"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Proposal

I'm delighted that The Proposal, previously published in hardcover, paperback, large-print, and various foreign languages, will be re-issued on March 17.

The cover design is fantastic! The photograph of the castle--my inspiration for the setting--is one I took a few months ago. The photograph of me in the castle gardens was taken by my husband.



More information to follow.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day



 
Ruth & Jewel, the Love Dogs, somehow went shopping for Valentine's candy.
 
And the Duchess is appropriately decked out for the day as well!

 
 
Hope you're having a lovely and loving Valentine's Day!
 
 

Friday, February 06, 2015

The Death of King Charles II


The precise cause of His Majesty's death, which occurred on 6 Februrary, 1685, is uncertain.

What is known is that on he suffered an apoplectic attack on the morning of 2 February. This date is considered the birthday of mistress Nell Gwyn, mother of his son Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St Albans--who at that time was nearly fifteen years old. Although the young duke spent much of his adolescence in Paris, where he was educated, he happened to be in England at that time and was present as his father lay dying at Whitehall Palace.

The king had slept badly and on waking on the morning of the 6th was "pale as ashes." At the time he was suffering from a sore on his legs, and the royal doctors had come to his rooms to change the dressing. Rather than joining them, Charles returned to his bedchamber. His speech was somewhat impaired. He took a glass of sherry and, still in his nightgown, prepared to be shaved.

Before the razor was applied, barber could begin, he let out what was later described as "the most dreadfulest shriek" and fell back unconscious into his barber's arm.

All the usual 17th century medical applications were attempted--bleeding, blisters--and perhaps it was the agony they produced that revived the king. He asked to see the Queen. The doctors continued torturing the patient with potions containing cantharides, vitriol, sal ammoniac, and one containing spirits of human skull.

Occasionally he would rally, but finally succumbed to another convulsion followed by a fever. Word of his decline was spreading beyond the palace walls.

Anti-Catholic sentiment was so great that many people assumed that the king had been poisoned. Sir Charles Lyttelton reported "his disease being, as is supposed, has fallen upon his lungs which makes him labour to breathe." Some modern authorities speculate that he was a victim of a kidney complaint, resulting in uraemia. Others propose that many hours he spent in his laboratory led to some form of chemical poisoning. The onset of his complaint was characterised by an epileptic seizure, which apparently affected brain function. The original post-mortem was destroyed when Whitehall Palace burned to the ground in 1697. A copy quoted in the British Medical Journal is inconclusive, as the autopsies of that era were less sophisticated than those of today.

Whatever felled the king, in his final hours he was surrounded by doctors, clerics, and family members. At that time a royal death, like a royal birth, was extremely public. Those in attendance included, at intervals, Queen Catherine of Braganza, various royal mistress (thought Nell Gwyn was excluded from the sickroom), and the royal bastards--though not the Duke of Monmouth, who was living in exile at the Dutch court of his cousins, Prince William and Princess Mary of Orange.

King Charles famously remembered the Duchess of Portsmouth--the Frenchwoman, Louise de Kerouaille. He charged his brother (and successor) James, Duke of York, not to let "poor Nelly" starve and requested that he care for her son and ensure that his mother didn't spoil him.

It was to young Charles Beauclerk that the king gave a memento of his own father. While still lucid, he asked that a gold and carnelian ring be taken from his hand and given to his illegitimate son. Charles I wore the ring when he arrived at the scaffold with Bishop Juxon (later Archbishop of Canterbury.) Before his execution he presented it to the bishop, who later delivered it to Charles II. The ring is set with an intaglio depicting Charles I in the guise of a Roman Emperor, wearing armour, and the closed back is decorated with coloured enamel. This memento of two Stuart kings remains in the possession of the Beauclerk family.

The king's deathbed conversion to Catholicism was achieved by Father Huddleston, who had been with Charles at the battle of Worcester. When he entered the sickroom through a secret door, Charles supposedly greeted him with the words, "You who have saved my body are now come to save my soul." After making his confession, he received the sacrament, and Huddleston read the prayers for the dying.

At six o'clock in the morning of 6 February, the king asked that the curtains be drawn back so he could see the dawn breaking one last time. He also requested the winding of his clock. After that his speech failed him, and by ten o'clock he had fallen into a coma. He died between eleven-thirty and noon, aged fifty-five.



The King saw one more sunrise lighten the sky before he slept, never to wake again. By midday Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans, was no longer the son of a living monarch.

                                                             A Pledge of Better Times









 


Monday, January 26, 2015

The de Vere Family in the 17th Century

For information about the illustrious family of Lady Diana de Vere, female protagonist of A Pledge of Better Times, visit my blog post at English Historical Fiction Authors: The de Vere Family in the 17th Century.



Diana, 1694

Diana's father, Aubrey de Vere, 20th Earl of Oxford

Diana's mother, Countess of Oxford


Diana's grandfather, Robert, 19th Earl of Oxford



Saturday, January 10, 2015

The New Year



So far, the best description of 2015 is ... cold! Extremely frigid temperatures and windchill in the -25F degree range overnight.  We've had ice, to coat the lavender (above) and front hedge (below)




 And snow has fallen, giving my 18th century lady a white cap, tucker, and apron.

 

Indoors, I've filled hyacinth glasses with chilled bulbs, which will soon lend fragrance and colour to the sitting room/library.


In our bedroom upstairs, the Rosa chinensis mutabilis is so content with its location in a sunny window that it has put forth a bud . . . I hope it will bloom!


We're not in the liturgical season of Epiphany . . .


Anticipation of my April book launch is rising, with the arrival of the bound galleys/Advanced Reading Copies!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Christmas to All!

From Me


And Jewel & Ruth


And Diana the Duchess


It has been quite a long time since the last blog post. I've been extremely busy, as usual, with book-related activities, volunteer work with the diocese, and travel to the UK. While there I returned to Berkeley Castle, which I've visited numerous times in the past.



 On this occasion my purpose was very specific. The family very generously allowed me to view and photograph these portraits of the First Duke and Duchess of St. Albans, the primary characters in A Pledge of Better Times, painted slightly later than the action of the novel.



We had a few days in lovely, familiar Clifton and Bristol, then on to Bath to meet a historian friend and see two Georgian-themed exhibits--one on naughty ladies of the era, the other on costume.

From there we headed to Windsor, to re-visit sites connected with the Beauclerks. I was granted permission to enter the private chapel in which the Duchess is buried, in St. George's Chapel, pictured here. It was an emotional and wonderful experience.


 On to London, for the usual round of visits with friends, Christmas shopping, excellent dinners, a play (Shakespeare in Love, adapted from the film for stage performance), and museums. I did some research in the Manuscripts Room at the British Library and spent an afternoon at Kensington Palace, which features in the novel. I had some wonderful strolls through the parks--the weather was excellent!

At the Ritz


London was looking very Christmas-y. 

The staircase at Fortnum & Mason.
 


Looking up and down from the mezzanine.


Santa in one of Selfridges' windows.


A Britain-themed Christmas Tree in the Selfridges Christmas Department.


And back at home, our own tree, which we cut at a local farm the weekend after Thanksgiving. (After a huge snowstorm!)


2015 will bring the publication of a novel, quite a lot of travel, plenty of writing, and I sincerely hope more blogging than I've managed in the past 12 months!
 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More About My Book:

I've inaugurated a Kickstarter campaign to fund the launch and promotional campaign for A Pledge of Better Times. There's background information about the novel, plus a little film showing the locations where I did research.

A Pledge of Better Times on Kickstarter




Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Return

After a glorious summer, I now return to blogging in the autumn of the year.

I've had quite a busy time in recent months...a few batches of houseguests, additional home improvement and renovation, intermittent gardening, time at the lake, socialising with friends and neighbours and family, finishing up my novel--and preparing it for the press.

Here is the completed cover art for A Pledge of Better Times. It will be released in print and as an ebook in April 2015. More information will be forthcoming, you may be sure! For now I'll simply say that the lady on the cover is one of the book's main characters. And H.M. the Queen and the Royal Collection very generously granted a licence so that she might grace the cover of my novel. The original portrait hangs in Hampton Court Palace, where I've frequently visited it.


One reason for the delay in blogging was the dread of having to write a "catch up" post, when so much has been happening. So I'm keeping it to a few photos only--some roses, some dogs, some lake scenes. I hope that will suffice!









The last one was taken a little while ago, as I stood on the dock looking up at the hillside.

I look forward to blogging again soon. Nice to be back!




Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spring & Summer Scenes

A chilly spring with below-normal temperatures allowed for lots and lots of outdoor gardening. Last week we completed our first year of ownership of the "new" house. One of the greatest joys it provides is the garden space! I enlarged several of the existing raised beds and filled them with more perennials and [peonies and roses. I've now got 50 roses, which is about two-thirds what I had at the Lodge. The ones planted last year are thriving, covered with buds, and starting to bloom in earnest.

Roses




Swallowtail


Foxgloves--biennial, so I had to re-plant


Iris sibirica--came with the house!


These columbines have spread a lot since being planted last year


The peonies


Though we aren't quite at the Solstice yet, spring has given way to summer. And with the change in season, I can take a break from watching and weeding the gardens at the lake cottage! Where we--and the dogs--can go down to the dock to watch passing boats and ducks and beautiful sunsets!







Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blog Hop: Meet My Main Character

 
I was invited by the talented and gorgeous Donna Russo Morin to participate in the blog hop about main characters.

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
The character I’ve chosen is Oriana Julian, professionally known as Ana St Albans. She is a fictional illegitimate daughter of a historic person—the Third Duke of St. Albans, who fathered more than one child outside of his childless marriage. This also makes her a direct descendant of actress Nell Gwyn and King Charles II of England. Consequently she's the great-granddaughter of the protagonists of my work in progress, a biographical novel about the first Duke and Duchess of St Albans.

2. When and where is the story set?
The story takes place in 1799 mostly in London, the Isle of Man, Liverpool, Newmarket, and the Cheshire countryside. Nearly all the characters are historic people—actress Harriot Mellon, impresario Michael Kelly, Sir Joseph Banks. And Oriana’s cousins, the Duke of St. Albans and his heir.

 3. What should we know about him/her?
Oriana, daughter of a singer, was trained from childhood to follow in her mother’s profession. After studying with Italian music masters she returned to London to establish herself as a performer. Lack of success and the desire to escape her demanding profession she eloped, but her soldier husband’s death and her mother’s illness forced her return to the stage. She performs at Vauxhall Gardens and other popular venues, and sometimes accompanies herself on the mandolin. Her aristocratic cousins regard her very much as a member of the family. Like them--and her ancestor Charles II--she's a racing enthusiast.

Oriana's house in London's Soho Square.


 4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Escaping to the Isle of Man for a quiet holiday, Oriana encounters Sir Darius Corlett a wealthy mine owner. Sensitive about her scandalous past, she uses her married rather than her professional name. Dare not only discovers her identity but also follows her to London, she’s torn by the demands of her career and the desires of her lover. Compounding her difficulties is the jealousy of her most devoted admirer, a nobleman who just might matrimony on his mind…

The beautiful Isle of Man...one of my favourite places in the world!


5. What is the personal goal of the character?
She yearns to overcome past scandals and achieve prima donna status at the Opera House. And her love affair with the bold and ardent Manxman complicates matters considerably!

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Improper Advances is a published novel, available in a revised digital edition as well as out-of-print hardcover and paperback editions and some foreign languages. It can be previewed and purchased for your e-reader at:




Amazon
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
iTunes







I've tagged two authors who will post about their main characters on May 7th.

Danelle Harmon
Laura Purcell
 
  
On the Isle of Man