Saturday, 24 December 2011

And the Grand Prize-winner is...

Congratulations to Melissa from Texas who is the Grand Prize Winner of a Kindle Fire!

Our thanks to everyone who participated in our second Harlequin Historical Authors Holiday Giveaway. It was a terrific way for us to enter in to the Holiday Spirit!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

My Competition is Closed...

The answer to the question was Katerina and there were 211 correct entries.

Congratulations to the three winners!    The winners were randomly selected and I have emailed them to let them know.   They are:

Main Prize - the costmetic bag and two signed paperbacks - Charlotte M
Runners-up - a signed paperback - Jean S  and Grandmareads.

My thanks are due to everyone who took part!

In the meantime, the fun isn't over because today is Julia Justiss's day on the calendar.   Either click on the image of the Holiday Calendar on the right to reach her site...or try one of the links below...

Julia Justiss

Monday, 12 December 2011

Holiday Giveaway!

It's December 12th, and my giveaway opens at 9 am, UK time!  It closes on Wednesday, December 14th at 9 am, UK time, so you have until then to enter.   To be eligible there is one simple question to answer.  I would also love it if you could 'Like' my new Facebook Author Page, but you don't have to do that to enter.    The Facebook 'Like' button is on the right hand side of this blog.

Competition entries should go into 'Comments' below this post.  Please include your email address, particularly if you are posting as 'Anon'!  For your security, I will not publish your entry.

To enter please answer this simple question:
What is the first name of the heroine in Bound to the Barbarian, the first in the Palace Brides trilogy?  (Don't forget to include your email address with your answer, so I can contact you, if you are a winner!)  The winner and the two runners-up will be chosen randomly.

For a large part of Bound to the Barbarian, the heroine has  to pretend to be someone else.   She is a medieval heroine, of course, but that doesn't stop her using cosmetics to hide behind.

My main prize is therefore the small cosmetic bag above (the pen is there to show the scale!) plus two paperbacks from my backlist (provided I still have copies).   Additionally, two runners-up will be sent one paperback from my back-list.

Grand Prize?   If my day is chosen for the Grand Prize Draw, all correct entries will automatically be eligible to win the Kindle/Kindle Fire. For full rules, please click on the small calendar on the right hand side of this page.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Holiday Giveaway - Soon!

My day is on Monday 12th, and my competition will be open until Wednesday December 14th, 9 am UK time!   The first prize is a small cosmetic bag from Kew Gardens, and provided my stocks allow, the winner may also choose  two of my recent paperbacks.   Two runners up will also receive a paperback of their choice.

The competition doesn't end there though....there are daily prizes until December 22nd, and everyone who enters has a chance to win a Kindle/Kindle Fire - the actual prize depends on your location.    The small image of the Calendar on the right  takes you through to the rules, as does the button below.

Participating Authors:

November 29 - Michelle Willingham
November 30 - Elizabeth Rolls
December 1 - Charlene Sands
December 2 - Diane Gaston
December 3 - Annie Burrows
December 5 - Elaine Golden
December 6 - Barbara Monajem
December 7 - Michelle Styles
December 8 - Deborah Hale
December 9 - Marguerite Kaye
December 10 - Lynna Banning
December 12 - Carol Townend
December 13 - Blythe Gifford
December 14 - Julia Justiss
December 15 - Terri Brisbin
December 16 - Ann Lethbridge
December 17 - Bronwyn Scott
December 19 - Sarah Mallory
December 20 - Kate Bridges
December 21 - Amanda McCabe
December 22 - Jeannie Lin
December 23 - Grand Prize Drawing

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


(Version of a blog originally posted on eHarlequin).

On our recent trip to France, my long-suffering driver needed a break just as we were heading past Laon on our way south.     Medieval Laon is built on the top of a hill, and since there is a funicular that will take you to the top, we thought we would stop and try it out.

The medieval stonemasons who built Laon's Cathedral of Notre Dame were superb craftsmen.  Here is a  hippo gargoyle, after several centuries it is still realistic.

There has been a Bishop of Laon since the fifth century (Bishop Geneband), although the Cathedral wasn't built until much later, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.   I have already mentioned the hill.  The cathedral is at the top and legend has it that during the construction, a yoke of oxen were having difficulties getting a load of stone up the steep slope.  A mysterious ox appeared to help.  However, as soon as the wagon reached the top, this ox vanished.  The carved oxen at the top of this tower commemorate this miracle.  If you look closely you can see their horns are slightly whiter than the rest of the sculpture, which make me wonder if they might have been renovated recently.    The Cathedral at Laon lost a couple of towers in the Revolution (originally there were seven), but it remains a work of art.

The figures below are standing by one of the Cathedral doorways.    I was particularly struck by the knightly figure on the right.  He has a halo, yet there is something very ruthless about him, there's a speared dragon at his feet.   Do you think he might be St George?  Or maybe he is St Michael and he has just overcome the Devil...
There are a couple more picture of Laon elsewhere on this blog, including one of the citadel taken from the funicular.  Here's one taken in the square, adjacent to the Cathedral.  I love the Romanesque arches.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Harlequin Historical Holiday Giveway...

Win a Kindle Fire! The Harlequin Historical Authors Holiday Giveaway has started! In the spirit of an Advent calendar, the authors are giving away daily prizes and a Grand Prize of a Kindle Fire. Play every day for more chances to win.

On-line Calendar here!

The Rules:

Each participating author will have an activity planned on their website for their special day. You may be asked to comment on a blog, find an ornament, or visit a Facebook page. For each day you participate, your name will be entered into the Grand Prize drawing. At the end of the month on December 23, one day from the calendar will be randomly selected. One of the entrants from that day will then be randomly selected to win the Kindle. The more days you visit, the better your chances!


Official rules and eligibility

If the links on this Calendar don't work, please click here or on the Author's name in the list below it.
Participating Authors
michelle willinghamcharlene sandsannie burrowsbarbara monajemdeborah halelynna banningblythe giffordterri brisbinbronwyn scottkate bridgesjeannie lin

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Hagia Sophia...

Getting the right angle to photograph a famous building like Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (medieval Constantinople) isn't easy on foot!   I was sure we had a better shots than these, but here are the ones we did get.  The Byzantine Emperor Justinian ordered Hagia Sophia (the Church of Holy Wisdom) to be built in the 6th century after a previous church had been destroyed by rioters.    This first picture was taken as we were waiting to go inside.  There were lots of helpful guides wanting to show us around, but they listened when I explained that I like to dream, so we were left to our own devices.   In the foreground is the ablutions fountain (used after the Byzantine period).  The minarets were also added later, at the time when Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque.
This next picture shows the galleries inside, and gives an idea of the space, which is vast.   From the floor to the top of the dome, Hagia Sophia is incredibly beautiful.   The walls gleam with gold and are covered with mosaics in every colour of the rainbow.  There are gorgeous tiles, on the floors, on the walls.   Glass hanging lamps are suspended on chains from somewhere in the domes.    I had been there years ago, and this time as soon as I walked in I knew the heroine (Princess Theodora) of Betrothed to the Barbarian had to be married there.     Hagia Sophia is now a museum, and when it was used as a church, the building must have rung with the chanting of monks, the air would have been smoky with incense...

And here's another photgraph of the interior, showing the galleries from another angle.  To the left of the picture there's a roundel with Islamic script on it, it comes from the time when Hagia Sophia was a mosque...

This last photograph show Hagia Sophia in the distance.  We were waiting to catch a tram.
If you would like to see some better pictures of Hagia Sophia, there are some on Wikipedia.   They are much sharper than mine, and prove that my photography could do with improvement!  The visit was an inspiration, and lots of dreaming went on, both during and after the visit!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and the Gothic Novel

This article was first published in Writing Magazine December 1998-January 1999.  It has been scanned in and lightly revised.   (Copyright: Carol Townend)
Northanger Abbey can be enjoyed without knowing the gothic genre but many of the author's ironic allusions would be missed.    Northanger Abbey was probably the first novel Jane Austen completed but it was not published until after her death. Its bumpy ride reveals that getting a book published in Georgian England was no easier that it is today!
Jane Austen sold Northanger Abbey to Crosby and Sons in 1803, but instead of publishing it, Crosby simply hung onto it. Later in Austen's life, after her father had died and money was tight, she tried to take it to another publisher. Crosby threatened to sue and said that she could buy back the copyright for the sum he had originally paid her (£10). It was financial hardship, work on her next novel, and ultimately the illness which killed her, that combined to leave Northanger Abbey unpublished until 1818.

The now famous novel takes as its heroine the young Catherine Morland, a girl whose favourite hobby is reading, particularly gothic novels. The gothic genre, featuring wild, improbable stories often set in haunted, ruined castles, became fashionable in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The plots would usually feature a young and innocent heroine, who was likely to be an orphan and friendless, and a dark and secretive hero with more than a touch of the demon lover about him. As the plot thickened, the heroine would generally find herself under threat from villains of every stripe...

Northanger Abbey itself tells the story of Catherine, who leaves her parents to visit Bath with Mr and Mrs Allen. In Bath Catherine soon makes friends with Isabella Thorpe who shares her enthusiasm for reading, and the two are soon swapping reading lists. From the opening paragraph of Northanger Abbey, it is clear that Jane Austen expects her audience to be at least as well-read as her characters are and to have certain expectations about heroes and heroines:
    No one who has ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine. (Northanger Abbey: Ch 1)

This neatly sets up the whole of the novel, with Jane Austen telling us in one sentence that while she knows the rules that should govern any novel with romantic or gothic leanings, her tongue is firmly in her cheek.

Any doubts that the reader may harbour about this are firmly dispelled in the next chapter, when Catherine goes to her first ball. Since neither she nor Mrs Allen know many people in Bath, this proves to be a disappointment.   Many young men had seen Catherine but:
    Not one, however, started with rapturous wonder on beholding her, no whisper of eager inquiry ran around the room, nor was she called a divinity by anybody.   (Northanger Abbey: Ch 2)

Shortly after this, Catherine meets Henry Tilney, and his confident, teasing manner makes him easy to like. She hopes to meet him again in the Pump Room, but Henry Tilney is nowhere to be seen, nor is his name to be found in the Pump Room book.
    He must be gone from Bath. Yet he had not mentioned that his stay would be so short! This sort of mysteriousness, which is always so becoming in a hero, threw afresh grace in Catherine's imag-
ination around his person and manners, and increased her anxiety to know of him.

It is of course possible to enjoy Northanger Abbey without any knowledge of the gothic genre, but many of these ironic allusions would be missed. Catherine and Isabella single out one gothic novel for particular mention: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Mrs A Radcliffe (1794). The Mysteries of Udolpho feeds Catherine's overactive imagination and distorts many of her perceptions and responses. She is young and prone to misjudge people.

Here are Catherine's first stirrings of unease as she attempts to 'read' John Thorpe's character correctly. A feckless opportunist, John is in the habit of bending the truth to suit his ends. They are out driving and, for effect, Thorpe firsts alarms Catherine by saying that her brother's gig is so unsafe that he would not ride in it for two thousand pounds, and then in the next breath he says he'd be happy to drive to York and back in the same gig for five pounds.
     Catherine listened with astonishment; she knew not how to reconcile two such very different accounts of the same thing...  (Northanger Abbey: Ch 9)

Thorpe drives on, boasting about various exploits and Jane Austen writes:
     Little as Catherine was in the habit of judging for herself, and unfixed as her general notions of what men ought to be, she could not entirely repress a doubt, while she bore with the effusions of his endless conceit, of his being altogether completely agreeable.  (Northanger Abbey: Ch 9)

Catherine's naive outlook gradually matures with experience, and much of the irony and humour in the novel
comes from Austen's revelation of that change through the eyes of a sophisticated omniscient narrator, whose understanding of the ways of the world is far greater than the innocent Catherine's.

As an older, and altogether more worldly character, Henry Tilney is a natural foil for Catherine. Henry is aware of Catherine's imaginative tendencies, and when Catherine is taken to Northanger Abbey, his family home, he gently teases her, knowing that she is visualising the Abbey as a crumbling medieval pile and not the modernised and comfortable home he knows it to be:
     'But you must be aware that when a young lady is (by whatever means) introduced into a dwelling of this kind, she is always lodged apart from the rest of the family. While they snugly repair to their own end of the house, she is formally conducted by Dorothy, the ancient housekeeper, up a different staircase and along many gloomy passages, into an apartment never used since some cousin or kin died in it about twenty years before.'   (Northanger Abbey: Ch 20)

Both thrilled and alarmed by his teasing, and not quite knowing what to believe, Catherine enters Northanger Abbey where she learns that, with her mind stuffed full of the gothic, she still tends to misread people. Before Catherine Morland can reach the happy ending that is her heart's desire, she will have to learn to be a better reader in more senses than one.

The house in Winchester in which Jane Austen spent her last days.

Novels by Jane Austen:
Sense and Sensibility (1811)
Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Mansfield Park (1814)
Emma (1816)
Northanger Abbey (published posthumously in 1818)
Persuasion (published posthumously in 1818)

Additional Works:
The Juvenilia of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, which includes Love and Freindship (sic)
Lady Susan/The Watsons/Sanditon

There is a wealth of critical and biographical writing inspired by Jane Austen.  Writers as diverse as Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov and Fay Weldon have examined her work, and an Austen fan might find these thought provoking:
Virginia Woolf s speculative essay in The Common Reader, First Series (The Hogarth Press, 1925). Woolf ponders on what Jane Austen would have written had she not 'died at the height of her powers'.
For those who enjoy intellectual analysis there is Nabokov's detailed criticism of Mansfield Park in his Lectures on Literature (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980).

And for those who like their commentary wrapped up in fiction, there is Fay Weldon's Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen. This is a marvellously witty and very readable explanation of the relevance of Austen's writing in today's society. Not only should it be required reading for any 'A'Level literature student reluctant to read Jane Austen but. for writers, the big bonus is that it also overflows with writerly wisdom from one of Britain's most popular contemporary novelists.

Finally two biographies:
Jane Austen by Claire Tomalin
Jane Austen: A Life by David Noakes

Copyright Carol Townend, 1998/9

Monday, 7 November 2011

US Cover...

This is the US cover for Bound to the Barbarian, the first of the Palace Brides trilogy set in medieval Byzantium.  It's very evocative and on the back (not shown) you can see the skyline of Constantinople.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Strawberry Hill Gothic...

This blog about a recent visit to Strawberry Hill in Twickenham was originally posted on the eHarlequin website.   The villa (the white section of building below) has recently underdone a major restoration and we were honoured to be given a guided tour by the chairman of the Stawberry Hill Trust.   After being shown round we took tea in the Great Cloister - bottom left in this photograph.

Strawberry Hill was Horace Walpole's summer villa, built between 1748 and 1790. In it, Walpole's love of the medieval is made manifest in every wall and window. The next picture (below) shows you the house - or should it be castle? - as you approach it from the road...

I love the round tower, it has a Norman look to it.

Above is what is called the 'Prior's Garden' complete with gothic arches. Stawberry Hill has recently been restored so you can see much of the building as Horace Walpole might have expected it to be seen. Walpole wanted visitors to Strawberry Hill to have a theatrical experience and the mood shifts dramatically as the tour progresses. There is one constant - Walpole's fascination with the medieval can be seen at every turn. Here a heraldic beast masquerades as a newel post on the stairs...

The ceiling of the library is rich with pictures of knights and heraldic devices...
And below is the most splendid room of all, the Gallery. The design for the ceiling is taken from a side aisle in Westminster Abbey, and the restoration team have restored it using real gold leaf. Wool and silk damask wallcoverings have been specially made to match the originals.

Strawberry Hill is exactly as you might imagine a small palace to be. But it is not just somewhere to enjoy looking at gothic revival. Horace Walpole was so inspired by his 'castle' that he wrote what has come to be seen as the first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. He said that the novel was 'an attempt to blend the ancient and the modern.' A description which seems to fit the house too.   Here's the library.   The carved section at the top swings out to allow you to get at books on the high shelves.

Do you like the idea of a medieval romance that blends both the ancient and the modern? How much history do you like? Do you prefer your romances to be solidly grounded in history?   How do you feel about time-shift romances?

Here's a link to the Strawberry Hill website.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Byzantine Trilogy update... editor has contacted me, and I am delighted that the third novel in my Palace Brides trilogy has been accepted.    The title is Betrothed for the Barbarian.  The title of the second novel has also been confirmed, it is Chained to the Barbarian.
The first of the Palace Brides, Bound to the Barbarian, is already out in the UK, it will be out in the US in February, 2012.
Chained to the Barbarian will be out in the UK and in the US in June, 2012.
Betrothed to the Barbarian will be published in August 2012, both in the UK and the US.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Novel submitted...

This is a brief post to say that I have just submitted my third Byzantine romance. It is the final instalment in the Palace Brides trilogy set in eleventh century Byzantium.
Originally I had planned to write two Byzantine novels, but with luck there may be three (fingers crossed). The title of the second novel has still to be decided, I will post again when I know more. Bound to the Barbarian is the first in the trilogy, this is the UK cover.    It will be out in the US in February with Harlequin Historicals, I haven't seen the US Cover yet.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Valens Aqueduct...

...must have dominated a large part of medieval Constantinople, it's still impressive today and it's hard to believe how old it is.  (Emperor Valens built it in the late 4th century AD!)    The Valens Aqueduct brought fresh water into the heart of the City and piped water into many of the palaces and fountains.

This is how the Valens Aqueduct looked when we went on our research trip to Istanbul in the early spring of 2009.

According to my guide book, the Valens Aqueduct brought water from the Belgrade forest and mountains over 125 miles away.  You can see how imposing it still is.   In medieval times, it must have dominated a large part of the City, towering over the nearby houses and tenements.  This wikipedia map of Medieval Constantinople (now Istanbul)  shows the aqueduct as a blue line that runs across from the Fourth Hill to the Third Hill. *** (Like Rome, Constantinople/Istanbul has seven hills)   I do love maps!  They are enormously helpful when it comes to visualising the past.

But nothing beats actually seeing a place.  I am not sure whether the cistern this aqueduct fed into would have resembled the Basilica Cistern, but seeing the Basilica Cistern and the Aqueduct did inspire a couple of important scenes in the Palace Brides trilogy.

*** (Permission to use the map is granted on Wikepedia. Topographical map of Constantinople during the Byzantine period. Main map source: R. Janin, Constantinople Byzantine. Developpement urbain et repertoire topographique. Road network and some other details based on Dumbarton Oaks Papers 54; data on many churches, especially unidentified ones, taken from the University of New York's The Byzantine Churches of Istanbul project. Other published maps and accounts of the city have been used for corroboration.)

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Snapshot of the River Thames...

Here are a couple of the things we saw on a recent boat trip downriver from Kew Gardens to Westminster.  This is the London Eye...

Above is a beach which has been made on the Southbank, it is complete with artists' beach huts and a half sunken boat!   You can see more photos of the trip today at the Harlequin Historical Authors' Blog   I was particularly pleased to find a carousel complete with a potted history of carousels...

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Hidden Byzantium...

The Basilica Cistern in Istanbul is an extraordinary feat of Byzantine engineering.     It was begun in 532 by the Emperor Justinian, and the engineers used a site where there had been an even earlier cistern.     The Basilica Cistern ensured the City (the Byzantine capital of Constantinople) and the Imperial Palace had a constant supply of fresh water.    It has survived the ravages of time and conquest.    Wandering about Istanbul near Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, it's hard to imagine the hidden cistern beneath your feet.   It's vast!  Here are some pictures my husband took on our visit to Istanbul.     The first one shows some of the columns that support the roof.   If they look classical in design, that's because they are classical, most of them being taken from earlier Roman buildings.    (An early example of recycling.)  It's cool in the cistern, and dark, and VERY quiet.  The columns seem to march off into infinity, it's like stepping into the hall of a subterranean king. 


Down there you have no idea that there is a thriving and bustling city overhead. The bases of some of the columns show heads that have come to us from Greek mythology.    You can find the Medusa...

The day we visited, shoals of fish were gliding through the water, we kept seeing flashes of gold and black and white, eerie shadows constantly shifting.  The Basilica Cistern is very inspiring, as soon as we went down the steps to see it, I knew that a scene in the second Palace Bride novel would have to be set there.

You can see the Basilica Cistern on this map of medieval Constantinople which shows part of the Great Palace.   You can find the cistern towards the top of the map.   Appologies for the blurriness of the image, I am not sure how to sharpen it.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A Byzantine Palanquin...

Of course, this is a picture of a sedan chair not a palanquin.  My husband and I stumbled across it in an English pub when we were on one of our week-end walks.     I probably shouldn't have been on a walk at all, because the deadline for my WIP is at the end of the month, and there's still a lot to do.One of the the scenes that particularly needs work is a scene where my Byzantine princess is carried to her wedding in a palanquin.   Could  I find a picture of  Byzantine Palanquin?   You may guess not.
A walk was needed.    Quite by chance we stumbled across this sedan chair in an inn.  The painting on the sides are quite beautiful, I don't know if you can see, but there's a French look to them.  And if you look closely you can see the metal loops at the bottom where the carrying bars would be placed.
There's a little more about how not to find a Byzantine palanquin and the mysteries of writing and research here on the Harlequin Historicals Author Blog

And if anyone has a picture of a real Byzantine palanquin, I would be very grateful!

By the way, the inn was the Crown at Chiddingfold, and I had mussels and chips for lunch...I LOVE mussels and chips.
Here's a close-up of the crown which attracted me in the first place, given my heroine is a Byzantine princess.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Knight on a Treadmill...

Well, not this knight!   We saw this armour at Bonaguil in France.   Recent research by the University of Leeds looks into the effects of wearing heavy armour in battle.   Some of the armour was so heavy (between 30kg and 50 kg in weight), it really affected the efficiency of the fighters.    Outcomes of battles such as the Battle of Agincourt might have been different if the French had worn less armour. To see the knight on a treadmill and read the full BBC report, click here: BBC Report

Below is a picture of Bonaguil Chateau in Lot-et-Garonne.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Romantic Novelists' Conference in Caerleon

This was a wonderful week-end.   There were so many great talks at times it was hard to choose which ones to attend.   Fiona Harper generously gave us gold-dust; Liz Fielding's was so emotive it had me in tears...I could go on, but I'm not going to.  The Conference has inspired me and I'm on fire to get back to my WIP.  Many thanks to Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson for organising everything.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Knights and Ladies of the Garter...

This is a version of a blog first posted on the Harlequin Historicals Author Blog about my visit to see the procession of the Knights (and Ladies) of the Garter in Windsor Castle last month.  Sadly the pictures prove I am marginally better at research shots when my subject is static (like a castle) then when it is moving (like a horse and carriage).

For anyone interested in learning more about this most ancient order of English chivalry (founded in 1348 by Edward the Third) check out the British Monarchy website

A few weeks ago some friends said they had tickets to watch the Order of the Garter procession in Windsor Castle and would we care to join them...

The Order of the Garter is the oldest order of chivalry, founded in 1348. It honours those who have served the public in some way and it is the only honour which remains entirely in the Queen's gift.
You can see by my photo (above) that we went. It was a sunny day and there was enough wind to set the Royal Standard fluttering.

The following pictures show why I am NOT a photographer. I am OK when my subject is static, I can do the odd research shot, but I am not so good when my subject is moving.   These Welsh Guards were lining the route the procession took from the dining room to St George's Chapel where the service took place.

You can tell they are Welsh Guards because of the leeks embroidered on their collars and on their shoulders. They also have white and green plumes in their bearskins and the buttons on their uniforms are in groups of five. The green screening behind the Guards seems to be concealing some renovation work being done at the Castle. 

After the ceremony, the dignitaries left the Chapel in horse and carriage. I did see the Queen and quite a few other members of the Royal family (including Prince William and his new Duchess), but I was so excited about seeing them, most of the pictures are terrible! It turns out I wanted to see what was happening more than I wanted to take pictures...however, I got one reasonable horse and carriage shot in, it is of Countess Sophie of Wessex. Someone got in the way a little, sorry!

All this has left me with a great admiration of photographers who can take good shots of moving subjects.

Next time, I will stick to using my camera for research, taking pictures of castles is MUCH easier...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Beauty and the Beast...

Today I have posted more pictures of Laon, particularly of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.   

You can find the other pictures by putting 'Laon' in the Search Box or by going over to the Harlequin Historicals author blog.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Laon and Bertha Big Foot

Like many medieval towns in France, Laon perches on a high outcrop. The car park was at the bottom and we chose to reach the main part of the old town the lazy way, we took the funicular. It was a little scary...

The next picture is of the Ardon Gate.    Tradition has it that it's the gate through which the great medieval warrior Roland is said to have ridden on his way to do battle at Roncevaux in 778.    He did so against the wishes of his uncle, Charlemagne, and had to flee the palace in secret.

In this military age, the battle became something of a myth.  It was recorded in the eleventh century in the epic poem the Song of Roland.

Below the Ardon Gate is a spring-fed washhouse:

This is of a later date.   (15th century, I think)

On the opposite side of Laon from the Ardon Gate, the view from the Saint Remy Rampart looks out over the forest of Samoussy.  It's the legendary location for the conception of Charlemagne by Pepin le Bref and Berthe au Grand Pied.    Medieval names are great, aren't they?   I wonder if it's fair to translate those names as Pepin the Short and Bertha Big Foot...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Sketchbook in France...

Recently, we spent 10 days in France.   I took hundreds of photos and will gradually post some of them here.  In the meantime, here is a peek into my husband's sketchbook.   (The poor man drove nearly 2,000 miles on this trip.)  Luckily he loves France, and likes to draw medieval buildings...

The first sketch is the gatehouse of the medieval ville bastide (fortified town) of Larressingle in the area of France know as the Gers.  It lies in the south.   The day we visited, swifts were screaming overhead and they have got into my husband's picture...

The second sketch was drawn in the Loire Valley, in the town of Beaugency.  This little church, the church of St Etienne, was closed because of an exhibition.  Luckily we got a peek inside and could see the barrel vaulted roof.  It has clean, simple lines - very eleventh century.

And finally here is his sketch of the later Chapel of Thibault, close to our hotel.

I shall try and write more about France busy with the next novel at the moment!

Monday, 2 May 2011

A Tudor use for Bluebells...

Here is this year's showing of bluebells behind Queen Charlotte's Cottage in Kew Gardens, where the wood is a haze of blue.     The bluebells have come out a little early this year, and by the time I write this, they may almost be over.   It has been a dry spring.   Looking up bluebells in my flower book, I found that bluebells are only native to the lands fringing the Atlantic, so they were unknown to early botanists in the Greek and Mediterranean world.    The bluebell is native to Britain, but it's not mentioned much in early herbals because of the early herbalists modelling their work on classical writings.

Historically, the bluebell is more than merely ornamental.  The bulb was used to make glue, and since the bulbs contain starch, they were used to help stiffen the ruffs of Elizabethans. 
Tomorrow, technology permitting, I am blogging at the Harlequin Historical Author Blog speculating on what (other than bread) might have been cooked in a Tudor bread oven.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Royal Romance Writing Workshop

My editor and I will be going to Fulham Library next week to give a Royal Romance Writing Workshop.  Here is the link to Fulham Library  - there's a map showing the location.
The workshop is on Tuesday 19th April, it starts at 5.00 pm and will end at approximately 7.30.  
Bring pens and paper and lots of ideas - there will be work to do!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Her Banished Lord...

Cover Blurb

Claimed by the Norman Count

Hugh Duclair, Count de Freyncourt, has been accused of sedition, stripped of his title and banished from all of King William's land. Proud and determined, Hugh vows to clear his name!

Childhood friend Lady Aude de Crevecoeur offers her help - but how far will she go? Should she risk her reputation and her life, or save her reputation and become Hugh's wife?

Turbulent times call for passionate measures...


'Hugh, what are you doing?' She thumped her fist on his chest, scandalised. Hugh liked baiting her, but this was ridiculous.
    A large hand reached for her, it whispered across her cheek. Her hood was pushed back. They were kneeling facing each other. On her bed. Because of the lack of height Hugh had to stoop his head, and it brought his lips very close to hers.
    Despite the poor light, everything snapped into sharp focus. Hugh's eyes were very dark, his expression arrested.
    She could hear their breathing; she could hear the mutter of voices in the hall and the soft hiss of rain in the mud outside. Time seemed to slow.
    His hand slid round the back of her neck and carefully, eyes never leaving hers, he brought her closer.
    'Hugh, you really should not have climbed in here.' Aude's thoughts raced. She was an umnarried lady and her reputation here in England was unsullied. It simply was not done for a lady to have a man in her bed - even though he was her brother's friend and it was perfectly innocent.
    Hugh smiled.

US Cover

Text copyright © 2010 by Carol Townend
Cover Art Copyright  © 2010 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved.

Her Banished Lord is coming out in Italy as Il Conte Bandito!   Her Banished Lord is the fifth and final novel in the Wessex Weddings mini-series that looks at events in England and France after the Norman Conquest.   I love the new title.    Il Conte Bandito has been given a great new cover too:

This is the Italian blurb:

Wessex, 1071

L'affascinante Conte Hugh Duclair, accusato di alto tradimento, viene privato dei suoi possedimenti e bandito dal regno di Re Guglielmo d'Inghilterra, ma con orgoglio e determinazione è pronto a tutto pur di far valere la propria innocenza. Un'amica d'infanzia, l'intrepida Aude de Crèvecoeur, non esita a offrirgli un valido aiuto, fino al punto di rischiare la reputazione. Unica soluzione potrebbe essere quella di sposarsi per salvare le apparenze. E magari finalmente coronare un amore che dura in segreto da anni.