Merry Christmas

Wishing you all the best for the Holidays and a healthy and happy New Year.

The winner of my part of the Annual Harlequin Historical Authors Contest was..... Amanda from Luton.  Congratulations Amanda!

And many thanks to all who entered.  I am looking forward to meeting you all on-line in the New Year.

Buckland Abbey Part VI

If you are wondering why I have been absent for a while, it is because I had gone over my allowed limit of photos and have been trying to figure out how to proceed.  I am not yet sure I have solved the dilemma, but at least I have made a bit of room for myself.

Continuing on with our tour of the Georgian part of the house we end up where I always find myself the most fascinated.  The servants areas.

 This is one of the staircase that would have been used by the servants as they dashed about making their employers happy.  Compare it to that beautiful winding polished wood staircase in an earlier blog.

As you know, I have just finished an upstairs downstairs Downton Abbey series with a group of other authors and in one of my scenes, my hero, a chef, must go by way of the servants' stairs to meet my heroine in the library, while she travels there by way of the grand central staircase. While we would not tolerate it today it makes for a very interesting dynamic.

Here we have some of the bells used to call the servants to various rooms and little spaces at the bottom of the stairs used for storage. The flagstone floors are typical in the corridors and rooms used for servants areas, whether on ground floors or in basement.

Note the plain wall sconces, a single candle with a polished metal plaque to reflect the light. One can imagine how gloomy it would be at night or on a rainy day.  And then we have a glimpse at the kitchen along with a rare view of my patient party who accompany on these trips. Most of the time they avoid the camera lens but as you can see I caught them here.  So next time we will take a peek around the kitchen.

Until then, Happy Rambles

The Next Big Thing

Sarah Mallory, author of Book Five in the Castonbury Park Continuity Series, The Illegitimate Montague, Harlequin and Beneath the Major's Scars, has invited me to take part in a chain blog event entitled THE NEXT BIG THING - a series of questions and answers about what's happening next in my writing life.

What is the title of your latest book?
Lady of Shame is the most recent book. It is book for in the Castonbury Park Continuity Series and it came out in print in the UK and digital her in North America in November 2012.  It is out in print in North America under the title Ladies of Disrepute, which contains both book three and book four under one cover published by HQN.

I do hope that you can figure out what the heck I mean. I am putting both covers here for you to see.

How did you come by the idea?
The Castonbury Park Series has an upstairs downstairs theme, much like Downton Abbey, and I really liked the idea of a woman looking below stairs for her romantic interest. It would have been so scandalous for the daughter of a Duke during the Regency. I chose a French chef for my hero, because I liked food having an important role in the relationship.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it was a movie?
Keira Knightly for Claire and Daniel Craig for Andre, who was a soldier, before he was a chef and has a bit of a rough edge to him.

A one sentence synopsis of your book?
A ruined woman attempts to avoid seduction by a handsome chef while trying to salvage her reputation

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It usually takes me about three months to research, plot and write the first draft of a book.

Who or what inspired you to write the book?
In this case, I was invited to participate in the Continuity Series. The idea for a chef hero came from a course I had recently taken on Regency food. Claire walked on stage one afternoon when I was driving to the store.

What else would you like to tells us about this book?
Romantic Times said "Liberated heroines and intriguing, unconventional heroes will delight modern-day readers. The sensitive love stories, colorful backdrop and large cast of characters only add to the enjoyment." Four Stars.

To follow the chain, don't forget to check out the next to authors participating in The Next Big thing on December 11:
Mary Sullivan A few years ago, Mary picked up LaVyrle Spencer’s Morning Glory and became hooked on romance. Mary discovered Harlequin Superromance and knew she wanted to write these heartfelt stories of love, family, perseverance and happy endings, about very human heroes and heroines graced with backbone, strength of character and hope. Her next book is In From the Cold out in February 2013.
Maureen McGowan is the author of the Young Adult novels: Deviants (The Dust Chronicles #1), Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer and Cinderella: Ninja Warrior. Maureen left a career in finance to pursue her love of fiction. Aside from books and writing, she’s passionate about art, dance, films, fine handcrafted objects and shoes.
Raised in various Canadian cities, her previous career moved her to Northern California and Philadelphia for a number of years. She now lives and writes in Toronto, Canada.

Buckland Abbey Part V

What else might you find in the well-equipped drawing room.  A musical instrument.  In this case there is a square piano. A small elegant piece of furniture.

This one is dated 1778 and is a forerunner of a modern piano. The strings being struck rather than plucked, although it retains some of the the harpsichord sound.

The little box on the right hand side has some levers which allow the production of different tones.

Leaving the drawing room we go down the magnificent staircase we saw earlier. How about this for a window seat. You could almost sleep in this embrasure, or get up to all sorts.

And what about these interesting features. One a part of the old abbey above a doorway, the other an odd shaped passage leading from one part of the house to the other.

More to see next time.

Buckland Abbey Part IV

I promised you something interesting from our Georgian Drawing Room last time.

This is a card table. Duh! But as you can see when not in use it folds up and the green baize is tucked away inside.

The game set out here is Pyramid Solitaire, which I thought was interesting, because I personally was not familiar with it and will no doubt stick it in a book at some point.

But naturally one needs to know the rules and here they are!

And that is all I have time for, since my internet is creeping along today and it is taking for ever.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.


I can see from my stats, that my readers are all about the fashion. Which is great! But there is so much other stuff that I find fascinating in the Regency. But I do promise you a fashion post soon, as I have a heroine to dress.

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey - as I am - I want to remind you that book four of the Castonbury Park series: Lady of Shame is in stores in print (and e-book) in the UK for November, and also available for preorder in North America as an ebook.  This is such a lovely series and the covers look outstanding all together on my bookshelf, don't you think?

If you are here in North America and prefer to read a print book, despair not!  The Castonbury Park Series will be coming to a store near you.

The first two books will be out in December under one cover, and the second Ladies of Disrepute, which includes my story, will be out in January.

And just to wet your appetite for the whole series:

Those covers are really amazing aren't they? And there is lots of upstairs downstairs scandal as well as an overarching mystery.

Here is a little bit about my story:

Lady Claire must put pride above prattle if she is to shake off the no-so-respectable reputation of her youth. Swapping rebellion for reserve, she returns to her imposing childhood home, Castonbury Park, seeking her family's help.  Penniless Claire needs a sensible husband...and fast.

But when the dark gaze of head chef Monsieur Andre catches her eyed, he's as deliciously tempting as the food he prepares.  Claire knows he is most unsuitable... even if the chemistry between them is magnetic.  Risking her reputation for Andre would be shameful - but losing him would be even worse.

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Buckland Abbey Part III

Last day we took a look at what has to be a beautiful staircase added in Georgian times.

 Here we have the dining room fitted out by Sir Francis Henry Drake, 5th Baronet, in the 1770's leaving only the Tudor Fireplace and a small reminder of the monastic church in the form of a carved corbel figure of the ox of St Luke.
The table is a six-leaf concertina dining table on eight gardrooned (convex curves in a series) legs also known as a naval table.  The chairs are also mahogany from the mid-18th century in the style of Thomas Chippendale

 And here are the sideboards.

The one on the left Sheraton style mahogany, the one on the right bow-fronted mahogany banded in kingwood with a pair of very fine knife boxes on top.

I have a couple more things to show you in the drawing room, but will save them for next time, because I found them so interesting.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Buckland Abbey Part II

Much of Buckland is devoted to the history of one of it most famous owner, Sir Francis Drake and quite a bit of that is of more recent provenance. 

However, what got me all hot under the collar was that some of the Georgian remodelling remains in tact.

This picture shows  the Georgian staircase installed around 1769. The view is taken down the centre of it and showing all four floors.  Not a bad bit of photography, though because one never uses a flash it is a little bit dark. So I have deliberately left it full size, so that you can have a better idea of it.

As you may be able to see, there are three turned balusters for each tread.  The very top landing led to the servants quarters.

 More improvements were made in 1794 by Francis Augustus, Lord Heathfield and many of the doors have hinges and door handles from this time.

Next time we will take a look at the Georgian Dining Room. Until then Happy Rambles


In case you are wondering where I was, I have been travelling again, so I can bring you more wonderful pictures of Britain.  I have also been writing up a storm. With a book due at the end of September, I found myself running a bit behind. But here we are, all caught up and ready to plunge back in.

First, I want to say that this summer proved to be one of those summers where outdoors was calling and I did not have the power to resist. Hence so little activity on the blog. Certainly most summers in the Toronto area are usually good, but this one was exceptional.

My needlework also suffered from lack of attention, so progress has slowed to a crawl, but I look forward to getting into it once the garden is put to bed. Pun intentional.

So on the writing side, Lady of Shame is due out next month. I hope you have been following along with the Castonbury Park series (think Downton Abbey) which started with the Wicked Lord Montague in August on Kindle in North America and in print in the UK. Each author brings something special to the series  and we are all very excited about it.  For those of you on my side of the pond who prefer their books in print, fear not. The first four are already slated for print, two per book and already available for preorder on line.

And if you enjoyed the Harlequin Authors' Round Robin earlier this summer, another one is slated for February. This one will be a readers choice of the final hero. So watch this space for more.

Next time we continue our visit to Buckland Abbey, so until then Happy Rambles.

Fashion Summer 1812

Fashion in Riding habits, this one for August 1812 from La Belle Assemblee.

This is without doubt a complicated outfit.  Herewith the detailed description:

Made of ladies habit cloth or Moria Louisa Blue, trimmed down each side of the front with Spanish buttons, the waist rather long with three small buttons on the hips; a short jacket full behind, the front habit fashion with small buttons up the neck and a row of small buttons on each side of the breast; a lapel thrown back from the shoulders and trimmed with Spanish buttons, has a most elegant effect and gives a graceful finish to the dress. 

The collar is made about a quarter inch in depth and fashioned negligently at the throat with a large cord and tassel; it opens sufficiently to display the shirt which is of lace in general but this article admits of considerable variations; some of our elegants wear a collar of lace to fall over, others have a shirt edged round the neck with a rich lace frill and not a few, in despite of the heat of the weather, envelope their necks in a large cravat of India muslin.

    A small woodland hat, whose colour corresponds with the dress with two white ostrich feathers fastened behind and falling carelessly over the left side. A cord and tassel is brought round the hat and fastened near the top of the crown on the right side.

The description provides some other fashion notes with regard to fabric and the various styles of shirt worn beneath the habit. This plate also provides a sketch of what the jacket looks like at the back, where those three buttons at the hips appear to reside. I think this is a very elegant costume for our second year of the regency. I found the designation of the hat as "woodland" very interesting.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Buckland Abbey, Devon

This year our explorations started from Salcombe in Devon.  We stayed in a hotel on South Sands. We only had to cross a narrow road to get to the sand.

On the beach we were able to pick up the ferry into town.  Much easier than driving on the roads you saw on the blog yesterday.

This is a view from the headland just beyond our hotel. I have to say, it was a picture perfect day in Devon when we walked along the road up to the top of the hill. Such a pretty coast land.

This blog is not really about  the seaside, but I was so pleased with this view, I thought it made a nice opening view.

Buckland Abbey, was our first port of call (keeping to our seaside theme) The GPS sent us on more of those brilliantly narrow roads enclosed in high hedges, and it was a bit like being lost at sea. However, the journey through the countryside was as lovely as it was terrifying every time a car came the other way.

Originally a Cistercian abbey, the property  was sold to Sir Richard Grenville during the Dissolution by Henry VIII.  The view here is of the south front and its origins can clearly be seen.

It was later acquired by Sir Francis Drake and remained in that family until 1940.

As usual, it is the late Georgian era of the house that interests me most, though it is hard to deny the fascination for one of England's heroes, Sir Frances Drake. Perhaps one day I will venture a story in those earlier times. This is one of the views a lady or gentleman in our era would have enjoyed. but Buckland was a farm when it was first built, to feed the monks and provide its wealth, and it was a farm during the Regency.

At first glance, this grand building might appear to be the outside of a church, but step inside and it is a completely different story.

It is in fact a barn.  Known as the great barn and built by the monks it continued to be used throughout the centuries for the winnowing and storage of threshed corn (wheat, oats, barley).

The large door in the centre on this side of the building is matches by another on the opposite side, both havingt an upper pigeon loft, which just sneaks into my picture. Those doors were set opposite each other to create a cross-draught to help with winnowing.  In 1792 thee additional doors were added at the ends of the building, which because it was too narrow for a wagon to turn around inside, allowed them to be driven from one end to the other. Previously the winnowed corn had to be flung from hand to hand to be stored at the far ends of the building. Here is a picture of the inside taken from one end and then the other.The narrow windows were for ventilation

And that wonderful contraption in the corner on the right - a cider press.   It was certainly in operation during the Regency because it is recorded that the original wooden screw was replace by an iron one in 1815.  The journals from 1795 record the consumption of 26 butts and one hogshed of cider during the course of the year, or approximately 3,000 gallons.  The apples were grown on the estate, so it would make sense that it would be a preferred beverage.

It is thought that the arch-braced oak roof might have been thatched originally.  It is hard to describe just how large this building is, but I think that the size of my brother in law at the far end of the building might just give you a sense of it. While there is a concrete floor in here now, until the 1950's it was beaten earth.

The next time we visit we will head towards the house, but in the meantime I will leave you with this picture of a medieval horse trough come planter, which I found enchanting. Until next time, Happy rambles.

Somewhere In Devon

I have a feeling this country lane hasn't change much over the centuries. The bushes on the banks touched both sides of the car. I found it a very unnerving experience, but also charming.  Luckily we didn't run into anything coming the other way.  If you are wondering about the time of year, it was May.

And so begins my next adventure searching for signs of Regency England.

Until next time, Happy rambles.

Marnhull, Dorset

There has been a village in Marnhull since Saxon times. It is located in the Blackmore Vale an area often called Hardy country.The village has around 2,000 residents

The church, St Gregorys, is very old and well worth a visit. The first church was built on this site in the twelfth (isn't that such an odd looking word) century. 

There is evidence of that church in the current building and one of the original pillars holds up part of the roof. 

As you can see, whoever carved those original capitals had a sense of humour. The faces likely represent the men who worked on that first church.  If so, it is nice that they have been captured this way, since rarely do we see the workers in portraits etc.

The church was enlarged on and off throughout the medieval period.The west part of the nave is coffered work from 1520 and there is a sixteenth century wagon roof in the north aisle. 

There is also a squint, or a hagioscope which permitted the congregation in the north transcept to see the high point in the mass when the consecrated host was elevated by the priest.

The altar is from the 17th century and here you see it decorated by the local ladies for the Jubilee celebrations.

The original 16th century paintings of the ten commandments, of which only scraps remain, are  mostly covered over by18th century paintings of the creed and the Lords prayer.

I hope you enjoyed this visit to an ancient English country church, until next time, Happy Rambles.


Some time ago, we visited Sir Walter Raleigh's Sherborne castle in Dorset.  Nearby is the ancient and charming town of Sherborne.

Set on the River Yeo edging onto the Blackmore Vale, the town is a picturesque mix of buildings, including those from medieval and Georgian eras.

I loved this archway.  Many of the buidings are constructed of  ochre-coloured hamstone from Ham Hill in Somerset.

Sherborne was the capital of Wessex and two of King Alfred the Great's older brothers are buried here in the abbey.

The Abbey was once a saxon cathedral and is now the Parish Church.

The Conduit is a hexagonal 16th-century building that originally stood in the cloisters on the north side of the abbey, where it served as a washing place for the monks. It was moved to  the southern end of Cheap Street after the dissolution of the monastery in 1539.

 I could not resist this street sign, since it also a street name that often appears in many of my favourite Georgette Heyer novels set in London. And of course there we find a 17century pub.

 Sherborne School for boys was founded by King Edward VI and occupies some of the original Abbey buildings.  I can imagine a Regency character attending school here, can't you?

The St John's Alms Houses

This building was licensed by Henry VI in 1437 and was designed to house ‘twelve pore feeble---old men and five pore feeble---old women’. Copies of the royal license and foundation deed are on view in the antechapel.

The construction of the almshouse began in 1440; the chapel was completed two years later and the remainder of the building in 1445. Eighteen elderly people from the town are still housed there today.  How about that for long term planning?

Here are a couple of lovely half timbered building from Tudor times.

And last but not least, although there are many Georgian buildings in the town, I fell in love with this one.

 Built in 1818 it was originally the Sherbourne Bank for saving.

And since I found my perfect Regency building, it is time to call it a day and wish you Happy Rambles Until next time.

Book News

It is always exciting when a new book comes out. Exciting and scary too.  Here is my latest offering, The Laird's Forbidden Lady is now in stores and on line where ever you like to shop

Ian Gilvry, Laird of Dunross, is as rough and wild as the Highland heather. Yet the return of Sassenach Selina and her family to claim his land ignites hatred and passion in equal measure.

Lady Selina is torn between family loyalty and wanton need for Ian. Tricked into marriage, she finds the laird fulfils her every burning desire. But Ian is a man bound by duty. Can Selina be sure that his heart belongs not only to his clan…but also to the woman he has made his wife?

This Regency is set in Scotland and has received a great review from Romantic Times which I am delighted to share with you:

For fast-paced, pulse-pounding action and adventure merged with a highly passionate romance, Lethbridge’s latest is hard to beat. The engaging characters, along with the plot, evoke the atmosphere, people and history of Scotland. Fun, fast and fabulous! - Romantic Times

Winner of the Romantic Times K.I.S.S. (Knight in Shining Silver) July 2012.

Buy here from The Laird's Forbidden Lady (Harlequin Historical)
Buy here From Barnes And Noble icon

Fashion 1812

Here we have some beautiful examples of day's worth of dress for March 1812.  A walking and evening gown for the same month.

Taken from the Lady's Magazine and described as follows:

Walking Dress.

A spencer of blue silk, with facings, collar, wings, and cuffs of plush to match. --A bonnet composed of silk and velvet, to agree in color with the spencer.--Feather, the same.

Evening Dress

An evening dress f pink silk, either flowered or plain, trimmed with crape of the same color, and ornamented with small white buttons.--Cap of velvet and lace, trimmed with footing and a flower.

These two gowns to me seem to epitomize the Regency Era in their style.

Until Next Time  Happy Rambles

Harlequin Authors Summer Beach Bag Contest

This is the first day of our Summer Beach bag contest. 

Here is the Calendar of events to get you started. It's vacation season and excitement mounts as that long-awaited time at the beach approaches. To add to your anticipation, some Harlequin Historical authors are offering a bevy of prizes to fill your beach bag with fun items (and BOOKS of course!) for that relaxation time. Each participating author will have an activity planned on their website for their special day. You may be asked to comment on a blog, do a scavenger hunt, 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 June 29, one day from the calendar will be randomly selected. One of the entrants from that day will then be randomly selected to win the grand prize of a Kindle Fire (or whichever equivalent product is available in your region). The more days you visit, the better your chances! We look forward to seeing you. Click here for official rules and eligibility.

Participating Authors

June 4 - Blythe Gifford

June 5 - Jeannie Lin

June 6 - Deb Marlowe

June 7 - Michelle Willingham

June 11 - Kate Welsh

June 12 - Barbara Monajem

June 13 - Terri Brisbin

June 14 - Amanda McCabe

June 18 - Annie Burrows

June 19 - Ann Lethbridge

June 20 - Julia Justiss

June 21 - Cheryl St. John

June 22 - Bronwyn Scott

June 25 - Carol Townend

June 26 - Margerite Kaye

June 27 - Michelle Styles

June 28 - Diane Gaston

June 29 - Grand Prize Drawing

blythe gifford jeannie lin deb marlowe michelle willingham kate welsh barbara monjem terri brisbin amanda mccabe annie burrows ann lethbridge julia justiss cheryl st. john bronwyn scott carol townend margerite kaye michelle styles diane gaston harlequin historical author blog

Fashion 1812

Here we are moving along rapildy in the second year of the Regency, and it is time for another look at the fashions.

This is a really quite magnificent gown, isn't it?  It is for February 1812, therefore at the start of the 200th anniversary of the second year of the Regency.

As described in La Belle Assemblee

Evening Costume
    An amber crape dress over white sarsnet, trimmed with pearls or white beads, with a demi-train; a light short jacket, rather scanty, with two separate fancy folds, depending about three quarters down the front of the skirt, forming in appearance a kind of Sicillan tunic, and trimmed down each division like the bottom of the dress, with a single row of pearls; short sleeves, not very high above the elbow, fitting close to the arm, and ornamented at the top with distinct points of satin, the same colour as the dress, relieved by pearls; two rows of the same costly material or beads, according as the robe is ornamented, form the girdle.
The hair dressed in the antique Roman style, with tresses brought together and confined at the back of the head, terminating either in ringlets or in two light knots; a braid of plaited hair drawn over a demi-turban formed of plain amber satin, with an elegantly embroidered stripe of white satin, separated by rows of pearl, and a superb sprig of pearls in front. Necklace of one single row of large pearls, with earrings of the Maltese fashion to correspond.
Ridicule aus getons of slate colour, shot with pink;  the firm base secured by a covering of pink stamped velvet, with pink tassels. Italian slippers of amber, fringed with silver, or ornamented round the ankle with a row of pearls or beads. White kid gloves.—This elegant dress owes its invention to the tasteful fancy of Mrs. Schabner of Tavistock-Street.

We are treated to a whole raft of terminology in this description.  From the antique Roman style hair, Maltese earrings to Ridicule aus getons.

I hope you enjoyed this gown, we will have some more Spring Fashions very soon. Until next time, Happy Rambles.


If you are following the Olympics you will no doubt have noticed that Weymouth in Dorset, on the south coast of England, is the venue for some of the water sports, in particular, sailing.  As you can see from this picture it looks ideal

But that was not why I went to Weymouth.  Weymouth was one of George III's favorite places.  It is where he went for his summer holidays, before Prinny, the Prince of Wales, his son made Brighton famous.  It was his brother the Duke of Gloucester who built Gloucester (pronounced Gloster for those who like to know) House and the King spent fourteen holidays there over the course of many years.

It is a very old seaport, but has become a tourist place probably because of the Royal patronage initially.  But it really does have a very beautiful beach with find soft sand. 

Here is a statue erected to the King by the Town in celebration of George III's 50 years on the throne.  And I thought you might like a close up of the old fellow.

This is Gloucester Lodge where the King spent his holidays, it is right on the sea front, The Esplanade. There is a road and a walking promenade and then the beach.  So nothing in the way of the view of the sea and the bay.

Just a few steps along from here is the Royal Hotel. It is a Victorian building built on the sight of the Old Royal Hotel which also provided the public Assembly Rooms which would have been in use during the Regency. The are a number of Georgian and Regency buildings along The Esplanade.

Running parallel to the esplanade and behind the buildings which face the sea is St Mary's street with shops and restaurants and an old pub now called the Black Dog but was called The Dove Ale House in George III's day.  Apparently the King was a regular customer.  It also happily boasts of a murder on the premises.

Hope you enjoyed your visit to the seaside. Until next time, Happy Rambles