Tea with Jonathan

Lord Jonathan Grenford, younger son of Her Grace the Duchess of Haverford, was doing his best to lounge with nonchalant ease, in imitation of his more sophisticated brother. But his interview with his progenitor had left him fizzing with frustration and anger.

Impossible to discharge such energies in the presence of the duke, who was the absolute ruler of his household. His Grace would respond to any perceived disrespect with a retribution whose ripples would touch everyone Gren cared for, from his mother and brother to the most insignificant tweeny and the merest acquaintances.

Impossible also in the dainty sitting room that was his mother’s retreat. He and Aldridge had long ago agreed that Mama had suffered enough from the insults, neglect and disrespect heaped on her by His Grace. Both would rather die than unleash their own helping of the Haverford temper in her presence.

But if he had to keep his tone calm and dispassionate, his body must express the energy of his wrath. As soon as the servant with the tea trolley exited the room and he was free to tell Mama his troubles, he leapt to his feet to pace and prowl, his arms shaping the emotions he was careful to keep from his voice.

She knew, none better, the attempts he had made at freedom, the counter measures taken by his family’s despot, the arguments he had presented in this last distressing interview. But he repeated them all, concluding: “He will never let me go, Mama. I shall be kept here in England, bored out of my mind, kept on a short leash with nothing worthwhile to occupy me until I am as old, as fat, and as dissolute as Prinny.”

The duchess, whose part so far had been to murmur occasional platitudes, lifted an elegant brow at that. “Not fat, my dear one, surely?” She smiled slightly at his reluctant huff of laughter, then turned serious again. “I will speak to him again, Jonathan. But I cannot promise anything. He may not listen.”

“He will not listen. He never listens.” He sat beside her, and kissed her cheek, taking her tea cup from her hands and enclosing them in his own. “Do not make trouble for yourself, Mama. Leave it alone.”

As always, sharing his troubles with the duchess had soothed them, and his natural optimism had surged once more to the fore. There must be a way to achieve his freedom; one that could not reflect on Mama or Aldridge.  All he had to do was find it.

Lord Jonathan Grenford, known to his friends as Gren, is a supporting character in Revealed in Mist, which stars his illegitimate half brother David Wakefield. Haverford’s heir, the Marquis of Aldridge, also has a supporting role in the book. More information and buy links if you click on the title.


Excerpt from Revealed in Mist

His next appointment arrived late, apologising as he approached the table, hand extended to shake. David ignored the open and guileless smile and focused on the eyes. Careful, considering, watching to see if the charm was having the desired effect.

“Lord Jonathan.” His own face would give the young man no clues about what David was thinking and feeling. He returned a firm press of the hand, and waved Lord Jonathan to a seat.

“Please. Call me Gren. Or Jon, if you prefer, as Aldridge does. After all, you’re my brother too.” Another friendly grin, of no more depth than the first.

A surprise attack might prompt a reaction David could use. “Is there a reason I shouldn’t tell Aldridge about your plan to get yourself exiled?”

Bare shock for a moment, quickly turning to calculation.

“Mrs. Worth is your informer. Of course. I thought her of too fine a quality to be a whore’s housekeeper.”

The boy was quick; David had to give him that.

The smile turned self-deprecating. “I’d rather you didn’t tell Aldridge. With luck, things have gone too far for him to fix, but I wouldn’t want to count on it. The magic ducal wand.”

“Aldridge wants to protect Her Grace,” David said. And he did, too, come to that.

“Aldridge wants to protect everyone. It’s been bred into him. Yes, and beaten into him, too.” Lord Jonathan—Gren—waved a casual hand, “His Grace is not a gentle father.”

He leaned forward, confidingly, the grin gone and his face suddenly open and sincere. “Aldridge doesn’t understand. I can’t live this life—this meaningless, idiotic life. He has work. I am allowed none. He has purpose. Mine is to simply exist until he marries and has children. After that, I’m redundant. Aldridge thinks I should be happy to drink and gamble and swive myself silly, then get up the next day and do it again. He can’t believe I’m not. But he wouldn’t like having nothing useful to do nearly as much as he thinks.”

Lord Jonathan shook his head thoughtfully. “Do you know how many younger sons die in pointless, stupid accidents, doing something crazy because they’re bored? Now, that would certainly upset Mama!”

David wasn’t sympathetic. “Then do something productive. Join the army. Take up employment.”

“I tried to join the army. His Grace refused his permission. So I joined under a false name. His Grace had me hunted down, bought me out, and confined me until I gave my word not to do it again.

“I went to work for an architect. His Grace had the man beaten. I changed my name again, and found work as a factory clerk. He threatened to ruin the man if I wasn’t fired. He told me that if I tried it again, he’d throw my old nanny out of the cottage she has retired to.”

Despite himself, David could feel for the lad.

“He wants me dependent. Which is partly your fault, by the way.”

The reproach was unexpected. “How do you draw that conclusion?”

Lord Jonathan shrugged. “You’ve made your own way. Refused all help, or so I’ve heard. His Grace doesn’t control you. With everyone else, he says jump, and they ask for instructions on how high and far, and for permission to come down. You just ignore him.”

“Not exactly,” David said. “I stay out of his way, that’s all.”



The ‘meet cute’ on WIP Wednesday

meet-cute‘Meet cute’ is a term from Hollywood that has crept into book publishing. It means that moment in a romantic comedy when the hero and the heroine first encounter one another. The implication is that the first meeting is amusing, entertaining, or charming.

Even if you’re not writing romantic comedy, the term can apply, but today I’m just using it as shorthand for the first meeting in your book. My own current works-in-progress have progressively less and less cute about them. The Bluestocking and the Barbarian comes close, with James swooping down to save a child from the path of racing curricles.

With hand, body and voice, James set Seistan at the child and dropped off the saddle, trusting to the horse to sweep past in the right place for James to hoist the child out of harm’s way.

One mighty heave, and they were back in the saddle. James’ shoulders would feel the weight of the boy for days, but Seistan had continued across the road, so close to the racers that James could feel the wind of their passing.

They didn’t stop. Didn’t even slow. In moments, they were gone.

The boy shaking in his arms, James turned Seistan with his knees, and walked the horse back to the gates of the big house. A crowd of women waited for them, but only one came forward as he dismounted.

“How can we ever thank you enough, sir?” She took the child from him, and handed him off to be scolded and hugged and wept over by a bevy of other females.

The woman lingered, and James too. He could hear his father and the others riding toward them, but he couldn’t take his eyes off hers. He was drowning in a pool of blue-gray. Did she feel it too? The Greeks said that true lovers had one soul, split at birth and placed in two bodies. He had thought it a nice conceit… until now.

In Revealed in Mist, David and Prue parted in anger in the Prologue, and meet again for the first time in months in the first chapter. Prue has just saved a young lady from rape.

She put the girl behind her with her free hand, then pulled the door closed. Something thrown banged against it on the other side.

“We must get you to safety,” she told the girl, a very young debutante in a torn white gown, her honey blonde hair falling from its careful coiffure, the delicate oval of her face streaked with tears.

“I cannot… I did not… Everyone will think…”

“Take the child to Lady Georgiana.” Prue started at Shadow’s voice and the girl yelped and clutched at her for protection. Fussing over the girl gave Prue time to catch the breath that had escaped at his sudden appearance. He was leaning against the next door down, half concealed in the doorway. “There’s a small sitting room along there.” He pointed down the passage towards the far end, seemingly unaffected the meeting, while Prue was torn between spitting in his face and throwing herself at his feet to beg him to forgive whatever offence she had caused. “Half way to the corner. Lady Georgiana is in there. She’ll take care of your maiden, and I shall see to the assailant. Who is it?”

And A Raging Madness has the least cute meet of all, as Ella flees confinement and abuse in her in-laws house to beg help from Alex, who she knew long, long ago.

The couch faced the fire, its back to the bed chamber door. The occupant was invisible until they stood right over it, and then there she was, lying on her back, wrapped tightly in a scruffy grey woollen blanket, heavily mired at one end with dried mud. All they could see of the woman was her head, and that was somewhat the worse for wear. Her face was far too thin, with dark patches under the eyes and bruise over bruise along her jaw, as if she had been gripped too hard time after time, week after week. She lay in a tangle of long brown hair, escaped from the plait to which it had been confined.

As they watched, she opened her eyes. For a moment, she stared at them, confused. Then she seemed to recall where she was, and sat up in one convulsive movement, clutching the blanket to her with a bare arm as it fell, but not before Alex had seen she wore nothing but her shift.

“Alex, thank God. You must help me. Please.”

“Lady Melville.” Alex bowed as well as he could, leaning heavily on his stick, hating to show weakness in front of her of all people. But her eyes did not leave his, and she displayed no signs of noticing his infirmity.

“Please,” she repeated, just as someone knocked on the door. She shot off the couch, clutching the blanket, and retreated to the wall, her eyes wide. He had seen such a stance before, people under threat finding a wall for the back, animals at bay, almost dead from fear, but  still searching for escape.

“It is just the major’s breakfast, my lady,” Jonno said, soothingly. But a male voice in the hall belied his reassurance. “Knock again,” it said, loudly, authoritatively. Braxton.

“Please,” Ella begged, one more time.


Tea with Prue


Eleanor, Duchess of Haverford, feels a strong sense of obligation to today’s caller. Not that she will say so. Her Grace has engineered a dozen meetings in the past five years, and not once has Miss Virtue raised the connection between them. Perhaps she is unaware of it? No, surely not. But if she wishes to ignore it, then the duchess will comply. The young lady is entitled to her privacy.

The butler escorts Miss Virtue into the conservatory, where Her Grace and her guest can enjoy the autumn sun and the splendid views of the gardens without suffering the chilly breeze. The duchess rises in greeting.

“Miss Virtue. How kind of you to come.”

Her caller curtseys gracefully, without comment, and seats herself when the duchess invites her to do so. For a few minutes they discuss courteous nothings: the weather, the number of people in Town, the War on the Continent, how Miss Virtue would prefer her tea.

But once she has a fine bone china cup in her hands, Miss Virtue cuts directly to the point in the way the duchess has come to expect and admire. “But I do not wish to take up too much of your valuable time, Your Grace. How may I be of service to you.”

Her Grace suppresses a sigh—will the child never trust her? “I have a commission for you, Miss Virtue, if you are free to undertake it. My godson, the Earl of Penworth, appears to have gone missing…”


Prue Virtue is a spy for the Crown, but occasionally undertakes freelance commissions. The following excerpt is from The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle, a novella in my free book Hand-Turned Tales (click here for buy links). Prue, disguised as the nurse Miss Tyler, is here on the duchess’s errand, looking for the Earl of Penworth. She finds that he has acquired not only a prison but also a wife.

Prue is also the heroine of Revealed in Mist, coming in December 2016.

prisoners-of-wyvern-smallSeveral minutes passed, and all remained quiet. This might actually work! First, she needed to find a boat small enough for her to handle. Hugging the walls, keeping to the shadows, she began to circle the courtyard toward the deeper darkness that signalled the passageway through the walls. Beyond, the road led down to the docks.

She was nearly there when a woman’s voice spoke behind her. “Do not be alarmed, Lady Penworth.”

Madeline spun around, one hand to her chest to hold her pounding heart in place.

“Who is it?” She could see a vague shape in the darkness, but no details.

“A friend.”

It was not Lady Wyvern, nor—from the accent, which was aristocratic—one of the servants. As she froze, trying to decide whether to run or speak, she heard footsteps and voices approaching from the other end of the passage.

“Quick. This way.” The woman took her hand and pulled her through a doorway, into the room beyond. Just in time. Pressed against the wall inside the door, she could hear them clearly: several men arguing in hushed voices.

“It was the White Lady, I tell you.”


“She was coming out that window. I saw her with my own eyes. It was like a long coil of smoke, twisting in the wind.”

“A long coil of smoke. Listen to him. Next, you’ll be telling us she’s off to join her husband in the dungeon.”

A chorus of guffaws.

“You’ve heard what the islanders say, same as me,” the first voice insisted.

“Yes, and right fools they are, too.”  The speaker pitched his voice in a falsetto. “Ooooh! Moaning in the dungeon. It must be the ghost!” Then, reverting to his own low rumble. “Silly tossers. A good thing Her Ladyship sent the whole lot of them packing.”

The first voice began, “If you ask me…”

Another man interrupted. “You can stand around talking about ghosts all night if you want. I’m for the kitchen and a tot of something hot and strong. Securing those boats was cold work.”

She could make out no more. They were across the courtyard and… yes, they had gone down the steps into the servants’ area Rupert had pointed out from their window.

“Come,” her companion said. “Lord Wyvern is awake and wishes to speak with you.”

“Let me go,” Madeline pleaded. “Now, while the courtyard is clear.”

“I will help you, my lady. That is why I am here. But first, we need to share information. Come with me and see Lord Wyvern.”

“Who are you?” Madeline asked, but the woman gave her no answer, just moved away, surefooted in the dark.

After a moment, Madeline followed her. They climbed the stair until they reached the room where Lord Wyvern lay, propped up on pillows, looking—by the light of the lamp at his bedside—more alert than he had earlier in the day.

The light allowed Madeline to recognise her companion. “You are the nurse. Miss Tyler. You work for Lady Wyvern.”

“I work for Lord Wyvern,” Miss Tyler corrected. “I am here to rescue him, and you and the earl.”

“Lady Wyvern took the earl away. I don’t know where.”

“Dun… jin,” Lord Wyvern said, and Miss Tyler nodded. “They were keeping Lord Wyvern in the dungeon when I was brought here to care for him. I expect that is where they have your husband and the other two men.”

Lord Wyvern was a frail shadow of the hearty man Rupert had described, and pale enough to have been in a dungeon these six months. Madeline didn’t understand how his own servants could have allowed such a thing.

“Why did your people let it happen?” she asked him, but it was Miss Tyler who answered.

“His Lordship had an apoplexy. Lady Wyvern saw her moment and removed anyone who might object to her regency while he was ill. Then, when he began to recover… well, she made sure to keep him bedridden. And she hid him, so those loyal to him would not know what she was doing.”

“How could the Ice Dragon hope to get away with it?”

Goodness. She was so used to Rupert’s name for his sister that she said it without thinking. But Lord Wyvern was laughing silently, and even the nurse was smiling.

“A good name for her,” Miss Tyler said. “She is an arrogant woman, Your Ladyship. She makes her plans and assumes the rest of the world will fall into line. She must have been horrified when the King sent Lord Morpeth to see what was happening here, but she and Sir James decided to bully their way through.

“They sent most of the islanders away, to keep complaints and rumours from reaching Lord Morpeth’s ears. That may yet work to her disadvantage, since they are now on the mainland and will be talking to all their friends and relatives. Word will reach the ears of the gentry sooner or later, and people with authority will start asking questions.”

“I cannot wait for that,” Madeline said. “I need to rescue the earl now.”

“Plan?” Lord Wyvern asked.

“Yes, my lady. What was your plan? Do you have a helper? Somewhere to go?”

Madeline shook her head. She and Rupert had no one to help them. But they had a plan, of sorts, and she intended to carry it out.

Miss Tyler saw her hesitation. “Lady Penworth, you are wise to be cautious, but you can trust us. Lord Wyvern, as you know, is as much a victim of the conspirators as you and your husband. And I have been sent by the earl’s godmother to find out what is happening and help if I can.”


You can’t choose your relatives on WIP Wednesday

au_bistro_at_the_bistroI’m deep in edit mode for Revealed in Mist, and I think I’m improving it. Sibling relationships are a big part of the story—Prue’s with her sisters, and David’s with his half-brothers. As the saying goes, you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your relatives.

I’ve just edited chapter two, where David meets the Marquis of Aldridge for the first time in years, so I figured I’d make relatives the focus of this week’s post. Here’s a short excerpt. Feel free to post one of your own in the comments.

He frowned at the fire in the small hearth. The private parlour he had hired was small and shabby, but at least its size made it easy to heat. And it was neutral ground, which mattered. David hadn’t had a prolonged conversation with his expected guest in a decade and a half.

He must have been seventeen or eighteen on the last occasion, staying at Haverford Castle in Kent between the end of the school term and his first term at university. The Duke of Haverford’s son and heir, the Marquis of Aldridge, would have been 12. The day had begun happily enough with the boy tagging along while David went out after small game with a gun. It had ended with David beaten and driven from the property.

Aldridge had tripped and knocked himself out, and Haverford, finding David leaning over his unconscious heir, had not waited for explanations.

Once the young marquis left school and entered Society, they met from time to time, usually when the Duchess of Haverford insisted on David coming to one of her entertainments. Her husband, the duke, was almost always engaged elsewhere, but her sons often attended. They paid their mother the courtesy of not being rude to her protégé, and he responded with the same polite reserve.

He was expecting Aldridge now. Older brother to one of the courtesan’s lovers. David’s despised father’s oldest legitimate son. His half-brother.

A knock on the door heralded Aldridge’s arrival. A maid showed him into the private parlour. He’d clearly been treating her to a display of his facile charm; she was dimpling, blushing, and preening.

David examined him as he gave the girl a coin “and a kiss for your trouble, my darling.” The beautiful child had grown into a handsome man. David had heard him described as ‘well-put together, and all over, if you know what I mean.’ The white-blonde hair of childhood had darkened to a guinea gold, and he had his mother’s hazel eyes under a thick arch of brow he and David had both inherited from their father.

Aldridge navigated the shoals of the marriage market with practiced ease, holding the mothers and their daughters off, but still not offending them, and carrying out a gentleman’s role in the ballroom with every evidence of enjoyment.

But his real success, by all accounts, was with bored widows and wives, where he performed in the bedroom with equal charm, and perhaps more pleasure. Society was littered with former lovers of the Merry Marquis, though he had the enviable ability to end an affair and retain the friendship.

Aldridge ushered the laughing maid out of the room and closed the door behind her, acknowledging David’s appraisal with a wry nod.

“Wakefield. You summoned me. I am here.”


Foiled again on WIP Wednesday

cottageGiven how little actual writing I’ve done in the past fortnight, I thought an excerpt about frustrations would be a good idea. You know what I mean? Your characters are bowling along, their plans all in place, when bam. Something happens. Your villain sees his schemes come crashing down around his ears. Or your heroine’s dreams seem to dissolve in smoke. Or your hero’s future, which was secure, turns to custard.

Show me yours and I’ll show you mine. This one is from Revealed in Mist. The villain (one of them) and his cronies have the heroine and her sister trapped, and the villain is determined to show his power. He overreaches, of course, as villains do. The sister is not as cowed as she pretends. But just when we thought he was foiled, the tides turn again.

It was enough. As Charity grabbed the most vulnerable part of Selby’s anatomy and squeezed, Prue flung herself on the hand in which Annesley held the gun and knocked it upwards. From the stairs, Barnstable gave a yell at the same time as Selby’s anguished scream.

Prue had no time check how the other women were faring. Annesley was larger and stronger than her, and close quarters was not how she would win this fight. Still, if she could get the pistol off him, if Charity had enough wits about her to come to Prue’s aid, they might have a chance.

He was forcing the barrel around towards Prue when Charity hit him over the shoulder with an iron pot, and the gun went off with a loud reverberating bang, throwing him backwards.

Prue sprawled where he dropped her, but was gathering her feet beneath her to throw herself back into the fray, when Charity threw herself down between Prue and Annesley. “Prue? Are you hurt?”

The swine had missed, thanks to Charity, but she had not hit him hard enough. He was levelling the pistol again, grinning broadly. On the stairs, Barnstable was dancing in place, complaining. “She bit me! I was going to be nice, little girl, but…”

Selby’s voice was high and strained, as he dragged Charity away from Prue by her hair. “You’ll pay for this, Charrie, you filthy little trollop.”



Kisses on WIP Wednesday

kissing_by_splashofrainbowFirst, or one of many; gentle, passionate, hungry, demanding, or affectionate; welcome or not so much: hit me with a kiss from your work-in-progress.

Here’s mine, from the book that is with the editor and currently called Prudence in Love (which may, at any moment, become Revealed in Mist.)

Mrs. Allen was just enquiringly anxiously about whether she should hold dinner when Allen opened the door to Prue and her sister. David was in the hall in moments, barely aware of moving, but he halted, unwilling to embarrass Prue by embracing her in front of her sister and the servants.

Prue had no such qualms. She stopped in the midst of untying her bonnet and flung herself towards him, her face alight with welcome, stopping just within arms reach.

“You are here! I thought perhaps tomorrow… Oh, David, I am so glad to see you.” At that, as if she could not contain herself any longer, she held out both her hands, and he lifted them with both his own and pressed a kiss on the gloved backs, all the time drowning in the glow of her eyes.

“Let us give them a moment,” Prue’s sister murmured to the Allens, and she climbed the stairs while they went back downstairs to the service rooms.

David drew Prue into his study, and carefully shut the door before seizing her for the kiss he had been imagining this past month. She met his passion with her own, returning his assault on her lips with a bruising assault of her own, her hands meanwhile sliding up under his waistcoat to clutch him to her as if she would pull herself right inside his flesh.

He pressed her against the wall beside the door, one of his own hands cupping her buttocks and the other, at first clasped around her shoulders to hold her to him and protect her back, now creeping to lift her skirt that they might, indeed, bury themselves in one another.

Impatiently, she dropped one of her own hands to fumble at his buttons.

“Prue,” he murmured. “Oh, Prue, how I’ve missed this.”

A knock on the door froze them both. “Mrs. Allen will be serving dinner shortly, Prue,” her sister called. “Do you not wish to change? Or at least take off your bonnet and coat, and wash your face and hands?”

David met Prue’s eyes, smiling tenderly. Her redingote was in a heap on the floor behind her, and her bonnet was gone. Ah yes. There it was, tossed onto his desk on the other side of the room, though he had no memory of removing it.

“I had best take my hands off you, Prue, or I shall make us both late for dinner, and your sister shall scold.”


Shopping on WIP Wednesday

regshopHow about shopping? Do your characters go to the market or buy clothes or go out for an icecream or to the local emporium? Mine do. In my excerpt (from Prudence in Love), David has arranged to meet Prue while she is out shopping. As always, post an excerpt in the comments. I’d love to read it.

David worried that he’d not find Mist in the crowded market, but it was easy. He turned to her like a needle to a lodestone, recognising her by her walk, though she was enveloped in a cloak and hampered by a large basket.

He fell into step beside her. “Here, let me carry that.” She relinquished the basket without comment.

“How long do you have?” David asked.

“Plenty of time if we talk while I run the last of my errands. I sent the maid home with the meat and vegetables. I need to buy spices, sugar, tea, and chocolate.”

High value items, trusted to the housekeeper but not to lesser members of the household. David nodded.

“I don’t have much to report, yet,” he said. “I’ve set people to watch each of the possible victims, and I followed Lord Selby for most of last night. He has an unpleasant taste in pleasures, that man. I’ve met with Aldridge, and heard how his brother became involved. Aldridge has told the boy to stay clear of Lily Diamond until this is all cleared up.”

“Then Lord Jonathan didn’t listen. He took Miss Diamond driving yesterday afternoon, attended her party last night, and then went up to bed with her. He’s there yet, I imagine.”

“The devil he is!” David opened the door to the tea emporium, and the fragrance of the tea enfolded them.


Eating on WIP Wednesday

toasting-fork-e1427826270973All my readers must realise I like food; I write so much of it. Breakfasts, picnics, formal dinners, snacks… my characters stop to refuel at regular intervals. Indeed, Lord Jonathan Grenford (Gren), the younger brother of the Marquis of Aldridge and a secondary character in Prudence in Love, spends much of the book consuming vast quantities of sustenance. But he is a young and active man, and they do manage to get through a lot of food!

So this week, I’m inviting excerpts that include food. Post yours in the comments; I’d love to see it. Here’s mine, from A Raging Madness.

Susan sent the nursemaid to let the kitchen know that three of the household’s adults would be taking nursery breakfast. Soon, Alex and Ella were sitting on the hearth rug, each with a toasting fork and an apprentice. Michael, his hands tucked inside Alex’s, sat between Alex’s knees, holding the toast carefully near the flame, and Anna curled next to Ella holding the fork by herself, with gently coaching. “Slightly further back, Anna. No, not quite so far. We want it to brown, but not burn, and we want to avoid smoke.”

Curved protectively over the child, her eyes and voice soft, she took his breath away. What a mother she would have made—could still make. She would be nearly thirty now, and still fertile, he imagined. Not that it mattered. He wanted her whether they could make children together or not. If only he could persuade her to want him.

In all their weeks of talking, she had not spoken of her marriage or of the child she had lost. Or children? Alex had refrained from prying, sure that the memories pained her, but now he wished to know all her secrets.

“Burning, Unca Alex,” Michael warned. Sure enough, while his attention had been on Ella the toast had wavered too near the flame and was well alight on one corner.

“And that, Michael,” Alex explained, “is what happens if you go too near the flame.”


Crisis points on WIP Wednesday

Upstairs, the little maid looks after the children in the nursery. What do the villains plan for them when they have disposed of the women?

Upstairs, the little maid looks after the children in the nursery. What do the villains plan for them when they have disposed of the women?

A few weeks ago, I talked about plotting as the process of asking ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ and then making that happen. This means a story becomes a series of moments where the hero or the heroine (or, perhaps, the villain) is heading for their goal, full steam ahead, when something happens to deflect them.

Of course we, the readers of romantic fiction, know our protagonists will eventually find their way to safe harbour, quite possibly in a far better destination than the one they planned at the start. So we sit back and enjoy the journey. Not so the poor characters who face the cliff-hanger chapter endings, the crises, blocks and turning points, the things that go wrong.

This week, I’d love you to share a crisis or turning point. Mine is from Prudence in Love. Prue and her sister Charity have been packing to leave the house Charity shared with the villainous Earl of Selby now that she has discovered his real character. But Selby and his cronies have arrived before they can escape, and are planning rape and murder. But first, Selby cannot resist showing off to his friends, by demanding that Charity demonstrate for them her competence at fellatio.

She leaned forward, opening her mouth, and slid her eyes sideways to meet Prue’s. It was enough. As Charity grabbed the most vulnerable part of Selby’s anatomy and squeezed, Prue flung herself on the hand in which Annesley held the gun and knocked it upwards. From the stairs, Barnstable gave a yell at the same time as Selby’s anguished scream.

Prue had no time to look at how the other women were faring. Annesley was larger and stronger than her, and close quarters was not how she would win this fight. Still, if she could get the pistol off him, if Charity had enough wits about her to come to Prue’s aid, they might have a chance.

He was forcing the barrel around towards Prue when Charity hit him over the shoulder with an iron pot, and the gun went off with a loud reverberating bang, throwing him backwards.

Prue sprawled where he dropped her, but was gathering her feet beneath her to throw herself back into the fray, when Charity threw herself down between Prue and Annesley. “Prue? Are you hurt?”

The swine had missed, thanks to Charity, but she had not hit him hard enough. He was leveling the pistol again, grinning broadly. On the stairs, Barnstable was dancing in place, complaining. “She bit me! I was going to be nice, little girl, but…”

Selby’s voice was high and strained, as he dragged Charity away from Prue by her hair. “You’ll pay for this, Charrie, you filthy little trollop.”



Sunday retrospective

timetravelIn the last half of November in 2014, I was sent Farewell to Kindness off to beta readers and began writing Candle’s Christmas Chair.

The Epilogue to Farewell to Kindness threw me a curve ball that took me more than nine months to find in the bushes. I lost the heroine of what was then still called Encouraging Prudence. (And figuring out what my characters were trying to tell me has turned that book into two: Prudence in Love, and Prudence in Peril.) In ‘When you break eggs make omelettes’, I posted about the conundrum of stories that escape their author, with a long quote from Juliet Marillier.

I posted about happy endings, agreeing with those who criticise them as unrealistic, and pointing out:

The critics are, of course, quite right. Happy endings do not happen in reality. And neither do sad endings. In fact, endings of any kind are a totally artificial construct. My personal story didn’t begin with my conception; my conception was simply an event in the story of my parents, and my story is an integral part of that. Nor will it end at my death. What I’ve made (children, garden, quilts, books) will carry on after me.

Whenever we write and whatever we write, we impose an artificial structure on reality. We choose a point and call that the beginning. And we choose another point and call that the end.

My post about psalm singers might be worth a look. They played an important role in the communities of the 18th and early 19th century, and in my novel Farewell to Kindness. I give a bit of history and a couple of YouTube clips of songs as they might have sung them (one psalm and one considerably more secular).

‘How to tell what novel you are in’ was a link and quotes from a series of Toast posts, including How to tell whether you’re in a Regency novel, and How to tell whether you are in novels by a number of other authors. A sample?

7. A gentleman of your acquaintance once addressed you by your Christian name as he brushed his fingers against the lace filigree of your fichu. You still blush at the recollection.

And in my last post for November, I talked about the cycle of the liturgical year, and how earlier times fitted this cycle to the rhythms of the season and the demands of agriculture. Before most people were driven from the land and commerce began to rule over piety, church holy days meant holidays. And even into the late Georgian, the week long feast of Whitsuntide remained.

In Farewell to Kindness, the action of a third of the novel happens before the backdrop ofWhitsunweek (also known as Whitsuntide).

Carl Spitzweg - Das PicknickApart from walks, fairs, picnics, horse races and other activities, the week was known for the brewing of the Whitsunale. This was a church fundraising activity–the church wardens would take subscriptions, create a brew, and sell or distribute it during the week of Whitsuntide. It has a certain appeal. It would certainly be a change from cake stalls and sausage sizzles!

Whitsunweek was the week following the Feast of Pentecost (WhitSunday), and seems to have been the only week-long medieval holiday to survive into early modern times. It usually fell after sheep shearing and before harvest, and it was a week of village festivities and celebrations.