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!


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.


Process? Was I meant to have a process?

I’ve just sent A Raging Madness off for proofreading, which clears my mental space for the other stories that are simmering on the back of the stove or still spread out across the kitchen table as raw ingredients.

Over the past three years, since I first began Farewell to Kindness, I’ve discovered I’m neither a plotter nor a pantser, but a weird amalgam. As the current state of said stories shows.

I figured I’d be a plotter. I am in my commercial writing life, starting with a carefully structured outline, complete with an assessment of audience and purpose. So before I wrote a word of Farewell, I had character interviews and questionnaires, a detailed plot outline, and acres and acres of research. Then I started writing.

It turns out that I write by watching the movie reel unroll inside my head. My characters had no idea what was going to happen, and as I soon found out, neither did I. The villain died before chapter 1. The slightly sinister neighbour turned into a major criminal. The hero wanted to seduce the heroine instead of courting her. I ended up more or less where I expected, but by a completely different pathway.

But nor am I entirely a pantser. If I try to write without at least some of that plotting work, my muse goes into a major sulk and I bog down.  Revealed in Mist suffered from that. I began a murder mystery with no idea who the villain was or how the murder happened. At some point I had to figure that out.

I am, I guess, a patterner. It isn’t so much that I make patterns, but I recognise them. Two or more disconnected facts suddenly come together in my mind, and all of a sudden I know where I’m going.

Take Concealed in Shadow, the sequel to Revealed in Mist, which is my book after next. I know Prue has been kidnapped and is in Napoleonic France, and I know David has followed her. I know that the story involves a secondary romance between a English detainee and a prisoner-of-war. I’m not sure of much else. But last night I realised that Prue will be handed over by her captors to a French spymaster, who will use her to try to force David to give up British secrets.

I’m currently reading about spy networks in England and France during the Napoleonic wars, and also about prisoners of war in each country. And something just clicked.

I don’t know precisely how my creative process works. But I know what makes it work. Research. When my mind goes blank, I start reading. Original material such as newspapers of the time, scholarly works, other fiction set against a similar background. Whatever works.

And I didn’t do this on purpose, honest, but The Realm of Silence, the next book in The Golden Redepennings also involves prisoners of war and spies, this time on the English side of the channel. And Luddites, because why not? What I was missing there was a MacGuffin, but I found one, so all is well.

Those are the main projects at the moment, but I also have three novellas (two for Christmas anthologies) and a short story on the go. And they all have plots! (But I don’t guarantee they’ll happen the way I’ve ‘planned’.)

So that’s it. That’s how I write. Someone compared it driving after dark. As long as you can see as far as your headlines reach, you can keep going. It’s a bit scarier than that. I start out not knowing what route I’m going to follow, and with only the vaguest idea of destination, and work it out on the way. I write the book so I can find out how it ends.

My friend Caroline Warfield has also posted about process.


Backstory on WIP Wednesday

One of the tricky tasks an author has to manage is to tell those crucial bits of history a reader needs to sympathise with the hero or heroine, or despise the villain. But what to do? Hint and let the reader guess? Have the character explain themselves to another? Do a flashback in memory? Jump between present and past entirely?

All can work, or can be disastrous.

This week, on WIP Wednesday, I’m inviting you to post excerpts that carry your backstory. Mine is from A Raging Madness. Ella is telling Alex about her first marriage, which he had observed as a fellow officer.

He had seen the signs and ignored them, told himself that he had no right to interfere between husband and wife, told himself that she had made her bed and could lie in it. Arrogant, conceited pup. Twenty-one years old and full of his own pain. He hated that long-ago version of himself nearly as much as he hated Melville. Long ago? He had been believing lies against her as recently as two months ago.
“I often thought of sending him into the thick of battle, like David did to Uriah the Hittite. I should have done it.”
Ella, her eyes soft, reached up and kissed his chin. “Was I your Bathsheba then? I am flattered.”
“Always, Ella. My guilt made me cruel to you. I cannot tell you how sorry I am.”
Her eyes rounded and she shook her head. “No, Alex. You were always kind and polite. Distant. Disapproving sometimes. But I knew I could rely on you. I do not think I could have survived after Dadda died if not for you.” Her eyes filled with tears, and he bit back the self-recriminations. He did not deserve her praise, but nor was he selfish enough to deny the comfort her memories gave her in order to seek his own absolution.


Reprobates on WIP Wednesday

The world seems to love a scoundrel. Me, I tend to make villains out of them, but fiction is full of rogues as both protagonists and antagonists. Readers like those with wounded hearts waiting for circumstances or the right influences to make them whole. So this week, I’m inviting you to show me an excerpt with the retrobate from your work in progress. Mine is a right evil so and so, from A Raging Madness, caught in the act of compromising my heroine.

An instant before the drug in the drink hit her, she saw the flare of triumph in Mrs Fullerton’s eyes, and knew she had made a mistake. She opened her mouth to shout for Alex, but suddenly the footman had a hand over her mouth and another under her elbow, and was hustling, half carrying her through the door Mrs Fullerton held open.

“I will give you a few minutes to make it look good,” she said, and whipped out of the room, shutting the door behind her.

Ella was struggling against the footman and the fog trying to close in on her mind, the dizziness that wanted to consume her. She stamped at his foot, kicked back at his chin, but her soft indoor slippers made no impression. She squirmed, trying to jab her free arm as low as possible, and he twisted away with an oath, pushing her from him so that she fell face forward onto a sofa.

In an instant he was on her, tugging her head back by the hair, straddling her torso. “This will do well enough,” he commented, lifting himself enough that he could push up her skirt and petticoats.

Ella fought to retain consciousness, the pain of her pulled hair helping to keep her from sinking into the fog. “Scream,” she instructed herself, as her assailant’s free hand fumbled at her buttocks, and she shrieked as loud as she could.

Doors burst open: the one onto the hall and a double set into the drawing room next door, and the room filled with people.

It was her worst nightmare come again: the indrawn breaths of shock, the buzz of excited comments, the avid staring eyes. The last thing Ella heard before she sank into oblivion was the amused drawl of the man on her back. “Oh dear, Lady Melville. It seems we have been caught.”


Building a village

renbridge-landscapeA couple of weeks ago, I wrote the arrival of my hero and heroine of A Raging Madness at the tumble-down Renwater Grange, the estate gifted to Alex by a grateful king. They woke up the next morning, went for a walk to investigate the stables, and met the husband of their temporary housekeeper. And then I got stuck.

renwater-stablesI knew where the house was; in the village of Renbridge, in the Lincolnshire dales. I’d done quite a bit of research about agriculture and horse breeding in the dales, and the type of land ownership and architecture. But who lived in Renbridge? What were their names, their characters, their habits and their interrelationships?

I realise that most of the villagers won’t have a mention in the book, and that even those who wriggle their way into the first draft might be cut in the second. But I have no idea which ones are a permanent part of the story, and—in any case—their existence, mentioned or not, is texture in the background. Who are these people?

So for the past fortnight, I’ve been writing a village. I thought you might like to see the raw results.

Renbridge village

10.2 miles from Horncastle, 6.9 miles from Louth, 8.7 miles from Alford

The church and rectory

renbridge-churchThe church is St Ninians, the living is at the gift of the King as Duke of Lancaster. The Rector is Reverend Daniel Morris, a single man, an elderly widower with no children. His housekeeper is Mrs Kelk,  wife of his handyman and general servant. He also has an all purpose maid, Aggie Nevis. Mr Morris (74),  Kelk (56), Mrs Kelk (57) (the five Kelk children are all gone — two dead as children, a boy and a girl, one married and in Alford, one in the army, and one in the US after a run in with the law). Aggie (48) never married, has been with the living longer than the others.

Mr Morris is kindly, scholastic, and sharp as a tack. Very social, has a lovely little dog that he takes walking. He is a classics scholar with a speciality in Republican Rome and takes students. One is currently living across the road with the Mullens.

The inn

renbridge-innInnkeeper is Silas Hancock (48), and his wife Betsy (46). They have grown sons and a daughter who also work at the inn. Sons are Fred (27), Sam (25) and Dick (19). Their daughter is Mattie (19). Four children died between Sam and Dick, two during a village cholera epidemic, one of smallpox, and one in an accident. Dick and Mattie are twins. Also various servants who may or may not get names. Fred manages the stables with Dick’s help. Silas is mine host. Betsy and Mattie rule the kitchen. Mattie is being courted by a farmer’s son. Inn has been in the Hancock family for generations.

The inn, church, and grange are on the Y intersection.

Cottages on the road to Alford

Mirs Rycroft lives in a substantial detached cottage.

Mirs Rycroft lives in a substantial detached cottage.

On the road to Alford between the church and the grange are three cottages, all detached. On the east of the road, next to the rectory, is the Fox house, then Widow Bycroft’s cottage, then the bridge over the Ren. On the west of the road next to the bridge is the Broadley cottage. The rest of the west is grange land.

The Fox family is large and unruly. Jeb Fox (35) is a drunkard and a lout. He does farm labour when he can get it, but most of the farmers around will only use him if they have to, as he cannot be relied on.  Pansy Fox  (28) takes in washing, cleans, and (it is rumoured) supplements her income by lifting her skirts. Fox beats her when he suspects such a thing, and so her lovers are circumspect, but she has 7 children to feed, and those are just the survivors. She has buried 4, two in the same cholera epidemic as the Hancocks.  The children are one a year, 11, 10, 9, 7, 6, 3, 1, with the dead ones fitting in the gaps. She is pregnant again. Not all of the children look like her or Fox.

The widow, Harriet Rycroft (61) lives in a house that is slightly more substantial than a cottage.  She and her maid of all work and dear friend, Jane Harper (59), came here from far away and have lived quietly in the village for 25 years.  The villagers would be surprised to know that they are retired prostitutes. They often give work to Pansy Fox, but pay her in food and clothing. Mrs Rycroft runs a dame school for the village children.

A visual reference for Renwater Grange

A visual reference for Renwater Grange

The Broadleys are both from families that have long been in the area. Jack Broadley (47) is a farm labourer, a large quiet man that will turn his hand to most things. Because work is scarce in the area and farmers can usually take their pick, it is significant that he is usually among the first chosen. Bee Broadley (Phoebe, 43) is Silas Hancock’s sister. She has been hired as temporary housekeeper at the grange, and is the first person Alex and Ella meet when they arrive. The Broadleys have one son (John, 24), who was impressed by the navy but who loves the life, and a daughter (Molly, 22) who has married a local farmer.

A row of cottages on the road to Horncastle

renbridge-row-of-cottagesOn the road to Horncastle, the grange takes up the northwest side of the road, and there is a row of three cottages on the southeast, with the Roses, Mullens, and Pecks.

Bill Rose (67) runs the village shop, with the support of his two daughters, Martha (34) and Jemima (32).  His wife died when the girls were teens. Bill’s son Willy married and moved away  years ago. Willy is horse mad, used to work in the inn stables, and took a job to be closer to horses. The innkeeper, Bill, is in failing health and Willy wants to be closer, so will apply for job as stable master. Bill has chased off any suitors for his daughters, so they are still single. They are involved in all village activities, especially church activities.

George Mullen (27) and his wife Millie (20) are newly weds. He is a farm labourer, son of farm labourers from another village closer to Alford. She is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Hewitt, who live further along the road. They can only afford the cottage because they have a gentleman boarder, a scholar who is studying with Mr Morris. He is a young man who hopes to take religious orders, which will work better if he can keep his eyes of Mattie Hancock. Peregrine Fairweather (23) is the second son of a family of comfortably situated gentry, and a nice enough young fellow.

Matthew Peck (56) and his two sisters Katie (57) and Pauline (59) live in the last cottage on the way out of the village. Matthew is a farm labourer. Katie and Pauline do piece work for a dressmaker in Hardcastle.

Cottages on the road to Louth

renbridge-smithyLeading out of the village to the east on the Louth road, the Arnotts and the Hills are on the north side in detached cottages.

Charlie Arnott  (48) is the village smith, and also the verger. His father, also Charlie (78) was both of these things before him but is now suffering from dementia. His mother Maggie (67) looks after Charlie and also helps with the house and children. Charlie is a widower, his wife having died in childbed some 10 years ago, leaving four children: Charles Jnr, who is 19 and his father’s apprentice, Becky (16), Tom (14) and Ben (12).

Nathan Hill (34) and his wife Lucy (28) live in the eastmost cottage with children Fanny (6), Jenny (4),  Ninian (2), and Lucy is heavily pregnant. Nathan is a carpenter and general handyman. Lucy spins, sews, and makes bonnets to supplement the family income.

The remaining villagers, the Woods, Farrows, Hewitts, and Dodds,  live in the row of cottages on the south side of the Louth road.

Moses Wood (46), the carter, is married to Hester (39). They have one son, Aaron, who is in the army (22). Hester is a baker at the inn.

There';; be work for bricklayers and carpenters up at the Grange

There’ll be work for bricklayers and carpenters up at the Grange

Tim Farrow (36) is a farm labourer living with his mother,  Alice Farrow (61). He was a rival for Lucy Hill’s hand and has been miserably single ever since.  Jemima Rose has hopes of him, but he hasn’t noticed.

Ted (62) and Mary (61) Hewitt are the parents of a large brood, mostly dispersed. Millie is the youngest, and recently married George Mullen.  They also have 3 sons and 2 other daughters, as well as 2 who died as children. The eldest is  Eddie, 34, an assistant stable master in Hardcastle. Mary-Kate (31) is married to one of Alex’s tenant farmers.  Suzy (27) went into service and is now assistant housekeeper for a baron near Lincoln. Twin brothers Wally and Bart (23) both live at home and are farm labourers with their father. Mary helps out at the inn.

Gabe Dodd (38) and his wife Abbie (35) live in the last cottage on the road to Louth.  They have three children, Matthew (10), Mark (7), and Luke (4).  Abbie has just discovered that she is with child again, but has not yet told anyone because she is prone to miscarriage. Gabe is a builder/bricklayer.

Five farms pay rental to Alex

renbridge-farmhouseJerry Ashton (62) and his wife Agnes (58) are Lucy Hill’s parents. They also have two sons who work the land with their father,  Frank (34) and Harry (31). Both are married, Frank to Nan (28) – two small children, 5 and 3—and Harry to Dinah (27, and Nan’s sister)—two small children, 3 and newborn.

Jonas Catchpole (43) and his wife Clara (46) live with Clara’s elderly parents (Seth 74 and Mary 71). Their one daughter is married to Rafe Bracey.  They have a live-in farm worker, Johnny Harper (32) who had hoped to marry Rachel himself.

Billy Horrell (52) is a widower with two grown sons. William (28) is single and Henry (25) recently married Molly Broadley

Rafe Bracy (33) is married to Rachel (21), the daughter of the Catchpoles. Rafe and Rachel live with Rafe’s brother Mike (35), who is a widower with two small children (7 and 3). Rafe was in the army, but returned home when his brother’s wife Mary died.

Ambrose West (39) lives with his sister Heloise (37). He is sweet on Martha Rose, and has been since they were children. Their mother was gentry who married down. She is a doddery old woman of 66, who sews by the fire and occasionally discomforts people by noticing what is going on. They hire their farm labour from the village.


Running away very very slowly

xa6t0jrcjgosmeiapcjbThis is a rerun of a post I wrote for Caroline Warfield’s Highlighting Historical Research blog, several months ago.

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 my current work-in-progress, 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?

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. (And, no, it was not called shrapnel at the time.)

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. 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.

The narrowboats were designed at the maximum size to fit in the smallest locks. An inch too big, and they couldn’t go wherever they needed to for the operator to earn his living. The early designers decided on a boat around seven foot wide, up to ten times as long as wide, and drawing about three feet of water when fully loaded.

The narrowboats were designed at the maximum size to fit in the smallest locks. An inch too big, and they couldn’t go wherever they needed to for the operator to earn his living. The early designers decided on a boat around seven foot wide, up to ten times as long as wide, and drawing about three feet of water when fully loaded.

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.

Most of the boat was given over to cargo, covered by canvas. In the cabin at the rear, everything did double service, with fold down beds and tables. Some boats also had a small cabin at the bow.

Most of the boat was given over to cargo, covered by canvas. In the cabin at the rear, everything did double service, with fold down beds and tables. Some boats also had a small cabin at the bow.

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

A healthy strong horse was vital. Each horse needed a stall in a stable each night, and copious quantities of high energy food.

A healthy strong horse was vital. Each horse needed a stall in a stable each night, and copious quantities of high energy food.

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.


Danger on WIP Wednesday

pexels-photo-110089I’ve been summarising the scenes in A Raging Madness so that I can map them against the internal and external journey of my hero and heroine, as I did with Revealed in Mist. I came across the excerpt below, and decided to share it with you. A moment of danger for my heroine; and this is only the first in a book of them.

Please share your excerpts showing your hero or heroine putting themselves at risk, whether physical risk, risk of rejection or scorn, or whatever you like. Here’s mine.

As soon as the key turned in the lock, Ella slid out of bed to find the chamber pot, and spit the remaining laudanum into it. She washed her mouth once, twice, three times. She had ingested a little—enough to further fog her brain, but not enough to douse the sharp flame of purpose. She had to get away. She had to escape. She had no idea why her brother and sister-in-law were keeping her alive, but she could not count on it continuing.

The room moved a little, wavering at the edges, and Ella wanted nothing more than to crawl back onto the bed and let the dreams come. Did it matter, after all? What good did it do to struggle?

No one in this village would help her, as she had found when they brought her out to display her before the squire and, on another occasion, the rector. She had been drugged both times, of course. She had been drugged these past four weeks. But when she told them, they patted her hand soothingly, looked at her jailers with sympathy, and went away shaking their heads.

But this evening, standing in the shadow of the curtain peering out to see the funeral goers returning to the house, she had seen him. Major Alexander Redepenning. Alex. Perhaps he was just a dream sent by the opium to torture her with hope, but if he were truly here, he would help her. She had to escape now. Tonight.

Alex was a stubborn, opinionated, arrogant fool—and what he had said to her last time they met still scalded her with shame and anger every time she thought of him. But he had known her since she was a child, and he would not abandon her to whatever the Braxtons planned.

She could not run away in her shift, but they had left her no clothes. A blanket? She could wrap a blanket around herself against the chill air.

If she could just open this window without making a noise… So. One obstacle overcome. She dropped the blanket to the ground below. Now she needed to climb from the second floor, dizzy and confused as she was, walk to the village, and find Alex. He would be staying at the inn, surely? He would not have gone on tonight?

She had heard he had been injured; seen the difficulty with which he had descended from his chaise, leaning heavily on his groom. He would not want to travel on tonight. He had to be there at the inn. He had to be willing to help her.


Entertainments on WIP Wednesday

_DDI5334At the weekend, I attended a workshop on Regency dance at the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference. And on the way home, I read Mary Balogh’s Only Beloved, which is partly set at a house party, where people find ways to entertain one another and themselves.

No tv, no internet, no radio. If you wanted music, you sang or played an instrument. The local sporting events were keenly followed. And gathering together often meant long journeys, so once people arrived, they made the most of it. The tutor at the dance class suggested that balls finished in the early hours of the morning, because people didn’t want to go home until dawn lit the sky and made travelling easier, and I’ve read that many country assemblies were scheduled for the two or three days around a full moon.

For today’s work-in-progress Wednesday, I have an excerpt from A Raging Madness. Alex and his family are taking Ella out in London. But any type of leisure activity anywhere in time or place is welcome. I’ll show you mine and you show me yours.

The event was a ball at Haverford House, a monstrous palace of a place and the home of the Duke of Haverford and his duchess. The Duchess of Haverford was an old friend of Lord Henry’s and welcomed Ella warmly.

“Henry has told me what you did for Alex, Lady Melville, and,” she gave her hand to Alex who bowed over it with courtly grace, “I can see for myself how much improved you are, you rogue. Lady Melville, you have my gratitude and my support.”

Her Grace was supported in the receiving line by the notorious Marquis of Aldridge, who greeted Alex with a nod, Susan with a peck on the cheek, and Ella with an elegant bow.

“I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Lady Melville,” he said, and Alex stiffened beside her, but the man’s flirting did not bother Ella. It was an automaton’s reflex, with no predator’s purpose behind it. Lord Aldridge was not interested in her.

Ella’s mourning precluded dancing, but she enjoyed watching the colourful couples turning and swooping in the patterns of the dance.

“Dance if you wish, Alex,” she told her escort when Susan had been swept onto the floor by a naval captain she knew. But Alex demurred. “I am claiming privilege of injury, Ella, and will beg you to come sit by me and keep me entertained while I rest.”

He did not look strained, or in pain. “Is your leg troubling you?” she asked, but he did not answer directly.

“Last time I danced, I could not walk at all. Did I tell you? I took to the floor in an invalid’s chair, with Jonno to provide the push.” He grinned at the memory. “Great fun, it was, with my partner standing on the platform of the chair to be twirled. It did not end well, sadly. A villain sabotaged the chair while I was at supper, and it collapsed as I threaded the line.”

He chose an alcove where they could continue to watch the dancers, and he told her more about his adventures in the resurrected chair.

“You may meet the maker when you come to Longford for Christmas. She is a frequent guest at the Court, I understand.”

Ella was intrigued. A maker of invalids’ chairs who was not only a welcome visitor to an earl and his countess but also a woman?


The villain’s sidekick

Ella's attacker The Maid George Lambert 1915Do you have a villain or villainess, out to wreak havoc in your protagonists’ lives? Or even just a slightly negative character who throws stumbling blocks in the way of their desires and intentions?

We’ve had villains before, so I thought today, I’d go down a step. Just as heroes and heroines have secondary characters to support them, so do most antagonists. Share an excerpt about one of the people who backs up your spoilsport, gossip, or outright villain.

Mine is from the first few pages of A Raging Madness. As you’ll see, Kerridge is dresser to Constance, Ella’s sister-in-law, and the wicked woman’s accomplice.

laudanum1Kerridge brought Ella’s evening dose of laudanum. Presumably Constance believed that Ella was still under the influence of the measure forced down her throat this morning, and would swallow Kerridge’s without offering a struggle.

Even though she’d managed to dribble at least part of what she secreted in her cheeks onto the pillow without Constance noticing, she was still mazed. Another dose would take her under, but Kerridge resented being forced to a task so beneath her dignity as a dresser, and would do no more than watch to see that Ella took the dose into her mouth. She would not insist on waiting until Ella swallowed, would not pinch her nose and hold her jaw shut.

Being too meek would be suspicious. Ella turned her head away from the spoon, her teeth clenched shut, but yelped at Kerridge’s sharp pinch and the dresser immediately forced the spoon into Ella’s mouth.

Glaring sullenly, she stopped struggling, and the dresser withdrew the spoon, stretching her thin lips into a smug smile.

Ella asleep“There, Lady Melville. This would go more easily for you if you would just do what you are told,” she said.

She turned to measure a second spoonful, and Ella let the first out of her mouth. The pillow reeked of the pernicious stuff, and still had damp patches though she dried it by the fire at every chance she had. She accepted the second mouthful without a struggle. Had she swallowed the first, she would be totally compliant by now, and Kerridge did not question her sudden obedience, but picked up the bottle and left the room.

As soon as the key turned in the lock, Ella slid out of bed to find the chamber pot, and spit the remaining laudanum into it. She washed her mouth once, twice, three times. She had ingested a little—enough to further fog her brain, but not enough to douse the sharp flame of purpose. She had to get away. She had to escape. She had no idea why her brother and sister-in-law were keeping her alive, but she could not count on it continuing.