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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lisa Fernow guides us through the tango

My husband cannot abide what he calls the "crying shows"... you know the ones?  "So You Think You Can Dance", "Dancing with the Stars"... etc. I LOVE them. Mostly because I have no sense of rhythm and cannot dance to save myself. So I watch them covertly when he's not around.

I particularly love the Latin dances - my favourites being the Pasa Doble and the Tango and it is my great pleasure today to welcome 'new to me' author Lisa Fernow to introduce her romantic suspense DEAD ON HER FEET and the research she undertook to learn all there was to know about tango... Tango and mystery... does it get any better?

Lisa will be awarding a $30 GC to winner's choice of online bookseller to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour



Thanks for having me!

In writing my tango mystery, Dead on Her Feet, I did a lot of research on the music.  My original plan was to include lyrics and audio links so readers could directly experience tango’s heart-wrenching power. 

Ultimately it proved too difficult to identify who owned the copyrights.  But here’s an excerpt where I’ve put the lyrics and link back in for you. This translation of Discepolo’s Uno comes from maestro Alberto Paz. 

Our heroine, tango instructor Antonia Blakeley, is introducing her class to tango culture: 
“Tango can be about many things – seduction, longing, nostalgia, intimacy, tenderness – you get the picture. Whatever the music and the moment inspires. This song isn’t one we normally dance to but I happen to think it’s a beautiful piece, especially if you understand the words. It’s called Uno. One.” Uno, oh yeah, she thought.
Antonia translated the lyrics from the liner notes:
If I had the heart,
The heart I gave away…
If I could, like yesterday
Love without a premonition…

It’s possible that your eyes
That cry out to me their love,
I’d close them with my kisses…
Without thinking that, like these,
They were other wicked eyes
That ruined my life.
“He gave his heart to a woman who betrayed him, and now he can’t love the way he used to.  That’s life and death stuff.”

Tragic, yes?  Julio Sosa performs Uno here:

Doesn’t this just make you swoon? 

It’s not an accident that Antonia chooses this particular tango, Uno, which is not meant for dancing - a curious choice for the class.  But Antonia has walled herself off from love.

We eventually learn why. 

I hope you enjoy Dead on Her Feet.  Visit and let me know!

(PS: the dancer above is Tomás Howlin, a wonderful teacher!)


What happens when a dancer violates the tango code?

Tango instructor and chronic rule-breaker Antonia “Ant” Blakeley has no respect for authority. So when a much-hated member of the Atlanta tango community is stabbed in the middle of the dance floor, leaving her troubled nephew Christian first on the list of suspects, the last thing she wants to do is use her tango expertise to help the police work out how someone could have struck the fatal blow, unseen. As someone who has experienced police incompetence first hand Antonia doesn’t trust them to find the real killer. So she lies to give Christian an alibi, and the coverup begins.

Unfortunately for Ant, former marine Detective Sam Morrow is on the case and he will do whatever it takes to solve the crime. He’s not about to let Antonia hijack his case. As both Ant and Sam investigate (or in Ant’s case, interfere), the two sleuths are about to find out the more antagonistic meaning of “it takes two to tango.”


Available on Amazon and all reputable e-stores


Lisa Fernow grew up on the classic mysteries of Ngaio Marsh and Elizabeth Peters. Lisa has danced Argentine tango since 1996, studying with such legendary masters as Cacho Dante, Susana Miller, and Brigitta Winkler, as well as other inspiring instructors in Atlanta, Seattle, and Portland. Lisa’s short story,Death of a Tango Dancer was featured in King County Library’s Take Time to Read program. She lives in Seattle, Washington. Dead on Her Feet is the first book in a planned series set in the tango world. Read more at

Friday, October 24, 2014

Venetia Green and The Flagellants

This week's guest has brought with her a little sting in the tail (pun intended!).  Last time I spoke to Venetia Green we discussed Vikings (Click HERE to see that post). For her latest book, MY LADY OF THE WHIP, Venetia has moved a few centuries forward in time to 1348 and the time of the Black Death - a period in history ripe with superstition and fear and one or two really interesting little facts.

In more modern times when I think of flagellants, I think of the "mad monk" of  Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, but of course the origin is much, much older. 


Not everybody has heard of the Flagellants. A uni tutorial I once attended is a case in point. During our analysis of some medieval historical text or other, I stuck up my hand and piped up nice and loud: “What about the Flagellants?”
There was a stunned silence. Twenty faces peered at me in disbelief. “Did you say flatulence?” someone asked.
I was a giggling wreck for the next ten minutes.
Apparently the Brotherhood of the Flagellants – the phenomenon which inspired My Lady of the Whip – requires explanation.

Flagellum is the Latin word for whip. Thus to ‘flagellate’ oneself is to whip oneself – which is precisely what the medieval Flagellants were notorious for.

Whipping one’s own (preferably bare) back began as a form of private penance in the Catholic Church. It was the sort of thing a rather devout monk might do in the privacy of his own cell. The Brotherhood’s innovation was to take the whipping out of the monasteries and onto the streets, turning self-flagellation into a public spectacle of bloody atonement for sin. 

Although originating in Italy c.1260, Flagellant processions peaked in popularity in Germany, 1348-50. This was the period in which the Black Death, absent from Europe for a millennium, returned with a vengeance. God was expressing His Wrath through the gruesome death of an estimated third of the population. The logical response was to punish oneself before God saw fit to do so.

 Chanting, all-male processions would appear in town and city centres, each man naked from the waist up:
Each had in his right hand a scourge with three tails. Each tail had a knot and through the middle of it there were sometimes sharp nails fixed. They marched in single file … and whipped themselves with these scourges on their naked and bleeding bodies.
(Robert of Avesbury)

Unfortunately, the processions had no noticeable effect on the Plague – beyond assisting it to spread.


Be careful when you pick up a whip. Your fingers curl about that seductive handle, your wrist flexes its subtle weight and then… Yes, you wonder what would happen if you plied those innocent leather strips against another’s flesh.

1348. The Black Death is sweeping medieval London, social order is collapsing, and the virtuous Lady Elizabeth seizes a whip to defend her honor. But when death seems inevitable, Bess throws caution to the plague-ridden vapors …

… to save the man she can never have – William de Montagu, the handsome, persuasive and soon-to-be-married Earl of Salisbury.

A little bit about VENETIA GREEN

Venetia was spirited from misty England to the wild west of Australia as a child and is still unsure which world she belongs in. Perhaps that is why she escaped into the past...

When she grew up, Venetia spent 10 years studying literature and history before the need to write her own overwhelmed her – at which point she abandoned her PhD and dived headlong into historical fiction. Now she writes dark and sensuous romances set amongst the fjords of Viking Age Scandinavia and back-alleys of medieval London.

Connect with Venetia through her website: Click HERE


Friday, October 17, 2014

Vigeland Park in Norway... its starring role.

Belinda Williams is a "new to me" author... one of the up and coming writers that Australia, and its wonderful Romance Writers of Australia organisation, is producing. Her post today on the role of Vigeland Park in Norway in her debut novel (which is released next week) THE BOYFRIEND SESSIONS demonstrates how importance place is to a writer (and what inveterate travellers, Australians are!).

Belinda is a marketing communications specialist and copywriter who allowed an addiction to romance and chick-lit to get the better of her. She was named a top ten finalist in the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award in both 2013 and 2014.

Her other addictions include music and cars. Belinda’s eclectic music taste forms the foundation of many of her writing ideas and her healthy appreciation for fast cars means she would not so secretly love a Lamborghini. For now she’ll have to settle with her son’s Hot Wheels collection and writing hot male leads with sports cars.


Where contemporary romance meets early 20th century sculpture: The Vigeland Park, Norway

I write contemporary romance so my fun fact is less of a fact and more of an amazing place I’ve visited that I just knew had to make it into one of my books.

I visited Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway, in 2007, and this incredible place has stayed with me ever since. Below is an excerpt taken from the park’s website:

"The Vigeland Park is the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist, and is one of Norway's most popular tourist attractions. The park is open to visitors all year round.

The unique sculpture park is Gustav Vigeland's lifework with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. Vigeland was also in charge of the design and architectural layout of the park. The Vigeland Park was mainly completed between 1939 and 1949."

Vigeland Park is like no other park I’ve ever visited (or heard of) and the sculptures are endlessly fascinating. The park itself is exceptionally beautiful and when there you find yourself wandering the paths wondering if you’ve discovered some sort of magical otherworldly land. In many ways it could be described as an open-air museum that touches every stage of human life and human emotion.

In The Boyfriend Sessions, my main character Christa is a graphic designer who first learned about Vigeland Park when she did her degree at university. Since then, she’s always vowed she’ll go there and after missing out on a promotion at work, it’s finally the kick Christa needs to pack her bags. She decides to visit France on her way and finds herself staying longer than originally planned after meeting the distracting Benjamin Renard. From there, things don’t go exactly to plan.

And here’s a glimpse of Vigeland Park in my story:

On my first visit, it was dark and the sculptures emerged out of the black as though conjured from my imagination. A veil of snow covered them, but it didn't disguise their beauty. Silent caretakers of the park, they signified every stage of life, from birth to death, from pain to joy, with an honesty that was breathtaking.

And standing there on that frigid night, my toes going numb through my wool socks and thick boots, I finally understood. I thought I had come here to escape, but I hadn't. I had tried to hide, to run from everything and look where it had taken me.

Christa’s journey isn’t all serious though, take a look at THE BOYFRIEND SESSIONS

Please take your seats. The journey to happiness may involve some turbulence.

Christa Morrison has commitment issues, a fact that quickly became apparent after fleeing a romantic proposal in Paris, the thunder of impending wedding bells ringing in her ears.
Back in Sydney, she turns to her closest friends for reassurance. Instead they offer her a startling and painful diagnosis: she’s a relationship junkie. The cure? An extreme rehabilitation program guaranteed to reform even the most L-word illiterate.

With her girlfriends along for the ride, Christa commits to their radical plan and the chances of recovery look good. The only problem is Max Spencer. The one guy Christa—and her friends—never expected her to fall for. But he’s proving to be a temptation she may not have the willpower to resist…

For a shot at happiness, is being with Max worth betraying her friends? And will Christa have the strength to trust her heart when her colorful relationship history comes back to haunt her?

It might just be enough to make a poor girl leave the country (again).

Website and blog: 
Twitter: @bwilliamsbooks

BUY THE BOYFRIEND SESSIONS (available on preorder)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Prologue/Epilogue: Yes? No? Maybe?

I recently did an author talk and during the course of discussing the concept of an emotionally satisfying ending being a key ingredient of a romance novel, one of the audience said. “I have read GATHER THE BONES and I loved it, but of course they could never have a life together… he is too damaged.”

That comment set me back on my heels because if that was what she thought, then I have failed in my task as a writer of romance. I had hoped (intended?) that readers would see GATHER THE BONES as a redemptive story where the damage the hero suffers through World War One is healed. Without a spoiler, I won’t reveal here how I ended the story except to say in it’s original draft the story had an epilogue with the hero and heroine away from the terrible events of the book, in their new life in Australia. My original editor and I discussed the need for this epilogue and, given the book also has a prologue, decided that the ending provided the hope of a life together.

"In a Galaxy far, far away..." So begins the most famous Prologue in cinematic history. 

It was Jenny Crusie, a writer for whom I have the utmost admiration, who stood up at a Romance Writers of Australia Conference and told us in no uncertain terms that a writer should NEVER use prologues and epilogue. They are a sign of weak writing and show disdain for the reader.

I have published six full length novels and I am ashamed to admit that two of them have prologues (BY THE SWORD and GATHERTHE BONES) and, in my opinion, both prologues provide absolutely vital pieces of information regarding the motivation of the characters that I feel the reader needs to know before they move to the events of the book. Could the books stand without them? I’m not sufficiently far removed from the story to comment!

The current work in progress also has a prologue - for the same reason. This is the third book in a series and I feel, for the readers sake, it needs an explanation of the intervening years between Book 2 and this book. I guess at the end of the day it is up to the reader. Like all things… some readers love them, others hate them. Whether the Prologue stays in the final version is yet to be seen...

I also think in the vast majority of cases the prologues I have read are unnecessary and are just used as a vehicle to provide back story. If that is the case then that is the wrong use of a prologue and it is, as JC, would say “lazy writing”. I particularly hate prologues that end with something like “And little was she to know…” or “and then the countess died, the child grew up and etc etc…”.

Epilogues - these can very often feel tacked on to the story. In romance stories do we need to see the wedding or the hero and heroine surrounded by their brood of children. I have one book with an Epilogue - Secrets in Time. Would Gather the Bones be improved with the addition of the unpublished epilogue?

I think for writers considering the use of prologues or epilogues, the question you need to ask yourself is: “What does this add to the story that cannot be exposed in some other form during the story?” (Which probably leads to another discussion on Flashbacks…). If the answer is “very little” then ditch the prologue and start the story where it is meant to start. Ditto for epilogues - unless the epilogue is going to add something significant to the story and is not just an indulgence on the part of a writer who can’t let go of the characters, then it should be enough to leave the readers with the promise of the Happy Ever After.

As to the unpublished epilogue to GATHER THE BONES... subscribe to my newsletter and on the issue of my next newsletter you can have exclusive access to read it... and maybe comment as to whether the published version should or should not have included it!

In the meantime GATHER THE BONES (prologue and all) is on sale of just .99c until 20 October. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tea Cooper "Repurposes" the Wollombi Post Office...

If you are looking for historicals with a bit of a difference, then you can't go past Téa Cooper who writes AUSTRALIAN set historicals, many based around her little home town of Wollombi in the Hunter Valley. It is so hard to find good historicals set in our own lovely country.

In JAZZ BABY,  Téa has stepped into the evocative world of the 1920s and it is fascinating to see how she has managed to incorporate Wollombi into a story set in the rough and tumble of Sydney during the jazz age. This once utilitarian building takes on a whole new persona in Tea's tender loving care!

TEA IS GIVING AWAY AN ECOPY OF JAZZ BABY to a randomly drawn commentator so do drop in and tell us what you love best about the 1920s!


Thanks Alison –

I went completely blank when I started to think about this post – so blank I gave up, took the dog and headed down to Wollombi for a cup of coffee. Not much has changed in the village in a long time (except for the coffee, thank goodness). The wisteria outside the old Post Office was in full bloom and the building is now a beautiful family home renovated with a lot of love and skill. What a history it has …. BANG … my post!

I like to slip a little, or even a lot, of Wollombi, into my historicals and although Jazz Baby is set in Sydney my heroine, Dolly of course is from Wollombi. She arrives in the big dark city ready to risk everything.

The Wollombi Post Office (without wisteria)
But back to the Post Office … this is from The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser 29 June 1844
"Permission from his Excellency to the Council to hold their future meetings in a wretched looking hovel, bearing the dignified name of post office, with the proviso that their meetings should in no way interfere with the duties of that establishment. Now to us of the township, who know the building in question, this gracious offer with its stipulation appears highly ridiculous; and we will venture to say that this murky looking affair would never have been honored by the Governor's notice had he been rightly informed of its appearance and history. We will give both in as few words as possible. It is one of a group of old ruinous road-party huts, which have been allowed to remain, a standing disgrace to the township; it is composed of slabs, with a mixed covering of thatch and bark, and it has served in its time for a constable's barrack, a bawdy house, and a gambler's hell. Such is the concern which no doubt misrepresentation induced the Governor to offer for the accommodation of the Council."

I have to admit to taking a bit of poetic licence over the dates – Dolly is set in 1924 and by then the Post Office was a rather more reputable establishment and looked much as it looks today — nevertheless it sneaked into Jazz Baby.


Dolly took a deep breath and knocked on the door of the room Alice had shown her yesterday. No sound came from behind the painted timber, so she pushed it open. A jumbled mess of sheets replaced the beautiful bed of last night. Cushions lay strewn across the floor and one of the glorious golden curtains hung askew. The wingback chair close to the fireplace had disappeared beneath a mess of… she dropped the pail and darted across the room. Draped across the chair lay a wrap, as fine as a spider’s web and fringed with purple feathers. With her thumb and forefinger she lifted the wonderful garment. A waft of something sweet and flowery rose from the material as it floated like angels’ wings. Holding the gown up in both hands she dangled it in the air before clasping the beautiful creation to her shoulders then she made a series of dramatic twirls and drifted to the bed and sank down. An empty bottle of champagne stood on the bedside table next to two crystal flutes. The imprint of lipstick plainly showed on one. Where were the guests who had spent the night at Mrs Mack’s boarding house? Why had they left so early and why hadn’t the woman taken her beautiful gown?

Her mouth opened in surprise. “Oh!” Covering her lips with her hand she smothered the giggle building in her throat. “Oh my!”  Mrs Mack’s boarding house was no such thing. It was nothing more than an up market version of the two rooms out the back of Wollombi Post Office.

Stifling a snort she laid the purple confection on the bed. That’s why there were so many girls living here, why Alice had said she'd got a step up, why Mrs Mack had been so interested in her bones. Oh goodness gracious! A deep flush of heat swarmed up her body. Alf must have known where he was sending her. And who else? No wonder Jack had been so adamant she shouldn’t work here. Thank goodness she didn’t have to explain to Ted. He wouldn’t have asked any questions he’d just have skinned her alive. She let out a huge belly laugh.

“Dolly. Have you got that room done yet?” Annie called from the stairwell.

Dolly sprang to her feet and stuck her head around the door. “Very nearly. I’ll be about five more minutes.”

“Get a move on. There are more rooms up there for you to do, never mind downstairs and I want to get the copper going.”

“I won’t be long.” Dolly scuttled across the room and began pulling off the sheets sniggering at the wafts of perfume billowing around her. She bundled all the bedding into the pail and without glancing in any of the other rooms she bolted along the long Persian runner gracing the landing, down the stairs and out to the scullery.

“Here are the first ones,” she said as she pushed her way through the door into the steaming outhouse.

Annie grunted and gestured at the huge copper.
“Shall I put them straight in?”

“They’re not going to wash themselves, are they?” Annie plonked her hands on her hips and grinned. “Got a bit side tracked, did you?”

“I was just… As soon as Dolly dropped the sheets into the copper she covered her flaming cheeks with her hands, grimaced then burst out laughing.

Annie’s eyes twinkled. “Wondered how long it would take you. You don’t look like a stupid girl to me.”

“So Mrs Mack’s…Dolly spluttered …so Mrs Mack’s isn’t exactly a boarding house,” she managed at last.

“No, not exactly. More like an up market bawdy house actually. She’s good to her girls though not like those dirty places in Darlo.”

“You’re right, Annie. I’m not as silly as I look, just more concerned with getting to Sydney and finding a job. I hadn’t given much thought to anything else.” A huge bubble of excitement swelled in Dolly’s chest. It was too good to be true. Now she definitely wanted this job. Oh yes! She’d promised herself she’d go places she’d never been before, experience every sensation, and this was just the beginning. Humming the words to one of the songs she’d heard last night she waltzed across the room.

“Better get yourself back upstairs and sort the rest of the rooms,” Annie said handing her a pile of clean sheets, “and no trying on the finery while you’re there.” She winked then shooed Dolly out of the scullery.


In the gritty underbelly of 1920s Sydney, a fresh-faced country girl is about to arrive in the big, dark city – and risk everything in the pursuit of her dreams.

Sydney is no place for the fainthearted—five shillings for a twist of snow, a woman for not much more, and a bullet if you look sideways at the wrong person.

Dolly Bowman is ready and willing to take on all the brash, bustling city has to offer. After all it is the 1920s, a time for a girl to become a woman and fulfil her dreams. Turning her back on her childhood, she takes up a position working as a housemaid while she searches for her future.

World War I flying ace Jack Dalton knows he’s luckier than most. He’s survived the war with barely a scratch, a couple of astute business decisions have paid off, and he’s set for the high life. But a glimpse of a girl that he had forgotten, from a place he’s tried to escape suddenly sets all his plans awry. Try as he might he can’t shake the past, and money isn’t enough to pay the debts he’s incurred.


In February 2015 Forgotten Fragrance the first book in a family saga entitled From the Ocean to the Outback, is due for release and there is a sequel to Jazz Baby entitled The Wages of Sin in the pipeline. At the moment Téa is working on a parallel time-line series entitled The Adventures of Miss Abigail Wynter and an Australian Regency – The Great Platypus Hoax. She has also written three Australian contemporary romances.

Personal Links:


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Boxing for Gentlemen with Sasha Cottman (and a book review)

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Last week, over a couple of glasses of very nice French champagne, good cheese and the wedding episode of Outlander, I badgered Sasha Cottman into joining me on my "Fun Facts" blog to talk about her new book, AN UNSUITABLE MATCH.

I am a huge fan of Sasha's charming Regency Romances. I love them because they are about real people (they may happen to be Earls and Lords) but at heart they behave like normal human beings. The younger generation bicker and hanker after unsuitable young men, or women and, most importantly, for all their faults their parents (yes they have parents) love them and want what's best for them.

In AN UNSUITABLE MATCH (which I have just finished reading - see review below) Sasha creates a particularly obnoxious villain who cheats at boxing... obviously no gentleman. I know the degree of research Sasha goes through and this charming little vignette reflects exactly what I mean when I say good research shines through unobtrusively.


Boxing at Gentleman Jacksons Boxing Salon
While writing AN UNSUITABLE MATCH I wanted to write a scene where the hero and villain of the book could encounter one another, outside of a normal Regency period social setting.

Boxing was a perfect way to show the contrast in character of the two men. David Radley, the hero, conducted himself as a gentleman should. Thaxter Fox, in turn, behaved exactly how a man with a shady and sordid past would conduct himself.

One fact I discovered as I researched boxing was that bare knuckled boxing was frowned upon by London’s elite. If you wished to join and box at establishments such as Gentleman Jackson’s Saloon in Bond Street, you had to wear mufflers. Wool stuffed, mufflers were the early 19th century forerunner of the modern boxing glove.

Thaxter Fox strode confidently over to where David stood and stopped. Rolling his head from side to side and doing a small jig on the spot, he gave the air of one who had seen more than his share of fights.
Neither of them bothered with the social niceties of a formal greeting.
‘Damn nuisance, these muffler things; what happened to being able to fight a man with your bare fists? I didn’t realise how many fops there were in London. I should not be surprised if they allowed girls to join this club,’ he sneered.
‘House rules, Fox,’ David replied, refusing to take the bait. A quick nod to his second and David was ready.
He punched his gloves together, mentally rehearsing for the moment he intended to land a solid whack to Thaxter’s head.
Lord knows you need a good thrashing.

The Favourite Heiress…
Once engaged to the future Duke of Strathmore, the beautiful Lady Clarice Langham now finds herself in the humiliating position of celebrating his marriage – to another woman.  As a result of the scandal, it seems her reign as London's most eligible debutante has come to an end.  But things begin to look up when handsome and charming rake David Radley makes it clear that, at least as far as he's concerned, she's still the catch of the season.
The Illegitimate Son…
The eldest son of the Duke of Strathmore, David Radley has been raised alongside his father's legitimate children.  But while he is generally received as part of the family, not everyone thinks he should be, and especially not Clarice's father, the Earl of Langham, who forbids her from having anything to do with him.
An Unsuitable Match…
David's been in love with Clarice for years, and it isn't long before the attraction between them develops into something deeper. Yet he senses Clarice is hiding something and until she reveals her secret, she won't be free to follow her heart. Despite everything, David will not give up on Clarice, not even when another seems set to claim her…

AN UNSUITABLE MATCH is available from Destiny Romance  and at all good estores... AMAZON

Connect with Sasha Cottman on her WEBSITE, FACEBOOK and TWITTER


I rarely do reviews (mostly because I am the world's slowest reader - 2 pages per night and I'm asleep)... but I devoured this story.

As I said above the one aspect of Ms.Cottman's story I love is the humanity of the characters.

This is the second in the Duke of Strathmore series and although we meet our old friends from Book 1, the book stands alone. 

The hero, David Radley, is deeply loved by everyone in his family, including his stepmother and despite the "stain" of his illegitimate birth, he has the confidence to move easily in society. Like David we met Clarice in the first book (LETTER FROM A RAKE) and there is nothing loveable about her... she dresses like a dowd, she is gawky, prickly and an unlikely contender for the love of David, who has something of a reputation with the glamorous married ladies of the ton.

But love her he does and this fact she has accidentally discovered. Unfortunately her father Lord Langham, who we did not form a good opinion of in the first book seems determined to keep these two young lovers apart and push Clarice in the direction of his heir, the ungentlemanly and thoroughly unpleasant Thaxter Fox. 

Clarice has her own secrets and the path of true love is destined not to run smoothly, despite the help of her own wise and scheming grandmother and the couple's loving friends.

Thoroughly recommended to anyone who is looking for something a little bit different in Regency Romance.  Oh... and don't expect it to be 'sweet', the couple have to earn their time together but when they do, the pages (and the sheets) sizzle... 5 stars!

Sasha and Alison dressed for a wedding... Outlander Wedding Ep!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Anita Seymour and The Exeter Guildhall

Anita Seymour and I were founding members of the Hoydens and Firebrands... a blog which ran for 8 years, devoted entirely to all things 17th century.  We both share a passion for this period of history and there have been a great many parallels in our lives (even though we live at opposite ends of the world).

Anita was born in London, a city with a strong sense of times past, which she connected with at an early age. Her work within the genre of Historical Fiction is borne out of that enthusiasm. Anita is the author of four previously published works, 'Duking Days Rebellion' (2007) and 'Duking Days Revolution' (2008) and two Victorian Romances, 'Trencarrow Secret' and 'Culloden Spirit' (2011). She is the author of a wonderful fictionalised accont of the life of Elizabeth Murray (Royalist Rebel) and, like me, is turning to crime with her first "cosy" mystery, Flora Macguire, due to be released soon.

Like my first two books, Anita's first books set around the Monmouth Rebellion (The Duking Days Rebellion and the Duking Days Revolution) have just been re-released with spiffy new covers AND new titles! 

I would have expected nothing less than wonderful, well thought out post by Anita on the role of the Exeter Guildhall in the history of England....


Thank you, Alison, for inviting me to participate in your ‘Friday Fun Facts’.

The Exeter Guildhall
My novel The Rebel’s Daughter, which is published under the name Anita Seymour, is based on the events that took place in the West Country during the summer of 1685. For several weeks during days that changed from bright, hot sunshine to torrential rain that dragged down the spirits, and the progress of the Duke of Monmouth’s army of seven thousand artisans, weavers and workmen in what was known as The Pitchfork Rebellion. His intention was to advance on London and demand the Catholic King James II protect the Protestant religion.

What actually happened was, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, through his own vanity or because his cunning cohorts convinced him the English people wanted him and not his uncle, James, as their king. Tutored by his mother, Lucy Walter to believe she had married his father, Charles, the then exiled Prince of Wales, he declared himself the rightful monarch and accused his uncle of poisoning James’ father.

This action marked him out immediately as a traitor and he was captured and beheaded without a public trial on Tower Hill a month after his three ships landed.

My heroine in The Rebel’s Daughter, is Helena Woulfe, whose father, an Exeter nobleman rides off to Lyme to join the Duke’s men, along with his brother and son. When the rebels are defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor, Helena goes in search of her menfolk but returns unsuccessful. She and her brother Henry are driven out of Exeter when their family home is seized and given to their enemy, so they begin a new life in London.

Much of my research was done in Exeter, where what became known as ‘The Bloody Assize’ was conducted at the Guildhall where approximately forty men were tried, thirteen of them condemned to hanging at the Heavitree. This trial was less shocking than the one held in Winchester, where over three hundred men were tried and executed, including an octogenarian Dame Alice Lisle for harbouring rebels. However this may have been a backlash for the fact her husband, John Lisle signed Charles I’s death warrant.

A guildhall has stood on this site since at least c.1160, therefore it is probable sections of earlier medieval halls survive concealed above or below ground. The building as it stands today dates back to the late 15th century, its walls dressed blocks of red Permian breccia found in the area. The interior walls of the main hall are covered in eighty panels of oak, with no two carved alike and installed in 1594, the cost mainly covered by the city trade guilds.

The Exeter Princess
There are two important portraits in the Guildhall. The first is of Princess Henrietta Anne (1644-70) the youngest sister of Charles II, given by him as a gift for services provided to ‘the Exeter princess’. 

When a heavily pregnant Queen Henrietta Maria fled Oxford ahead of Parliament troops in 1644, she gave birth to her last child at Bedford House. She managed to escape to France, but had to leave baby Henriette Anne behind. The little girl wasn’t reunited with her mother for another two years, when her nurse, Lady Dalkieth disobeyed orders to take the baby to London where the child was to become a prisoner of Parliament. Henriette, raised in Paris,  married Philippe d’Orleans, the brother of the French King, but died at the age of twenty-six of suspected peritonitis.

George Monck, 1st Duke Albermarle
The other picture is of General Monck KG, 1st Duke of Albemarle (1608-70) - famous for having brought Charles II back from exile in 1660. Monck was born at Great Potheridge at Merton near Torrington in north Devon, where his house still stands.  He was High Steward of the City in 1662.

In The Rebel’s Daughter, it is at the Guildhall that Samuel Ffoyle sits among the guild members listening to the roll of the men who stand condemned. He hopes his friends’ names are not among those brought to face a traitor’s death, but has to endure Judge Jeffreys haranguing the prisoners. He makes a rapid exit, but is approached by a clerk who, to Samuel’s horror, tells him he is requiredin the judge’s presence.

As Alison says, good research should be unobtrusive and become part of the fabric of the story instead of jumping out at the reader. In most cases the hardest part is what to leave out. It was very tempting to overload the narrative with all the fascinating details I had learned, but I had to remind myself I was writing a story, not a history book!
(Sources: and

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Helena Woulfe, the daughter of a wealthy Exeter nobleman leads a privileged life, however, when rebellion sweeps the West Country, her family is caught in its grip. After Monmouth’s bloody defeat in battle at Sedgemoor, Helena sets off for Somerset to find the three missing members of her family.

With the Woulfe estate confiscated by the crown, Helena and her younger brother Henry hope the anonymity of the capital city will be more forgiving to the children of a convicted rebel. However, Helena finds her search for security and respectability in London are threatened by someone who wishes harm to a traitor's daughter.