Saturday, 5 July 2014

An unusual hero

The hero in Scandalous Lady is an enigmatic man, a diplomat and accustomed to command. The inspiration for his character came from a photo I saw by chance, which implied a serious personality yet at the same time someone who liked to tease. Of course, that is merely my interpretation of the photo. But I am grateful to Santiago Cabrera for inspiring a truly gorgeous hero for my tale.

Below is a small extract to show the hero at the beginning of the story, which is set in Constantinople in 1811.



She unplaited the tight braids, swearing as the string of pearls snagged repeatedly in her hair. At last she worked it free and pushing the pearls into her thick sash, she combed her fingers through her hair, relieved to feel it flowing free down her back and rising into its usual mass of curls.
            'Hah!' she muttered, encouraged by this small act of defiance, 'now perhaps I can smash a window.'
            She looked around for a suitable tool. Maybe a chair…? Feverishly she rushed to pick one up. Then froze as one of the doors opened and a tall, black-haired man appeared. He was dressed in a gorgeous tunic over silken oriental trousers. Gems winked on his chest. The door closed behind him and he advanced into the large room. He surveyed her with huge dark eyes. Olivia clutched the frame of the gilded chair as if it could hide her. She suddenly remembered her flimsy clothes and crossed her arms over her bosom.
            He came closer. 'Why so modest all at once?' he drawled. 'I know your reputation, Olivia Hartford.'
Olivia stared at him in shock. This was the man who had saved her from the snake, the man whose eyes mesmerised her. She had longed to meet him again. But now he was revealed as just another arrogant rake, like Lord Craybrook who had tried to compromise her and who had told such wild tales about her in the newspapers. She felt a surge of anger that everywhere in the world, men were always the same, intent on seduction and their own pleasure.
            He watched her face, his mouth curved in an ironic smile. Olivia felt her stomach churn. How could this man know what the London papers wrote in their gossip pages? Her knees shook as she realised why he had kidnapped her, and why she had been perfumed and dressed in these garments. At least he spoke English. She raised her chin defiantly. 'How dare you do this to me! I demand to be taken home at once.'
            He gave a short laugh. 'Oh, not at once. Later perhaps - after we have talked.'
            She was not going to ask what he meant by 'talk'. She glared at him to disguise the rising sense of fear, knowing that she was completely in his power. As if to confirm this, he strolled up to her and put a finger under her chin, forcing her face up. His large eyes were closer now than ever before but Olivia did not waste a second admiring them. She thrust her knee up but he was too quick and moved back, laughing.
            'You have spirit,' he admitted, 'I like that in a woman. But I guessed it when I saw the colour of your hair.' He frowned. 'I gave orders that your hair was to be braided with pearls. The effect would be pretty against the red. Why did they not obey?' His tone implied there would be a severe punishment.
            Olivia blinked in shock. So every detail of her appearance was due to his orders. 'But why - ' she began when the door opened again. To her astonishment a procession of servants appeared, bearing covered dishes. A huge brass tray was set upon a low frame and cushions placed by it. The tray was soon completely covered with exotic looking food. A delicious savoury aroma came to Olivia's nostrils, making her stomach rumble in protest at its emptiness.

            While these preparations were going on, she retreated to one of the windows and stood with her back to the room. Reflected in the glass she saw the man walk over to give some order to the doorkeeper. Her eyes widened as she watched how the folds of his heavy silk trousers shifted against the muscled contours of his long legs with each movement. It was incredibly alluring. Her mouth went dry.

( C) Beth Elliott 2014

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Captain's Dilemma by Gail Eastwood

Through a recent competition on The Risky Regencies Blog, I joined in a conversation with Regency author Gail Eastwood. And after the competiton closed, Gail informed me I had won a copy of her story, set in 1813, The Captain's Dilemma




THE CAPTAIN’S DILEMMA 


by Gail Eastwood

Gail Eastwood’s story is a delightful Regency romance with a twist. It brings together two people who should be enemies – a French Captain and an English girl. From the dramatic start, we are drawn in to share the danger and the excitement of helping this escaped prisoner of war. Merissa is under pressure to accept her lifelong friend as a husband.  He has grown into a stodgy and predictable young man and she fears life with him would be secure but dull.
The French Captain may be the enemy but he quickly reveals himself as a man of honour and courage in the face of difficulties. Once Merissa meets him, she senses a kindred spirit and soon falls desperately in love with him. The dangers of aiding an enemy in a time of war add another layer to the story, with interesting details on the treatment of prisoners. And the villain is a constant and growing threat who so nearly succeeds in wrecking everything. This is a good and satisfying read, which will take you into the England of 1813. An additional bonus is the lyrical description of the slowly changing seasons, creating a wonderful sense of rural life in that era.

For more information about Gail and her books, see gaileastwoodauthor.com


Thursday, 20 March 2014

French connections with Hartwell House























Between 1809 and 1814, Hartwell House was the home of the exiled French king, brother of King Louis XVI who was executed in 1793.  Previously known as the Comte de Provence, Louis Stanislas was now known as King Louis XVIII of France. 

He brought his court here, with the permission and generous help of the Prince Regent, who granted the exiled Bourbons permanent right of asylum and an annual allowance.

Together with Louis were his Queen, Marie-Josephine of Savoy, and his niece, the Duchess of Angouleme, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. She was married to Louis XVIII's nephew, Louis-Antoine, son of the Comte d'Artois, later King Charles X. Also with the king was Gustavus IV, the exiled king of Sweden.
      


The history of Hartwell House stretches back almost a thousand years to the reign of Edward the Confessor. William the Conqueror gave it to his natural son, William Peveral, for his domain. Later it was the seat of John Earl of Mortaigne who succeeded his brother Richard the Lion Heart as King of England in 1199. 
The house was enlarged and embellished over the centuries, and the fine park of ninety acres was laid out in different styles, corresponding to changing fashions.





Short of money, the French courtiers converted the roof into a little farm, where birds and rabbits were reared in cages, while vegetables and herbs were cultivated in tubs. They sold their produce in shops they created in the outbuildings.

King Louis signed the document accepting the French crown in the library at Hartwell House in 1814, following the defeat of Napoleon.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Pictures of Jane Austen's House at Chawton

Some photos of Chawton Cottage    


This view is from the side of the house facing the garden. The door on the left leads into the kitchen, the door to the right leads into the drawing room.

The kitchen




The back of the house


The laundry room, with a stove used for baking bread, as well as for heating water for the laundry.


The yard between the house and the outhouses. On the left is the door to the laundry room. In front of it is the well. This was dug very deep into the chalk so that the family had clean water to drink. To the right are storerooms. The plants on the left are medicinal, including lavender, thyme, rosemary and an ancient fig tree.


The garden is planted with flowers that were grown in Jane Austen's time.



Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Vortigern's Wives and his Treasure


Vortigern was the most powerful ruler in Britain by the year 425 AD. He was not a king but the chief lord among lords. He was a rich land-owner, mainly in Gloucestershire but with possessions also in Mid-Wales.

His first wife was Sevira, daughter of the Roman usurper, Magnus Maximus. There was much conflict during this period, with constant invasions and attempts to take over land and power. Vortigern received troops from Armorica to help defend his lands. Due to the constant warfare, it is said that he invited the Saxons, Hengist and Horsa with their followers, to defend Britain. Hengist had a beautiful and scheming daughter, known as Rowena. Vortigern married her and she is supposed to have poisoned one of his three sons by Sevira.

A number of places in Wales claim to have links to Vortigern. But among the many legends there are some definite facts. These are associated with the town of Rhayader.
                                     A drawing of the bridge at Rhayader, made in 1795, showing some of the town buildings


Fact 1 - The first town on the River Wye in Mid-Wales is Rhayader [Rhaeadr Gwy = Waterfall on the Wye]. The town dates from the 5th century, although cairns and standing stones show the area was inhabited for thousands of years before that.
The Castle of Gwrtheyrnion was situated on a crag above the waterfall. Gwrtheyrnion is the Welsh form of Vortigern. Only the site remains - the castle was totally destroyed by Oliver Cromwell.

Fact 2 - Rhayader lies very close to a Roman road through to the west [and silver mines].

Fact 3 - St Harmon, a nearby township, is the Welsh form of the Roman name Germanus.

Fact 4 - In May 1899, a young man from Rhayader, James Marston, was walking on the hillside and decided to dislodge a stone 'to frighten a fox for his dog to chase'. To his astonishment, when the stone came free, he found several items of jewellery underneath. These pieces were a ring set with a carved onyx, an armlet and a necklace, decorated with sapphires and carnelians. All items were made of 22.5 carat gold, embossed with Celtic type ornamentation. They are dated as late Roman work and are currently held in the British Museum.
It is tempting to speculate that these jewels once adorned either Sevira or Rowena. It is unlikely we will ever know much about their link with these ladies but in Rhayader the story persists that this is Vortigern's treasure.

The wild landscape in Mid-Wales [ see my previous post: Land of the Red Dragon] evokes the tales of Arthurian legend. Not surprisingly, Vortigern has been assimilated into this.

My current WIP is The Green Enchanted Forest, a retelling of the story of Lancelot. 




Thursday, 19 December 2013

Steering by the Stars: Stratford Canning in Constantinople, 1810-12 #21DecBlogHop





image designed by www.avalongraphics
Here is my contribution to this Winter Solstice mega-Blog Hop. Below my article please look for the links to all the other writers taking part. Enjoy finding out some of the research they do to write their stories - and Please leave a comment. 






In 1810 at the age of 24, Stratford Canning became Minister Plenipotentiary in Constantinople. He received no specific instructions on the duties of his post and wrote in his diary that he "had to steer rather by the stars than by compass".   
                                   
                                               
His primary duties involved supporting British merchant shipping in the Levant and persuading the Turkish administration that the British were worthy allies. This meant a constant struggle with the French Chargé d'Affaires, M de Latour-Maubourg, who was trying to convince them of the contrary. The Turkish ministers were terrified of antagonising Napoleon and would not act to prevent French privateers from preying on British shipping and selling their prizes in Ottoman-held ports, in defiance of the laws of neutrality. After a year of vigorous and unremitting complaints without any effect, Canning lost patience when yet another French privateer captured three British merchant ships and sailed them into the port of Nauplia. He ordered the British local naval commander to act. Captain Hope sailed into the port and fired at the fortress. This brought the piracy to an abrupt halt.

While Britain was mistress of the seas from Portsmouth to Constantinople, she was isolated by land due to the wide-ranging wars with Napoleon's armies. Consequently, news of events in Paris, Vienna, St Petersburg and Berlin often came to London in the dispatches which Canning sent from Constantinople. He had a wide intelligence network and corresponded with all his counterparts across Europe and the Levant

Thanks to his information, Canning was able to show the Turkish government that while the French were planning to invade Russia, they were at the same time discussing a plan to invade the Ottoman Empire in alliance with Russia and Austria. This convinced the Turkish ministers to trust him to mediate with St Petersburg for them. Canning negotiated a Russo-Turkish peace on good terms for Turkey

The Peace of Bucharest, signed 28th May 1812, was the result. This secured Turkish goodwill towards Britain. Canning's first diplomatic mission to the Sublime Porte ended on this triumphant note. Thus 'steering by the stars' had worked well for him.


[Left] The Aynalikavak Kasri, a pavilion forming part of a royal palace in Constantinople. The dome indicates that the saloon is used for official state business. Peace treaties were signed here. 





The reason for this research is that my story, Scandalous Lady, is set in Constantinople in 1811. The hero is a diplomat, negotiating with the Russians. Therefore, Stratford Canning has an essential role in the plot. Lady Hester Stanhope also has a part to play in the story. I love to bring real people into my tales, although they never have a principal role.

For more details on Scandalous Lady, and a taste of its exotic elements, see my website: www.bethelliott.webs.com



image designed by www.avalongraphics
We have some fantastic Bloggers joining this fabulous Blog Hop

so browse the links to some spectacular reading - and enjoy!

  1. Helen Hollick : A little light relief concerning those dark reviews! Plus a Giveaway Prize
  2. Prue Batten :http://pruebatten.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/casting-light/
  3. Alison Morton  Shedding light on the Roman dusk  - Plus a Giveaway Prize! 
  4. Anna Belfrage:  Let there be Light
  5. Beth Elliott : Steering by the Stars. Stratford Canning in Constantinople, 1810/12
  6. Melanie Spiller : Lux Aeterna, the chant of eternal light
  7. Janet Reedman   The Winter Solstice Monuments
  8. Petrea Burchard  : Darkness - how did people of the past cope with the dark? Plus a Giveaway Prize!
  9. Richard Denning The Darkest Years of the Dark Ages: what do we really know? Plus a Giveaway Prize! 
  10. Pauline Barclay  : Shedding Light on a Traditional Pie
  11. David Ebsworth : Propaganda in the Spanish Civil War
  12. David Pilling  :  Greek Fire -  Plus a Giveaway Prize!
  13. Debbie Young : Fear of the Dark
  14. Derek Birks  : Lies, Damned Lies and … Chronicles
  15. Mark Patton : Casting Light on Saturnalia
  16. Tim Hodkinson : Soltice@Newgrange
  17. Wendy Percival  : Ancestors in the Spotlight
  18. Judy Ridgley : Santa and his elves  Plus a Giveaway Prize
  19. Suzanne McLeod  : The Dark of the Moon
  20. Katherine Bone   : Admiral Nelson, A Light in Dark Times
  21. Christina Courtenay : The Darkest Night of the Year
  22. Edward James  : The secret life of Christopher Columbus; Which Way to Paradise?
  23. Janis Pegrum Smith  : Into The Light - A Short Story
  24. Julian Stockwin  : Ghost Ships - Plus a Giveaway Present
  25. Manda Scott : Dark into Light - Mithras, and the older gods
  26. Pat Bracewell Anglo-Saxon Art: Splendor in the Dark
  27. Lucienne Boyce : We will have a fire - 18th Century protests against enclosure
  28. Nicole Evelina What Lurks Beneath Glastonbury Abbey? 
  29. Sky Purington  :  How the Celts Cast Light on Current American Christmas Traditions
  30. Stuart MacAllister (Sir Read A Lot) : The Darkness of Depression
And a big Thank You to Helen Hollick, who organised this Blog Hop

Selfie and Shelfie