Wednesday, 7 September 2016

A new appearance

April and May by [Elliott, Beth]
                April and May 

has a new appearance. edited and with a new cover,
         thanks to  Endeavour Press

When they met in London in 1799, Rose Charteris and Tom Hawkesleigh fell instantly in love. 

But disapproving families and misunderstandings came between them, and the romance was over as quickly as it started. 

Five years later, Tom is working for the Turkish ambassador in Constantinople and he runs into Rose once again when they cross paths in the ambassador’s residence. 

Now a widow, and a fiercely independent woman, circumstances mean that Rose has no choice but to work with Tom on a top secret and dangerous document for the Sultan. 

Work in Constantinople becomes increasingly perilous, with spies from all sides desperate to find out what is planned. 

Even back in London, danger is not far away. 

Rose also has the burden of finding her place in high Georgian society, as well as trying to decide between the increasing charms of both Tom and ambassador Kerim Pasha. 

Will Rose be able to evade the increasing threat to her well-being that her work has led to? 

And will she succumb to her desires and give Tom back her heart? 

Spanning the magical lands of Constantinople and the traditional streets of London, April and May is a heart-warming tale of a love that knows no boundaries. 

You can find the book by clicking on this link

Looking across the Golden Horn from Pera.

File:John Cordrey - A Gentleman with His Pair of Bays Harnessed to a Curricle - Google Art Project.jpg

Tom's curricle, when he returns to London.


The Rosetta Stone

Yes, these all belong in the story...........

Monday, 22 August 2016

Tepelena : Ali Pasha and Lord Byron

From Gjirokastra a good road leads north to Tepelena, a distance of about twenty miles. The wide valley is fertile and peaceful, with the mountains rising slowly to the east. The river Vjosa meanders through wide sandbanks along the valley floor to the right of the road. 

At the entrance to the town is a large statue of Ali Pasha Tepelena, Governor of Southern Albania from 1788 - 1822. 

His reputation made Lord Byron curious to meet him. In 1809, Byron and his friend John Cam Hobhouse, travelled up to Tepelena and stayed as guests of the Pasha for a while.
They were received in the mighty castle, which was partly rebuilt and fortified by Ali Pasha. It overlooks the river valley, controlling all approaches and offering splendid views. 

The main square in front of the castle is now called Lord Byron Square
 - Sheshi Lord Bajron, with a large plaque showing the poet in Albanian dress.

In a letter to his mother, dated November, 1809, Byron wrote a description of his host:

His Highness is sixty years old, very fat and not tall, but with a fine face, light blue eyes and a white beard, his manner is very kind and at the same time he possesses that dignity which I find universal amongst the Turks. He has the appearance of anything but his real character, for he is a remorseless tyrant, guilty of the most horrible cruelties, very brave and so good a general, that they call him the Mahometan Buonaparte. Napoleon has twice offered to make him King of Epirus, but he prefers the English interest and abhors the French as he himself told me. He is of so much consequence that he is much courted by both, the Albanians being the most warlike subjects of the Sultan, though Ali is only nominally dependent on the Porte. He has been a mighty warrior, but is as barbarous as he is successful, roasting rebels etc. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The fascinating city of Butrint, Albania

In the very south of Albania lies the extraordinary site of Butrint. It is about 24 km south of Sarande [just a mile across the sea from Corfu ] and is almost totally surrounded by water.

Butrint is a microcosm of Mediterranean history, with traces of all the great civilisations of the region represented there. Legend says that the city was founded by exiles fleeing from Troy. The site was inhabited in the 8th century BC. 

The Lion Gate

In the 4th century BC a healing sanctuary was created, dedicated to the god Asclepius. 


The theatre was part of the complex, as watching drama was considered to be a good treatment for illness. When the Romans conquered the city in the 1st Century AD, they added a frontage to this structure. Concerts and plays are still performed here.

 When we visited in May, the area was partially flooded, due to a week of intense rain in the Balkans. Flooding was the reason the city was eventually abandoned, with the people moving north to Sarande.

It is a delight to wander through the eucalyptus groves, with nightingales singing overhead. The peaceful atmosphere of the whole site makes a visit a special experience. From Greek theatre to Roman bath-house to Venetian watch tower or Byzantine basilica, the remains are all worth viewing. And all around are glimpses of the blue water of the Vivari Channel, where fishermen are at work as they have been for thousands of years.
Since 1992 Butrint has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also a Wetland Site of International Importance.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Gjirokastra [Part 2] The city of stone

The finest example of an Albanian Ottoman house, built in 1813

Cascading downhill from the castle to the valley floor, the stone houses of Gjirokastra are unique. The tall buildings range from a simple tower structure, three or four stories high, to houses with one or two wings, as in the beautiful Zekate House near the top of the hill.

                           The finest example of an Albanian Ottoman house, built in 1813

The ground floor was for storage and defence. Living quarters were on the higher floors, with one room having a large chimney hood over a fireplace. this was the winter room. In the larger rooms there were balconies for life during the heat of summer.
                View across the town and the Drinos Valley from the summer balcony.
 The ‘guest room’, where visitors were received, was always the most ornate room, with carved and sculpted ceilings and fine rugs and cushions. All around the walls are divans, covered with kilims or rough linen sheets. These served as seating during the day and as beds at night.
Across the whole town the roofs of the old houses are made of thick, stone tiles. This gives the city a uniform appearance when viewed from above.

 From below, there is a mix of white, Ottoman style walls, with the local grey stone. It is an attractive city. However, while the Museum zone of the town is protected, illegal building work goes on. In addition, every year some houses collapse beyond repair.
The house of the writer Ismail Kadare is under restoration after being destroyed by fire in 1999. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Gjirokastra, hauntingly beautiful. Part 1, The Castle.

Gjirokastra is another picturesque Albanian city, which grew and spread out gradually from its imposing castle towering over the town. The castle is an enormous defensive fortification, brooding and watchful on top of its hill. It controls the Drinos Valley and the passes through the Lunxheria Mountains, a jagged mass topped with snow even in May.

The area inside the castle walls is vast. About half the internal area is currently closed for restoration. The main gallery that is open houses a display of cannon from various times.  

There are several large parade grounds, one of them enormous enough to house the staging for the International Festival of Folk Music.
In 1929, King Zog had the vaults turned into a prison for his enemies, with punishment cells. There is a brooding atmosphere about the place, which may be lightened when all the planned restorations are completed.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Rosetta Stone

It was on 19th July in 1799 that the Rosetta Stone was discovered near Cairo in Egypt. It soon fell from the hands of the French to the English and was brought to the British Museum in 1802.  The stone bears an inscription written in three alphabets: hieroglyphics, Demotic and Greek. Many scholars attempted to unravel the hieroglyphs over many years before Champollion succeeded, helped in part by the work of Thomas Young.
Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone
My story, April and May, deals with an eccentric couple who devote their lives to Egyptian archaeology, while their niece, Rose, tries to keep the family in good order. In the following excerpt, they put on an exhibition of treasures they have brought back from Egypt at the British Museum. Rose, bored by the event, looks at the Rosetta Stone and wonders what the ancient language sounded like.
The exhibition was a success. Visitors had crowded in from the moment it opened. Two hours later, Rose could see her aunt and Helena still talking busily to a crowd gathered round the table where they had set out the papyri, together with sheets of paper showing some of the symbols. Judging by the noise in that part of the hall, everyone was excited by this ancient writing.
She glanced over to where her uncle and Max were escorting a group of gentlemen round the vast hall. She could hear animated talk and much laughter so it seemed they were enjoying their tour. All the artefacts found by the expedition had been set out, together with a number of statues and stone plaques brought back a few years earlier.
Rose’s task was to explain facts about the pots and figurines. She had a constant stream of young ladies and their mamas attracted to these fascinating items. She also kept an eye on the table where all her drawings of the pyramids at Giza were displayed. It made her smile to hear the exclamations of wonder at the grand scale of these buildings. To Rose’s secret surprise, Ancient Egyptian civilisation seemed set to become a fashion.
When at last there was a lull in the crowd, Rose wandered over to the Rosetta Stone with its perfectly chiselled lines of text in three languages. One day, perhaps, her aunt and Helena would work out the meaning of the hieroglyphs. She stroked a finger over the carved symbols, smiling a little as she wondered what that language would sound like.
Then a voice spoke behind her. She went rigid with shock, her finger still on the line of hieroglyphic text. Surely it was not possible… and yet, she knew that deep and mellow tone. Her heart began to beat faster.
Featured image

Friday, 29 April 2016

Review of APRIL AND MAY by Richard Blake

by Beth Elliott
Robert Hale, London, 2010, 224pp (hb)
ISBN: 978 0 7090 9042 7
When I was a boy, the local library refused to give adult tickets to anyone under the age of twelve. My grandmother came to the rescue by lending me hers. In exchange for being able to borrow all the moderately wicked stuff I could lay hands on, I only had to keep her fed with romantic fiction. Being a conscientious boy, I made sure to read everything before borrowing it for her. This gave me a taste for romantic fiction – especially historical romantic fiction – that has never entirely left me.
Therefore, I enjoyed the first chapter of Beth Elliott’s April and May. We are at a ball in London in 1799. Rose Graham is young and silly and in love with dashing Tom Hawkesleigh. He, of course, has designs on her that are not wholly honourable. He takes her into a quiet room and makes an advance she is more than inclined to welcome.
Sadly –
“How dare you conduct yourselves in such a disgusting manner?”
Her sister-in-law Augusta has caught them just in time. Tom is ejected in disgrace. Rose is told she will never see him again:
“After such a disgrace, that is impossible. You cannot be trusted, and he is only a younger son.”
Not a bad opening, and I expected the next chapter to move to Bath, with a foppish Lord or two and a villainous rake. Instead, however, we move straight to 1804, and are in Constantinople. Tom is a senior intelligence officer at the Embassy there. He is deep in negotiations with Kerim Pasha, who wants British help to modernise the Ottoman armed forces. Everything must take place in secret. Though some kind of modernisation is essential if the Empire is not to be pulled apart, the forces of conservatism are strong in Constantinople. Worse, the French still have ambitions in the Near East, and will do anything to stop an agreement with Britain.
Into this comes Rose – now Rose Charteris, but a widow. She had been in Egypt with some relatives, trying to make sense of the hieroglyphs. A bandit raid has left her in urgent need of help. Kerim Pasha takes one look at her, and is very eager to help. Tom is jealous and protective, but uncertain of his own continuing feelings.
From here, we move back to London, where the cast reassembles for what becomes a tight thriller – high politics, deception, attempted abduction, attempted murder. If you want to know more, I suggest you should find out for yourself.
What did I enjoy about this novel? I have mentioned the plot already. But there is also a talent for describing places. My imagination has been filled for over a decade now with Constantinople, and I go to Turkey every year. In the relevant chapters of this book, I could smell the City and feel the warm bath of its climate. London is unexpectedly dark and mysterious. The sub-plot about the Egyptian hieroglyphs is convincing. This is primarily a romantic novel, and, if that is what you like, you will find everything you want. At the same time, it has touches of Patrick O’Brien and a steely quality that should make it of general interest.
My only complaint is that I am not aware of a sequel. The politics alone make the story worth continuing – perhaps a trip to Egypt and a chase by French agents beside the pyramids. Also, if sketchily drawn, some of the characters are worth developing – Lady Westacote, for example. If I found Max a little dull, he would make a good murder victim in the ruins of Ephesus. Even horrid Augusta has potential. She could be abducted in Cairo by Bedouins, and go native in someone’s harem.
And so, my overall judgement is – give us more. A writer’s fictional world is like a child. If you go to the trouble of creating one – and doing it as well as Beth Elliott has done – you are only at the beginning of your duty. The closing kiss should not be the end of this story.
Richard Blake’s new novel Crown of Empire was published in London in April 2016.