Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Looking up at Chatsworth and Yummy Meringues!

When walking around Chatsworth there is so much to see that it's difficult to know where to look first. In the painted hall alone which is the first major space you encounter there are statues and paintings galore all vying for your attention. Most incredible is the painted ceiling showing the apotheosis of Julius Caesar as a demi-god, which tends to overshadow everything else. They do provide mirrors to hold so that you don't have to get a crick in your neck! I'm always fascinated by these ceiling paintings in great houses and wonder what it must have been like for the poor artists who worked on them day in and day out - a truly remarkable feat. The photo to the left shows the painted ceiling above the Great Stairs which are also shown in this post. High up on the walls are coloured paintings in the style of Verrio's ceiling. There are three sculpted figures by Caius Gabriel Cibber brought in from the garden in 1692 and busts placed in the niches. There are also grisaille panels painted on the walls lower down to resemble sculpture. The ceiling shows the Goddess of Earth, Cybele, in her chariot, with figures in two corners representing the four continents.

Wood carving features prominently in the State Dining Room - this photo shows the work of Samuel Watson and Lobb, Young and Davis, the team of carvers from London engaged by the first Duke. Remember to look up when walking around Chatsworth because there is always some incredible sight to see.
Finally, I know I'm always talking about food on my blog, but I had to show you the meringue I had in the restaurant. I felt very naughty eating all that sugar and cream, but we were just about to go outside and walk it all off in the gardens!

I had to include this extract from Pride and Prejudice - Lizzy is looking round Pemberley and the housekeeper points out two portrait paintings - miniatures of two gentlemen she knows very well.

On applying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall; and Elizabeth, as they waited for the housekeeper, had leisure to wonder at her being where she was.

The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking elderly woman, much less fine, and more civil, than she had any notion of finding her. They followed her into the dining-parlour. It was a large, well-proportioned room, handsomely fitted up. Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill, crowned with wood, from which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene - the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it - with delight. As they passed into other rooms these objects were taking different positions; but from every window there were beauties to be seen. The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of their proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendor, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings.

"And of this place," thought she, "I might have been mistress! With these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted! Instead of viewing them as a stranger, I might have rejoiced in them as my own, and welcomed to them as visitors my uncle and aunt. But no" - recollecting herself - "that could never be: my uncle and aunt would have been lost to me; I should not have been allowed to invite them."

This was a lucky recollection - it saved her from something like regret.

She longed to inquire of the housekeeper whether her master were really absent, but had not courage for it. At length, however, the question was asked by her uncle; and she turned away with alarm, while Mrs. Reynolds replied, that he was, adding, "But we expect him tomorrow, with a large party of friends." How rejoiced was Elizabeth that their own journey had not by any circumstance been delayed a day!

Her aunt now called her to look at a picture. She approached and saw the likeness of Mr. Wickham suspended, amongst several other miniatures, over the mantlepiece. Her aunt asked her, smilingly, how she liked it. The housekeeper came forward, and told them it was the picture of a young gentleman, the son of her late master's steward, who had been brought up by him at his own expence. "He is now gone into the army," she added; "but I am afraid he has turned out very wild."

Mrs. Gardiner looked at her niece with a smile, but Elizabeth could not return it.

"And that," said Mrs. Reynolds, pointing to another of the miniatures, "is my master - and very like him. It was drawn at the same time as the other - about eight years ago."

"I have heard much of your master's fine person," said Mrs. Gardiner, looking at the picture; "it is a handsome face. But, Lizzy, you can tell us whether it is like or not."

Mrs. Reynolds's respect for Elizabeth seemed to increase on this intimation of her knowing her master.

"Does that young lady know Mr. Darcy?"

Elizabeth coloured, and said - "A little."

"And do not you think him a very handsome gentleman, ma'am?"

"Yes, very handsome."

"I am sure I know none so handsome; but in the gallery up stairs you will see a finer, larger picture of him than this. This room was my late master's favourite room, and these miniatures are just as they used to be then. He was very fond of them."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Willoughby's Return, a Sense and Sensibility Sequel

I've just received the cover from my editor at Sourcebooks for my new book Willoughby's Return. I am absolutely thrilled, I think it's gorgeous! Thank you to the designers who have worked on it, you've done a wonderful job, I don't know how I shall manage to wait until November to hold a copy in my hands!
There's more information about this book, Lydia Bennet's Story and Effusions of Fancy on my website with extracts and some of my paintings.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

'The Duchess' Costumes at Chatsworth!

I thought you might like to see some of the photos I took at Chatsworth of the exhibition they have on about Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. As well as personal items and letters there are costumes from the film 'The Duchess' which stars Keira Knightley as Georgiana, Ralph Fiennes as the Duke and Dominic Cooper who we've seen before as Mr Willoughby playing Georgiana's lover, Charles Grey. I thought the costumes in this film were particularly fabulous - the designer Michael O'Connor did a wonderful job! They had a little section about the filming of Pride and Prejudice with some photographs and the bust of Mr Darcy is also displayed - the nearest I got to finding him, I'm afraid. Still, best of all I got to see my husband don a wig in their dressing up room which is really fun. You can try on wigs and costumes whatever your age - I think he looks rather gorgeous in it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Willoughby's Return, a Sense and Sensibility Sequel - Up on Amazon!

It's always an exciting moment when an author sees her new 'baby' go up on Amazon. The cover isn't there yet but I know the wonderful designers at Sourcebooks are on the case! Willoughby's Return is a sequel to Sense and Sensibility which is one of my favourite Austen novels. I've always wondered what might have happened to the Dashwood sisters after their marriages, and in particular how Marianne might have fared. In Sense and Sensibility Marianne has her heart broken by Mr Willoughby, her first love, but later finds true and lasting love with Colonel Brandon. Mrs Brandon is a passionate woman who gives her heart freely and I'm sure has found her equal in Colonel Brandon who despite his grave exterior has enough qualities and interests to satisfy his new wife - he is not only rich and gentlemanly, but he has proved his love for Marianne and he loves music and poetry as much as she! Elinor Dashwood, Marianne's sister, is also at hand having married Edward Ferrars who has become the new rector at Delaford Parsonage on the Brandon's estate in Dorset.
A happy ending for all concerned then? Of course, if you love to write Jane Austen sequels then a happy ending is guaranteed, there could be no alternative, but I had several questions about the Brandons that I needed to satisfy which is one of the reasons I had such fun writing this book. Although the Brandons have found happiness at last, I think their pasts are bound to catch up with them one way or another. Characters like Mr Willoughby, Marianne's first love, and Eliza Williams, the daughter of Brandon's ward are re-introduced into my book, Willoughby's Return, a tale of almost irresistible temptation. Margaret Dashwood, the youngest daughter is of an age to be going to balls and looking for partners and her story weaves in and out of the others. I really enjoyed writing Mrs Jennings's character and the Steele sisters. Lucy Steele is of course married now to Robert Ferrars. There is more information on my website as well as an extract from my new book which will be released in November.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A walk to Chatsworth

We were very lucky to be staying in Beeley because it is a short walk to Chatsworth. We set off across fields and over a bridge finding the river on the other side and following it all the way. It was a lovely sunny day when we first did the walk and signs of spring appearing in green shoots on the trees and primroses and daffodils in the hedgerows really lifted our spirits.
This extract fromDerbyshire UK website gives us some information about the river on which Chatsworth sits. 

The River Derwent, some 50 odd miles in length, is the longest river in Derbyshire. Apart from its short passage through the City of Derby it is a completely rural river, finally joining the River Trent just south of Derby. The Derwent's source is at Swain's Greave on Howden Moor on the flank of Bleaklow Hill.

The river Derwent soon flows into the first of 3 large reservoirs, built in the early part of the 20th century to satisfy the growing demand for water from the expanding cities of Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leicester. Howden was the first to be built ( 1901-12 ), Derwent followed ( 1902-16 ) and work then began on the largest, Ladybower, in 1935. It took 10 years to complete Ladybower and the historic villages of Derwent and Ashopton were lost in the process. A whole village was created to house the men and their families who had built the early dams, which was colloquially known as 'Tin Town' because of it's corrugated roofs. Its official name was Birchinlee and it housed over 1000 inhabitants at one time.

At Mythorn Bridge, the river Derwent is joined by the river Noe which rises on Mam Tor and flows through the Hope Valley. Flowing on between Win Hill and Lose Hill, the Derwent is soon augumented by waters from Crowden, Grinds Brooks and Jaggers Clough. The river flows on to Hathersage and then turns south again to flow in a wide valley flanked by gritstone edges through the villages of Grindleford, Froggatt and Calver before reaching Baslow. At Calver it flows beneath an 18th century bridge. Calver Mill was first built in 1785, utilizing the power of the Derwent, but destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1805 when it became a thriving cotton mill employing a large number of local people. It finished producing cotton in 1923 and has had a number of uses since then, including the role of Colditz Castle in the television series, Colditz. It has now been developed into modern flats.

In Baslow at Bridge End, the river Derwent is spanned by a charming, 17th century, 3 arched bridge, beside which is a little stone shelter built for the toll collector. The river Derwent then flows through the grounds of Chatsworth Park, the home of the Duke of Devonshire, in a beautifully landscaped setting, to be joined by the River Wye at Rowsley, coming in from Bakewell.

Chatsworth is mentioned by name in Pride and Prejudice, but whether Jane ever visited Chatsworth or the Peak District we do not know for sure. Jane was familiar with a certain number of great houses already and I'm sure she used her imagination to conjure up Pemberley. As much as we like to think we might be able to find Pemberley House in Derbyshire I think it far more likely that Mr Darcy's abode was invented from many influences and experiences. Here's a short extract from Pride and Prejudice.

The time fixed for the beginning of their northern tour was now fast approaching, and a fortnight only was wanting of it, when a letter arrived from Mrs. Gardiner, which at once delayed its commencement and curtailed its extent. Mr. Gardiner would be prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in July, and must be in London again within a month; and as that left too short a period for them to go so far, and see so much as they had proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and comfort they had built on, they were obliged to give up the Lakes, and substitute a more contracted tour, and, according to the present plan, were to go no farther northward than Derbyshire. In that county there was enough to be seen to occupy the chief of their three weeks; and to Mrs. Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong attraction. The town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her curiosity as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak.

Elizabeth was excessively disappointed; she had set her heart on seeing the Lakes, and still thought there might have been time enough. But it was her business to be satisfied - and certainly her temper to be happy; and all was soon right again.

With the mention of Derbyshire there were many ideas connected. It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its owner. "But surely," said she, "I may enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving me."

I think it's interesting that Jane did not want to write a description of Derbyshire in this next extract - perhaps she felt she did not know the area well enough to write about it - the place she writes about is Lambton which is her invention. Again, some people have suggested that she was thinking of Bakewell here, but there is no firm evidence that Jane ever stayed in Bakewell, even though my sister and I enjoyed staying there some years ago and stood looking out from the Rutland Arms Hotel with thoughts of the fact that Jane might have once stood there herself! Here's the extract from Pride and Prejudice where Jane first mentions Lambton.

It is not the object of this work to give a description of Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which their route thither lay: Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenelworth, Birmingham, etc., are sufficiently known. A small part of Derbyshire is all the present concern. To the little town of Lambton, the scene of Mrs. Gardiner's former residence, and where she had lately learned that some acquaintance still remained, they bent their steps, after having seen all the principal wonders of the country; and within five miles of Lambton, Elizabeth found from her aunt that Pemberley was situated. It was not in their direct road, nor more than a mile or two out of it. In talking over their route the evening before, Mrs. Gardiner expressed an inclination to see the place again. Mr. Gardiner declared his willingness, and Elizabeth was applied to for her approbation.

"My love, should not you like to see a place of which you have heard so much?" said her aunt; "A place, too, with which so many of your acquaintance are connected. Wickham passed all his youth there, you know."

Elizabeth was distressed. She felt that she had no business at Pemberley, and was obliged to assume a disinclination for seeing it. She must own that she was tired of great houses; after going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets or satin curtains.

So it would seem that Elizabeth may well have visited Chatsworth and some of the other houses like Blenheim or the castles at Warwick and Kenilworth. Whether Jane Austen did is another matter but I'm sure she would have done her research and read about houses and their grounds in the area. Perhaps she was inspired by these descriptions or by stories from other family members who had visited them.
Chatsworth is presently undergoing a huge restoration project so it is difficult to take photos without seeing some of this taking place. It is lovely to know that the house will be preserved for future generations who, like me, have found inspiration within its walls and beyond.

Friday, April 17, 2009

In Pursuit of Pemberley and Mr Darcy!

I've been to Derbyshire for a few days on a research trip - (that's my excuse anyway) with my lovely sister, her husband and my own. Derbyshire, of course, is home to Mr Darcy at Pemberley, and I wanted to see the landscape through Elizabeth Bennet's eyes if that was possible and to see if I could find Pemberley. I've tried to do this before and have never really found anywhere I thought fitted exactly what I imagine to be Elizabeth and Darcy's home, but wandering around places like Chatsworth and Haddon Hall is always a delight and very inspiring for my writing. I did see Mr Darcy - sort of - but I'll tell you about that later.
As I travelled through the Peak District it was easy to see why people still flock to this area for the splendid scenery and vast landscapes which are stunningly beautiful. On our first day we arrived at Beeley where we were going to stay in the Devonshire Arms which is still a part of the Chatsworth Estate and within walking distance of the great house itself. Everyone we encountered was so friendly and the warm reception from the staff made our visit such a pleasure.
Here's an extract from Discover Derbyshire and the Peak District about the village of Beeley.

Beeley is a pretty, unspoilt village sheltered by Beeley Moor with wonderful views in all directions.

But things could have been very different. The old road to Chatsworth used to go through the heart of the village. It left by Pig Lane, so named because of a group of pigsties by the side of the road and crossing James Paine’s, Single Arch Bridge. Before the completion of the bridge in 1761, traffic crossed Mill Bridge, near the old ruined mill buildings in Chatsworth Park. Fortunately for Beeley, it has had a bypass for over a hundred years, effectively shutting out all the hustle and bustle of the Chatsworth traffic hurrying along the winding road. Most motorists hardly give the village a passing glance, which even to this day remains quiet, peaceful and relatively undiscovered.

It was only after the third Duke of Devonshire had bought Beeley Hill Top in 1747 that his successor embarked upon a grand plan to develop and landscape Chatsworth. Beeley then started to become part of the estate. Land and buildings were purchased as they came on the market, but this task took some time and was completed by the sixth Duke. Many of the properties have been sold off into private ownership in recent years as they became surplus to requirements.

Beeley had acquired its present shape and size by 1800. With the exception of a small group of properties built in recent years on the Chesterfield Road, it has remained remarkably unchanged for over 200 years. The same does not apply to the use of the buildings: the school, schoolhouse, post office and reading room are all now private houses. Dukes Barn built in 1791, to house the estate carts used to carry coal from Rowsley Station, is now a residential study centre, and available for hire by any educational group.

What makes the village so beautiful is that almost all the farm and domestic buildings are built from the same honey coloured sandstone, quarried locally close to Fallinge Edge. The local stone quarries once gave employment to a large number of men. The two quarries at Bruntwood produced stone not only of good appearance, but also of such hardwearing quality that it was used in many of the principal buildings in Manchester.

Many travel books featuring the Peak District do not mention the village, but do refer to Beeley Moor. On the heather clad moor, some 1,200 feet above sea level, are over 30 pre-historic barrows and cairns. Hob Hurst’s House is an unusual Bronze Age Barrow that attracts most attention. A small ring of five stones stands on a mound surrounded by a rectangular bank and ditch. When the barrow was excavated in 1853, scorched human bones were found and two pieces of lead ore. Various legends have sprung up including one that refers to ‘Hob’ as a kindly goblin who made his home in this barrow and gave assistance to the local community.

The delightful Beeley Brook enhances the village scene as it babbles its way cheerfully alongside the road, past the Devonshire Arms to a meeting with the River Derwent.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter with Mr Darcy!

Happy Easter everyone! I'm spending a few days near Pemberley - if I bump into Mr Darcy, I'll let you know! I walked to Chatsworth yesterday, it was a beautiful day and I just kept thinking how wonderful it would have been if you could all have been there too. I shall post some new pictures soon with a Derbyshire theme.

Have a lovely spring holiday - I hope that the sun shines on you! Jane Odiwe

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Final Episode of Lydia Bennet's Online Diary - Lydia is Rescued!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

When I came to, everything was upside down and the air strangely quiet except for the whinnying of the horses, the creaking of tree branches which were poking through the window of the coach, and the low moaning of my companions who appeared hurt and shaken.
I managed to climb through the window after smashing the glass with my morocco bag, (though who can say if the tortoiseshell panels will ever be the same) partly covering my head and shoulders with what remained of my mantle. The rest of it lay torn and trapped between two solid oak branches and had to be left behind, but I was grateful simply to be uninjured. I could not think what to do next. I called out to Shaw the coachman for assistance but he was not conscious and so having made my friends as comfortable as one can in an upturned carriage, I decided to head back to St. Albans to find Mr Wickham. I reassured Harriet and Emma who were conscious yet in no fit state to move and then I set off back the way we had come.
Our coachman had clearly taken a detour, we were off the main road and so there was no one around who could assist me. I was very cold without my cloak, the rain was persistent and drenched through my thin dress very quickly. I ran as fast as I could and had gone a fair distance when feelings of panic started to overcome me. I did not really know where I was going, I thought I was headed in the right direction but I could not be sure. You may imagine my feelings of relief when the figure of a gentleman I recognised loomed out of the torrent on horseback, but in my effort to avoid being ridden over I leaped for the safety of the hedge quite missing my footing and fell headlong into the ditch. All was confusion as darkness overcame me!
“Miss Bennet, Miss Bennet,” Mr Wickham’s urgent voice called me back to consciousness. I was suddenly aware of his manly figure looming above me, his mouth pressing on mine, which produced so curious a sensation all over me, that I was unable to come to immediately.
“Forgive me,” he said, as I struggled at last to sit up, “you were unconscious and as I am trained to relieve symptoms such as yours, I had no choice but to administer the kiss of life, to give you the breath from my own body. Are you quite well, Miss Bennet? Good God, I am relieved. I could not think what I would say to your mother if you were taken from us!”
“I am well, I think, but very cold, I am not dressed for this weather as you can see,” I laughed as I saw that he was studying my form intently, from top to bottom. I blushed, as it was very clear that he was far from shocked by my appearance and was enjoying the spectacle.
“I felt I had neglected my duty to you all for selfish reasons of my own,” he whispered. “I had to come back and make sure you were all safe. Thank the Lord that I did, although I cannot forgive myself, if I had been with you I might have prevented such an accident.”
“Even the great George Wickham would not have been able to prevent the demise of an ancient tree in a gale,” I retorted.
With one swift move he lifted me into his arms and carried me back whence I had come. It was impossible not to stare up at his handsome face above me as he walked. Once, he met my eyes and such a look passed between us as I cannot describe!
Before long help was summoned. Mr Wickham helped my trapped friends to their freedom and made our coachman comfortable. It was soon decided that it would be best to secure a room at an inn for the evening and return home on the morrow. Letters were quickly despatched to Colonel Forster and Captain Nicolson telling them of our calamity and the new plans. It was decided that we need not worry mama with a letter, as she was not expecting me home until the next day and so what had started as a most frightening ordeal, turned out to be strangely exhilarating and ended with friends, more intimate than ever, round a cosy fire, swapping stories from the past and hearty jokes from the present.

By some miracle, all our purchases are safe, Colonel Forster has been able to have his carriage repaired and through some contrivance of all the party involved, my mother is not wise to the full story. Papa, as ever, has no inkling. I myself have made light of it and fortunately they are both so occupied with their own concerns, she with the unmarried state of her elder daughters and he with the perusal of a new book in his study, that the incident has not even been mentioned.
I must admit that my admiration for Mr Wickham grows daily and I find in moments of reflection that the entire episode has a habit of playing over in my mind. I still feel the warmth of his lips on mine.
Mary King will be a lucky girl if she weds him!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bath Elegance and Chandeliers!

I do love a chandelier, and in Bath they can be seen in all the places that Jane Austen wrote about. This first photo shows a chandelier from a small room off the main one in the Pump Rooms. The room looks down onto the Roman Baths below where it's easy to imagine bathers through the centuries socialising in the warm waters. In Jane Austen's day not everyone frequented the baths. Those who did were taken by sedan chair to the King's, Queen's or Cross Bath. The Queen's bath was for ladies only and an attendant helped bathers into gowns specially for the purpose. They were guided into the waters and given 'a little floating dish like a bason, into which the lady puts an handkerchief, a snuff box and a nosegay' before being left to amuse themselves with the gossip of the day.

The next photo shows the splendid chandeliers in the tea room at the Assembly Rooms.
Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey visits the tea room with Mrs Allen, but this first visit is something of a disappointment.

Everybody was shortly in motion for tea, and they must squeeze out like the rest. Catherine began to feel something of disappointment — she was tired of being continually pressed against by people, the generality of whose faces possessed nothing to interest, and with all of whom she was so wholly unacquainted that she could not relieve the irksomeness of imprisonment by the exchange of a syllable with any of her fellow captives; and when at last arrived in the tea–room, she felt yet more the awkwardness of having no party to join, no acquaintance to claim, no gentleman to assist them. They saw nothing of Mr. Allen; and after looking about them in vain for a more eligible situation, were obliged to sit down at the end of a table, at which a large party were already placed, without having anything to do there, or anybody to speak to, except each other.

Mrs. Allen congratulated herself, as soon as they were seated, on having preserved her gown from injury. “It would have been very shocking to have it torn,” said she, “would not it? It is such a delicate muslin. For my part I have not seen anything I like so well in the whole room, I assure you.”

“How uncomfortable it is,” whispered Catherine, “not to have a single acquaintance here!”

“Yes, my dear,” replied Mrs. Allen, with perfect serenity, “it is very uncomfortable indeed.”

“What shall we do? The gentlemen and ladies at this table look as if they wondered why we came here — we seem forcing ourselves into their party.”

“Aye, so we do. That is very disagreeable. I wish we had a large acquaintance here.”

“I wish we had any — it would be somebody to go to.”

“Very true, my dear; and if we knew anybody we would join them directly. The Skinners were here last year — I wish they were here now.”

“Had not we better go away as it is? Here are no tea–things for us, you see.”

“No more there are, indeed. How very provoking! But I think we had better sit still, for one gets so tumbled in such a crowd! How is my head, my dear? Somebody gave me a push that has hurt it, I am afraid.”

“No, indeed, it looks very nice. But, dear Mrs. Allen, are you sure there is nobody you know in all this multitude of people? I think you must know somebody.”

“I don’t, upon my word — I wish I did. I wish I had a large acquaintance here with all my heart, and then I should get you a partner. I should be so glad to have you dance. There goes a strange–looking woman! What an odd gown she has got on! How old–fashioned it is! Look at the back.”

After some time they received an offer of tea from one of their neighbours; it was thankfully accepted, and this introduced a light conversation with the gentleman who offered it, which was the only time that anybody spoke to them during the evening, till they were discovered and joined by Mr. Allen when the dance was over.
The last photo shows the reflection of a chandelier through one of the beautiful mirrors in the octagon room, which was a space generally used for card playing. One of the times that I visited the Assembly Rooms I got into conversation with one of the attendants who look after the chandeliers. He very kindly showed me the ball room as it would have looked on ball nights. With the flick of an electric switch the shutters came down and the chandeliers glowed on a candlelight setting. It was pure magic and I shall never forget it!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Miss Bennet and Mr Bingley by Fenella J Miller

Fellow Historical Romance author Fenella J Miller has a new book out which I'm sure will interest all fans of Jane Austen re-tellings and sequels.
Fenella also writes historical fiction in other time periods and has written novels based in the Victorian age and World War Two, as well as the Regency period. You can find out more by taking a look at Fenella's official website. I've invited Fenella along to tell us all about her new book, Miss Bennet and Mr Bingley, inspired by Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I'm looking forward to reading it very much! Welcome to the blog, Fenella!

At last my novel Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley is published. This book gives an insight into both Jane and Bingley's feelings and takes the reader to London and Pemberley to share what they did whilst apart for that difficult year. It's Pride & Prejudice from a different perspective plus many new scenes. I decided to write about Jane and Charles because I've not found anything  written from this angle. I've always wanted to know what the two of them did whilst apart - after all Jane was in London for several months. She and Charles are depicted in Pride & Prejudice as sweet tempered and easily influenced by friends and family. I think I've shown that both Jane and Charles can be decidedly forthright when the occasion demands.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Amanda Grange, best selling author of Mr Darcy's Diary has said this about Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley.
''Jane Bennet is in the spotlight in Fenella J Miller's delightful novel.  We see Jane's growing love for Bingley as well as her view of Elizabeth and Darcy's unfolding relationship, and we find out what happened to her in London when she thought all was lost.  Humorous, engaging and true to Jane Austen's world, this is a charming read for Austen fans."
This book is available at Lulu.com both as a download and trade paperback. It will be on general release through the normal distribution channels in a few weeks. I shall let you know when you can buy it through Amazon or order it at your local bookstore.

Fenella J Miller

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Lydia's adventure in St Albans! Part One

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Wednesday, March 24th, 1802

Such a week! What adventures have befallen me in the last few days, and I am filled with such emotion that it is truly difficult to know how to set it all down. Indeed, it is far too much to write or recall - here is the first episode!
I set off for Meryton on Monday, having donned a new white muslin with exquisite embroidery, my crimson mantle and velvet bonnet which is trimmed with purple and in the turban style. I looked very well but for my gloves, which are so old that they disgraced the entire effect. No matter, on the whole I was pleased with my appearance and arrived at my friends’ house, very early, the morning being extremely dull, chilly and so windy I was half blown to my destination.
We were all so pleased to see one another and let out such shrieks of anticipation that I am surprised that the watchman was not summoned by Emma’s neighbours.
Harriet looked very elegant in a hat and coat of French grey velvet, very much the bride to be, I thought and Emma, perfect in a green pelisse and satin hat gave me a huge hug and said that she hoped I would approve of our escort.
Before I had a chance to question her, the door opened and in stepped George Wickham who declared he had never met with a finer sight than the one which he now beheld, and was soon handing us into Henry’s awaiting carriage. We bowled along the lanes with good speed, passing through Hatfield where I thought for a moment of Kitty and hoped she was having as much fun as her sister.
We were set down at last by the market place and agreed to meet up with the coach again at the White Hart for dinner in order to be ready to set back before dusk. Mr Wickham excused his presence by saying he was gone to meet with a fellow soldier and friend so we were left to do our shopping.
After purchasing cream silk for Harriet, Sarcenet for Emma and some delicious muslin for myself, we called on Madam Courbet the Mantua maker, who was expecting Harriet for a fitting. She was very pleased with the silk we had chosen and Harriet has left her chosen fashion plate, along with her measurements in her capable hands.
Along the High Street we found an exquisite shop full of bonnets, with straw hats in profusion. I settled at last on a high crowned straw trimmed with primrose coloured satin ribbon and white lace. It is utterly divine, but then a new bonnet cannot be anything else. No doubt, I shall abuse it in a week’s time when I am tired of the trimming or when a new one is to be had. Harriet has chosen an exquisite confection for her wedding hat and I would just die to wear something so beautiful. It is a bonnet of silk and net, bound round with a wreath of white flowers, topped with a veil of French lace, which will complement her dress beautifully.
You may imagine, dear reader, that by the time all this was accomplished it was time for a sit down dinner at the White Hart. Mr Wickham joined us along the way and a tremendous spread of dishes of pork, roast beef with onions and plates of cabbage was enjoyed before it was time to set off for home. Mr Wickham expressed some regret at not being able to spend some more time with his friend whom he had not seen for some years, prompting Emma to instantly advise him to stay a while longer, so that they could continue their conversation. After several protests from him and reassurances from her as to our welfare, he reluctantly gave in and waved us off from the cobbled yard of the inn.
We left just after four, although still light, the weather was starting to become very foul and dirty, and with the wind gusting so hard that the carriage swayed from side to side. The rain drummed on the roof, making conversation difficult; we were feeling tired and being squashed in amongst the boxes was very tiresome. Shaw, the coachman, drove the horses hard with not a thought for the poor creatures inside his conveyance.Like pennies in the poor box we were jiggled until our heads ached, the very ribbons were shook from our bonnets and the brim of mine buckled from all recognition as a result of being repeatedly bounced against the interior. As if this was not enough, with great sudden alarm, we heard an enormous sound, like the earth being torn up and then all was confusion. A mighty oak, which looked to be hundreds of years old came crashing down on top of us, the horses reared, the coachman was thrown and the carriage turned over!