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. 

Saturday, 16 February 2019

La Cantéra

The Outcasts is set in the French Pyrenees at a time when life followed an age-old pattern, dictated by the changing seasons. Livestock was taken up into the high valleys from the end of May to the beginning of October. Shepherds and their dogs were vital for keeping the flocks safe during this time. Bears, wolves, eagles were all a threat, in addition to wild weather.   

Before leaving the shepherd to his lonely life in the mountains, groups of local people accompanied him for a part of the journey while taking large flocks of sheep, goats, cows and horses up to their usual pastures. In the villages en route, there would be a gathering of the people, consumption of food and alcohol, and music. This was generally called a cantéra - a spontaneous concert of traditional ballads, some of them dating from ancient times. Everybody joined in, no matter how well or badly they could sing.
 The Pipe Player is still a popular song, performed at many cantéras across the Pyrenees. You can see a version in this video, uploaded by Ellen Chapoulié

'Il habite la-haut, perdu dans la montagne,
Le soir quand il fait beau un grand chien l’accompagne...’

The pipe player lives up in the mountain,
On fine evenings a large dog accompanies him.

The song goes on to tell how the piper lives so high up he can touch the stars. On his pipe he plays the song of the wind and the music of the birds.

The Pyreneen sheepdog, large, strong and intelligent, is a working dog. Used to the harsh climate of the high mountains, he spends his life protecting his flock from predators.

Not all the animals in the high Pyrenees are dangerous 

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The Pyrenean chamois [called  an "isard"] lives above 2,000 metres. It's shy but curious.

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The marmot also lives at high altitudes. They live in large groups in burrows.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Can you help my hero?

Joachim is the youngest in the family, the only one still at home -a chateau. 
He is in charge of maintaining his father's estates, both the land and the livestock. Hardworking, athletic and earnest, he hasn't had much time for dalliance or developing a relationship with a girl... until now. 

At last he seems to have found someone who has similar ideals and who is athletic enough to keep pace with all his outdoor tasks and the riding involved. So far, so good. But falling in love with him is not enough, unless he can get her to love the wild and remote region in which he lives. So what beauty spots will win her heart?

The mountains 

or the lakes

or perhaps the little towns close to his home


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Which scenes would you advise him to show her ?


Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Read an extract from my Work in Progress: "The Outcasts"

Joachim is escorting his mother's guests from Toulouse to the family home, the chateau de Fontanes, in the French Pyrenees. Of the two young ladies, one is sulking and one is permanently fuming. Major Hugo Dawlish is unwell after being attacked by unknown villains the previous evening

Joachim could scarcely believe his good luck the following morning. Nobody had been attacked overnight.  Everyone appeared for breakfast at the time he had stated. Everyone was ready to leave at the agreed time and the journey went smoothly through the first few stages. There were no sounds of quarrelling coming from the young ladies. They made no grumbles about the winding roads, and on the steep hills where the horses pulled the coach at a snail’s pace, they got out to walk. Joachim heard their admiring comments about the picturesque scenery and felt pleased. This was better. And soon they would be home. His mother would know how to calm Sophie and more importantly, how to brighten up Miss Dismal, both in her spirits and her attire.
            This was his second day in her company and so far she had not smiled once. Even when he pointed out another breath-taking view as they walked up one of the steep inclines, her pinched expression never relaxed. He wanted to shout at her to show some enthusiasm. And her clothes only added to the general impression of gloom. He cast an eye over her light grey gown and the darker grey pelisse she wore. Her bonnet was a simple straw one, with no ribbons or flowers to brighten it up. Joachim gave a wry smile as he imagined his sister Margot’s reaction to this dreary outfit. She was always so fashionable. It was a good thing she lived too far away to see these visitors during their stay at Fontanes.
There was not much traffic on the road and no sign of any evil-doers. Joachim’s chief concern was whether Hugo would manage to ride for the remaining part of the journey. He was evidently in pain, his head down with his chin tucked against his throat and taking no notice of the scenery. Since their last change of horses, Bertrand was riding next to him, while Joachim went ahead of the coach. But now, as they entered the town of Tarascon, Joachim let the coach overtake him. He exclaimed in dismay when he saw Hugo swaying in the saddle, and hurriedly came close alongside, ready to catch him if need be.
‘The coaching inn is just the other side of the river, Hugo,’ he said. ‘You’ll be glad of a rest, I think.’
There was no reply. Hugo seemed scarcely to hear him. They slowed their horses to a walk and crossed the bridge. The familiar sight of the round castella on the hill above the Ariege River was a welcome reminder that they were now only an hour from home. They rode into the yard of the Castella Inn and dismounted. Bertrand cleared his throat, and when Joachim looked, jerked his head towards Hugo, who was leaning against his horse, face as white as paper and eyes screwed up. They took him firmly by the arms.
‘Just a few steps,’ said Bertrand, ‘nearly there.’
‘Sorry,’ mumbled Hugo, dragging his feet and flopping against them with each step. They guided him into a private parlour and deposited him in an armchair.    
‘Whatever is wrong?’ cried Sophie, rushing over to stare. She pressed both hands over her mouth in alarm. Nell followed her and Joachim was surprised at how her face softened as she bent over the sick man and examined the wound. She touched the broken skin very gently.  Hugo’s mouth tightened and Joachim winced for him.

(c) Beth Elliott 2018



                                           Looking upstream from the bridge-
            The Tour du Castella, built in 1775, on the site of the medieval castle 
            [which was pulled down by order of Cardinal Richelieu]


                The Ariège river, looking downstream from the bridge

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Third Time Lucky

The Chateau de Gudanes

'I need a chateau as a home for my hero,' I emailed my French friend. 'Can you help me? It must be in a fairly remote location, but very grand, fit for a Turkish princess and her aristocratic French husband.'

After frowning over a map of south west France in vain, Hélène called the Tourist Office in Foix, Ariège. A cheerful sounding girl picked up the phone.

'Er...I need a chateau, what can you suggest?'

'But...there's a medieval castle here in town,' was the reply.
'No, it has to be in a remote area.'
'Oh... well then, what about all those Cathar castles?'
'No, no, they're ruins. It has to be a grand chateau, where an aristocratic family would live in the 18th century.'
Long pause...'Could I ask what you want it for?' The tone was getting impatient now.
'It's for my friend, who's writing a novel set in 1811. She wants to situate the family in a splendid chateau but not near a town.'
Another pause. 'All I can think of is a tumbledown chateau in a small village near Ax-les-Thermes in the Pyrenees. It's in a shocking state but it was once a magnificent place. '
'Mademoiselle, I just know you've found the very thing. A thousand thanks.'
'Yes, but you can't visit. It's unsafe. It's called Gudanes, by the way.'

Soon afterwards, Hélène and I made a trip to Ax-les-Thermes and drove out to take a look at the Chateau de Gudanes. It was absolutely right as a setting for my fictional family. A medieval fortress, much enlarged and updated in the charming style of the eighteenth century, it was indeed splendid. Even with its empty windows, patches of crumbling stonework and shutters hanging loose, an overgrown avenue and a sad air of neglect, it was perfect. And a personal thrill was that Voltaire stayed there, [he's my literary hero].


                       Seen from outside the padlocked gate with warning signs of the danger.

The chateau is set in an extensive park surrounded by high walls

It was two years before we made a second trip into the Pyrenees and stopped to look at the Chateau de Gudanes again. By this time, there was good news in the nearby village. An Australian family had bought the chateau and repairs and renovation had already started. It would take much determination and effort to repair the long years of neglect, especially the water damage from holes in the roof, but our spirits lifted at the idea of this glorious place being lived in and loved once more. [And it had already given me lots of inspiration for my story; so much in fact that I was writing a second tale set in that region.]

And recently we made a third visit, when by good luck and good timing, we were actually able to go through the open gates, along that driveway and up the stairs leading to the wide terrace to the open front door. Now the chateau has all its windows fixed, the shutters have been repaired and the roof is sound. No wonder it looks brighter and seems to be beaming a welcome.


Thanks to the kindness of the new owners' daughter, we had a tour round all the habitable parts. The amount of restoration already done is amazing, and shows the family's love for this chateau,  which has an atmosphere of warmth and serenity. 
As Hélène said when we posed for a photo on the terrace, this chateau has a soul.  

                                                                                                                                                                          The open door, where Alfie the dog waits to accompany us on our tour.                                                                

Karina Waters, the owner and prime mover in the massive programme of works at the chateau, has recently written and published this book recording the story so far.

Chateau de Gudanes - A true love story never ends