Saturday, October 31, 2009

Something of the Ladies of the Regency

I’ve chosen the four ladies that I feel represent well the Regency period I keep in mind when I write. I will, in certain time, offer you my opinion on Miss Austen, Harriette Wilson (the near-courtesan with her equally scandalous sisters Amy and Sophia), Anne Isabella Milbanke (Lord Byron’s insufferable wife) and the other ladies of notoriety. But for now, I give you:

The Queen, Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick, the Prince Regent’s long-suffering wife. I love that she adopted eight children and it says something to me that the people of England held her in some sort of affection in spite her rumoured poor hygiene. Oh that and her rumoured affaire with Bartolomeo Pergami a commoner she hired as servant while in exile someplace in Milan.

The Princess, Charlotte Augusta of Wales. The poor tragic princess was but a pawn in her silly parents’ war against each other. She never had enough of their affection and was robbed of her life by incompetent doctors who mismanaged her care during her pregnancy when she did at last find happiness with Sweet Leopold.

The Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana Spencer Cavendish rumoured to have lived in a ‘ménage à trois’ with her husband and her best friend Lady Elizabeth Foster. There was also the child she was forced to give up after recklessly getting pregnant for Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey while still married to Cavendish.

The Lady, Caroline Lamb who was just as infamouse as her aunt the Duchess of Devonshire... Only, Caroline’s husband loved her in spite of her open affaire and pursuit of Lord Byron. That, and everytime your read a regency novel with some girl disguised as a young man, you can thank Caroline for blazing the trail.
Byron described Caroline as the 'cleverest most agreeable, absurd, amiable, perplexing, dangerous fascinating little being that lives now or ought to have lived 2000 years ago.'
Be Happy,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Huntley The Would Be Harlequin Undone

Link to chapter 1
Link to chapter 2

Chapter Three

In an attempt at forgetting his kiss with his mystery woman, Sheppard went to see his mistress.

If anyone could help him forget his brief encounter with Theodora, it would be the dexterous Jezebel. Sheppard liked his mistress. She had a quiet strength and honest devotion on which he had come to rely.

Jezebel had been his mistress for the last year and in that time she had listened to him and supported him through one family crisis after another. Still he could not truly call her a friend for he did not know her well enough for that. Their relationship had always been about his needs and her ability to take care of them.

Jezebel was brilliant at what she did and soon he was sleeping contently beside her salacious body. Even so, as he slept, he dreamt only of Theodora’s smiling, heart shaped face.

And that was when he realized that he would have to end his relationship with Jezebel. Despite her many and varied talents, he had been able to think of only one woman, and Sheppard simply could not continue his life in that vein.

Sheppard had only just fallen into that part of sleep where one’s body is completely at rest, when he felt a familiar presence enter the room. He knew that Harry was standing at the foot of the bed even before he was fully awake. Just as Harry knew, he was awake now even though he had not yet moved his body or opened his eyes.

It had always been that way with the cousins, an unspoken kinship bred from their shared attempt to understand one another.

Sheppard remained lying motionless and waited for trepidation to consume his consciousness, but it never came. Yet he knew that for Harry to disturb him in this particular venue at this hour, it would have to be for a reason far greater than death.

This could only mean one thing. His most recent attempt at emancipation, from the tyranny of their lunatic grandfather had undoubtedly landed him at the centre of some scandal.

“Good morning, Harry?” Sheppard said his smooth baritone greeting more question than salutation and followed by a pause not long enough to be filled by anyone but the speaker. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

This particular pleasure was laced with a deliberate warning.

Harry smiled at the warning then returned his cousin’s salutation with such elation and bravado that it put him in mind of a child’s exuberance at Christmas but it was done so that all he could do was stifle his groan and give himself a swift mental kick.

Nonetheless, it did the trick. Changing the atmosphere of the room from one charged with Sheppard’s contained worry to one brimming with his unbridled joy and it got Sheppard up.

In one decisive movement, Sheppard leapt from the bed. Dragged on his trousers and gathered the rest of his clothes before saying, “I’ll meet you below stairs in five minutes.”

Without once permitting himself to wonder at the reason for Harry’s early morning excitement, Sheppard washed, dressed and joined his cousin in the little green, French-style sitting room at the front of his mistress’s townhouse.

Harry was still sorting out the details that brought him there into a precise enough language when Sheppard entered the room, with a solicitous smile on his handsome face.

Harry despised that particular expression. It never failed to call to mind their controlling grandfather. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Sheppard always resembled the Marquess; they both did. All the Monthermer’s were blessed with exquisitely symmetrical features and hair, the colour of jet. The combination could be exceedingly intimidating even on their grandfather with his now distinguished silver locks.

But it was Sheppard, with his warm, smiling blue eyes that most resembled the old man.

Logical Sheppard, precise as a mathematical equation, tall and lean with the sums of his necessary parts adding up to a magnificent whole. He was all seamless ratios with wide shoulders and ideally narrow hips down to a disposition that reflected the multifaceted tapestry that was his life, as influential restrained Lord of the peerage, compassionate philanthropist, and devoted patriarch.

He was simply a striking man who came more into his own way of being with each passing year. Then again, Sheppard was also Lucifer, an enigmatic lord who smiled only to coerce compliance in the face of opposition. This was the real reason Harry detested that aforementioned smirk, and the pompous older-thus-wiser look that came along with it.

He stood directly across from Harry looked him straight in the eye and said, “Right, lets have it.”
Harry took a deep breath and then said to his cousin in a tone far more becoming a gentleman, “I lost Chiron Herd in a wager against the Marquess Hereford that I could penetrate the armour that protected the daughters of Howe –”

“Asinine, so far removed from brilliance that it borders on mental retardation,” Sheppard said in an attempt to intimidating Harry into recanting.

Halfway through it the futility of the entire thing dawn on him. After all, the damage was done. The only thing he could do now was help Harry find a solution before their grandfather got wind of it. Sheppard looked to a Harry, who was clearly oblivious to his own plight and was still rambling on about his perceived brilliant victory.

Though Sheppard was certain his face was showing signs of his distaste for the conversation, Harry continued to prattle on about his ill-conceived wager with Hereford, as if he were an imbecile.

The wager, as far as Sheppard understood it, was rather straightforward.

Harry was to arrange five consecutive public meetings with each of the eligible daughters of Lord Howe at the locations specified by the Hereford. If Harry were successful, Hereford would hand over enough gold sovereigns for him to purchase ten Captain’s commissions in the regimental Foot Guards. If he failed, Harry would immediately turn over the Marques of Huntley’s eight identical grey horses.

“When will you inform the Marquess?”

“He already knows,” Harry said nonchalantly.

“I thought you said I was the first to know.”

“You are.”

“You’re not making any sense Harry,” Sheppard snapped irritably.

“Jerrold is outside,” Harry said as he watched his grandfather’s man walk towards the front door.


It turned out that Harry’s little stunt had caused their grandfather to suffer one of his little events and had taken to his bed. Sheppard was convinced the old man was only pretending to have an episode and told Harry as much.

Even so, Harry was having a difficult time accepting what he felt he had done and had spent the last two weeks packing up his Belgrave Square residence vowing to anyone who would listen about his intent to spend the rest of his days in exile in America.

Now Sheppard was going to Belgrave to have breakfast with his tormented cousin in hopes of convincing him otherwise. As he headed south in a short cut through Hyde Park from the residence he shared with his grandfather in Connaught Square he happened on Theodora.

She was out for an early morning ride with her intimidating groom and nearly fell off her horse when he entered the path and demanded a moment. She dismounted with dignity and handed her mount to the groom before preceding Sheppard off the path through dew damp grass.

Sheppard followed her in silence for several steps half expecting her to disappear like some mythical nymph when she suddenly stopped and without turning around said, “My heart is doing all it can to escape its confines only I can’t tell if it’s from fear or joy.”

“You have nothing to fear from me,” he assured her and she turned with a melancholy smile that broke his heart.

By the light of the early morning sun, she was a feast for the senses. She was a lavish beauty bathed in warm golden rays. Standing there thus, he thought her to be Lilith, sinful and plenty. She was an ocular ecstasy. Filling him with thoughts of slow poured honey, there with her pensive stare, warm glowing skin, pink full lips and rich golden locks.

He had a million things he wanted to say. Questions he wanted answered but none of then came to mind there with her looking at him with something like guarded delight. Then she smiled and said, “I’m currently too filled with misery to take anything but joy from your presence.”

Sheppard want to ask why she was so unhappy, to offer her words of comfort to make her smile the way she had when first they met, but he did feel the change for she step forward and asked, “Are you very warm?”

It was a strange thing to ask and when he opened his mouth to answer, she interjected with heartbroken whisper, “I asked only because you look to me as warm comfort aught to and I wondered if you would hold me awhile. Just long enough for me to find some equilibrium.”

What could he do? He held her close until she sighed with contentment. Her face was buried in his torso and when he dragged his hand over her spine in a soothing caress, she tightened her hold around his waist and nestled closer. Then all the tension fell away from her body and she was alive in his arms.

She, now warm from where his heat burned along the places where their bodies clung in a sweet embrace ran her hand up under his jacket and sunk her nails into his back. Sheppard stood still expectantly while she pulled from his flesh want and built desire in him.

Then she lifted her face with passion-filled grey eyes that pleaded and he kissed her lips selflessly, offering self and comfort. His lips, masterful and silky, tender on hers, while his tongue, hot and nurturing, coaxed away her hurt. She took all he had to offer.

He was lost in her and her despair, tasting her tears in their kiss. He lifted his head to search her face with the hope that he could banish whatever it was that had her so sick at heart. She smiled bravely and he wiped her face dry with a compassionate hand.

He opened his mouth once more to offer her comfort when she turned suddenly toward the sound of hooves in the distance.

“I cannot be discovered here alone with you,” she said frantically and then her groom was at her side with their horses. Sheppard could hardly believe it when she mounted her mare and rode off once more without giving him, her name, direction or explanation.

Tomorrow, he vowed, he would go to his Aunt Gertrude after he had seen to Harry so that when he rose he would have a name to go with the girl that haunted his dreams.
Part Three of Six,
by Simone Ogilvie

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Deconstructing My Process

It Is A Love Story and I Never Forget That

I write romance and because of that, my lead characters are the main focus. They are together for the majority of the novel and that's because I feel it necessary for their development. There is simply no romance if she is off saving orphans to prove she is independent or if he is in France spying for the king.

I write about fully realized people and how they came to be a couple, so it’s more a catalogue of the events from their first meeting to their happy resolve. My novels are more family epics than master intrigues because I feel that’s more believable and more easily sustained.

My third novel, Brunswick, for instance is about Lord Philip Latimer and the woman of his life Lady Ursula Robinette. The two are passionate, stubborn and drowning in things unsaid but they rely heavily on each other. Still, it does not make being together easy. They struggle to find the balance between being an individual and partaking in a relationship.

This is far more interesting, I believe, than his past life as mercenary, or her once scandalous business association with the notorious Lady Orange and her deranged granddaughters. Their past makes them interesting, but it’s not all that they are and I want the reader to experience the full arc of the character so they can walk away with a full sense of their romance.
All my very best,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Following the Muse to My Protagonist

Antonio Canova's Napoleon is my current inspiration

Long before I sit down to write, I would have had intimate knowledge of my protagonist, but you must understand that this almost always comes from a rudimentary source such as the order of their birth, astrological sign or artistic bend.

My first novel, Ellesmere for instance, was conceived from an ad in GQ of a male model sitting in a leather club chair in a well-lit space.

His hair was raven black and inspired touch, with eyes that could only be described as a charming cloudy amber. He was handsome with very male features: wide brow, strong jaw and chin with a darling cleft at its center. He would have been intimidating had it not been for the dust of freckles on display over his nose.

Upon, closer inspection of the photo, I saw that there were also freckles on his ears and neck, then I wondered how it formed the man he is. I can’t take my eyes off him. I bought the magazine and, for a full month, pestered my loved ones with impossible questions of the man in the ad.

I think he looks melancholy and I want them to agree with me but they aren’t convinced. I tell them he’s Sagittarius because he reminds me of my old boyfriend with his olive skin and plush lips that hint at a smile even when he’s serious.

Soon I’ve decided he’s an only child with a beloved cousin. Then because the faint lines on his face are in the places where worry and laughter show, I make him the head of his brood. He’s looking directly at me and yet he is held from me so I conclude he has lost someone. And that keeps him guarded.

I call him James and make him the Duke of Ellesmere. He lives on Park Lane in a house that speaks well of his English sensibility, easily reflecting a seamless marriage of grandeur and comfort. This, I believe, comes from his ancestor’s innate propensity for restraint which he as inherited to advantage and shows well in his personal carriage.

He is elegant, urbane and intelligent with a sharp wit. He has known his friends from boyhood and the dearest of them I’ve decided must be a stunning redhead who broke his heart when he was ten.

Three months later, I know all there is to know of James and I have the notebook full of notes to prove it. By the time I put fingers to keyboard, James is practically an extension of self, an intimate friend, and I am able to gauge his response in whatever circumstances his story brings us.

All the very best,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Huntley The Harlequin Undone That Came Undone

Link to chapter one here

Chapter Two

By the morning, that solitary kiss had transformed itself into one those monumental events…

The kind designed for the sole purpose of throwing one’s life off its natural axis.

Theodora was suddenly full of all sorts of doubt, questions and by the time, her parents roused the next morning she had also resolved, several times, to call off the wedding. How, she lamented, could she now marry Daniel knowing that she would be keeping them both from a life filled with passionate kisses?

Well, at least that’s what she thought at two o’clock and then again, at five but now as the sun raised over the horizon she wasn’t so sure. After all, she and Daniel had been friends their entire life and had agreed to marry due to her advancing age and his lack of fortune.

How could she now leave him in a lurch for one kiss with an unattainable gentleman who would not give her a second thought in the cold light of day? She had no delusions of her reality, she was seven and twenty and until last night, she had never been kissed not even by Daniel to whom she had been engaged for a full year.

And so, it was that at seven o’clock she resolved that she would rouse her maid and send her with a note to Daniel’s residence. She had never kept a secret from him and she wasn’t going to start now that they were to marry. She would tell him of the kiss and then ask him to kiss her… See if they couldn’t create their own passion.

She waited a full two days for Daniel to call before sending another note but he never came and then it was Friday and time for her to go with her parents to Bath in order to prepare for the wedding. She wondered what had kept him from coming but did not despair for she knew he was to follow them to Bath the following week.

Two weeks later, she was officially worried for she hadn’t heard from Daniel and the wedding guests were starting to arrive. She fretted that some ill had befallen him and went to her father with her concerns.

“Papa, I want you to send someone to London to see if all is well with Daniel,” she said frantically upon entering her father’s library. A dark oak affair with a bookcase encasing the walls all around, broken by two very large windows and a fireplace to the right of the desk at the center of the room.

“Of course he’s well my angel,” her father said without bothering to look up from his letters.

“Now, stop your worrying and come read this letter for me, see if you can make any sense of these scratches your brother has used as words in his note.”

She took the letter scanned her brother scribbling then said, “He’ll be here on the morning of the wedding but we are not to wait if he’s late.”

“And did he say why that was?”

“No, but he did say he was bringing Winnie and Jack so I can only assume they are off someplace more entertaining than Bath in the spring,” she said with a fond smile.

“I grow tired of those three and their antics,” the Viscount said irritably.

“Now Papa, you really shouldn’t allow Finn to provoke you so.”

“I know. Now come my dear, sit and tell me what’s bothering you.”

“I haven’t seen or heard from Daniel in well over a fortnight and I’m worried something might have happened to him,” she said after taking the chair across from her father’s desk.

“Your Daniel is a reliable fellow, Teddy but even he would want to have a last hurrah before settling into a life of marriage and responsibility.”

“Yes, I suppose that could well be it. Still, there was a matter I had hoped to discuss with him before the wedding.”

“Shall I send a note to have him call here the instant he arrives in Bath?”

“Yes, please,” she said with bright smile before rising to kiss her papa’s cheek in gratitude.

Three days later she was lying in bed contemplating going for a ride before the household roused to make the final preparations for her wedding day, when she heard the carriage pull into the driveway. It was the perfect time for a morning ride, but a most inappropriate hour for making social calls.

She rushed to the window in time to see her future mother-in-law, Baroness Somerset, step down from her carriage outside her parent’s front doors.

Good Lord, something had happened to Daniel. That or he’d gotten cold feet and had decided to abandon her on her wedding day. She should have guessed as much when he didn’t call after her father sent a note.

No, that’s impossible he would never do such a thing. It was more likely that he found out that she had been kissed by that rakehell, Lord Monthermer, and challenged him to a duel in defence of her honour. Yes, that was it. He was dead and she had killed him with her recklessness. She should never have left London without first speaking with Daniel.

She owed him the truth. In fact, she should have told her parents. Now all she could do was face the music.

There was a flurry of movement in the family quarters outside her parents’ doors and then the noise retreated for the stairs. Theodora said a quick prayer begging God to look after her dear friend Daniel. Then she ran to her dressing room and flung open the trunk her maid had packed for her wedding trip and dressed as quickly as possible.

She was searching for slippers in another trunk when the door to the dressing room swung open.

From the moment, the carriage pulled into her parents’ driveway, a hundred horrible thoughts had filled her mind but now as her mother stood before her, she realized that the only thing she needed to hear was that Daniel all right. She knew she could deal with anything so long as he was well. So, she asked her mother, “Is he alright?”

When her mother nodded in the affirmative, she was rewarded with a hug so fierce it robbed her of breath. When Theodora finally released her mother both their faces were soaked with tears, Theodora wept in relief while her mother wept for her sweet daughter.
Now that Theodora knew, Daniel was well she wanted to know the reason for the Baroness’ early morning visit. Before she could inquire her mother said, “Your father and Baroness Somerset are waiting for us in the library.”

She found her slippers and after a rapid descent of the marble staircase, she entered the library with her mother. Upon their entrance, her father came around his desk and took her hand before he seated her on the chair next to the baroness.

Whatever it was that brought the Baroness here now, hung in the space between the four occupants of her father’s library like grim death.

Theodora exchanged salutations with the Baroness then looked to her father for an explanation. Before he spoke, he glanced at her mother who immediately came to stand beside her then in a voice laced with such empathy for his daughter he said, “Daniel and Violet eloped a week ago in Scotland.”

It couldn’t be true.

She saw Daniel in London three weeks ago. She had been there with her mother shopping for her trousseau and he was nervous about taking his father’s seat at the House of Lords. Theodora offered him her love and complete support, and she was thrilled that she was able to practice her wifely skills before the wedding.

Besides, he was her oldest friend.

Why would he now decide to run off with Violet?

She had always been a practical sort not at all prone to hysterical or erratic behaviour. She took a deep breath, exhaled slowly then said to the room at large, “If it is all the same to you, I would prefer to hear this from Daniel,” then she stood, kissed her mother’s cheek, curtsied to her father and the Baroness then headed for the door.

“Will a letter penned in his own hand suffice my dear,” the Baroness inquired.

Without even turning around to face her, Theodora said, “No it will not, for you see, your son and I were friends before there was anything else.”

She took another step and reached for the door handle when her father said, “It’s true, my girl.”

This time she did turn around but her answer remained the same, “From his lips Papa.”

“Very well, you shall have it,” her father said in a tone so laced with menace it made the Baroness shiver.

“We still have a house full of wedding guests that must be told,” her mother said tentatively.

“What is the proper protocol in this kind of situation do you suppose?” Theodora asked, “For instance, am I allowed to go for a long ride, then have a hot bath before informing my wedding guests that there will be no wedding today?”

Her mother was the first to respond to Theodora’s query, “A hot bath is always a lovely idea.” She said this brightly, not wanting to disappoint her daughter by saying no to the ride, but feeling certain it was a bad idea for her to be alone under the circumstances.

“I shall ring for one to be brought to your chambers immediately.” Her mother said and made to match action to word when the Baroness stood, cleared her throat, apologized to Theodora once more then attempted a hasty retreat, but Theodora’s mother insisted on walking her to the front door.

While her mother was seeing to the distressed Baroness’ safe departure her father said, “If you hurry you can go for that ride before your mother is able to stop you.”

Theodora kissed him for understanding then she ran to her dressing room as quickly as her feet could take her, fully intending on dragging on her old comfortable riding habit then riding until her mind was completely at rest. But as soon as the door swung open, she saw her neatly packed trunks lined-up for what was to be her wedding trip and then onto the Somerset estate with Daniel for her happy-ever-after.

It struck her still.

She stood there for a quarter of an hour staring at the luggage before her mother came bustling in. Two hours later in the great hall of her father’s countryseat she stood wedged between her mother and older brother Henry, as her father addressed all guests present for the wedding.

After the announcement, there was an entire hour’s worth of discussion as to the best course of action to take. There were a few who believed that she should marry right away by special license and someone even suggested her late Cousin Claire’s widower as a potential groom.

In the end, the only matter they were all able to agree on was her immediate return to the ton. For a scandal of this magnitude, left unchecked could result in irrevocable damage to her reputation.

Though they needn’t have bothered for, as luck would have it, a week later when they returned to London the ton was already abuzz with some other juicy gossip. Harry Monthermer the youngest grandson of the Marquess Huntley had generated a scandal all his own.

Everybody knows the first rule of polite society is that the hierarchy rules in all things, especially in gossip. So right then, the only way Theodora could even make an imprint on the collective consciousness of the beau-monde was if she somehow found herself in an illicit affair with no less then the Prince Regent.

For absolutely no one cared that Viscount Cromwell’s daughter was abandoned on her wedding

day when there was a horse caper that nearly killed the Marquess.
Link to chapter 3 here
Part/Two of Six
by Simone Ogilvie

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mastering Subtle Intimacy

There is genius in a small gesture that is universally understood. A smile or offered hand that stirs the emotions of the reader. I feel that a good writer is able to convey the brilliance of that smile and the warmth of the hand to an audience.

I often try, in vain, to express the sweet tendre of a life lived solely in passion, but cruel reality often intervenes, so I devised an alternative. By writing, the impassioned life of my characters as simply as possible and with language appropriate for them, the emphasis placed on the magic that results from their interaction with one another. When I write, it’s all about the kindness of a warm strong hand or thoughtful ear in moments of despair.

I love my characters and want nothing more than for others to see them in full. I want my audience to see their heart and understand their motivation. If they are in love or in pain because of love they have for another, I have them articulate that in a manner that requires no interpretation.

plain old ‘I want you,’ ‘I am without end, for she is gone,’ or a simple ‘I love you.’ I think it's effective and it's part of my process.

A lovely weekend to all,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My First Novel is Full of Action but the Sequel Only Hints At It

Ellesmere, my first novel shows the reader everything, making them voyeurs, but because my second manuscript Leeds, recount some the same events I tell it as it affected these characters. I never questioned this method or doubted the rightness of it until I sent it out and an agent suggested I write it more as an action.

I did the re-write with the hope of landing the agent, but I did not like the story as much and decided to keep it as is. Foolish? Perhaps, but I figured if I didn’t like my own book, then what would have been the point? But it did get me to consider acquiring an editor.

Right away, I wanted a man for I felt he would allow a well-roundedness to my novels, giving it an authentic male voice, but then my sister pointed out that my target audience were women in search of fantasy. So now, I’m looking for someone to make my intent clear and offer critical guidance.

All my very best,

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Muzzling The Still Prevalent Decorator in this Author’s Head

Writing the setting is more than a little problematic for me and that is due to the decorator in me wanting to detail the history of each room from the English Renaissance to the Late Neoclassic period. The decorator in me wants to regale the reader with elements from master architects and early interior designers to fill their heads with imagery of from the works of Hepplewhite, Chippendale and Jones.

I don’t fight the urge, instead I write it all down and then in the way of a good decorator, I return to my storyboard and customize the space for the people inhabiting it. In the end, I have yards of Indian silks, storerooms of Chinese vases, and French knick-knacks left over because they don't fit the character's space.

Often, I simply choose a piece I feel relates to a particular character and that’s all that’s really mentioned of the space. I did that for my second novel, Leeds, where my hero has an antique Italian campaign daybed in his little office.

I give the basic layout of the fireplace relative to the placement of desk, chairs and windows but the main focus of the room is the daybed in the corner. He rekindles his love for our heroine on that daybed. I'm decadant in a lush space using colour and light to fill the rooms while opting for brief descriptives for meagerly dressed rooms. It works brilliantly. Just imagine a room with a small worn armoir, thick dusty curtains and an unyielding, serviceable bed. Enough said, yes.

All my very best,


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Bittersweet November As Seen Though Nicholas' Eyes

This post is due solely to my friend Claire's selflessness. The Elegant November steams from her endless generosity and brilliant imagination. Having her to brainstorm with as been invaluable to me, we often disagree but I'd have it no other way. Now this bit of fiction is told from the point of the male character in Claire's story A Bittersweet November.

Manuela by Robert Longo

Elegant November

She was, like the month of her birth, austere and uncompromising. It had been both thrill and dread to be the one she had chosen, but in the end she had been November and I knew in my heart I could only marry a May or June. I needed the comfort and promise of warm spring, but it would not be easy to let her go.

It took me five years to part with November but I’ll miss her the rest of my days.

Her carriage was regal but she had come to it honestly and this you see the instant you meet her foundation. It's there in her mother, with her smart blouses from Ports accompanied by pearls and pretty apron in the afternoon. There is also her father, that confident fellow who is himself an institution in high finance but it had been the estate in Rexdale that made me know for sure who November was destined to be.

The original house was over a hundred years old, not so old by some standards, but I’m a first generation Canadian so it is daunting. My people are academics on both sides and though I deviated for public relations, I’m attached to the comfort in it. I don’t believe November has ever given the matter any real thought.

She wears grey silks and cashmere almost exclusively and it tells instantly of her station in life. She is without effort in her elegant carriage and I’m awed by her ease. But, more than that is her discipline. November runs seven miles everyday and was partner at a prestigious law firm by the time she was thirty.

She was free of excess and improved my life with phone calls to people who knew better, handmade shirts, catered dinner parties for my boss and the perfect Christmas gift for my mother. She holds me close when we’re out with her friends and I feel as effortless as she, my friends marvel at her sophistication but aren’t sure if they envy my place at her side.

November has strong views on everything, is quick to laugh and never allows me to see her cry, but the thing that will stay with me long after I’ve let her go is that she genuinely liked me.

She looks me in the eyes and never looks away.

She kisses my face just because I’m near and makes love to me greedily.

I left November in autumn for a girl named Olivia with warm clear eyes that reminded me of spring.

And sometimes, I think of November even in spring...
Have a lovely week,

Monday, October 5, 2009

The October Blog Chain on Autumn and Other Matters

There is a moment in Sydney Pollack’s 'Three Days of the Condor’ when Robert Redford’s character, after looking at the photographs taken by the woman played by Faye Dunaway, describes them as ‘empty November.’ It exactly defines my sentiment of autumn.

Particularly here in Canada, where November is indeed rife with empty park benches and naked trees. This is the inspiration for my little fiction.

A Bittersweet November

A lawyer works most days out of a pastry shop at the end of a trendy cosmopolitan strip, infested with single dog owners, organic juice bars and take-your-baby-to-yoga boutique classes just steps away. Yes, it sounded more like the setting for a Zach Helm film than Marianne’s new life, but she had fall in love there.

She was made partner at thirty for a firm as old and established as crime thanks to her moral flexibility, well that and she was genius at clocking billable hours. Even so, Nicholas had married an angelic nurse who did not understand why anyone would want to wakeup at dawn to run seven miles.

Oh, that had really burned Marianne. She liked running and there was a time when Nicholas had liked it about her too. He used to admire her discipline and the lean slender body her running allowed her. In those days he could not get enough of her, which was just as well for he had been her drug, her one indulgence.

Then he had announced, as if he did not think it would bother her, that he had ran into Nurse Olivia while out with his mother and that they had gone to high school together until her family moved to Vancouver. That she was now alone in Toronto and his mom had invited her to join them for thanksgiving dinner.

The thing of it was that Marianne had thought, the instant she saw Olivia with her perfect hourglass figure and soft brown eyes that she was trouble, but it had been Nicholas in his care not to look at the blasted woman that made Marianne know for certain.

He was such an honourable fellow.

He told her after a month of seeing Olivia behind her back, but before they had slept together that, they were in love. Marianne couldn’t believe it. Well, that wasn't quite true. She just figured he would have had a brief and discreet affaire with the insipid little thing, then they would move one with their life.

For Christ’s sake, they had been together five years with him claiming the whole time that he loved her. But he hadn’t asked her to marry him, which she had been fine with for they shared community property. That, as far as she was concerned, was legally binding.

His mother – who never liked her by the way – gave them the money to buy Marianne out and just like that, she was moving from her enviable loft in the Distillery District. It was conveniently downtown Toronto, only a few streetcar stops from where Nicholas peddled his trade as a charming public-relations executive.

Nicholas told her they sold it after the wedding so they could move to Richmond Hill to start a family and be closer to his mom. It worked. She ran into Olivia with Nicky’s mom coming out of the Pottery Barn Kids on Bloor Street. Marianne had been out at Yorkville eating with a few the friends she and Nicky had made together that he had also abandoned for Florence-fucking-Nightingale.

Apparently, she did not like the friends Nicky and Marianne had kept. She kept calling them urbanites but in the way one might say 'conservative-liberal' or 'Jews for Jesus.' You know, mockingly and with contempt.

They had been very nearly rude to her on that brisk November afternoon on Bloor, complimenting her shoes in a way, that hinted at their cost but Marianne did not mind for she worked hard for them. Nurse Olivia had called her elegant with bile in her voice and Marianne damn near pushed her into oncoming traffic.

It had been meant as insult and all who were present knew it. Olivia's use of 'elegant' hinted at the difference between she, the winner of Nicholas’ affections with her warm feminine form, versus tall, chic Marianne with her uptown sensibility.

She was pointing out that she was bountiful spring with her soft curves and round pregnant belly, while poor Marianne was harsh November with her sleek form dressed in pristine cashmere in harsh charcoal no less. It had been badly done of Olivia and even her mother-in-law who did not care for Marianne had glared at her for the cheap shot.

They parted a moment later without further injury and Marianne’s friends with their too-bright smiles and irritatingly watchful eyes took her all the way to an ice-cream parlour in the Beaches. She couldn't enjoy her ice cream with them staring at her as if she was going to step in front of a streetcar so she ditched them.

She pretended to get a phone call, stepped out of the parlour to take it and hid in a cupcake shop just steps away. She spent the rest of that afternoon in the kitchen of that little cupcake shop chatting with the too-handsome chef and owner. He was brilliant, Francophone and made her feel desirable with his long sensual glances.

Later when the shop closed, he made her an omelette for dinner and they danced to Ella Fitzgerald's 'Love Walked In.' Then sometime after midnight, they stepped out into the brisk November air to her waiting taxi. When he kissed her, it was a soft tender kiss that lingered and hinted at possibility.
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Friday, October 2, 2009

Huntley The Harlequin Historical Undone That Came Undone

Chapter One

London 1816

Theodora’s startled face came to rest with a painful thud in the centre of Sheppard’s solid back. He lurched forward, but he was able to prevent the two of them from falling face first, into Lady Derby’s prickly holly bush.

Once he was certain that whoever fell onto him had their footing, he turned around to see who was so determined to cause him mischief. The person that greeted him was somewhat familiar, striking, wide-eyed, apologetic and decidedly lopsided. She had broken her heel in the fall and despite his initial irritation, he had to smile.

She smiled back at him from a face bright with embarrassment then said, “I’m horrified and it’s my own fault.”

She frowned in displeasure then pointed accusingly to the glass bowl near the edge of the garden’s path before continuing, “Even if I could not see it, I should have known it was there.”

“I beg your pardon?” Sheppard asked in genuine confusion.

“The bowl,” she said irritably. Then she bent down as if to demonstrate, righted the bowl in question and returned the candle that had fallen out when she tripped over it.

Theodora picked up her broken heel then hobbled past Sheppard to a nearby garden bench. She sat down and pointed to the bowls with the lit candles near the path leading to the other garden path then asked, “Would you be kind enough to fetch me one of those so I may better assess the damage done to my shoe?”

Not bowls… candleholders… imported from Venice,” Sheppard informed her matter-of-factly.

“Oh,” said Theodora, now looking at him for the first time. Lord help her, it was Sheppard Monthermer, the future Marquess of Huntley and her host’s nephew.

From across the ballroom where she, Sonia and Violet had stood pretending not to ogle, he had been devastating. Now that all six feet of his exquisitely angular, feline frame was within pouncing distance he was damn near unbearable. In fact, from her vantage point, he was the devil himself sent to tempt her away from her fiancé and her good sense.

It was sad, she thought, that such a pretty package should contain such a boorish snob, but maybe, just maybe, this was a sign of her good fortune. She should probably thank her lucky stars that his attractive packaging was contaminated or heaven only knew what stupid thing she would’ve said.

My apologies, Lord Monthermer, but in my defence they do bear a rather strong resemblance to overlarge sweet bowls.” She was pleased that she was able to keep her disappointment at his conduct from her voice and even more so that she was able to sound truly apologetic.

Then it was Sheppard’s turn to stifle his disappointment in her. He liked the guileless way she had addressed him until she recognized who he was. Then it was, ‘my lord, this’ and ‘my lord, that.’ He much preferred it when she spoke to him the way she had before, as though he were an irritating friend.

He brought her the candle so she could get a better look at her shoe, and then said, “That’s precisely what I told my aunt earlier when she was instructing her footmen on the correct placement of the silly things.”

For his attempt at bringing back the nature of their earlier conversation, Sheppard was rewarded with a smile and a rather cheeky statement.

“Hence, the candleholders imported from Venice, I’m sure.”

“Just so,” he agreed before adding conspiratorially, “And this was immediately followed by her retraction of my invitation to tea.”

“Surely, you jest.”

“Well in her defence the withdrawal was induced under extreme provocation for, you see, I broke one.”

Theodora could but laugh at the thought of the dignified Lady Derby so moved to vexation she had to banish him from her sight. She barely had herself under control when he asked, “Why should you know that the paths leading to the garden would be lined on both sides with lit candles?”

“Symmetry,” she said as if it were obvious.


She could not of course be alluding to his aunt’s obvious fixation with all things symmetrical, because if she were, God help him.

“I was of course referring to the palpable equilibrium that rules this palace’s décor. Even the structure’s very design exudes symmetry,” Theodora said as if she were annoyed at having to spell it out for him. “And well you know it too. Oh, don’t even bother denying it. I can see you laughing at me.”

“I am not.”

“You are. See there, your shoulders are shaking.”
“Not at you, sweetheart,” Sheppard said his laughter filling the warm aromatic spring air with the rich music of his baritone voice. He looked youthful and far more interesting when he laughed.

Theodora could barely bring herself to look away, and to make matters worse the poor lighting of the candles was casting a shadow on him that made the sharp angles of his face appear even more alluring. She stared openly at his crystal-clear blue eyes shining dark and colourless by the small flame.

She liked him laughing even if it was at her expense and wondered if he did it much.
The little she knew of public persona was very dark, not brooding exactly… that description better suited his cousin Lord Harry Monthermer. Sheppard’s expression read more of resolve and purpose, as if everything he did was towards a predetermined end.

After he stopped laughing, Theodora said, “So, it lends to reason that if one side of a garden path attached to said house had bowls with lit candles the –”

“Venetian candleholders,” Sheppard corrected.

Theodora rolled her eyes then said, “Then logically the other side would also have Venetian candleholders. Albeit unlit and dangerously close to the middle of the path. That being said I can honestly say that I have no excuse and should have known it was there.”

“Naturally,” Sheppard said thoughtfully, “A matter of simple deduction really.”

Theodora smiled up at him, her clear grey eyes reflecting the warm flicker of the candle he held in his hands. Her smile seemed to be permanent. Even when she scolded him just then, she did so with a smile. He realized something else about her smile… the damned thing was contagious. From the moment she had collided with him, he had not stopped smiling.

He liked her smile.

Loved the way it started in her expressive grey eyes then radiated from her flawless skin to pull at her gorgeous lips. Her smile was marred now by a little frown in the centre of her brow as she examined her broken heel.

He wanted her smiling face directed at him again so he put the candle down and took the shoe and heel from her hand. He inspected it from one angle and then the next before giving her his diagnosis.

“You will more than likely need a cobbler to repair the damages,” he said judiciously.

“Then I must leave at once,” announced Theodora, her smile widening significantly, causing her eyes to sparkle.

“To find a cobbler?” Sheppard asked suddenly worried about her impending departure. That and he was scarcely capable of rational thought with her smiling at him with that wicked glint in her eyes.

“Heavens no, I just don’t want my obvious asymmetry to provoke any further mayhem.”

She took the shoe from his hand, slipped it on her foot, stuck out her legs and giggled. She laughed thus for a good minute wholly oblivious to the effect the sound of her voice was having on poor Sheppard. He felt as if he had been set aflame, and stupidly glanced down to where he had put the candle to make certain it had not somehow engulfed his feet.

She consumed his senses as he sat in the rose garden, smelling only the sweet lily that radiated from her warm flesh. His eyes devoured every inch of her from the top of her honey tresses to the tips of her little broken shoe.

She was all sumptuous curves from the firm round breasts framed in the silk of her empire waist gown, glowing in the candlelight to the soft flare of her inviting hips resting only a hair’s distance from his on the stone bench. She was a goddess straight out of a renaissance master’s repertoire.
She was smiling again.

It was that smile, there now lingered on her face that was the source of Sheppard’s temporary madness. He was confident that he would most certainly perish from want if he did not possess the lips that wore that smile and when she turned her face towards him, the smile still on her lips, he leaned down and kissed her.

Despite his premeditation, once his lips touched hers he was just as surprised as she was. His lips parted over hers and he became an open nerve completely susceptible to the rhythm of her very soul. The honesty of her response slowed his movement to where he felt his body was trying to memorize hers, this feeling, this moment.

She was divine and he worshipped her with all the skills he had available to him and still despite it, he was possessed by her. He, with all his experience consumed by this smiling maiden who seemed to have surrendered completely to his touch.

It was as though her entire being responded to his touch. Her lips moulded to his causing a sort of heated friction before giving way to his tongue hungry for access. Then she gave a little groan of appreciation and he was undone but she did not appear to have noticed for she was coming apart herself.

She was all feeling.

Feeling his mouth tender and hot on hers as he deepened their kiss then his tongue in her mouth produced a sensation pleasurable when it caressed hers. She was sure she would melt.

He had ignited something deep in her and it was urging her to be closer to him.

To take ownership of her desire and peel back the layers of him. Possess him the way he had done her. She ran her hands over the expanse of his wide muscular chest and shoulder in order to anchor herself to him.

Then he in answer to her invitation pulled her onto his lap and sliding his hands up her side to caress her breast. Theodora arched her back so Sheppard could have greater access and he pressed his lips against the soft skin just above the neckline of her gown.

Neither of them had intended this and things were quickly getting out of control.

For Christ’s sakes, anybody could happen by and see them yet here they were behaving as if they were in a world all their own.

Then he took a breath and she eased away some and looked him in the face, as if she was trying to determine who he was and how she got there.

Sheppard smiled in commiseration and she reached up and touched his cheek with her fingertips then her face changed. She was lucid again. Then she pulled her hand away from his face looked him square in the eyes and said, “Forgive me.”

She rose to her feet, turned and walked away. Leaving a slightly dazed Sheppard to stare at her departing back.

It took him two full breaths to collect himself and by the time he made to follow her, his Aunt Gertrude appeared out of nowhere with her complaints about his absence from the ballroom.

“You swore to me you would make an attempt with Lady Eloise and keep your grandfather in hand yet here you are hiding in peace while he wears at my patience with his antics.”

“What could he have done in the quarter of an hour I was gone from his side?”

“He created a spectacle, ripping that idiot Powis’ lorgnette from his hand and crushing it underfoot, that’s what.”

“Good for him. I’ve always disliked Powis scrutinizing me through that awful thing.”

“He has ruined my ball and when I told him so he ordered his carriage and left.”

“Maybe that’s for the best –”

“Are you mad? Haven’t you been listening to me? He caused a scene and ruined your cousin’s début.”

“Now, my dear, surely it wasn’t as bad as all that?”

“There’ve long been whispers of his deteriorating capacity and after this bit of madness people will more than likely think him as mad as King George.”

“That may be but he is still the Marquess of Huntley, your father and the head of this family,” Sheppard ground out his tone punishing and unyielding.

“I will not be made to feel the villain when I was the party dealt the injury. He’s your responsibly and I’ll thank you to keep that in mind when next you and he are invited in my home,” she said before stalking off back towards the house then she stopped suddenly to add. “You’re expected to dance at least once with Eloise before this evening comes to an end.”

Damn it, thought Sheppard he could not now pursuit his enchantress if his grandfather had indeed behaved as badly as his aunt claimed. He’d have to go assess the damages and possibly pay remuneration for the damages suffered. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as his aunt Gertrude had made it out to be and the only real damage was done to him, for he was unable to locate the beauty from the garden.

Free Harlequin Undone or a perfect example of what eharlequin is not looking for. It's yours now read, enjoy and let me know what you think. Direct link to chapter two here
Part/One of Six,
by Simone Ogilvie

September Book Review Blog Chain

I’ve committed to one post a month on Simone’s blog and the Absolute Write Water Cooler is a fun way for me to do so. Besides, I did it over tea at Simone’s and control freak that she is, I had but tell her the premise and she did most the writing. This is my review and I follow the charming aimeelaine -

It's more a Writer’s Review (meant for writers than a review for the intended readers)

The book is Georgette Heyer's The Convenient Marriage

A good romance writer shares two things with a master painter. Firstly they present to you a private interpretation and make you adopt it as your own. If they’re gifted, you feel like a part the story, and if your author can truly deliver, you’ll fall in love with the portrait that’s been created.

With language as cunning and witty as one of Shakespeare’s quips, Georgette Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage tells the story of Horatia Winwood or ‘Horry,’ as she is known to us, a stuttering, stammering thickly-browed maiden who proposes marriage to the gentleman intended for her sister in order to save said sister from a loveless marriage. The two marry and quickly become the talk of the ton, where Horry is a success… that is until the scheming of those thirsty for her husband’s blood, conspire to use her naivety to plot her ruin.

Horatia’s husband Marcus Drelincourt, the Earl of Rule brings with him, a jealous ex-mistress and a nemesis ripe with the need for vengeance. A fact, that soon puts her in peril from which he has to save her. He’s charming and loves her though, so of course, one adores him and for the first one hundred pages or so, the reader is also enchanted by his impetuous bride. But alas, her antics soon squander all patience.

Horatia’s environment is lavishly painted with luxuries, tastefully arranged. Rooms filled with excesses that delight and lend to the story showing the young woman’s lack of sophistication or as a setting for her folly. This matter is perfectly illustrated in this delightful excerpt when she allows herself to be locked in with her husband’s arch nemesis.

“’Behold me!’ Lethbridge replied, flinging himself into a chair.

Horatia nodded, and followed his example. ‘P-please try and be sensible, my l-lord,’ she requested. ‘It isn't the least use telling me that you have fallen in l-love with me, because I d-don't believe it. Why did you bring me here?’

‘To steal your virtue,’ he answered flippantly. ‘You see, I am quite frank with you.’

‘W-well, I can be frank too,’ retorted Horatia, her eyes gleaming. ‘And if you think you are g-going to ravish m-me, you quite mistake the m-matter! I'm much nearer to the door than you are.’

‘True, but it is locked, and the key’ - he patted his pocket - ‘is here!’

‘Oh!’ said Horatia. ‘So you don't even play f-fair!’

‘Not in love,’ he replied.

‘I wish,’ said Horatia forcefully, ‘you would stop talking about l-love. It makes me feel sick.’”

For a maiden who was willing to sacrifice her happiness for that of her family, Horatia is often a vexing protagonist. She lacks foresight, functioning commonsense or anything that could be mistaken for discretion. Mrs Heyer’s brilliance eases the way for this troublesome heroine with mastery that makes the intolerable utterly enjoyable (see excerpt above).

The Convenient Marriage is a cautionary tale with a happy ending and, by the end, one is at least pleased that the tortured Earl has what he so desired: the affections of his wife.

Georgette Heyer writes with the heart of a romantic and the expertise of a historian, which leads to lot of her modern 1830’s ideals set accurately in 1776, a skill that makes her the quintessential role model for the modern romance writer. She is brilliant at evoking sentiment and effortlessly manipulates both character and reader for her own end. Mrs Heyer invents for us, a world both familiar and uniquely hers with a simple turn of phrase.

Mrs Heyer’s romance is brutally fanciful without being trite and for that alone she ought to be praised. Her unyielding hero pushes the story forward and we follow, often entertained, thanks to Heyer’s clever dialogue.

The Convenient Marriage is a signature Heyer being intimate and decadent with all the sex done behind closed doors. It’s a pretty picture painted by a master and thus a must for any inspiring regency writer.

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