Copenhagen 1807 – the Navy meets the Army, an Excerpt from An Unwilling Alliance

Old Haymarket, Copenhagen

In Copenhagen, 1807 the British army under Lord Cathcart and the Royal Navy under Admiral Gambier cooperated to seize the Danish fleet to stop it falling into the hands of the French.  Denmark was a neutral country and the bombardment of Copenhagen, although it achieved its aim, was not universally popular.

The army reserve was commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley, keen to return to the field from his position as Chief Secretary in Ireland, and in An Unwilling Alliance a meeting of the various commanders brings together Captain Hugh Kelly, the Manx commander of the Iris and a young army major on the rise, serving under Sir Arthur Wellesley, Major Paul van Daan…

Hugh turned at a sudden noise from the stable yard.  The commanders had left their horses in charge of a groom and the man had roped them to a long wooden bar outside the stables.  There was no sign of him now but one of the horses, a solid piebald with knots in his mane and a thick neck, had broken loose from the rail and was backing up across the yard.  His freedom was making the other horses restive and they were pulling on their tethers.  Hugh swore softly under his breath and made his way outside.

Another man was ahead of him, one of the escort who had arrived with the army commanders.  He was tall and fair, an officer in a red coat, his back to Hugh as he approached the piebald, placing himself between the horse and the way out of the yard.  Hugh went to the bar where the other horses were tied and inspected the ropes.  As he had suspected, every one of them was poorly tied, ready to be loosened with a determined tug.  Hugh sighed and released the first of them, retying it.

The officer spoke, his voice a clear baritone which was hard to place.  The accent spoke of privilege and wealth and the purchase of a commission but the phrasing and words were slightly unusual, as if this man had lived a varied life in many places.

“Stand still, you cross-eyed Danish bastard, I’m not chasing you halfway across the city because a groom can’t tie a knot.  Come here.”

He caught the loose rein and then moved in confidently as the horse reared up in fright, putting a soothing hand on the ungroomed neck and running it down the horse’s shoulder.  “All right lad, I know you’re scared.  No need to be.  Come on, let’s get you back where you should be and fed and watered.  And by the look of you a brush wouldn’t go amiss.  Come on.”

He was holding his body against the horse, steadying him, and the animal quietened immediately, soothed by the confidence in both voice and body.  Hugh watched in reluctant admiration as the man turned, leading the horse back into the yard.  He was wearing the insignia of a major and looked several years younger than Hugh with fair hair cut shorter than was fashionable, especially in the army or navy, and a pair of surprising blue eyes.  The eyes rested on Hugh for a moment, then the major led the horse back to its place at the rail and began to tie him up.  Hugh watched him in surprise for a moment, recognising the knot and then looked up into the major’s face.

“I doubt he’ll break away from that,” he said in matter-of-fact tones, moving on to re-tie the next horse.

The major did the same.  “How to tie a knot that stays tied was one of the only two useful things the bloody navy taught me,” he responded, pleasantly.

“What was the other?” Hugh asked.

“How to kill people.  I got very good at that.”  The major tied the last knot and surveyed Hugh’s handiwork to ensure that it was properly done with an arrogance which both irritated and amused Hugh.  Then the man looked up and saluted.  “Major Paul van Daan, Captain, 110th first battalion.  I’m here with Sir Arthur Wellesley.”

“Sir Arthur Wellesley might have been walking back to his lodgings if you’d not been as quick,” Hugh said, returning the salute.  “You’d think a groom would be better at tying up horses, wouldn’t you?”

“A Danish groom, this week?  What do you think, Captain?”

Hugh grinned.  “I think a pack of British commanders having to walk through town because their hired horses have buggered off might be a small victory but very satisfying,” he said.  “Captain Hugh Kelly of the Iris, Major.  How did you end up in the army, then?  Navy didn’t suit?”

“I was fifteen and I didn’t volunteer, Captain.  Put me off a bit.”

Hugh shot him a startled glance.  “Christ, you don’t sound like a man who ought to have been pressed.”

“They don’t always play by the rules.  But it was definitely educational.”

“How long were you in?”

“Two years.  Made petty officer, fought in a few skirmishes and at the Nile.”

Hugh felt his respect grow.  “I was there myself,” he said.  “Let me buy you a drink.  They’ll be a while, I suspect.  You on Wellesley’s staff?”

The major grinned.  “Not officially, although he bloody thinks I am.  Let me have a word with that groom and I’ll be with you.”

Hugh watched as he went to the stable door and yelled.  The man emerged at a run and stood before Van Daan, his eyes shifting to the neatly tied horses in some surprise.  He looked back at the major, his expression a combination of guilt and defiance.

Van Daan reached out, took him by one ear, and led him to the horses as if he had been a misbehaving schoolboy.  He indicated the newly tied knots, spoke briefly and then clipped the groom around the head, not very hard.  Hugh saw him point to the feed troughs and water pump, using gestures to make up for the language difficulties.  He then pointed to the piebald’s tangled mane and muddy coat and gestured again.  The groom was nodding, his sulky expression lightening a little.

Having given his orders, something with which Hugh observed sardonically that Paul van Daan seemed very comfortable, the young major reached into his coat pocket and took out two coins which he held up.  The groom’s eyes fixed on them and Paul van Daan pointed to the horses and spoke again.  The man nodded.  The major handed him one coin and put the other back into his pocket.  Then he smiled, the first real smile Hugh had seen him give, and it transformed his face.  The groom smiled back as though he could not help it, and the major put his hand on the man’s shoulder, laughed, and then ruffled the dirty hair with surprising informality as if he were a younger brother or cousin.  He released the groom and went to the ugly piebald horse, stroking his neck.  The animal nuzzled his shoulder and Van Daan smiled, reached into his pocket and took out a treat.  He stroked the horse as he fed it and Hugh watched him and wondered if the small drama he had just watched played out was regularly enacted with Van Daan’s men.  If it was, he suspected the man was an asset to the army.

“Major van Daan!”

The voice was cold, clipped, it’s tone biting, coming from an upstairs window of the inn, the room where the commanders were dining.  Van Daan turned and looked up.

“Is there a reason why you are in the stable yard socialising with the grooms when the man I have sent to search for you is combing this establishment looking for you?  Or are you under the impression that I asked you to accompany me in order to give you a day off?”

Major Paul van Daan saluted with a grin to the upstairs windows where the dark head of Sir Arthur Wellesley protruded.  “Sorry, sir, didn’t think you’d need me for a bit.”

“It appears that the secretary provided speaks very little English and I would prefer to have this meeting fully documented in a language that the cabinet in London understands.  Sir Home Popham appears to be of the opinion that no minutes are needed at all which makes me all the more determined to provide them.  Try to write legibly for once.”

“On my way, sir,” Van Daan said.  Wellesley withdrew his head and the major gave one more nut to the piebald, called a word to the groom who was filling water buckets with considerable speed and joined Hugh at the door.  “I’m sorry, Captain, we’ll need to postpone that drink, it appears I am now a secretary as well as a battalion commander.  Thanks for your help with the horses.”

“You’re welcome,” Hugh said.  “You in trouble, Major?”

“Wellesley?  Jesus, no, that’s him on a good day,” Van Daan said, laughing.  “I’d better go before he causes serious offence.  Good afternoon.”

An Unwilling Alliance is due for publication in April 2018.  An Unconventional Officer, telling the story of Paul van Daan and the 110th infantry is available on Amazon.

 

The National Maritime Museum and Greenwich

By Txllxt TxllxT Wikimedia Commons

Working on a book based around a navy captain during the Napoleonic Wars, a visit to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich seemed like an ideal way to start this visit to London.  I can remember going to all the Greenwich museums growing up, but it has been a very long time.

The National Maritime Museum is the leading museum of its kind in the UK and probably one of the best in the world.  It is part of a complex known as the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site and includes the Royal Observatory and 17th-century Queen’s House In 2012 the complex was given the overall name of Royal Museums Greenwich along with the famous Cutty Sark which stands nearby.

Greenwich has always had associations with the sea and the navy has roots on the waterfront while Charles II founded the Royal Observatory in 1675 for “finding the longitude of places”. The home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian since 1884, Greenwich has long been a centre for astronomical study, while navigators across the world have set their clocks according to its time of day.  Something about this knowledge has always given me a slight sense of awe when visiting this part of Greenwich.

The National Maritime Museum has a huge collection on Britain’s seafaring history including art, maps and charts, manuscripts, models and plans, navigational instruments and personal items belonging to important historical figures such as Nelson and Captain James Cook.

Flamsteed House, the original part of the Royal Observatory, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke and was the first purpose-built scientific institution in Britain.  In 1953, the Old Royal Observatory became part of the Museum.

The 17th-century Queen’s House, an early classical building designed by Inigo Jones, is the keystone of the historic “park and palace” landscape of maritime Greenwich.  The Queen’s House was refurbished in 2001 to become the heart of displays of art from the Museum’s collection.

In May 2007 a major capital project, “Time and Space”, opened up the entire Royal Observatory site for the benefit of visitors. The £16 million transformation features three new modern astronomy galleries, four new time galleries, facilities for collections conservation and research, a learning centre and the 120-seat Peter Harrison Planetarium designed to introduce the world beyond the night sky.

The National Maritime Museum has galleries exploring various aspects of Britain’s maritime history.  A gallery dedicated to Nelson and the Navy tells the story of Admiral Nelson, his battles, his life and his death at Trafalgar, and sets the battle in the context of the wars against the French in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.  It describes the ships, the sailors and how they lived and the way the navy was perceived at home.

Figureheads, National Maritime MuseumThe gallery concerned with traders explores the relationship between Britain and the wider world, particularly the powerful East India Company which spread its influence until it controlled huge areas of territory in India.  I found this fascinating, partly because I studied this at University and partly because I spent time researching the Company in India when I was writing about Assaye in An Unconventional Officer.

Another gallery covered the difficult subject of the transatlantic slave trade, both up to abolition and beyond.  I thought this topic was well-handled, looking at both slavers and abolitionists as well as the slaves who fought back against their masters in places like Haiti.

Naval Heroes, National Maritime MuseumOther galleries explored the maritime history of London, the first world war and in Voyagers, the personal significance of Britain’s maritime story.  I particularly liked the exploration of Turner’s famous painting of Trafalgar which analysed the painting and it’s meaning in the context of national pride and naval power following the battle.

The museum is huge and there is so much to see and do that it is easy to miss things.  Work is in progress on a new gallery and there are various temporary exhibitions, a children’s play area and the fabulous Great Map.

If the museum has a fault, it is that the various galleries are sometimes hard to follow in the correct order.  Especially as it is sometimes possible to enter a gallery from either end it is easy to find yourself going around in the wrong order and there is no numbering of exhibits to help with this.  With a fairly good background in history it didn’t really bother me that much, but I can imagine it would irritate some people.

I loved the museum along with the Royal Observatory, which completed the story of some of the scientific aspects of navigation and the Cutty Sark, standing 400m outside.  I didn’t manage the Queen’s House this time around, although I’d like to go back to it.

The Cutty Sark is one of my clearest childhood memories.  It was a Sunday afternoon treat, even just going to see it.  Going aboard was even better.  The ship was one of the fastest tea clippers in the world and there was something romantic for me as a small girl, standing on the deck gazing up at the tall masts and trying to imagine billowing sails and a fresh breeze at sea.  I was devastated in 2007 when the ship was badly damaged by fire and have followed the progress of the restoration.

Greenwich Foot TunnelWe used to take the bus to the Isle of Dogs back in the sixties and seventies and then walk through the foot tunnel to Greenwich.  The foot tunnel is a piece of history in itself, a masterpiece of late Victorian engineering which opened in 1902 and was built to replace an expensive and unreliable ferry service which took workers living south of the river to work in the docks and shipyards.  The entrances at each end are beneath glazed domes and I can remember the joy of running through the tunnel calling out and hearing my voice echo, bouncing off the walls eerily.  We used to count the steps at each end.  There were lifts but for some reason we seldom used them.

The Cutty SarkA visit to Greenwich is both a research aide for the new book and a trip down memory lane.  The strong sense of standing with both feet in maritime history is just what I need as I embark on the second half of my book which places me aboard a Royal navy ship bound for Copenhagen in 1807 under Admiral Gambier.  But there is also a sense of standing with at least one foot in my own past, a child growing up in the East End with parents who took us to some historic site almost every weekend.  There is a strong link between that excited little girl standing on the deck of an old ship and trying to imagine how it felt to sail in her and the woman writing a novel of those who did.  I owe that as a debt to the parents who gave me that sense of history and why it matters to all of us.

The new book, An Unwilling Alliance, is due for publication in April 2018.

Welcome to 2018 at Writing with Labradors

Fireworks in London
Fireworks in London

Welcome to 2018 at Writing with Labradors.  It’s New Year’s Day on the Isle of Man, and it’s raining, windy and freezing cold.  In some ways this is a relief because if it had been a nice day I would have felt obliged to go out for a walk and I don’t feel like it.

It’s been a very different and very busy Christmas this year, with Richard’s family with us for the whole of the holidays, and then entertaining friends to dinner last night.  I’ve had no time to write, research or do anything else and in some ways that’s been quite hard.

I think it has probably done me good, however.  Time away from the current book has given me the chance to think through what I’d like to do with it and I feel a lot clearer about where it is going.  I’m very happy with the few chapters I’ve written and research is going well so I’m looking forward to getting on with it.  I think my head may have needed the break.

It’s made me think a bit more about how I schedule my writing time going forward.  I’m very privileged that I don’t have to hold down a full time job at the same time as writing, but I do have a very busy life with a family, my dogs, a big house to maintain and accounts and admin to be done for Richard’s business.  I’m aware that it’s very easy to let things slide when I’m in the middle of a book, but I realise that I need to be better organised both with the various tasks through the day and with time off to relax.

This year I’ve edited and published seven existing novels, with all the associated marketing and publicity, I’ve written an eighth book from scratch and published it and I’ve started a ninth.  I’ve handed my Irish dance school over to my two lovely teachers to run, I’ve supported son and daughter through GCSEs and AS levels, my old fella Toby through an operation at the age of 13 and I’ve had a major foot operation myself.  I’ve toured the battlefields of Spain and Portugal where some of my books are set and I went to Berlin, Killarney, London, Hertfordshire, Nottingham, Manchester and Liverpool.  I lost a very dear old family friend and went to his funeral.  And I’ve gained some amazing new friends, some of whom I’ve not even met yet, although I’m hoping to this year.  I’ve set up a website and an author page, joined Twitter and Instagram and I genuinely feel I can now call myself an author, something I had doubts about in one of my first posts on this website.

It has been an amazing year and I’m so grateful for all the help and support I’ve received.  I’ve not won any awards, although I’ve had one or two reviews which have felt like getting an Oscar.  Still, I’d like to do the thank you speech, because it’s the end of my first year as a published author and I owe so many people thanks for that.

Lynn and Richard
Love and Marriage

I’m starting with the man I married, who has been absolutely incredible throughout this.  He set up my website and taught me how to use it, and has always been there to answer any questions about technology.  He spent hours designing the new covers for the Peninsular War Saga and he also took the photographs which are gorgeous.  He drove me through Spain and Portugal, scrambled over battlefields and listened to me endlessly lecturing with more patience than I could have imagined.  He has celebrated my good reviews and sympathised over the bad ones.  He’s been completely amazing this year – thank you, Richard.  You are the best.

My son is studying for A levels at home and shares the study with me.  That’s not always easy, as during research I tend to spread out from my desk into the surrounding area, onto his table and onto the floor.  He has become expert at negotiating his way through piles of history books.  He is also a brilliant cook and will unfailingly provide dinner at the point when it becomes obvious I am too far gone in the nineteenth century to have remembered that we need to eat.  Thanks, Jon.

Castletown 2017
Castletown 2017

My daughter is my fellow historian and brings me joy every day.  She mocks my devotion to Lord Wellington ruthlessly, puts up with my stories, lets me whinge to her and makes me laugh all the time.  She drags me away from my desk to go for hot chocolate and to watch the sun go down, watches cheesy TV with me, helps me put up the Christmas decorations and corrects my fashion sense.  Thank you, bambino.

There are so many other people I should thank.  Heather, for always being there and for offering to proof-read; Sheri McGathy for my great book covers; Suzy and Sarah for their support and encouragement.

Then there are the many, many people online who have helped me with research queries, answered beginners questions about publishing and shared my sense of the ridiculous more than I could have believed possible.  There are a few of you out there but I’m singling out Jacqueline Reiter, Kristine Hughes Patrone and Catherine Curzon in particular.  I’m hoping to meet you all in person in 2018 and to share many more hours of Wellington and Chatham on Twitter, Archduke Charles dressed as a penguin and the mysterious purpose of Lady Greville’s dodgy hat.  A special mention also goes to M. J. Logue who writes the brilliant Uncivil War series, and who is my online partner-in-crime in considering new ways for the mavericks of the army to annoy those in charge and laughing out loud at how funny we find ourselves.

The new book is called An Unwilling Alliance and is the first book to be set partly on the Isle of Man, where I live.  The hero, a Royal Navy captain by the name of Hugh Kelly is a Manxman who joined the navy at sixteen and has returned to the island after Trafalgar with enough prize money to buy an estate, invest in local business and find himself a wife while his new ship is being refitted.  It’s a tight timescale, but Hugh is used to getting things his own way and is expecting no trouble with Roseen Crellin, the daughter of his new business partner.  Her father approves, she is from the right background and the fact that she’s very pretty is something of a bonus.  It hasn’t occurred to Hugh that the lady might not see things the same way…

The title obviously refers to the somewhat rocky start to Hugh and Roseen’s relationship, but it has other meanings as well.  The book moves on to the 1807 British campaign in Denmark and the bombardment of Copenhagen, in which Captain Kelly is involved.  The Danes were unwilling to accept British terms for the surrender of their fleet to avoid it falling into the hands of the French and as an alliance proved impossible, the British resorted to force.

In addition, there was something of an unwilling alliance between the two branches of the British armed forces taking part in the Copenhagen campaign.  There is a history of difficulties between the Army and the Navy during this period, and given that the Danish campaign required the two to work together, there is an interesting conflict over the best way to conduct the campaign.

An Unconventional Officer
Book 1 of the Peninsular War Saga

The naval commander during this campaign was Admiral James Gambier while the army was commanded by Lord Cathcart.  While Captain Hugh Kelly served under Gambier in the British fleet, a division of the army under Cathcart was commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley and Brigadier General Stewart and consisted of battalions from the 43rd, 52nd, 95th and 92nd – the nucleus of the future Light Division, the elite troops of Wellington’s Peninsular army.  In An Unconventional Officer,  we learn that the expedition is to be joined by the first battalion of the 110th infantry under the command of the newly promoted Major Paul van Daan and An Unwilling Alliance looks at the campaign from both the army and naval perspective, filling in part of Paul’s story which is not covered in the series.

I am hoping that the book will be published at the beginning of April 2018 and it will be followed by book 5 of the Peninsular War Saga, An Untrustworthy Army, covering the Salamanca campaign and the retreat from Burgos some time in the summer.  After that I will either get on with the sequel to A Respectable Woman which follows the lives of the children of Kit and Philippa Clevedon or the third book in the Light Division series, set after Waterloo.

We’re hoping to go back to Portugal and Spain this year for further photography and battlefield mayhem.  I’ve got some new ideas for the website and will be publishing several more short stories through the year.  My first research trip is in a couple of weeks time when I’ll be visiting Portsmouth and the Victory, the National Maritime Museum and possibly the Imperial War Museum if I don’t run out of time.  And the Tower of London for no reason at all apart from the fact that Wellington used to enjoy bossing people around there.

Writing with Labradors
Toby and Joey – Writing with Labradors

My final thanks go to the real stars of Writing with Labradors.  Toby, my old fella, is thirteen now and survived a major operation this year far better than I did.  Joey is eleven and needs to lose some weight.  They are my friends, my babies and my constant companions and I can’t imagine life without either of them although I know that day is going to come.  Thank you to my dogs who are with me all the time I’m working and who make every day happier.

Happy New Year to all my family, friends, readers and supporters.  Looking forward to 2018.

 

 

New Regency Romance A Regrettable Reputation Out Today

New Regency Romance A Regrettable Reputation is out today on Amazon kindle.

In 1816 war is over, Napoleon in exile and Regency England is at peace.

Mr Nicholas Witham, land agent at the Yorkshire estate of Lord Ashberry has found a haven of quiet, far from the bloodshed of war and the horror of Waterloo.  With poachers and lost sheep his most pressing concerns, Nicholas is not seeking anything more exciting than the occasional trip to York and a game of cards with friends.

The tranquillity of Ashberry is about to be disrupted by the arrival of Miss Camilla Dorne, a young woman of doubtful reputation, sent away from London by her guardian to avoid the consequences of a disastrous and very public love affair with a disreputable officer which has broken her heart.

An army officer, past or present, is the last man Camilla wishes to spend time with.  But she discovers that a lost reputation can bring unexpected freedom and possibly a second chance at happiness.

With the shadow of war firmly behind him, Nicholas is ready to move on but poverty and rising prices bring rumblings of discontent and rumours of Luddite activity in the industrial towns, and as violence erupts, the land agent of Ashberry finds himself swept up in a new conflict where the enemy is hard to identify.  Faced with a stark choice between love and duty, Nicholas is beginning to realise that he may not have left the regiment behind at all…

This is my second Regency romance and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it.  I wanted to experiment with a slightly different kind of hero and heroine and I have got very attached to Nicholas and Camilla.  Set in Yorkshire at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution it tells of poverty and public unrest as well as a love story between two people recovering from very different scars who are thrown together by circumstances.  For Nicholas the damage done by Waterloo runs deeper than his physical injuries while Camilla has been badly hurt by an unscrupulous fortune hunter and an uncaring guardian.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

 

 

 

Writing with Labradors – the first six months

Stars of Blogging with Labradors

It feels like a good time to celebrate Writing with Labradors – the first six months.

I published my first e-book, a Respectable Woman, on Amazon kindle on 22 February which is actually rather less than six months ago.  I feel like celebrating today, though.  I’ve just received a parcel with several author’s copies of the first of my books to be published in paperback and there is something amazing about actually holding a copy in my hand.

I dreamed of being a writer when I was a teenager but back then it didn’t seem like a possibility at all.  Over the years I’ve written more words than I can remember and I made numerous attempts to find an agent or a publisher for my novels.  I often wonder how many people actually read any of what I’d written.  What is clear to me is how many people have read what I’ve written now.

Since publishing A Respectable Woman back in February, things have gone better than I ever imagined.  I’ve sold books, I’ve received reviews and ratings, most of which have been good, and I’ve had a lot of messages from readers telling me how much they’ve enjoyed the books.  I’ve set up a website and written a blog and an author Facebook page.  I’ve joined Twitter, which is something I never thought likely and I’ve begun to learn, by tiny steps, about marketing and selling books as well as about writing them.

There have been so many good things during these months that I’m a bit overwhelmed.  People have been incredibly supportive and I’m so grateful to all of you who read and comment and encourage me.

So far, all the books I’ve published were already written when I made the decision to publish independently on kindle.  This weekend I am publishing the first book which I’ve written from scratch since then and it’s a regency romance.  I have a few books floating around in my head at present, and before I started this, I admit that I wouldn’t have thought the next book I wrote would be another regency.  This decision was based purely on the success of the previous regency, The Reluctant Debutante which has proved the most popular of all my books so far.

When I began to get ratings and even a few reviews for the books I was very excited.  There is something fairly astonishing that complete strangers are reading my books and apparently enjoying them.  There was also the unpleasant shock of a bad review.  I’ve had a couple, not too many, and I now understand why experienced writers recommend that you try not to read the reviews.  It’s difficult to avoid when you’re independently published; you want to know something about what your readers think and it’s very tempting.  I am trying not to now.  I can’t change the way I write because one or two people don’t like it.  The books are selling and people are buying more than one of them which I’m guessing means they enjoyed them, so I am going to try to stay away from the reviews.  A bad review is painful; a good one feels great.  I’ve decided to leave them alone and just write.

Still, going by sales alone, a second regency makes a lot of sense.  I really enjoyed writing this one.  It was good to come up with some new characters and good to research a subject I knew very little about.  I have written a slightly different kind of heroine this time and I hope my readers like her because I really do.

My next published book is likely to be the fourth in the Peninsular war saga, which is already written although needs some revising.  A Redoubtable Citadel is the most difficult book I’ve written so far, a very emotional one for me.  I am also planning on a book with a Manx theme but there is a fair bit of research involved in that.  I have a children’s story which I want to finish, and I’ve got an idea for a sequel to one of my original books.  I also need to get on with book five which is about half way through.

It’s been an amazing first six months and I’m looking forward to more in the future.  Thank you to everyone buying the books, sending me messages, engaging on the Facebook page and writing reviews and ratings – even the bad ones, since they remind me to keep getting better.

I hear the sounds of barking labradors in the distance which reminds me that it’s breakfast time.  I couldn’t have done this without all of you.  I also couldn’t have done it without Toby and Joey, my constant companions, who never forget to remind me to stop work for a meal time.

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A Regrettable Reputation

A Regrettable Reputation: Book 1 in the Light Division romances by Lynn Bryant
A Regrettable Reputation by Lynn Bryant

A Regrettable Reputation takes us to Yorkshire in 1816 where the former Captain Nicholas Witham of the 110th Infantry is adjusting to civilian life as land agent on the Ashberry estate…

In the event it was several weeks before Miss Dorne made an appearance. It was a damp afternoon and Witham had spent the morning writing letters and doing accounts before joining the grooms as they exercised the racehorses. He rode back to the stables with the lads to find a post-chaise drawn up on the carriage drive with luggage strapped to the roof.
Witham sighed and waved for one of the grooms to come and take his horse. He had no desire to converse with a spoiled woman with a lost reputation, but common civility demanded that he at least introduce himself. Giving the lad some brief instructions about the horse, he walked up to the house as the driver was lowering the carriage steps and opening the door. Mrs Hogan, the housekeeper was standing stiffly at the front door.
The woman who climbed down from the coach was of medium height, clothed in a dark travelling dress with a dark green pelisse over it and a small bonnet trimmed with feathers. She paused for a moment, looking up at the red brick of the house which was to become her home for a while. Witham could see no sign of a maid although he could not believe she had been allowed to travel without one. The girl looked at Mrs Hogan and the woman bobbed a reluctant curtsey. “Miss Dorne. I am Mrs Hogan, the housekeeper.”
“How do you do?” the newcomer said quietly. “I’ll try not to be a trouble to you.”
“Not at all,” Mrs Hogan said. “In his letter, Lord Ashberry suggested I serve meals in the east parlour since you’ll hardly be wanting to use the big dining room on your own. Your room is ready, if you’ll follow me. Ah – Mr Witham. Miss Dorne, this is Lord Ashberry’s agent who runs the estate. He lives in the Dower House which you will have passed on the drive.”
Witham approached the two women. Miss Dorne turned. “How do you do?” she said again.
Witham held out his hand. “Welcome to Ashberry Hall, Miss Dorne. We’ll try to make your stay as comfortable as possible.”
“Thank you.”
Her youth startled him. He had been expecting an older woman given her unfortunate reputation but this girl could be no more than eighteen. She was slight and fair, with a pale oval face and expressive blue eyes. There were dark shadows under her eyes which looked like bruises. She looked painfully thin with a fragile delicacy which unexpectedly touched his heart. Whatever she had done wrong, somebody should be looking after this girl and she was here alone many miles from home and family.
He realised he was staring and that he had failed to release her hand. With a laugh he did so. “I’m sorry, Miss Dorne, you must think me a half-wit standing here staring. Mrs Hogan will show you your room and get you some tea.”
The well-shaped mouth twisted in a wry smile. “Don’t think of it, Mr Witham. Recently I have become very well accustomed to being stared at.”
There was bitterness in her tone. Nicholas smiled. “I wouldn’t worry about it here, Miss Dorne, you’re in the middle of nowhere, you’ll find yourself an object of interest to the horses and sheep but not much else. You must be exhausted, so I’ll let you get within and rest and eat. When you’re ready in a few days, come to the stables and I’ll find you a horse to ride. The grooms are at your disposal.”
“I prefer to ride alone, but thank you.”
“Well take one with you at least until you’ve learned your way about,” Witham said. “Good day to you.”
She disappeared inside the house and Witham stood watching as the servants began to unload her luggage from the top of the carriage. There was a sense of immense loneliness about her. It was hard to imagine her laughing and flirting with her lover before disaster had overtaken them. She looked defeated.
Mrs Hogan reappeared at the door, watching the last of the boxes being carried inside. “A hussy if ever I saw one!” she said sharply.
“God save us, Mrs Hogan, she’s a child!” Witham said shortly.
“Not such a child that she couldn’t disgrace her poor family by behaving like a common whore! She says she needs little from me, which is just as well because it’s bad enough to have to have her in the house…”
“You’ll show her the courtesy that’s due a guest of Lord Ashberry’s, ma’am!” Witham cut in sharply. “And if you don’t, I’ll see to it that he finds another housekeeper who will!”
The woman took a deep indignant breath and opened her mouth. Witham held up a hand. “Enough! You’re a narrow minded woman, and that’s fine by me, but I’ll be watching you and if there’s a sign of rudeness to that young woman, you’re out!”
He watched, amused, as she stormed back into the house, and then turned and walked towards the Dower House wondering with some sympathy how Camilla Dorne would cope with the lonely isolation of Ashberry Hall.

In 1816 war is over, Napoleon in exile and Regency England is at peace.

Mr Nicholas Witham, land agent at the Yorkshire estate of Lord Ashberry has found a haven of quiet, far from the bloodshed of war and the horror of Waterloo.  With poachers and lost sheep his most pressing concerns, Nicholas is not seeking anything more exciting than the occasional trip to York  and a game of cards with friends.

The tranquillity of Ashberry is about to be disrupted by the arrival of Miss Camilla Dorne, a young woman of doubtful reputation, sent away from London by her guardian to avoid the consequences of a disastrous and very public love affair with a disreputable officer which has broken her heart.

An army officer, past or present, is the last man Camilla wishes to spend time with.  But she discovers that a lost reputation can bring unexpected freedom and possibly a second chance at happiness.

With the shadow of war firmly behind him, Nicholas is ready to move on, but poverty and rising prices bring rumblings of discontent and rumours of Luddite activity in the industrial towns, and as violence erupts, the land agent of Ashberry finds himself swept up in a new conflict where the enemy is hard to identify.  Faced with a stark choice between love and duty, Nicholas is beginning to realise that he may not have left the regiment behind at all…

A Regrettable Reputation, a Regency romance, is the first book in the Light Division Romances which follow the varying fortunes of the men of Wellington’s elite troops once war is over. Now available on Amazon kindle and in paperback at the Amazon store.

The Reluctant Debutante – A Regency Romance – Coming Soon

The Reluctant Debutante

My next book to be published, ‘The Reluctant Debutante’ was originally aimed at the Mills and Boon market.  A number of people in the publishing world who had said fairly complimentary things about what they’d seen of my writing had urged me to try to make my books more marketable by aiming them at a specific market, and Mills and Boon were one of the places suggested, notably by the readers on the amazing Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme.

I took a long, hard look at the Mills and Boon historical fiction line and read a fair few of them before I decided to make the attempt.  I will be completely frank when I say I hadn’t read a Mills and Boon since I was a teenager, and I’d always assumed that I’d grown out of them, but I have to say I did them an injustice.  The point about Mills and Boon is that although they have the reputation of writing to a formula, actually there’s a huge variety of styles and published authors, some of whom I quite liked and others not so much.  There are very definite conventions about the structure of the books and what is and is not considered a good idea.  When I decided to take advice and try to write a Mills and Boon historical, I did a lot of research into this.

My first two attempts were complete failures.  I had already written ‘A Respectable Woman’ and A Marcher Lord’, and I tried hard to adapt both of these to fit the Mills and Boon requirements, but it became fairly clear early on that I wasn’t going to manage it.  ‘A Marcher Lord’ is very much a historical novel, set in a specific place and time.  There is a lot going on which is crucial to the plot and try as I might I could not adapt it enough.  ‘A Respectable Woman’ seemed like a better prospect, but I ran into difficulties immediately because I was told that it was important for the hero and heroine to meet early on in the book and then to spend most of the rest of the novel either in each other’s company or at least thinking and talking about each other.  It’s fair enough.  Mills and Boon readers have come looking for love, and that’s what they expect to get.

My problem was that both my heroes and heroines flatly refused to cooperate.  Jenny was better behaved in terms of showing up and being in the right place to fall in love with Will, but he was completely uncooperative and cleared off to fight a war almost immediately.  It probably wasn’t his fault because the English had just invaded, but it rather left the poor girl hanging about, and far from waiting eagerly for his return, the wretched girl was still dreaming of the man she left behind her.  That was a complete disaster in terms of Mills and Boon, by the way.  They were not happy about Jenny’s adolescent crush and needed him gone.  I did try, but it immediately took out a huge chunk of my plot, and that left me stranded.

Philippa and Kit were even worse.  They barely met for five minutes before taking off at speed to do other things.  He went off to fight the Crimean War: soldiers are completely unreliable when it comes to location, by the way, the only way you can keep them in one place is to injure them.  As for Philippa, not only did she put herself firmly beyond the pale by killing a man – in self defence, admittedly, but it’s still not okay for a Mills and Boon heroine, I’m told – but she then took herself off and got a job, and not a particularly glamorous one.  Once again, I did my best to make the necessary changes, and I think I could have got Kit under control, but Philippa was having none of it.  I either had to change her behaviour so much that she turned into a different person, or I needed to think again.

Out of this frustrating process, was born ‘The Reluctant Debutante’.  I grew up reading Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and Jane Aiken Hodge books and I loved them, so when I decided to try a Mills and Boon historical from scratch, the Regency was the first period that came to mind.  The stylised tradition of the genre would hopefully make it easier to keep my somewhat wayward characters under control, and I rather liked the idea of a bit of glamour and sparkle for a while after struggling with the blood and gore of sixteenth century battles and the slums of Victorian London.  I was very strict with my characters, I moved the action firmly to post-Waterloo London and gave Giles a very good reason to have sold out, and I gave Cordelia a fairly conventional background with no incentive to go taking off saving lives or earning a living.  This time, I thought I had cracked it.

Sadly not.  Once again, the novel came back with a selection of very complimentary remarks about style and characters, but it was not for Mills and Boon.  This time, although my characters were in the right place, doing roughly what they were supposed to be doing, it appeared that there was not enough conflict between them.  Reading between the lines, I think Cordelia was simply too down to earth and sensible.  I tried a few rewrites on this, but every plot device I came up with to heighten the sense of drama in this relationship was immediately shot down in flames by my alarmingly level-headed heroine, who raised a supercilious eyebrow and simply picked up a book.  It wasn’t happening and I put Cordelia and Giles sadly to one side and accepted that despite my huge admiration for the women and men who write for Mills and Boon, I’m simply not one of them.

Still, I admit I had a lot of fun trying and it was very good experience.  It made me practice sex scenes, since a lot of Mills and Boon books are very keen on those, and that’s been useful since.  It did make me think very seriously about the kind of books I write.  I wasn’t sure at the time if I would write another   Regency romance, but it did make me do a lot of research into the period and it reminded me how much I enjoyed it.

The Reluctant Debutante has changed a good deal since it’s first incarnation.  Once I realised that Giles had fought at Waterloo, and knowing the type of person he is, I felt very strongly that fighting under Colonel van Daan in the 110th would do him a great deal of good.  The Reluctant Debutante has proved my most popular book so far and from that has come my other

A Regrettable Reputation

Regency, A Regrettable Reputation, about another of Giles’ old Light Division comrades.  For those who have read neither of these, A Regrettable Reputation comes first in the series and there’s a cameo appearance from Giles.  Several of these characters also appear in the Peninsular War saga.

 

 

 

 

Publicity and more publicity

Wellington Statue, London

Publicity is ruling my life today. I’ve been writing and sending press releases for both areas of my life.  My dance school has just launched a new website and is taking part in a St Patrick’s Day event on Friday so one of them is about that.  I’ve also sent several out publicising the free promotion for A Respectable Woman which is happening from 23rd to 25th March 2017.

The reality is that this is a displacement activity for what I should be doing which is laundry, ironing and cleaning the house.  It’s interesting that I have moaned like hell about the promotional side of being a writer, but given the choice between that and a set of stairs that need vacuuming or a trip to Shoprite, I am suddenly my own publicist.

In between all this I am trying to keep track of which students are and are not attending Friday’s show.  I have come to the conclusion that running an Irish dance school must have been the origin of the cliche about herding cats.  You just think you’ve finally got the hang of who is doing what and going where and it all changes again.  This explains why all over the world, dance teachers are hunched over their laptops hours before the deadline for feis entries mumbling incoherently about slip jigs and reels and drinking endless cups of coffee.

The other thing that I should be doing is beginning to plan for my trip.  I’m off on a tour of Portugal and Spain shortly, visiting sites associated with Wellington’s army.  This is something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I first started doing the research for my series of books set during the Peninsular War and I’m really excited.  Being a writer, however, my excitement leads me to read endless books and articles about where to go and what to see.  It does not occur to me that making lists and organising myself so that my family will survive while I’m away might be a more useful occupation.  Or at least, if it does occur to me I quickly brush the thought to one side in favour of another hour spent with the Peninsular War atlas.

The first book in the series is called An Unconventional Officer and tells the story of a young officer of light infantry and his career in the fictional 110th infantry during the Napoleonic wars.  It’s a big project and I’ve been working on it for a long time.  It is the first time I’ve written a series of books about the same characters and I love the sense of being about to develop themes and relationships gradually.  It is, however, a very different prospect trying to keep track of characters and dates and events spanning a number of years and I have had to resort to meticulous record keeping just to ensure that a soldier who died at Talavera doesn’t accidentally find himself resurrected in time for Salamanca.

Sir John Colborne statue, Winchester (Publicity and more Publicity)
Sir John Colborne statue, Winchester (Publicity and more Publicity)

 

Statue of John Colborne at the military museum in Winchester.

 

In pursuit of research I paid a visit last week to the military museums in Winchester.  This was completely fascinating and as I only had a limited amount of time I intend to go back to do the bits I missed.  The museums are really well set out.  My favourite was the Waterloo section which has apparently won awards, and I can see why.  I highly recommend these museums even if army history isn’t your thing, the stories are told so well.

It made me realise that another advantage of being a writer is the excuse to visit any museum or historic site that has even the slightest connection to the period I’m researching.  No longer can my poor, long suffering family accuse me of being self indulgent when I drag them to Apsley House during a visit to London or insist on visiting some obscure country church because somebody I’ve heard of was buried there.

And in the meantime, I’ve discovered that writing blog posts is an even better displacement activity than press releases…

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