Time and Tide Does Not Wait…


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Gracious, it’s less than five weeks until Christmas and I’m not as far ahead as I expected by now.

House renovation has been going on around me this year, and then combined with the ill-health of family and a colleague, my work in progress time has been restricted. Sadly I’ll be unlikely to meet my June 2019 deadline, unless I can make swifter progress on my current second draft.

Where has the time gone?

Although I wasn’t writing I was creating the missing scenes in my imagination so they could be ready for building into the second draft. I’m now on chapter eight writing in the first of these additional scenes.

I’m sure every writer has repetitive words or actions that they give their characters without realising it, and unfortunately I’ve noticed my heroine, Sarah, has a tendency to lean against walls to restore her composure after an emotional scene with the hero, Hugh. That will need dealing with in the next draft!

There’s an additional sub-plot evolving that I missed in draft one and it will create additional conflict.

Having time to think about existing scenes and characters and how these new scenes can bring another layer to the story has been beneficial; so that time has not been wasted.

For now, moving forward (even slowly) is essential.

The Frost is Here…

I am…





12 months and Counting Down…

It has been a busy year to date, so now I have time to stop, breathe deeply and begin making plans for the next 12 months.

In July I’ll be attending the Romantic Novelists Association’s Conference. I’m especially looking forward to a couple of the sessions- they’re ideal for a historical romance writer. As well as seeing a couple of my favourite authors.

During the next six months I’ll be working hard to complete my debut novel, with the aim to have it ready for launch by the end of June 2019- that’s my target date.

I’ll be updating on my progress during the next 6 months…


Charity Shop Book Gems…

My latest charity shop book find was a hardback version of the History of Underclothes*

The hardback copy…

Now it’s not the original version from 1951, but a 1981 edition with revisions.

I also have this paperback version of it that’s smaller, but I prefer the hardback for the clearness of the illustrations – it may just be the font size and amount of ink used when the book was printed.

(I bought the paperback version in the gift-shop at The Blandford Fashion Museum many years ago during a family summer holiday.)

I always find the material at the back of this book interesting and helpful.

There’s a comprehensive Source of the Illustrations, chapter by chapter.

The Bibliography gives both the primary and secondary sources.

What the materials

I particularly like the Glossary of Materials.

Muslin had different types – something I didn’t appreciate, and couldn’t describe the differences without a little information.

The book covers underclothes from  the Medieval period up to 1940-1950.

There’s even a Appendix of Clothes Rationing for May 1942, giving the number of coupons needed for various items of underclothes, both male and female.

If you disregard C.W Cunnington’s earlier books with his apparent theories on women, fashion and sexuality, those books written with his wife Phillis are a good starting point for historical fashion.

When I began writing, it was their books on English Women’s Clothing in the 18th Century and the 19th century version that were both the first costume reference books I studied.

Don’t ignore those books that Phillis wrote after her husband’s death (1961); they provide interesting and useful information too on the clothes ordinary people wore…

Phillis Cunnington: born 1887 and died 1974.


* The History of Underclothes by C. Willett & Phillis Cunnington, with revisions by A. D. and Valerie Mansfield. Faber and Faber, 1981.

Sympathising with a Character…

While I’ve been absent and unable to make progress due to work on the wiring and plumbing in my home, I’ve been storing the disruption and emotions to share with the hero of my work in progress, Hugh.

Hugh has a platoon of workmen updating his manor, but trouble-free is not the plan.

He could find alternate lodgings but having been absent for so long it wouldn’t be desirable in the circumstances he faces.

The time away from the manuscript has also allowed me to develop the options for the gaps left in the first draft- that must be resolved in the second.

Also the antagonists have revealed their motives and produced a few surprises.

Progress will be made this year…

Story building blocks…


Merry Christmas…

The months have gone by and I’ve not been able to do as much as I’d wanted. The disruptions will be ongoing for a few months yet while (essential) major work starts on my home in the New Year.

However you celebrate this time of year (or don’t) I wish you a safe and peaceful time…



Book Reviews – The Devil’s Brood…


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Been a busy year so far, and I’m now in the middle of sorting and packing boxes to go into storage, for work to be done on the house.

This does mean a large amount of books are going into boxes; do I really have that many historical romance paperbacks?

The answer is yes…

There are a few on my Kindle too, so I have been working my way through my to be read list when I need a relaxing read at the end of the day.

Stephanie Laurens is on my favourite authors list, but I’d put off buying her latest Devil’s Brood trilogy until all three books were available.

These are connecting stories concerning the two sons and daughter of ‘Devil’ Cynster Duke of St Ives and his Duchess, Honoria. Years have passed and their children are now grown up and living in early Victorian times.

While you can read each book as a stand-alone story there is an ongoing plot involving gunpowder and more that link the books together.

Whilst this trilogy called The Devil’s Brood, is also part of the ‘Cynsters Next Generation Series’ as book 4, though book 1 in the ‘Brood set’…

(I’ll avoid spoilers as best I can.)

The Lady By His Side (Cynsters Next Generation Series Book 4)

Book 4: The Lady By His Side

Each book immediately follows on from the end of the previous story, so the events take place over a short time span.

Personally, book 4 was my least favourite.

Of course the ongoing plot needs to be set up and the associated characters, I don’t think Sebastian (the Marquess) appealed to me as much as the other heroes.

For me Sebastian was overshadowed by the enigmatic Drake Varisey, and the story didn’t really keep my interest until the first major incident, and the developing relationship between Sebastian and Antonia Rawlings, an Earl’s daughter.

The map of the grounds of Pressington Hall (where the story takes place) between chapters 3 & 4 surprised me. Likely because of being used to seeing this type of extra toward the front of a paperback.

BUT, by the last quarter of the book I wanted to keep reading. And yes I was eager to read the next book…

An Irresistible Alliance (Cynsters Next Generation Series Book 5)

Book 5 An Irresistible Alliance

Book 5 moves on to Michael. He has second son syndrome, no pre-determined role to fill, bored and eager to help when Drake Varisey needs assistance.

This is a just one more chapter book. I didn’t want to put it down and ended up reading to the end at 1.30 am.

Cleo Hendon works in her parents shipping office managing everything, but wanting some excitement in her life; and along comes Michael Cynster seeking information. Cleo is intelligent, daring and not afraid to take the lead and guaranteed to upset any Cynster male.

(Cleo’s parents are Kit and Jack from Captain Jack’s Woman.)

There are lots of twists and turns and misdirection as the gunpowder search continues; as the pace builds toward the conclusion of Michael and Cleo’s adventures.

By the end I wanted to start the next book as soon as I could.

Of the 3 books, book 6 The Greatest Challenge of Them All was my favourite.

The Greatest Challenge Of Them All (Cynster Next Generation Series Book 6)

Book 6 The Greatest Challenge of Them All

Drake (the Marquess of Winchelsea, and heir to the Duke of Wolverstone- from the Bastion Club series) is in charge of defending Queen and country from those intent on causing harm.

When he refers to Lady Louisa Cynster by the name given to her by the ton, ‘Lady Wild’, you can sense his dread, and it’s clear that sparks are bound to fly between two such strong-willed and devious characters.

That gunpowder has moved again, and every time they seem close to getting answers another barrier springs up to stop them as they race toward the answer to the ongoing mystery.

The developing relationship between Drake and Louisa is in some ways complex, but in others simple. He’s the one in charge and she refuses to be relegated to a troublesome assistant, but they each have depths that you know would take their lifetime to discover.

There were a few moments that made me laugh, because I could see what was about to happen and knew Drake would not stand a chance against a determined Louisa. (You’ll know when you get to it!)

Yes, this was another just one more chapter book, and was a further late night.

Each book has an author’s note so you can discover more about the background elements of the story and it is interesting.

I’m glad I didn’t give up at the end of book 4. The running gunpowder plot was intriguing enough to make me want to know what would happen next, so I was willing to give book 5 a chance, and it was worth it.

I also enjoy a happy ever after…



Book cover images from Amazon.uk

A Few Views from the Fashion Museum in Bath…


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I have had a few busy months, but I did manage a much-needed long weekend break in Bath last month, with the main intention of visiting the Fashion Museum.

You’ll find a couple of posts over on Carol’s blog about the visits to the Bath Postal Museum and the Museum of Bath Architecture.

Both these small museums don’t get the visitor numbers that the better known locations do, but are well worth taking a little time out to see them if you’re in Bath.

The Fashion Museum is currently exhibiting the History of Fashion in 100 Objects (until 1st January 2019), along with the recently opened Lace in Fashion.

This was two hours of bliss. Selecting my favourites to show you has been difficult, but I’ve chosen time periods I’m interested in for my novels current and future…

And shoes do feature in my image selection.

As lighting is low and items are behind glass to control the temperature to protect the fabrics from deteriorating, I have needed to add light to my images, and you may notice the occasional reflection. I wanted to limit how much adjustment I needed to make, but the ones reflecting the red chairs will take some work. I really didn’t think it was polite to move them just for one photo, so you won’t be seeing that one!

My absolute favourite dress was this striped silk Robe à l’anglaise from the 1770’s.

Striped silk Robe à l’anglaise from 1770’s

Actually I have to admit to favouring the dresses of the 1770’s. They must have looked amazing when they were first worn; the wearer making their way around a ballroom with the candlelight reflecting off mirrors and windows bringing the colour to life.

The early costumes displayed a more practical element, less glamour than those late 18th century gowns. They also show how styles could change over a decade, with open and closed robe dresses revealing, then concealing a warm petticoat.



Open Robe of the 1730’s and the Closed Robe of the 1740’s

There was an interesting quilted petticoat from the 1740’s on display with an open robe. The information card suggested it could be Scottish, and perhaps an indicator of sympathy to the Jacobite cause. The stitched thistle design is not immediately obvious until you look closer…

Quilted petticoat from the 1740’s with thistle design

You can just see the dress this petticoat was displayed with to the right in the above group photo…


High heels from the   1780’s

Flat shoes from the 1810’s

There were a few shoes within the costume areas, but further on a couple of display cabinets held a variety of shoes and boots.





There were a few delightful items of menswear included, waistcoats, jackets, suits, and an early pair of trousers from the 1820’s.

Man’s Printed Cotton Banyan from the 1750’s











Accessories were not forgotten. There was a display of Bone, Coral, Ivory and Turtle items, that ranged from fans to hair combs and other pieces. It was highlighting the less pleasant aspect of trade in species from around the world during the 18th and 19th century.

Today these species are protected, but in the 1800’s there was a big trade in these new materials, and the resources were probably looked on as unlimited, though a few hundred years later we’re aware of how much damage this led to…

So that’s just a few items. The exhibition is worth visiting, as whatever decade or century you’re interested in, you’ll find something to admire and be fascinated by.

When you finish the fashion display downstairs in the Assembly Rooms, you can go back upstairs and view the settings those beautiful dresses and suits could have graced in past times…

Carol will be putting a few images from the exhibition on her next blog post too. So do take the time to visit.


It’s Shoes…


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Having finally got the house back to normal, and the horrible winter illnesses have faded away, I’ve had time to think about updating the blog, so I decided to revisit some of the exhibitions I got to visit last year, and there’s a few photos from 2015 included…

The one element we share with the men and women of the past is that shoes and boots say something about us; we’re conformists, or complete exhibitionists, or perhaps somewhere in-between types.

Shoes may be practical or decorative, and at various times across the century practicality or decoration has been predominant.

Small Black Leather Overshoes 1795-1800

Small Black Leather Overshoes 1795-1800 (1)

Whenever there’s an exhibition display of costume, shoes are the useful accessory but get overshadowed by a beautiful dress. Being able to concentrate just on the shoes themselves allows you to see not only the skill of the shoe-designer/maker, but the detail in the material used: leather, brocade, silk, or embroidered textiles.

The Shoe exhibition that Fairfax House in York ran last year, had a number of items on loan from other UK museums (Northampton, and Hereford among them). There was even a black boot belonging to Lord Wellington that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place nowadays.

Sadly no photos could be taken at Fairfax House, so I’ve searched through my own images from other museums and exhibitions I’ve been to, where photos are allowed under set conditions.

(That’s when a good digital camera is invaluable; images can be zoomed in on, and if needed light applied once you’ve downloaded them to your computer.)

I’d happily wear the early 18th century Louis heels if a shoe designer made them for shoes in my foot size, but without the pointy toes!

Women's Brocade Silk Shoes 1730-50

Women’s Brocade Silk Shoes 1730-50 (2)

Brocade Silk Women's Shoes 1730-50

Brocade Silk Women’s Shoes 1730-50 (3)

Heels were worn by both men and women; also decorative buckles to fasten shoes. They could be simple or elaborate, big of small, the must have fashion item of the 1700’s.

You can see some beautiful examples courtesy of candicehearn.com over at Regency World.

18th Century Shoe Buckles

18th Century Shoe Buckles (4)

It wasn’t until I saw the shoes on display at the Fairfax House exhibition that it became obvious how the shape of the toe and design of women’s shoes had changed in a century.

Women's Bargello Embroidery (Wool on Canvas) Shoes 1720-30

Women’s Bargello Embroidery (Wool on Canvas) Shoes 1720-30 (5)

Shoes were neither left or right, so the young women of the 18th and early 19th century probably experienced the pinched toes, and a not perfect fit that many young women nowadays tolerate, but like their earlier counterparts put up with it until they can get home…

So from the pointed toes and lower heels of the 1790’s, women’s shoes became flatter and the pointy toe became rounder and then flat and square. With the materials becoming softer – silks and satin’s, and with the lower cut the need to be tied on, and suitable for dancing in the ballroom.

Mid to late 18th Century Women's Shoes. Paste Buckles.

Mid to late 18th Century Women’s Shoes. Paste Buckles. (6)

Women's Brown Kid Leather Shoes with 1 inch heels 1795-1800

Women’s Brown Kid Leather Shoes with 1 inch heels 1795-1800 (7)

Outside these softer shoes would be unsuitable for walking in, so boots became popular. There are delightful creamy kid leather ankle boots  (circa 1810) in the Alfred Gillett Trust Collection (in The Shoe Museum in Street, Somerset).

Fawn Leather Ankle Boots 1811-1830

Fawn Leather Ankle Boots 1811-1830 (8)

You can follow the ever-changing fashion in shoes via online availability, or depending where you live, by museum visits.

Black Satin Slippers 1830-40

Black Satin Slippers 1830-40 (9)

The Bata Shoe Museum is in Toronto, Canada. But you can see a few shoe examples in All About Shoes.

If the UK, there’s The Shoe Museum in Street, Somerset.

Northampton Museum is digitizing their shoe collection and you can see some of the images on Flickr. Click on the image you’re interested in, and the details are displayed.

On future visits to costume exhibitions I’ll definitely pay more attention to any footwear in the display…

Images 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9 from Shaping The Body, Castle Museum, York.

Images 3, 4, 6 from Pickford House Museum, Derby, Derbyshire.