Saturday, 4 January 2020

'I knew it was a bad idea.'

When you want an excuse to see the girl you can't stop thinking about, you agree to carry out the craziest plan her brother asks of you.

That's why Selim organises a trip into the famous underground Basilica Cistern in Constantinople. Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I [AD527-565], it provided water [and fish] for the inhabitants of the city down the centuries.

Olivia's brother, Richard, is a keen Antiquarian and thrilled to see this unusual place. However, the trip ends in disaster.
The Byzantine Basilica Cistern in Constantinople,
painted by Thomas Allom in 1840

" The tunnel opened into a much vaster space and an underground lake shone as far as they could see in the reflected light of the torches. There were many rows of columns rising from the water to an unseen roof.
            'This is the place shown in my picture,' exclaimed Richard, his voice shaking with excitement.
            'Yes,' agreed Selim, thankful they had nearly reached the end of the expedition without mishap, 'The great cistern built by the Byzantine emperors.'
            'Magnificent,' Richard was saying in a tone of awe, when Lord Craybrook uttered an oath. 'This water is damned cold,' he said, 'and there are fish - large ones, and many of them.'
            'That's good for the poor people of this neighbourhood,' said Selim. ‘It's free food for them.’
            'Which way now?' asked Richard. 'Must we return the way we came or can we get out another way?'
            After a short discussion with their guide, Selim said, 'There are a couple of pillars worthy of your attention. Follow Timur.' The thickset man with his torch gestured them to come towards another part of the pool. They waded along from one pillar to the next.
            'I'm getting very wet,' muttered Lord Craybrook.
            'Surely you do not regard that.' Richard said scornfully. 'Not when you're walking where the Byzantine engineers and maybe even their emperors once trod.'
            In spite of his gloom, Selim grinned at this. It amazed him that Richard could be so excited by these old stones. Now, for himself, he would become enthusiastic about a beautiful landscape, like the view he had shown Olivia. At the thought of her, he could not help smiling, recalling her shining eyes and eager expression the other evening. And yet, initially she had been a little hesitant towards him. Selim turned a considering look on Lord Craybrook. No! Olivia would never accept the man who had tried to compromise her by tricks, even if he was as handsome as a Greek god. Angry with himself for doubting her, he resolved to call on her the following morning.
            He was impatient to get out of this water and feel the sun on his face. But Timur was still showing Richard the curious base to one of the pillars. It was a carved head, set sideways at the bottom of the column.
            'Oh, by Jupiter,' exclaimed Richard. 'How I wish we had brought Olivia, so she could draw this for me. See,' he traced the carving with his fingers, peering closely at it, 'it's a Medusa. How strange to find it here…and turned on its side, like this.'
            One of the torches flickered and went out. The guide hastily lit another one from Huseyin's torch, which was also burning low.
            'That is our last torch,' Selim told them, 'we have just enough time to find the way out.'
            Very reluctantly, Richard left the pillar and waded along at the back of the little group. Just ahead of him, Huseyin's torch flickered, faded and died. They all moved slowly, stumbling occasionally over unseen stones in the dark water. They were cold and tired now, wading after the flame of Timur's torch, which showed the way but did not provide much light. At length, they came to some steps and climbed out of the water, into a rough tunnel. Here a gleam of daylight showed the end of the passage.
            Selim gave silent thanks at having completed the expedition with no problems. He turned and watched as they all filed out. They made a sorry looking group, smeared with dust and cobwebs and dripping wet from the waist down. Selim frowned. Why was Richard lingering inside the tunnel? He went back in, taking the flickering torch with him. 'Hurry up, Richard,' he called, 'everyone is anxious to go home and change their clothes. Richard…?'
            But there was only the echo of his own voice. "

 Scandalous Lady                                 Scandalous Lady

Monday, 23 December 2019

Christmas Greetings with a Welsh flavour

    Wishing everyone peace, goodwill and happiness at Christmas.

Image result for snowdon

Mount Snowdon [Eryri], [photo by Celtic Trails]

  Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

- Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Click on this link to hear the greeting
                                                   Happy Christmas in Welsh


Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Seduced by stones

            I admit to a fascination with sparkling gems.

French Crown Jewels in The Louvre. Photo by owensdt1
The Côte-de-Bretagne red spinel with the set of Queen Marie Amélie to the left, the bracelets and diadem of the Duchess of Angoulême in the centre and upper right and, between them, the set of Empress Josephine. [Wikipedia]

In museums a display of jewels holds me entranced, lost to time as the gems wink and shine. I'm as hypnotised as the old Councillor in Lorna Doone was by Lorna's diamond necklace.

The magnificent Spoonmaker's Diamond is an 86-carat pear-shaped stone, surrounded by a double-row of 49 Old Mine cut diamonds. It hangs in a glass case on the wall of one of the rooms of the Treasury in TopKapi Palace in Istanbul.  [1]

    Small wonder that jewels often feature in my Regency Tales. Whether it is Louise, the Huguenot goldsmith with a talent for resetting the gems from oldfashioned parures into lighter, more modern styles (The Rake and his Honour), or Nell and Sophie receiving a surprise legacy of jewellery (The Outcasts), or even a deeply-in-love hero offering a fabulous ruby ring to the object of his affections, I do enjoy adding a dash of bling.
Otantik Osmanlı Model Kırmızı Zirkon Tek Taşlı 925 Ayar Gümüş Bayan Yüzük
Ottoman ring by Gittigidiyor, Istanbul
[ ]

[1] For dazzling diamonds to enjoy,  see 

Monday, 21 October 2019

The Rake, his honour and his mission

           A Heavenly Horse, Huguenots, smallpox and silversmithing 
          all feature in the second Montailhac Family tale, 

                                                    The Rake and His Honour

         the story of a breathless pursuit across England and France 
during the Napoleonic Wars.

Monday, 29 April 2019

A pleasant way to end the day

with a Regency Tale – adventure, intrigue and romance 

 "Witty, engaging and totally entertaining." Nicola Cornick,  
          USA Today bestselling author 

The Rake and his Honour starts in an age-old cavern in the Pyrenees where the heroine takes shelter from a storm...only to find a hostile gentleman also hiding there

                 A Merens horse [Pyrenees]

The story soon moves to a smart address in London, with some Society activities, followed by a dash to the French king in exile at Hartwell House at Aylesbury; 
and finally a race by this very ill-matched pair to outwit two of Napoleon's top agents.  Disciplined Huguenot Louise, and charming rake Arnaut are so busy dodging knives and bullets there is never a moment for love. Or is there?

      Looking out from Arnaut's cavern                             

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Fancy some armchair travel to olden days and other ways ?

Beth Elliott’s Regency Talesadventure, intrigue and romance

            "Witty, engaging and totally entertaining." - Nicola Cornick,  
          USA Today bestselling author.


 Ice meets fire in Constantinople

                                 A Montailhac Family Tale

Constantinople 1811

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 a short excerpt

'It would be very easy, Olivia,' he insisted, his eyes flashing as she kept shaking her head. 'No servant would hesitate if I gave the order to have you tied in a sack and thrown in the Bosphorus.'
            At this she leapt to her feet. 'You are disgusting!' she shouted, 'I can hardly believe you're human when you talk like that. You take me away by force and plan to use me for your entertainment with no respect for my wishes or my reputation.'
            He rose in one fluid movement and stood over her. 'You have no reputation.'

     Not a promising start to the relationship between the diplomat and the artist....

Kindle edition :      /Scandalous-Lady   

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Ancient Greek and Roman 'coffee' with a twist

The acanthus, a thistle like plant, is found all round the Mediterranean. Since the time of the ancient Greeks its leaves have been used as a motif in decoration, especially on the Corinthian columns of the great antique temples.

About 20 miles inland from the Mediterranean Turkish town of Silifke are the ruins of the vast holy city of Diocaesarea [ now known as Uzuncaburc = Tall columns]. There are plenty of examples of acanthus carved capitals, most sadly tumbled by age and earthquakes.

Acanthus = kenger in Turkish

At the entrance to the site there are a number of basic shops and cafes, where you can buy embroidery, lace or knitted goods; and have a simple meal of 'sikma' - a cheese pancake, and a drink of kenger coffee. This is the same as the ancient Greek / Roman coffee, made from the dried seed pods of the thistle-like acanthus plant - a tradition which has come down many centuries.
The shop sign says Kenger Kahve bulunur
we sell Kenger Coffee

Drinking this brew under the tall columns with their acanthus leaf carvings makes the experience special.