Category Archives: Historical Romance

And I’m published!

Whoop whoop! Sunday saw the release of my debut novel, Lady Betty and the Bonnet from Hell. To say I’m pleased would be rather a big understatement. 🙂

I’ve rather neglected this blog since the birth of the twins, but I shall endeavour to post more frequently from now on.

Lady Betty and the Bonnet from Hell is available to buy from Amazon kindle here.

P1040400 ps 6 copy

My rather lovely front cover. 🙂

And I’ll leave you with the blurb…

If Lady Betty had been freckle free, Lord Edward Carrington wouldn’t be in a carriage with her, border bound, hoping to flirt his way out of the parson’s trap.
Edward needs a bride or he’ll be disinherited. Responsible for an estate, he needs to fall on his sword and marry but his shadowed bloodline doesn’t bode well. Looking after people is his job. He’s good at it. He’s not so good at asking for help; especially if it means letting his future wife watch him die.
Losing a loved one breaks people; Betty’s seen it happen. Marrying will let her escape the mausoleum her father has turned their home into, but she needs a husband she won’t mind losing. With only one man to choose from, Edward seems perfect until she realises she’s found her first true friend. A friend capable of making her toes curl.
Bonnet eating sheep, mid-road waltzes and duels at dawn; a fifty-fifty chance of losing each other in the future is nothing compared to what tomorrow holds.

 


One Stitch at a Time

This week, thanks to my mum, I’ve been indulging in a bit of quilting. I enjoy quilting but recently I’ve struggled to find the energy to get on with a quilt I started for my eldest daughter over a year ago. My mum came over this week and kindly made me a little box up of all the quilting essentials; reels of cotton, thimbles, pins and scissors. She dug through my quilting fabric stash and cut out little pieces so that I could just collapse in an evening and pick up a bit of sewing.

And I’d forgotton how much I enjoy quilting. I really do. It somehow feels so well… historical. Like each stitch ties me closer to all my quilting ancestors. I’m not putting it very well, but whenever I sit down to doing some handsewing I can’t help thinking of how long people have been doing the same thing.

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Here are all the blocks I’ve done so far on Ellie’s quilt.
The row of snails are my favourite.

My mum taught me to quilt, although I tend to actually quilt in a more relaxed (read lazy or haphazard) way without the complications of freezer papers, rotary cutters and rulers, but most importantly she taught me to appreciate quilts and the effort that goes into them. I still have the first quilt she made me, a quilt that each day my children either make a den with, or pretend to go to sleep under, and I often curl up under in an evening.

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This is one of my many quilts that my mum has sewn for me. This one is an album quilt and contains things that have been important to me along with quilting, from tailors dummies, planets (from when I worked in the space industry), shoes and teacups.

Writing wise, I am still scribbling away despite the bags under my eyes through lack of sleep. Here’s a snippet from Braving Madness, fabric orientated…

She unfastened the cord of the reticule Wilkins had given her; a bag left behind by some unknown woman, a whimsical concoction of pale blue silk, printed with blushing roses and edged in peach ribbon.

She should have kept her own sturdy bag, taupe never showed stains when travelling. This was also far too small; there had barely been enough room for her notebook. Obviously fashionable ladies thought nothing of function when they were selecting their frivolous trimmings, a fact that didn’t promise well for the spare clothes Wilkins had packed.


Losing my Chauffeur

My chauffeur driven days are coming to an end. The twins are now six weeks old (doesn’t time fly!) so I am now officially classed as safe to drive. I’m not entirely certain that any sleep-deprived-mother with four small children/babies strapped in the back is ever really safe to drive but I’m a willing to give it a shot. Any moaning from the rear seats and I just turn the music up, right? 🙂

But it is an end of an era. What with having these last six weeks and about 7 weeks before then when I was too damn big to fit behind the wheel, I’ve been chauffeured about by either my husband or my dad forever. And I must say, it’s been rather nice, quite like the lady of the manor. Admittedly the seats aren’t upholstered in velvet, are always forward facing, and no hot bricks have been placed under my feet but I have just climbed on board (at various points in time this has constituted a task of monumental proportions), pointed the way and snuggled down to watch the world go by.
But as of monday, I, yes little old me, am responsible for the nursery trips again. I am responsible for getting two six week olds, a two year old and a four year old, in and out of the car, into the pram, to the nursery and back home again, TWICE a day. Gosh. I’m not up to getting the big pram in and out of the car yet, so I’m stuck with a double buggy, which means I will be holding two little people’s hands while pushing said pram. Fun fun fun.

I’m sure it will be fine. What can go wrong after all? Anyway best get on with my day considering it is getting on and I am sat in my dressing gown eating cereal out of the box with only vague thoughts about getting a shower…

Here’s a snippet from this week. I’m still rewriting Braving Madness and this is from the first chapter…

Even at the edge of awakening, the nightmare refused to release its hold. All of Edward’s doubts and fears multiplied in the darkness of his mind until the terror grew beyond reason. Gaunt to the point of cadaverous, with skin like paper, his late father’s form swam before Edward’s eyes, only to be crowded by the familiar faces of the Carrington estate. From the defenceless newly born to their weary elders, each pair of eyes looked to him for security, confident he wouldn’t shirk his responsibility; that no gentleman would put aside every rule instilled into him from the cradle through his own fears for the future.

2013-05-17 08.53.18This is my other mode of transport. My ‘big guns’ pram. You can just feel the burn, can’t you.

More and more nappies…

As you can imagine my life at the minute mainly consists of adjusting to having an extra couple of mouths to feed and bums to wipe. It feels rather odd to be responsible for quite so many little people especially when I ended up being incapable of very much at all (other than waddling) for the last two months of my pregnancy. Four, four years and under. What was I thinking????2013-05-07 17.12.00

 

(Yeah the school run is going to be a piece of piss...)

But I am enjoying it, and surprisingly, even with twins, the new additions are fitting well into our everyday routines. My older two love the babies and help out when they can. All of which means that I am actually getting on with other things. This morning I was even thinking about putting the second coat of paint on the dining room walls. Obviously this was just a fleeting thought though and I have no intention of actually hunting out a brush. But the thought is a good step in the right direction.

The garden has also been calling out for attention, with some rather cheeky buttercups deciding to take over the middle of my flower beds. Considering I haven’t gardened in about six months, I am surprising there hasn’t been a complete takeover by the dreaded weeds. So this weekend, weather permitting, I am hoping to get out there and show them who is boss. I also with an eye to the approaching summer holidays, I have plans of building a climbing frame for the girls. Alright, I have plans for supervising the building of a climbing frame for the girls. 😉 See, I’m trying to have realistic aims. I will need to move a few plants to make space and I think that is probably about my level. I shalln’t be digging out the power tools just yet…

Anyway, I have actually managed to get some writing done this week so here is a snippet to share. This is from Braving Madness and is in Edward’s POV. This is a new start to the story and forms part of Betty and Edward’s first meeting.

The dream shattered and he jerked awake into darkness.

His face lay shrouded and with fragments of the nightmare splintering his common sense, he clawed at the fabric with frantic fingers, the heat from his own breath reflecting back at him with a suffocating closeness. He flung the object to the side and he gulped in clear, fresh air like a drowning man.

Fresh air?

He blinked his eyes open into a pearl grey sky, the view unfettered by glass or window frames. Recumbent as he was, on a surface hard enough to be a park bench, the whole hemisphere of the heavens were open to him, skeletal trees on the horizons grasping upwards with desperate gnarled branches while ink smudged clouds tore along the backdrop like breaking water, turbulent and heavy with the threat of rain, their undersides glowing a fiery red as if they had were escaping from the depths of hell itself.


What a waste…

Are any of you out there hoarders?

My husband is a hoarder. My in-laws are extreme hoarders. But I would have said that I wasn’t a hoarder, that I was good at making sure I only kept the minimum of what I needed.

Ha.

Since finding out I am expecting twins, I, with a LOT of help from my family (thank you!) have been clearing the house to make enough room for everyone. And sure, there are boxes and boxes of junk interesting belongings of my husband, from empty boxes of things we no longer have, to all manners of things he thinks he might use ONE day. But in a way I am just as bad. My actual belongings are fairly neat and I don’t tend to double up on things, but as I go through drawers and boxes etc, I seem to find things like a carefully stored, empty bag of wine gums. An empty sweetie bag. Right. So it appears that I hoard rubbish. Yesterday I went through the cupboards under the sink and generated a bag of rubbish and I mean that literally. Likewise with the medicine cabinet, after I threw away half the empty boxes, the cupboard was practically empty. It’s bizarre.

This is what I hoard. There's no way I can pretend I am really planning on using an empty sweetie packet...

This is what I hoard. There’s no way I can pretend I am really planning on using an empty sweetie packet…

So it appears that I need to stand up, hang my head and admit I collect rubbish. That for some reason I’ve found it easier to find storage space for rubbish rather than just chucking it in the bin to start off with. I am a rubbish hoarder.

So I am turning over a new leaf. Rubbish goes straight in the bin. No messing. Out it goes. Even if I have to get in the bin and jump up and down to squash it all down to fit. (Probably won’t do that just yet due to immense size of stomach, see whale post…)

Now what I am supposed to do is find a link to my current work-in-progress. About rubbish. Hmmmm… Okay this passage has the word ‘waste’ in it. Is that good enough? In this snippet from Held in the Balance, Simon (Lord Curzon) is talking to his cousin Betty’s new husband.

Simon gave his usual small smile. “Fortunately I wasn’t cursed with an extended family, but I was perfectly willing to marry Betty and she’s my only cousin.”

“I can’t say I’m unhappy matters didn’t work out for you in that regard.”

Surprisingly neither was he, although he cringed to think of that final scene between Betty and him where he had but laid his heart out on the sleeve for her. A waste of time considering the strength of feeling she had for the other man. He hadn’t stood a chance. They had danced together, Betty in a gown of the midnight blue, the fabric encrusted with gemstones so she might have dropped down from heaven for the night. He had almost been afraid to touch her.

Now muslin and silks swirled about the ballroom in front of them as another waltz took hold, some couples stiff and formal, bodies held at arms-length, others so close as to be scandalous, pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. His own dance with Miss Taunton had definitely veered in that direction, no concern for her fragility held him back this evening. She was a world apart from his cousin.

I was thinking this kind of colour for her dress, liberally encrusted with tiny crystals...

I was thinking this kind of colour for her dress, liberally encrusted with tiny crystals…

 


Relaxing Whale

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet on here of late. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole twin pregnancy, both in terms of my huge whale-like proportions and of the amount of preparation that’s needed doing. But finally things are starting to get better. I’ve obviously still whale like, and I can’t imagine how big I’m going to get but I’m definitely as big as I was when I was full term with my youngest and I still technically have just under three months left. Eek!

This is how big I feel

This is how big I feel

But on the up side, the nursery is decorated and ready, cots are ready, my husband just paid for a new-to-me big seven seater car to fit everyone in, I have both a buggy to fit twins and a fantastic big pram that will fit in my two year old as well, the housework is just about under control, and I am finally starting to feel more relaxed and happy to put my feet up and wait for these two little miracles to finish getting big enough to put in an appearance.

This is what I shall be doing as often as I can

This is what I shall be doing as often as I can

Which means that I finally have time to get on with some writing. Hurrah. So this last week I have written over 1000 words. Alright, 1000 words is small fry compared to some of the figures other writers manage to rack up, but it’s a hell of a lot better than I’ve managed of late and that makes me very happy.

So who cares if my word count is the equivalent of a small fish in a big pond. At least I'm swimming.

So who cares if my word count is the equivalent of a small fish in a big pond. At least I’m swimming.

So here’s a snippet from Held in the Balance with Lydia and Simon’s first kiss.

She traced her fingers along the pronounced line of his cheek bone, around the curve of his earlobe before grasping strands of hair into her fist and pulling his head closer. This time he did respond, deepening the kiss, pushing her back against the door, hard enough to send a fleeting worry through her mind about the strength of the door-catch.

Slow and steadily he possessed her mouth, as if there were all the time in the world, his dominating confidence sufficient to make her toes curl within the confines of her slippers. She would have expected such arrogance to make her want to push him away but instead she melted into him, relaxing against the firm plane of his chest, her free hand gripping his shoulder to prevent her knees from giving way beneath her. She surrendered herself to the kiss, to the sensations tumbling through her and blinked open eyes drugged with pleasure as Simon pulled away.


Needle and thread

This week I’ve had a little industry set up making baby dungarees. With a boy to sew for, my fabric choices have suddenly boomed. Not that I’ve always had my two little girls dressed head to toe in pink, but there is a bit of a princess/flower/teddy theme for the most part. No more. Super fabric is made for boys, from tanks and trains to material covered with all types of creepy crawlies realistic enough to have any mother in a flap batting them away. This time I settled for one with cars, one with chocolates, two french fashion prints and an emergency service print. Pretty exciting.

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Sadly I don’t tend to have the time to make my own clothes. When I did, I used to make myself a fair few period clothes. I like the individuality of making and designing clothes, to know I’m never going to meet anyone wearing the same dress or shirt.

I do wonder sometimes whether that would have happened to any of the tonne. Would any of the ladies recoiled in horror as the entered the ballroom as another woman waltzed past them wearing the exact same dress. It seems pretty unlikely. I think any modiste worth her salt wouldn’t do exact copies of dresses, she’d make sure there was something different in each one.  An extra ruffle, a extra pleat, some small detail changed. And to honest, when you’re handsewing getting things to look exactly the same is no easy task, believe me, especially if you are rusing to meet an ambitious deadline set by some demanding lady.

I like to make sure all my heroines can sew. Sewing isn’t really that difficult, and at a time when clothes would be very expensive, I think mending would be a skill all mothers would want to instill in their daughters, and would be a skill likely to be appreciated by husbands and fathers more than a dubious talent for watercolours.

In the following snippet from Held in the Balance, Lydia is about to demonstrate her mending skills….

Remembering the excuse she’d thought up, Lydia stepped back from the door and routed through her reticule, pushing past charcoal pencils to find a rather grubby needlework kit. Needle and silk at the ready, she just needed a rented hem and her presence would be explainable even if the ladies retiring room would have been a more obvious place to re-stitch the trailing piece. She jammed her low heel into the fine silk of her skirt and jerked the fabric upwards with a satisfying rip.

“Am I intruding?”

Lydia gritted her teeth at Simon’s gentle tones. Now she had no chance of spying upon Lord Goodall and had a torn hem to boot. Perfect. She span around, needlework kit clutched in one fist and made no attempt to smooth out her creased skirts. “Intruding? Of course not, I always like an audience while I attempt to do mending.”


Beware all who enter…

I live in a house filled with disease. Ever since my eldest started nursery she has brought one bug after another into our house with such frequency we should have a cross painted on the door to ward off visitors. The brave people who do actually manage to brave the lurgies and kindly come and help me out for the day(kind, kind people ) leave contaminated and within a couple of days are coughing and sniffing with the rest of us only dispelling the germs in time to come and catch the next batch.

But we have managed the first half term. Well sort of, as my little one is currently stretched out on the sofa and I need to ring up the nursery again and tell them she won’t be attending the last day of the half-term, but overall we have survived. An achievement of sorts. Just the next twenty years or so to get everyone through school… piece of cake.

I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know my stories aren’t usually rife with disease, so this link is a bit of a stretch but I’m going for the stomachache angle. I’m still tinkering away at the first chapter of Held in the Balance. I would love to throw myself in full force but I’m still in editing mode for Braving Madness and I know if I don’t get on with that now I never will. Still, this snippet is at Lydia’s engagement ball and starts with Lydia’s father toasting the happy couple.

He lifted an elegant crystal glass ceiling-wards and the light from the chandeliers turned the champagne into the palest honey, catching the carved facets and making his hands impossibly large. “Ladies and gentlemen, will you all join me in wishing the happy couple a hearty congratulations on their engagement this evening. To the happy couple.”

The toast rippled across the ballroom, a mixture of sincerity, envy and downright apathy from those only interested in the free champagne flowing so freely through the evening they should be swimming in the stuff. She’d drunk enough herself and her stomach churned with bubbles and the inevitability of her future sank like a stone to the bottom.

 


Autumn

I’m not quite sure when it happened but it seems autumn is finally upon us. One minute I had roses still blooming in my garden and the next day the leaves on my dogwood had turned a fiery shade of red. And I’ve still not got my bulbs planted out. I went out yesterday and dug a couple of pits (with a little helper) and chucked some in, in half hearted attempt but it didn’t seem to make too much of a dent on the supply. This happens every year. I order bulbs from a catalogue some time in the summer when I am all enthusiastic and the prospect of planting out the odd few hundred bulbs doesn’t seem that daunting, a challenge even, my mind fixed on the images in the catalogue and all the pretty flowers my garden will have in the spring. But when it actually comes to planting them out I remember how half of the bulbs got eaten by slugs the minute they put their shoots up and how I spent much of the spring looking at the neon pink tulip and then at the catalogue picture of the lovely pastel shade of pink and thinking how unfortunate I should have planted them right next to the neon yellow tulips, which should have been the palest of creams according to the catalogue.

But nevermind. My riotous spring garden with its jumble of colours can wait a few months, right now I’m busy enjoying the autumn shades and snuggling under a blanket as the nights draw in early.

Now I’m going to struggle to find a snippet related to autumn in either Braving Madness or my new WIP Held in the Balance as both of them are set in the spring. Rats. So I’ll just cheat and share a snippet from my new WIP just because I can. This is written in Lydia’s POV and her father is announcing her engagement to Lord Curzon to the rest of the tonne. He is not a man accustomed to making speeches…

Sir John tipped his head towards his future son-in-law. “I hope you realise what you’re getting yourself into Curzon, my boy. She’ll not be an easy handful. I should know, had to raise the chit myself for longer than I care to remember. Shouldn’t admit she’s used to wearing the britches about the house but I’m sure a man like you will be able to charm her out of them once you’re married.”

Lydia refused to cringe and thanked her lucky stars that she never blushed. This time the titters were loud enough to be heard even from the ladies clustered at the back of the hall. Her mother would have been mortified. Not that it had ever taken much.

“I can assure you I will do my utmost.” Lord Simon Curzon’s reply was uniform, nothing in the words to tell he had even noticed Sir John’s accidental innuendo.


Finished

I don’t normally write posts about writing.

I figure I waffle on enough about writing to family and friends that I don’t really have any reason to bore you guys about it. Instead I waffle on about a range of other sometimes boring topics. But today I feel like I have sufficient reason to bend my own rules.

The book I have been working on for the last EIGHTEEN months is finally finished. Well, the first draft at least. I was beginning to think it would never happen. Admittedly I did somewhat slow the pace down by throwing the whole thing in the bin at 60,000 words but finally it is finished at a whopping 110500 words. In fact about 15,000 words longer than I wanted it to be.

But it is done. Printed out, (with steadily fading ink) and bound in a folder just a teeny bit too small for it so the pages all keep falling out. An unfortunate circumstance considering I forgot to put page numbers on. Oops. So now I am in editing mode, chiefly with my red pen handy for cutting that odd 15,000 words.

And I get to start a new story. Lovely lovely lovely. I’m 1500 words into ‘Held in the balance’ and I am loving it already.

So chocolate cake at the ready, here is a snippet from the epilogue to kick start the celebrations.

“I think now would be a good idea to take that constitutional walk of yours,” Edward said in a hushed undertone to wife. Considering the impressive lung capacity of their new grandson and the frequency he felt compelled to use them to their full extent, Edward could have bellowed the words to Betty and the rest of the company would have been none the wiser.

Leaving his son-in-law with his arms full of squalling baby and a comic look of dismay on his face, the pair of them crept from the overheated room even as the formidable nurse clad in a heavily starched uniform strode towards the infant with her arms outstretched and a disapproving look on her face.

Arm in arm, they hurried down the corridor like naughty children escaped from the nursery, gathering cloaks and shawls as they went from a sympathetic footman. Outside dusk was already approaching and the long shadows of grand oaks stretched out onto the lawn in front of Carrington house, and fiery leaves tumbled and swirled along the gravelled path and crunched beneath Betty’s sturdy boots.

Twenty years and he still hadn’t persuaded her into the lures of dainty footwear despite numerous pricey gifts, all outrageously boxed items with lengths of silk ribbons and mounds of the finest tissue paper. Not that he’d spent twenty years continually concerned about her feet; nine boisterous children and now an equally boisterous grandchild had a habit of forcing all but the most urgent matters from a man’s mind.