Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Exotic jewellery? Bring it on!

In Scandalous Lady, Olivia arrives in Constantinople and at once visits a merchant with a large store of luxury goods, from carpets to jewellery. The mix of styles, from Byzantine to Ottoman, means she is dazzled by the range of items in his shop.

She really goes there intending to buy a few carpets to make her new home more comfortable. However, Mr Arapchian has such stacks of carpets that she goes a bit mad...

And then he shows her the jewellery. She is dazzled by the exotic splendour of it all.

If you like REALLY exotic gems, click on this link to see some of the famous jewels from the Top Kapi Museum

            On this occasion, Olivia opts for a delicate filigree pendant.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The *One Lovely Blog* Award

One Lovely Blog Award


I was nominated by fellow writer Judith Arnopp for the One Lovely Blog Award
The award recognizes newer or up-and-coming bloggers who share their story or thoughts in a “lovely” manner, giving them recognition and helping them reach more viewers. 
In order to “accept” the award the nominated blogger must follow several guidelines.

The Rules for accepting the Award(s):

    1. Thank and link back to the awesome person who nominated you.
    2. Add the One Lovely Blog Award logo to your post and/or blog.
    3. Share 7 things about yourself.
    4. Nominate up to 15 other bloggers and comment on their blogs to let them know.

So, first, thank you Judith Arnopp for this wonderful compliment and opportunity. I love your blog and am sure others will too. 

Now then, seven things about me.

1 First things first. I keep house for Wellington, a gentle black cat [but he's boss, as cats always are.]

2 When not engaged in cat duties, I write travel articles, and tales of adventure and romance set in the Regency era. Here's my first story, which was shortlisted for the RNA Romance Prize. In a way, I combine both types of writing as research for a story often involves travel. 

3 I'm a closet Queen Fan. There could only ever be one Freddie * * ~~**~~ [that's my little rhapsody] and his songs are silk and steel.

4 I learned to embroider in silks from my great-aunt. I'm not sure she'd approve of the way I developed this into bead embroidery with lots of sparkle and glitter. This one is inspired by a Turkish folk song about the mountains and the town far below.

5 My mother's family are Welsh and they all sang in choirs. My aunt was a trained opera singer - but to everyone's consternation, I can't sing a note.

6 Perhaps the Welsh side comes through a bit as I love voices and never know anyone until I know their voice.

7 I love exploring small, out-of-the way countries, that still maintain their old traditions. Recently I went to Albania and was delighted by so many picturesque places from Shkodra in the north to Sarande in the south. Here's a photo of Mount Tomorri, taken from the massive citadel of Berat.

And now, it's my pleasure to introduce these Bloggers whose delightful blogs deserve the same kind of recognition.  Writer of romantic comedies.

http://elizabethcaulfieldfelt.wordpress. : reading, writing and no arithmetic Writer of contemporary romance Nicola Slade's Winchester mysteries Jane Risdon  Alys Einion Elaine Everest  Suzie Tullett Marilyn Brant Elizabeth Hanbury

Saturday, 5 July 2014

An unusual hero

The hero in Scandalous Lady is an enigmatic man, an ice-cool diplomat and accustomed to command. The inspiration for his character came from a photo, 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 in all his arrogance 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's stomach churned. 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 gulped. 'Talk' indeed! She glared at him to disguise the rising sense of fear, knowing 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. Although his beautiful eyes were closer now than ever before, 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. She stared, astonished at a procession of servants, all 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 wafted 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  

Later in the story, Selim, a keen musician, plays Mozart's Turkish March for Olivia. 

Here it's performed by Turkish pianist, Fazil Say


 Sultan Mahmud II, seated in state with his officials [about 1810]. The description of his yellow robe is in John Cam Hobhouse's account of the audience he and Lord Byron had with Sultan Mahmud in July of that year.

 By 1827 the Sultan had banned this traditional dress in favour of modern European costume.

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


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

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.

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.