Travels through my jewellery box

Some time ago, we wenches were talking jewellery (or jewelry depending on where you live.) It was inspired by this blog by Mary Jo.  And I mentioned some of the little pieces I was given in travels when I was a child.


Mary Jo said: “Travels through my jewellery box” would be a fabulous blog! And so, since I'm scrambling to meet a deadline, and don't have time to do a research-heavy blog, here it is. 

I was very fortunate to travel quite widely as a child, and at many places we visited, I was given a little souvenir. Mostly they are cheap little things, but I've never equated monetary value with personal value, and these little items are precious to me.

PiskieDonkeyKellsI took the photos today, using a piece of plain white paper as a background. Bizarrely it turned out blue! No idea why. Sorry about that.

In this photo at the top left, there's a little brass Cockington Piskie—yes, that's the correct spelling—from Cockington Forge in Devon. Ugly little fellow, isn't he, but he's supposed to be lucky. I vividly remember visiting that big dark old forge.

Next to it is the letter A from the Book of Kells which is in Dublin. Beautiful, isn't it? I used to wear this on my  favourite blue jumper until the jumper fell to bits. I visited the Book of Kells later on as an adult, and fell in love with it all over again.

Read more

Ask A Wench: What We’re Doing

This month, the wenches are recovering from the holidays and chatting about what they’re doing now!


Pat here: Oh, I’m slowly going crazy—make that crazier. I’m trying to work with the cover designer for the next Crystal Magic book, AZURE SECRETS, while attempting to finish the draft on the book after that, tentatively called AMBER AFFAIR. And at the same time, I’m supposed to be packing for our trip to Costa Rica. I’ll be on the plane as you read this, knock wood. We’re going with what turns out to be a not very well organized group, which means I didn’t even know what luggage I could bring until just the other day. So I’m frantically rearranging my intended wardrobe and narrowing down to basics to fit into a carry-on. Try that some time. We just received the itinerary and we’re digging in to see what sights are accessible around the hotels we’ll be staying at, checking weather to see if we have all the necessities, looking for wi-fi in hopes we’ll not be too out of touch. . . My list keeps growing instead of getting shorter!

Read more

The Christmas Ball: Excert Two: My True Love Hath My Heart

  Wench- wiki Stockeld_Park_HouseJoanna here —

As you remember from Anne's posting last week, all the Wenches will be posting an excerpt from our stories from the anthology the Last Chance Christmas Ball, one each Sunday in the lead-up to Christmas.

Here's Anne's excerpt from the story Mistletoe Kisses

I'll just repeat what she said last week:

"We wenches had written a Christmas anthology before with a linking theme, but for this one we decided all the stories would be linked to an event, based around an annual Christmas ball, held by Lady Holbourne known as Lady Holly to her friends." Last ChanceXmasBall

Here's the blurb for the collection:  Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Abbey is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic—holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year…

My story is titled My True Love Hath My Heart. In it, we meet a legendary jewel, a heroine seeking revenge, a handsome scoundrel, housemaids gossiping, a bit about jewelry design, young love, and somewhat older love which is more complicated, this being the second time round.
And . . . well . . . Christmas.

The title of my short story comes from the eponymous Sir Phllip Sidney poem. (I have been waiting to use the word eponymous for a long time.)

My true-love hath my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for the other given:
So. My excerpt opens in Holbourne Abbey in the insufferable Mr. Gower's bedroom. Our heroine Claire, dressed in a maid's uniform, is rifling through Mr. Gower's jewel boxes.

. . . Hand w jewels bought as shutterstock_118640449

“I always wondered what housemaids did in their leisure time.” The voice came from the doorway. “Theft, apparently.”

There was an instant like lightning, filled with a flash of recognition in the midst of blank surprise. She recognized him at once. How could she not? Nobody else spoke like silk over steel. Like honey and granite rock. Shouting in panic, sarcastic over the card table, whispered across a pillow, that was not a voice one could forget. She turned slowly to face him.

Nick Lafford stood in the doorway, a man not taking his dismissal seriously. She was furious with him. She was impatient and unforgiving. And everything inside herheart, mind, and spirit was glad to see him.

He strolled into the room. Time flowed sluggishly around him, giving her a long opportunity to feel five or six emotions in a row, all of them complicated and contradictory.

“Picture of a maid dusting the jewelry,” he said. “How thorough of you.”

“Searching it, actually.”

“We rise above the banal, then. I always enjoy rising about the banal with you.” He came to look past her into the box on the wardrobe shelf. “We have the very likeness of plunder. I feel quite piratical. Is the loot immensely valuable?”

“Not so far.” She closed the leather case with the rubies and put it firmly back in the tray. “If they were vegetables, this would be a pile of potatoes.”

“Not counting the Coeur de Flamme.” Nick wore one of his deceptively open expressions. 

“Not counting the Coeur, which I haven’t found yet. What in the name of sanity are you doing here?”

“I appear to have joined you in ransacking with intent. Embarrassing if I’m caught at it.” He leaned to look into the jewel box and they touched, just a little. A brush of his jacket on her shoulder. A feeling of warmth at her side. Nothing really.

He said, “I’ll bet these dainty little leather boxes contain the good stuff.”

“AlYork_old_uk_england_house_building_castle_beautiful-145011 creativecommonsmost certainly. Go away, Nick.”

“I don’t think so. You may, eventually, be glad I’m here.” He stirred a finger into the jewels, inquisitive. “Or, of course, you may not. But I’m here anyway.”

This was so typical of him. Ready to filch jewels at her side or lead her onto the dance floor in Vienna in front of the assembled nobility of Europe. Once, he’d helped her relocate an inconvenient body. Once he

Blast him for being Nicholas. For being sneaky and single-minded and never giving up. For being clever enough to move her like a chess piece to this time and this place. For saying he loved her.

Blast her for being happy to see him again, even for a minute.

She squashed down the anticipation and gladness that was springing up inside her like so many bubbles rising to the top of beer. She concentrated on being stern. He’d taken her by surprise. That was all. Nothing had changed.

He hooked up entangled necklaces and bracelets and let them dangle. “What a hoard for a man to lug about the north country. They almost beg to be stolen, don’t they?”

Wench winter womqn 2 kaemmerer“No.”

“I hear their siren call. ‘Pick me up and carry me away,’ they say. Surely he won’t miss a few.”

“I’m busy, Nick. I don’t have time for this.”

“And we’re not thieves, like the regrettable Mr. Gower,” When she didn’t comment he said, “The money doesn’t matter, does it? He didn't just cheat you out of money. He stole your work. He tried to steal your good name.”

Nick understood. That was what made him so insidious. He’d always understood her.

She batted his hand out of the way and picked up the next leather case. “You contrived this. Both of us in the same house. It’s not some cosmic mischance.”

“Humbly, I admit it. I arranged for a guest list to the House party to land in the papers. You saw it. You’re here.”

“I should have been suspicious.”

“I’m glad you weren’t. I’m also glad you’re here,” he gestured a circle, taking in the rest of the room, Holbourne Abbey, and Northumberland, “with me, instead of breaking into Gower’s townhouse. He keeps guards. With guns.”

“Guns in his garden and the unbreakable safe he brags about. I hope someone robs it one fine evening, but it won’t be me. Damn you for interfering.”

“I can’t help myself, you know. Indulged from childhood. No self-discipline.”

He hadn’t changed a whit in the months since she’d sent him away. Still the perfect English aristocrat, casually confident, wrapped in the armor of first-class tailoring. Still the long, intelligent, handsome face that didn't show a tenth of what he was thinking. Brown hair in fashionable disorder. Brown eyes, carefully controlled in what they revealed.

He reached past her and selected a leather jewel case, flicked it open, and found emeralds. “This is nice.”

Very nice. Trust Nick to see that. “It’s famousboth the bracelet and the central stone. Spanish work, from stones plundered out of the New World. It’s been owned by most of the royal families of Europe at one time or another.”

“It must cringe at the company it keeps. May I confiscate it for you in my capacity as representative of the British government?”

“You may put it away.”

“You’re almost impossible to give jewelry to, my sweet.”

“Well, you can’t steal it for me.”

Red heart 1“I can’t buy it for you either, alas. I’ve tried.” He set the emeralds aside. His next leather case held a necklace of citrine and gold.

Her choice held a diamond broach, the stones cut at least a generation ago. She said, “This came to the daughter from her mother's family. The girl's name escapes me–“


“That’s right. I expected to find it yesterday when I searched her room. He must hand her trinkets out to her, one by one, and take them back at night.”

“One of several petty punishments. They disagree over her choice of marriage partner.”

The English nobility were particular about who they let marry into the family. Wasn’t that the root of her own unhappy problem? “Who would be the daughter of a Gower? I’d rather scrub and dust for a living.”

She opened the next case. Opals. Then the next . . . and held her breath.

Nick whispered, “Well, well, well.”

Here was the Coeur de Flamme, the Heart of Fire.

Crafty Skills and Writing Thrills

Joanna here with this month's question for the Wenches:

Do you have a hobby or handicraft that's important to you? Does it ever find its way into your writing?


Mary Jo sWench MaryJoPutney_RiverofFire_200pxays:

Alas, I am not crafty, except perhaps in my plotting.  I learned basic sewing as a girl and made some of my own clothes because that's what girls did in that time and place, but I wasn't enthusiastic about it, and I was a complete loss at handcrafts.  I botched cross-stitch and never mastered crochet and had zero interest in embroidery.  I did learn to knit in college because it was a way to keep hands busy when we sat around and talked, and I even managed a few large needle sweaters.  But they weren't very good except for basic warmth, and I haven't knit since I got out of college. 


 With the exception of young Bree, the hero's daughter in Sometimes a Rogue, my female characters aren't very interested Wench NotQuiteAWifeMMin handwork, though they can mend things as required. And now that I think of it, Laurel, the heroine of Not Quite a Wife, crocheted baby blanket squares while on a long carriage ride, but that was more because poor babies needed warm blankets.  I don't think she was much interested in crocheting for crochet's sake.  <G>  So I guess you could say that my lack of handicraft interest has made its way into my writing!


  On the other hand, while I don't have much gift for crafts, I have my share of interests.  As an art school graduate and a professional designer, art and design creep into stories, most strongly in River of Fire, where all the major characters are artists and don't know how they feel unless they have a paint brush in hand.  <G>  And I love music, though again I have no particular talent other than being able to do some research, but it's fun finding a four hand piano version of Vivaldi quartets on youtube, then telling my characters to take it from there.  <G>  A nice thing about writing is all the elements we can weave into our stories!


Nicola offers us music:

It’s interesting how many writers are also creative in other artistic fields. I have absolutely no talent for painting or drawing, or sewing, Wench Unmasked - US publishedknitting or making anything with my hands. As a child I did make patchwork cushions in my sewing classes at school and I was also passably good at cookery, which I think is another creative talent. However it was music that I loved and singing was a hobby of mine from childhood.


 I studied music at school and learned the piano and wrote some (bad) songs. I joined my school, college and church choirs and was also a member of a local choral society that toured Europe one summer. That was very exciting. My first love was always church music but I have tackled just about everything except opera! My singing tutor was a very fierce Scots lady called Mrs Buchan who had been a professional singer and was a very inspiring teacher.


 A number of characters in my books are musical and have good signing voices. Some of my heroines are talented at the piano or other musical instruments. When I am researching a book I do enjoy seeing which pieces of music were popular in the period and choosing something that my heroine might be singing or playing in the drawing room after dinner to entertain the other guests. In Unmasked, the heroine Mari gives away the secret of her ancestry by singing a Russian folk song.  When I write musical characters I am always reminded of Mary in Pride and Prejudice who loved playing the piano even though she had little aptitude for it, and her father saying: “You have entertained us long enough!”


Susan is musical as well as craftsy:



Writers and some kind of creative handiwork are a natural fit — the creativity often spills off the page and Wench susan 1into some other expression like arts, crafts, gardening and so on. And if we're not craftsy otherwise, we can scribble and type a mile a minute, and that's a talent of the hands if there ever was one! 



I went to art school, so for years I did paintings, drawing, prints and so on, even while I thought about stories. I haven't made art for years (though I do want to return to it), but I always have some kind of handiwork going. I try different things rather than stick with one, so I am master of none and explorer of many. I've done lots of crochet and knitting, and usually have a knitting project going; I've churned out throws and scarves and such, and keep it simple (I love big circular needles and soft yarns, and have no patience for small-stitch projects). I've done beading, basket weaving, needlework, sewing, collage, murals, scrapbooking — it often comes down to my degree of patience for the thing. I especially love to refinish furniture and paint rooms. My routine after completing a book usually involves painting walls or redoing furniture. Give me a ladder, a can of paint, some music and I'm happy.


Wench susan 2Some of the art has worked into my novels – I've written about a painter, an illuminator, a sculptor, an art historian and so on. I also wrote about harp playing after taking lessons in Celtic harp years ago. I loved it, and better understood long-ago harpers and harp music. That definitely helped when I wrote The Angel Knight, Lady Macbeth and Queen Hereafter, and if I write about a harper again, I'll dust off my Irish harp and tune it up!  
Cara/Andrea brings us:
I have an art background, so I’ve featured a both a heroine and a hero who was an accomplished Wenches A Diamond In The Rough-medwatercolor artist. But I’m also the Wench “jock”, as I enjoy sports as a way of relaxing. A while back, I took up golf—I’m pretty athletic, but it was one of the hardest endeavors I’ve ever tried— the swing may look easy, and the ball is not moving, but trust me, getting the timing right takes practice and patience! However I really enjoyed both the cerebral challenge and walking the course. After a day of writing, I love going out in early evening and playing a few holes. I can’t tell you how many plot tangles I have unraveled on the fairways. There’s something about switching gears and doing something physical that clears the brain synapses!
On a trip to Scotland, I visited the Old Course at St. Andrews, where golf was popular during Rgency times, and then was lucky enough to play a round with the Duke of Roxburghe, who is a passionate golfer . . .which got me to thinking! I decided it would be great fun incorporate my new hobby into a Regency romance. I did a little research on clubmaking (there are some wonderfully quirky clubs, like clerks and mashies fron that era) and then penned A Diamond in the Rough.The heroine is a great golfer but must disguise herself as a boy and work as a caddie to be allowed to play at St. Andrews. She’s assigned to teach an English lord how to play the game in order for him to play a match to win back his ancestral home, which his wastrel father has gambled away. And well . . . the game is on, in more ways than one.
Jo comes back with a very down-to-earth hobby:
Wench josgarden2Gardening. I'm not sure I've ever written a garden-obsessed character, but my books often have garden scenes and named plants with significance. My
characters are going to have gardens as most people in the past did until the
worst town developments of the 19th century, which led to the allotment
movement — an awareness that people, especially the poor, need a place to grow
food and also to have touch with the land and growing things.

Most of my characters are wealthy enough to have estates and gardeners, but they still take an interest. Interestingly, my book-in-progress, The Viscount Needs a Wife, has a hero and heroine who don't. They're both London people, not fond of the countryside, and know nothing about how to grow anything. I like to be different!

Anne says (and this is so cool. I had no idea about the dolls):
Wenches myWrapBraceletsI nearly always have some craft activity on the go, whether it's hand-made Christmas decorations, small things for dolls houses, or various kinds of jewellery. I'm more slapdash than meticulous, but I do enjoy making small things.
I used to babysit a friend's daughter on a regular basis and as a result I developed dolls house disease. I made lots of tiny things for a dolls house that one of my adult students had given me when she'd learned I was looking after a little girl and had No Dolls!!
It was a weekly ritual — my little friend would arrive, we'd get out the dolls house and the box of contents and set the house up from scratch — different every time. At the end of the day she'd tell me what new thing the dolls house needed, in that very cute imperious way three and four year olds have. "I think the dolls house needs. . . a dolls house." Or "I think next week the dolls will go . . . to the races. They'll need hats." This was after Melbourne Cup day and someone had been watching "Fashions on the Field" on TV. So I made hats for tiny dolls.
Currently I'm playing with jewelry. Fiddling with small things helps me concentrate and you'd be surprised Wwenches DollHathow often, while apparently concentrating wholly on a necklace or bracelet, I solve a plot problem. I go through stages with the jewelry, too. Not so long ago I was making things using natural crystals, which I love, but was sidetracked recently when a friend suggested I make a beaded leather wrap bracelet — and I was off and playing.
Few of these things ever find their way into my writing. I wrote one story, The Virtuous Widow, a Christmas novella that included a dolls house, and that was inspired by my little friend and our dolls house games — she's mentioned in the dedication. Nothing since then, but you never know . . .
Wenches pat rice wickedPat rounds us off with some wonderfully practical hobbies:
I garden and I fix up old houses, so I’m going to guess those aspects of my life creep into my books on a regular basis. I believe readers have upon occasion remarked that they know they’re going to get houses and kids when they read my books. Apparently I’ve disguised the gardening fever better. Even in Formidable Lord Quentin, when the characters have plenty of fancy London houses that need no work, my protagonists end up in a neglected rural mansion battling rodents and bird nests. We have the kids and horses in that one, but no garden.
I outdid myself in Wicked Wyckerly, though—the heroine owns a farm and gardens, the hero owns a truly neglected mansion AND townhouse, and we have kids galore. But I’m thinking children probably aren’t a hobby!
So. What about you? What hobby brings you joy and makes you more creative? If you were to write a book, which of your avocations would sneak into the text?
Some lucky commenter will win a copy of any of my books they choose.