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Escape with Arnaut and Louise, a mis-matched pair of messengers, dodging bullets and blades and vengeful agents as they smuggle vital messages between France and England. How can they succeed, yet they dare not fail.
“Messages passed between nobles in France and England, spies bent on killing and maiming the messengers – a widow and a rake, gutsy chances that pay off despite serious injuries, and love that surmounts difference in status, this is a very enjoyable adventure and love story combined.” KF Andersen
Oh this was super! There was lots going on and it got a bit tense at times, but overall it was a lovely way to spend a few hours – good escapism, which is exactly what we all need just now. I liked the two central characters and I now want to spend some time with an atlas following all the journeys they made. Deborah
The story begins when Olivia has nearly reached Constantinople. But how did she manage to escape from the strictly chaperoned life of a debutante and set off to travel abroad, like her role model, Lady Hester Stanhope?
London, November 1810
Olivia was admiring her new hat in the pier glass, when the drawing room door opened and two middle-aged ladies sailed into the elegant entrance hall. The look they cast her warned Olivia that Aunt Sophie was about to hurl more reproaches at her. Aware of their scrutiny, she stroked the curled ostrich plumes and adjusted the saucy bow under her left ear until Crowbold, the butler, had bowed the ladies out. Then she grimaced at her reflection and whisked herself into the drawing room to brave the storm.
‘You may take that hat off,’ snapped Lady Hollis. ‘We are not going to drive in Hyde Park today.’
‘Why ever not?’ Olivia enquired. ‘Surely you’re not upset by anything your friends may have told you? It’s all gossip.’
‘It is all shocking!’ Lady Hollis wrung her hands. ‘As if you had not caused enough scandal by your all-night escapade with Lord Craybrook.’
‘There was no escapade,’ Olivia stated scornfully. ‘He claimed his curricle had a loose wheel and we must stop at an inn while it was repaired – but it was all a plot to compromise me. Nothing happened, Aunt…except that I gave him a black eye,’ she added with a gleam of satisfaction.
‘It was in all the scandalsheets.’ Lady Hollis dabbed at her eyes with a lace-edged handkerchief. ‘I warned you then that you would have to accept him.’
‘Never.’ declared Olivia, swirling away to stare out of the window at the passers-by in Clarges Street. ‘It was he who told his version to the reporters, Aunt Sophie.’
‘If he will still have you after this…this latest episode. Wretched girl. You were seen riding astride! Galloping in Hyde Park! And with Captain Lucas, of all possible companions!’
‘He rides so well,’ murmured Olivia. She gave a wicked grin when her aunt covered her eyes with one trembling hand.
‘Your reputation is fatally damaged. My dearest friends have just hinted that you are no longer welcome at their tea parties -‘
‘How uncharitable,’ Olivia swiped at the potted ferns on the window ledge.
Lady Hollis waved a delicate hand towards the marble mantelpiece with its row of tasteful ornaments, ‘We have not received a single invitation this week. Your only chance is to accept Lord Craybrook’s offer.’
‘So that he may gamble my fortune away on cards and horses. No, I thank you.’ Had she pushed her aunt to the limit? She clasped her hands behind her back and managed to hold back a cry of triumph when Lady Hollis announced, in failing accents, ‘If no one will receive you, you cannot stay in London. You have even replaced Lady Hester Stanhope as the chief subject of gossip in society.’
‘Well, she’s left the country,’ said Olivia. ‘I envy her.’
‘And your brother gone off to those savage eastern lands.’
‘Just so,’ Olivia agreed, smothering another grin. ‘And the poor lamb will be in such a muddle without me to look after him. In fact…’
Several months later, Olivia reaches Constantinople and is reunited with her brother.
As an artist, she’s busy capturing the sights of this ancient city.
But it doesn’t take many days before she’s in trouble again.
Ice cool Lord Berannes is the chief diplomat negotiating peace between the Ottoman Sultan and Russia. Then he encounters fiery, rebellious artist Olivia Hartford. And after that, nothing goes to plan – for either of them.
As well as writing stories and articlesI enjoy travelling, both at home and abroad, the excuse being that it’s all research. This year all my planned journeys had to be cancelled, for the reason we know. That left swathes of time for another longtime hobby – metallic embroidery.I love all types of embroidery and marvel at the infinite variety of invention to be seen in different countries.
My Woodbine chainsmoking great-aunt Hannah taught me my first embroidery stitches, as well as showing me how to Make The Back As Neat As The Front. Thank you, Aunt Hannah, embroidery is a still a pleasure. Making pictures with beautiful silken threads fascinates me. The brighter the colours, the better. I also adore sparkling jewellery, so discovering how to do metallic embroidery with all the gold thread, sequins, beads and pearls was like having a private Ali Baba’s cave.
There is no such word as ‘overload’ in my vocabulary for my various pieces. There is never too much Bling. My aim is for the finished item to sparkle, shine, gleam or glow, preferably all at the same time.
The wine bottles symbolise the family’s winegrowing business. The trellis loaded with grapes is for shelter from the sun. The pictures because she’s an artist. Her ladder and tools as the old house needs constant repair. Oh, and her grandmother’s pompom rosebush and mother’s bougainvillea. The chaise longue for the essential siesta.
She is 19 years old, she has glorious brown eyes and glossy chestnut curls. She is also the eldest of five sisters and two brothers.
So, willing or not, her mother insists she must now go to London for the Season and make a good marriage, one that will enable her sisters to mix in society in their turn.
Kitty is most unwilling. Secretly she determines to endure London for two months and then return home to do what she considers worthwhile – helping her father, the vicar, to run his hospital and care for wounded soldiers and the poor and sick.
When she arrives in London, Kitty considers the Season a waste of her time. But soon she finds that under the veneer of social visits, balls and walks in Hyde Park, many social activities mask plots and danger. Even a visit to the theatre can have sinister undercurrents.
While her friends flutter from one entertainment to another, Kitty realises that a dangerous spy is intent on betraying vital national secrets, and she bravely attempts to prevent this treachery, even when it seems it will cost her her heart – and possibly her life.
Today I’m welcoming Beth in the clubhouse tearoom. Welcome.
Hello Paula, Thank you for your invitation to visit you in your very secret Clubhouse Tearoom. Now I’ve made it here, a cup of tea will be very welcome, especially in such a delicate china cup. However, when the occasion is right, I do enjoy a glass or two of champagne.
No champagne today, but let’s order a pot of tea.
Right, now we have our refreshments, I’ll start by asking youwhen you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
From childhood I always enjoyed adventure stories, especially when they involved travel to distant places. And being a keen fan of Georgette Heyer, I set my stories in the wider Regency period. So my tales are a mix of adventure, intrigue and romance.
Tell us a little about your latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
Some time ago the idea for a story just formed and in less than an hour I had it all sorted. Only, it’s never so simple, as I’m sure you agree. In chapter 7, the hero suddenly announced that he had two brothers. When I recovered from the surprise, it seemed obvious both brothers needed their own stories. I found a splendid chateau in the Pyrenees as a home for my Montailhac family, so it’s been a pleasure to use that as a setting for more adventures and romance. Now The Outcasts, the story about the youngest brother is complete and looking for a home. Everyone considers that Joachim is still a boy, so his ambition is to prove he can manage the family estate as well as any of them. Of course, endless problems occur to hinder him, and two sisters, the most difficult guests possible, make everything worse. Well, that’s how it starts off.
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
There are the first two novels I wrote, which are not likely to see the light of day. The first one is a quest [I love writing those] and could be ok with some more work. The second, which is a sequel, is absolutely awful. I’m cringing even to mention it to you. And there’s a new story on the go, a contemporary tale about an Englishwoman who goes to live in France. It keeps getting held up by the need to check on various bits of French administration. And I have three chapters of a novel about Eleanor Tilney, my take on Northanger Abbey.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter, or let the characters lead you?
My stories always seem to spring from a picture of a person, seen as I turn the pages of a magazine or read an article online. Suddenly that face takes on an identity and scenes from their life appear in my head. At this point I don’t know what order those scenes come in the story. However, every scene finds its place in there. It’s weird. Before writing the story I make a ‘working synopsis’, which gets added to, and often changed. Sometimes more characters appear and surprise me, but they always have a necessary role in the plot.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
That’s a tricky one, Paula. Never deliberately, apart from once when I killed off a character based on a real person. I do copy mannerisms or attitudes from observing people. Mostly it’s after a book is published that I realise I’ve put bits of myself in there, and especially my favourite aunt appears in a couple of novels as a birdlike, kindly old lady. All quite unconsciously done at the time.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
Writing is a constant process of learning. I hope to improve with each book I write, finding out how to add suspense, how to make the characters walk off the page, or to show the settings vividly. But I always feel I could do better next time.
Did you uncover things about yourself while writing your books, whether that be a long forgotten memory, a positive experience etc.
You’re right that old memories surface as we write, and maybe we see an event from long ago in a new way. Sometimes it seems as if a window opens and a past event becomes clear again. That can even lead to a separate piece of work, an article about a place or an event suddenly remembered and seeming vivid.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
This question made me laugh, thinking of that first story [still on the computer]. Before starting the novel, I wrote 25 pages of notes about the main character – almost a story in itself, isn’t it! Now I make a workbook, with family trees, homes, a page or two for each character, with photos and dates, together with brochures and research information about the period, area and main events of the year when the story takes place.
To find names I have been known to wander round graveyards to get correct names for the time and region. That doesn’t work for my Turkish tales, as the alphabet was Arabic until 1928, so I go online to lists of the sultans and their children, and select names that way.
What was your hardest scene to write?
In Scandalous Lady, there are two sex scenes, vital to the plot. It was a really tough job to describe the scene, both times. However, I haven’t heard any criticism about them.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Roughly about eighteen months all told, because research often means a journey and i may have to wait a while before going on it. I never send a story out without going to see the places where it’s set, measure the distances travelled, or verify any special buildings. So far this has involved trips to Romania, Budapest, Vienna, Istanbul as well as London, Brighton and Bath. I did say at the beginning that travel fascinated me, so the trips are always a pleasure. The actual writing and revising takes time. Deciding the story is finished is so hard. I’m one of these poor souls who could revise even after the book is published.
Thank you so much for this chat, Beth. It’s always good to share writing ideas and problems with another writers.
If you would like to learn more about Beth writing and books please check out her blog and here’s the website for her books Twitter: @BethElliott and her Facebook
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.
In The Hobbit, Tolkien observed that “things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.”
In other words, if there is no conflict, there is no story. So the characters can expect to have problems which get ever more difficult, they must face their fears and see their ambitions endlessly thwarted. No wonder they sometimes shut off and refuse to act as the author wishes.
Writers all experience the phenomenon of a character taking over the story and dictating what he or she will do and most certainly will not do. Sometimes it’s a simple problem, perhaps they want a different name, or they mention family members the author didn’t know existed until that point. At other times, they want a different role from what the auther intended for them.
It takes time, a lot of thought and some bargaining between author and characters, to get things moving again. The revised plot rings truer and is more satisfying for all concerned. So an argument with the characters is a sign that they are ready to walk off the page; and as every writer knows, that is the best thing that can happen in any story.
At the British Embassy in Constantinople, an unexpected reunion is about to take place at a totally inconvenient moment.
” The young secretary stammered: ‘Ladies, this is our special envoy, Mr Hawkesleigh.’ Turning to Tom he quailed at the glare he received but persevered in his explanation. ‘I know you said you were not to be disturbed… but…but the Ambassador’s guest is still here…’ ‘Yes,’ Tom glared again at his unwelcome visitors. ‘He’s waiting for me to finish this task. Which means I cannot spare any time at present -’ At this, the smallest one put back her veil with an impatient gesture. Tom saw that she was fair skinned and haired. She looked to be in her late forties and had a keen, scholarly air. ‘Lady Emily Westacote,’ she said briskly, ‘and these are my two nieces.’ ‘Westacote?’ echoed Tom. ‘Sir Philip Westacote, the antiquarian…?’ Lady Westacote nodded. ‘Just so. I am his wife. And we are in need of help.’ ‘In what way ma’am?’ Tom knew his tone was less than cordial. She probably wanted permits to excavate some godforsaken ruin in a remote and bandit-infested area of the Levant. Surely it could wait half an hour. His frustrated gaze turned to the other two females. They had not removed their veils. Lady Westacote followed his gaze. ‘Girls!’ she said reprovingly. At this the figure on her left raised her arms and put back the heavy veil to reveal a lovely face with huge pansy brown eyes and shining dark hair. Tom’s eyebrows lifted a little and Sebastian gaped in frank admiration. Then their heads all turned expectantly towards the last veiled figure. “ [c]Beth Elliott
The Marquis de Fontanes and his Turkish wife, Princess Mihriban [Miri] have five children. Both their daughters and two of their three sons have found their life partners and are happily settled.
That leaves Joachim, the youngest son.
Twelve years younger than his oldest brother, everyone still sees Joachim as a boy. And “everyone” means not just his loving family, but all the people on his father’s estate. So, this year, when both his brothers are away and his father is busy with political affairs, now is his chance to prove he is capable of managing every aspect of the work involved.
” This year was his first time of being in charge of running the whole estate and he was determined to make a success of it. He could put up with the steward being somewhat patronising over dealing with the accounts. But it was embarrassing to know he was under constant inspection by every person on the estate, from the grooms and stablehands to the shepherds and the peasants in the mining village. He took a deep breath. I’ll make everything work as well as ever, if not better. ” The Outcasts
Of course, he didn’t allow for added complications, involving a pair of visitors who upset matters in a range of ways. But we’ll get to them later.
Two details about Joachim that are important in the story – He wears a cologne that has a spicy and invigorating scent [it’s called Carmelite Water, made using cloves, lemon, lemon balm and brandy].
Scenes of the Pyrenees, the region where Joachim and his family live.
Do you admire the beauty of diamonds, glittering and sparkling as the light plays on them? I have to admit to a fascination with sparkling gems. Combine them with coloured stones and the effect makes me go weak at the knees.
The French Crown Jewels, on display in The Louvre, Paris.
The Côte-de-Bretagne red spinel with the set of Queen Marie Amélie to the left, the bracelets and diadem of the Duchess of Angoulême in the centre and upper right and, between them, the set of Empress Josephine. [Wikipedia]
In museums a display of jewels holds me entranced, lost to time as the gems wink and shine. I’m as hypnotised as the old Councillor in Lorna Doone was by Lorna’s diamond necklace.
The magnificent Spoonmaker’s Diamond is an 86-carat pear-shaped stone, surrounded by a double-row of 49 Old Mine cut diamonds. It hangs in a glass case on the wall of one of the rooms of the Treasury in TopKapi Palace in Istanbul. 
Small wonder that jewels often feature in my Regency Tales. Whether it is Louise, the Huguenot goldsmith with a talent for resetting the gems from oldfashioned parures into lighter, more modern styles, [The Rake and His Honour] or Nell and Sophie [The Outcasts] receiving a surprise legacy of jewellery, or even a deeply-in-love hero offering a fabulous ruby ring to the object of his affections, I do enjoy adding a dash of bling.