I love research

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love research. I even love research when I have a perfectly delightful plot that falls apart when research proves it couldn’t have happened. Working out what might be historically probable instead, or at least plausible, has allowed me to drop down many an exciting rabbit hole into research wonderland.

For example, in  A Raging Madness, my hero Alex has a leg full of shrapnel, and is currently helping my heroine to escape from relatives who are determined to lock her up in an asylum for the mentally unwell.

Shrapnel? What kind of shrapnel? What munitions carried shrapnel at that time? What battles were they used in? How were shrapnel wounds treated? What was the long term prognosis? How about complications? And did they even call it shrapnel?

It took me a while to find a suitable battle, but eventually I put Alex the right place to be on the business end of a canister shell, a cannon ball with a weak outer shell filled with scrap metal. When the cannon fired, the shell burst apart, and a broad fan of metal caused devastation among the enemy troops. And, in my case, on the body of the assigned escort of a British diplomat who was observing the battle.

Ella, my heroine, was the daughter of an army doctor, and I figured she’d solve all of Alex’s problems by removing the shrapnel (and no, they didn’t call it that). But not so. Then, even more than now, removing shrapnel or even bullets (unless they are lead) was a very bad idea.

Even today, going in after a splinter of metal might cause more harm than good, and the world is full of people walking around with bomb fragments buried inside. Back then, with no antibiotics and no anaesthetics, the treatment of choice was to leave the mess alone.

Over time, one of three things would happen. The body and the shrapnel would adjust to one another. The body would reject the shrapnel, moving it piece by piece slowly out to the surface. An abscess would form, and the poisons from the infection would kill the patient unless someone acted to drain the abscess.

Hurrah! I had my intervention. Poor Alex developed an abscess.

But escape? Alex can barely walk, let alone ride. Ella is recovering from addiction to the laudanum that her relatives have been force-feeding her. (Another rabbit-hole: what does laudanum withdrawal look like? Feel like?)

I needed a plausible way for two such invalids to escape.

I chose a canal narrowboat for a number of reasons.

One: I loved the idea of the villains haring all over the countryside looking for them while they ran away by the slowest form of non-pedestrian transport ever invented.

Two: I’ve always wanted to go on a canal cruise, and this way I got to watch YouTube clips and call it working.

Three: By 1807, when my story is set, the canal network stretched from the Mersey (with access to Manchester and Liverpool) all the way to London. Travelling by narrowboat was feasible. Canals were a supremely profitable way to move goods in the early 19th century, and had been for a number of years. At a steady walking speed, a horse could move fifty times as much weight on a boat as it could on a road. The canals provided still water and tow paths to ease the travel, and locks, tunnels, and viaducts to overcome obstacles. Later, canal boats were mechanised, and later still the railways put the canals out of business. But in 1807, Alex and Ella hitched a lift with a charming Liverpool Irishman called Big Dan.

Four: I could put my hero and my heroine in close confines, calling themselves married, for five to six weeks. Not only did they have heaps of time to talk and even to succumb (or nearly succumb) to their mutual attraction, they were also in deep trouble (or Ella was) if anyone found out. They used false names. They stayed away from fashionable places. But even so, their novelist made sure that someone with no love for Alex saw enough to cause trouble.

Five: The time frame let Alex develop an abscess and recover from the operation, all before he needed to be on hand to save Ella when rumours spread about the two of them and their canal interlude.

And down the rabbit hole I went.

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Adversaries on WIP Wednesday

This will be my last WIP extract from A Raging Madness. By next Wednesday, it will be a published book. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a bit about one of my villains. I’d love to see an extract from you about one of your adversaries; not necessarily a villain, but someone that the hero or heroine is in conflict with.

The adversaries in my extract are utterly villainess. My heroine overhears them  plotting to confine her in an asylum for the insane.

“No, Mrs Braxton. Eleanor will not convince them she is sane. I have chosen with care, I tell you. I visited six asylums before this one, and this is perfect for our purposes. The doctor in charge has promised to keep her dosed, and even if he does not, the place itself will drive her insane. If you saw it, heard the noise… Yes, my dear, I can assure you, our plans are sound.”

Constance answered, the whine in her voice grating against Ella’s eardrums. “But what if you are wrong, Edwin? If she convinces someone in authority that she is sane, prison will be the least…”

“No, my dove. Not at all. No one at the asylum will listen to her ravings, and if they did, what of it? Who will they tell? Even in the worst case, all we need do is say her mind was turned after Mother’s death and how glad we are that she is well again.”

“I do not know.” The frown was heavy in Constance’s voice. “But we cannot keep her here. I trust Kerridge, but the other servants may start to murmur. Any one of them might have spoken to that lawyer!”

“The lawyer is gone, my love. He was no harder to send away this time than last.”

“It will drive her insane, you say?” Constance asked.

“It will. I guarantee it. I hesitate to mention it, Mrs Braxton, it not being a topic for a lady’s delicate ears…”

“Spit it out, Edwin. What?”

“My own treasure, I am given to understand that the attendants avail themselves of the, er, charms of the patients and even do a– er– trade with the nearby town. Not, of course, with the approval of the medical staff. No, of course. That would be most unprofessional. But it is most enterprising of them and serves our purposes rather well, dear sister being a comely woman.”

Ella puzzled this out. Surely Edwin did not mean that the attendants forced the women and prostituted them?

“Ah. Very good,” Constance said. “The woman is horribly resilient. Any decent gentlewoman would have succumbed to madness long since with all your brother put her through and what has happened since. But surely even she is not coarse enough to withstand multiple rapes.”

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Who inherits the title and the estate?

The heroine of A Raging Madness is a penniless widow, with no family except her horrible in-laws,  her dead husband’s loathsome half-brother and his even more ghastly wife.

So why was she penniless? She is living in a substantial house on a nice little estate which has been comfortably supporting her, her mother-in-law, and the two villains, as well as a number of students. Who owned it, and why didn’t she?

Down the research rabbit hole I go

In order to know the answer, I had to research inheritance law in the early 19th century. What happened if a man died without a will? What if he had a title? What if his property was entailed. If he left a will; could he leave his wife out of it?

In this post, I’m going to talk about titles and entails. In part 2, I’ll get to wills and widows.

Gervase was a baronet

Ella was married to a baronet who inherited his estate while he was still a boy, and to understand why that matters, you need to know about entails.  Entails were to do with real property (land and buildings), not with titles.

(I’m not a lawyer, and this is all in layperson’s language, so please correct me in the comments if I’ve got anything wrong.)

Your title went to your heir

Who inherited a title was decided by the wording of the document setting up the title in the first place. Mostly, this was ‘heirs male of the body’, which meant the eldest living legitimate male in a direct male line from the most recent of the title holders to have male descendants.

That’s a complicated sentence, so let’s tease it out. If the baronet was married and had living sons (biological—adoption didn’t count), the eldest son would inherit the title. If he had no sons, but grandsons, then the eldest son of the eldest son would be baronet. If he had no male descendants, but his brother had sons, then the heir was the eldest living male descended from the baronet’s father, the most recent of the title holders to have male descendants.

A few titles were set up to go to females if there’s no male heir. If a qualifying heir is thought to exist but can’t be found, the title goes dormant (EDITED I originally said into abeyance, but that’s different. See Nancy’s correction, below). If no heir exists, it becomes extinct. That’s what happened to Gervase’s baronetcy. His son inherited it the moment he was born, since Gervase was already dead, but he died while still a baby.

I’ve posted before about male primogeniture, which was the English system. Primogeniture just means the eldest offspring.

If your land was entailed, it also went to your heir

Most titles, when granted, came with land, villages, and one or more houses or castles. The wealth of the aristocracy was still, in the early nineteenth century, in their land. Not because the real property naturally belonged to the title, but because the aristocracy had figured out a way to stop a careless descendant from getting rid of it all. They could create a agreement that settled the property on the heirs to the title, whether or not those heirs had been born yet. This agreement was called a Deed of Settlement and it meant that the current title-holder had life possession of the property, but that it belonged to the heirs.

This was the fee tail (or entail). By contrast, land owned in fee simple belonged to the current title-holder.

Entails needed to be renewed, generation by generation

In English law, real property was covered by something called the Rule Against Perpetuity. The Rule meant you couldn’t make a will stick if it left your house and land to your own descendants forever and ever. The Deed of Settlement could leave real property to your heir and maybe your heir’s heir.

I’m guessing that Gervase’s grandfather had a conversation with his son (we’ll call him Horace) that went something like this. “Now you’re twenty-one, boy, I need your signature on these documents. It’s the entail. It’ll keep the house and land with the title, so it goes to your son.”

Horace takes a quick look and frowns. How is he to support himself in London if he can’t use the land as a stake in a gambling match or as security for a loan? His father, who had the same conversation with his own father, can see the way the boy’s mind is working.

“Obviously, lad, you’ll need a raise in your allowance, and I’ll pay the lease on your London townhouse.”

Horace looks his father up and down. The old codger is hale and hearty; could live till he was ninety, beyond a doubt. Probably by then Horace will have settled down and will be glad to still have an estate on which to settle his wife and family. He signs the Deed of Settlement, and the land is safe for another generation.

Which is tricky if the heir has only daughters or the title holder dies young

Marry your daughters to someone who could support them

Of course, your heir signs the Deed of Settlement fully confident that he’ll eventually have sons. What if he doesn’t? There he is, with the whole estate tied up in the entail, and five daughters. He’d better find husbands for them all, for the next heir, his second cousin twice removed, won’t want to house them.

Or what if he has a son and then dies before the son is twenty-one? The agreement has to be made between adults. In my story, Horace inherited and then died before Gervase turned twenty-one. The entail meant the property was settled on Gervase by the agreement between Horace and his father, but the entail goes no further than Gervase, the next generation after Horace. Gervase can leave his real property however he likes, or die without a will, in which case the rules of inheritance come into play.

More about that next time.

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Uncertain love on WIP Wednesday

Unrequited love.

He loves me, he loves me not. It’s not just a rhyme to chant while picking petals off a daisy or counting cherry stones; it’s an essential tool of the romance writer’s arsenal. We love to give our hero or heroine a bit of uncertainty to raise the stakes, and if each doubts the feelings of the other, all the better.

Do you have an extract to share in the comments where your hero or heroine thinks about or expresses their uncertainty? Or perhaps another character loves the hero or the heroine, and is doomed to disappointment? My expert is from A Raging Madness.

He was very tempted to kiss her but feared to change their relationship. Change it more. They were friends again, as they hadn’t been since she was a young girl and he a cheeky subaltern missing his home and his family.

But she loved him. One should not treat those one loves. That’s what she’d said. Those one loves. Loved how, though? As a friend? As a—Heaven forfend—as a brother?

Even if her love included the large measure of lust that coloured his for her, she had never been available for dalliance. If he tried a kiss, he would be lucky to get away with a slapped face. At worst, she would assume he was courting her. How he wished he could! For the first time in his life, he was experiencing the joys of that happy state, all but the physical intimacies, and he wanted them to go on forever.

But he had no place asking Ella to wed him. All he could offer was a broken crock of a man, made ugly with scars, subject to nightmares, prone to shedding splinters and lumps of metal from his leg.

A bored and useless man, at that. He had been a career officer. What was he now? He had investigated the Chirbury estates as a favour to his cousin, removing the land agents in two of them and buttressing the third with an assistant. But for all it proved to be necessary, the task had started as make-work, and his pride would not let him accept more.

He had no idea what to do with himself, and he certainly would not inflict himself on someone he was fast coming to love.

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Book tour for A Raging Madness

A Raging Madness went live three weeks ago, and is still in the Hot New Regency Release list on Amazon.

It’s the second in The Golden Redepennings series, and stars Alex who waltzed in a wheelchair in the first. He’s recovering from a crippling injury that nearly cost him a leg. Ella, the heroine, is escaping in-laws who have been keeping her drugged and imprisoned. Together, they search for answers and a future.

Follow the book link for buy links and the blurb, and I’ll keep adding links as they go up.

I’ve been on a virtual tour to promote the book. Check it out here. There are prizes!

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Antisepsis pre-Lister

According to a quick Google search, antisepsis was invented by Joseph Lister. A number of study sites make this claim, so it must be right. True? No, false. Lister pioneered the widespread use of carbolic acid for surgical instruments and operation theatres. That’s true. But the history of antisepsis is older and much more interesting.

Antisepsis is the use of special cleaning practice for cleaning a sick, delivery, or operating room and any wound. Anti=against and sepsis=the presence of harmful bacteria and their toxins in human tissue (or, in other words, infection).

And human beings have been fighting infection by various means since the dawn of time.

A little of what you fancy

Observation gave our ancestors lots of information about what happened when a person had an open wound, how likely the patient was to sicken and die, and what the carers could use to improve the odds.

The Ancient Greeks, the Egyptians, the Chinese, and the doctors of the Muslim World all wrote about and practiced antiseptic techniques. They used various substances to clean rooms, clothes, equipment, and people. They covered wounds with dressings coated in other substances. And all long before Lister. Wine or vinegar or alcoholic spirits. Honey. Certain muds. Mouldy bread. Distillations of sulphur, silver, or mercury. Herbs and mushrooms. Green tea. Lime and iodine. Even fire, to cauterise a wound or burn away a corpse or a patient’s clothing and dressings.

Something in the air

They were disadvantaged by not knowing the enemy they fought.

From the time of the Ancient Greeks, western medicine believed that wound infection was caused by air; that wounds became inflamed and then full of pus and eventually gangrenous because they were exposed to air.

It made sense. A person with a simple fracture healed with no infection. A compound fracture that broke the skin frequently led to infection. Similarly the difference between an internal wound and an exterior one. A person might die of some internal ailment, but their chances of infection were hugely increased by surgery to fix it.

So what was it about the air? Our medical pioneers had a couple of theories.

One was that cold was the precipitating factor. The inside of the body is a nice warm place. If the person has an injury or surgery, cold air gets into the wrong place and makes the person sick. So get the wound covered as quickly as possible with something that will keep the air out.

The other was to do with smells. Everyone could see for themselves that more people got sick in bad smelling places. And fewer of those who were sick survived. Moving a soldier out of the hospital where everything smelt awful and into a tent or barracks increased his chances of survival.

Hence the plethora of techniques to counter the smells of disease and corruption.

The techniques worked. Sort of. Some of the time

It was all very hit and miss, and how could it not be when germ theory had not yet been imagined, let alone proven? But mouldy bread, if it is the right kind of mould, will help to prevent infection in wounds, as will honey, and washing instruments in alcohol or boiling water or even simple soap will also help, as will thoroughly washing hands, changing bed sheets, and wearing clean clothes (rather than, for example, going straight to an operation from changing a dressing on a patient whose wound is infected).

The eighteenth century was a time of codification and discovery, laying the groundwork for the great advances of the nineteenth. The word ‘antisepsis’ appears in print for what was probably the first time in 1721, and both British and French doctors explored a variety of ways to prevent wounds from going bad.

My personal hero is Dr Alexander Gordon, a naval surgeon on half pay who became a general practitioner at Aberdeen Hospital, specialising in obstetrics. He wrote compellingly of the connection between contagion and puerperal fever 50 years before the pioneer Semnelweiss, and who even suggested parallels with the type of fever that appeared in wounds or after operations. His Treatise on the Epidemic Puerperal Fever of Aberdeen said:

By observation, I plainly perceived the channel by which it was propagated and I arrived at that certainty in the matter that I could venture to foretell what women would be affected with the disease, upon hearing by what midwife they were to be delivered, or by what nurse they were to be attended during their lying-in; and in almost every instance my prediction was verified.”

Touchingly, he admitted:

It is a disagreeable declaration for me to mention, that I myself was the means of carrying the infection to a great number of women …

What a guy. Clear headed, not so stuck on doing things by the book as to miss what was happening in front of his eyes, and ready to take responsibility when he realised that women only suffered from the illness if they were attended by nurses, midwives, or doctors who had attended a previous sufferer.

Not long after he published his theory, Gordon was called back to sea, where he contracted tuberculosis. He died in 1799.

Link with A Raging Madness

In A Raging Madness, my heroine was the daughter of an army doctor. As a girl and young woman, she had worked alongside her father, and she uses the skills she learned to operate on an abscess to save the hero.

She mentions her father’s agreement with Gordon’s theories to explain why she insists on cleanliness while operating. How did she and her father hear about them, since they were away overseas at the time? Ella’s father died in 1797, and the Treatise was not widely known.

Fortunately for me (but not for Aberdeen), the second of two epidemics of puerperal fever in Aberdeen was in 1792. I’m assuming that Gordon and Ella’s father were friends; perhaps they served together at the same hospital when they were training. And perhaps they corresponded after Gordon joined the navy and Ella’s father the army. It’s all possible, right?

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Tea with Alex

The best way to move Alex downstairs, his sister had decreed, was to press a chair into use and set a stout footman on each leg. Susan insisted he spend part of each day out of his room, and in truth he was going mad with only the same four walls, the same ceiling, to distract him from the pain and the craving for the oblivion of poppy juice. To which he would not surrender. He might be in agony, but at least he was in his right mind.

So here he was, dressed at least above the waist, ensconced on a sofa in the smaller of the two drawing rooms with a view out over the early Spring garden.

The blanket draped over his bandaged broken legs to hide them from sight and protect the modesty of the maids was the lightest Susan could find, most of its weight taken on cushions either side of the useless appendages. They would heal. Or so the doctors promised, though weeks ago they had proclaimed he was certain to die, so perhaps they were wrong again.

Susan had left him with a pile of books and a pack of cards, all within easy reach, and had promised him visitors to amuse him. Even so, he did not expect the butler’s announcement.

“Her Grace the Duchess of Haverford. The Marquis of Aldridge.”

Decades of conditioning had him attempting to rise—a poor effort that died in a white blaze of pain, and the gracious lady had seated herself and was holding his hand in a firm grip before he fought it back enough to be conscious of her again. And of her son, who was returning across the room from the brandy decanter, a glass in his hand.

“Redepenning,” he said, in greeting, handing over the drink. Alex let it burn down his throat, not waiting for it to warm. Breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. And again.

“Don’t try to talk until you are ready, Major Redepenning,” Her Grace cautioned. “The sick bed is no place for conventional manners. Besides, Aldridge and I have come to entertain you, not make you feel worse.”

Even a serving officer (at least one from his family) knew the Duchess of Haverford entertained visitors At Home on a Monday, and surely today was a Monday?

But Her Grace answered the unasked question. “I have been anxiously waiting to see for myself how you are, and today is the first that Mrs Cunningham allowed you to have visitors. So here I am, though it is a Monday, and Aldridge swears that the world shall wobble in its orbit at my departure from practice.”

“But one would not wish to be predictable, Mama,” Aldridge teased.

Alex cracked open an eyelid and then another. The room was no longer spinning, and the brandy had helped settle his nausea. He had been wrestling with his pain for long enough that the servants had brought in a tea trolley.

“Thank you for your good wishes,” he said, his voice calm, if a little strained.

The duchess gave his hand another squeeze and released it so that she could prepare herself a cup of tea. Aldridge, Alex noted, had helped himself to the brandy.

“I can see you are in pain, and look half-starved, my dear,” Her Grace said, “so I will need to take your sister’s word that your condition has improved, and forgive her for being so protective. Now. We shall not remain long, so what do you wish from us on this first visit? Shall Aldridge give you the news? Or shall I show you what we have brought to amuse you?”

“I have war, government, and court news,” Aldridge offered, “and Mama knows more than me about what is newsworthy in Society. If you want to hear about less disreputable matters,” he slid a glance sideways at his Mama, “we will ask Her Grace to step into the next room.”

The world was carrying on without him, and Alex could not summon the energy to care. “Presents, Your Grace? You are too kind.”

“My dear Major, you were raised almost a brother to my dear nephew, you are my good friend’s son, and I have known you from the cradle. I can spoil you if I wish. Besides…” She lowered her voice, “Her Majesty has told me something of the circumstances of your injury, and I am grateful on her behalf.”

Alex grimaced. All the gratitude in the world wouldn’t give him back the use of his legs.

But the duchess intended him to make the most of sitting in one place. In the ten minutes that was all she allowed herself, she loaded him with gifts, some purchased and others made specifically for him.

First, she had Aldridge and a footman bring in a table made with two legs so that it would fit across the sofa, and informed him that one with higher legs had been delivered to his bedroom.

“Now that you can sit up, Major Redepenning, you will find this surface more stable than a tray for taking meals, keeping up with your correspondence, playing cards, or whatever pleases you.”

A long procession of packages followed: books, a games board marked for backgammon on one side and chess on the other, the pieces in a matching box, several packs of cards, note paper, an inkwell that Aldridge assured him was non-spill.

So many, each showing the giver’s awareness of his interests and his limited abilities, but when Alex roused himself to express his gratitude, the duchess claimed that Aldridge had been her deputy in choosing what to bring, and Aldridge brushed off his thanks with a challenge to a game of backgammon “In a day or too, when you are more the thing.”

By the time Susan returned from whatever errand had taken her out, Alex had slept for a restless half hour and was laying out a solitaire game of patience on his new table. He greeted her with a smile, and she exclaimed with delight, “You are feeling better, Alex. I hoped you would.”

And he was, he discovered. The pain was no less, the legs no more co-operative, but the visit had done him good, reminding him that he had friends who loved him, and that the wide world still waited on the other side of this long stretch in the sickroom. He would get better. He vowed it. He owed it, after all, to the doctors, having confounded their expectations once.

This scene takes place some time in March 1807. Readers of Farewell to Kindness will see Alex, a secondary character in that book, still recovering but able to get around on crutches and in an invalid chair. My forthcoming novel, A Raging Madness (published 9 May 2017), begins in October of that same year, as does A Baron for Becky. Alex is the hero of A Raging Madness, and Aldridge could have been the hero of A Baron for Becky, but chose to please his family rather than follow his heart. Poor Aldridge.

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Shopping on WIP Wednesday

Crowe, Eyre; Johnson (1709-1784), Doing Penance in the Market Place 

Do your characters shop? Go to the modiste, the tailor, or the milliner? Buy a horse or a carriage at Tattersalls? Buy flowers from a girl on the corner?

This week, I’m looking for shopping excerpts. Mine is from A Raging Madness, which is coming out on 9 May. (I hope to be adding buy links within the week.) In this scene, my hero and heroine have been forced into travelling disguised as husband and wife, which is causing some discomfort. The market is in the town of Stowe-on-Trent.

They wandered the market, stopping first to buy some meat turnovers, rich in gravy and with crisp, flaky pastry that clung to their fingers so that Alex stopped at another clothing stall to buy a rag for them to wipe their hands. They shared a jug of small beer, and Alex purchased a pear each to crunch on while they continued around the stalls.

Pat returned, and trailed them at a distance, keeping them in sight but leaving them to one another’s company. They bought some supplies to put into the housekeeping on the boat: leaf tea, a ham bone with plenty of meat still on it, some vegetables, a loaf of bread. Alex bought her a bunch of Michaelmas daisies from a flower girl, which she held in the hand not tucked comfortably into the crook of his elbow, warm against his body.

The proximity heightened the thrum of awareness that had been plaguing her for days. Years. For years, she had kept the gorgeous Major Redepenning at a distance with a cool reserve, ruthlessly suppressing any outward signs of her unfortunate reaction to his physical presence.

Under the circumstances, her defences were in ruins. He had rescued her, believed in her, put himself at risk to help her. The least she could do was to respond to his conversational overtures, laugh at his jokes, enter into his plans for the rest of the day. Besides, for at least the rest of the canal trip—weeks though it may be—they had to play the part of newlyweds, whatever that cost her in uncomfortable dreams, asleep and awake.

No other man had ever affected her so. Perhaps if she had lusted for Gervase the way she yearned for Alex, they might have made something of their marriage? But no. Gervase would still have been a bully and a cheat. And besides, by the time she met him, it was too late. She was, sadly, a one-man woman. And Alex—though he would never know—Alex was the man.

A stall selling herbs and elixirs attracted her like a bee to nectar, and she was soon in deep discussion with the stall owner over the bundles and packages and bottles, while Alex leaned against the side of the stall and looked on with a smile.

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Six more weeks until a new book baby

I’m preparing to publish the novel A Raging Madness, which is set in Regency England, mostly on canal boats or in a tumble-down manor house in the Lincolnshire Wolds.

The book is currently with the proofreader, and will be released on 9 May.

So what does that mean ‘preparing to publish’? For me, it means a four-tab spreadsheet to help me keep track of my planning, lots of emails and messages as I beg people for guest spots on their blogs and set up a couple of Facebook parties, a print book cover and advertising images to design, a short story to write for my April newsletter, which will go out as soon as I have buy links, and a bit of soul-searching as I try to figure out how to second-guess the juggernaut that is Amazon and the shifting mass of chaos that is the bazillion-book market.

I’m off on holiday next Friday. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen. No day job, but family to spend time with and places to go. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, here’s the book blurb. Below are the covers I’m redesigning for the rest of the series plus the blurb, such as it currently is, for Book 3. Click to the link above if you’d like to read the first chapter of the new book.

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

The Golden Redepennings started with Farewell to Kindness, and continues for seven books. Farewell has a new cover to match A Raging Madness.

The next in the series is The Realm of Silence.

When secrets are revealed, lives change forever

Susan Cunningham’s carefully managed life spirals out of control when her daughter Amy disappears from a select ladies’ academy in Cambridge. Susan will do anything to find the missing fifteen year old, even accept help from Gil Rutledge, who once made her childhood miserable and who stirs her as her deceased husband never did.

Gil seizes the chance to pursue the runaway up the Great North Road. It’s a holiday from responsibilities he never wanted; a temporary escape from his mother and sisters, his dead brother’s bankrupt estate, a life he is not trained for and didn’t expect. And the chance to spend time with the one woman he has ever loved.

Catching up with Amy is only the start. To save her, they must stand together against French spies and prisoners of war, English radicals, the British army and navy, and their own families. And even risk their hearts.

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Jeopardy on WIP Wednesday

I’ve said it before. Our job as writers is to figure out what could possibly go wrong then make it happen. Maybe it’s a light-hearted comedy where the possibility of loss arises from a misunderstanding that is hilarious to the readers if not our characters. Or perhaps we’re writing a suspense novel with gothic horror elements and our characters stand to lose one another, their lives, and their very souls.

But without danger, we have no story. So this week, please share an excerpt from your novel where things go (or look as if they might go) pear-shaped. Mine is from A Raging Madness, my next novel. It’s with the proofreader and I’m planning a release in May.

She made it down the ivy without falling, but once she had picked up the blanket and wrapped it around herself, but lacked the will to move further. Leaning back against the side of the house, she let the lassitude win, and slowly relaxed down the wall until she was sitting on the ground, her head resting against the edge of a window frame.

Inside, a very long way away on the other side of the gentle fog that embraced her, two people were talking. Constance and Edwin. It did not matter. They were silly people. Gervase had not admired his older half-brother; a matter in which he and Ella were in rare accord. The two men shared a mother, but little of that kind, gentle woman showed in either son: the baronet’s son a bullying, often violent rake; the merchant’s a sanctimonious Puritan—but another bully for all that. Not as much so as his wife.

The bully was bullied. Ella suppressed her giggle. Sssshhh. Mustn’t make a sound. She was running away. Soon. First, she would have a little sleep.

But as she closed her eyes, her own name caught her attention. Constance and Edwin were talking about her? She forced herself to concentrate, to listen.

“No, Mrs Braxton. Eleanor will not convince them she is sane. I have chosen with care, I tell you. I visited six asylums before this one, and this is perfect for our purposes. The doctor in charge has promised to keep her dosed, and even if he does not, the place itself will drive her insane. If you saw it, heard the noise… Yes, my dear, I can assure you, our plans are sound.”

Constance answered, the whine in her voice grating against Ella’s eardrums. “But what if you are wrong, Edwin? If she convinces someone in authority that she is sane, prison will be the least…”

“No, my dove. Not at all. No one at the asylum will listen to her ravings, and if they did, what of it? Who will they tell? Even in the worst case, all we need do is say her mind was turned after Mother’s death, and how glad we are that she is well again.”

“I do not know.” The frown was heavy in Constance’s voice. “But we cannot keep her here. I trust Kerridge, but the other servants may start to murmur. Any one of them might have spoken to that lawyer!”

“The lawyer is gone, my love. He was no harder to send away this time than last.”

“It will drive her insane, you say?” Constance asked.

“It will. I guarantee it. I hesitate to mention it, Mrs Braxton, it not being a topic for a lady’s delicate ears…”

“Spit it out, Edwin. What?”

“My own treasure, I am given to understand that the attendants avail themselves of the, er, charms of the patients, and even do a, er, trade with the nearby town. Not, of course, with the approval of the medical staff. No, of course. That would be most unprofessional. But it is most enterprising of them, and serves our purposes rather well, dear sister being a comely woman.”

Ella puzzled this out. Surely Edwin did not mean that the attendants forced the women, and prostituted them?

“Ah. Very good,” Constance said. “The woman is horribly resilient. Any decent gentlewoman would have succumbed to madness long since with all your brother put her through, and what has happened since. But surely even she is not coarse enough to withstand multiple rapes.”

“The doctor will be here tomorrow,” Edwin said, with enormous satisfaction. “And she will be safely tucked away where she can do no harm.”

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