Rainbow Snippets: Gentlemen’s Agreement

This week, I’m continuing snippeting from my ongoing Regency romp Twelve Letters series, and it’s the turn of Gentlemen’s Agreement, the fourth novella in the series. The entire series, including the latest release May Wedding and all my other titles, are in the 45% off ebook Memorial Day weekend-long sale at JMS Books from May 26 – 29.

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend are encouraged to post a few lines from one of their stories on their blog and then link back to the group post on Facebook. I always enjoy joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

Gentlemen’s Agreement continues the story of the lives and loves of the three couples in my Twelve Letters ensemble cast, Jo Everett and tailor Daniel Walters, Captain Ben Harding and Dr Edward Stephens and Regency himbo Percy Havilland and Nathan Brooks. I also threw in a Napoleonic spy plot just for fun!

Ben is asked by a former commanding officer to volunteer some society friends to help with surveillance in Mayfair’s ballrooms on some highly-placed figures who are suspected to be involved in the intrigue. In this snippet, Ben discusses the confidential matter with his best friend Jo.

“Colonel Graham said he’d be grateful for extra recruits at our discretion. Is there anyone trustworthy you can think of offhand?”

“Well,” Jo began. “There’s always Percy.”

Ben glared at Jo in disbelief. “Percy?” He remonstrated. “Unless he’s gazing at his reflection, I wouldn’t grant him any abilities of observation.”

“You’d be surprised at Percy’s powers of perception,” Jo said thoughtfully. “A year ago I would have said you had a fair point, but now he’s…”

As Jo paused to find the correct phrase, Ben could have easily supplied several examples including, become more bearable, less of a pointless popinjay, begun to notice other people exist. He was about to interject witheringly with his favourite, no longer a completely selfish arse, when Jo added, “…mellowed.”

45% off ebook Memorial Day Weekend Sale at JMS Books!

From May 26th – 29th, there’s a fabulous 45% off ebook Memorial Day sale at JMS Books lasting all weekend!

This includes all my titles, plus my Regency romp Twelve Letters series and my latest release May Wedding, book six in the series.

I’m heading over to fill my basket with wonderful stories from my fellow JMS Books authors!

Rainbow Snippets: May Wedding

For this week’s Rainbow Snippets, I thought I’d quote another few lines from my recent release, May Wedding, the 6th book in my Regency romp series, Twelve Letters, featuring an ensemble cast.

Along with the rest of the Twelve Letters series and all my other titles, May Wedding is in the 45% ebook Mother’s Day weekend sale at JMS Books until midnight on Sunday, May 14th.

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend are encouraged to post a few lines from one of their stories on their blog and then link back to the group post on Facebook. I always enjoy joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

In last week’s snippet from May Wedding, we had a scene between established couple Percy and Nathan. This time, it’s the turn of another couple in my ensemble, Jo and Daniel. Jo is a gentleman (if not a very wealthy one) and Daniel is an upmarket tailor. At this period, very few men would openly flaunt their relationship so the difference in class between them is an additional challenge. It takes a lot of love and determination to get to where they are, sharing an apartment above a Tottenham Court Road tailor’s shop.

In this snippet, Jo is trying on his outfit in advance for Percy’s sister’s wedding with Daniel’s input.  I just thought these few lines summed up how much these two lovely men adore each other.

Jo had stood before their bedroom mirror, wrestling with the coat buttons. “If I carry on like this, I’m going to need a corset, like Prinny,” he announced flippantly, referring to the increasingly heavy Prince of Wales whose overstrained underpinnings often audibly creaked at public engagements.

Daniel, half a head shorter than Jo, stood at his shoulder with calm appraisal, unfazed by Jo’s predicament. “No one apart from your tailor would notice the gain of an extra inch or two. You look at least as handsome as ever.” Jo ceased tugging at his recalcitrant garment to look down into Daniel’s warm brown eyes, the colour of rich sherry wine. “Anyway,” Daniel continued with a winning smile. “How can I complain if there’s more of you to love?”

Words in Progress: Regency Celebrations

Festive occasions seem to be in the air this week! I don’t think anyone in this part of the world can be unaware that the coronation happened over the weekend. And on a much more modest note, it was also release day for May Wedding, the sixth story in my Twelve Letters Regency romp series.

This gives me the perfect excuse to ramble on about special occasion food in the Regency period! In May Wedding, much of the first part of the story is taken up with Percy fretting over every detail of his sister Araminta’s society wedding.

As I’ve mentioned previously, weddings were relatively low-key affairs in the Regency period. They took place in the morning (within canonical hours), so after the church service, the happy couple, family and friends would have a celebratory meal known as a wedding breakfast.

I had great fun researching what might be served at the Mayfair mansion of the Earl and Countess of Amersby for Araminta and Hugh’s wedding breakfast. The everyday morning meal in Regency times was much like a modern breakfast. Jane Austen’s World blog comments that the author was in charge of making her family breakfast each morning. “The simple repast consisted of toast, rolls, or muffins and butter.” But the blog post also points out that traditional breakfasts were heartier, including “beef and ale.”

So for the wedding breakfast at the house on Park Street in May Wedding, I opted for a compromise. The guests were served tea and coffee as well as the option of Champagne (just because!) with some delicacies amongst the assorted rolls and bread and cold meats. Another excellent Jane Austen blog was invaluable for details, with a very helpful quote from the writer’s niece Caroline describing a wedding breakfast she was invited to in 1814.  Along with a variety of breads, ham, tongue and eggs, “the addition of chocolate at one end of the table and the wedding-cake in the middle marked the speciality of the day.”

Since the wedding cake would be a fruit cake (like a traditional Christmas cake) I had to share this fabulous plum cake recipe from the 1820s, shared by The Regency Cook. I’m sure my character Jo Everett, a guest at Hugh and Araminta’s wedding with a fondness for cake would happily munch his way through several slices!

To round off the blog, and mention more lavish celebrations, The Regency Cook also posted the Regency menu for the coronation of George IV. The king was famous for his fondness of feasting ( which explains his need for corsets that Jo mentions in my story), and the lavish meal includes pistachio creams served in glasses, chicken fricassee, sweetbreads, Bolognia sausages and rabbit ragout, just to name a few of the numerous dishes!

I think I’ll stick to the simpler May Wedding breakfast in honour of Hugh and Araminta’s special day, plus that optional glass of Champagne of course!

Rainbow Snippets: May Wedding

For the last couple of Rainbow Snippets, I’ve been snipping away from Twelve Letters and Queer Relations, the first two books in my Regency romp Twelve Letters series. As book 6 in the series, May Wedding is released today, I’ll break briefly off the chronology! I’ll resume with book 3, Coming of Age, in a fortnight.

May Wedding is available at Amazon and all other outlets and is currently in the 20% off new release sale at JMS Books until May 12th.

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend are encouraged to post a few lines from one of their stories on their blog and then link back to the group post on Facebook. I always enjoy joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

May Wedding follows on from The Misfit, book 5 in the Twelve Letters series. The Misfit was about the second chance love affair of a new couple, Luc and Harry, but in May Wedding we return to our usual ensemble of couples for a wedding story.

This snippet, like last week’s, is from the point of view of reformed brat Regency brat Percy Havilland as he engineers the grand society wedding of one of his sisters. As one of my readers commented, Percy is the ultimate bridezilla, even if it isn’t his wedding!

In this snippet (a wee bit longer than six lines), Percy is attempting to have an argument with his ever-patient lover Nathan about the choice of bridesmaids’ dresses for his sisters Eustacia and Phoebe. As ever, Nathan has the knack of seeing through Percy’s outer behaviour to his inner emotions.

Nathan sat in his favourite Chesterfield armchair while Percy paced before him in a manner that Nathan remarked reminded him of a caged tiger.

When holding forth at great length on the challenge of selecting the exact shade of fruity pink for the bridesmaids’ dresses, Percy started to argue with Nathan, despite the gentleman’s indifference on whether the ladies should wear muslin or sackcloth.

Instead of justifiably losing his temper with Percy in this wildly unreasonable mood, Nathan said, “Come here,” and patted his thighs encouragingly. After a brief hesitation, while formulating a heated debate between the virtues of a bright peach hue or a subtle shade of apricot, Percy rather sulkily sat on Nathan’s lap, holding himself stiffly.

“That’s better,” Nathan said, pulling him close. All Percy’s edgy anxiety started to dissolve as he breathed in Nathan’s familiar Bay Rum cologne, listened to the steady rhythm of his breath, and felt the warmth and strength of his body that Percy relied on and frequently enjoyed.

“Whatever you choose,” Nathan opined, “will be perfect, not only in tribute to your excellent taste but because of your solicitude for Eustacia and Phoebe.”

At this disarming statement, rather than bristling, Percy found himself weeping copiously on Nathan’s broad shoulder while his paramour patiently stroked his back and kissed his neck between reassuring endearments.

Words in Progress: Percy’s Wedding Attire

At least story-wise, I’m getting into the spring wedding season with the upcoming release of May Wedding on May 6th. This is the sixth story in my Twelve Letters Regency romp series featuring an ensemble cast. The premise of May Wedding starts with the preparations for the grand society wedding of Percy’s sister at St. George’s Hanover Square.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, in the Regency period, weddings were less elaborate affairs than they can be these days. Although brides tended to wear their best clothes rather than a wedding dress, I can’t see Percy tolerating that for his sister! And of course, it’s the perfect excuse to buy something new for himself from the branch of Shelford’s tailor shop managed by Daniel Walters.

Nathan, Percy’s long-suffering romantic partner, might raise an eyebrow at Percy ordering yet another outfit for the wedding. I can imagine Nathan simply putting on one of his smarter suits for the day without much fuss or thought. Similarly, wedding guest Jo Everett has chosen to wear his best coat, which happens to be the first one made for him by his beloved Daniel. He’s panicking more about losing a few pounds to fit into it rather than anything else!

So for today’s blog, just for fun, I thought I’d take us through Percy’s wedding outfit from top to toe. His blond curls are arranged in his favourite Cherubin style, one of the fashionable cropped hairstyles for men. As this fascinating blog on Jane Austen’s World relates, these apparently natural windswept styles took a great deal of maintenance to achieve with the help of pomades made from bear grease! Fastidious Percy might shudder at that, but I can imagine him using some scented oil to arrange his hair to cover the odd line starting to appear on his lily-white brow.

The entire Regency look for men was understated and natural compared to the glorious excesses of the previous century, where brocades, wigs, powder, patches and make-up were added to the dressing-up box. Percy would adopt the ‘less is more’ philosophy of style icon Beau Brummel to showcase his perfect form.

For the wedding, inspired by this wonderful blog on Regency cravats, Percy wears a severe and simple Oriental style. Over his white shirt made of thick muslin, he might stick to classic white piqué for his waistcoat or permit a subtle touch of colour to contrast with the simplicity of his new dove grey tail coat, which would be tight fitting, double-breasted, and cut away at the waist with knee-length tails at the back.

I did mull over the choice of breeches versus pantaloons. Longer trousers were widely adopted in the early 19th century, however, breeches were still worn for evening parties and occasion wear. Although I noticed the groom wearing breeches in a contemporary painting of the Regency wedding of Princess Charlotte, Percy isn’t exactly royalty! So I thought he could get away with slim-fitting pantaloons in a similar shade to his coat and compromise by wearing buckled dress shoes rather than Hessian boots for his footwear.

If I’m ever stuck for inspiration on Regency menswear, I turn to the Twitter or Instagram pages of  Pinsent Tailoring, the historical tailors, with inexhaustible detail and enthusiasm for Regency clothes. Although Percy, ever jealous that he’s not the most beautiful person in the room,  might be quite put out by Zack Pinsent’s modelling of his wonderful creations, so we’ll keep that between ourselves!

Rainbow Snippets: Queer Relations

For this week’s Rainbow Snippets, in the run-up to the release of May Wedding on May 6th, book 6 in my Twelve Letters series, I’m continuing to pick snippets from the published stories in this series. May Wedding is currently in the 20% pre-release/new release sale at JMS Books. After picking a snippet from book 1, Twelve Letters, it’s now the turn of Queer Relations, the second novella in the series.

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend are encouraged to post a few lines from one of their stories on their blog and then link back to the group post on Facebook. I always enjoy joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

Twelve Letters is a series with an ensemble cast set in Regency London, but Queer Relations is very much Percy Havilland’s story. We met Percy in Twelve Letters when he was briefly entangled with poor Jo, my main MC in that particular story. Percy appeared to be the ultimate Regency himbo, beautiful, spoiled, calculating and utterly selfish.

By the beginning of Queer Relations, with Jo having come to his senses and fallen in love with his tailor, Daniel Walters, Percy has transferred his mercenary affections to older wealthy man, Nathan Brooks, who is nobody’s fool.

However, following a disastrous family scandal, Percy is socially ostracised. He’s rescued by Jo and his best friend Ben Harding from a potentially humiliating situation at White’s Club to lie low in a changing room at the tailor’s shop in Bond Street where Daniel works until Nathan can take him to safety. In this snippet, Percy is uncertain how Nathan will respond to his changed circumstances…

The tailor slipped out discreetly, holding the curtain open for Nathan, whose build and personality dominated the small room. 

Percy cringed, expecting a scolding at least, or even to be dismissed permanently from his lover’s life, but when Nathan started to speak, his voice was rough with relief rather than anger or disgust.

“Thank heavens! I’ve been looking everywhere for you. By the time Everett found me, I was preparing to camp out at Mount Street until you returned. What with all the wild tales I’ve heard in the clubs, I was getting frantic.”

Percy found the courage to look up at Nathan, seeing genuine anxiety in those golden-brown eyes and etched on his familiar, craggy face. Percy opened his mouth to utter some phrases of explanation or apology and was utterly confounded to burst into a flood of tears.

Rainbow Snippets: Twelve Letters

In the run-up to my new release on May 6th, May Wedding, the sixth in my Twelve Letters series, I thought I’d post a Rainbow Snippet from Twelve Letters, the story that introduced my ensemble cast of London gentlemen, including Percy Havilland the Regency himbo. May Wedding is currently in the 20% off pre-release/new release sale at JMS Books.

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend are encouraged to post a few lines from one of their stories on their blog and then link back to the group post on Facebook. I always enjoy joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

This snippet from Twelve Letters, book 1 in the series, involves my MC Jo Everett and one of the pivotal letters of the story title. In rushing off to prevent his best friend Ben Harding from fighting a duel, Jo has managed to confuse a letter to his current squeeze Percy with a note to his tailor, Daniel Walters.

Given Percy’s short attention span where lovers are concerned, Jo is keen to keep his interest. He’s rightly proud of devising a letter that’s as flattering as it is explicit. However, this snippet contains the moment when Jo realises that the missive has been sent to the wrong recipient…

With that short business completed, Jo turned to leave the shop when Walters said in a completely different tone, “One moment, Mr. Everett.” The urgency in the man’s voice made Jo pause and when he faced him again, Walters was holding out a piece of paper. There were two spots of high colour staining his cheekbones and his gaze was directed at a point beyond Jo’s left shoulder.

 “In all good faith, I ought to return this to you, sir, as I realize now that it was misdirected. Then you can pass it on to the, er, lady for whom it was intended.”

With a sense of dawning horror, Jo felt the blood drain from his face as he took the folded note. It felt surprisingly warm to the touch as if worn close to the skin. 

He looked at the address. Walters was perfectly correct. The tailor’s name was clearly inscribed, but given the frigid look of mortification on the man’s face, Jo could only guess the solicitations inside had absolutely nothing to do with buttons, apart from the undoing of them.

“Most obliged,” Jo managed to stammer before he fled from the premises.

Words in Progress: Regency resources

I’ve spent several weeks in the 17th century while I was writing Lucky John, my story for JMS Books Lucky 13 anniversary celebration. So as I return to Regency London for my new work in progress, there’s a sense of homecoming.

I think I’ve mentioned before on my blog that although I enjoy the challenge of writing in different historical periods and relish the research (well, most of the time anyway), writing-wise, the late-18th/early-19th century is my comfort zone.

For some reason (perhaps absorbing the works of Georgette Heyer by osmosis), the language, customs and manners aren’t too much of a stretch for me to recreate in my imagination.

It also helps that over time, I’ve built up so many resources to dip into for the Regency period, especially for stories set in London. For this story, tentatively titled Town Bronze, I could settle into an established pattern.

First, I happily perused my online version of the 1806 Mogg map of London. Then I flicked over a few pages to fast forward a century or so in Outline of English Costume. I snagged Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen from the bookshelf and as usual, I’m keeping Cant on hand for extra slang input. I’m sure these resources are nearly as familiar to you as to me by now!

Then of course there are my all-important online bookmarks for essential details like cravats and hairstyles.  My main character Jasper is new to the world of fashionable London so has to be introduced to the finer points of menswear to an exaggerated degree!

It was also fun to browse Kirsten Koster’s Regency Landmark Primer as Jasper explores all of London’s varied entertainments. To investigate any further details, I always consult Rachel Knowles’ invaluable blog which has encyclopaedic resources on the Regency period.

Steering Jasper through the excesses and pitfalls of his London experience from residential Piccadilly to St. James’ club land and the more lurid delights of Covent Garden, I feel rather like a tour guide. Although this story isn’t set in my Twelve Letters world (currently 40% off in the final day of the JMS Books Easter sale), there is a tiny overlap with some familiar names mentioned which makes this feel even more like an enjoyably well-trod route.

That might hold a clue as to why I enjoy mixing up my eras in my writing. Venturing into unfamiliar historical eras is an exciting and stimulating challenge, but like travelling somewhere new, the best part is the prospect of returning home.