The admiral's life within the time-frame of the story reveals a family torn apart by the King's persecution of Huguenots, and the admiral was a Huguenot and his family did go their separate ways, thus he died alone whilst in retirement within Paris.   

Out of interest here are some pics dated the 17th century or early 18th century. All the places are featured in the novel. Oh, and did you know, Paris could be traversed from the old southern city wall to the northern gate in twenty minutes on foot. And where the greater Paris of today stands, once deep forests surrounded the city, the Forest of Versailles, The Forest of Fontainebleau (Biere) and others.
     
The Louvre in Paris of Louis' reign




Chateau de Vincennes where the hero was imprisoned.
The Bastille at the time was a military garrison. That's why the Man in the Mask (velvet or Iron) was transferred to the Royal Fort on the Island of St Marguerite.    





Oostende (now Ostende)



Den Haag (The Hague)


And there are illustrations within the paperback version of houses featured in the novel.   

And just as an aside, this is the watch presented to King Louis at coming of age (so it is claimed)

   
Book Release day September 30th

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