Saturday, 22 January 2022

Travelling abroad for work or pleasure in the early 1800s

The fascination of travel and of The East

In the early years of the 19th Century Britain was isolated by land due to the wide-ranging wars with Napoleon's armies. This did not deter adventurous travellers, and as Britain was mistress of the seas from Portsmouth to Constantinople, they set off on their expeditions. Some were purely tourists, burning to see ancient civilisations for themselves, others were diplomats, military advisers and traders. 

  In 1810, Lord Byron and his friend John Cam Hobhouse arrived in Constantinople. During their stay, they accompanied the British Ambassador on a formal visit to the Sultan, Mahmud II. Hobhouse later wrote that the Sultan, dressed in yellow satin, his milk-white hands ‘glittering with diamond rings’, had an ‘air of indescribable majesty’. 

This was confirmed by the wife of the retiring British Ambassador, Robert Adair. She had attended the ceremony, disguised as a man.

When Ambassador Robert Adair left in 1810, he promoted 24 year-old Stratford Canning, [ later Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe ], as Minister Plenipotentiary.  He was an energetic young man with robust ideas on protecting British interests. He had a wide intelligence network and corresponded with all his counterparts across Europe and the Levant Consequently, news of events in Paris, ViennaSt Petersburg and Berlin often came to London in the dispatches which Canning sent from Constantinople

In 1811, Lady Hester Stanhope arrived in Constantinople. The Sultan ordered that she was to be treated with great honour, as befitted a close relative of a former British Prime Minister. Lady Hester soon found a delightful place to live - a short distance north of the main city, in the seaside village of Tarabya. That is the Turkish form of the older Greek name of Therapia. The climate was mild and healthy here.                           


Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Take a trip back to Regency England via Lady Catherine's Salon and Joffe Books

 Many thanks to Sasha at Joffe Books, for this graphic. This week I'm enjoying my travels around Regency England through my Regency tales, as the Guest Hostess at Lady Catherine's Salon on Facebook.

These titles published on Kindle by JOFFE BOOKS


Saturday, 15 January 2022

Cover pictures, [past and present]

First published by Robert Hale, these hardback editions all had covers
designed by David Young, a Cornwall based artist,whose work
encompasses a wide variety of subjects. 
A distinctive feature is his use of bright and cheerful colours. 
As his range and his fame increases, maybe the covers will be of more value
than the stories inside. They certainly gave the books a certain cachet.
Thank you again, David. 


Later, two novels were published in paperback by Lume Books

together with two new stories.

Recently Joffe Books reissued my first two stories [which are linked] 

as ebooks, with updated covers.




Thursday, 16 December 2021

With much love and respect


 [Credit to the creator of this photo. My apologies, I don't know the name to credit them more personally.]

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

A fortune in jewels

Since their father remarried, he has not given Nell and Sophie any money.

This means they cannot escape life with their hostile young stepmother. Fortunately, their Aunt Sophie finds out. She takes them to London and summons the family lawyer to discuss their situation.

It turns out they will inherit a respectable sum each on their marriage or when they reach the age of 25 years. That is no help to Nell, who desperately needs funds NOW.

But then the lawyer informs them that their childless Aunt Eleanor has left them her collection of jewels. 

18th century orange foiled topaz triple drop pendant and girandole earrings

                                                        [c] S J Phillips

Mr Cheadle braced himself. ‘Now we will inspect Lady Eleanor’s bequest. As the only daughter of the Earl of Danestree, she possessed a most valuable collection of jewellery. Some items, indeed, should only be worn when security is very tight.’ He shook his head, adjusted his spectacles, which had slipped down his nose, and at last began to draw the interesting boxes out from the chest.

As he opened one velvet case after another, all three ladies exclaimed in admiration and delight at the sparkling jewels. There were several formal parures, including one of rubies and diamonds, and another of emeralds, together with an emerald tiara.

Aunt Sophie pressed a hand to her lips. ‘Oh, I remember her wearing that tiara and that superb emerald collar at Court.’

‘Superb?’ Sophie giggled. ‘It’s terribly ornate. Poor Aunt Eleanor. How uncomfortable. And so old-fashioned.’

‘Emeralds would not become you,’ announced Aunt Sophie, ‘but those pink topaz girandole earrings would be perfect.’

Sophie agreed. In addition to several more necklaces, there were a number of rings, bracelets and earrings, as well as a leather case full of rose-cut diamond brooches and pendants. These gems flashed with the fire of the purest stones, causing all three ladies to gasp in admiration.

‘Those were worn as decoration on the bodice of the old-style court gowns,’ observed Aunt Sophie, picking one up and turning it to admire the play of light on the jewels. ‘Completely out of fashion now, of course, but it is no great matter to have the gems reset in a modern style.’ She frowned. ‘I seem to remember my sister-in-law had a pair of diamond shoe buckles. What happened to – oh, there they are.’

She inspected them through her lorgnette. ‘Yes, these are the ones. It was rare to have real diamond buckles, was it not, Mr Cheadle?’  

 ‘Allow me to place everything in two piles, according to Lady Eleanor’s will,’ said Mr Cheadle firmly, ‘Then you young ladies may select what you wish to take for now and I can return the other items to the vault for safekeeping.’

            Watching the lawyer set out the various cases and boxes before her, Nell could scarcely breathe. This was her one chance to get money for her escape. She must select something of great value while not arousing suspicion.

It was difficult to keep her hands from trembling while she examined several sets of gems, eventually picking out a pretty necklace of pink rock crystal and seed pearls, with matching girandole earrings. Aunt Sophie nodded approvingly. Nell fiddled with brooches and earrings, examining them one after the other slowly, until Aunt Sophie turned her attention back to Sophie, who was hesitating between an aquamarine pendant and a delicate necklace of diamonds and pearls. While they were deciding, Nell added a pair of pearl bracelets and one of the massive diamond brooches to her selection.

            Her aunt tut-tutted. ‘That diamond piece is far too big to suit modern dress.’  

            ‘If I decide on my almond green gown, I’d want diamonds, not coloured stones,’ said Nell, willing her voice to sound calm. ‘This brooch can be unhooked, and turn into two smaller ones, see.’ She separated it to demonstrate. ‘Exactly what I need for the occasion.’ She gazed coolly from her aunt to Mr Cheadle. He bowed his head politely, though his eyes were anguished. That told her the diamonds were truly valuable.

            Sophie, bless her, drew the attention away by asking with a laugh, ‘Nell, perhaps you’d like to borrow my diamond buckles to complete your outfit.’

Later, as she inspected her new treasures, Nell gave silent thanks to Aunt Eleanor. Her heart soared. A couple of those diamonds would surely sell for enough to pay for her journey to France, and allow her some much needed money in her pocket. It will transform my life. She drew out Joachim’s little disc and kissed it. Not much longer now, my darling.

From   'A Problem of Honour'

18th century rose cut diamond brooch, On sale from Gallerease, Netherlands

Note : the jewellery shown is for sale at prices that would still make Nell very wealthy today.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

The kindness of strangers.

 A little tale as it's the only thank you I can offer to kind strangers.

Researching a major setting for my novel, which takes place in Istanbul, I needed to visit a royal pavilion, which has the grand name of 'The Pavilion of Mirrored Poplars'. 
It contains a number of splendid mirrors, a gift from the Republic of Venice to the 
Ottoman Sultan in 1718.
This charming place was the favourite retreat of Sultan Selim III, who was a poet and musician. He came here to compose his musical work. 
In his honour, the building is now the State Music Museum.

It is situated on the north bank of the Golden Horn, some way out of the main city. I arrived by taxi, but when it came to returning to the city centre, the guide at the museum advised walking up the hill to the bus stop.

As I was obviously a foreigner, the people at the bus stop were curious as to what I was doing in that part of town. [Not museum goers, I think.] The only other woman, wearing a headscarf, began the enquiries. I explained. Everyone nodded politely.

The bus arrived. I got on, but the driver did not accept cash. Istanbul transport is all by special prepaid token. He gestured me to get off. The woman called out to ask if anyone would pay my fare.
A man at the back of the crowded bus offered his token. It was passed forward by willing hands. The driver frowningly accepted it and allowed me on. 

We passed the token back down the bus to its owner. I asked the woman how much the fare was, - 2 Liras and 60 kurus, [about 60 pence]. I didn't have change, so gladly passed 3 Lira coins back to the man, with grateful thanks for his help. 

A few minutes later, someone tapped me on the shoulder, and handed me 40 kurus. I was humbled by this honesty and goodwill, when I was the cause of such disruption on their journey.

And to add even more kindness, the headscarf woman stayed on the bus until we reached my stop, to be sure I wouldn't get lost.

Every time I go to Istanbul, I find warmth, welcome and kind concern 
for my welfare. 
No wonder I love the city and its people so much.

For more details on the Pavilion of the Mirrored Poplars [Aynalikavak Kasri] see 

For a brief account of the life of Sultan Selim III, see

        And the novel....? 

                                                               Scandalous Lady

In 1811, ice cool diplomat Selim Effendi is negotiating a 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.


Thursday, 5 August 2021

Plotting, pantsing, head-banging !

A little stone house on a hillside surrounded by fields of neatly combed vines, stretching down into the valley and across the plain to the Canal du Midi. A few ribbons of trees, marking the roads; here and there the rooftop of a farm in the midst of its vineyards. So rural, so peaceful, such a splendid change after years slogging in a grey city in rainwashed northern England. 

                                     Vineyards at Domaine de Pech-Ménel, Quarante

But even rural retreats under a sparkling blue sky have their dark secrets, along with their traditional way of life. An outsider, especially a pretty woman, will have to contend with difficulties of many kinds.

The plot came to me easily enough. I know the area well, love the climate, the people, the pace of life. My characters rushed to join the story. Haha, I thought, so for this tale, my plot flows. [That doesn't happen to me often.]

But five chapters in, the characters take over. They won't give way, so it's back to pantsing. My villain has become a victim. My pleasure-loving young dude has joined the really bad gang. And a third guy has suddenly appeared [univited by me] and started hanging round my MC. OK, I know, it is the south of France, and he's full of charm but my original two fellows were already creating enough action. 

Banging my head on the desk isn't sorting things out. My only consolation for now is my new villain. He's so 'orrible it's fun to write him. So, onwards and upwards, imagining I'm there in the summer sunshine, on a terrace with a glass of muscat as the sky darkens into a canopy of velvet and the evening air is a caress.