My daughter was very naughty this weekend. I won’t pretend that this is particularly unusual because only a few weeks ago she decided she’d had enough of exploring the stone grotto at one of our local country parks, and shot off into the woodland with me following (with the pram) in hot pursuit. Having abandoned the pram (and my younger daughter) I caught up with just after she’d tripped over the top of the bank and gone skidding down the muddy surface, twigs in her hair, nose rutting into the dirt. But this time, at the same park (what can I say, I don’t learn my lesson) she disappeared into a huge bank of Rhododendrons. My husband dived after her, with our one year old in his arms, and we all spent the next fifteen minutes of a very hot day crawling in the undergrowth trying to find each other.
The following extract is from Braving Madness where the rather drunken heroine, Betty, is being naughty in a very different way.
She was closing in on him. “I have no intention of sleeping. I intend on being naughty. It sounds most intriguing and as you are a rake you must be more than qualified to teach me in the ways of naughtiness.”
Her legs gave way beneath her and Edward only just caught her before she hit the floor.
“You may carry me if you wish.” Her lips tickled his ear with each word. Edward groaned. There was only so much a man could stand.
He staggered despite the fact she weighed nothing in his arms, his head spinning. He mustn’t look down. Looking down at the completely naked and extremely willing young lady in his arms was bound to be a bad idea. With lurching steps, he made it to the bed at the same time as her arms snaked around his neck and she planted a kiss on the underside of his throat.
She wasn’t playing fair.
With the weather being so fine, I’ve been spending a lot of time outside with the girls. And early morning is my favourite time to venture out to find fresh air. The grass is still damp with dew, and at this time of year, the low sun casts a dappled light through branches filled with newly formed leaves. We sit at the edge of the shadows, legs stretched out into the sun, enjoying the contrasts of the warming rays and the cool residue of the evening, knowing in a few short hours the decking will be transformed into a baking expanse and we’ll be forced to seek shelter inside. But for just that moment, it is perfect.
And then of course we go and build sandcastles. Who wouldn’t?
This extract is from Braving Madness, and the hero Edward has just dared Betty to an early morning waltz.
She rested her fingers on his shoulder like a wild bird poised for flight, her whole body taught with tension. Not unlike his own. If she’d stroked him he would vibrated like a violin string.
He groaned inwardly. Thinking about her stroking him had been a bad idea. “Ready?” he said in a strangled voice. “Der da da, der da da, der da da.”
Feeling the rhythm, Edward swept Betty in the dance, petticoats whirling about his legs, the decorative tassels of his Hessians swinging drunkenly about his shins.
She looked at him, a smile playing about the corners of her full rose lips and he was undone. He’d heard the phrase many times but he’d never fully comprehended the feeling. He-was-undone. Utterly undone. So utterly undone he nearly lost his footing. Gravel crunched beneath his feet, his boots crushing grass stiff with frost in the shadows.
I enjoy adding the occasional baddy to my stories, someone determined to throw a spanner in the works and make my heroine and heroes life just that little bit more difficult. But just because they’re a baddy doesn’t mean they have to fall into the typical stereotype. Baddies are entitled to smile without needing to throw back their heads and cackle in a downright evil manner. They can be clean shaven and well groomed without looking as they’ve spent several hours in front of the mirror choosing just the right outfit to do their evil-doings. They don’t have to stand out. They can sidle amongst the rest of the crowd, waiting for just the right moment.
In the following extract from Braving Madness, the hero, Edward, finally gets to meet the notorious Lord Curzon.
A man in his late thirties stepped over the threshold, smartly dressed in pale pantaloons and a charcoal grey coat with two neat lines of horn buttons. There was nothing offensive about his looks or manner of dress.
Somehow Edward had expected beetle-like black eyebrows and a scowling countenance. Hell, his mental image of Lord Curzon had featured pasty skin and oily hair. The evil-blackguard brought to life and nothing like the innocuous gentleman, with neatly combed silver hair, currently coming forward to greet him.
There are only a couple of times in my whole life where I can remember seeing my dad wearing a tie. One of those times was at my wedding and the tie featured Mr Funny, a character from the Mr Men, which says everything you need to know about the man. But nestled under a starched collar and against the expanse of smooth cotton, a neatly knotted tie is the finishing touch to a gentleman’s outfit. And a cravat beats a tie hands down every time.
There are so many more possibilities. Between the Regency gentlemen’s stand-up collar and the inviting v of his silk waistcoat, there is sufficient space for a multitude of folds and knots; the mail coach tie, the oriental, even the mathematical should one have sufficient skill.
The following extract from Braving Madness, Betty is more concerned in the removal of Edward’s necktie.
His cravat loosened and she tugged at the fabric eagerly with both hands. Edward broke off the kiss, his hand to his throat.
“What, strangulation next?” he gasped. “Is there no end to the torture?” Now able to see what she was doing, Betty grasped the end of the black tie and with one sharp pull the fabric slithered from away from his collar. In triumphant glee she flung it over her shoulder.
“There was no cause to throw a perfectly good necktie into the bathtub,” Edward said, only inches away from her ears, his lips nuzzling her skin, stubble from beard scratching her skin only to be kissed better with the soft heat of his mouth.
Well, not tights exactly, but the Regency pantaloons were cut so closely they might as well have been. Other than for formal wear, gone were the days of the looser fitting breeches. Instead wool, linen, cotton or buckskin hugged a gentleman’s legs leaving little to the imagination. And this was in the days before the invention of elastic and lycra, meaning that if they were tight while a man was standing, sitting down would not be comfortable experience.
In fact these trousers were so revealing that some men took to the habit of stuffing their trousers with sawdust and padding to create a shapelier outline, assuming one believes curvy legs on a man to be the height of masculinity. I don’t suppose it is so very different than the padded bras of today, but somehow I can’t quite see my husband in a pair of them. Not that he couldn’t pull it off of course.
Here is an extract from Braving Madness where Betty gets the opportunity to admire Edward’s pantaloons up close.
His legs had looked good in silk breeches but it was nothing compared to the pantaloons he now wore. The button band fastened tightly about his bulging calves and the black wool hugged his thighs.
She continued to lift her gaze, travelling upwards to unseen territory. She gulped. She might never have seen a man naked, but the fabric outlined his… body so tightly she had little use for her imagination.
But he was just a man. It was only that she had so little experience of gentlemen. If you discounted her father and her loathsome cousin, whom she couldn’t, wouldn’t count, Edward was the first gentleman she’d ever really met. She was bound to be a bit taken back and shortness of breath was only natural under the circumstances.
Having grown up with the common garden variety of English macaroon, the type you can use as a doorstep, heavy with sugar and even heavier with coconut, the French-style macaroons eaten during the Regency period seem like a very different beast. Stiffly beaten egg white, whisked with boiling sugar and mixed with almond paste and all manners of delicious flavours, these little cakes look like heaven in a mouthful.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with meringues. I’ll make a whole tray full and they’ll be perfect; crisp and light with that delicious chewy bit in the middle, and then the next time the eggs sit at the bottom of the bowl and the prospect of ‘soft peaks’ is just a joke. A bit of yolk in the mix, a less than scrupulously clean bowl or just plain sulky egg whites, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s simply to make me appreciate those perfect meringues when it does go right. Or maybe those are the days I should have gone for the doorstops.
Here is an extract from Braving Madness where Edward has discovers an unexpected treat.
Edward slumped against the cold wall and allowed his hands to drift to his coat-pocket which were filled with… cakes? It had been an eventful evening. He pulled out two slightly crumbling macaroons, both carefully wrapped in cloth. On closer inspection it turned out to be his cravat. He should have guessed.
“Macaroon?” He held out a cake to her. “I’ve heard sugar is supposed to be good for shock.”
Her eyebrows lifted but her hand shot out to take the offering. “You carry them around with you?”
“What can I say? I was peckish. Bride hunting does that to a man.” It could be true. There were a few points in the evening that he was a bit vague about.