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:

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 :
  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

Monday, 9 December 2013

MY WRITING PROCESS #mywritingprocess

Today is Blog Tour day, when writers answer questions about their writing process. Last week, fellow author Penny Grubb posted hers. You can check it out at
 Penny is a hard act to follow, but I thank her for the invitation.

So, what is my writing process? I always have a notebook and pencil but the main area for work is my study. I would blush to let anyone see inside but all those books, papers and maps are lying around for a purpose. The cat enjoys prowling among them to find a cosy nook to sleep, until he senses I'm totally absorbed. I draw a veil over the language used when he pulls me out of my other world.

1 What are you working on?

I'm writing the second story about brothers in a half-French, half-Turkish family. The period is 1811 - 1813, so the background is the Napoleonic wars and the general turmoil throughout Europe. My main character is a Rake but he longs for a proper role to equal his older brother, the skilled diplomat [whose story is told in Scandalous Lady]. I'm sure his brother would have cautioned him: Be careful what you wish for! In his eagerness to undertake a noble quest, he becomes entangled with a pair of vicious spies and faces one crisis after another in a fast paced chase across England and France.

2 How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I'm a great fan of all Regency stories but I particularly like tales set in exotic places. There were plenty of independent women who set off to discover the world, so I combine those two elements. I've written two tales set in Constantinople [which was on the tourist trail for rich aristocrats with a yacht ] and my current novel begins in the Pyrenees, from where the hero travels to meet with the French royal family who were in exile in England in 1813.                                  

3 Why do you write what you do?

My family were great storytellers and I always had enough imagination to add further episodes to the tales we told each evening around the fire. And if I read a story I particularly liked, I couldn't part with the characters, so I made up further episodes for them. Long ago and far away were my favourite places. So I'm simply carrying on the family tradition. Also I love accounts of intrepid women adventurers, and model my heroines on them. Currently, I feel very at home in the wider Regency era, although I also love - and write - medieval adventure stories.

4 How does your writing process work?

A story always begins from a picture or two. I have an ever-growing collection of faces and places, found in magazines. Suddenly one face stands out and his or her story begins to take shape. Some scenes are clear immediately although I don't know at that point where they will be in the novel.
I scribble a working synopsis, about half a page. This grows and changes as I go along. By Chapter 3 the characters are dictating what they will and won't do. It's a weird process but it truly happens. Of course, there is plenty of research, which may lead to some revision. 

For In All Honour I walked the streets of Bath to be sure the timing of the characters' outings is right. 

For Scandalous Lady I visited a delightful palace in IstanbulAs well as being a royal pavilion, it was used for official business and the signing of treaties. It is now the State Music Museum.

For my current story, [gulp] I ventured a kilometre inside a vast prehistoric cavern in the Pyrenees, then transferred my fear of this adventure to my heroine. Most recently, I made a visit to Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire, which was absolutely wonderful and inspired extra elements for the plot. 

Editing and revision take place as I write. If something feels wrong, it disturbs my sleep. That means that the following morning I grab paper and pen before even getting out of bed to rewrite the scene or move events to a better place. Normally, I prefer to write in the late evening, until the inspiration gives out.

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please leave a comment.


Jane Riddell, editor and writer of short stories and novels. The photos of her travels on her website are wonderful.

Elizabeth Hanbury writes historical romance with swoonworthy heroes, sparkling heroines and a dash of wit and humour.

Paula Martin, romance writer and contemporary romance author. Http:// 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Interview with Jane Riddell

        My guest today is Jane Riddell

Jane is an Edinburgh-based writer, editor and photographer. Her work includes short stories, life writing and contemporary novels, which she qualifies as "quiet fiction". In addition to writing and blogging, Jane runs an editing agency, Choice Words Editing.

Her recently published debut novel is Water's Edge, a contemporary drama about a family reunion which doesn’t go as planned.  Madalena invites her four adult children to Switzerland to help her celebrate her hotel’s 40th anniversary, not knowing that there are secrets and tensions amongst them.  What is meant to be a happy occasion turns out to be a stormy one.

 1-     Jane, could you define quiet fiction?

I’d never heard of  ‘quiet fiction’ until a tutor suggested my writing fitted this description.  If you ‘google’ the term, you don’t really find anything.  Realistic fiction, on the other hand, is more widely-used and is defined as a story about real people experiencing situations that could really happen.  I have concluded that the two terms have similar meanings.

2 - Why did you choose overseas locations for your novels?

I love to travel, and choosing other countries as a setting allows me to spend an afternoon in the mountains and lakes of Switzerland, or the beach and hillside villages of southern France, when those around me are enduring yet another wet, blustery Edinburgh afternoon.  The location for Water’s Edge, I think, was inspired by Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac.   After finishing another novel, I decided that lakes and mountains would be my next setting.  Shortly after I spent several days in Brunnen, on Lake Luzern in Switzerland, and  - more slowly than I would have expected  - realised this was the idea setting for Water’s Edge.  I began writing the novel immediately.
3 - When and why did you start writing seriously?

I had been writing as a hobby for many years, but was never caught up enough in it to work on something for more than a couple of hours at a time.  During most of these years I had a paid job. When we decided to move to France, things changed.  I was unlikely to be able to work there because of my limited French, and reckoned that I would probably spend more time writing.  Several months before we left Edinburgh, during a Saturday afternoon at the gym, I found myself on the treadmill, listening to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas singing Dancing in the Street, and thinking:  I’ll have a go at becoming a serious writer. Perhaps I was inspired by the music that afternoon, perhaps the desire to make writing more important simply crept up on me.  Maybe I felt that the newness of another country would make my writing more pivotal to my existence.

When we arrived in France, I discovered I could write for longer chunks of time, and became quite productive in terms of finishing pieces of work, rewriting short stories and starting work on a new novel.

4 - What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?

A believable plot, realistic characters, a well-described setting and good dialogue.  For me, too, how the story is told greatly affects my pleasure in it: not too much explanation, the right balance of action, reflection and dialogue, leaving the reader space to draw their own conclusions.

5 - What are your writing strengths and weaknesses?

Feedback suggests I have the ability to describe a setting in a way that pulls readers in.  I have never thought I could do that, not compared to other authors, for example, Anita Shreve, whose descriptions of severe winters on the east coast of the US are wonderful.  I think dialogue is one of my strengths.  I’ve read copious technical books about writing and always been particularly interested in sections about dialogue.  When I did my Masters in Creative Writing, I learned about the use of subtext as a way of adding richness and tension to conversations.  Although I haven’t quite got to grips with this technique yet, I do try to deploy it in my writing.

As for weaknesses - I don’t have particularly good imagination, and I find endings difficult.  It’s so tempting to tie everything up neatly but that’s just too convenient and not realistic.  I also have to work hard at not rushing through a scene, giving the reader time to absorb it, and not to include too much banal domestic detail.  I’m sure there other areas worthy of improvement, but these are the ones that immediately spring to mind.

6 - What elements do you consider essential for a character to be believable?

Not too perfect, not too villainous.  I think there has to be consistency of behaviour, or at least a consistent inconsistency, if this makes sense.   It’s important, too, to convey or at least hint at depth of personality.

7 - Do you have a routine for your writing?

Definitely not.  Since living in France I’ve adapted to a mid-Atlantic time zone with afternoon mornings, and evening afternoons.  Not a good idea, on balance, but with no pressure to do so, it’s hard to change.  I tend to do some writing or promoting my work every day, but there’s little rhyme or reason to what and when this might be.  Fortunately, I have no desire to be the kind of writer who knocks out a book every year and as I rarely have deadlines imposed on me – sometimes with editing work I am given a date - I don’t completely buy the ‘routine’ bit.  That said, I met a delightful person this week, who works full time and has already completed seven books this year, and if I’m being honest, I realise that if I did have a routine, I would probably be more productive.

8 - How long does it take you to complete a novel?

It varies.  Water’s Edge took just under four years, but it underwent various drafts.  I first submitted it to agents less than a year after starting it, believing it was ready and, understandably, got nowhere.  Then when we returned from France to the UK and I started studying for my Masters, at the lecturer’s advice, I reluctantly put it aside until I’d finished the course.  When I picked it up again, I realised it required substantial revising, and this took two and half years.  My current novel, Chergui’s Child, has been on the go, off and on, for 12 years!

9 - If you could go to any part of the world to write a novel, where would you choose to go?

Nepal, perhaps, or Kashmir.  I spent a week in Nepal and it was magical.  As for the purply grey light of Srinagar - I will never forget that.  I think either of these places would be inspirational, or perhaps a tea plantation in Darjeeling.

10 - What type of reading inspires you to write?

Probably the same sort of thing that I write – quiet fiction.   Authors such as Anita Shreve, Anita Brookner, and Ian McEwan have influenced me – for their beautiful use of language, the depths of their characterisation, and their ability to describe locations.  I am not so interested in genre writing, although as I currently watch a lot of police procedurals on telly, it’s occurred to me I might enjoy reading them, and perhaps one day, trying to write one….

11 - What are you working on now?

I’m rewriting Chergui’s Child.  Like Water’s Edge, CC did the round of agents while we were living in France, and didn’t get very far.   As I still strongly believed in its storyline, I returned to it just over a year ago.  The structure of the telling has changed significantly, and I’ve been editing it for a while now.   

12 - What do you do when the going gets tough?

I’ve experienced two episodes of writer’s block so far.  The first was after I finished my Masters.  It was a difficult year academically and there was some unpleasantness.   I emerged from it bloody  - if unbowed - and a bit stuck.  This period coincided with an elderly relative having a massive stroke.  I think the combination of the Masters’ experience and the distress of my aunt’s condition resulted in a stuckness.  I would look at Water’s Edge and think:  so what?  Who cares?  What I did was spend the next five or six months blogging hard to keep my writing muscle exercised, and made notes about how to write from various ‘how to’ books.  At this time I’d begun working with a mentor, who was gently encouraging and gave me constructive feedback about my writing.   Gradually the energy returned, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

I’m stuck again, this time with Chergui’s Child.  This might partly be due to having received some positive reviews of Water’s Edge and an anxiety about CC not living up to possible readers’ expectations.  Or it might be because there’s a fundamental problem I have to sort out with CC.  At the moment, therefore, I’m spending more time promoting WE  - directly and indirectly - than writing CC.  

13 - Your photos are very evocative. Do you use them to inspire your writing?

I think I do, but indirectly.  I take loads of photos when abroad and the fact that I’m so keen to display them on my author’s website, suggests that there’s a connection – certainly with my identity.  I don’t kid myself that I’m anything like a professional in my technique, but my tendency to view scenery through the eyes of a lens, is strong.  I think my photos are often in my head, i.e. I can think about them when I’m not actually viewing them.  And so they inspire me.  Certainly when living in France and surrounded by the most beautiful mountains and national parks, I wrote prolifically.

14 - How does your editing work affect your writing?

I find that mixing my own creative writing with other people’s writing, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, works well.  The commonalities of both are the need for precision, logical flow and eliminating unnecessary words.  When I’m struggling to connect with my own creativity, it’s a pleasure, and a relief, to be working on someone else’ s writing and not to have to be imaginative.  But when I’ve been doing this for a while, it feels positive to return to my writing.

The more I edit, the more I see the need for further editing of my own work.  If I were to look back at Water’s Edge now, about 18 months after finishing it, I’m sure I’d find scope for further revision.

Jane Riddell's website

and her Blog                   Papillon:Inconsequential thoughts

website editing address

Monday, 21 October 2013

Cymru - The Land of the Red Dragon

Mid-Wales is a distant country, reached by roads that wind up and downhill, twisting and turning at the same time. With a pinch of imagination it's easy to think they were shaped by dragons, winding their long tails as they raced along. As we travel further west, the land becomes increasingly rugged, alternating between barren moorland and wooded copses. Red kites wheel overhead, and sheep on the hillsides crop at the grass. Occasionally we pass a lone whitewashed house, set well back from the road. Villages are tiny in a landscape of muted green and grey, with steel and silver clouds masking a pale blue sky. But when the sun shines, the colours spring to life, a palette of vivid greens and blues.

At last we reach Rhayader, a market town on the River Wye. The Clock Tower at the crossroads marks the important routes to all parts of Wales. Rhayader was a 19th century staging post on the coach road from Aberystwyth to London. Earlier than that, cattle drovers driving their flocks of sheep to markets in Hereford or even as far as London, would halt in Rhayader to rest and get provisions.


More recently, the town has become a stopping place for tourists who want to visit the Elan Valley, with the impressive Victorian built dams that provide water for the city of Birmingham. After a day spent wandering around this wild and beautiful area, it's easy to see how stories of monsters, heroes and magic developed in the land.

[The following five pictures of the Elan Valley and its dams are by courtesy of Mackenzies of Rhayader and are all (c)Mackenzies ]

[You can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them ]

[above] Craig Coch reservoir

 [above] Pen y Carreg reservoir


This region was once the kingdom of Vortigern...but that's another story and deserves a post of its own.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Rose Petal Jam

Today I'm delighted to welcome my Turkish friend, Seyda as my guest. She's an incredibly busy lady but she's sparing the time to explain how to make Rose Petal jam. Having tasted this delicacy in her home, I know it's as delicious to taste as it's beautiful to look at. And actually, it isn't too difficult to make.

Welcome, Seyda, and thank you for dropping by.

Not at all, it's my pleasure. It's always nice to chat. And of course, I'm happy to explain how to make Gül Reçel.

I was fascinated by the beautiful pink colour of your jam, and the fact that it was absolutely clear. How do you achieve that?

You can only make this jam with pink, scented roses, and they have to be cabbage roses or centifolias. You pick the petals from six fully opened roses, all on the same day.

Remove any bits of stamen, then wash the petals in a large bowl of water until clean. Drain well and shake in a sieve.

Mix together  5 tablespoonfuls of caster sugar
                         The juice of half a lemon
                         1 crystal of lemon salts [the size of a pea]
                         The rose petals
                        and squeeze it all into a paste, which you put into a sealed jar.
                      Store this paste in the fridge [it will keep for months]

And how does this become jam?

When you are ready to make the jam, you start by boiling together 3 1/2  glasses of water and 3 glasses of sugar.
Boil until it is a thick syrup. Test by dropping a little on a saucer. When it does not run it is ready.
Add the rose mixture from the jar. Stir for five minutes while the mixture is boiling. When it foams and hisses, it is ready. Turn off the heat.

Allow to cool for a few minutes, then put into glass jars [pretty ones if you have them]. Seal when cool.

And finally, what do you use it for?

We may use it on a sponge cake, or put a spoonful on top of a portion of rice pudding or a tablecream. It can also be eaten at breakfast or at tea time.

As we say in Turkish: "Afiyet olsun" - enjoy and may it do you good.

Thank you, Seyda. I look forward to sampling some more of your rose petal jam soon.


Before you go, let's enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee - and perhaps you'll read my fortune. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

A home for my hero

The Princes' Islands are situated at about an hour's sailing time from the European side of Istanbul. They are a peaceful haven, where wealthy Istanbullus have a summer villa, or if not rich enough to own or rent one, go for a few days holiday in a hotel.  The journey by boat sets the mood - no racing along the motorway, it is a restful interlude. 

When you disembark, the peaceful atmosphere continues. There are no motorised vehicles on the island. Transport is either by bike or by horse drawn carriage. The roads are really quiet.


The villas are mainly set back in beautifully tended gardens.

The islands have been inhabited for as long as Constantinople itself, so it seemed feasible to give my hero a home on Buyukada, the largest island. Research to decide where and what style of house, was indeed a pleasure for me. The villas are delightful but traditionally they are made of wood and so are not generally very long lasting. 

There are only a couple left old enough to represent a building typical of the 18th Century. Judging by this engraving, the older villas were large and elaborate - very suitable for my hero's mother, who is a Turkish princess.

 Fortunately for Olivia in Scandalous Lady, the hero's yali is always kept in good order for when members of the family visit from France. Selim sends Olivia here as a place of safety. In his mother's house, she is protected by the laws of hospitality from the Sultan's plan to dispose of her. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Sunshine and warm hearts

After the winter that wouldn't end, I was in a hurry to get back to Turkey to be cheered up by kind relatives and friends as well as by large doses of sunshine and warm hospitality. Nothing is too much trouble when they have a visitor, even in such uncertain times as they are living now and they are weighed down by the apprehension of what could happen.

Meals are always an opportunity to crowd everyone round a table groaning with goodies. I love the differences between a Turkish breakfast and our own.

The central tray contains different white cheeses, made from goats', cows' or  sheeps' milk and the firmer, yellow kashar cheese. Then there is butter, kaymak [cream from the top of yogurt], green and black olives, dried apricots and their kernels, walnuts, honey and rose-hip jam. Oh, and fresh chopped tomatoes, peppers and cucumber. All washed down with copious amounts of black tea.

And then there are the invitations to afternoon tea, which is more what we would consider a high tea.

Here we have a selection of salads and savoury patties, made with bulgur wheat and red lentils.There are lemons to squeeze over the salads and fresh mint for extra taste. Then there are poacha, boat shaped pastries filled with white cheese and herbs, various small buns and a ring cake full of chopped almonds and walnuts.
 As at  breakfast, the preferred drink is tea.
Later, there will be  a huge plate of fruit, nicely chilled in the fridge and very welcome in the torrid heat and finally Turkish coffee, followed by fortune telling for those who want it.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

A Taste of Eastern Splendour


Caught in a compromising situation with Tom, Rose is whisked away in disgrace and hastily married off. Four years later, widowed but still heartsore that Tom abandoned her without a struggle, she is horrified to encounter him again - and in Constantinople of all places. Worse, she has to work with him on a secret document for the Sultan.  Kerim Pasha, the powerful and handsome minister, is entranced by Rose's English beauty and immediately spirits her off into his home.
Tom has never forgotten Rose but even now, the misunderstandings continue. In addition, Rose is determined to maintain her hard-won independence. But back in London, she soon finds that not only Tom, but Kerim Pasha also, has arrived and neither has given up hope of winning her.

Published by Robert Hale   ISBN 9780709090427


This is from Chapter 2, when Tom and Rose come face to face so unexpectedly, after a long gap, in Constantinople.

Tom gulped and frowned at the empty glass. Just what had Mehmet put in the hoshaf? To his annoyance, a large blot was spreading over his sketch. With a sigh he set his pen down and looked up again reluctantly. Apparently it was not an illusion. The three dark shapes were still there.
Not for the first time he found himself wishing that he knew just what he was looking at. Some ladies wore only the lightest of silken veils and you could more or less look them in the eye. These three were completely hidden. He scowled. How dare they invade his office at such a time.
          Behind them he spotted Sebastian Welland, making frantic gestures to him to stand. With a sigh, Tom rose to his full six foot three. There was a rustle as three heads shifted upwards beneath their wraps. From behind one of the veils came a sudden sharp intake of breath. Then silence. Tom’s thick brows drew down as he glared from one to the other, waiting. Normally women did not appear in public offices, especially Turkish women. Was it some kind of plot to disrupt these delicate negotiations?
          Sebastian now reappeared, together with Mehmet, carrying chairs. As he placed the seats for the visitors the young man stammered: ‘Ladies, this is our special envoy, Mr Hawkesleigh.’ Turning to Tom he quailed at the glare he received but persevered in his explanation. ‘I know you said you were not to be disturbed… but…but the Ambassador’s guest is still here…’ 
          Tom glared again at his unwelcome visitors. ‘I regret I cannot spare any time at present -’
At this, the smallest one put back her veil with an impatient gesture. Tom saw that she was fair skinned and haired. She looked to be in her late forties and had a keen, scholarly air.
          ‘Lady Emily Westacote,’ she said briskly, ‘and these are my two nieces.’
          ‘Westacote?’ echoed Tom. ‘Sir Philip Westacote, the antiquarian…?’
          Lady Westacote nodded. ‘Just so. I am his wife. And we are in need of help.’
          ‘In what way ma’am?’ Tom knew his tone was less than cordial. She probably wanted permits to excavate some godforsaken ruin in a remote and bandit-infested area of the Levant. Surely it could wait half an hour. His frustrated gaze turned to the other two females. They had not removed their veils.
          Lady Westacote followed his gaze. ‘Girls!’ she said reprovingly. At this the figure on her left raised her arms and put back the heavy veil to reveal a lovely face with huge pansy brown eyes and shining dark hair. Tom’s eyebrows lifted a little and Sebastian gaped in frank admiration. Then their heads all turned expectantly towards the last veiled figure. There was a pause then very slowly she raised her arms. Tom could sense the reluctance with which she folded back her veil. Then he drew in his breath sharply. His brows met across his formidable nose in a deep frown.
          The young lady met Tom’s eyes. Her oval face was pale and mask-like. Her hair was the colour of ripe wheat, just as he remembered. Tom felt a kind of pressure on his heart. Of all the impossible coincidences. What could bring Rose Graham here?
          ‘Allow me to present Mrs Rosalind Charteris,’ Lady Westacote indicated the fair haired girl, ‘and her sister, Miss Helena Graham.’
          Charteris! So she was married now. Tom could feel the blood draining from his cheeks. He kept his face impassive as he sketched a bow in the general direction of the young ladies. The surge of emotion and anger swamped him. For a moment he could not speak. Then he recovered enough to snap his fingers at Sebastian, who was still gazing from one beauty to the other. The young man gulped, nodded and disappeared, to return a few minutes later with Mehmet and the tray of glasses and fruit juice.
         While Mehmet poured drinks for the ladies, Tom stole a look at Rose Charteris. She was every bit as lovely as his memory of her. That glorious hair, so silky and thick, her creamy skin and that provocative pink mouth. He clenched his jaw against the memory of their last meeting. In spite of the years abroad, he had not forgotten the feel of her in his arms. He instinctively knew how ill at ease she was. She had not expected to find him here. She was gazing round the room, not looking in his direction. His mouth twisted. So what! She had married another man. And why was he surprised at that? She had never answered a single one of the many letters he had sent her.

(C) Beth Elliott