My Novel on the Extraordinary Life of Lady Hester Stanhope

Tomorrow, The Diamond of London, my first foray into historical fiction, will release. And while creating a book is always a journey, this endeavor was particularly interesting one.

When my editor and I first began discussing the idea of a fictional biography on Lady Hester Stanhope, I had some reservations. A fictional biography? That seemed like such an oxymoron, and coming from the world of fiction, where I could happily scribble away, making things up as I went along, the thought of trying to piece together Truth and Imagination in one story seemed a little daunting . . .

Lady Hester Stanhope

And then there was Lady Hester Stanhope herself. I’ve written a number of books set in Regency England, so I’m fairly knowledgeable about the history and notable people of the era. Her name was familiar to me, but only for the later part of her life, when she was the most famous—and eccentric—adventurer of the early nineteenth century. From what little I had read, Lady Hester was considered opinionated, abrasive, headstrong, and emotionally unstable. That certainly gave me pause for thought. To write a book about her meant that the two of us would be spending a lot of time together. What if we didn’t get along?

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Hundred Days of Story Telling

Rice_SecretsofWycliffeManor600Pat here, deep in writing mode and frantically trying to finish a draft before taking off for the jungles of South America.

Finishing a book would be much simpler if I could just plan ahead—especially if I could plan six books ahead. But I can’t plot even one book in advance. And so here I am at Book #4 of the Gravesyde Priory Regency mystery series and oddly enough, history is messing with me.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve written enough Regencies to know when events take place, but there’s that planning thing that doesn’t happen. When I started the series, I knew how the first book needed to begin. I wasn’t thinking timelines. I just needed to have my heroine raising her  orphaned nephew six years after a riot in Egypt. So I simply checked when Napoleon’s troops left and dropped the story into 1815.

As my heroine reads the letter about her strange inheritance, Napoleon is escaping Elba. When she sets out for rural Staffordshire in March, she’s unaware that Louis XVIII has fled Paris. I knew it, but it didn’t matter to the story.

Just as we worry about putting gas in our cars, food in our pantries, and buying school clothes while we’re possibly on the brink of World War III, my heroine was worrying about her nephew, not Napoleon. We can’t do anything about it, so we stick to what we can control.

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Pomp, Pageantry—and Skullduggery!

Temple of Concord-webAndrea here, finding it hard to believe it’s August! The summer seems to have whizzed by like a Congreve rocket . . .

Now, speaking of Sir William Congreve’s rockets, I’ve decided to start the countdown to the September 27th release of MURDER ON THE SERPENTINE BRIDGE, my new Wrexford & Sloane mystery, by giving you a teaser of the circumstances in which the mystery takes place. Now, there are times when an author gets extraordinarily lucky and history provides a setting for a mystery more perfect than any writer would dare to imagine!

Royal Ascot-webDuring June of 1814, Britain threw a grand party in London to celebrate the end of nearly twenty years of war against France. It brought together a host of royals and dignitaries from the Allied victors—including Tsar Alexander I, King Frederick William III of Prussia. Prince Metternich and Field Marshal Blücher—for a spectacular fortnight of sumptuous parties, gala outdoor entertainments, horses races at Royal Ascot and a sojourn to Oxford for a banquet and a special awards ceremony, all to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon and his exile to the isle of Elba.

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When Minor Characters Come to Life . . .

SussexAndrea here, musing today on minor characters in a story, and how they can surprise you. Take, for example, my just-released mystery, Murder at Kensington Palace. In doing research for the book, I had come across a paragraph or two that mentioned scientific soirees were occasionally held at Kensington Palace during the Regency because King George III’s sixth son (and ninth child), Prince Augustus Frederick, lived in one of the state apartments and was very interested in science.

Prince_Augustus_in_1782Aha! I think—it’s the perfect place for my opening scene! So, I make a note of it, doubly happy because I now have a great title for the book. When it comes down to writing the scene, I shuffle through all my notes and photos from my visit to the palace, as well as research I’ve done on the real-life scientific scholars who might have attended, as I have fun putting a few small cameos of actual people interacting with my fictional characters. And course, I remind myself to made a very brief mention of Prince Augustus Frederick—or the Duke of Sussex, the title he was granted by his father in 1801.

Naturally, I imagine this will only take a minute down rabbit hole. I only intend to have him walk by, and then have a few other people comment on some of his habits to make him a little individuality . . . However, I ended up being really surprised by what an interesting man he was. I had always thought of George III’s sons as a rather undistinguished lot (if not downright dislikable fellows.) And for me, Augustus Frederick was sort of lost in the shuffle of the 15 children.

 

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A Question of Numbers!

A Question of NumbersAndrea here, and I'm excited to announce that today is Release Day for A Question of Numbers, the latest book in my Lady Arianna Regency mystery series. I've had such fun writing these characters and their adventures, so I thought I'd share a bit of backstory about why I love writing the mystery genre, as well as a bit about the inspiration behind this latest story.

I began my career as a published author (don't ask about the old manuscripts squirreled away in a desk drawer) Lawrence 2writing traditional Regency romances for NAL. I loved the era—and that's stayed with me to this day—and after glomming a number of books in the genre (including Wenches Mary Jo, Pat and Jo Beverley) I buckled up my courage and took a try at it, and to my surprise and delight . . . I got a contract. When the publishing world changed, I moved to sexy Regencies, which were fun, but I came to realize that my heart really lay in writing mysteries.

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