Time Twister – Regency Style

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.

Book 3 in the Northbridge Bride Series is available for pre-order now!

Northbridge Bride series Book 4
An impecunious lord and an independently wealthy lady negotiate an arrangement – but the terms of their agreement are easier said than done.

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’.

Click here to pre-order. 

 

Trip of a Lifetime

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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.

 

A TANGLE OF TODAYS & TOMORROWS

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! 

Cover Reveal!

Lord Benedict's Bride - a Regency Romance

COMING SOON!

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.

Introducing… The Three Quills!

This logo represents The Three Quills, Jen Yates, Leigh D'Ánsey and Caroline Bagshaw.
Photo of Regency author Jen Yates
Jen Yates writes Regency Romance with more than a touch of spice!
Photograph of Leigh D'Ansey
Leigh D'Ansey writes Regency Romance with a sense of place.
Caroline Bagshaw writes Regency Romance with a Scottish setting.
Caroline Bagshaw writes Scottish Regency Romance with a hint of intrigue.
Three Regency Romance authors get together

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. 

The cover of a Tangle of Tinsel and Tartan with new Quills logo
A Tangle of Tinsel and Tartan – an anthology of short Regency Romance.
Ideas for the next anthology

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!

A collection for the summer solstice

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!

Photograph of the Three Quills Caroline found in a specialty paper store.
The Three Quills!
Photograph of can chairs in caroline Bagshaw's garden.
The Three Quills met for a photo shoot in Caroline's country garden.
An afternoon tea of lamingtons at St Mary's.
Tea and cakes are an essential planning ingredient.

Regency Romance Retreat

St Mary's church provided the perfect venue for our workshop.

An anthology for the Summer Solstice

Caroline BagshawJen 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. 

An old church provided the perfect venue

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 Tiaras and Titles

‘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

Leigh's jotter pad with very untidy scribble.
My note-taking skills leave a lot to be desired.
The worktable at St Mary's church.
Almost too beautiful to work on - but we managed!

I’m so excited!

Tips for Writing the Regency Romance is available now for pre-order

Tips for Writing the Regency Romance – a light-hearted guide is now on sale!

My writing space
My writing den.

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.

The Beaumont Betrothal

The Beaumont Betrothal_ebook coverI’m thrilled to announce the release of The Beaumont Betrothal, Book 2 in the Northbridge Bride series. It has been ‘Coming Soon!’ for much longer than it should. I am in love with the cover designed by Tania Hutley and must thank Bronwen Evans for her developmental edit, which saw many changes and much improvement in the manuscript. Regency Romantica author Jen Yates‘ humor, wisdom, and hospitality also paved the way to publication, as did the inspiration, example, and encouragement of many others, particularly those in our C2C (Coast-to-Coast) chapter of Romance Writers of New Zealand.

The Writing Community is tremendously supportive

Attending a SPA Girls self-publishing workshop was the real impetus towards self-publishing, and I sincerely thank Cheryl Phipps, Wendy Vella, Trudi Jaye, and Shar Barrett, not only for the initial learning but for their ongoing support. Many see writing as a solitary occupation but sharing the support, knowledge, and experience of other writers is enriching in so many ways. I’ve always found the writing community tremendously supportive; individually, at conferences, workshops and meetings, and also on social media which is integral to our craft in today’s cyber-centered world.

Work in Progress

Book 3 in the Northbridge Bride series has the working title The Diplomat’s Daughter. I am determined  Catherine and Benedict won’t have to wait as long for their HEA as did Sophia and Bruno from The Beaumont Betrothal. Wish me luck! I love feedback from readers, so if you enjoyed reading The Beaumont Betrothal or any of my other titles, please email me at leighdansey@gmail.com

Excerpt from The Beaumont Betrothal

“Careful. You’ll get freckles,” came a deep voice from behind her.

Startled, she spun around to see a wide-shouldered long-legged gentleman with a thick crop of peat-colored hair roughed-up by the same breeze that played with her own. His high-bridged nose bisected a pair of bold, alert eyes and she was struck by an odd sense of familiarity. At the same time, she knew she’d never met this man before. She would not have forgotten that dark, flashing glance.

A thrill flickered inside her. Despite the blustery draught, the air around her shimmered. She brought a hand to her throat and drew in a quick breath but did not look away, imbued with an unexpected recklessness.

“I rather like freckles.” She lifted her chin, aware of the wind loosening the length of colored cloth she’d tied about her head earlier in the day.

He smiled. His teeth were very white, their color echoed in the thin, gleaming scar that tracked across the lean plane of his right cheek. Perhaps it was this injury, tugging at the muscles beneath his bronzed skin that resulted in an indent near the corner of his long upper lip and softened the hard line of his mouth.

“I do too,” he said, eyeing her in a way that brought warmth to her face. His rich baritone was dangerously attractive, and his drawling enunciation told Sophia he was not a native-born Englishman.

Conversing with a gentleman when she was unchaperoned and to whom she had not been introduced breached all the rules of etiquette, but she did not care. For she held an unhappy awareness that this could be her last chance to venture beyond the bounds of behavior society, and she herself, would demand of her should she be compelled to marry Freddy.

She found herself returning his smile. “I do not know you, Sir,” she said. “And I have been cautioned throughout my life against the perils of speaking to strangers.”

His mouth quirked. “I am not particularly strange,” he said. “But that’s certainly a valid warning for a young lady. It’s one I’d issue myself.”

She dimpled, unable to resist provoking further conversation. “Then perhaps I should bid you goodbye.” But she made no move to step away, intrigued by this new turn of events and excited by the presence of a man unlike any she had encountered before.

Despite the weather, his dress was faultless; his white cravat precisely tied, his caped surtout tailored to emphasize his wide shoulders and narrow waist. Perhaps he had unbuttoned it when the rain stopped for it lay open, displaying a cream-on-cream waistcoat beneath a charcoal jacket. Tight-fitting buckskins encased long, muscled legs and his hessian boots gleamed where they were not splashed with mud. He carried himself with an easy, masculine grace and wore his garments without pretention.

Beyond him and to the right, a bay mare cropped at the grass beside the brook. Sophia was surprised her unhappy thoughts had so engrossed her that both horse and rider had been able to approach without her knowing.

After a moment or two, he angled his face and said: “What were you searching for?”

Sophia tilted her head.

“When I first saw you, you were gazing so intently into the water. I wondered what held your interest.”

Sophia caught her lower lip between her teeth. What could she say? She was watching for mating trout? She turned her face into the cooling breeze.

“Fish,” she said truthfully though with less eloquence than she would have liked.

The corner of his mouth lifted. “To… fish for… or to eat?”

She shook her head. “To watch. They are quite beautiful.” She found herself staring at his mouth, waiting for that captivating indent to appear. When it did, her heart gave a little lurch.

His eyes flashed with humor. “I don’t recall ever encountering a woman who considered fish beautiful.”

“Oh, but they are! Only last week I saw a buck directly under this bridge with the most astonishing coloring, flashes of dark red dappled with gold.” She was aware of her expression dimming. “But I should not like to catch one, for when they are out of their own environment their colors fade to dullness.” Like hers would, once she was married to Freddy, she thought unhappily.

 

The Romance of Favourite Things

I love the hand crafted table I use as a desk.
I like to think this old sewing table was crafted with a loving hand for a loved partner.

I have lots to do today. I should be reading, writing, editing and getting geared up to promote my soon-to-be-released ‘The Beaumont Betrothal’. But it’s a rare sunny day and I’ve found myself mooching around my little house, adjusting a cushion here, flicking a duster there and shaking the odd rug. I can’t call it ‘housework’ – more like diversional therapy!

 

But appreciating the space where I live has reminded me of all the things that make my house a home. I’ve moved several times over the years and there’s always been a decluttering of sorts, but some things go from house to house and it’s not until they’re in place, that the new space begins to feel like ‘home’.

The old sewing table is kind of ugly but I love it. It looks to me as if it was hand-crafted by some resourceful husband back in the day when most of what you needed, needed to be made by hand. I like to think it was a loving hand and made for a loved partner. The Bentwood chair isn’t very comfortable to sit on but it fits nicely under the table and looks as if that’s where it belongs, although I do move it around the house from time to time.

Marmalade pot
There’s always space for this marmalade pot.

I love these little pots joined at the rim. I use them from time to time, but more likely for hummus or relish than the jam or marmalade they were probably designed for.  I have numerous little jugs and dishes that have come with me over the years with new pieces being added occasionally. I’m especially fond of ferreting out bits of pottery from charity shops.

 

apple
This wooden apple has a family association that goes back generations.

This wooden apple was made from a tall pine tree that used to grow alongside the post office where my great-grandfather was postmaster. I gave the apple to my mother for a gift many years ago and now that Mum has passed on, the piece of wooden fruit sits on my shelves and I am so happy to have it there.

 

 

 

 

shell2This limited edition print by Richard Wardle is very special to me. The picture was used on the cover of Rosamund Pilcher’s novel, ‘The Shell Seekers’ and I won it, along with a copy of ‘The Shell Seekers’ and a cash prize, for gaining first place in a nation-wide short story competition. Winning this competition gave me the encouragement to believe in myself as a writer. Subsequently, I had other short stories published along with children’s literature, and later I began to focus on writing romance.

There are many other items in my home that are truly special to me, and I’ll bet you too have treasures that you would not part with. I’d love to hear about them!