At our recent writers meeting, we were given the challenge to write a short story of no more than 500 words. The story had to include the use of ‘ight’ in a word three times, and the words ‘summer’ and ‘fish’. We drew our genre from a handful of cards. Luckily for me, I selected ‘history’, although this little story is set further back in time than the Regency era. I hope you enjoy it!
From her bedchamber in the tower, Alyssa stared towards the ocean. Moonlight laid a
silver path to the horizon. If only she could walk across that path, to that
horizon and disappear.
‘My lady?’ Marta’s concerned voice sounded behind her.
Alyssa turned and looked beyond her old nurse to the dim corner where her velvet mantel draped itself across an oaken cupboard. Next to the cupboard stood a sturdy chair, and there Marta had spread the fine wool gown Alyssa would wear in the morning. Alyssa herself had embellished the fabric with silver threads and rows of seed pearls.
‘I wish I was a village girl.’
‘Many village girls wish they were you.’ Marta’s tone held an edge only old retainers could
risk sharpening their words with.
‘Oh, Marta! I know! I have so much, and villagers have so little. But most village girls meet
the man they will marry. I have not even seen this knight my father has chosen for me.’
‘Perhaps you should trust your father would not throw out a line and reel in any poor fish.’
‘He would not,’ agreed Alyssa, ‘But more to add to his landholdings than for my happiness.’
Marta sniffed. ‘You do your father an injustice. He has responsibilities to his lineage. And it is only because of the floods, your betrothed was not here a se’enight ago.’ She twitched her shoulders impatiently. ‘Besides, happiness is not guaranteed in this life we must endure.’
‘Endurance? Is that all life is about?’
Marta shook her head. ‘Do not scorn endurance. It is the deepest strength. It will see you
bend without breaking and hold you upright through sorrows and disappointments,
through bitter winters and summer droughts. A mother cannot hold her babe in
her arms without enduring the agony of childbirth. A warrior cannot win his war
without fighting battles beforehand. You will not find happiness by expecting it to come to you.’
‘But surely I can hope?’
‘Of course you can hope! But you must work for it as well.’ Marta put her hands on Alyssa’s
shoulders. ‘What should your father do? Put you at the mercy of any man with a pretty
face and a mouthful of glib words?’
Alyssa colored, remembering the good-looking bard she’d flirted with last year. His
voice had been smooth, but his hands were rough when he lifted her skirt. His
obscenities burned her ears. Marta had rescued her, and she herself had seen the folly of making herself available to such a one.
Her father had always been kind. He’d never spoken to her harshly, nor laid a heavy hand
against her. He’d seen her educated well beyond most women. She could ride a horse and shoot an arrow as well as any man.
Her heart lifted. Trust then, must be her foundation, and hope her guide.
From the dim corner, the pearls she had diligently stitched onto her wedding gown gleamed like tiny lanterns in the dark.
* * * * * * * * *
2023 has got off to a rocky start here in New Zealand with extreme weather events bringing flooding and high winds that have seen families displaced and communities isolated, some without phone and internet connections. We live inland so escaped the worst of it, but coastal communities and Auckland, our biggest city, have been sorely affected. Lives have been lost and rescue crews have put their own lives on the line to shepherd people and pets to safety.
My work-in-progress is ‘His Barefoot Bride’ which features Alicia, Benedict’s sister from ‘Lord Benedict’s Bride’, and introduces Alexander St. Leger Rose , Sixth Duke of Thornleigh. Widowed after a miserable marriage arranged by her father, Alicia has returned from the New World. While she appreciates that marriage is necessary for her to function in society, Alicia is resolved to choose her own husband this time around. A malleable gentleman is the kind of man she is looking for, certainly not Alexander with his lion-like presence and dominating air!
I’m not a writer who plans (I wish I was, but I just can’t) so I go along with my characters on their journey and we get to know each other on the way. I’m looking forward to learning more about Alicia and Alexander. Check out the gorgeous cover, once again designed by Tania Hutley.
I enjoyed the February meeting of our C2C (Coast-to-Coast) writers group recently and as always, came away inspired. My enthusiasm knew no bounds and led to me refreshing an old favorite, ‘Kincaid’s Call’, a second chance, small town contemporary romance. I’m also returning to another contemporary half-finished in my files – ‘Married to McAllister’. I’m hoping to release this in the first half of 2023. Cover still to come on this one!
Valentine’s Day here was kind of overtaken by Cyclone Gabrielle, but wherever you are in the world, I hope you experienced a loving gift or deed. People say it’s the thought that counts, but I’m inclined to think that’s an easy way out. Take care till next time. Leigh xx
Our writers group recently held a flash fiction challenge with a seasonal theme. The words ‘Christmas Card’ had to be included. Christmas wasn’t really a ‘thing’ during Regency times but I had fun writing the following short story, where Eugenie and Beatrice find themselves in the thick of events that are yet to come.
A Twist in Time
Eugenie took the card off the silver salver and waved it towards her sister. ‘Beatrice! Look what came in the mail!’
‘What is it?’
‘A Christmas card.’
‘It can’t be. Christmas cards weren’t sent until 1843 when a man named John Calcott Horsley printed the first card for his friend Sir Henry Cole. Henry wanted a card to send to friends and professional acquaintances to wish them a ‘Merry Christmas.’
Eugenie’s face fell. She threw the card into the fire. ‘What a shame. It was so pretty.’
A gust of wind blew the door open to show Beryl the butler, hauling in a conical tree-like thing.
‘What on earth is that ugly specimen?’ cried Beatrice.
Beryl stamped her feet to get rid of the snow on her boots. ‘It’s a fibre optic Christmas tree. Much easier than going out into the woods and chopping one down. And look, it already has lights.’
Eugenie gasped. ‘It’s beautiful!’
‘You are in error, Beryl,’ said Beatrice sternly. ‘Fibre optics are the result of an 1854 demonstration by John Tyndall that light could be conducted through a curved stream of water, proving that a light signal could be bent. Fibre optic Christmas trees weren’t devised till at least the 20th century.’
‘Not only that!’ cried Eugenie, determined to show she was as clever as her sister. ‘You cannot exist, Beryl. The first female butler was Lorraine Woods who made her debut when she found herself serving at the Beaulieu home of Lord and Lady Montagu. I don’t have an exact date, but I know it isn’t now.’
‘Be off with you!’ shouted Beatrice. ‘And take that hideous thing with you. We prefer a real tree that stinks of pine and drops needles all over the place.’
The door had no sooner slammed behind Beryl the non-existent butler than Eugenie and Beatrice found themselves clinging to each other in terror. A dreadful uproar could be heard in the carriage drive. The girls crept to the windows and peered out. There, in the falling snow was a strange carriage emitting a mechanical cacophony. There was no sign of the team that had pulled it down the long driveway to the manor. The crest on its red and white side panels proclaimed, ‘The Warehouse.’
‘Isn’t it gaudy?’ breathed Eugenie, entranced by all the lights. Some of them were even flashing!
Beatrice snorted. ‘It’s no more than a ghastly symbol of the free market economy that overtook the western world after World War Two.’
Eugenie stared at the piles of colourful packages she could see through the carriage windows. ‘Couldn’t we just peek inside?’
‘Absolutely not! Stephen Tindall didn’t found The Warehouse Group until 1982. That conveyance is a figment of your imagination.’
Eugenie began to cry. ‘But what about Father Christmas? Isn’t he real, either?’
‘Don’t be silly,’ said Beatrice, putting her arm around her sister. ‘Of course, Father Christmas is real. English personifications of Christmas were recorded in the 15th century, with Father Christmas himself first appearing in the mid-17th century in the aftermath of the English Civil War.’
‘And hot toddies?’ sniffed Eugenie hopefully.
‘Oh, hot toddies are defo a thing. Probably invented in Scotland in the 1700s. What we don’t know, is how Hot Toddies got their name. A poet called Allan Ramsay published a poem called The Morning Interview in 1781 that mentions a Todian Spring called Tod’s Well which was the main water supply to Edinburgh—’
‘F’crying out loud, Beatrice! Enough of the information-overload. Can’t we just ring for a maid to bring us one?’
‘Indeed, we can.’ Beatrice looped her arm through her sister’s and steered her towards the drawing room. She wished the Colonel had not waited so long to conceive his secret 11 herbs and spices. A nice drumstick would have gone down well with a hot toddy.
I’m happy to let you know Lord Benedict’s Bride, Book 4 in my Northbridge Bride series is up for pre-order now. Downloads will be available 20th December.
Book 4 introduces Lord Benedict Cranston, heir to Foxwood Manor, and independently wealthy Miss Catherine Adair. You might remember Foxwood was the family home of Sophia Cranston in The Beaumont Betrothal, Book 2 in the series.
When Benedict and Catherine enter an arranged marriage for the sake of two orphaned children, they discover a marriage ‘in name only’ is easier said than done. Benedict harbors a dreadful secret while Catherine’s businesslike brain is no match for her womanly, willful body!
My Northbridge Bride characters are becoming like family to me. I loved writing Benedict and Catherine’s story. I was happy for them, but sad for myself when I reluctantly typed ‘the end’.
My trip of a lifetime!
I’ve recently returned from my first real holiday in 20 years. Most special was spending time with my son who I hadn’t seen since early 2020, when Covid turned all our worlds upside down. He lives in Camden Town, not far from the very center of London and his flat was our base for excursions into Europe and other parts of the UK. Camden is a vibrant community with its colorful street art, buzzing markets and eclectic mix of people. My son’s flat is above the World’s End pub which was itself once an open market space and traces its history back four hundred years. Formerly known as Mother Redcap, the World’s End boasts tales of highwaymen, witches and hauntings, so it is a very atmospheric location!
We took the Eurostar from London to Paris and from there headed for Brussels and Avignon, cities where history lives and breathes all around. I’d never been to Europe before, so every sight and experience was enthralling. In Avignon we were housed in an utterly charming apartment in a narrow shaded street, but I’m a bit queasy about heights and hesitated to go too far out on the partially-ruined Pont D’Avignon over the River Rhones. Romance abounded in Brussels, with couples being married in the courtyard of the wonderful Town Hall. After the ceremony the newlyweds emerged onto an upstairs balcony and waved to the people below in the Grand Place. Our apartment in Paris was very cute with a view of Parisian rooftops from my bedroom window. We boated up the Siene to the Eiffel Tower, ate lunch in a riverside cafe, and walked back along the river through the Tuileries Garden.
Logistics and time limits meant the Regency town of Bath was off our map, but we were visiting extended family in Royal Leamington Spa, which is a kind of mini-Bath with streets sporting elegant Regency architecture and a history of mineral springs. Brighton’s Royal Pavillion was definitely on the agenda though, and what an opulent, extravagant place it is! Stunning chandeliers, gilt, marble, crystal, silver and gold. The Prince Regent’s opulent personality shone through. We wended our way through a maze of cobbled streets and enjoyed a fish-and-chip lunch on the stony Brighton beach.
On the Isle of Wight we stayed in a quirky little hotel halfway up a steep street that tested my legs, and visited Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s summer home. We saw 101 Dalmations at the outdoor theatre in Regents Park, The Lion King at the Lyceum and the amazing Jean-Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show at the Roundhouse in Camden.
If you’re the chief cook in your household you’ll know the relief of not being responsible for a meal for four weeks! We threw caution to the winds while we were away and ate out at one of the cafes, restaurants or pubs that abounded on every street. Back in Camden my son concocted delicious dinners including nightly desserts.
I was in the UK at a momentous time: Queen Elizabeth II died, a new Prime Minister was sworn in and King Charles III ascended the throne. My month away left me with so many enriching memories and experiences. As a writer, I tried to absorb everything, took multiple notes and many photographs. I know many of the sights and I saw, and the experiences I enjoyed will find their place in my Regency, and other stories.
Another adventure was travelling light. I decided to follow the 5 Kilo Traveller’s advice to travel with only carry-on luggage for my month away. I didn’t quite nail the packing, but taking carry-on only is such a bonus and a great learning experience. You can read about my travel light experience on Katherine Leamy’s 5 Kilo Traveller.
The Three Quills are delighted to announce A Tangle of Todays and Tomorrows is up for pre-order now. In ‘A Tangle of Todays and Tomorrows’, we transport you into the timeless era of the Regency worlds of Stannesford, Northbridge, and Hunterlaw. Come and enjoy three very different romantic journeys with Jen, Leigh, and Caroline.
The title is the third and last in the Three Quills ‘Tangled’ series and will be released on 31st October. Click here to purchase or click on the image. Thank you!
I am loving the cover of Bk 3 in my Northbridge Bride series!
Arranged marriages are one of my favorite tropes, especially when the union is for the wellbeing of others rather than to advance the couple’s own interests. Here’s a quick outline of the story.
Catherine Adair, a spinster of independent means, is broken-hearted to learn of her dearest friend, Erica’s death. Erica writes to Catherine on her deathbed and begs her to take care of her daughters, Imogen and Phoebe. But Erica’s husband, also stricken with fever, has made his impecunious cousin Lord Benedict Cranston, the girls’ official guardian. Combining Catherine’s wealth and her desire to give the children a loving home with Benedict’s formal role appears to be the best solution. However, it is impossible for Benedict and Catherine to share the same household without the sanctity of marriage. They agree their union will be ‘in name only’ but emotions are set alight when they find themselves together under the same roof!
Readers of Bk2 in the series, The Beaumont Betrothal will recognize Benedict’s home Foxwood, as the decaying residence of Sophia Cranston, Benedict’s distant cousin. Click here to purchase a copy of The Beaumont Betrothal.
Keep your eye out on my website and Facebook for updates on Lord Benedict’s Bride.
What happens when three Regency Romance authors meet at the coolest Cafe in the King Country? The Three Quills is what happens! Last year, Leigh D’Ansey, Jen Yates and Caroline Bagshaw had a meet-up (or two) at the Fat Pigeon Cafe before putting together their Christmas collection (FREE for you), A Tangle of Tinsel and Tartan.
Earlier this year, the three met again to throw ideas around for the next anthology planned for the summer solstice. St Mary’s Church provided the perfect venue for an overnight stay. Over tea, cakes and a hearty dinner, our authors decided a logo was in order to represent them collectively. After numerous notions were put on the table, Leigh, Jen and Caroline decided The Three Quills was an excellent choice. Clever Caroline came up with the concept and drew the design, and Dar Albert of Wicked Smart Designs brought it to digital life. Isn’t it fabulous? Dar has created several different colourways plus an elegant framed version, so no matter what colour the background, The Three Quills logo will tell you that you are in for three scintillating Regency stories!
The Quills are now hard at work on their summer solstice collection – A Tangle of Tiaras and Titles. Another meeting was convened to discuss details, this time in Caroline’s country garden – an appropriate setting, because A Tangle of Tiaras and Titles must feature a garden party. Keep your eyes peeled for the cover reveal! To find out more about The Three Quills click on their pictures or visit The Three Quills page on my website. Sign up to my newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on all the updates.
Click here to read about our planning retreat at St Mary’s Church – a stunning venue.
Till next time!
Caroline Bagshaw, Jen Yates and I had so much fun putting together our Christmas Regency Romance anthology, ‘A Tangle of Tinsel and Tartan’ that we’ve decided to repeat the process. Our next collection will celebrate the summer solstice. I have a perilous tendency towards procrastination and consequently am inclined to leave everything to the last minute. Sometimes that means there are several ‘everythings’ all needing to be pulled together at the same time! Thankfully Jen and Caro have a more orderly approach and we arranged to meet a couple of weeks ago for a one-night retreat to do some forward planning. While Jen and Caro had pristine notebooks, I rummaged around in my bag and uncovered a crumpled old jotter pad with a few spare pages. But my tattered jotter did the trick and I drove home feeling incredibly efficient with a rough list of all the jobs I need to do between now and the end of July.
We adored our retreat venue, St Mary’s Church an old church in Pio Pio village. St Mary’s has been restored with dedication to detail and offers the perfect place for writers. Even though our anthologies are comprised of shortish stories, there’s a surprising amount of work involved when putting together an anthology. There’s a title and theme to be decided upon, cover design, photo shoots for publicity and social media material. We are each also working on individual projects, so we talked about whether we should have a logo to represent the three of us as a separate entity. We threw some ideas around and in the end decided upon The Three Quills. Today, Caro presented us with a quill each which she discovered in a specialty paper shop in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. I’ll tell you more about The Three Quills once we’ve confirmed the details.
‘A Tangle of Tinsel and Tartan’ focused on a Christmas theme with either or both, a baby and a banquet to be included. The stories for our next anthology will focus on summer, garden parties, titles and tiaras. You can download a FREE copy of ‘A Tangle of Tinsel and Tartan here’ and we hope you’ll look forward to the summer release of A Tangle of Tiaras and Titles. Wherever you are in the world in these uncertain times, our thoughts are with you. Take care and keep safe xx
Tips for Writing the Regency Romance – a light-hearted guide is now on sale!
If you have always aspired to write a Regency romance, this is the go-to guide for you.
This handy guide will help you breathe life and authenticity into your stories. Tips for Writing the Regency Romance explores the intricacies of etiquette and the conventions of courting and matrimony among the bon ton that are central features of a Regency romance.
Learn how to create memorable characters who overcome obstacles, break society’s rules and find their happy-ever-after while still remaining true to their time. If writing a Regency romance is on your agenda, this handy guide is a must-have for your research shelf.
“Navigate the Regency era with this easy-to-read, informative guide.” – Jen Yates, Regency Romance author.
“The book fair bubbles along with tips and essential-to-know tid-bits on etiquette, fashion, who was who, life below stairs and the very important marriage mart. I loved it.” – Lyndsay Campbell, author of historical women’s fiction.