Opportunity knocks on WIP Wednesday

This week, I’m thinking about opportunities lost and opportunities seized. Do your characters steal a kiss or catch a ship or turn left instead of right, and that made all the difference? Or do they miss their chance, and the story unfolds from their regrets?

Share an excerpt of the opportunity or the aftermath. Mine is from The Realm of Silence. My hero and heroine are travelling alone, posing as husband and wife, but sleeping in separate bedrooms. I’m being economical and squeezing two opportunities into one segment. One recent, and one long past.

Susan managed not to break into a run, but only because five paces took her to her door. Once it was safely shut behind her, she sagged against it, tipping her head back, eyes closed, heart racing.

She heard Gil’s door slam. Perhaps the wind caught it, though she preferred to think he had been shaken out of his imperturbable calm. Serves him right.

Why did she kiss him? She did not even like him. And why on earth did he kiss her back, taking over the embrace and setting her on fire. Annoying, arrogant, overbearing.

She crossed to peer into the mirror, tracing her lips with one finger. They tingled, tender from his passionate assault. Or from hers, since it had begun gently enough. Her body hummed; demanding that she march across the hall and finish what she started.

Her breath huffed; a laugh that caught like a sob. She had come full circle. Long ago, on the other side of her entire adult life, she had been kissed by Gilbert Rutledge, had kissed him back, had waited with all the confidence of her seventeen years for him to speak to her father. Until she learned from gossiping matrons that he had been posted overseas.

She had read into the kiss more than he intended. She would be a fool to repeat the error.

 

 

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Tea with Charles

The Duke of Murnane moved with ease in the highest circles. Few people set Charles off his confidence. The Duchess of Haverford was one of them. Standing now, hat in hand, in the anteroom to her inner sanctum while her bespectacled assistant announced his presence, he almost succumbed to the temptation to bolt for the door.

He had only come to town because his vote on one of the reform bills had been deemed vital, a vote that went against Haverford’s firmly held beliefs—the duke’s that is, not his lady wife’s. He intended to return to Eversham Hall as swiftly as he could, but he still had matters to attend to on behalf of his cousin’s… He had no words for what Clare Armbruster meant to his cousin since the two of them seemed intent on pretending their connection was entirely business. This summons had been inconvenient at best.

“The duchess will greet you, now,” the assistant said, her voice from the doorway pitched so low he almost missed it.

The lady smiled from her place on a gilt brocade settee. Without appearing to do anything so tasteless as “holding court,” she managed to reflect power wrapped in compassion. It was the latter that made his knees wobble.

“Charles,” she beamed at him when he bowed over her hand. “Thank you for find a moment for me.”

He took the delicate porcelain teacup she offered. What choice did he have? When she offered, he took a lemon cake as well, a small masterpiece from the Haverford kitchens.

“Tell me the final tally. Did the reform pass?”

“Just.” Had she asked him here to discuss politics? She must have better sources, he thought. “Two votes. Mine wasn’t strictly necessary as it turned out, but it might have been. Haverford will not be pleased,” he grinned, amusement getting the better of him.

“The duke is rarely pleased,” she replied tartly. “You’ve been in the country for weeks this time. We’ve missed you in London. Is it Lord Jonathon ‘s condition that keeps you away?”

The duke’s son suffered from a weakness of the heart. Episodes in which his lungs filled with fluid occurred periodically, coming more frequently this past year. He took a shuddering breath. “You know me well. Yes, Jonny has been failing. He rallied this week, however, and there are others to care for him while I’m gone”

“Forgive me for intruding Charles, but it is Lord Jonathon’s health that concerns me. He is your only heir, is he not?”

“Of course I have only one heir, Your Grace.” Unease prickled up the back of his neck.

She waved an irritated hand. “Do not try to flummox me, Charles. I’ve known you since Chadbourn brought you up to London when you were twelve years old. You have no other son, and, as you have made clear, Jonny, poor darling, is unlikely to outlive you. What do you plan to do about it?”

There it was. He looked around for escape and found none. “What can I do about it? If the worst happens, Fred is my heir after Jonny. What more do I need.”

The duchess put her cup down and reached for his hand. He had the oddest feeling—as if he were twelve again, and her warmth wrapped him like a blanket. “You deserve better, Charles.”

“Better than my cousin Fred? He is home from India, you know, at Eversham looking after Jonny.”

She shook her head sadly. “Don’t put me off. You deserve better than this half-life you live. Whatever they may say, not one person in London, their heart of hearts, would begrudge you happiness. Divorce that harpy you married and find a woman who will make you happy.”

He pulled his hands back. “And give me an heir,” he spat bitterly, immediately regretting it. The Duchess of Haverford, shrewd as she was, meant nothing but kindness.

“Fred Wheatly knows his duty and will do it if he must,” she said gently. “He has enough backbone and integrity to know the position is more than a title. However, the weight of it would not be his choice, I think. So, yes, better for all around if you had another son.”

“Jonny doesn’t deserve the scandal and I won’t have him thinking he isn’t enough for me.” He made a helpless gesture. “I would have to sue her lover first and I wouldn’t know where to start. It’s some German baron this time. She is back in Baden.”

“Nonsense. You could find any one of a number of barons, land stewards, or—”

“Enough! You’ve made my point. Isn’t it enough Julia has humiliated me every year we’ve been married? Do you really think my family wants me to drag it all out in the courts?”

“Don’t they?” She pinned him with the gaze that made even Aldridge quail.

He put the cup down with deliberate care. “My compliments to the chef, Your Grace. The cakes were exquisite and the company, as always, delightful.”  When he bowed over her hand, she didn’t try to prevent his departure.

_____________________________________

The story of Charles’s cousin Fred will unfold in Caroline Warfield’s The Reluctant Wife, to be published the end of April, 2017.

When Bengal Army Captain Fred Wheatly is forced to resign in disgrace, and his mistress dies leaving him with two half-caste daughters to raise, he reluctantly turns to Clare Armbruster for help. But the interfering, beautiful widow demands more of him than he’s ready to give. He’s failed so often in the past. Clare’s made mistakes as well. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

Charles also plays a key role in The Renegade Wife, helping his cousin Rand unravel his love life while protecting the crown from a nasty gang of counterfeiters.  It is available for purchase now or free with Kindle unlimited.

Reclusive businessman Rand Wheatly finds his solitude disrupted by a desperate woman running with her children from an ugly past. But even his remote cabin in Upper Canada isn’t safe enough. Meggy Blair may have lied to him, but she breached the walls of his betrayed heart. Now she’s on the run again and time is running out for all of them.

The Author

Bluestocking Belle and award winning author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she works in an office surrounded by windows while she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Links

http://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/the-reluctant-wife/

https://www.amazon.com/Renegade-Wife-Children-Empire-Book-ebook/dp/B01LY7IRT6/

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Why do I write what I write?

This is a question I addressed during a talk at the Kiwi Book Feast event on Saturday, and here is my reply.

I write suspense because I love puzzles.

I write historical because I am a research geek, and my version of catnip is chasing the clues to obscure facts through articles, contemporary accounts, and scholarly research papers.

And I write romance because I want to show characters grappling with who they are, and nothing brings out the essence of a person faster than a developing intimate relationship.

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A source of trouble and expense

I’ve fallen down a most interesting research rabbit hole, reading records, reports, personal accounts and research about prisoners on both sides during the long war between France and Britain that began with the French Revolution and ended after Waterloo.

Prisoners of war formed part of war policy. Each nation had to balance the benefits of keeping the other nations men against the cost of caring for them. This led to the practice of each nation paying a food allowance for their own people, and appointing an agent to oversee fair treatment.

In earlier wars, European nations had also practiced prisoner exchanges (or paid ransom if they did not have an equal number of prisoners). In an article on Prisoners of War and British Port Communities, Patricia Crimins suggests several reasons for the rarity of prisoner exchanges between Britain and revolutionary and imperial France.

  • France was ideologically opposed to prisoner exchanges, seeing them as traditional
  • France had far fewer British prisoners than Britain had French prisoners, and could simply not afford to make the exchange—in 1796, Britain held 11,000 French prisoners, while France held fewer than 5,000 British prisoners. By 1799, the number of French prisoners of war in Britain had doubled, but the number of British in France had scarcely changed.
  • During the Napoleonic period, more than 100,000 French prisoners of war were held in Britain, and French policy was to “force Britain to bear the entire cost of the prisoners it held in the hope that this would weaken the economy”.

In Napoleon’s Lost Legions, Gavin Daly says the Napoleonic wars mark the end of the ancient practices of parole, return of non-combatants, and prisoner exchange, and the beginning of the modern practice of internment until the war is over.

For the French on parole in British towns, the war must have been long enough. For those of lower rank kept in prisons—or worse, on the terrible prison hulks that I’ll write about another time—it must have seemed forever.

 

 

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Surprises on WIP Wednesday

My friend Caroline Warfield shared the following story about a conversation between the Hollywood screenwriter Charles MacArthur and Charlie Chaplin.

“How, for example, could I make a fat lady, walking down Fifth Avenue, slip on a banana peel and still get a laugh? It’s been done a million times,” said MacArthur. “What’s the best way to get the laugh? Do I show first the banana peel, then the fat lady approaching, then she slips? Or do I show the fat lady first, then the banana peel, and then she slips?”

“Neither,” said Chaplin without a moment’s hesitation. “You show the fat lady approaching; then you show the banana peel; then you show the fat lady and the banana peel together; then she steps over the banana peel and disappears down a manhole.”

This is a wonderful hint for plotting, so this week I’ve been thinking about those manhole moments. Do you have any? Where you’d set up a certain expectation for your readers and then you do something else? Please share an excerpt in the comments.

My excerpt is from The Lost Treasure of Lorne, a made-to-order story I’m writing as a party prize. The curse comes to fruition at midnight. Or does it?

The three of them met in Michael’s private sitting room to wait for midnight, and in ones and twos the ghosts seeped through the walls to join them.

“Do you suppose the servants are mistaken about the date?” John asked as the clock chimed eleven times.

“Or about the consequence,” Michael suggested. “The ghosts will stay in the castle, and not all be forfeit to the devil.”

“If the curse is true and the date is true…” Caitlin said, as the ghosts crowded around her nodding, “then we have less than an hour to find the answer.” The ghosts seemed to lose interest, wandering off again to their corners.

“I can’t think of anywhere we have not looked,” Michael grieved. “Fiona.” He stood in front of the ghost of his young wife, so that she had to look up at him. “Fiona, I want to help. Can’t you tell us how to find the treasure? And the casket with the marriage lines? Please, Fiona.”

But Fiona slid her eyes away from him and circled around him to join the others in the corner.

They watched the hands of the clock shift with glacial speed towards midnight, and still the ghosts remained, even after 31 August became 1 September. Caitlin had no idea what she expected. Anything from a silent disappearance to Satan himself arriving in clouds of fire and sweeping her relatives into the maw of hell. For nothing to happen at all was almost a let down, relieved though she was.

“Is the clock slow, perhaps?” John suggested, and they waited another interminable half hour.

“We might as well go to bed,” Caitlin said at last. “Either the legend is wrong or the date is.”

“The date!” Michael stopped short, halfway across the room to the door. “It isn’t 31 August.”

“No,” John agreed. “It is after midnight.”

“That’s not what I mean. The Calendar Act. The Calendar Act, Caitlin.”

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Tea with Minerva Avery

The Duchess of Haverford’s manner to her guest was, perhaps, a little warmer than usual. While she would never embarrass Lady Avery nor dishonour her husband by apologising for the duke’s behaviour, she was very aware that the Haverfords were indebted to the lady.

Minerva Avery was every inch a lady, whatever her origins, and whatever His Grace had implied when he took delivery of the wonderful new invalid chair that would give the insensitive, autocratic, lecherous old snake freedom from being confined to one room unless carried by a pair of robust footmen.

And to think that this dainty young woman had made the chair with her own delicate hands!

“Lord Avery must be very proud of you, my dear Lady Avery,” she said, as she poured the tea for which her guest had admitted a thirst.

Minerva coloured prettily. “Lord Avery is biased, Your Grace. He thinks anything I wish to do is perfectly acceptable. I know my work is not considered at all the thing in higher circles. I should be satisfied to supervise my servants, socialise with my peers, and shop.”

A ridiculous view in the duchess’s opinion. As if ladies did not work! And the greater the estate and the social position, the harder their role.

“People can be very foolish. I daresay your husband—Candle, is it not?—suggests that you ignore them.”

“Randal, Your Grace. But he has been called Candle since he was at school.”

Yes. The boy was long, thin, and pale, with a head of fiery hair. But a nice lad, and doing very well by his viscountcy and the trading enterprise he inherited from his mother’s family. His choice of bride had set the dovecotes fluttering. A carriage-maker’s daughter, and one with her own enterprise creating invalid chairs? The doors of Society were largely closed to the young couple.

The duchess smiled. Young Minerva had helped the Haverfords with the fruit of her labours. Now it was time to return the favour. Those closed doors would open soon enough when it was clear the Averys were her protégés.

“Tell me, my dear, do you have an engagement for this Friday? I am giving a ball, and I would be delighted if you and your Candle could attend.”

Min is the heroine of Candle’s Christmas Chair, which I’m currently giving away in a promotion. A number of my friends are also part of this week-long giveaway, including fellow Bluestocking Belles Caroline Warfield and Elizabeth Ellen Carter. Enter to win 45 Regency Romances, and to be in the draw for a Kindle Fire.

Here’s the link to enter: https://www.booksweeps.com/enter-win-45-regency-romances-feb-17/

 

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Acts of caring in WIP Wednesday

In a lot of books, one main protagonist cares for the other during an illness or after an injury. It is a way for a hero or heroine to show that they care, an opportunity for each of them to see the kinder, gentler side of the other. Particularly in the mannered world of the Regency, this helps move the relationship along.

This week, I’m inviting you to post a passage about one of your characters caring for the other. Interpret that how you will.

My piece comes from A Raging Madness, where they pretty much take it in turns to be injured or ill, and to look after one another.

Light was filtering through the curtains when Ella woke. Her head felt stuffed with rags, and her thoughts skittered away from any kind of coherence. She had dreamed her nightmare, the old nightmare of the moment her girlhood ended. But this time, her assailant was not Gervase, and Alex was in the crowd, and did not turn away in disgust and horror.

She pulled herself up to sitting, and leant back against the pillows to give her head time to stop spinning. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of something that should not be in her bed chamber.

Was that Alex? Sleeping in her chair, with his head back and his mouth open? She shook her head and looked again. He had not faded like her other dreams, and besides, she had never dreamed him here, in her bed chamber in the Redepenning townhouse. And in a chair at that, not tucked beside her in the large comfortable bed.

She had a screaming thirst on her, as if she had been drugged again… And with the thought came disjointed memories from the previous night. Nothing in sequence or in detail, but enough that she whimpered, and Alex was awake in an instant.

“Ella, I have you safe. We will sort it out.”

Those words were among the memories; repeated over and over again in Alex’s dearly beloved voice. Something was very wrong that he felt the need for such reassurance.

She tried to speak, but her mouth was too dry and it came out as a croak. Alex filled a glass from the jug on the side table and brought it to her.

“What happened?” she asked, when she could speak. “What is wrong, Alex?”

“What do you remember?” He pulled the chair closer to the bed and sat beside her, possessing himself of one of her hands, and she clung to him as she tried to sort her fragments into a coherent picture.

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Tea with David

The servant showed David Wakefield onto the terrace, where Eleanor Haverford waited.

The visit to the child in the nursery upstairs had calmed him, somewhat; his anger was banked though the duchess had no doubt it still burned under the controlled exterior.

“How did you find Antonia?” she asked, indicating that he should take the chair beside her.

“Worried about her mother.” He jerked as if he would leap to his feet again, but controlled the impulse. “What are you planning to do with her? Keep her here?”

Eleanor had already decided that the little girl would be better with her aunt, and would persuade David to that point of view if he did not agree, but he needed to hear that she acknowledged his claim. “It is not up to me, David. I am just a family friend. You and her aunt must make this decision, since her mother is… unavailable.”

He relaxed, fractionally, but at the last word he let out a huff of air that sounded almost like a sob. “Unavailable,” he repeated, bitterly.

“You intend to go after her, I assume.” Eleanor made it a statement, not a question. He had declared his intention an hour ago, when he had burst in unannounced, demanding to see his lover’s daughter and swearing vengeance on the Marquis of Aldridge.

“Yes. Yes, of course. I already have men on the docks trying to find the ship’s destination. Sailors talk. If the captain told his men, someone will know.”

“What can we do to help?” Eleanor handed David a cup of tea and began piling a plate with small savouries. He would need food and drink, and was unlikely to stop again today to find them.

“Your family has helped quite enough,” David snapped, then lowered his hazel eyes, so like those of her two sons, his half-brothers. “I beg your pardon, Your Grace. That was uncalled for.”

“You are upset, David. I am sure that Aldridge did not intend–”

David’s manners were usually impeccable, and it was a measure of his distress that he interrupted her. “Of course he didn’t. He would never deliberately put Gren in danger. Or Prue either, I suppose. I don’t blame him for choosing the wrong ship for your younger son’s journey. I blame him for suggesting that Prue left of her own accord.”

That raised Eleanor’s eyebrows. “Of her own… he thought it was an elopement?”

“Yes. He had the nerve to suggest Gren has legitimacy and wealth and so…”

“For an intelligent boy, my son Aldridge can occasionally be extremely stupid. No wonder you are cross with him.”

That, as she had hoped, fetched an amused quirk of the lips, though the smile did not reach his worried eyes.

David finished his tea, and stood to leave. “I’ll go after Prue, Your Grace, and Gren, too. Will you send Antonia to her aunt? She is at home there, and the wait will be easier for her. I’ll send word as soon as I can; as soon as I know whether they are…”

He trailed off, and the words he did not say hung between them. Dead or alive. Murdered or merely kidnapped.

In the months to come, Eleanor clung to the promise her husband’s base-born son had made her. No news at all was surely better than certain news of the deaths of her younger son and the young woman she had come to love almost as a daughter. But where were they, and had David found them?

This scene doesn’t appear in Concealed in Shadow, but it clearly happened. Here’s where it fits. After the end of Revealed in Mist, David arrives in London and finds that Prue has been missing for over a week and that the Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford, was the last person to see her. He questions Aldridge, to find that Prue had gone down to the wharves to farewell Lord Jonathan Grenford, Aldridge’s younger brother. Aldridge has his own jaundiced view of the couple’s disappearance. David ends up punching the man and storming off. It was inevitable that, after initiating the investigation into the ship on which Gren and Prue left, he’d head to Haverford House where Prue had left her daughter visiting for the day with the Duchess of Haverford.

I’m currently researching and writing character outlines and heroes’ journeys for Concealed in Shadow.

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What is Waitangi Day?

Today, Aotearoa (better known in the rest of the world as New Zealand) acknowledges that this nation began with a treaty. A treaty that was misunderstood by both sides in the beginning, and thereafter frequently broken or ignored. But a treaty that, nonetheless, we have returned to again and again, to work out what our country means. It is not just an historic document, it is part of Aotearoa’s unwritten constitution; by law, government legislation and actions need to be measured against the principles of the Treaty.

On 6th February 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The video below, first in a series of four, dramatises the lead up and the occasion.

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The detainees of Verdun

He says: “Madame, permittez me, to pay my profound esteem to your engaging person! & to seal on your divine Lips my everlasting attachment!!!” A cynical and sensual grin indicates the character of his advances. She smiles with coy complacency, saying, “Monsieur, you are truly a well-bred Gentleman! – & tho’ you make me blush, yet, you Kiss so delicately, that I cannot refuse you; tho’ I was sure you would Deceive me again!!!” Above their heads are oval bust portraits of Napoleon (left) and George III (right), the two men extending their arms as if to shake hands; the King scowls, Napoleon regards him with brooding suspicion. The frames are bordered by olive branches and palm-branches. 1 January 1803

Even before the Peace of Amiens was officially signed in March 1802, people from England came flooding back into France. The country had been closed to them for ten years. Many had property in France they wanted to check on, others came as tourists or on business or to visit family.

Most came and went during the eighteen months of the peace. Some were trapped when, on 23 May 1803, Napoleon signed an edict to detain every male Briton between the ages of 16 and 60. The orders were carried out quickly and efficiently. At first, women and children were allowed to go, but soon every Briton, of whatever age, male and female (even British spouses of French citizens), found themselves prisoners of France for the next 11 years.

At first, they could remain where they were, but soon Napoleon ordered them to various cities, notably Verdun.

It was a sizeable town a long way from the sea, and the influx of (usually) wealthy English was welcomed. John Goldsworth Alger, in his 1904 account of the detentions, says a French newspaper compared the detainees to sheep enclosed in a fold to manure the soil.

The English were able to hire lodgings (at extortionate prices) and live much as normal, though if they could not afford living costs, or if they misbehaved in any way, they were liable to be imprisoned.

Verdun was a walled town, and within its walls the detainees lived much as they would have lived in London, though paying double the normal price for food and everything else.

Some behaved badly. One was sent to prison for seducing a townsman’s wife. Another struck a gendarme who reprimanded him for behaving indecently with his French mistress at the theatre. Still more gambled, insulted the French, and fought with the townspeople and one another.

Others occupied themselves with hobbies or work, or social activities, or raising subscriptions with which the wealthier detainees sought to help the poor.

General Virion was in charge of the detainees and the prisoners of war who soon joined them. The detainees made many complaints about his extortionate practices. One man, a regular social contact of the General, reported he had leave to go out into the country on a day that all leave was recalled. He was heading back into the town when two gendarmes stopped him and told him the order didn’t apply to him. Later, when he did return, he was arrested and faced with a choice: pay a huge fine or be imprisoned.

The general was summoned to Paris in 1810 to explain himself to a commission appointed by Napoleon, but shot himself before the investigation could begin. His successor was likewise asked to explain himself, but blamed all extortion on a subordinate. This man also shot himself, leaving a note that said he was innocent, but — having been blamed by the boss — he could not face dishonour.

I’m finding some wonderful stories and hints of stories about people caught up in the detentions; not just in Verdun but in other towns. As I continue to research for Concealed in Shadow, I’ll share some here.

 

 

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