Wednesday, 27 September 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Early 18th Century Settle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chaise Longue

Roller Stool - Roman influence.

Arm Bench - Roman influence. 

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

 Arab -Asian Sofas

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

Look out for next historical aside with Wardrobes and Armoires. 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Busting Decorative Myths of the Regency Era.

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

Frieze work

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

Silk Clad Wall

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

Silk Cladding. 

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


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

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

Ghastly, were they not? 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

When Characters Take the floor!

My guest today is Therese Countess Roscoff.

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

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

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

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Writing Sequels...

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

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

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


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

The Book's Blurb:

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

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Pushing Romance and Romantic Boundaries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 12 June 2017

New Cover artwork!

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

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

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

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

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

Similarly I wanted a romantic feel to Toast of Clifton:

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

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

And likewise with Royal Secrets:

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

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

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

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

Is Writing Author Notes Necessary for Historical Romance Fiction?


Paperback                          E-book

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

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

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

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

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

Had he met his grandmother, the Lady Arabella Gantry, a woman of strong religious bent, she may well have encouraged him to look to the priesthood when he was young and troubled, as opposed to seeking his destiny within the royal court. For me, Henry is a complex character, a love-hate bond existing between us, but in the next book “Lady of the Tower” an honourable gesture enacted by Henry, whilst on the Sedgemoor battlefield, post-battle, strengthens his resolve to build on family loyalty afore that of the King.

Amazon UK     Amazon US

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Quaint old England.

I suppose the title of this post says it all: Quaint Old England, the England tourists flock to in their thousands every week, Albeit the majority come merely to see London and the usual more famed tourist attractions, for those who choose to venture far and wide in search of places featured within novels there are many more treasures to discover along the way.

Bath 1800s

In one brief paragraph I can name British authors who represent places where they were born, grew up, and lived centuries ago, and not so very long ago. Daniel Defoe, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, The Bronte Sisters, Thomas Hardy, to name but a few of the earlier great novelists. Latterly, Daphne du Maurier, Winston Graham, Georgette Heyer, Jean Plaidy aka Eleanor Hibbert, also known as Victoria Holt, and then there were Catherine Cookson's north eastern based novels.  The list goes on but one has to stop somewhere. The end...

Well not quite the end, but all the above earlier authors loved England and depicted the cities and the countryside as they knew it, and the later authors reflected the country as they knew it from childhood and the war years. Much of England had remained unchanged for centuries barring wartime Britain (WWII) and the aftermath of rebuilding after bomb damage. Thus in the last fifty years much about Britain has changed due to outside influences and cultural diversity, but old England and its city communities of old and its rural traditions are depicted with clarity within novels penned by the above authors, but even now there are places that are little changed and remain gems of Old England..

The toll gate at Porlock Weir, not only is it pretty but one can see it was a livelihood for the gate keeper, whose cottage bridges the toll gate. The problem with this lovely toll gate, is the fact it didn't exist in the Regency era, it was built much later. The toll being paid elsewhere at a local inn, and the gate was at the inn. 

St Dubricious Church in Porlock itself has an unusual spire, not unlike towers oft seen on a French chateau.

Both places are subsequently featured in my next Regency novel, albeit fleetingly, and although I only include the odd image (sketch) of a house within e-books I do now include illustrations within paperbacks. Am I right or wrong in providing images? Who knows, but for those unfamiliar with England, surely a few images as discovered within old novels does give insight to places most tourists never venture to. Thus the next novel is a follow-on from The Reluctant Duchess which for the most part was set on Exmoor, the place made famous by the novel Lorna Doone. 

Instead of the Duke and Duchess of Malchester and their love affair which developed within wedlock despite the duchess' reluctance to engage with her husband, this time around it's the Earl of Sheldon's turn to fall head over heels in love, something he thought could never happen to him, given he really is a dissolute rake hell. But feeling a tad jaded after his last soiree at a house party May Thorne has stolen his eye, The problem being she's a married woman, and when her husband is murdered, did Marcus enact the unthinkable? Due release Ist of June.          

Due release Ist of June. 

Friday, 5 May 2017

Avoiding breach of copyright/ownership of images.

The title says it all, doesn't it, more especially when you're an Indie author. Stock photos with models in fancy dress are easy to obtain, and what else is there in avoidance of breaching copyright artwork? 

Stock photos rarely cut the mustard for many historical novels when the hero is wearing the wrong uniform (something out of Disney fairy tale), wrong shirt, and modern riding boots. Yep, those boots and open shirts are the big fail. Men didn't wear button-through shirts they wore smock shirts What is more, a beautiful  21st century evening gown with deep cut back and falling off the heroine's shoulders kills the sense of true history for die-hard fans of specific historical periods, as do strapless gowns. And the worst case scenario is when you've penned a Regency and your hero and heroine are on your cover in all their finery and perhaps indulging a provocative pose, and then, Oh No, you see the same cover on a Victorian novel, as do readers who then wonder if they have the right book because they purchased a novel a few days ago sporting the same cover. And sometimes there's worse to come when you see the title is the same as on your book, and hopefully set in a differing period or another era.  The Reformed Rake is a popular one, or To Wed a Duke, et al. You know the trending as well as I do.     

So what to do, if you are as period specific as I am, in not only using archaic prose, but seeking that image you have in mind that depicts a special scene or moment from your book? Yep, it's pretty much an impossible task unless you are moderately handy with pencil and paints, being water colour, acrylics, or oils. So what else can you do? 

A lot of authors look around for a lovely portrait of a man or woman from the chosen period in which their novels are set, but there can be a bit of catch in that with breach of use, because some of the most famous portraits are of famous people, So how can you possibly have Lady Grantham as your heroine, who is, for fiction's sake, Lady Annabelle Marchment?  This portrait may indeed belong to the Grantham's and may not truly be in the public domain, it being a private family portrait. To say the artist is long dead therefore his original artwork is all now public domain, unfortunately family portraits were commissioned for private display and inheritance, And unless those portraits have been sold on the open market and are public domain for open commercial licence usage as reprints, and note a book cover is a reprint for commercial use, then be wary for you could find yourself in court for profiting from private property! 

Just because some happy snappy tourist sneaked out a camera or pointed their smartphone at a portrait whilst tramping around an English Stately Home, and then posts the happy snaps on their Pinterest page, that doesn't give carte blanche to use those pics as a commercial item.      


But you can indeed seek out public domain artwork by famous artists, but always check to see if they are free of restrictive licence. If you want a classical image to represent your hero or heroine there are many, many unnamed miniatures in the public domain, some enchantingly pretty ladies, and others less fortunate but may be perfect for that ugly duckling romance story!  

I used this one for Adelle la Comtesse Montacute, in The Trevellians' of New-Lyn, She was as I visualised her, and I had her to hand... But -   

Take National galleries et al who sometimes charge a fee for commercial usage. And why shouldn't they, for they are what they are National Treasure Houses, where beautiful artwork receives TLC, and where restoration of old paintings, (some disgustingly filthy) which require painstaking concentration and skilled expertise to bring the glory of the original back to semblance of its former self,  So do think before you gripe when asking to use artwork for a non-fiction work and you are asked to contribute to the upkeep of the gallery by paying a fee to profit from work that has at best been cleaned if not fully restored, and thank your lucky stars the gallery could provide the work you wanted. 

Even though I have for many years created artwork from scratch (pure imagination and by study of other artwork) there are times I have come across public domain artwork that was out of copyright, and I've thought lordy, why did the artist paint her that way, especially ladies on horseback riding side saddle, or I see the horse is out of proportion head wise to it's body. Stubbs is oft a prime example of long backed, sometimes oversized bodies, with fine boned legs and small Arab/Turkman heads. So if horses did indeed look like that back then, all I can say, is that equine wouldn't have given some of the large men standing alongside many years of service.  But aside from horses, here's an example of an original Heywood Hardy, and below is my version in which the lady is displayed to full advantage with riding habit flowing. And yes, the image is a reverse image, and the horses and the riders are almost identical but not quite, because I painted my couple with similar hats but differing outfits and distinct faces, unlike the original.

Heywood Hardy - a pretty country scene and as seen on lots of book covers.


My version is depicted with the house the heroine inherits.

And all that said, I quite like elegant still-life classic looking book covers that quite a good many authors turn to for exclusive covers, but you know, with a little imagination one can make a cover from period fashion plates: 


Thursday, 27 April 2017

From Parents to Children!

The joy of having penned a romance novella several years ago - set at the time of the French Revolution *The Highwayman's Mistress* - and thence picking up years later where the children of characters from a previous book take centre stage, and suddenly a series of novellas leaps to the fore, the characters edging and nudging to have their love stories told first. 

In this case Mattijs de Boviere won the toss, his being the son of Francois de Boviere, le Compt of Saint Mont Marche (above) and his mother Diamonta Witaker. 

Part of his story was revealed within a charitable anthology, merely as a very short novelette. Now Mattijs' story and that of the Duchess of Rochester has been upgraded to a novella, rather than a lengthy tome, but that's because more and more readers are seeking shorter reads to fit in with busy lifestyles. Added to that, I do love penning short cut-to-the-chase adventure and romance novellas, more especially since several readers mentioned on FB  they too loved stories devoid of overt blow-by-blow domesticity and lengthy sleep inducing narrative. 

Like all stories there are sub-plots and sub-characters, the extended family if you prefer, where relatives, friends and lovers, vie for attention. 

After all, Randolph's mother, Leohne Countess of Martock, had a secondary leading role in *The Highwayman's Mistress* as did the earl when merely that of Richard Viscount Somerton. So it is only natural all the offspring venturing into romantic *entanglements* wish to be featured within their very own novellas. None less so than Randolph Viscount Somerton, first cousin to Mattijs, the pair having served, albeit in differing cavalry regiments, in the Peninsular Wars and at Waterloo.  

But first things first - a snippet from *The Runaway Duchess*.

He was not her husband, but he was special. Hers for the moment, and the chances were good indulgence thrice would no more bear fruit than had four years of a hurtful, brutal, and barren marriage. It was their last embrace, the sound of movement above stairs bringing sense of reality to the fore, as did the need to assume a detached countenance. And yet there was marked reluctance in her lover to pull away and retreat; his breath as soft as a feather teasing flesh. It was the folding of a moment in time, his words the seal to their secret indulgence as a letter to a lover. 

“It cannot be; as much as I wish otherwise,” whispered he. 


Coming soon....