A Regency Invitation

This is the Blog of the Book! Read all about the process by which Regency authors Joanna Maitland, Elizabeth Rolls and Nicola Cornick wrote collaboratively to create the story of the Regency House Party of the Season! A Regency Invitation is published in November 2005 from Harlequin Historicals.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Waiting...but still writing

Kim Young, 6th January 2004

Dear Joanna, Nicola and Elizabeth,

Happy New Year!

Thank you for sending in both your individual and the overall synopses -- and in such good time! -- we are all really excited about the project and can't wait to see how you've worked together on this.

We will be in touch ASAP!

Best wishes,
Kim


Nicola, 9th January 2004

This is just to let you know that I have invented a hamlet called Lynd as the nearest village to Lyndhurst Chase and an inn where Peter almost seduces Cassie, called The Angel's Arms!

Joanna, 9th January 2004

Love the names, Nicola, especially the Angel's Arms. I'm assuming that, although the Chase isn't Anthony's principal seat, his family originally comes from the area around the village of Lynd, hence the family name. Maybe the family's original house was on the site of the Chase and, when they acquired their much grander property elsewhere (where?), they demolished the original house and built the Chase as a much-loved holiday/hunting home?

I'm having slight problems on the interior. I need to make decisions about locations of some features and would appreciate help. First, I need John and Sarah to have a bedroom that doesn't overlook the courtyard so they can't see who is arriving (in this case, GAH). Should I assume that, since they're the most senior guests, they have been given the best bedroom (F7) facing North and West? Or is that Anthony's room? I'd be content to give the Mardons F4, facing South and West, if that's more convenient. As an aside here, are we having any public rooms on the first floor, now that we've extended the house? Maybe a large, light sitting room for the ladies?

Second question: Ashdown doesn't have a back staircase. Should we have one in the extended house? It's obviously important for Amy. Actually, for ease of plot-making for me, it might be better not to have a second staircase. That way Amy will have more difficulty in avoiding the nobs, especially William. And we can do scenes of the servants melting into the wallpaper. Wonderful image, Nicola.

I think maybe we need a sketch floor-plan of the extended house, at least the ground floor and first floor. I'm doing a consultancy report for the next three days but I could have a go at a plan next week perhaps. What do you think?

Can you tell us, please, Nicola, where Lynd lies in relation to the house? I suggest we add a mention of it to our sketch map. I should also like, if possible, to add an East Lodge to the North Lodge we already have. Then we could make it clear that the usual entrance to Lyndhurst Chase is via the East Lodge gate on the Newbury/Oxford Road. The North Lodge entrance is little used and is therefore an ideal place to conceal Ned. I've decided there will be an unmarried lodge-keeper there (Roger the Shrubber, natch) who is a bit of an oddball/loner. His elderly and conveniently deaf (!) aunt keeps house for him. Everyone from the area knows that you are never invited into the North Lodge so no one is likely to stumble on Ned. Hardly any of the locals ever go near Roger the Shrubber who can be a bit quick to assume people are poachers and take pot shots at them.

Started writing the arrival of GAH yesterday, on the train. I keep having to find excuses for an abigail to be among the nobs so that I can write from Amy's POV. In this case, Sarah isn't dressed (having been frolicking in bed with John!) so she is sending Amy downstairs on the pretext of helping GAH after her arduous journey, since GAH hasn't brought a maid. GAH will give Amy pretty short shrift, of course, on the grounds that her companion, Miss Saunders, will do whatever is needful. And she'll pass some pithy comments on Amy's suitability as a high-class dresser in the process! Oh, I am looking forward to writing GAH. I had such fun writing Lady Luce in Rake's Reward that I'm probably going to have an old harridan in every book I write from now on!

Nicola 10th January 2004

Glad that you like the names, Joanna. I imagine that Anthony's family could either have come from the area or have owned land there for hundreds of years and the hamlet might have grown up near the house, just as Ashdown village did.

I think it sounds appropriate for John and Sarah to have the best bedroom. Maybe Anthony preferred the more spartan bachelor surroundings of a smaller room if the best bedroom reminded him too poignantly of the fact he didn't have a wife to share it with? I also like the idea of the ladies having a first floor sitting room. It might seem a bit odd for the extended house not to have a back staircase. At Ashdown the staircase takes up a quarter of the floor space so there isn't really room for a second staircase and in fact the one that's there seems out of proportion large for a house that size. But I think we could make it work either way, so whatever suits you best, Joanna and Elizabeth. I like the idea of the servants melting into the wallpaper too. It would be great if you could do a sketch floor-plan, Joanna. Thank you. Also a good idea to add the East Lodge.

I had planned Lynd to be to the south of the house. Peter is travelling from London and comes up the road from the Newbury and London direction. There is a fork in the road south of Lyndhurst Chase where another road goes off to the west. Quinn is coming from Bath, which is why it is Peter and not Quinn who bumps into Cassie on the road. I'll add Lynd and the road junction to the map. Perhaps I should have sent this to Kim with the outline and family tree?

It sounds as though your story is coming on, Joanna. I have just got to the point where Peter is plying Cassie with blackberry cordial in the inn, not realising yet that she shouldn't mix fruit and alcohol...

Joanna, 11th January 2004

Thanks, Nicola, that's great. I'll have a further think about the back stairs and let you know what I'd like to do. I don't think we should go final on it until Elizabeth's had a chance to say what she thinks. Maybe we should have sent the sketch map, but since we didn't, I suggest we now wait to hear what they have to say.

My story isn't exactly coming on. I've done about 4000 words and am just about to do the first sight and sound of GAH, but can't do any of it until I've finished my consultancy stuff. That will take all day today and tomorrow, since I've fallen behind on it. (Too many RNA interruptions!) Your story, on the other hand, sounds to be coming along a treat. I'm off to London on Monday so I'll have two uninterrupted train journeys during which I can write. I am tempted to take Elizabeth's book with me (The Regency Rakes one, Elizabeth) but I shall resist. Haven't started it yet and must not. Must save it as a treat for when I've done the first draft of the abigail, I think.


Nicola, 11th January 2004

I spoke to Kim last week and she was in the process of reading the House Party stuff then so I hope she'll be able to put Linda in the picture pretty quickly this week. I'm not exactly racing along with my story either -- I've done about 4,000 words and it is very light, and maybe too humorous. I know Linda mentioned a darker element in the original documentation. OTOH, it is a Regency House Party as DH pointed out this morning!

Joanna, 12th January 2004

You may be right about the humour, Nicola. However, we do have a darker element in William L-F and his nefarious doings, both to Anthony and to Marcus. He also gropes housemaids.

Still struggling with the consultancy stuff but am now about 75% complete. Having tea break at present!

Joanna, 13th January 2004

Managed to write Great Aunt Harridan's arrival while I was on the train from London yesterday. As soon as she alights from the carriage, she starts haranguing Anthony. She pokes him in the chest with her brass ear trumpet and nearly pokes his eye out with it, as well. She has insisted on having a bedchamber on the first floor, where the ladies' sitting room is, so Anthony has to agree to have William moved to an upper floor. Georgie has said absolutely nothing. She just stands there staring at the ground so that the poke of her bonnet hides her face. By the time GAH has actually got through the front door, Anthony appears (to Amy) to be on the point of exploding with rage. Hope that's OK, Elizabeth. I'll send the scene round when you're back from your travels and I've done some more work on it.

Amy is now going to volunteer to help the housekeeper to move William's belongings and that will give her a chance to have a good nose through them. I have called the housekeeper Mrs Waller.

That reminds me that we need to keep a list of characters' names, so that we don't end up with continuity errors. And I now have to work on the layout of the extended house because it's started to matter to my plot, what with GAH and backstairs and the like. Do you want Cassie to have a bedchamber next door to the Mardons' room, Nicola? It would seem likely, if Sarah is supposed to be Cassie's chaperon. OTOH, Quin and Peter Quinlan would get some of the best rooms too, and we wanted to be able to move Peter up a floor, later on, to a room next to Cassie. That suggests Cassie started on the second floor. I think the answer may be to put the Mardons in the best corner bedchamber on the second floor, leaving Anthony and the other men on the first floor. Cassie could then have the room next to the Mardons. Is that OK?

One other thing. When I extend the ground floor, I intend to put in a billiard room. Do I need anything else in particular? What about a smoking room? An office? (in addition to the study/library).


Nicola, 13th January 2004

Aargh! Whilst out walking the dog this morning I had a character crisis and decided that Peter Quinlan wasn't turning out quite right! Sorry! I have now got rid of Quinn and turned Peter into a reluctant fortune hunter who has to restore the family fortunes by marrying Cassie. The rest of the story is basically unchanged -- when he meets Cassie she doesn't know who he is and tells him all her secrets etc; John and Anthony find them in the inn in a compromising position and insist on an immediate betrothal; Cassie wakes up the next day to discover who Peter is and realises that not only has he deceived her but he's after her money etc etc. I hope this won't disrupt your stories too much. I didn't think it would have too much impact on them but I'm sorry to mess things about at this late stage.


Nicola, 13th January 2004

Great Aunt Harridan sounds magnificent, Joanna! Yes, it seems appropriate for Cassie to have the room next to the Mardons and with Quinn out of the way we only need one nice guest chamber for Peter! Definitely agree about the billiard room. And there could certainly be an estate office/study as well as a library. Can't think of anything else at present, unless we want to add a hothouse/conservatory on the south side to catch the sun and provide another rendezvous point? Looking forward to seeing the plan!


Nicola, 14th January 2004

I have sent Kim an amended synopsis for story 1 and thought I ought to copy it to both of you as well, of course! Not many changes and as I said earlier, I hope won't cause you any problems. Sorry for the late change. Kim indicated to me that they might well be getting back to us about the RHP tomorrow. Holding my breath!

[Note to blog readers: we haven’t included Nicola’s revised synopsis here because it wasn’t much different from the one you’ve already seen.]


Elizabeth, 14th January 2004

Okay -- I'm back. Have had a fabulous time and will write more later this evening when the inbox is sort of under control.
Joanna, 14th January 2004

Welcome back, Elizabeth. You may be just in time. Had this from Linda last night in response to my email:

Dear Joanna
Thanks for this. Pulled up the NT pic of Ashdown House and can see why it has inspired you. Am just typing up the notes from our meeting today and will whiz them off to you all tomorrow.
With best wishes
Linda


And tomorrow is today!!!

Elizabeth, 14th January 2004

Wow! Have you two been busy or what while I've been disporting myself in glorious New Zealand. So far all the stuff you have come up with sounds great. I'll need to spend a day really reading in detail to get up to speed, but I'm itching to go. I did some writing while there, since the muse struck while I was on the walk. Not exactly convenient, but I at least got the dialogue down.

Have just discovered that DH decided to make pumpkin soup while I was away. Sad to relate, instead of using the chicken stock I had frozen, he found the lemon juice! A culinary disaster, in fact.

Elizabeth, 15th January 2004

I've just spoken to Linda about another matter and I don't think we have anything to worry about with our synopses. Apparently they are all delighted with what we've come up with. We should be hearing the response to the general outline today and responses from our individual editors shortly after. Linda is terribly impressed at the level of collaboration and the way our characters weave in and out of the different stories.

Must remember to claim that phone call on my income tax!

Joanna, 15th January 2004

Now this is going to put your inbox even more out of control, Elizabeth. I am attaching the floorplans I've done for our house. They're all Word docs so I hope they open OK. You will see that, following the suggestion in Nicola's drawing (the one with the sheep) I have extended the square house on the West and South. Had to use quite a lot of space for corridors so, although it is bigger, we've haven't gained that much. We have got a billiard room and a first floor sitting room for the ladies though. Since the ladies got abandoned while they men indulged in sport, it's only fair that they should have the best room.

On bedrooms, I think it would go as follows (though I haven't marked it on the plans):

---Anthony F3 and F2

---William F6 and F7 in story 1 but moved up into S3 when GAH arrives and demands a room on the first floor

---GAH F6 and F7 from story 2

---Georgie in F7 for story 2 until joins Anthony in F3 and F2

---Peter in F4 then moved out in favour of Marcus at end story 2 into S4, opposite Cassie.
---F4 and S4 have no separate dressing room because it has only one window but it could have a dressing area

---Marcus in F2 for stories 1 and 2, then in F4 for story 3

---Cassie S7 and S8

---John and Sarah Mardon S5 and S6

---Amy in A4 for stories 1 and 2 then, from end of story 2, S2

---Free for other guests: F1 and S1 (both small and unattractive), and the attic rooms with sloping roofs etc. Visiting valets (for John, and for William and Peter if they have brought them) would be in A1 or A3. Marcus has brought no servants with him.

---The nursery (A2) is empty unless we can think of a use for it. There are no children at the house party.

---The attic spiral staircase leads to the cupola (not shown) which is bigger than the Ashdown one, with leather covered benches round the sides so guests can look out without getting wet.

---The basement is very loosely defined, with kitchens, other work rooms, servants' hall etc.

---I've moved the entrance to the north side. I imagine story 2 will be the only one that goes down there, so I'll make it up as I go along!

I hope that makes sense and goes with what you are writing/have written. You'll notice that I have put in a very small set of back stairs. Couldn't find anywhere else to put them. The blessed chimneys kept getting in the way. Also, there are too many windows so it's difficult to imagine where furniture would go. No blank walls!

Let me know if any of it doesn't work. Mind you, we don't need to be exact here. It's just for a general idea. I leave it to Elizabeth to decide the colours of the rooms and the furniture.

[Note to blog readers: as usual, we can’t import the plans of our house into the blog. Sorry if that makes this post a bit confusing to read, but it does show the lengths we had to go to in order to get the setting right. The house was designed with ground floor, first floor, second floor, attics (with access to roof), and basement, hence the abbreviations such as S2 = bedroom 2 on Second floor.]


Nicola, 15th January 2004

Wow, Joanna, you have been busy! I will have a wander around Lyndhurst Chase this evening!


Nicola, 15th January 2004

Welcome back, Elizabeth! I'm looking forward to hearing all about your trip.

Peter Quinlan is now a Viscount. Very confusing, I know! So both Linda and Kim have promised feedback today... It's 6.15pm UK time and it's not here yet, but I know Linda works very late...


Elizabeth, 15th January 2004

Yes, well. Nothing from Linda yet. Maybe tonight. She sounded very happy with everything anyway.

The trip -- was fabulous. We arrived in Christchurch at midnight and by the time we cleared customs got to our hotel at about 1am. The bus for Queenstown left at 7:45am, only by the time some other bus had ripped off the driver side wing mirror and we got a new bus it was about 8:30. There was some mad idea that we'd sleep on the bus but the scenery was too good.


Queenstown was lovely. Full of holiday makers and with all the cafes and bars on the quay beside the lake it looked like a cross between Scotland and the Mediterranean. The hills are too steep for much development around the lake -- they come straight down into the lake. One range of mountains there, The Remarkables, looks exactly like the walls of Mordor, really fierce and jagged.

We met up quite accidentally with an American who was doing our walk. Ron told us about this great practice walk out of Queenstown that we could do if we wanted to test out our hill climbing stamina. We did. Hill climbing okay, blisters a disaster. I started the walk with massive blisters on both heels. Luckily you can get this amazing stuff called second skin which looks a bit like a slice of set gelatine and is held on with elastoplast. It works and I could walk without any real discomfort. I also had the bliss of being tended each morning by the guides, three of the most gorgeous young men imaginable. And soooooooo gentle. Gave me all sorts of ideas! But I have to confess on the last morning the well-known novelist, Elizabeth Rolls, got caught spread-eagled on her stomach in the hotel foyer with ANOTHER man bending over her. Alan's technique was slightly different to the other two . . . they liked me standing up!

The walk itself was amazing. Wonderful scenery. We had sunshine for the first three days walking, including the climb over the pass, but then it rained for the last day of walking. Thirteen and a half miles in the pouring rain. Rain brings out all the waterfalls down the valley sides so it was still lovely, but I didn't stop for photos. I thought the camera wouldn't survive it.


We stayed in the hotel at Milford Sound that night. Very nice and comfortable, not that we had been exactly roughing it with comfy beds, hot meals provided and showers each night! After dinner I was dragged, kicking and screaming, I swear! to the pub. Can you imagine it? They made me, simply made me, down about 5 pints of beer. Good thing NZ beer isn't as strong as ours or I'd have had a shocking hangover. A good time was had by all.

We did a cruise on Milford Sound the next morning. Still raining and the peaks were shrouded in mist. It was stunning. So dramatic. And the waterfalls! Thousands of them, literally. Except for two they only come out in the rain. Which is most days since Milford Sound gets about 8 metres of rain a year. And yes, I have got that figure right! 8 metres. Staggering, isn't it?

Very entertaining boat driver. He lay back in his seat in the wheelhouse and steered with one foot. Not quite sure what he was using when he took us under one of the permanent waterfalls. (It was quite a big boat.) The noise was cataclysmic. And the wind created was really something. One or two hardy souls actually stayed out on the bow during this. I was not one of them. They had full waterproofs on, I didn't.

We were taken back to Queenstown by bus after that. Very sad!

I've spent the last few days with Helen Kirkman. Nicola, I think you'd know her? Had a lovely time relaxing with her and met the newest NZ recruit to the M&B historical line, Sophia James. Also caught up with a couple of other NZ writing friends.

NZ is definitely a must visit. Especially the South Island. It's the sort of scenery that makes you ache with pleasure. And so wild! I can see myself going back in the next few years and taking DH and the kids. Queenstown looks to be a great place to holiday with youngsters. Heaps to do and such a gorgeous setting.

Your postcards will arrive. Had a slight disaster there. I left my book in the luggage trolley when they picked me up. Entirely my fault. I should have checked. Anyway your postcards were tucked in the book since I'd been writing them on the flight. I had a little trouble finding South Island, Middle Earthish postcards on the North Island. But I have done so! And written them again. But don't be too surprised at the Aussie postmark.

I seem to have raved on a bit here. Could carry on about the birdlife, but you may have had enough! When I get my photos developed I will store them on the computer and send some to you as attachments if they are any good and you would like me to do so.

I am now going to stagger off for a morning cup of tea. I will get back to the furnishings tonight. I love the amended floorplan. And your account of GAH's arrival. Will tag that mentally and refer to it. Love that ear trumpet! Would it be possible to see an excerpt of that scene? I have one where she earwigs him again and would like to get the speech patterns matched. This is the scene where he realises Georgie didn't run off with another man.

Er, can you guys keep a secret if I'm really hopeless and can't? I'm not going to tell the loop yet because I was told to keep it very quiet for the next month, but The Unruly Chaperon has finalled for the RNA category award. Which was why I had to phone Linda. So she knows, but no one else except DH who heard the shriek from the far side of the house. Please don't tell anyone. I probably shouldn't tell you two, but we've been working so closely, I couldn't bear not to. And speaking of houses -- we've sold ours! The move is at the end of February. Six weeks away. I've told Linda that too. I'm thinking about buying a 2nd hand laptop so I get as little writing interruption as possible.


Linda Fildew, 15th January, 2004

Dear Joanna, Nicola and Elizabeth,

Thank you again for all your hard work over Christmas. All your furiously frantic e-mails have produced a winning set of three short stories and I attach our joint thoughts on the general outline. Kim will be in contact with you, Nicola, on your individual story and I'm about to do the same for you, Joanna and Elizabeth

Do, please, have a ponder and let us know your thoughts in due course.

What an exciting way to kick off the New Year!
Linda

[Note to blog readers: if you want to know what the editors said, you’ll have to read the next episode of this blog. We’ll try not to keep you waiting too long.]

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Proposal Goes Off at Long Last

Joanna, 27th December 2003

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas. We certainly did, even though it rained. Have just finished my draft synopsis and must now go shopping and get ready to welcome another guest who is joining our house party (!) for the weekend.

Like yours, Elizabeth, my synopsis is long but I can always shorten it for the eds. Please let me know of anything I've missed or got wrong.

[Note to blog readers: we’re not including the synopsis here, because it differs only a little from the version you’ve already seen. However, the final version of all three synopses is given at the end of this blog post.]

Elizabeth, 27th December 2003

This looks great, Joanna and it's not nearly as long-winded as mine. I got carried away!

I don't think you missed anything -- but the excuse Anthony uses to go after Georgiana at the end is that Stella the dog needs to go out urgently. Stella is snoring under a foldover teatable between the windows.

Just to clarify Georgiana's concerns about sharing Anthony's bed. She isn't worried that he will break his word. She knows perfectly well that he won't. It is more the general intimacy of the situation and the anger between them. She is also scared of her own response to him. She still loves him and is afraid she won't be able to hide that from him.

Glad to hear your Christmas was wonderful, Joanna. We had a lovely time as well. The weather was glorious and we went to see The Return of the King last night. My sister looked after the boys. An evening off!

Joanna, 27th December 2003

Thanks, Elizabeth. I didn't include any mention of the dog for reasons of length, but when I write it, I promise it will be as you wanted it. I also forgot to include the bit about Marcus finding the miniature of Georgie in Anthony's dressing room. I will put that in, probably in the third paragraph of the synopsis of my story proper.

One of the problems I've created for myself relates to point of view. Neither of my POV characters is actually around for above stairs events like drawing-room conversations, dinner etc so either Amy has to observe/eavesdrop or I'll have to go into Sarah's POV. Since Amy is there to find things out, I've decided that she will eavesdrop on the conversation between William and Anthony mentioned in para 3 of the synopsis proper. Then--an additional scene--Anthony will go marching up to his bedroom and find Marcus with the miniature. Cue a tense scene between them, with the effects on Anthony that you described in one of your emails.

We've still got time to finalise these synopses, and also to make any changes to the overview. I'll send round a revised version of the family tree soon, possibly tomorrow or Monday. Then we should be nearly all set...apart from the writing, of course

I’m now about to cook the goose pie for supper -- leftovers, but you don't get much off a goose!

Nicola, 28th December 2003

We're knee deep into family Christmas events at present so am not around much until tomorrow afternoon (Monday) when I will read, learn and inwardly digest all that you have been working on! I'm glad to hear everyone has had a super Christmas. I hope you enjoyed Return of the King, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth, 28th December 2003

Mmmmm!! Return of the King was FABULOUS! Will no doubt be seeing it again in short order. Just in case I missed anything. It was all terribly stirring and emotional. Especially the charge of the Riders of Rohan and the death of Theoden. I wept. And nearly passed out over that whopping spider! UGH!! The stuff of nightmares.

Keep enjoying your Christmas, Nicola. Joanna -- goose pie sounds very tasty.

Elizabeth, 28th December 2003

Joanna -- I just had a thought. Would you mind very much if when John warns Anthony that William is unscrupulously manipulative, he refers to an attempt on William's part to sow distrust between John and Sarah before their marriage? Nothing specific. Just that it happened and John knows that it was because W is desperate for money. It would fit very neatly with his manipulation of Anthony and Georgie and his desperation for money. It also gives Anthony something very solid to think about.

Joanna, 28th December 2003

Don't mind at all Elizabeth. Seems totally in character, since John's second marriage was likely to end all William's hopes of inheriting.

Your email suggests you're getting on with the writing. I thought you would be (a) clearing up after Christmas and (b) packing for your NZ trip, but then...you never did need sleep

Elizabeth, 28th December 2003

Not very much clearing up to do. We had Christmas at my sister's place down on the coast. And I can't pack yet because she is lending me a backpack and won't be back with it until Thursday. I'll pack then.

I am getting on with the writing, trying to get a few scenes fleshed out before I go. Sleep? it's only eleven. The night's a pup! And I have a very bad coffee habit. After all if I don't write at night I get very little done. Hopefully this will change once Small Boy #2 goes to school, although the nightowl habit is an old one. Not necessarily a good one!

Joanna, 1st January 2004

A very happy new year, both!

I attach the final (I hope) revise of the family tree so that you can attach it to the overview when you send your own synopsis to Richmond. I have included all the detail from your individual synopses so it should be OK. I've also included info on why and when the Mardon family name became Lyndhurst-Flint, so the eds don't have to ask! Let me know if you find any typos etc.

Hope the HQN stuff has gone OK, Nicola. From what I know of the story, I reckon it's going to be a huge hit. Hope your packing is now well advanced, Elizabeth, and that you have a wonderful time in NZ. Meanwhile, Nicola and I will try to get as much as poss of the first two stories written. I've been so involved with holidays and children that I haven't done any more till now. Slap hand. Must do better.

Elizabeth, 1st January, 2004

Happy New Year!

I have done most of my packing. Just a few items to go in tomorrow morning, like my toothbrush. Um, oh, right. It's this morning already. Not sure how much sleep I'll get tonight anyway. I'm actually too excited to sleep. Having felt like this before on occasion, going to bed may be a complete waste of time. I'll try. I can always sneak out again to work if sleep eludes me.

Thanks for the revised family tree, Joanna.

I'm going to send my synposis through tomorrow morning. I'm sending copies to whoever is in the cc field of the last email Linda sent on this topic. The copy I have here of the background synopsis is draft. Would it be better to let you two send that in? I can just note that the background synopsis is coming from you in my covering email to Richmond.

Let me know what you think. I'll be checking my emails etc in the morning. I don't leave until mid afternoon, so can send the stuff before then.

Nicola -- if you send me your snail mail I shall get myself organised and send you a postcard from Middle Earth! I have Joanna's snail mail.

Nicola, 1st January, 2004

Happy new year! Many thanks for the family tree, Joanna.

I have just sent my HQN 3 chapters and synopsis to my agent, so fingers crossed. Looking forward to getting stuck into the short story now.

Have a wonderful trip, Elizabeth.

Joanna, 1st January, 2004

Fine by me, Elizabeth, if you want to leave it to Nicola and me to send in the overview stuff. It will all be at Richmond in a great heap before they all get back from their hols, anyway, so it's not as if the story 3 synopsis will be looking odd, sitting there on its own.

At the risk of putting damper on your wonderful holiday, Elizabeth, when are you back in Oz?

Joanna, 1st January, 2004

Have been going through our heaps of emails and outlines to ensure I don't miss anything. Looking at the Overview thing, Elizabeth, I wondered whether you want Anthony to be called Major Anthony Lyndhurst? Given the number of Lyndhursts and Lyndhurst-Flints around, it could be helpful (especially for Nicola and me) to be able to refer to him as the Major, at least sometimes, rather than always as Mr Lyndhurst. Let me know what you want to do, and I can, if necessary, change some of the references in the overview.

That was the only thing I found, so enjoy your holiday!

Elizabeth, 2nd January, 2004

Joanna, I think calling Anthony 'Major' is an excellent idea. By the way -- his valet is called Timms and used to be his batman. You'll be needing Timms in Marcus and Amy's story. He's a nice little man, very loyal and generally tells Anthony exactly what he thinks. He's not a very gentlemanly gentleman's gentleman. Certainly he always refers to Anthony as The Major. If you work it in, he would also be the one other person to recognise Georgiana. Apart from William who is too self-absorbed to have really noticed her as a person.

Elizabeth, 2nd January, 2004

I'll send the synopsis through to everyone including you two. It probably doesn't look any different to how it looked last week.

I'm back on the 14th in the evening. Should be functioning again by the following day. I've been doing a bit of writing over the last few days, tackling the opening couple of chapters. I've written about 6000 words. All of which needs revising, fleshing out and pruning, so don't get too excited! But it's better than blank pages.

I'd say, looking at the timeframe Linda gave us that she is planning on a fairly swift response.

Elizabeth to Linda Fildew, 2nd January, 2004

Please find attached a copy of my synopsis for the proposed Regency House Party trilogy. The rest of the material, background outline etc will be coming from Joanna Maitland and Nicola Cornick very soon. I'm sending this through now because I am off to New Zealand this afternoon. I will be back on the 14th.

Linda, I hope you had a wonderful time in Tenerife. By the time you see this I should be safely in Auckland, hopefully in one piece. The news for the last week has been all about people falling off mountains on NZ's South Island. So encouraging! I'm really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our house party.

[Note to blog readers: Elizabeth’s synopsis is included with the others at the end of this blog post.]

Nicola, 2nd January, 2004

I am working on my final draft of the synopsis for story 1 which I will copy to you and Elizabeth when it is ready. I just wanted to check whether the version of the back story outline that we have (draft 2) is the correct one, with the addition of Major as Anthony's title? I'm getting a little confused here and don't want to send in the wrong thing!

Thank you so much for putting the outline and the family tree together. You and Elizabeth have worked so hard -- I feel a bit lazy in comparison! I am going to get stuck in to the story when I get back from my final weekend of New Year merriment with my parents in Suffolk.

Joanna, 2nd January, 2004

Draft 2 is the most recent version. I plan to do the final update on it today and add in the family tree. If I send it to you again, you will then be able to scrap previous versions and use the final one. Is that OK? Do you need it earlier than this afternoon? I know you're planning to send your synopsis via your agent.

Sounds like you've had a great holiday and well deserved, too. No, you're not lazy. How can you say that? You had the HQN thingie to do and you've managed to do that as well as all the house party stuff. Deserves a medal, I reckon.

I'm going to stop copying things to Elizabeth now, except my stuff to Richmond, because I don't want her inbox to be overflowing when she gets back. I do envy her the trip. Haven't managed to see LOTR yet, either, Maybe this evening...

Nicola, 2nd January 2004

Thank you very much, Joanna. It would be great to have the final version when it's ready. There's no rush from my point of view. I don't think my agent is back from her holidays yet. She usually replies very quickly to my emails and I haven't heard from her yet on the HQN proposal.

I was glad to get the HQN proposal out of the way. I'd been tinkering around with it for ages and could have carried on doing so indefinitely, so had to take the plunge in the end. We'll see what my agent and Kim think. I do quite like the story so at least I am enthusiastic about writing it. I'm looking forward to writing the short story first, though. Reading through the synopses and back story this morning has got me quite excited about the whole project again! Can't wait to get going!

New Zealand is on my travel wish list as well. I would love to go there, expecially after seeing the awe-inspiring scenery in LOTR. I hope you like it if you do get the chance to see it. I haven't been a great Tolkien fan since I was force fed the books at school, but I thought the films were very inspiring.

Have a splendid 2004! Is it this month that Marrying the Major is out in the US? And Rake's Reward can't be far behind. How exciting! Do you think that you will get simultaneous UK/US publication for your subsequent books? That would be quite a thing!

Joanna, 2nd January 2004

Have now read through Elizabeth's revised synopsis. Poor gal must have been up to her eyes at the time because she's left in one or two things (like notes to you and me) that would have been better omitted. OTOH, eds are jolly lucky we managed to do anything like this over Christmas.

When I send in my own synopsis, I'll mention that Elizabeth has got the wrong name for my story, though, or someone will wonder what "The Unexpected Abigail" is!

Nicola, 2nd January, 2004

I've attached my revised Story 1 outline in the hope that you can have a quick look, just in case there's anything I've missed.

I've taken out all the specific details of the hints I'm going to drop for stories 2 and 3 - I didn't think this needed to be included in the editors' version. Having read through the back story and all 3 synopses this afternoon, I must say that I think it all hangs together very nicely. I'm sure Linda will think so too!

[Note to blog readers: yes, we’ve omitted this version too. The final version appears later, if you scroll down.]

Joanna, 3rd January 2004

I love the new idea with the elderberry/fruit allergy. Excellent way of justifying getting Cassie really drunk really quickly. No doubt she'll have a terrible hangover afterwards, too.

I found yet more continuity errors when I was revising my synopsis last night. I'd managed to refer to Ashdown several times, instead of Lyndhurst Chase. Heavens knows what else I've missed. I'm working on it now, and I'll send it through when I've done the next revisions.

And I agree, I think it all hangs together beautifully. My only concern now is to write it in 30,000 words.

Joanna, 3rd January 2004

I attach my revised synopsis. I hope I've caught all the silly errors, but no guarantees.

Are you happy with the passages about links back to your story? I've amplified what was there before. If you're unsure whether you'll include any of it, I'll take it out.

I've also added in the episode with the miniature of Georgie which helps, I think, to explain why Marcus doesn't tell Anthony who Amy is.

As I was reading this email through, it occurred to me that it might be fun to have the Marcus/Amy love scene on the roof, instead of in the cupola. I think Marcus may take the leather cushions from the cupola bench and lay them out on the roof under the stars for a bit of romantic atmosphere. So before I send the synopsis through to you, I'll add a sentence about that.

Done! So here it is. All suggestions welcome.

[Note to blog readers: scroll to the end of this post to read the final version]

Joanna, 3rd January, 2004

I forgot to answer your last para, Nicola, which was very rude of me. Thank you for being so kind and supportive. Yes, MM is out this month, and RR in March. (Also A Poor Relation in June.) As to simultaneous publication... I don't think anyone gets that, do they? Even you seem to have to wait a while.

What I would like, though, is simultaneous publication of this anthology. It would be a lovely Christmas present on both sides of the pond, especially if they do us a good cover. Could be great for our sales but it would only be possible in the time if both markets used the same cover, I imagine. Can you tell from your royalty statements (or other sources) how long your Regency Brides anthology stayed on the shelves for? I remember seeing it for quite a while in the UK.

Joanna, 5th January 2004

Hope you had a wonderful weekend with your parents. Are you planning to submit your synopsis today? Subject to any final comments from you, I hope to do so, too. I note that the eds are back! I've had "read" messages from Kim, Joanna, and Bryony for an email I sent about the Channel 4 series.

There was a mention on the Regency loop about shared characters, so I've dropped a hint about a joint project currently under way. I haven't said who the other two authors are, or what the subject is.

Nicola, 5th January 2004

Thanks for checking through my synopsis, Joanna. It's always better to have a fresh pair of eyes looking at something when you've been peering at it for ages. I only got back from Suffolk at about 5pm so I'll be sending the stuff to Kim tomorrow. She's already asked me where it is, so evidently they're very keen! Thanks also for your revised synopsis. I'm very happy with the links and will look forward dropping a few hints for your story and Elizabeth's.

Regency Brides was on the shelves until it sold out, as far as I can tell. I'm sure that had a big effect on the sales, which have been very good.

Nicola to Kimberley Young, 5th January 2004

The synopsis for Story 1 in the Regency House Party is attached. It has been great fun putting this together with the other authors and I hope you enjoy it too. I look forward to hearing from you!

Joanna to Kimberley Young and others, 5th January 2004

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday. We certainly did, in spite of a modicum of midnight oil-burning in Hereford (also Berkshire and Oz)

I attach the 4-page overview (including a family tree in colour!) that Nicola, Elizabeth and I have agreed. I also attach my own synopsis which has been discussed among the three of us. Elizabeth didn't see the absolutely final version of my synopsis, but there are only small changes from the last version she did see.

Just in case there is any confusion, I've called my story An Uncommon Abigail. In Elizabeth's story 3 synopsis, she refers to story 2 as The Unexpected Abigail. That was an early title which I ditched in favour of the current one.

Will now hold my breath until we hear what you all think!
____________________________________________________
[Note to Blog readers: below is the outline (excluding the family tree), plus the three story synopses as submitted to our editors on 2nd/5th January 2004.]

GENERAL OUTLINE:
REGENCY HOUSE PARTY ANTHOLOGY


It is September, 1819, more than four years since the Duchess of Richmond’s ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo and the fateful quarrel between Major Anthony Lyndhurst and his new young wife, Georgiana. Anthony has not set eyes on her since he returned from Waterloo. He has searched, but now despairs of finding any trace of her. After so many years, he has come to believe she must be dead.

Georgiana waited only long enough to be certain that Anthony had survived the battle uninjured before fleeing, with only the clothes she stood up in, to her godmother in Devon. There, Georgiana waited in vain for Anthony to come to find her. When it became clear that he would not come, Georgiana’s godmother persuaded a very reluctant Georgiana to take a post in Cornwall, as companion to Miss Harriet Lyndhurst, Anthony’s elderly great-aunt. Georgiana took the post on the understanding that her godmother would not disclose her real identity. In Miss Lyndhurst’s remote house, Georgiana is known as Miss Emma Saunders.

It is not enough for Anthony to believe that his wife is dead. Until he knows for sure, he can take no action. He needs a heir for his great wealth, but he is not free to remarry. Nor is he eligible: many in Society have spread rumours that he murdered his wife and her young lover. Anthony has at last decided to face his demons: he will select an heir from among the younger members of the extended Lyndhurst family (see page 4—Lyndhurst Family Tree). There is no single obvious candidate, and so Anthony has organised a house party for family and friends at his hunting box, Lyndhurst Chase, to judge, once and for all, which of them is most deserving.

Cassie Ward is the youngest contender and the only female. But could Anthony bequeath a fortune to a headstrong girl who has no husband to guide her and no prospect of finding one? Cassie is already an heiress, but no man in his right mind would choose to marry a girl with a reputation as a dangerous radical. On the other hand, if Anthony can find a suitor who really needs Cassie’s wealth, a match might yet be made for her—provided, of course, that Cassie can be persuaded to do as she is told, for once.

John, Earl of Mardon, the eldest of the cousins, has no need of Anthony’s wealth, though he would be an able steward of it. Now that John has found happiness in a second marriage to Sarah, he has everything that Anthony himself once wanted. Surely John doesn’t need more?

John’s younger brother, William Lyndhurst-Flint, is the only other family member who has ever met Georgiana and who knows more than the public version of the story of Anthony’s failed marriage. Though not in the army, he was at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball. William could certainly use Anthony’s wealth since he is always in debt. If he were the nominated heir, he would be borrowing against his expectations before the week was out. But Anthony, too, was a younger son once. He knows what it is like to have no prospects. Will he favour William out of fellow-feeling?

And then there is Marcus Sinclair, another cousin who already has wealth enough. However, Marcus has disappeared. In a very public quarrel with a man called Frobisher in a London gaming hell, Marcus was heard to threaten Frobisher’s life. Two days later, Frobisher was attacked and left for dead. A warrant has been issued for Marcus’s arrest. Surely he would not dare to show his face at Lyndhurst Chase when he could be arrested and carried off to gaol at any moment?

One man does know where Marcus is—feckless young Ned Devereaux, one of the early guests at the house party. Now Ned, too, has disappeared, having warned his practical older sister, Amy, that something smoky was going on at Lyndhurst Chase. Amy fears the worst. If Ned has been murdered, Amy will be alone in the world, and practically penniless. She must find out the truth, but she dare not appear at the Chase as herself. With the help of her friend, Sarah, Countess of Mardon, she will go to the Chase in the guise of a lady’s maid so that she can search both above and below stairs for clues to her brother’s disappearance.

Three interwoven stories (see individual synopses) gradually unpick the knots and tangles of THE LYNDHURST INTRIGUE:

1 LADY OF FORTUNE (Nicola Cornick)
How Cassie lights upon a suitor who is far from the sober and steady gentleman that her male relatives have in mind for her.

2 AN UNCOMMON ABIGAIL (Joanna Maitland)
How Amy resolves the mystery of her brother’s disappearance, discovers the proof of Marcus’s innocence and falls in love with him in the process.

3 THE PRODIGAL BRIDE (Elizabeth Rolls)
In which Anthony’s final decision is made for him by the return of his missing wife and the resolution of their many misunderstandings.

_____________________________________________________________________
ADDITIONAL NOTES BY THE AUTHORS

TITLES:

We propose the individual titles in the outline:
Lady of Fortune
An Uncommon Abigail
The Prodigal Bride

and the overall title of
The Lyndhurst Intrigue.

COVER ART:

Lyndhurst Chase is very loosely based on Ashdown House in Berkshire. Some of the details common to both the real and the imaginary house are crucial to the stories, such as the crowning cupola and balustraded roof. An artist’s impression along the lines of Ashdown could make a beautiful backdrop for the cover and would help the readers to understand certain parts of the story.

Prepared by:
Nicola Cornick, Elizabeth Rolls, Joanna Maitland
2nd January 2004

________________________________________________
SYNOPSES

Story 1 – Lady of Fortune

Back story for Cassandra Ward

Cassie Ward
is 21 years old. She was born in 1798. She possesses dark blonde hair but with some of the auburn colouring of the Lyndhursts in it. Unlike her distant cousin Anthony, though, she has brown eyes. She is a strikingly pretty girl, quite small and with a complexion like a russet apple.

Cassie is an orphan. Her mother died 3 years previously after a long degenerative illness, and John, Earl of Mardon, and Anthony Lyndhurst are Cassie’s cousins and her trustees along with Edmund Burnside, her uncle. She lives with her mother’s sister and brother-in-law (The Burnsides) who do not feature in the story.

Cassie is heiress to a huge fortune but she can’t touch it until either she marries or reaches the age of 25. John and Anthony are generous to her and she loves them both and is especially fond of John’s wife Sarah, whom she sees as a surrogate sister. Because she has no close family of her own, Cassie has often stayed with the Mardons but as she grows older she feels uncomfortable about hanging on their coat-tails. In some ways she wants a home and family of her own, but her feelings on this are mixed up because she has seen that John was unhappily married the first time round and she senses that Anthony is also deeply unhappy over the loss of Georgiana, even though he never speaks of it. She envies John and Sarah the closeness that they have now, but she is not sure that marriage is worth the risk. Given a choice, Cassie would hold out until she is 25 and possessor of her own fortune, but she knows Anthony and John want her to wed because they want to see her settled and happy. Unfortunately finding a suitable husband for Cassie is not that easy.

When Cassie was 17 and her mother was an invalid and unable to keep a close eye on her she became embroiled in radical politics through the influence of an unsuitable governess. This led to an infamous incident where she attended a political meeting and was caught in a low tavern smoking a clay pipe. This was blown out of all proportion in the Ton and for a while threatened to ruin Cassie’s reputation. Despite her fortune, which is larger even than Society imagines, she is thought of as an unmarriageable hoyden.

At the house party Cassie is officially being chaperoned by Sarah, but since Sarah is somewhat preoccupied with helping her friend Amy Devereaux find her brother, Cassie has ample opportunity to run around and get into trouble. It is in fact Cassie’s no nonsense maid, Lizzie, who keeps her in line and in whom she confides.

Lord Peter Quinlan

Peter is the younger son of the Duke of Bellars and brother to Quinn, Marquis of Quinlan. He is 27 years old. He served as a junior officer under Anthony Lyndhurst at Waterloo and has always looked upon him as a hero.

The Quinlans have no money and Quinn, a steady character and acquaintance of Anthony Lyndhurst and John, Earl of Mardon, is the suitor the cousins favour for Cassie’s hand in marriage. Peter is invited to the House Party merely to make up the numbers and make it a little less obvious that Anthony has ulterior motives in gathering his friends and family together.

Peter is good-looking, charming and a general favourite. His easy-going manner, however, masks a strength of character that is not always immediately apparent. He has never considered matrimony before meeting Cassie Ward since he is a younger son with no money and no obligation to ensure the succession to the Bellars title. However, when he meets Cassie he realises that a man might choose to marry for love –- a singular notion for one who has never entertained the thought before. But if he is to marry Cassie not only will he run the risk of being branded a fortune hunter but he would also cut out his own brother, and surely that is impossible…

Note: Story 1 will set the scene for the house party and introduce the main characters as well as providing links that will be picked up in stories 2 and 3.

Story 1 – Lady of Fortune

Lyndhurst Chase, Berkshire, Summer 1819

In holding a House Party at Lyndhurst Chase, Anthony Lyndhurst is providing himself with the opportunity to choose an heir from amongst his close relations. (See story outline document).

Anthony also has another purpose. He wishes to find a suitable husband for his young cousin Cassandra Ward. In addition to family members, Anthony has therefore invited along a few comrades and friends to join the party.

The man that he and John, Earl of Mardon have identified as Cassie’s favoured suitor is Quinn, Marquis of Quinlan, heir to the Duke of Bellars. The arrangement has been mooted to Quinn, who has no money and would therefore like a rich wife. Quinn is a perfectly pleasant but rather staid man, and he has a dislike of headstrong women. He likes his females demure and malleable. Anthony and John are hoping that he will be a steadying influence on Cassie. Cassie, naturally, is not happy at the thought of them trying to marry her off and has already hatched a plan to put Quinn off her by showing just how bold she is.

Accompanying Quinn separately to the House Party is his younger brother, Peter. Peter has arrived in the village close to the Chase when he meets Cassie somewhat unceremoniously, when she falls out of a tree beneath his horse’s hooves as she is trying to affix a radical poster to the branches. Her intention is to embarrass Quinn and show she could not be a suitable wife for him.

Peter has no idea who Cassie is and assumes that she is a village maiden and a rather attractive one at that. Cassie is knocked unconscious in the fall and Peter carries her off to a local hostelry where she eventually comes round. Peter is torn between his obligation to aid Cassie by loosening her constricting clothing and his conviction that he is behaving like an absolute cad in finding her attractive under these circumstances. In order to help her come round he plies her with the landlord’s medicinal brew of brandy mixed with elderberries. He is unaware that Cassie has a very unusual allergy to fruit and that if she mixes it with alcohol she becomes very drunk very quickly and dangerously talkative into the bargain. This becomes apparent all too soon when Cassie starts to spill her darkest secrets to this stranger without even waiting to discover who he is.

Cassie tells Peter all sorts of things. She relates her own history, the fact that her cousin is trying to marry her off, and her feelings on marriage and men in general. She gives him a run down of her opinion of all the members of her family, including her thoughts on Anthony and his brief marriage to Georgiana, and her dislike of William Lyndhurst-Flint.

Peter is utterly riveted and unchivalrously plies her with more brandy to keep her talking. He knows that he should take her home but he keeps putting off the moment as he falls further under her spell. He finds himself telling her things about himself that he has never told anyone before. Their conversation moves on to even more dangerous territory when they start to discuss the seven deadly sins and ways in which one might commit them. Finding himself hopelessly attracted to Cassie, Peter has just given in to the impulse to kiss her when the door flies open and Anthony Lyndhurst and John, Earl of Mardon rush in, having been alerted by the villagers to Cassie’s danger at the hands of this evident rake.

Peter is in deep trouble. Cassie has fallen asleep, the whole situation looks deeply compromising and Lyndhurst and Mardon are furious at his ungentlemanly conduct. In desperation, Peter protests that his intentions are honourable, realising as he says so that he is telling the absolute truth and he genuinely wishes to marry Cassie. The news is a shock to both himself and to Cassie’s relatives. Peter has never, ever considered marriage before, whilst Anthony and John had assumed that Quinn would be the one courting Cassie. Peter realises that in pursuing Cassie he will be trying to cut out his elder brother and feels particularly bad since he knows Quinn’s parlous financial situation.

Cassie is also in shock when she wakes up the next morning back at the Chase and remembers what has happened. She is excruciatingly embarrassed to remember all the secrets that she has vouchsafed to Peter and is also furious with him for not telling her who he was and for encouraging her indiscretions. Since one of the secrets she has told him is that she is far richer than society suspects, she now thinks he may be a fortune hunter and she refuses his proposal, even to save her reputation. Quinn is not very pleased either to have his younger brother apparently trying to steal an heiress from under his nose and starts to make serious attempts to woo Cassie away from Peter.

With Quinn, Anthony, John and Cassie all believing him insincere, Peter wants to court Cassie and prove his love for her, but he feels guilty about going against Quinn’s interests. Cassie has withdrawn from Peter and is distant and chilly as a result of both her anger and her embarrassment. Their meetings are fraught with unresolved tension.

Peter is inadvertently assisted by William Lyndhurst-Flint who still hasn’t given up hope of Cassie marrying him and keeping all that lovely money in the family. He deliberately hits Peter on the head with the cricket ball during a match on the estate and Peter is carried off the pitch with concussion. Cassie insists on tending to him and later creeps back to his chamber to make sure that he is all right. Now the tables are turned –- Peter, in his delirium –- tells her all sorts of secrets such as his life will never be complete if he cannot persuade him to marry her. Cassie, knowing he must be telling the truth, admits to herself that she is in love with him. When Peter wakes up in sound mind and finds her in his bed in the morning he is furious, especially since he’s been trying to avoid the temptation of taking her to bed ever since he met her. No matter that Cassie tells him that she loves him, it seems he will refuse her proposal of marriage out of principle –- until Cassie takes steps to persuade him that marrying her would be the best thing that he ever did….

On seeing that both Cassie and Peter are incandescently happy (and suspecting some of the things that have been going on) both John and Anthony give their blessing to the marriage. Quinn reluctantly admits that Cassie would be far too spirited a bride for him –- and besides, he has his eye on a local heiress whom he has met at an impromptu dance at the Chase. Cassie and Peter’s wedding is planned to take place shortly after the end of the House Party.

____________________________________________
(Story 2 The Lyndhurst Intrigue)

Synopsis: An Uncommon Abigail

Backstory

Amy Frances Devereaux
is 25 (born 1794). Both her parents are dead, her father when she was 19, her mother when she was 21. Her only season was interrupted by her father’s illness and death. It was during that season that she first became friends with Sarah, Countess of Mardon, who had been married for less than a year and was being treated as an upstart by some members of the ton. Amy helped Sarah to establish herself in society and the two became very close.

After her mother’s death, Amy found herself effectively responsible for her younger brother Ned (born 1798, then 17, now almost 22) and his inheritance. She, being the practical one, and a mere female, gave up her future prospects to stay at home to run the estate while Ned went to Oxford. Since he reached his majority, Ned has been squandering his inheritance. He has mortgaged the estate for ready money and to pay his gambling debts. Amy’s modest dowry is still safe, just, but may have to be used if Ned does not mend his ways. Amy loves Ned in spite of all his faults and still feels responsible for him. She has an optimistic, sunny nature, and is sure that, eventually, her feckless brother will grow up. However, it seems that he has disappeared. He wrote to her that he was leaving Lyndhurst Chase and that something smoky was going on there. He would tell her all about it when he got home. But he never arrived. Nor has she heard any more of him. Practical as ever, Amy has decided to go to the Chase to search for Ned, and has enlisted the help of Sarah. Amy will go disguised as Amelia Dent, Sarah’s abigail. At first, the masquerade seemed to be a great lark, especially as Amy would be conspiring with her great friend, but Amy is becoming increasingly worried that something really has happened to Ned.

As Amelia Dent, the abigail, Amy is hiding her striking silver-blonde hair under a very unflattering cap, wearing loose-fitting clothes to hide her figure, and thick glasses to disguise her violet-blue eyes. Always a keen amateur actress, Amy has even put pads in her cheeks to disguise her fine bone structure and slightly change her voice. Below stairs, Amy is aloof and relies on being the highest servant to cover up any mistakes, but she is finding it much more difficult that she expected. She affects a degree of piety to account for her plain, unflattering attire to the higher servants; she refuses to acknowledge the lower ones at all. In her increasing anxiety about Ned, however, Amy is taking more and more risks above stairs and failing to avoid the gentlefolk as much as she should. William Lyndhurst-Flint has already groped her at least once, and Cassie has noticed that, for a high-class abigail, Dent is much too dowdily dressed.

Marcus Alexander Sinclair is 29 (born 1790). Like his older cousin Anthony, Marcus was in the army, and loving it, but his mother insisted he sell out in 1811 when his father died, since Marcus was the only child. Marcus was only 21 at the time and had to grow up fast, as he was taking on huge responsibilities and had suddenly become a highly eligible parti. He quickly learned to be less open and easy-going and adopted a veneer of cynicism, partly as a defence mechanism against those in Society (including ladies on the catch) who wanted to take advantage of a very young man with a lot of money. He has learned, from the bitter experience of being hunted, not to trust women. He can be brusque, sometimes cutting, especially with those he does not trust. With his close friends, such as Anthony and John, he is more open and good-humoured. He has a strong sense of duty and family loyalty, particularly to Anthony, who saved him from falling into a disastrous marriage trap when Marcus was just 21.

Some weeks before the story opens, Marcus had been involved in a seriously drunken gambling session in his London club. One of the players, Frobisher, deep in his cups, had made disparaging remarks about Anthony and his inability to keep his wife in his own bed, or at all. Marcus, also much the worse for wear but not totally drunk, had lost his temper. He said that only Frobisher’s drunkenness was saving him from being called out and, if Frobisher ever crossed Marcus’s path again, Marcus would kill him. All those present (including Ned Devereaux and William Lyndhurst-Flint) heard the threat. Within two days, Frobisher had been attacked by an unknown assailant and left for dead. Frobisher did not see his assailant, but reported that the man repeated the threat and sounded like Marcus. A warrant was immediately issued for Marcus’s arrest.

Marcus fled to the Chase to hide until his innocence could be proved. He gave Anthony his word that he had not committed the attack, but could not tell Anthony the true cause of the quarrel because of the terrible insult to Anthony’s honour. Anthony felt there was something fishy about it all but agreed to hide Marcus while his friends tried to clear his name. When the story opens, Marcus has been cooped up in Anthony’s dressing room for weeks and is feeling thoroughly frustrated by inaction and lack of exercise.

An Uncommon Abigail — Berkshire, late summer, 1819.

Links from Lady of Fortune

Marcus has been hidden in Anthony’s dressing room for weeks. Anthony’s valet brings his meals and looks to his needs. In the house, apart from the valet, only the butler and the housekeeper know of Marcus’s presence. Marcus has to hide in the huge clothes press if anyone else enters the room. He is thoroughly frustrated by the lack of exercise and the lack of progress at clearing his name. Anthony, too, is preoccupied and frustrated. Not only is he concealing Marcus from the law, but Ned Devereaux, who had come to suspect that Marcus was in the house, has been summarily put under ‘house arrest’ in the North Lodge to ensure that his gossiping tongue cannot betray Marcus.

Sarah, Countess of Mardon, is officially Cassie’s chaperon at the house party, but Sarah is so preoccupied with Amy’s problems that she is allowing Cassie more freedom than is wise. Cassie, meanwhile, has noticed that Sarah’s abigail does not dress or behave quite as a Countess’s high-class dresser should; and also that the abigail resembles Ned Devereaux, the rude young man who quit the house party without taking his leave of any of the guests. The situation is bound to become even more fraught since Great Aunt Harriet has announced she will be arriving soon.

An Uncommon Abigail

Amy, having already searched all the other bedchambers in the house, comes to search Anthony’s bedchamber while guests are at dinner. It is not yet dark enough to need candles. She enters the room to find the curtains drawn and the room gloomy but not totally dark, because a fire is burning. A screen stands between door and fire. Amy surmises that it, and the fire, were for Anthony’s bath. She realises that the bath may not have been emptied; she may be caught by the maids. She goes round the screen and finds Marcus, standing naked in the water, about to get out. He is clean but unkempt with many days’ growth of beard and long, wet hair. Amy is largely hidden by a huge, ugly cap, thick spectacles and inelegant clothes. She also avoids looking directly at his face and tries (but fails) not to look at his very attractive body. She is so shocked at seeing her first ever naked man that she cannot move or speak.

Marcus, in a cold fury at being caught, treats her like a flighty servant. He doesn’t cover himself, he orders her about, and he almost kisses her, but resists at the last moment. Insulted and horrified at her own response, Amy reacts like a lady instead of a servant and then has to talk her way out of her predicament by claiming she risks dismissal. Marcus offers her a bargain: he will not shop her to her mistress, if she doesn’t mention his presence to anyone. Amy agrees. And then flees. When she gets back to her room, she realises Marcus has seen her distinctive silver-blonde hair.

Great Aunt Harriet arrives with her companion, “Miss Saunders”. Great Aunt Harriet continually needles Anthony who becomes increasingly short-tempered; his vaunted self-control seems to have vanished. William knows Marcus will not have told Anthony the whole truth about the quarrel with Frobisher, so without actually telling a lie, William allows Anthony to infer that the quarrel resulted from Marcus having said something disparaging about Anthony's wife. Anthony doesn't want to believe it, but the suspicion has been planted; he realises it would account for Marcus's strange reticence about the quarrel. Anthony goes to confront Marcus and finds him looking at a miniature of Anthony’s missing wife. Stunned at his own reactions, and furious with Marcus for having provoked them, Anthony lets rip at Marcus. Marcus recognises Anthony’s anguish and doesn’t respond. Anthony becomes polite and withdrawn.

The following evening, late, Amy goes back to search again, assuming Marcus will be gone. He appears, still bearded, from Anthony’s dressing room. Removing her cap and spectacles, he recognises her, then berates her for her masquerade. He says that he has seen her before, in London, though they have not been introduced. That is untrue; they have met, but he doesn’t want her to realise who he is, because she might inadvertently betray him. He forces her to tell him why she is in disguise. Though Marcus knows where Ned is, he doesn’t tell Amy, but swears to her that Ned is safe and that she needn’t worry. She looks so concerned that he kisses her and they get carried away. Marcus is horrified at what he’s done—he’s a fugitive. He resolves to have nothing more to do with her unless he’s been exonerated. Marcus and Anthony are now barely on speaking terms, so Marcus, who is also feeling guilty about his treatment of Amy, doesn’t tell Anthony who Amy really is.

Amy is trapped by William Lyndhurst-Flint (who gropes, and worse, anything in a skirt). Marcus hears what’s going on and rescues Amy, even though he’s blowing his cover by doing so. A fight ensues between Marcus and William. William, though soundly beaten, swears he’ll call the constable and have Marcus thrown into jail where he belongs. Amy is horrified; it’s all her fault. Anthony arrives, alerted by his valet. Amy won’t let Marcus tell Anthony what William tried to do to her because she feels guilty. Anthony, as a compromise, agrees that Marcus should be locked up in the dressing room, pro tem, and forces William to agree not to call the constable until Anthony has reached a view on whether Marcus is guilty. William has to agree because, otherwise, he’d risk the inheritance.

Amy finds out below stairs that a suspicious character has been seen lurking near Lyndhurst Chase and had sent a message to William. Amy manages to sneak in to see Marcus, to offer help. Anthony has insisted that Marcus resume the guise of a gentleman, so Marcus is now clean-shaven and properly dressed. Amy recognises him, and is shocked that she didn’t do so before. They had not only met, they had danced together and she had been much attracted to him. Marcus explains that there must be evidence somewhere to prove his innocence, but he has been unable to find it. He suspects William but has no proof. Amy says that when she searched William’s room, she found a half-finished letter to William’s banker, asking for a large amount of money immediately against his expectations of becoming Anthony's heir. It's not proof of William’s guilt but it's suspicious. Marcus immediately works out what William needed the money for. Amy remembers the delivery of the note to William and also that she saw William push a paper into a hiding-place in the cupola. Maybe it was the note? So she volunteers to go and search. Marcus won’t let Amy go alone. It’s too dangerous. She might encounter William again. He’ll get out somehow and go himself to search. Amy resolves to go too, without telling him.

They meet in the cupola (having dodged William) and find enough evidence to exonerate Marcus, though not enough to indict William. Out on the roof, under the stars, they also find each other. Marcus admits it’s not an appropriate place for a man to propose, but will she have him? Amy says she doesn’t care about the place or the state of him, but she won’t be proposed to in an abigail’s cap and gown. Together, they concoct a plan.

Sarah’s abigail has vanished. Her husband John (now in on the secret) says he fired her after finding his papers disturbed. Marcus has been proved innocent of the attack on Frobisher though the assailant’s paymaster remains unknown. William is incandescent with rage and frustration but can do and say nothing without giving himself away. Amy’s brother has been freed. (He’s having such fun drinking and gambling with his ‘jailer’ that he doesn’t want to leave his ‘jail’ so he’s not living in the main house.) Sarah announces that her dear friend Amy has been worried sick about her brother Ned and is already on her way to Lyndhurst Chase to search for him. She will be in transports when she sees with her own eyes that he’s all right.

Amy arrives as herself. She sees, not Ned, but Marcus. She and Marcus do a pantomime of reunited long-lost lovers. Marcus asks Ned’s permission to marry Amy. Ned says it’s not a matter for him but if Amy wants Marcus, he won’t object. Great Aunt Harriet insists that Anthony organise a firework party to celebrate the two betrothals. Anthony, though much relieved that Marcus has been exonerated, now focuses all his frustration on his wife, Georgiana, who is acting as companion to Great Aunt Harriet and has so far refused to allow Anthony even a moment alone with her. Aunt Harriet has just ordered Georgiana off to bed. Determined to have some privacy with his wife, Anthony orders Marcus’s belongings to be removed from his dressing room into the room next to Amy’s and makes a pathetic excuse to go after Georgiana. Ned, disgusted by all the lovey-dovey stuff at Lyndhurst Chase, says he will take himself off back to London. Threatened by Amy, he promises never to reveal what has happened at the Chase. Satisfied, Marcus and Amy go for a lovers’ stroll in the shrubbery.

_________________________________________________________

THE LYNDHURST INTRIGUE –

STORY 3: The Prodigal Bride

Backstory


Anthony David Lyndhurst was an officer in Wellington’s Army. He served in the Peninsula and also in the Waterloo campaign before selling out early in 1816. He has inherited his family property unexpectedly and the entail has run out.

In the lead up to Waterloo Anthony has married the seventeen year old daughter of one of his fellow officers.

Georgiana is an orphan. Her mother died many years ago and her father died at the Battle of Toulouse. Georgiana has been in the care of another officer’s wife. Unfortunately she fancied herself in love with a young officer on Wellington’s staff and was briefly betrothed to him until his family found him an heiress. He has caved in to pressure and asked Georgie to release him.

She does so, but finds that she is viewed as a jilt and shunned. Anthony knows the truth of the matter and steps in with his own offer of marriage. He is acquainted with Georgiana and is fond of her. Having inherited the family property from his brother, he needs an heir. She accepts his offer.

His cousin, William Lyndhurst–Flint is also in Brussels and is counting on Anthony, who has often vowed to remain a bachelor, leaving the property to him. He is nursing the hope that Anthony will not survive the inevitable show down with Napoleon.

At the Duchess of Richmond’s ball Georgiana Lyndhurst is horrified when the call to arms goes out. She sees her erstwhile betrothed, Justin, in the crowd and turns to William, asking him to find Anthony and tell him she is looking for him and will be in the garden with Justin.

She wants to say farewell to Justin and assure him that she is happy in her marriage and wishes him Godspeed.

William, determined to make mischief, edits the message so that it sounds like Georgiana is involved in an assignation. Anthony finds her in the garden, kissing Justin on the cheek and explodes. He says any number of things in the heat of the moment which would have been much better left unsaid.

When Anthony returns, wounded, from Waterloo, he discovers his lodgings deserted. Georgie is gone, leaving behind nearly everything except a very valuable pearl necklace that had been in his family for generations.

At first he assumes she has fled with her supposed lover, Justin Finch-Scott. He discovers after investigation that Justin died at Waterloo. Devastated, he returns to England unable to trace Georgiana. He retires largely to his smaller country house, Lyndhurst Chase, perched high on the Berkshire Downs

After four years he has concluded that Georgiana is gone, probably dead. He can’t bear the thought of marrying again. Indeed, he can’t, since there is no way to prove what happened to his wife. Society has cast him out due to the appalling rumours that have circulated about the fate of Georgiana and her alleged lover. Anthony is popularly supposed to have either murdered Finch-Scott on the field at Waterloo or contrived to send him to his death. He has become increasingly withdrawn and bitter except towards his closest cousins, John Earl of Mardon and Marcus Sinclair. He must however select an heir, so he invites all his cousins to a house party to help him make up his mind once and for all.

The Prodigal Bride – Berkshire, late summer, 1819.

Link from The Unexpected Abigail


After all the fuss of Cassie’s betrothal to Lord Peter, Anthony is beyond shocked when he receives a letter from his Great Aunt Harriet, announcing the imminent arrival of herself and her companion, and her deep sense of indignation that she was not invited in the first place. He is now fully occupied with trying to find out exactly what hell broth Marcus Sinclair has got himself into and has little time to consider the impending visit of his aunt and her companion.

He is stunned to discover that the ‘companion’ is none other than his estranged wife. Despite his best efforts, he finds it impossible to speak to her privately until Marcus’ innocence is proven.

As the house party celebrates the betrothal of Amy and Marcus in the drawing room, Great Aunt Harriet notices that her companion “Miss Saunders” is looking badly upset. She orders the companion off to bed, telling her that she looks as though she could do with a good night’s sleep.

“Miss Saunders” obeys after a short protest in which she keeps glancing nervously at Anthony. Who professes himself all concern and adds his word to Harriet’s, saying that she should take the chance to get as much sleep as possible, since she never knows what may chance to disturb it. (Joanna, can you manage to fit that into your penultimate scene?)

Anthony makes an absolutely pathetic excuse to follow her. He claims that his setter bitch, Stella, needs to go outside urgently. Stella of course is sound asleep under the tea table, showing no signs of life, let alone urgency. Anthony disappears with the dog, leaving the rest of the party wondering what maggot has entered his head now.

Opening – The Prodigal Bride

Anthony storms out of the drawing room, determined to run “Miss Saunders” to earth. He realises that he has outsmarted himself in taking Stella with him as he now has to take her out to the stables. By the time he returns his quarry is no where to be found in the house.

Having searched from the cellar to the cupola and not found her, Anthony is worried that she may have gone outside. He goes up to his bedchamber to find a coat and change into his boots.

There he discovers “Miss Saunders” waiting to speak with him. Furious, and frustrated, Anthony informs her that speaking can wait and that other things are more important. In the ensuing argument it becomes plain to the reader that ‘Miss Saunders” is none other than Georgiana Lyndhurst, Anthony’s missing bride.

Anthony takes her to bed under the mistaken impression that she has spent at least part of the past four years as some other man’s mistress. It never occurs to him that she could possibly have been with his great aunt all that time.

It swiftly becomes evident to Anthony that Georgie is as experienced as she was the last time she shared his bed. That is –- not very. He realises, far too late, that he has actually frightened her and even hurt her in his haste to claim her as his wife again.

Feeling as guilty as hell, Anthony insists that she remain in his bed, but gives his word that he will not bed her again unless she wishes it. She is very upset that he thought she would betray him. He tells her that he was warned she was in the garden with Finch-Scott. She informs him that his cousin William could have put him right –- that she asked William to tell him where she was. That she sought out Justin to wish him Godspeed and to assure him that she bore him no ill-will.

Anthony is shocked, since it was William who implied that Georgiana’s assignation was far less innocent than that, and certainly never mentioned that she had asked him to pass the message on to her husband.

When he awakes the following morning she has left his bed. He decides that he needs to think before seeing her again and telling the rest of the party who she is. Before going for a ride Anthony seeks out William alone. Without telling him about Harriet’s ‘companion’ Anthony asks him how he knew that Georgie was in the garden with Justin Finch-Scott. William is quite taken aback and says that he really doesn’t remember. Did he say that?

Anthony goes riding alone. He is bitterly hurt that, even after their quarrel, Georgie could have left him just as he went off to battle and given him no assurance of her safety in the past four years. How the hell can he ever trust her again? Even if she didn’t spend any part of those four years in someone else’s bed!

Yet to his fury he still loves her and wants her. His head tells him to let her go since that seems to be what she wants, but he can’t do it. As far as he is concerned Georgie is HIS. On the practical side, it does, he hopes(!) solve his problem about an heir.

He is mulling over this when he meets John, also out riding. John takes advantage of their situation to give Anthony a bit of advice. Namely that Anthony ought not to consider William as his heir for a moment. That he has no sense of responsibility and would be borrowing on the expectation within a week and would squander the estate in no time if he inherited. He points out that William likes to twist things to his convenience, that he has always done it. John believes that William is playing on Anthony’s empathy for another younger son. This is very difficult for John to say about his brother, but he feels that he has no choice. He has paid William’s debts several times and the only time he has ever known William to be beforehand with the world was just after Waterloo. ‘Naturally one hesitates to accuse one’s own brother of plunder . . .’

Anthony has further food for thought – could William have garbled the message on purpose? Tried deliberately to use the situation to destroy the marriage?

Anthony finds Georgie in the library reading by herself. He informs her of his decision, that despite her foolish flight and selfish lack of regard for the worry she put him through, their marriage should stand. That the whole thing blew up out of a misunderstood message.

Georgie is horrified since she believes that Anthony doesn’t really want her at all and obviously never trusted her. After all, despite her note telling him she has gone to her godmother in England and thanking God that he survived, he did not trouble to contact her in four long, bitter years. She is furious that Anthony blames her for everything.

Anthony insists that they can, and should, sort it out. And that she is to move her belongings from Harriet’s dressing room immediately. To which Georgie demands to know where he thinks she is to sleep since the last spare room in the house has just been allotted to Marcus.

Taken aback at her obtuseness, Anthony replies along the lines of, ‘Damn it, Georgie! You’re my bloody wife! You sleep in MY bed, of course!’ At which point the rest of the house party stroll in from the drawing room and Anthony wonders how long it will take for the floor to catch on and open up to swallow him.

He is embarrassed and Georgie is obviously upset. For which he is sorry. He never meant to expose her in such a way. Still it does present her with a fait accompli, which she knows he didn’t intend.

The only person who doesn’t appear in the least shocked at the revelation is Great Aunt Harriet. It transpires that she knew all along who “Miss Saunders” was and that she and Georgiana’s godmother planned the whole thing. That Harriet was to await her opportunity to reunite the couple when the time was right.

Naturally Great Aunt Harriet backs Anthony up, wisely telling Georgie later on that the best thing she can do is give herself and Anthony a chance. That they need some privacy and that a bedchamber is the best place for achieving it!

All afternoon and evening Anthony treats her with the greatest deference as his wife. Presenting her to the staff, having her formally shown over the house etc. She has also sat at the end of the table opposite her husband at dinner, displacing Sarah.

At dinner it is plain that Anthony’s leg has stiffened up badly as a result of his ride and Harriet comments on it, blaming it roundly on “That Monster Napoleon.”

Georgie is quite startled and blurts out that Anthony wasn’t hurt at all at Waterloo. Anthony is stunned that she is so certain. He informs Harriet that he broke his leg hunting a couple of years back.

By the time Georgiana retires for the night she is seriously scared. Now she is to share his bed. Unless she can persuade him to let her sleep on the bed in the dressing room.

She finally goes up to bed long after Anthony, hoping that he might have fallen asleep, but discovers him reading in bed, plainly not wearing anything at all. A nightdress is laid out for her on the opposite side of the bed. Stunned to recognise it as one of the nightgowns Anthony bought for her in Brussels. Anthony tells her that he brought her clothes back from Brussels. They have been packed away, but she will find them in the dressing room and they will do until she can buy more fashionable clothes. Shaken, she grabs the gown and retires behind the screen to change. Anthony doesn’t say a word as she heads for the dressing room, but she is back a moment later, demanding to know where the bed is.

He informs her that it has been removed to the attics since it is not needed.

Georgie enters the bed very, very reluctantly. Not because she fears Anthony, but because she can’t believe he wants her there at all except out of his sense of family duty, or worse, his duty to her.

Anthony is unwilling to discuss their situation at this point. At least he has her back in his bed. Now all he has to do is seduce her again and hope that she has grown up enough to be a wife to him.

He does however ask her why she was so certain that he was not wounded at Waterloo and she tells him that she was assured by a junior officer that he left the field of combat with nothing worse than a couple of sabre cuts.

Starts Anthony thinking as he realises that she stayed long enough to assure herself of his safety. Still furious about the necklace and the lack of a note.

The following morning Georgie goes out for a walk in the park where she runs into Cassie. Cassie insists on being very formal with her, despite having been quite informal when she was merely Emma Saunders. She is very cool with ‘Cousin Georgiana’ informing her that she is very fond of Anthony and has been very concerned about him for the last couple of years. It is Cassie who tells Georgie about the rumours that have circulated about Anthony.

Georgie is devastated to think that she has brought such ruin on Anthony. It makes her more puzzled than ever that he does not wish to divorce her. And really puzzled that he never sought her out to refute the rumours.

The pair of them are distracted at the sight of William entering the woods. Cassie is particularly puzzled since she knows William better than Georgie does and knows how out of character it is for him to do such a thing.

Cassie, now puzzled by Georgie, suggests that they take a walk as well. Georgie agrees. When they return for a luncheon with the other ladies they discover that William has come in and taken his leave for a couple of days. He has gone to London in Anthony’s travelling carriage. On business apparently, although Cassie comments that the only business she has ever known William to apply himself to is gambling and pinching chambermaids’ bottoms. Amy bears this out. All the ladies are rather disgusted that William should be sponging off Anthony so blatantly.

Cassie is moved to mutter that at least with Georgie back, William’s chances of being Anthony’s heir are markedly reduced.

At dinner Great Aunt Harriet comments on Georgie’s slightly outmoded clothes and informs Anthony that he ought to take his wife up to town and buy her some new ones. She also demands to know when he intends to present his bride with the family jewels. No one is quite sure exactly HOW the old girl means this to be taken, but she continues, saying that the pearl set is particularly fine and would become Georgiana admirably. Anthony turns it off very abruptly. He still believes that Georgie must have taken the necklace.

Later, in their bedchamber, he tells her that under the circumstances she may as well wear the necklace. His intention is to shame her into confessing that she sold it.

She is rather blank, but agrees to do so if he wishes it.

‘Then I can expect to see it tomorrow, can I?’

‘If you give it to me, sir.’

He is furious and his reaction gives her the truth. That he thinks she stole the necklace. It also comes out that he never found the note she left for him.

She is really hurt by the fact that he thinks her a thief, but she has to believe that he never found the note. Otherwise, she tells him, he would have been after her if only to recover his property.

Still suspicious, Anthony demands to know how she made her way to England with the pathetic amount of money she had at her disposal. She informs him that she sold her mother’s wedding ring, nothing of his.

Close to tears, Georgie gets into bed and blows out her candle.

She manages to cry herself to sleep without Anthony realising until he rolls over to lift her into his arms and discovers the tearstains.

The next morning it is pouring with rain and the gentlemen retire to the billiard room. Anthony plays extremely badly. Most unlike him and he is subjected to a fair bit of ribbing about how much sleep he has had. He is starting to have some very strange thoughts. About William and what John has said about William’s skill at manipulating people and situations. He has little doubt that William garbled Georgie’s message on purpose. William knew all about Marcus’s scrape. Could he have had anything to do with the attack in London?

And what the hell happened to the necklace and Georgie’s note? That a thief took the necklace he could believe. But surely not without turning the lodgings upside down. And why would a thief take the note? William on the other hand would have known exactly where to look for the necklace. And he was the only one who might stand to gain from that note never being found.

Georgie is similarly shaken to discover that there have been so MANY misunderstandings between them. As if someone planned them. But who? And why? She is not familiar enough with anyone to hazard a guess. Except of course that she is suspicious of William since his ‘mistake’ had such disastrous consequences. She confides in Cassie? Or Harriet? Both? Neither of whom would have the least hesitation in giving their own opinion of William. They immediately call in Amy and Sarah.

William returns that night and pretends to be delighted that Georgie and Anthony are to all appearances happy together.

With their differences and misunderstandings nearly cleared up, Anthony manages to finish seducing his wife. He does make one mistake though. When Georgie asks him if he thinks it possible that William took the necklace, he says no. Not because he doesn’t believe it, but because he doesn’t want Georgie involved. He is fairly sure that William orchestrated the attack on Marcus’s opponent and is terrified that William may attempt to harm Georgie directly.

This doesn’t occur to Georgie, so when she sees William sneaking off to the woods again late the following afternoon, she follows him.

She manages to sneak up on William’s meeting with the assailant who is now blackmailing him. She hears enough to realise what has been going on and that William has been to London to borrow money to pay the fellow off. He is now quite desperate and tells his blackmailer that the only way he can get more money is if Anthony is killed. Georgie can’t repress a gasp and she is discovered. Fortunately she has a very small pistol with her, legacy of a childhood following the drum, and she manages to hold them off briefly. She only has one pistol and when they rush her, she can only bring down one of them –- the assailant. Which leaves William, who has a knife.

The shot however has alerted Anthony to their whereabouts and he and the other gentlemen come running. William is fairly caught, his attempts to accuse Georgie of murder are laughed at. Since she told the butler where she was going and whom she was following, it is ludicrous to suggest that she intended murder.

William is taken back to the house and locked in his bedchamber with the promise of being shunted off to India post haste.

The rest of the party spend the evening enjoying the fireworks on the rooftop. Except for Anthony and Georgie who have unaccountably disappeared.

The final brief scene is by the lake where Anthony has taken Georgie to have their own very private view of the fireworks.

And there we are. One synopsis. Rather long, I’m afraid, but I stuck in lots of detail for my own benefit. I can always shorten it for editorial consumption. Feel free to poke holes etc.

About William’s eventual fate – I wondered if a letter purportedly from some official in the East India Company would answer the purpose. To say that they regret to inform Mr Lyndhurst that his cousin is dead from snake bite. It could go on to intimate that Mr Lyndhurst-Flint is not at all missed. There could even be some hint that someone put the snake in his bedchamber on purpose . . .

If we want to indicate what eventually happens to William, then this letter would balance the opening invitation rather nicely. What do you think?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Christmas is coming . . .


[This is the rather classy Greek cover for A Regency Invitation. Other covers in previous posts]

Joanna 23rd December 2003

A suggestion, Elizabeth, re Anthony's limp, now that I've had another read of your backstories (which I love). You are absolutely right that Georgie wouldn't have left if Anthony had been wounded at Waterloo. But what if he's had a hunting accident, or some such, in the intervening period that has left him with a slight hesitation as you described it earlier? One of the house guests (or GAH, if she hasn't seen him since Waterloo) could blame it on the battle and Georgie might blurt out something about knowing he wasn't injured there. If Anthony were to overhear that, he would work out that she'd stayed behind long enough to make sure he was all right and it might start to colour his view of her??

If this doesn't suit your plot etc, please just bin it.


Joanna 23rd December 2003

Nicola, can you answer a couple of questions about Ashdown, please?

First, how do you get on to the balustraded roof? It's not clear from the website photos. Is it via a stair in the cupola?

Second, what is the cupola like inside? And how big is it? Haven't quite got a feel for it yet, and will need it because at least some of my plot takes place there. Of course, if the real cupola doesn't suit my fell purposes, I'll just change it

Final question, can you give us an idea of the room sizes?? Or just tell us how long one side of the house is, and we'll work it out from there.


Nicola 23rd December 2003

There is a wooden spiral staircase that goes up into the cupola, Joanna. The actual area of the cupola is small because the top of the stairs takes up most of the space. There's room to hide an incriminating document (!) but not space for more than two or three people to stand together at the top of the steps. However, you could easily make this bigger if you wanted to and fit it out with a circular seat going all the way round, for example.

A door leads out of the cupola onto the balustraded roof. The cupola itself is made of wood with windows like a lighthouse. The flat roof area is quite large. The balustrade is about hip height (you could fall off if you over-balanced) and the two chimney stacks are huge.

I'm not sure about the size of the rooms as the hoi polloi aren't allowed to see in them. I'm also bad at guessing these things but I would say that the staircase is about 2.5 metres wide and the drawing room about 9 metres long. I'm told that the rooms are airy and well-proportioned but not large. When you are inside the house it does feel very compact indeed.

Hope this is a help!


Joanna 23rd December 2003

Thanks, Nicola. Those dimensions are just what I need.

As to the cupola, I think it will have to be bigger (big enough for some goings-on between Amy and Marcus. A circular seat sounds just the thing. Leather-covered, probably, so that it's hard wearing.

Thanks for the info about the balustrade. If we hadn't already decided to send William out to India, we could have had him falling over (possibly pushed). But I still think he has to be kept alive. Perhaps he can die out in India, after the book ends, of some terrible fever?

I’m feeling pleased, because my acceptance cheque for My Lady Angel has just arrived.


Elizabeth 23rd December 2003

What a brilliant idea about Anthony's limp! A hunting accident would suit the purpose beautifully. I thought up there he was bound to breed horses, so it fits really well. Thanks. I didn't want to ditch the limp per se, but simply couldn't see Georgie leaving without being certain he was safe.

Looking at the family tree again I have a question -- was Frederica Lyndhurst-Flint, Countess of Mardon (John's mother) a countess in her own right? Otherwise I can't see how John gets to be an Earl, unless of course he is only the 2nd Earl of Mardon, because his father was awarded an earldom for some unspecified reason. Sorry if I've missed something along the line. I know we did talk about how the name became hyphenated when John's father married an heiress -- the countess business must have slipped past me!

Anyway, I'm quite happy to have Harriet remain Miss -- although I'll bet she insists on Madam!

Must go and check the shortbread.


Joanna 23rd December 2003

Shortbread? Good grief! I'm the Scot around here and I never make shortbread. I have tried, but I've never got it light enough.

Glad you like the limp idea, Elizabeth. I'm assuming you'll put the encounter I described in book 3? (I could put it in book 2, if you like, but since I'm not going to use either Anthony's or Georgie's POVs it might not make much impact.)

Yes, you did miss something but, what with the shortbread and all, I'm not surprised. Frederica Lyndhurst, John's mother, married John Flint, Earl of Mardon. Because she was bringing the money into the impoverished earldom, her father (Grandfather Lyndhurst) insisted that the Mardon family name be hyphenated to Lyndhurst-Flint. Voila. Easy really I'll make it clearer on the family tree to prevent the same question arising in Richmond.


Elizabeth 23rd December 2003

Suggest William can be bitten by a snake. A cobra would do the job for us, wouldn't it?

By the way - if this is a shooting party, are we going to write in dogs? I suspect Anthony definitely has a few hanging around. And not just dogs in the kennels used for hunting. He also has an old English setter bitch who spends all her time asleep in front of fires and under tables. She is incredibly decrepit, smelly and can't stand William. She originally belonged to Anthony's brother Harvey and her name is Stella.

How nice to have your acceptance cheque, Joanna! Lucky you. I've yet to hear back that my revisions for His Lady Mistress are okay. Linda is planning on getting to them in the New Year. I did suggest that if she alerted me earlier to any possible requests I could consider them on the flights to and from NZ but she told me to have a nice holiday.

Still attempting to do some Christmas cooking, but how I am meant to make the brandy custard when DH keeps putting the butter back in the fridge so it won't cream, is beyond me!

At least the turkey is done . . . and the shortbread is now out of the oven. DH is muttering that I didn't make enough. He'd better make more than a dozen mince tarts this year is all I can say.


Elizabeth 23rd December 2003

Joanna - I will use the limp idea. I think perhaps the morning after Anthony corners Georgie in his bedchamber he will go for a very long ride. His limp will be much in evidence when he returns, causing GAH to comment. At that point Georgie will blurt out as you've suggested. Great idea, because it explains the limp and tells Anthony that Georgie didn't run off without the least thought for him.

Not sure what your standards are for shortbread, but I suspect mine might not measure up. Fortunately the boys are so used to Mum's biscuits and only rarely get bought ones, that they aren't fussy!

Nicola, I've seen the trailer for Return of the King and my tongue is hanging out. Can't wait for Saturday night.

The room dimensions at Ashdown sound fine. Pity the riffraff aren't allowed to see the rooms, but I suppose it means I can do what I like inside them. I will get to that before going away! My instinct is, since it is a shooting box and not Anthony's principal seat, that it is rather old fashioned. Probably full of old furniture, rather than up to the minute Regency stuff. Obviously Anthony doesn't care if it's all out-dated and he would feel comfortable with all the old, familiar things around him.

William could comment unfavourably about all this gloomy, rubbishing old stuff, suggest to Anthony that he could brighten it a trifle, a crocodile-legged sofa here, an Egyptian mirror there. That sort of thing. If he suggested spending lots of money, that would definitely give Anthony pause in considering William as his heir. Especially if William wanted to fell a lot of the trees for timber!

Back to the synopsis!


Joanna 23rd December 2003

Now that I've had a chance to read Elizabeth's extended backstory, I've done a redraft of the overall outline, adding in material about Georgiana and GAH, plus a bit more about Anthony and William. I attach draft #2, in .rtf format, with all the changes highlighted in blue. (Or they should be. If it doesn't come out, I can resend in .doc format.) The bit about titles and cover art has now been relegated to a separate page.

Let me know what you think.

How's the shortbread, Elizabeth? My DH has just collected the goose, so I'm about to make goose stock and stuffing. Made the braised red cabbage yesterday, so the whole house now smells of it!

[Note to blog readers: We haven’t included Joanna’s revised outline in the blog since it’s not hugely different from the one we’ve already shown you.]

Joanna 23rd December 2003

Hadn't thought of dogs but you're absolutely right. Smelly Stella has my vote. Do you want to put your own dog in the story, Nicola?

Do I take it from your description that you have cold turkey for Christmas dinner, Elizabeth? And home-made mince pies! Wow! Actually, that reminds me that I didn't buy any, and my son loves them, so I'd better get some. Local supermarket is open till midnight, so that should be OK. Will also buy shortbread, since you've given me the notion.

Actually, I *do* agree with Linda. Enjoy your holiday and don't worry about the writing while you're in NZ. Except to keep notes so you can tell us all about it, of course. DH and I plan to do an antipodean trip soon (maybe 2004) and it will include NZ as well as all my Aussie relatives (and friends).

Love the ideas about William. Very subtle and just right. We can fight over who gets to use them! Now deciding that cobras do have their uses.


Elizabeth 24th December 2003

Shortbread is fine, Joanna. Nice and light. DH has made two dozen mince pies and our turkey is cooked. We have it cold these days. What's this braised red cabbage? Sounds interesting. I'd love to try goose some day, but summer doesn't seem like quite the right time. Maybe for DH’s winter birthday one year.

Er, I don't appear to have an attachment to your email, Joanna. Was it meant to come through then, or are you flagging that it is about to arrive? I'm up for a while anyway since the synopsis is going along nicely. Why break the flow for mere sleep?


Joanna 24th December 2003

Of course, it would help if I'd attached the ********** thing! Christmas getting in the way up here, too, Elizabeth!


Elizabeth 24th December 2003

I'm glad you like Smelly Stella, Joanna. Our own old dog is very smelly and is permanently asleep in front of whichever cupboard door I need to open. Not sure how she manages that.

I'd see Stella as being the only house dog. All the others could be strictly used for shooting purposes which saves us having to go into details with them. I just thought it would be odd if there were no dogs.

We do have a cold Christmas dinner. Some years it can be too hot even to consider turning on the oven on Christmas day. Most people buy mince pies, but DH likes cooking and I made a big batch of mince early in the year. Will add to it in the New Year. More brandy and spices so it matures nicely! And they are out now and smell divine.

You do realise that Beau Brummell would have to cut your acquaintance since you eat cabbage?

I'll look forward to your antipodean trip. Why don't you come in the winter like Sophie Weston did and take in the conference? Then you can claim it as a tax deduction.

By the way, I have my copies of next month's Regency Rakes. Don't read the back cover blurb!!! It gives away part of the plot that I spent the first three chapters trying to hide. ARRRGGHHH!


Nicola 24th December 2003

Okay, so I went out again! I really must stop doing this...

Congrats on the acceptance, Joanna. I am raising a glass of mulled wine to you!

I love the idea of all the dogs about the place. I will definitely build them in. Perhaps they could like Anthony, John, Peter and Marcus but dislike William because you know what they say about dogs being a good judge of character.

Your ideas for furnishing Lyndhurst Chase sound exactly right, Elizabeth, and they would fit with Ashdown as well.

Many thanks for the outline, Joanna. I am printing it off now to take away and digest along with my mulled wine and Crunchie bar!


Elizabeth 24th December

Okay - here's something for you two to mull over. My synopsis. Sorry it's long. I stuck in quite a bit of detail for my own sake as it came to me.

Let me know what you think. I'll be heading off tomorrow morning and will be incommunicado until Saturday. Sorry. Turkey calls and the mince pies!

Have a wonderful Christmas both of you if we don't communicate again before I go in the morning, er, later this morning.

_____________________________________________________________________

The Prodigal Bride

Backstory

Anthony David Lyndhurst was an officer in Wellington’s Army. He served in the Peninsula and also in the Waterloo campaign before selling out early in 1816. He has inherited his family property unexpectedly and the entail has run out.

In the lead up to Waterloo Anthony has married the seventeen year old daughter of one of his fellow officers.

Georgiana is an orphan. Her mother died many years ago and her father died at the Battle of Toulouse. Georgiana has been in the care of another officer’s wife. Unfortunately she fancied herself in love with a young officer on Wellington’s staff and was briefly betrothed to him until his family found him an heiress. He has caved in to pressure and asked Georgie to release him.

She does so, but finds that she is viewed as a jilt and shunned. Anthony knows the truth of the matter and steps in with his own offer of marriage. He is acquainted with Georgiana and is fond of her. Having inherited the family property from his brother, he needs an heir. She accepts his offer.

His cousin, William Lyndhurst-Flint is also in Brussels and is counting on Anthony, who has often vowed to remain a bachelor, leaving the property to him. He is nursing the hope that Anthony will not survive the inevitable show down with Napoleon.

At the Duchess of Richmond’s ball Georgiana Lyndhurst is horrified when the call to arms goes out. She sees her erstwhile betrothed, Justin, in the crowd and turns to William, asking him to find Anthony and tell him she is looking for him and will be in the garden with Justin.

She wants to say farewell to Justin and assure him that she is happy in her marriage and wishes him Godspeed.

William, determined to make mischief, edits the message so that it sounds like Georgiana is involved in an assignation. Anthony finds her in the garden, kissing Justin on the cheek and explodes. He says any number of things in the heat of the moment which would have been much better left unsaid.

When Anthony returns, wounded, from Waterloo, he discovers his lodgings deserted. Georgie is gone, leaving behind nearly everything except a very valuable pearl necklace that had been in his family for generations.

At first he assumes she has fled with her supposed lover, Justin Finch-Scott. He discovers after investigation that Justin died at Waterloo. Devastated, he returns to England unable to trace Georgiana. He retires largely to his smaller country house, Lyndhurst Chase, perched high on the Berkshire Downs.

After four years he has concluded that Georgiana is gone, probably dead. He can’t bear the thought of marrying again. Indeed, he can’t, since there is no way to prove what happened to his wife. He must select an heir, so he invites all his cousins to a house party to help him make up his mind once and for all.

The Prodigal Bride – Berkshire, late summer, 1819.
Link from The Unexpected Abigail

After all the fuss of Cassie’s betrothal to Lord Peter, Anthony is beyond shocked when he receives a letter from his Great Aunt Harriet, announcing the imminent arrival of herself and her companion, and her deep sense of indignation that she was not invited in the first place. He is now fully occupied with trying to find out exactly what hell broth Marcus Sinclair has got himself into and has little time to consider the impending visit of his aunt and her companion.

He is stunned to discover that the ‘companion’ is none other than his estranged wife. Despite his best efforts, he finds it impossible to speak to her privately until Marcus’ innocence is made manifest.

As the house party celebrates the betrothal of Amy and Marcus in the drawing room, Great Aunt Harriet notices that her companion “Miss Saunders” is looking badly upset. She orders the companion off to bed, telling her that she looks as though she could do with a good night’s sleep.

“Miss Saunders” obeys after a short protest in which she keeps glancing nervously at Anthony. Who professes himself all concern and adds his word to Harriet’s, saying that she should take the chance to get as much sleep as possible, since she never knows what may chance to disturb it. (Joanna, can you manage to fit that into your penultimate scene?)

Anthony makes an absolutely pathetic excuse to follow her. He claims that his setter bitch, Stella, needs to go outside urgently. Stella of course is sound asleep under the tea table, showing no signs of life, let alone urgency. Anthony disappears with the dog, leaving the rest of the party wondering what maggot has entered his head now.

Opening – The Prodigal Bride

Anthony storms out of the drawing room, determined to run “Miss Saunders” to earth. He realises that he has outsmarted himself in taking Stella with him as he now has to take her out to the stables. By the time he returns his quarry is nowhere to be found in the house.

Having searched from the cellar to the cupola and not found her, Anthony is worried that she may have gone outside. He goes up to his bedchamber to find a coat and change into his boots.

There he discovers “Miss Saunders” waiting to speak with him. Furious, and frustrated, Anthony informs her that speaking can wait and that other things are more important. In the ensuing argument it becomes plain to the reader that ‘Miss Saunders” is none other than Georgiana Lyndhurst, Anthony’s missing bride.

Anthony takes her to bed under the mistaken impression that she has spent at least part of the past four years as some other man’s mistress. It never occurs to him that she could possibly have been with his great aunt all that time.

It swiftly becomes evident to Anthony that Georgie is as experienced as she was the last time she shared his bed. That is – not very. He realises, far too late, that he has actually frightened her and even hurt her in his haste to claim her as his wife again.

Feeling as guilty as hell, Anthony insists that she remain in his bed, but gives his word that he will not bed her again unless she wishes it. She is very upset that he thought she would betray him. He tells her that he was warned she was in the garden with Finch-Scott. She informs him that his cousin William could have put him right – that she asked William to tell him where she was. That she sought out Justin to wish him Godspeed and to assure him that she bore him no ill-will.

Anthony is shocked, since it was William who implied that Georgiana’s assignation was far less innocent than that, and certainly never mentioned that she had asked him to pass the message on to her husband.

When he awakes the following morning she has left his bed. He decides that he needs to think before seeing her again and telling the rest of the party who she is. Before going for a ride Anthony seeks out William alone. Without telling him about Harriet’s ‘companion’ Anthony asks him how he knew that Georgie was in the garden with Justin Finch-Scott. William is quite taken aback and says that he really doesn’t remember. Did he say that?

Anthony goes riding alone. He is bitterly hurt that, even after their quarrel, Georgie could have left him just as he went off to battle and given him no assurance of her safety in the past four years. How the hell can he ever trust her again? Even if she didn’t spend any part of those four years in someone else’s bed!

Yet to his fury he still loves her and wants her. His head tells him to let her go since that seems to be what she wants, but he can’t do it. As far as he is concerned Georgie is HIS. On the practical side, it does, he hopes(!) solve his problem about an heir.

He is mulling over this when he meets John, also out riding. John takes advantage of their situation to give Anthony a bit of advice. Namely that Anthony ought not to consider William as his heir for a moment. That he has no sense of responsibility and would be borrowing on the expectation within a week and would squander the estate in no time if he inherited. He points out that William likes to twist things to his convenience, that he has always done it. John believes that William is playing on Anthony’s empathy for another younger son. This is very difficult for John to say about his brother, but he feels that he has no choice. He has paid William’s debts several times and the only time he has ever known William to be beforehand with the world was just after Waterloo. ‘Naturally one hesitates to accuse one’s own brother of plunder . . .’

Anthony has further food for thought – could William have garbled the message on purpose? Tried deliberately to use the situation to destroy the marriage?

Anthony finds Georgie in the library reading by herself. He informs her of his decision, that despite her foolish flight and selfish lack of regard for the worry she put him through, their marriage should stand. That the whole thing blew up out of a misunderstood message.

Georgie is horrified since she believes that Anthony doesn’t really want her at all and obviously never trusted her. After all, despite her note telling him she has gone to her godmother in England and thanking God that he survived, he did not trouble to contact her in four long, bitter years. She is furious that Anthony blames her for everything.

Anthony insists that they can, and should, sort it out. And that she is to move her belongings from Harriet’s dressing room immediately. To which Georgie demands to know where he thinks she is to sleep since the last spare room in the house has just been allotted to Marcus.

Taken aback at her obtuseness, Anthony replies along the lines of, ‘Damn it, Georgie! You’re my bloody wife! You sleep in MY bed, of course!’ At which point the rest of the house party stroll in from the drawing room and Anthony wonders how long it will take for the floor to catch on and open up to swallow him.

He is embarrassed and Georgie is obviously upset. For which he is sorry. He never meant to expose her in such a way. Still it does present her with a fait accompli, which she knows he didn’t intend.

The only person who doesn’t appear in the least shocked at the revelation is Great Aunt Harriet. It transpires that she knew all along who “Miss Saunders” was and that she and Georgiana’s godmother planned the whole thing. That Harriet was to await her opportunity to reunite the couple when the time was right.

Naturally Great Aunt Harriet backs Anthony up, wisely telling Georgie later on that the best thing she can do is give herself and Anthony a chance. That they need some privacy and that a bedchamber is the best place for achieving it!

All afternoon and evening Anthony treats her with the greatest deference as his wife. Presenting her to the staff, having her formally shown over the house etc. She has also sat at the end of the table opposite her husband at dinner, displacing Sarah.

At dinner it is plain that Anthony’s leg has stiffened up badly as a result of his ride and Harriet comments on it, blaming it roundly on “That Monster Napoleon.”

Georgie is quite startled and blurts out that Anthony wasn’t hurt at all at Waterloo. Anthony is stunned that she is so certain. He informs Harriet that he broke his leg hunting a couple of years back.

By the time Georgiana retires for the night she is seriously scared. Now she is to share his bed. Unless she can persuade him to let her sleep on the bed in the dressing room.

She finally goes up to bed long after Anthony, hoping that he might have fallen asleep, but discovers him reading in bed, plainly not wearing anything at all. A nightdress is laid out for her on the opposite side of the bed. Stunned to recognise it as one of the nightgowns Anthony bought for her in Brussels. Anthony tells her that he brought her clothes back from Brussels. They have been packed away, but she will find them in the dressing room and they will do until she can buy more fashionable clothes. Shaken, she grabs the gown and retires behind the screen to change. Anthony doesn’t say a word as she heads for the dressing room, but she is back a moment later, demanding to know where the bed is. He informs her that it has been removed to the attics since it is not needed.

Georgie enters the bed very, very reluctantly. Not because she fears Anthony, but because she can’t believe he wants her there at all except out of his sense of family duty, or worse, his duty to her.

Anthony is unwilling to discuss their situation at this point. At least he has her back in his bed. Now all he has to do is seduce her again and hope that she has grown up enough to be a wife to him.

He does however ask her why she was so certain that he was not wounded at Waterloo and she tells him that she was assured by a junior officer that he left the field of combat with nothing worse than a couple of sabre cuts.

Starts Anthony thinking as he realises that she stayed long enough to assure herself of his safety. Still furious about the necklace and the lack of a note.

The following morning Georgie goes out for a walk in the park where she runs into Cassie. Cassie insists on being very formal with her, despite having been quite informal when she was merely Emma Saunders. She is very cool with ‘Cousin Georgiana’ informing her that she is very fond of Anthony and has been very concerned about him for the last couple of years. It is Cassie who tells Georgie about the rumours that have circulated about Anthony.

Georgie is devastated to think that she has brought such ruin on Anthony. It makes her more puzzled than ever that he does not wish to divorce her. And really puzzled that he never sought her out to refute the rumours.

The pair of them are distracted at the sight of William entering the woods. Cassie is particularly puzzled since she knows William better than Georgie does and knows how out of character it is for him to do such a thing.

Cassie, now puzzled by Georgie, suggests that they take a walk as well. Georgie agrees. When they return for a luncheon with the other ladies they discover that William has come in and taken his leave for a couple of days. He has gone to London in Anthony’s travelling carriage. On business apparently, although Cassie comments that the only business she has ever known William to apply himself to is gambling and pinching chambermaids’ bottoms. Amy bears this out. All the ladies are rather disgusted that William should be sponging off Anthony so blatantly.

Cassie is moved to mutter that at least with Georgie back, William’s chances of being Anthony’s heir are markedly reduced.

At dinner Great Aunt Harriet comments on Georgie’s slightly outmoded clothes and informs Anthony that he ought to take his wife up to town and buy her some new ones. She also demands to know when he intends to present his bride with the family jewels. No one is quite sure exactly HOW the old girl means this to be taken, but she continues, saying that the pearl set is particularly fine and would become Georgiana admirably. Anthony turns it off very abruptly. He still believes that Georgie must have taken the necklace.

Later, in their bedchamber, he tells her that under the circumstances she may as well wear the necklace. His intention is to shame her into confessing that she sold it.

She is rather blank, but agrees to do so if he wishes it.
‘Then I can expect to see it tomorrow, can I?’
‘If you give it to me, sir.’

He is furious and his reaction gives her the truth. That he thinks she stole the necklace. It also comes out that he never found the note she left for him.

She is really hurt by the fact that he thinks her a thief, but she has to believe that he never found the note. Otherwise, she tells him, he would have been after her if only to recover his property.

Still suspicious, Anthony demands to know how she made her way to England with the pathetic amount of money she had at her disposal. She informs him that she sold her mother’s wedding ring, nothing of his.

Close to tears, Georgie gets into bed and blows out her candle. She manages to cry herself to sleep without Anthony realising until he rolls over to lift her into his arms and discovers the tearstains.

The next morning it is pouring with rain and the gentlemen retire to the billiard room. Anthony plays extremely badly. Most unlike him and he is subjected to a fair bit of ribbing about how much sleep he has had. He is starting to have some very strange thoughts. About William and what John has said about William’s skill at manipulating people and situations. He has little doubt that William garbled Georgie’s message on purpose. William knew all about Marcus’s scrape. Could he have had anything to do with the attack in London?

And what the hell happened to the necklace and Georgie’s note? That a thief took the necklace he could believe. But surely not without turning the lodgings upside down. And why would a thief take the note? William on the other hand would have known exactly where to look for the necklace. And he was the only one who might stand to gain from that note never being found.

Georgie is similarly shaken to discover that there have been so MANY misunderstandings between them. As if someone planned them. But who? And why? She is not familiar enough with anyone to hazard a guess. Except of course that she is suspicious of William since his ‘mistake’ had such disastrous consequences. She confides in Cassie? Or Harriet? Both? Neither of whom would have the least hesitation in giving their own opinion of William. They immediately call in Amy and Sarah.

William returns that night and pretends to be delighted that Georgie and Anthony are to all appearances happy together.

With their differences and misunderstandings nearly cleared up, Anthony manages to finish seducing his wife. He does make one mistake though. When Georgie asks him if he thinks it possible that William took the necklace, he says no. Not because he doesn’t believe it, but because he doesn’t want Georgie involved. He is fairly sure that William orchestrated the attack on Marcus’s opponent and is terrified that William may attempt to harm Georgie directly.

This doesn’t occur to Georgie, so when she sees William sneaking off to the woods again late the following afternoon, she follows him.

She manages to sneak up on William’s meeting with the assailant who is now blackmailing him. She hears enough to realise what has been going on and that William has been to London to borrow money to pay the fellow off. He is now quite desperate and tells his blackmailer that the only way he can get more money is if Anthony is killed. Georgie can’t repress a gasp and she is discovered. Fortunately she has a very small pistol with her, legacy of a childhood following the drum, and she manages to hold them off briefly. She only has one pistol and when they rush her, she can only bring down one of them – the assailant. Which leaves William, who has a knife.

The shot however has alerted Anthony to their whereabouts and he and the other gentlemen come running. William is fairly caught, his attempts to accuse Georgie of murder are laughed at. Since she told the butler where she was going and whom she was following, it is ludicrous to suggest that she intended murder.

William is taken back to the house and locked in his bedchamber with the promise of being shunted off to India post haste.

The rest of the party spend the evening enjoying the fireworks on the rooftop. Except for Anthony and Georgie who have unaccountably disappeared.

The final brief scene is by the lake where Anthony has taken Georgie to have their own very private view of the fireworks.
__________________________________________


And there we are. One synopsis. Rather long, I’m afraid, but I stuck in lots of detail for my own benefit. I can always shorten it for editorial consumption. Feel free to poke holes etc.

About William’s eventual fate – I wondered if a letter purportedly from some official in the East India Company would answer the purpose. To say that they regret to inform Mr Lyndhurst that his cousin is dead from snake bite. It could go on to intimate that Mr Lyndhurst-Flint is not at all missed. There could even be some hint that someone put the snake in his bedchamber on purpose . . .

If we want to indicate what eventually happens to William, then this letter would balance the opening invitation rather nicely. What do you think?



Joanna 24th December 2003

Well done Elizabeth! Will read and inwardly digest. I was right when I said you clearly don't sleep. I take it you sent this at 3.30am, your time?

I'm deep in cooking this afternoon, and though I've started my synopsis, I don't guarantee to finish it before you leave in a few hours' time. OTOH, I do guarantee it will be with you by the time you get back on Saturday.

So, in case we're not in touch again, do have a marvellous Christmas, both of you. Mulled wine for Nicola, and chilled wine for Elizabeth. Here it will be Buck's Fizz first thing on Thursday morning, followed by all sorts of other alcoholic things for the rest of the day, ending with stickies and vintage port. Just decanted it --- 1977 -- so it's actually older than my son.


Nicola 24th December 2003

Happy Christmas, Elizabeth! Happy Christmas, Joanna! You have both done a splendid job with all the house party stuff and deserve all the chilled wine and vintage port you can quaff!


Joanna 24th December 2003


Have had a quick mull, Elizabeth. Love it. I should be able to include the points you've asked for in my story.

Very few points to make on your synopsis, but here they are, for what they're worth.
  • I've changed the name of my story to AN UNCOMMON ABIGAIL (see the outline). You need to amend your cross-reference. I may change my title again, since I don't think it's nearly as good as your title and Nicola's, but I'll probably have to submit the synopsis with that title, unless I have a brainwave very soon.
  • After their first encounter in bed, Anthony promises Georgie that he won't bed her again unless she wishes it. So why is she so scared to share his bed after she's been identified as his wife? It could suggest that she doesn't trust his given word. Unless she's afraid of her own passions getting the better of her with a husband who doesn't love her?
  • GAH's outburst about 'That monster Napoleon'. I think she's more likely to have called him 'Bonaparte'.
  • Absolutely love the missing bed in Anthony's dressing room, especially as the readers will know it was there before, since Marcus had been using it.
  • Also love the suggested letter from India. Nicely rounds it all off. Very satisfying. I suppose it would have to be dated some time in 1820, but I don't see that it matters. It's a great idea.


I just hope we can all three get all this plot into 30,000 words each. Something of a challenge, methinks!

On which happy note, merry Christmas again, both.


Joanna 24th December 2003

One other point I missed first time round, Elizabeth. Occurred to me while I was doing the stuffing!

Anthony's sabre cuts. Would Georgie really have left Anthony if he had *any* wounds at all? They might always become infected and he might lose a limb or even his life. I'd have thought it would be safer to have him utterly exhausted, badly bruised (perhaps from having a horse or horses shot from under him), but not actually wounded. Also, for the GAH outburst to work, Georgie would have to have known that the sabre cuts weren't in his leg. That might be stretching it, since she's depended on hearsay which was notoriously unreliable after Waterloo.

If you decide you want the sabre cuts left in, Elizabeth, I'll change the outline to suit since, in the second draft, it says Anthony was uninjured. Let me know what you decide to do. No rush, though. We're well ahead for our deadline of 5th January.

Now I *will* stop emailing and get on with Christmas!


Elizabeth 24th December 2003

I think you are right, Joanna. Cut the cuts.

I'm signing off now until Saturday. Have a wonderful Christmas, both of you. Enjoy your geese, mince pies and a truly wonderful Christmas Day with your families. We're off to the beach as soon as I can get this machine turned off, the car packed and the house locked.

I have a really good feeling about this whole project. It feels right. Let's hope Richmond agrees with me!