Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Have a Wonderful Holiday and I will be back in the New Year

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Don't forget to enter the Harlequin Holiday Give Away. Go to my website to find all the authors participating and all the wonderful Prizes.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful houses I have visited, though each has its own charm, is Longleat. Now I have to say, I did not visit the zoo or the safari or any of that stuff. As always my interest is the house and the grounds and any interesting tidbits of family history.

It was quite misty as we drove in and I loved this view of the house from high on the hill. I could almost imagine myself in a coach and four to attend a house party given by the second Marquess of Bath. More likely I'd been lighting the fires, but ah well, it is fun to dream.

It is not possible to take pictures inside the house, since it is still the property of the Marquess of Bath, unlike so many other of the great homes which their noble owners could no long afford to keep. I for one am glad that some have managed to find ways to retain their ancestral homes.

Longleat has seven libraries with over 40,000 books some of which go back five centuries to when the family first built the house. I can pretty well guarantee that they don't own one of my books. No hard feelings though.

The wall covering in the dining room was particularly interesting, because it was so unusual, tooled Spanish leather made in Cordoba around 1620. Furniture and paintings fill magnificent rooms and it was a pleasure to walk through them.

This is a picture of the wisteria which climbs the orangery wall and the next view is of the orrangery itself.  We have seen several of these in various blogs, but this is a very large and beautiful one at the back of a formal garden.

It was the second Marquess of Bath who spanned the Regency era and into the Victorian age, he brought much of the house up to date at that time and of course it has been renovated since. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

New Book Out

A Rake for Christmas    

It is always special when a book comes out.  This one is a short story, my very first Christmas themed book. I got the idea for the setting when I visited Keates's house on Hampstead Heath one summer.  Not that my rakish hero is a poet. Far from. He's a very bad boy.

But like Keates he does share his house with a very lovely lady. The house is divided into two apartments, not up and down, but side by side.  He has been watching her chase her cat in the garden, and calls her the cat lady, and she has been listening to his shenanigans through the walls of her house.
Their meeting is explosive, to say the least:

One more try and then she’d go home. She knocked harder and longer.
    The door flew open as if blown back by the wind. “I knew you’d be back,” a deep mocking voice said.
    He stepped into the lamplight.
    Mouth open she stared at the most beautiful man she’d ever seen. A blond blue-eyed archangel. Elegant of stature, he looked thoroughly masculine in his shirtsleeves and open collar. Perfection in a state of disreputable undress. Not the raddled rouĂ© she’d expected, but a Greek god and a dangerous pirate all rolled into one.
    A gust of wind drove snow in through his door and flakes clung to his long golden lashes. So pretty. So enticing. Heat rushed through her body. Like a bolt of hot lightning, longing trembled in her bones.   
    Yearning for something she could not have.
    “Only one of you?” Summer-sky eyes tracked down her length from head to toe.
    Oh how she wished she’d worn something less shabby than her old cat-catching shawl. “I—”
    A smile of appreciation curved his sensual mouth. “Well, since Heaven sent you, I’m sure you’ll make up for the lack. Come on in before you freeze.” He grabbed her by the hand and pulled her over the threshold and closed the door.
    Astonished she gazed up at him. Before she could utter a protest, his hands went to her waist and he brushed his warm dry lips across her mouth. A sigh of appreciation forced its way up her throat. She barely managed to contain it.
    Instinctively, she placed her free hand on his shoulder, intending to push him away, parting her lips to to tell him to stand back. She was sure that was what she meant to do, but when his tongue swept her mouth, warm and silky and tasting of brandy, the spicy scent of his cologne filling her nostrils, instead of pushing, her fingers curled into the soft cambric of his shirt and pulled him closer. Memories of the pleasure of kisses and caresses melting any thought of resistance.
    Slowly, lingeringly, he kissed her, exploring her mouth with the leisurely strokes of a master seducer. Finally he broke the kiss and she stood breathless, dizzy, held up only by the strong hands in the indentation beneath her ribs. It was all she could do to keep her feet, to not collapse from the delicious assault on her senses.
    His kiss had set free all the pent up desires of the past few weeks. Her insides ached and fluttered.
    He looked down at her, a lock of unruly tawny hair falling over his brow, a wicked smile curving his sensually carved mouth. “I just had to see if you tasted as good as you looked.” His smile broadened. “You do. Lucky me.”

Not that the path to true love is ever that smooth as he is about to find out.

Well that's all from me, until next time happy rambles.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Will I ever finish?

I have had this project ongoing for some time now. Years in fact. And I am beginning to wonder if I will ever finish.  I never have that problem with finishing my stories, but this, well it would be a great shame not to finish it now and have it framed, don't you think? (And I have a few more that I would like to tackle too.)

Seeing the NaNoWriMo excitement, I thought I would try to give myself a bit of encouragement.  I am going to post my progress from time to time. Once a month.  Here is a picture of where I am at the moment.

The thing is, it is dreadfully fiddly counted cross stitch and its hard to see if you are making any progress at all.  This is only the top one third of the whole piece.

All of the cross stitch is done, now we are embellishing.

Next, I have to finish the outside border, there is some outlining to be done around the very edge and then that criss cross stuff you can see that stops before it reaches the top, and then there are beads to add. Anyway, by this time next month, I hope to have the outside border completely finished and then I can start on outlining the greenery and finishing off the peacock inside the large picture panel.

It will be interesting to see if this helps motivate me to get this done.  One year. That is what I am aiming for.

More about the Regency next time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Daphne Du Maurier

You may recall that my first book with Harlequin, The Rake's Inherited Courtesan,  won the 2010 Daphne, or as the full title explains, the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, Historical Category (Awarded by RWA's Kiss of Death Chapter.)  

Daphne Du Maurier, pictured left as a teen,  wrote suspense novels. Several of her novels have been made into films, including The Birds and Rebecca. The story that interested me most was Jamaica Inn.

  Jamaica Inn,  was almost set in the Regency, 1820 in fact, and it is a romance.  The story is classified as  a gothic romance and tells the tale of a young woman who gets tangled up with a gang of wreckers. (Men who used lanterns to misdirect ships on to the rocks of the Cornish coast, kill the crew and steal the cargo.) The heroine encounters many harrowing adventures.

Jamaica Inn, where she set her story  exists today, and is still a pub, but is also a museum to both the author and the smuggling history of Cornwall.

Last summer we visited Cornwall, and naturally Jamaica Inn was a must see.

As you can imagine, while I was interested in the author and her life, I was more taken with the artifacts and information relating to smuggling which I am going to share with you. here.

The picture on the left known as landing the goods and there is little more to be said.  On the right are tools and weapons used on both sides of the law. For example the pig sticking knife and the wooden farm flail were used by smugglers, since they were not army or navy weapons a man could carry them with impunity.  The swords and cutlasses were carried by excisemen or naval officers. 

Here is an assortment of lanterns, handy for smugglers to carry or signal with.

Down in the right hand corner is something really interesting. It is called a scuffling iron.  Now this is the technical term for what the last man of the train of smugglers used to hide their tracks.  It was a reverse horse shoe, and with one hand he would sweep away the track of the horsed with a tree branch and with the other would stamp the scuffling iron (which was attached to something like a broom handle) into the ground, thereby confusing anyone trying to follow.

Not exactly high tech, and not likely to fool too many people either I think, but who knows?

The Jamaica Inn is on Bodmin Moor, not that close to the sea, so it would have been used as a place to hide contraband, I would think.  And a very lonely place it is too, even today, as you can see from the pictures I took from the parking lot.

There will be more on smuggling another time, but for now, Happy Rambles.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Bankes's of Kingston Lacy (Continued)

Holiday Contest Reminder

Just a reminder to check back for details, either here or on my website on November 29 when the annual Harlequin Historical Contest begins. There are all kinds of prizes from each author every day, plus a grand prize of a Kindle Fire (where available) and an equivalent where it is not.
I will also be posting on twitter and facebook too.

Back to William Bankes 


The Philae obelisk.

Made of pink granite, the obelisk was first seen by William Bankes in 1815. It arrived in England in 1821, after almost sinking to the bottom of a river in Egypt, and was transported overland to Kingston Lacy on a gun carriage offered by the Duke of Wellington. The foundation stone was laid by the Duke in April 1827.

Can you imagine what your family would say if you brought this sort of souvenir home from your holiday?

As mentioned earlier. William Bankes's travels came to an end  in 1820. He did not inherit Kingston Lacy from his brother Henry until December 1834 and spent the next few years embellishing Soughton in Flintshire, instead writing up the details of his travels, sadly for us, I think.

Once he inherited, he began the task of altering Kingston Lady to suit his own tastes. Personally, I wish he might have left it as it was but that is purely selfish. I would not expect anyone to tell me I couldn't update my house.

Unfortunately, William was forced to leave England in 1841 after a second charge of  "indecently exposing himself with a soldier of the Foot Guards in Green Park". The possible punishments were dreadful at the time and his reputation in society would have been ruined. He jumped bail and fled to Italy. The rest of his life he continued to fit out the interiors of Kingston Lacy with the help of his sister Lady Falmouth.  There is some evidence that he did pay secret visits to the house on which he lavished so much care, but as a fugitive from the law, the family could never openly admit it. I certainly hope he did get to see his home from time to time.

There is more to know about the family and the house, and it is well worth a visit, for the grounds are simply spectacular, but for my purposes, all things 'regency', it is done.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Bankes's of Kingston Lacy (Continued)

William Bankes traveled the east en grand seigneur in a noble barge with a cabin, not because he wanted to, but because it was expected. He also visited Lady Hester Stanhope, a fascinating lady who lived on Mount Lebanon.

After his travels he returned to Syria where he carried out clandestine nocturnal excavations with other English gentlemen who were also in the area at the time. He was one of the first Europeans to reach Petra famous for its rock cut architecture  and water conduits system. Imagine being among the first to see a sight like that pictured to the left.

Established sometime around the 6th century BC Petra was the capital city of the Nabataeans and is to be found east of the Dead Sea. I must say I am greatly resisting the temptation to delve deeper, but no. This is about William, not Arabia.  He really did have adventures. William went to Petra dressed as a Bedouin Arab.   He also went because he was so skilled in drawing and was to use his talent to capture the sights on paper, there not being any photographs at the time.  But you knew that didn't you.

Next he went up the Nile, leading Henry Salt's flotilla in his fourteen-oared canja among whom were artists and Belzoni,  a hydraulic engineer who had once been a strong man on the stage of Sadler's Wells. Williams plan of the temple at Luxor corrected that of the French antiquary Vivant Denon. He discovered the table of the kings now in the British Museum at Abydos. Amd at Abu Simbel William discovered a Greek inscription at the great temple of Rameses II which helped date the monument, while inside he and his companions copied all the wall paintings by the light of candles standing on ladders (and without their shirts because it was hot, so scandalous it deserves a mention).
After visiting Byron in Venice and then at Ravena where they "buffooned togther very merrily" he returned home in April 1820.  He collected all kinds of things, but never did anything to organize them or document them, nor did he ever write the promised book about his travels.  Too much like hard work, one wonders? He enjoyed the "doing" part. 

This is such a brief summary, of his adventures, it merely give a flavour of what he was up to while he was gaining his reputation as "the Nubian explorer".  My imagination is certainly taking flight.

Back at home he was lionised by society who gobbled up the  stories of his travels.  So much so that he had to be persuaded not to pursue his affair with Lady Buckinham, who wanted him to take her to Africa disguised as a boy, so they could search for the source of the Nile together.  Instead he devoted himself to his British inheritance.  Shades of a romance novel anyone?

We will finish up his story next time.   In the meantime a reminder about the upcoming contest to win a Kindle or a Kindle Fire along with daily prizes, which will be posted here and on my website, so don't forget to check back for the rules of how to enter the contest.

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Bankes's of Kingston Lacy

The Bankes family owned Kingston Lacy from around 1636 (at first known as Kingston Hall, the King part relating to its one time ownership by the King and the Lacy part from its medieval ownership by the de Lacys).

The Bankes owned Corfe castle, not far away, which was eventually destroyed by Cromwellian forces and which was returned to the family in the restoration. They of course never lived there again and devoted all their attention to Kingston.

Since the period we are most interested in spans the long regency, I wanted to talk a bit about the two prime figures during that period. Sir Henry Banks, 1757 - 1834 and his son William Banks 1786-1855 who added many interesting artifacts to the house and whose travels and life were exceedingly interesting.

Sir Henry, having undertaken the grand tour, married a wealthy and beautiful woman, undertook major modernization of the house between 1784 and 1791. As mentioned in earlier posts, much of those changes were swept away in the 1830's by his son William, but we have looked at the parts that were in place during the regency.  When the renovations were complete it was celebrated with a ball. Around 140 people danced from nine in the evening, sat down to supper at midnight and danced again until seven in the morning. Entertainment on the grand scale.

William was Sir Henry's second son. From Harrow, he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1804 and became Lord Byron's (yes that Lord Byron) friend for life.

He was one of the leading lights of the 1812 London season, something I must put in a book one of these days. This miniature was completed in that year by George Sandars in this year. During this year, he proposed to Annabella Milbanke, the bluestocking heiress who later married Byron. It was William who gave her his copy of Childe Harold.  She married Byron in 1815.

In the meantime, William followed in Byron and William Beckford's footsteps traveling to Portugal and Spain in 1812 and spending two years there acquiring paintings and living the Bohemian life. He also served as an Aide de Camp to Wellesley (Later the Duke of Wellington) during this time.

He went from there to Egypt and then to Italy in 1814 and back to Egypt in 1815. Kingston Lacy houses one of the sole surviving gentleman's collection from the early days of British Egyptology. More about this to come. Until then Happy Rambles.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kingston Lacy

What was it like for the servants in these great house.  Kingston Lacy provides us with a very interesting view.

Those outbuildings in an earlier post and which I repeat here, the laundry and drying room to the south (right) were designed and built in 1775-76.  While the the Kitchens, sculleries and store rooms to the north were enlarged in the 1780s. Interesting that the food was prepared outside the main house, and as was usual in these days, it was probably for fire prevention purposes.

  In the basement of the house of course we find the cellars, in this picture you can see barrels and bottles. There is also a butler's silver cupboard and the family Muniment Room which housed the banks family archives.

Other servants rooms include a housekeeper's room which is now used to display the William Banks Egyptian collection. (More on William to come later) and leading off what is called the back hall is also the servants' hall pictured on the left.  This lead out to the kitchen courtyard.

I thought you might enjoy this shot of a pheasant sitting on a tree branch in the grounds.  Next time we will have some information about William Banks and his adventures.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Kingston Lacy

There are any number of amazing pieced of furniture at Kingston Lacy. Here are a few pieces from the rooms we visited..

A great many renovations took place in the house after the Regency era and so as I pick and choose through my photographs I try to find things which come either during or before that era.  However, the house is full of charm and interest so I err of including some things which come later.

This ceiling in the upstairs hallway which leads to several bedrooms does date from the first renovation of the house in the 17 eighties.  It is a barrel vault and coffered ceiling. The architect also made very clever use of natural light with his fan lights and cupola.
The bedrooms set aside for bachelor bedrooms on the south and east sides, the servants being on the north side, are dated from 1834-41, but continue the fashion of Empress Josephine's Malmaison near Paris and the Charlotenhof at Potsdam, in that they are Tent Rooms.  They are fascinatingly whimsical.

One of my pictures of a portrait which was Regency also reflects back the room behind me giving a good idea of the style and design. I honestly think anyone staying in these rooms must have felt quite suffocated.

I do apologize for the darkness of these pictures, but flash is a no no, and who am I to disobey the rule.

Once more I find myself frustrated at the slowness of blogger's picture loading and while I do so hate to whine, I just can't take it anymore today.   I have stories to write and heaven help me, some laundry awaiting my attention too.

Hah, glad to get that off my chest.   lol    Before we leave Kingston Lacy entirely, we have the ever fascinating servants' quarters to visit.  Much more fascinating to me, I might add, since I have taken on and Upstairs Downstairs themed novel about which you will be hearing more in due course.  And I did want to talk a bit about William Banke's adventures during the Regency era.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy was originally built in 1660, and remained in the Bankes family until 1981.  Henry Bankes the Younger was the first of the Bankes's to transform the house. This was in the 1780s, so of interest to us.  All that remains from that renovation are the Library and the saloon, with the chimney piece by Flaxman and the coved ceiling painted by Cornelius Dixon.  He was the owner of the house during the Regency, but much of the changes he wrought were swept away by his second son William when he came into the title in 1834.
Here you have pictures of the library.  Isn't that
a magnificent ceiling.  I like the way the
portraits hang above the book shelves.

The furnishings are also beautiful and deserve a closer look.

 And here is that deliciously coved Venetian Ceiling.   There is much more to come about the house, but there is a person I wanted to tell you about also.

William Bankes (1786-1855) was fascinating to me, not because of what he did at the house, but because of what he was doing during the Regency.  A friend of Byron and a disappointed suitor of Annabella Milbanke, this young man began traveling when he was 26 in 1812, remember the Peninsular war was still going on then. He traveled to Portugal and Spain where he spent his time acquiring paintings and visiting with gypsies. Though he did also visit Wellington's headquarters after the battle of Salamanca in July 1812.

He travelled in the east for eight years. We will talk about his travels there next time. And also continue our stroll around Kingston Lacy.

Until then Happy Rambles.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Kingston Lacy

It is always a pleasure to visit one of Britain's stately home. Kingston Lacy was a delight. You may recall me refering to it in a flora and fauna posting about the bustard a bird that was extinct in in Britain since 1832 but is now being reintroduced.

The first manor was granted to John de Lacy, 1st Earl of Lincoln in 1229. The current house was build in 1665, but6 the original brick was faced in stone and underwent significant remodeling in 1835, including the addition of a chimney in each corner of the house.

This was the stable block, now a restaurant but you can get an idea of what it would have been like when horses were the main mode of transport.

This is a pump and horse trough and in the background you can see the entrance to the stables. 

And here are some of the working outbuildings, laundry etc.

The pattens on the flagstone floor are a nice touch, don't you think

Still lots more to see both of the house and the grounds. But until next time, Happy Rambles.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Regency Fashion 1811

What were they wearing in the summer of the first year of the Regency?


 Here we have three gowns from June and July 1811.  The first two are walking dresses and the last an opera dress.  All show the classic regency lines.

Here are the general observations for July 1811 printed in the June edition of  La Belle Assemblee:

Muslin pelisses, lined with pink, blue, or yellow sarsnet, are still very prevailing, as are spensers of like colours; lace scarfs alone seem to have the preference, either in black or white lace; mantlets are by no means considered as inelegant. Satin tippets, trimmed with lace, are very becoming to a light figure. White satin spensers, mantles, and pelisses are in a high degree of estimation. Small caps formed of brocaded ribband, finished with a long rosette in front, edged with lace pearls; or in the long Mango shape, intersected with white gymp, with a cord and tassels suspended from one side; and caps in every fanciful intermixture of satin or ribband, ornamented with ostrich feathers; they are made flat on the head, raised from the forehead, and in the long Grecian shape.
    Flowers were not at all worn at the Prince’s Fete,  cords and tassels terminated the draperies, and gave an air of graceful negligence to the figure; feathers were universal, much of the Spanish costume prevailed; the sleeves were worn very short, the bosoms very low, the backs rather high, trains of a moderate length. The tunic in crape or lace, embroidered in silver, was displayed upon almost every female of rank and taste; this form of dress will of course descend to the morning habit, and will doubtless relieve the stomacher of much of that formal appearance which at present distinguishes it, and the effect will be extremely graceful. All lace worn on this magnificent occasion was of the manufacture of this country, a noble example, which we hope will be universally followed in all ranks of life. Honiton lace, as most resembling Brussel’s point, held the preference.
    The ornaments in jewellry were either of diamonds, pearls, rubies, sapphires, or emeralds.
    The prevailing colours, pink, blue, yellow, and buff.

Until next time, Happy rambles