Monday, 1 February 2021

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               Prequel to   SCANDALOUS  LADY         


                                                      Akhal Teke horse, [picture courtesy of Wikipedia]

 The story begins when Olivia has nearly reached Constantinople.   But how did she manage to escape from the strictly  chaperoned life of a debutante and set off to travel abroad, like her role model, Lady Hester Stanhope?

 

London, November 1810


Olivia was admiring her new hat in the pier glass, when the drawing room door opened and two middle-aged ladies sailed into the elegant entrance hall. The look they cast her warned Olivia that Aunt Sophie was about to hurl more reproaches at her. Aware of their scrutiny, she stroked the curled ostrich plumes and adjusted the saucy bow under her left ear until Crowbold, the butler, had bowed the ladies out. Then she grimaced at her reflection and whisked herself into the drawing room to brave the storm.

            'You may take that hat off,' snapped Lady Hollis. 'We are not going to drive in Hyde Park today.'

            'Why ever not?' Olivia enquired. 'Surely you're not upset by anything your friends may have told you? It’s all gossip.'

            'It is all shocking!' Lady Hollis wrung her hands. 'As if you had not caused enough scandal by your all-night escapade with Lord Craybrook.'

            'There was no escapade,' Olivia stated scornfully. 'He claimed his curricle had a loose wheel and we must stop at an inn while it was repaired - but it was all a plot to compromise me. Nothing happened, Aunt…except that I gave him a black eye,' she added with a gleam of satisfaction.

            'It was in all the scandalsheets.' Lady Hollis dabbed at her eyes with a lace-edged handkerchief. 'I warned you then that you would have to accept him.'

            'Never.' declared Olivia, swirling away to stare out of the window at the passers-by in Clarges Street. 'It was he who told his version to the reporters, Aunt Sophie.'

            'If he will still have you after this…this latest episode. Wretched girl. You were seen riding astride! Galloping in Hyde Park! And with Captain Lucas, of all possible companions!'

            'He rides so well,' murmured Olivia. She gave a wicked grin when her aunt covered her eyes with one trembling hand. 

            'Your reputation is fatally damaged. My dearest friends have just hinted that you are no longer welcome at their tea parties -'

            'How uncharitable,' Olivia swiped at the potted ferns on the window ledge.

            Lady Hollis waved a delicate hand towards the marble mantelpiece with its row of tasteful ornaments, 'We have not received a single invitation this week. Your only chance is to accept Lord Craybrook's offer.'

            'So that he may gamble my fortune away on cards and horses. No, I thank you.' Had she pushed her aunt to the limit? She clasped her hands behind her back and managed to hold back a cry of triumph when Lady Hollis announced, in failing accents, 'If no one will receive you, you cannot stay in London. You have even replaced Lady Hester Stanhope as the chief subject of gossip in society.'

            'Well, she’s left the country,' said Olivia. 'I envy her.'

            'And your brother gone off to those savage eastern lands.'

            'Just so,' Olivia agreed, smothering another grin. 'And the poor lamb will be in such a muddle without me to look after him. In fact…'

 [c]Beth Elliott


      Several months later, Olivia reaches Constantinople and is reunited with her brother.

As an artist, she's busy capturing the sights of this ancient city.

But it doesn't take many days before she's in trouble again.






Ice cool Lord Berannes is the chief diplomat negotiating peace between the Ottoman Sultan and Russia. Then he encounters fiery, rebellious artist Olivia Hartford. And after that, nothing goes to plan – for either of them.

Read their story in

Scandalous Lady







Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Travel research

SAFRANBOLU 

an ancient town on the Silk and Spice Road

 famous for its Saffron             and its timbered houses


    


Going off the beaten track is my idea of enjoyable travel. The usual reason for any visit is to do research for a story. In this case, the museum-city of Safranbolu provided a perfect setting and rich details of Ottoman life for a couple of my tales set in Turkey.

The local style of architecture set the standard for all Ottoman architecture throughout the empire. So the environment is special, with the black and white beamed houses and cobbled alleys. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

And it isn't just any hotel owner who greets you on arrival with a tray of tea and cakes, and then asks what are your favourite dishes, so she can prepare them for dinner. During our time in the town we were offered endless free cups of tea and coffee, we had a free tour of the ladies' bathhouse [hammam] and were allowed to spend as long as we wished in any of the museums and galleries. 

Thank you, kind people of Safranbolu, for outstanding hospitality. 

The town is so special it deserves an article just about itself.  The piece I wrote starts on Page 61 in the December issue of The Writers and Readers' Magazine.




Sunday, 6 December 2020

A bit of Bling

  As well as writing stories and articles I enjoy travelling, both at home and abroad, the excuse being that it's all research. 

This year all my planned journeys had to be cancelled, for the reason we know. 
That left swathes of time for another longtime hobby - metallic embroidery.
I love all types of embroidery and marvel at the infinite variety of invention to be seen in different countries.  

My Woodbine chainsmoking great-aunt Hannah taught me my first embroidery stitches, as well as Making The Back As Neat As The Front.
Thank you, Aunt Hannah, embroidery is a still a pleasure.

Making pictures with beautiful silken threads fascinates me. The brighter the colours, the better.

I also adore sparkling jewellery, so discovering how to do metallic embroidery with all the gold thread, sequins, beads and pearls was like having a private Ali Baba's cave. There is no such word as 'overload' in my vocabulary for my various pieces. There is never too much Bling. My aim is for the finished item to sparkle, shine, gleam or glow, preferably all at the same time.


This one is called 'East-West'
It represents all the intrepid explorers and travellers in times past.




This one was inspired by a Turkish song about a town near a mystical mountain. I modelled the town on Safranbolu, an ancient trading centre on the Silk and Spice Road through northern Turkey.

You can read my article about Safranbolu on Page 62 in the December issue of 



A résumé of my French friend's life in her large house. 

The wine bottles symbolise the family's winegrowing business. The trellis loaded with grapes is for shelter from the sun. The pictures because she's an artist. Her ladder and tools as the old house needs constant repair. Oh, and her grandmother's pompom rosebush and mother's bougainvillea.
The chaise longue for the essential siesta.


                                      
                                         Close-up of the 3-D grapes on the trellis vines





Friday, 20 November 2020

Meet Kitty


Kitty Towers is lively and kind-hearted.

She is 19 years old, she has glorious brown eyes and glossy chestnut curls. She is also the eldest of five sisters and  two brothers. So, willing or not, her mother insists she must now go to London for the Season and make a good marriage, one that will enable her sisters to mix in society in their turn.  

Kitty is most unwilling. Secretly she determines to endure London for two months and then return home to do what she considers worthwhile - helping her father, the vicar, to run his hospital and care for wounded soldiers and the poor and sick.



       This picture shows Kitty at a truly dark moment in her adventure.

 

When she arrives in London, Kitty considers the Season a waste of her time. But soon she finds that under the veneer of social visits, balls and walks in Hyde Park, many social activities mask plots and danger. Even a visit to the theatre can have sinister undercurrents.

While her friends flutter from one entertainment to another, Kitty realises that a dangerous spy is intent on betraying vital secrets, and she bravely attempts to prevent this treachery, even when it seems it will cost her her heart – and possibly her life.   


                                        THE WILD CARD       

                         published by www.joffebooks.com

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Now, about that pair of visitors...

Meet Nell and Sophie, the Outcasts, but don't expect to like them


 In my post on The Third Brother, a couple of weeks back, I mentioned that 1818 is the year Joachim is in charge of running the family estate and his burning ambition is to prove he can manage everything perfectly.

What Joachim doesn't expect is the upheaval caused by his mother's visitors - two sisters who bring a coach-load of problems with them. For a start, their actual coach arrives many hours late in Toulouse, where Joachim and his friend Bertrand have come to meet them and escort them on the last part of the journey into the Pyrenees to the family home.

 Not only has Joachim lost a day he can ill afford to spare, the two girls immediately make a bad impression. One is a beauty but attention-seeking and a desperate flirt. The other is all buttoned-up, sullen and dressed from head to foot in grey.

At the inn where they stop, Bertrand has already made up his mind about them. He tells Joachim:

My friend, I don’t envy you being saddled with that pair for months. I couldn’t put up with either of them for a week, even.’ He perched on the windowsill and raked his fingers through his mop of curly brown hair.

Joachim poured water into the basin and dipped his head in it. He splashed water over his neck and shoulders, emerged with a sigh of relief and groped for a towel. ‘Aren’t you being a bit hasty? Only yesterday you said you were planning to marry one of them to restore your family fortunes.’

Bertrand stretched, moving his neck from side to side until it creaked. ‘Yes, well, that’s before we’d set eyes on them - and ears. All that shouting in the coach! Now, I assure you, even if they were as rich as Croesus, I’m not interested.'

Sophie [the flirt] goes on to scandalise the whole household within 24 hours of arriving, while Nell remains a grey shadow, locked in her unresponsive gloom. Privately, Joachim thinks it's no wonder their father and his new wife cast these two horrors out. Only now they are going to be an extra problem for his mother and that will really annoy him. And when Joachim's temper is roused, things can get very uncomfortable. 



Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Do your characters argue with you?

 

Are you in control of your story?


 

In The Hobbit, Tolkien observed that "things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway." 

In other words, if there is no conflict, there is no story. So the characters can expect to have problems which get ever more difficult, they must face their fears and see their ambitions endlessly thwarted. No wonder they sometimes shut off and refuse to act as the author wishes.

Writers all experience the phenomenon of a character taking over the story and dictating what he or she will do and most certainly will not do. It takes time, a lot of thought and some bargaining between author and characters, to get things moving again. The revised plot rings truer and is more satisfying for all concerned. 

So an argument with the characters is a sign that they are ready to walk off the page; and as every writer knows, that is the best thing that can happen in any story. 


[ Photo of my workbook for The Rake's Challenge. There are four rakes in that tale, 

two of them brothers. ]

The Rake's Challenge



Thursday, 10 September 2020

The Rake and His Honour On Free Offer




THE RAKE AND HIS HONOUR


Set during a time of tension and uncertainty as Napoleon's fanatical spies attempt to keep him in power and prevent the return of King Louis XVIII. 


This intriguing Regency romance from Beth Elliott tells of the power of love in turbulent times 
Revolving hearts


Read for #FREE for a limited time only, here: https://l8r.it/kDBO