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.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Dreaded Synopsis...

Joanna Maitland
16 December 2003

I haven't done a proper synopsis yet, but I've done an outline scene plan for story 2, covering only the scenes between hero and heroine. I've amended my earlier plan so that villain C is not unmasked, only suspected. I'm not absolutely sure it works and would welcome advice.

The other problem is that I'm still not sure what Will is accused of. It needs to be serious enough that he could be tried and perhaps hanged for it, but also something that Anthony might believe Will could have done. What about a serious assault by an unknown assailant on someone that Will had threatened publicly? A sworn enemy of Will? I imagine that the documentary proof will show Will couldn't have been at the scene of the crime because he was somewhere else, with someone important. Alternatively, perhaps better, the proof could be a letter from the actual assailant to an unknown paymaster, demanding money for his silence; if assailant doesn't get paid, he'll reveal that Will has been fitted up by the paymaster. (The paymaster was C, of course, in order to remove Will as heir, but that wouldn't be disclosed in story 2. The reader might suspect, though, given various hints.)

Any advances on the above gratefully received. BTW, I very much like your take on villain C's character: plausible, manipulative. I've added lecher, groper etc but only of servants who can't fight back.

Except at the very end, I haven't included the Earl, Cassie, Georgiana or Lord Peter in my scenes, though they'll probably figure in the linking scenes. Also I need some below stairs stuff. You'll see, Elizabeth, that Anthony has quite an important role in story 2. That's why I want to have a good idea of how you see him. I imagine his manner with Georgiana will be rather different from his manner with the men.

Tomorrow I'll try to set down a bit more information about the individual characters. I can see them, but I haven't actually done any physical descriptions. I also have to get the individual backstories a bit clearer.

It's now 2.30 am so I'm going to bed. We've got carpet-layers arriving at 8.00 am. Joy.

Synopsis #2: The Abigail’s Tale
Scenes between Amy & Will (other scenes to be interpolated)

Opening Scene

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 room to find curtains drawn and room gloomy but not totally dark, because a fire is burning (even though it’s not cold). A screen stands between door and fire. Amy surmises that it, and fire, were for Anthony’s bath. Sudden concern that bath may not have been emptied; she may be caught by the maids. She goes round screen and meets Will, standing naked in the water, about to get out. He is clean but unkempt: several days’ growth of beard and long, wet hair. She is largely hidden by a huge, ugly cap 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.

Will 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. Will offers her a bargain: he will not shop her to her mistress, if she doesn’t mention his presence to anyone, even Anthony. Amy agrees. And then flees. When she gets back to her room, she realises Will has seen her silver-blonde hair which she had been trying to conceal under the cap because it is so distinctive it might betray who she is.

Scene 2

Following evening, late, Amy goes back to search again, assuming Will will be gone. He appears from Anthony’s dressing room (where Anthony has hidden him). He removes her cap and recognises her, then berates her for her masquerade. He says that he has seen her before, in London, though they haven’t met. That’s 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’s in disguise. Will knows where Ned is, since Ned has been ‘jailed’ by Anthony to protect Will. Will 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. Short love scene. Will horrified at what he’s done. Last thing he needs when he’s on the run. He resolves to have nothing more to do with her unless he’s been exonerated. He feels so guilty that he doesn’t tell Anthony about who Amy is.

Scene 3

Amy is trapped by villain C (who gropes, and worse, anything in a skirt). Will hears what’s going on and rescues Amy, even though he’s blowing his cover by doing so. Fight between Will and C. C, though almost reduced to pulp, swears he’ll call the constable and have Will thrown into jail where he belongs. Amy is horrified; it’s all her fault. Anthony arrives, alerted by valet. Amy won’t let Will tell Anthony what C tried to do to her because she feels guilty. Anthony, as a compromise, agrees that Will should be locked up in the house, pro tem, and forces C to agree not to call the constable until Anthony has reached a view on whether Will is guilty. C has to agree because, otherwise, he’d risk the inheritance or that Anthony might begin to suspect C’s guilt.

Scene 4

Amy manages to sneak in to see Will, and offers help. Anthony has insisted that Will resume the guise of a gentleman, so Will 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. Then he had disappeared. Will explains that there must be evidence somewhere to prove his innocence, possibly in the house, but he has been unable to find it. He suspects C but has no proof. It’s been too dangerous for Will to do much searching and now he’s a prisoner. Amy says she’s seen various documents in some of the bedchambers, including C’s. She’ll go back and search again, bringing anything useful to Will. Will forbids her to do it, but it’s clear she’ll ignore him.

Scene 5

Amy comes back with some documents from C’s room. (Amy enlisted Countess’s help as look-out while Amy searched. Possible close shaves.) Documents suggest real evidence is hidden in the cupola. Will won’t let Amy go alone to search for it. It’s too dangerous. She might encounter C again. He’ll get out somehow and go himself to search. Amy resolves to go too, without telling him.

Scene 6

They search cupola (having dodged C) and find enough evidence to exonerate Will, though not enough to indict C. They also find each other. Will 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. They put their heads together to concoct a plan (not disclosed in this scene).

Scene 7

The Countess’s abigail has left on some pretext. Earl (now in on the secret) says he fired her after finding his papers disturbed. Ned has been freed. (Actually, he’s having such fun drinking and gambling that he doesn’t want to leave his ‘jail’ so he’s not living in the main house.) The Countess announces that her dear friend Amy has been worried sick about brother Ned and is on her way to Ashdown to search for him. She will be in transports when she sees with her own eyes that he’s all right. Amy arrives. She sees, not Ned, but Will. She and Will do a pantomime of love at first sight/reunited long-lost lovers with Countess struggling to keep a straight face in the background. (Possibly Anthony also?) C is incandescent with rage and frustration but can do/say nothing without giving self away.

Scene 8

Will asks Ned’s permission to marry Amy. Ned says it’s not a matter for him but if Amy wants Will, he won’t object. Anthony announces that he’s tired of having Will squatting in his dressing room. Will can have a room of his own. In fact, he can have Lord Peter’s room. Lord Peter will have to move. The only vacant room is the one next to Cassie. (Surprise, surprise.) With two betrothals, he (Anthony) proposes to organise a huge firework party to celebrate. Ned, disgusted by all the lovey-dovey stuff, says he will take himself off. Threatened by Amy, he promises never to reveal what has happened at Ashdown. Satisfied, Will and Amy go for a lovers’ stroll in a convenient shrubbery.

Joanna Maitland
16 December 2003

OK, it's 9.00 am, my eyelids are propped open with the regulation-issue matchsticks and the ****** carpet layers have not arrived. However, I have had further thoughts on my hero and his backstory.

My hero doesn't want to be Will. Somehow too young for him. I now *think* he's Marcus Sinclair. Hope that's OK.

Villain C: how about Waldo or William Lyndhurst-Flint? Flint reminds me of skinflint. I modelled the name on Wellington's elder brother William Wellesley-Pole, Earl of Mornington. He didn't assume the -Pole on marriage as I'd thought. According to Burke's, he assumed the additional name of -Pole when he was 15! Doesn't say why. (His son, also William, married Catherine Tylney-Long, so the family surname then became Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley! Such are the joys of double-barrelling! No wonder that branch of the family died out.)

I'm planning to create a family tree later today so that we can see how they all fit together, possibly even great-aunt harridan. (Harriet is a great name. Will always make me think of harridan.)

Hero 2's backstory

How about this? Marcus was involved in a seriously drunken gambling session in his London club. Villain C was also present, being an inveterate gambler. (Ned may also have been there. Not sure yet.) One of the players, Frobisher, while very deep in his cups, made disparaging remarks about Anthony and his inability to keep his wife in his own bed, or at all. Marcus, also very much the worse for wear but not totally drunk, lost his temper. 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. Villain C, and others present, heard this. Within 2 days, Frobisher had been attacked by an unknown assailant and left for dead. Frobisher didn't see his assailant, but reports that the assailant repeated the threats and it sounded like Marcus. A magistrate has therefore issued a warrant for Marcus's arrest.

Marcus, realising he's been framed, legs it to Ashdown to hide. He gives Anthony his word that he didn't attack Frobisher, but naturally refuses to tell Anthony what the quarrel was about (because Anthony would be devastated to learn that his good name was being bandied about in the London clubs). Anthony accepts Marcus's word but feels there's something fishy about it all. Feels he can't consider Marcus as a potential heir until all the truth comes out and Marcus is cleared. Marcus (worried that Anthony might hear about the insult) makes Anthony promise not to get involved in clearing Marcus. Marcus has friends who are already working on it.

Villain C knows Marcus will not have told Anthony the whole truth. So C, without actually telling a lie, allows Anthony to infer that the quarrel with Frobisher resulted from Marcus having said something disparaging about Anthony's wife. Anthony doesn't want to believe it but the suspicion has been planted; Anthony realises it would account for Marcus's strange reticence about the quarrel. This would account for Anthony being slightly more distant from Marcus than would ordinarily be the case. It would also show manipulative C.

It's important for the reader to know the reason for the quarrel, even though Anthony doesn't. It would be helpful if you could hint at it in story 1, Nicola, perhaps in a passing comment between Earl John and villain C. (Earl John wouldn't dream of saying anything to Anthony, of course.) Then, in story 2, the Countess (after Amy tells her about Marcus hiding in Anthony's dressing room) will pester the story out of her husband. Anthony will never learn the full truth but, at some stage, Marcus will admit that Frobisher insulted Anthony's honour in the worst possible way and Marcus felt he had to defend it. That might have to come in story 3, Elizabeth, after villain C has finally been unmasked.

Re the evidence and villain C. Amy will find out below stairs that a suspicious character (=the hired assailant) is lurking near Ashdown and has had a note delivered to villain C. For some reason, it was delivered to C in the cupola and he had to hide it there. He hasn't had a chance to return to retrieve it or destroy it. When Amy searched C's room, she found a half-finished letter to C's banker, asking for a large amount of money immediately against his expectations of becoming Anthony's heir. It's not proof of C's guilt but it's suspicious. When Amy tells Marcus, he works out what it must be for. Amy remembers the delivery of the note and also that she saw C push a paper into a hiding-place in the cupola. Maybe it was the note? (This aspect of the plot needs more work.) So she volunteers to go and search. Back to scene 5 in my synopsis#2. Finding the assailant's note will clear Marcus but, since C is not named and Amy can't prove the note was the one he received, C can't be openly accused.

Help! Does that hold together? It sure is complicated, even if it does. And doing it all in 30,000 words will be...er...a challenge.

(now going to make coffee since it's 10.30 and carpet layers are working)

Elizabeth Rolls
16 December 2003

Joanna! It sounds fabulous! Ties in beautifully with the way Lyndhurst-Flint ruins Anthony's marriage in the first place.

If it helps - Anthony refuses to discuss Georgiana at all, which would fit in with Marcus's reluctance to tell him what the fight was about. He has a miniature of her that her father gave him as a wedding present, but no one else has ever seen it. I suppose if Marcus is hiding out in Anthony's dressing room(!) he might see it, while looking for a handkerchief or something. Anthony would be furious if he found Marcus looking at it. And shaken at having let his feelings show. If you can't work it in to an existing scene, don't bother. It would be a good way of flagging that Anthony is deeply affected by Georgiana's disappearance.

I assume Marcus is not merely worried about sparing Anthony's feelings but also doesn't want him issuing challenges on the matter. Because he would. Definitely.

By the way - Anthony has an ulterior motive for kicking Marcus out of his dressing room at the end of story two. He fully intends to have Georgiana back where she belongs - in his bed.

If possible in the scene where Marcus is cleared, Georgiana should leave precipitately. Possibly Great Aunt Harriet could send her supposed companion off to bed. Gruffly of course. Anthony should seize the first opportunity to remove himself as well. He has every intention of running Georgiana to earth and finding out what the hell she is up to. (Where do you envisage this scene taking place?)

That should weave the two stories in together if you then remove Marcus and Amy to a convenient shrubbery - where they can say Nee!!? My story opens with Anthony storming off to find his wife and after finally giving up, finding her in his own bedchamber. I've started that scene. Will send it through as soon as it is sort of complete.

PS I want to go to Ashdown House as well! Why isn't Richmond stumping up with an airfare?? Just let me know what sort of wildflowers and birds etc are to be seen at whichever point in the summer we are setting it. I like birds and flowers.

Elizabeth Rolls
16 December 2003

Some info for your perusal. If the colourings double with your characters,let me know.Anthony David Lyndhurst - tall, dark auburn hair, grey eyes. He would beabout 31 or 32. He has a very slight limp in left leg, courtesy ofWaterloo. More a slight hesitation. He is still very active and fit. Is now fairly introspective. Used to be a wild type with a swift temper. No one has seen him lose his temper since he lost Georgiana.He actually believes she must be dead, since he was unable to trace her,and blames himself. He has bricked up everything he feels. When he sees her initially in Story 2 he should be stunned. His demeanour would need to alter, from very calm and reserved, to rather snappish and possibly even cynical. Seeing her is one hell of a shock and shakes his facade loose. Georgiana is of medium height, tawny brown hair, slightly wavy, but scraped back in a bun. She has very blue eyes. She is very fair skinned and slender. Her clothes are fairly dowdy, respectable companion's clothes. As a companion she is very quiet, except on the issue of loyalty, if that happens to come up, which - given Anthony's shielding of Marcus and refusal to believe him guilty despite evidence to the contrary - I imagine it might. She might also react to Anthony's limp in some way, since he didn't have itfour years ago.Great Aunt Harriet has always known who her 'companion' is, but Georgiana doesn't know that. GAH has come to the house-party to make quite sure Anthony knows what he's doing and doesn't make 'another damn-fool mess by not acquainting yourself with all the facts!' I see her as very outspoken, rather like Mr Beaumaris' grandmother in Arabella. An absolute old terror with a heart of gold. I thought she might use an ear trumpet which she doesn't really need, but it's awfully useful to prod people with. She lives very much retired down in Cornwall, which is why Anthony has never realised where Georgiana is. (He hasn't seen GAH in many years and is completely gobsmacked when she shows up.) She distrusts C without reservation.
I imagine her as rather thin, with beady eyes and a loud voice. She is definitely not mealy-mouthed. She took Georgiana on reluctantly at the pleading of her friend, G's godmother, but has come to like her very much.She knows that G's quietness is a mask for unhappiness and can't for the life of her see why, if G is as black as rumour paints her, she doesn't just go and find herself a wealthy protector, rather than hiding herself inthe depths of Cornwall as a companion. Hope all this helps. Right, back to the story - at 1:30 am. I have a potential buyer coming with the agent at 11am (please offer up prayers!) so may not be able to use my writing day tomorrow, since I also have the kids' Christmas presents to buy. Hope you're not too tired, Joanna. Did your carpet layers come?

Joanna Maitland
16 December 2003

It's taken me longer than it should have, but here's a family tree for the Lyndhursts as we have them so far (I think). I've done it as an Excel worksheet and it should be readable by any version of Excel. It will print in colour or black and white. If either of you has problems, I can scan it in and send it as a picture but then you won't be able to alter it.

Assumptions made, subject to your agreement.

Cassie is a later generation than Anthony and Marcus. Her family name is Ward, as you suggested, Nicola. She is an only child. Her grandmother, though richly dowered, married Mr Ward who was very rich too and Cassie is their only descendent, so an heiress. If you want Cassie's mother to be dead, Nicola, I'll change the names. But if her mother is dead, she'd need a guardian and/or trustee who would, logically, be Earl John. If you don't want him too closely involved with her, you may want to keep Cassie's mother alive.

Marcus's grandmother married rich Mr Sinclair and Marcus is the sole heir. Not as rich as Cassie, but rich enough.

Earl John's mother, Frederica, brought a large dowry into her marriage. The Earl's grandfather insisted the names be hyphenated into Lyndhurst-Flint.

William Lyndhurst-Flint is a lot younger than his brother, Earl John, because there was a daughter (died young) in between.

Anthony's father was the only male child so, although the daughters were very well dowered, Anthony's father got the land and most of the loot.

Anthony and William are first cousins.

Marcus is second cousin to Anthony and William.

Great-aunt Harriet is the only one of her generation still alive. She was by far the youngest. The generation after her are all dead, except, possibly, Harriet's own children if she had any. If she did marry, we need a married name for her. Perhaps she should be the only one who didn't marry well? I fancy her sponging a bit off her rich relations.

We need to put dates to most of the characters on this family tree to ensure we know that it hangs together. If we're in 1818 or thereabouts, we can work backwards. (Was 1818 the year George III's wife died? We need to avoid periods of public mourning, either for her or for Princess Charlotte.)

I won't do any more on all this until you've had a chance to digest it. I hope it helps you both. It's certainly helping me.

[Note to blog readers: We can’t import the Lyndhurst family tree for you. Sorry.]

Nicola Cornick
16 December 2003

Honestly, you two! I go out for one afternoon and when I come back there's another outpouring of creativity to deal with! I will have a look at all your emails and get back to you both. Sterling work!

Elizabeth Rolls
17 December 2003

On the ever vexed subject of titles, I was thinking about The Prodigal Bride/Companion, or something along those lines. But perhaps that suggests she has been seriously sinful?

I don't want an 'Unexpected' for myself. My first book was The Unexpected Bride, so it might create a little confusion. By the way, Joanna, you were asking about it a while back. It is being reissued next month in the Regency Rakes series with one of Annemarie Hasnain's. The Marriage Truce, I think.

The name of the house . . . oh, hell! That's a hard one. Coming up with a house name is harder than characters. I usually resort to the hero's title or some variant thereon, but since Anthony isn't titled . . . It was a hunting and shooting box, wasn't it, Nicola? How about Pevensey Chase? I know Pevensey is a long way off. Otherwise I'd suggest Ashby Chase. Something Chase, anyway. I'm open to suggestions. We could of course just run with Lyndhurst Chase. Or Lynden Chase, which picks up the family name

Joanna - I have a tech problem with the family tree. We don't have Excel installed. DH removed it because the disk is full. Naturally he left all the stuff I never use.

Joanna Maitland
17 December 2003

Sorry to drop you in it, Elizabeth! I do like the xxx Chase idea. My favourite would be Lyndhurst Chase or Lynden Chase. Then maybe we could call the volume The Lyndhurst Intrigues?

I also like The Prodigal Companion though I see what you mean about sinful. Re your techie problem, I've actually worked out how to do the family tree on Word so I've attached it for you. It will be easier to send this version to Richmond, if we need to. I thought we might send it as background to the overview story, since it would save us reams of explaining how the characters relate to each other.

Great about your book. I haven't bought any of the rakes' series, because I've read them before, but I *shall* buy yours! Oh, and I suddenly realised why you didn't understand my comment about enjoying writing old harridans. The harridan in question, the Dowager Lady Luce, is a main character in Rake's Reward, and you won't have read that.

Shall do background notes on the Earl, the Countess, William L-F, Marcus and Amy/Amelia today, I hope, and send them round. You will need them all, Elizabeth, and Nicola will probably need at least the first three. I'll also send round some sample scenes, when I've done a bit more work on them, so that you can get the feel for them.

I've also been thinking about point of view. Unless absolutely essential, I don't plan to use the POV of your heroes and heroines, because I'd be bound to get the feel wrong. If I do have to use them, I'll send any text to you for vetting. Whether in their POV or not, I am happy to have either of you rewrite anything I've done that concerns your characters in order to make them consistent.

And it's still terrific fun. Christmas? What Christmas?

Nicola Cornick
17 December 2003

Your Regency Rakes book should be a good seller, Elizabeth. Two excellent books in one! I love that one of Annemarie's and although I was lucky enough to get your first book when it came out, I know loads of people missed it and have been looking for it ever since.

The Prodigal Bride sounds an excellent title to me. I'd like mine to be called Lady of Fortune, but I'm not holding my breath.

Ashby Chase would be fine, I think, though I like Lynden Chase as well. I like "Chase" names and it's very appropriate for our House Party (in more ways than one!)

Am just coming to the end of Cassie's back story and the outline of story 1. I will send it round in a little while.

Nicola Cornick
17 December 2003

Thank you both very much for all the story details and the family tree. I think they are great – so much potential – and you have really helped me put together my thoughts on story 1 and the set up. I have now enclosed Cassie's story and the way I see it linking to the two later stories. All comments/ideas welcome!

A few extra random bits and pieces:

Queen Charlotte did die in 1818 as you said, Joanna, (and Princess Charlotte in 1817, of course). Do we want to push the story back to 1819 to avoid the public mourning? 1816 will presumably be a bit too soon after Waterloo.

Once you had mentioned William Wellesley-Pole I had to find out where the Pole came from, Joanna! Apparently he inherited an estate from a distant cousin, William Pole, and so took on the name.

Elizabeth - a selection of Ashdown animals, birds and flowers - fallow deer, badgers, buzzards, skylarks, woodpeckers both spotted and green, jays. Trees - beech, hazel, oak and elm, rare orchids in the fields, primrose, bluebells and gentians in early summer, ox eye daisies in summer in the fields, Candytuft, Solomon's Seal, Deadly Nightshade. Loads of butterflies in the woods as well.

Joanna - I like "The Lyndhurst Intrigue" very much for an overall title.

Cassie’s back story

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 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 distant 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 she is 25. John and Anthony are generous to her and she loves them both and is especially fond of John’s wife Kitty, 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 Kitty 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 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.

Cassie will also make brief observations on the other characters in the stories. She dislikes William intensely as he has made a play for her in the past and she knows he is a fortune hunter with an unsavoury reputation. She mentions Ned Devereaux as a indiscreet and rather impolite young man who has disappeared somewhere. Cassie also knows and likes Marcus, who is also a distant cousin of hers, but of course she knows nothing about his being in hiding. She is a little bit in awe of Great Aunt Harridan, but admires her immensely and (assuming she doesn’t marry) sees herself as an eccentric old spinster in Harriet’s style when she is old. Harriet once expressed the view that it was positively indecent for a young gel to be as rich as Cassie. Perhaps Cassie could flag up towards the end of story 1 that Harriet and her companion will be arriving soon (in book 2) and Anthony could make some disparaging remark about it being bad enough having a sharp-tongued aunt descending uninvited, never mind her bringing some unpresentably dowdy companion with her… That could start the set up for his comeuppance when Georgiana appears!

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 Kitty but since she is somewhat preoccupied with Amy, this gives Cassie ample opportunity to run around being a hoyden and to be seduced by Peter! It is in fact Cassie’s no nonsense maid, Lizzie, who keeps her in line and in whom she confides.

Story 1

In addition to the purpose of choosing an heir, Anthony Lyndhurst wishes his House Party to be a means of finally finding a suitable husband for Cassie. In addition to family members, Anthony has therefore invited along a few comrades and friends to join the party. The man he and John 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. He is perfectly pleasant but rather staid, and 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, who was a very junior officer with Anthony at Waterloo (and therefore was not party to the details of Anthony’s marriage to Georgiana, or her disappearance.) He does however know William and has heard about the incident in which Marcus was framed. (I thought that he could mention this to the Earl, Joanna, therefore explaining the reason for the quarrel). Because Peter has always been somewhat in awe of Anthony, he would not think of mentioning it to his host.

Peter is on his way to the House Party when he meets Cassie 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, to embarrass Quinn and show she is not 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 comes round. It soon becomes apparent, however, that the knock on the head has had a profound effect on Cassie’s loquacity and with the additional effect of the brandy that Peter has plied her with she is soon spilling her darkest secrets to this stranger.

Amongst the things that she tells him are her feelings about Anthony and his brief marriage and her dislike of William Lyndhurst-Flint. She then moves on to her own history, the fact that her cousin is trying to marry her off, and her feelings on marriage and men in general.

Peter is utterly riveted and unchivalrously plies her with more brandy to keep her talking. He knows that he should take her home but keeps putting off the moment as he finds the unmarriageable heiress completely adorable and is shocked to realise that not only is he strongly attracted to her but that she is fascinating company as well. He finds himself telling her things about himself that he has never told anyone before. When their conversation moves on to examples of how they have committed the seven deadly sins, matters start to become quite scandalous. Peter has just given in to the impulse to kiss Cassie when the door flies open and Anthony Lyndhurst and John 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, who had not envisaged someone actually offering to marry her because they liked her rather than because it was a suitable match. Anthony and John agree to think about it but express the view that it is rather sudden.

It is also a shock to Cassie 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 steal an heiress from under his nose. When Peter insists that his intentions are honourable Quinn is frankly sceptical since his brother has the reputation of a rake.

With Quinn, Anthony, John and Cassie all believing him insincere, Peter sets out to woo Cassie and prove his love for her. (I envisage these scenes establishing some of the house party activities such as impromptu dances, riding expeditions, the cricket match where William cheats etc. It is also a good opportunity for Cassie and/or Peter to observe the mysterious goings on, with Amy creeping about. Since Cassie has spent some time with Kitty she has actually met Amy before – she just doesn’t recognise her). Cassie has withdrawn from Peter and is distant and chilly as a result of both her anger and her embarrassment. However, she is obliged to admit that Peter is a dangerously attractive man and when he pays court to her it is difficult to resist him.

Peter’s plans are sabotaged 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 manages to hit Peter on the head with the cricket ball during the match 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 and overcomes her scruples about marrying him. When Peter wakes up in sound mind and finds her still by (or 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 – until she persuades him otherwise…

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, which is planned to take place shortly after the end of the House Party.

(I thought that when Marcus is kicked out of Anthony’s dressing room (story 2 or 3?) and Peter has to move next door to Cassie as a result, they could both look a bit shifty, as they have been trying to preserve the proprieties ever since the night Peter found Cassie in his bed. Perhaps Great Aunt Harriet could comment that it’s a mercy there will be a couple of weddings happening quickly, with all that has been going on in the house! I’m sure she can come up with a suitably pithy comment on the subject!


Friday, November 11, 2005

Creating the setting and the outline plot

Nicola Cornick
12 December 2003

Here is some more detail for the setting. Ashdown is a very compact house, but we could add a west wing if you like (which is what they may originally have intended). You can see a picture of the house and garden at

and at

The garden is based on a seventeenth century plan. There is a mile long wooded avenue to the north. The cupola on the roof definitely has potential to feature in one or all of the stories. They used to hang a lantern in it that could be seen from the hills all around and have firework parties on the roof! If it would help, I can send you both a description of the house and gardens externally so that you know the kind of detail I'll be putting in the set up.

It would be great if you could furnish the rooms, Elizabeth!

[Note to blog readers: the links work if you would like to see a picture of Ashdown House and there are several images of the house in the image library at the second link.]

Nicola Cornick
12 December 2003

PS: Forgot to ask - do you want to leave Ashdown in Berkshire with hunting and shooting (and quite near Newbury) or would you prefer to relocate it elsewhere in the UK? If we're leaving it in Berks I could a bit of local colour to my external description.

What do we want to call "our" house???

Joanna Maitland
12 December 2003

Nicola, it's absolutely gorgeous. Hadn't looked till now and I adore it. I now understand exactly why you love it so much. And I think it's perfect for us. Clearly, it is not the host's main residence, just a hunting box/pleasure house, and perfect for the kind of quasi-family gathering we want to write about. What's more, I think I *must* visit it soon so that I can soak up the atmosphere. Then I can take pics to put on my website when the book comes out. At the moment, I've printed off the National Trust aerial pic for my work folder, and also a postcard sized version which is now stuck on my monitor, as inspiration.

Would it be a good idea to visit on one of your on-days? or on an off day? Can I buy you lunch somewhere nice in return for being taken round Ashdown with the most knowledgeable possible guide? (Sorry Elizabeth, but I promise to take lots of pics of the outside. And I'm happy to share them.)

I think we should probably leave the house where it is, as long as there's hunting and shooting. Also fishing?? (If not, we can add a trout stream, no doubt.) We don't need to shoot grouse, after all, since they need moors and are very specific. If you've got grouse, you can't have anything much else. We can shoot pheasants if we need to. And having Newbury nearby helps with horse-racing and the like. It will also be within reasonable travelling distance of Bath, Bristol and, at a pinch, London, in case we need to send our characters there.

House names? I think that's for Elizabeth, really, since she *owns* the house-owner/host. Perhaps we could do a variant on Ashdown ie xxxdown? Or a variant on xxxbourne, since it's near Lambourne?

Re the lodge houses. I don't mind whether my heroine's brother is incarcerated in a lodge or a dower house or a tied cottage, but it must be well off the beaten track and quite a long way from the main house or any other habitation. The host can't take any risk of passing nobs out for an evening stroll/blowing a cloud noticing a light and realising there's someone in a supposedly empty property. Is there an obvious place in the grounds where we might situate such a property, Nicola?

And yes, your suggested hints re my story sound great. I can give you chapter and verse quite soon, since I've already started writing. The vague familiarity of my heroine to yours seems good too and I'm sure they would soon become friends after my heroine resumes her proper station. I've named her Amy Devereaux, by the way, though as abigail, she's called Amelia Dent. Her feckless brother is Edward (Ned) Devereaux. Amy is going to be a very outgoing, friendly lass (with striking silver-blonde hair which she hides beneath a huge ugly cap while she's an abigail, because she daren't risk anyone seeing it and thinking she's a very unusual abigail.)

Amy is already best mates with Countess F who will be quite a lot younger than her husband, the Earl, who needs to be somewhere in his 40s I guess, especially if he's to be the older brother of Elizabeth's hero. (That's up to Elizabeth, of course. My Earl can be a cousin or something if that fits better.) On reflection, I might make F the Earl's second wife, a love match after his first marriage which was arranged, childless, and very unhappy. I could even, one day, write their love story as a full length book! Gosh, this is all so exciting I'm getting miles ahead of myself!

Can you tell us where the West Wing would have fitted? I think we probably do need to add it, so that there's just a bit more room for all our characters. Love the cupola. While my hero and heroine are both in hiding, so to speak, I think I might have a wee assignation up there, perhaps when my heroine volunteers to go up to light the lantern? And maybe I could have a firework party on the roof at the end of my story to celebrate proving my hero's innocence and his betrothal to my heroine?

Yes please to the description of the house and gardens externally. And yes please to Elizabeth furnishing the rooms Can we use colours to distinguish them perhaps? I mean the blue bedchamber, the pink bedchamber, the crimson saloon etc. Helps the readers without actually telling them exactly where the rooms are.

Must stop emailing now and get on with the thinking. Unlike you, Elizabeth, I don't have ankle-snappers to worry about. Or moving house. I don't know how you manage to fit it all in.

PS Have just looked again at NT site and realised that house is only open from April-October. Double damn. Still, the grounds are open all the year round, I see, and I think it would be worth a visit to get the feel of them and to see the house from the outside. And the offer of lunch is still on, Nicola

Elizabeth Rolls
12 December 2003

I'm right in the middle of my synopsis, but it is also the middle of the night - about 2am and I have to get up at 6am . . . okay, okay, I know! Anyway, I like Joanna's overview and I am madly working out mine so it will fit. Will have it to you tomorrow night. Perfectly happy to have an abigail and a companion.

I think the first heroine would fit very well as a younger sister of my hero. She can then drop some information about his marriage.

Nicola, my hero is Anthony Lyndhurst. Don't think he's titled because the title would have to go to the next male heir and it would be most unlikely that Anthony would consider leaving the money and estate away from the title, unless he knew the heir presumptive to be a complete scumbag. In which case, why did he invite him to the house party?

The public reason for his wife's disappearance is that she vanished in the flight from Brussels during the Waterloo campaign. He refuses to talk about her at all. Except for Villain C, no one in his family ever met her since they married in Belgium during the lead up to Waterloo.

More details tomorrow. Your ideas are all so helpful.

Thanks for the pictures, Nicola. Love it. And yes, Joanna - I do want to see the photos! Colour coded rooms are very useful. I'll try to get my synopsis finished and then tackle the furnishings tomorrow night.

Joanna Maitland
12 December 2003

Nicola, if you could possibly manage it, it would be very helpful if your heroine could also drop a hint about my heroine's missing brother, Ned Devereaux. I imagine her making a very sharp remark to the effect that Ned is a very rude (and very gossipy) young man who left the house very abruptly (before the story started) without even taking the trouble to say goodbye to her. She might also say something to indicate that (apart from gossiping) he seems to think of nothing but shooting, gambling and drinking. Thoroughly selfish and immature. Not at all the sort of fellow that any sensible girl would wish to have anything to do with.

That would plant a little seed that there's something not quite right about Ned's departure. I can pick up on it in story 2. And it would also make it obvious that Ned is not going to be the hero of any of the stories. In fact, he's a bit of a pain in the ass, as I intend to make clear, if I can get it into the wordcount.

Nicola Cornick
12 December 2003

I'm so glad you both like Ashdown! I will put together a crib sheet on the house and gardens and email it to both of you. We will need to add details like the trout stream and Joanna's lodge house (which we could place in the woods at the end of the mile long avenue). I think it's a great idea to have colour-themed rooms as well.

Thank you for the info on what you'd like me to put in story 1. I am writing my synopsis and will incorporate hints for both your stories.

Joanna, you are very welcome indeed to come and have a guided tour of the outside of Ashdown, take photos, see the grounds and get a feel for the place. It is a shame that the house is closed until April but there's a nice pub down the road! We can raise a glass to you, Elizabeth!

I'll be back in touch with the Ashdown descriptions and my synopsis soon.

Elizabeth Rolls
12 December 2003

I'll be looking forward to the info and photos. Nice to at least hear aboutthe pub down the road. Have a half of Guinness for me!
Nicola - I'll have my synopsis through - I hope! - late this evening my time.I'll include lots of info about Anthony since you will both need him welland truly on stage.

Joanna Maitland
12 December 2003

Me too. (Looking forward, I mean.) Mind you, I don't drink Guinness. When I was pregnant (long, long ago!) my midwife advised me to drink it for the iron since I couldn't get along with iron tablets. I almost had to put a clothes peg on my nose to get the Guinness down. Absolutely hated it! So I'll raise a glass to you, Elizabeth, but *not* Guinness.

I've been thinking about my hero. I think I won't make him the host's brother because there's a risk of getting too many characters named Lyndhurst. So I'll make him a cousin, the son of the host's deceased elder sister, if that's all right. Then he'll have a different surname. Actually, at the moment, he doesn't even have a first name but no doubt it will come. OTOH, I have written the naked hero meets heroine scene (or most of it). Remember that scene with Colin Firth getting out of his bath in P&P? Well, think of that -- but with much more time before anyone wraps anything in any kind of towel/dressing gown etc. My heroine, bless her, is rooted to the spot and can neither move nor speak. Especially when he orders her to pass the towel! (I'm giggling even as I write this. I do love writing scenes like that.)

I have named the Earl and Countess, though. He is John, Earl of Mardon and she is Charlotte. Hope that doesn't get in the way of any of your names. If the Earl is Anthony Lyndhurst's elder brother, his surname will be Lyndhurst too, obviously. If he's a more distant relation, I'll think of something else.

Oh, I really love doing this. It's great fun. Can't wait to read your synopses, both.

Elizabeth Rolls
13 December 2003

Good thinking about the surname, Joanna. I'll look forward to your naked hero scene. How nice to think that I am going to get to read it FIRST. Along with Nicola, of course.

Sorry to hear you don't like Guinness. Gin and tonic will do!

Can you let me know when you decide about the relationship between Anthony and the Earl of Mardon? If Anthony is a younger son, then I have to come up with some reason why he has the sort of fortune that one worries about. Like a stinking wealthy godfather in trade. It's not wildly important but it would require clarification. Unless Anthony was a half brother and somehow inherited his mother's fortune.

Joanna Maitland
13 December 2003

Thanks, Elizabeth. Actually it doesn't matter much to me whether the Earl is Anthony's brother or not. If you can see any plot reasons for having him as a brother, I'll do that. (I can't see any, but there might be some later, I suppose, when we're into the writing.) If it makes it easier to explain Anthony's fortune, I'll make the Earl a more distant relation. Up to you. Unless Nicola needs it to be one way or the other? After all, your heroine is Anthony's sister. Does she need an older uncle who is an Earl? Or would that complicate things even more?

I *think* my hero may be called Will Sinclair. He's mulling it over even as I type. No doubt he'll let me know whether he likes it a bit later on. (In the naked man scene, he does not tell my heroine who he is or why he is there. Typical man!)

Joanna Maitland
13 December 2003

Have now furiously scribbled outline of key scenes of my story and I think I'm getting somewhere. Or starting to. Only difficulty will be word count. Argh.

Have had a few disjointed thoughts that I wanted to share before I forget them.

Arrival of great-aunt harridan and companion. It occurred to me that said harridan really wouldn't have a place at a house party to select an heir. She's not a potential heir and she would probably be viewed as getting in the way. What if she decided to invite herself when she heard about heroine 1's possible betrothal? On the grounds that any potential husband needs great-aunt's vetting. (Having good sources, she would learn of it almost instantly, of course.) If it suits your plot, Elizabeth, great-aunt could be talked of towards end of story 1 and arrive then or near start of story 2. I imagine companion would have been very reluctant to accompany said harridan since she fears being recognised by husband. Do you want me to show companion trying desperately to avoid Anthony eg by sudden headaches so she can't come down to dinner?

Is my villain C going to be your villain, too, Elizabeth? One of your emails seemed to suggest that. Can we make that work since I was planning to write villain C out at the end of story 2? Do you want me to keep him going for story 3? If so, have you already decided on a name for him? For me, he's just another potential heir but for you, I imagine, he's a closer heir. Is he another Lyndhurst?

What year are we in? Does it matter?

I'm not sure that I'll have room for the fireworks party on the roof in story 2. But I could have Anthony decide to do it, or think about it in story 2. Then maybe it could actually take place at the end of story 3. Ending with a bang, so to speak. What do you both think?

Not for decisions now. If we are going to get a commissioned cover, should we suggest that a washed-out photo of Ashdown might be part of the background? Obviously it would need to be done from such an angle that it wasn't possible to tell whether there was a west wing or not. I'm planning to use the cupola in story 2, so it would help readers to see what I'm on about.

Also not for decision now, but do we want to think about a joint Dear Reader letter about how we came to write the stories? And the settings we chose?

Nicola Cornick
15 December 2003

I am writing my story synopsis and have a couple of things I wanted to run past you.

1. I thought it might be nice to kick the stories off with a formal style invitation to the house party at the beginning. I guess we may be asked to write a "Dear reader" letter as well but I thought we could set the scene with a "Mr Anthony Lyndhurst requests the pleasure of your company at a House Party..." What do you think?

2. I've decided it might be better if my heroine, Cassie Ward, is a cousin to Anthony Lyndhurst rather than a younger sister. I found that I was bringing him into her story a bit too much and I don't really want to write a lot about "your" character, Elizabeth, because when you write him it is bound to be different! So I have made him a cousin with an interest in Cassie's welfare as head of the family, but then given her a mother/chaperone called Mrs Cecilia Ward who can't control her headstrong daughter. Hope this is okay.

More later...

Nicola Cornick
15 December 2003

Here are some brief notes on Ashdown House. If there are any other details you would like, just let me know. I'll include a short physical description in story 1 but basically we can use this as the background and make up our own bits to add on!

Happy writing, both!

Ashdown House

Ashdown lies in the Manor of Ashbury, which was formed in Saxon times. The estate passed to Glastonbury Abbey in the 10th century and by 1342 had been partially enclosed to create a deer park to supply venison. There is an Iron Age hill fort on the edge of the park and the remains of the park pale, the embankment that kept the deer in, is still visible like a small ha-ha in the fields around the estate.

The present house at Ashdown was built in the 1660s by William, first Earl of Craven. It is built from dressed chalk and is therefore a very pale, cream colour. The window surrounds and dressed stonework are Bath stone. It is very narrow and tall and seems to float above the surrounding down land, anchored visually by its two lodge houses. It is a rare example of late 17th century architecture in the Dutch style with a hipped roof, dormer windows, massive chimneystacks and a crowning cupola with a golden ball. This style became fashionable in England after the Restoration.

Lord Craven probably used Ashdown as a hunting lodge. The cupola and balustraded roof provide excellent views of the land around and were used for spotting animals and watching the chase. There are no servants quarters in the house – staff lived in the Lodge Houses and in Ashdown village. [However we may wish them to live on the top floor in our story so that they are closer to the action?]

The internal arrangement of the house is very simple. A central passage goes from the front door to the garden door. The oak staircase takes up a quarter of the floor space of the entire building. It is the most impressive feature in the entire house with newel posts whose recessed panels may once have contained carvings of fruit and flowers.

The rooms are airy, well lit by casement windows and well proportioned. Some are decorated with plasterwork cornices showing simple, bold, acanthus patterns.*

The park was laid out in the formal style of the 17th century with four rides or avenues radiating from the house through dense woodland. The Western avenue comprised lime trees. The North Avenue creates a vista of the house that is a mile long. Shady rides meander through the woods and open onto dappled glades where wild flowers thrive. There are deer, badgers, foxes and many other birds and animals in the woodland.*

The garden is very simple. It comprises a parterre of box hedges and gravel laid out in S-shaped scrolls. The parterre also contains two benches and some stone statuary – 2 obelisks on square plinths 4’ 6’’ tall, stone balls on pillars and 4 stone pineapples also mounted on pillars approximately 5 foot tall. The garden is sheltered from the park by high hedges. [Good for assignations? We can also add in a summer house, water feature, etc wherever we like!]

*Information from Ashdown House National Trust guidebook


Elizabeth Rolls
15 December 2003

My old-fashioned scribbling has paid off and I now have a much clearer idea of what I am doing. (Hears sighs of relief blasting from the northern hemisphere.)
I actually have some sort of synopsis.

Joanna, I did intend to use villain C in my plot -- mainly because I wondered how likely it was to have two villains and I thought if we got rid of C too early, then my plot might be a little short on tension. I mean there's bound to be plenty of emotional tension between Anthony and Georgiana, but if there has been an intrigue thread running through the first two stories and we snip it completely, it might be a little awkward. Similarly starting another intrigue could be awkward.

Could whatever crime B is supposed to have done, be cleared up without exposing C? Make it look as though it was entirely accidental that B looked guilty? Or at least not as if C was involved.

I think having the great aunt arrive in story 2 is a good idea. Otherwise, why haven't things come to a head with Anthony and Georgiana earlier? She can only avoid him for so long by trading on her lower status as a companion and convenient headaches.

I think there does have to be some sort of connection between Great Aunt H and Georgiana. Otherwise it's just too pat. I thought that probably Georgiana went to her Godmother and the godmother got her the position with Great Aunt H on purpose. Great Aunt knows perfectly well who her 'companion' is. Georgiana has no idea initially of the connection between her employer and Anthony. She is absolutely horrified to find herself at Anthony's house party.

GAH has invited herself because she sees it as the perfect way to bring matters to a head between Anthony and Georgiana. She has never told Anthony where his wife is because, as far as she knows, he has made no attempt to find his wife.

Does the great aunt have a name yet? I wondered about Harriet. After all, the readers don't have to know that she started out as Great Aunt Harridan!

I'm not terribly fussed about villain C's name. As long as it isn't Anthony. He probably should be another Lyndhurst. Unless we hyphenate him and make him Blankington-Lyndhurst. Obviously this heir situation has problems! Perhaps his mother's family, having large amounts of money and influence, insisted on the hyphenation.

As for the year, my backstory is that Anthony served in the Peninsula and Waterloo. He married Georgiana in the run up to Waterloo as a matter of honour when she was jilted by another officer. He catches her, with C's connivance, at the Duchess of Richmond's ball, saying farewell to her ex-fiancé. All she intended was to wish the young idiot well and assure him that she is happy in her marriage. Anthony walks in at exactly the wrong moment and completely misunderstands what he sees. He says a great number of things in his fury that would have been much better left unsaid and finds, when he returns from Waterloo that his wife is gone. Along with a very valuable pearl necklace that belonged to his mother. He assumes that she has fled with her lover. He discovers later that her supposed lover is dead and realises that she has run away alone. He does attempt to trace her but fails to find her.

Georgiana has gone to her godmother who finds her a position, on purpose, with Anthony's Great Aunt H. When Great Aunt H gets wind of the house party, she decides to make an appearance with her 'companion' in tow.

It turns out in the end that C has deliberately garbled a message Georgiana has asked him to give Anthony at the Duchess of Richmond's ball. Instead of telling Anthony that G has been looking for him and that she asked him to tell A that she is in the garden speaking to her ex, he simply told A that G was in the garden with her ex. It also turns out that C took the pearls to settle his gaming debts and destroyed the note G left telling A that she had gone to her godmother.

That is C's style in my outline. He comes across to me as a manipulative type. Very quick to capitalise on someone's mistake and twist people's thinking. I think he needs to come across as plausible, not out and out obvious scum. Otherwise Anthony would never consider him as a possible heir let alone permit him to stay on. Could we make C a younger brother of the Earl of Mardon? Then Anthony might consider him as a potential heir because of his younger son status. Fellow feeling since Anthony was a younger son himself and only inherited because his brother died.

I thought perhaps the earl might warn Anthony that C is not a good prospect as an heir, that he shouldn't allow his fellow feeling to cloud his judgment. That C is still quite irresponsible and has scorned to settle to anything. That his gaming debts have been settled several times. He might even comment that the only time C managed to settle his own debts was just after Waterloo. 'Naturally one hesitates to accuse one's own brother of plunder,' said John with a faint grin.

In the synopsis as it stands now C does try to get rid of Georgiana near the end when he realises that his lies are about to be exposed. I'll also need to ferret out his involvement in hero B's problems. Or at least Anthony will. As I imagine it, he works that out, and realises that maybe C misled him on purpose at the ball. Goes to confront him and finds him trying to dispose of Georgiana. Then discovers that C stole and pawned the pearls etc.

Did Joanna request a fireworks display from the cupola? I'm sure that can be worked in at the end. I'll probably cut to Anthony and Georgiana indulging in their own personal fireworks display by the stream! Or would there be too many mosquitoes and other biting things about?

The action for my story would start with Anthony absenting himself very conspicuously from some vital bit of action in Joanna's story. Possibly straight after the resolution of B's innocence. He's had quite enough of Great Aunt H's 'companion' avoiding him and has decided to have it out with her for once and for all.

I'll type up the whole outline of the action, along with notes about Anthony and Georgiana, properly tomorrow and send it through. Hopefully this gives you an idea though. At the moment it deals very much with the resolution of Anthony and Georgiana's marriage. It feels a little short, but there are all your characters to write in and threads to tie in at the end, so probably short is better. In terms of writing, I thought perhaps I might tackle the scenes that only involve, or mostly involve A and G and minor players first. Once your characters are fleshed out and I can read them on the page and you tell me about them, I'll tackle those scenes.

About timing - for my backstory to work I need the houseparty to happen at least one year after Waterloo. Possibly more. I don't want C to recognise Georgiana. She was only 17 at the time of Waterloo and if say, four years had passed and he had only met her once or twice, then it is conceivable that he would not recognise her. Especially since she now wears very dowdy clothes and does her hair differently. What do you think?

About OUR timing. I'll get as much actually written as I can before I go away in the New Year. Since it appears to be most unlikely that we will move now much before Easter, there should be plenty of time to weave it all together when I get back. Do we want to send scenes/chapters through as we go? Might be a help with dialogue etc. I don't want to make your characters say or do something totally out of character.

I'll have a detailed look at the public rooms, dining, drawing, billiard etc and try to get them furnished over the weekend. Let me know which ones you need. I think we can leave the bedchambers to our individual stories. I can't imagine that I need to invade anyone's bedchamber apart from Anthony's and Georgiana's, except possibly GAH. I'm assuming country house style, not too grand and not right up the minute in terms of fashion furnishings. Didn't we agree that this is not Anthony's principal country residence? More of a shooting box? Possibly Anthony breeds horses.

I like the idea of a photo of Ashdown House. A Dear Reader letter also sounds like a good idea. Readers love to know what was ticking over in the author's mind. At least this reader does. And some background on how we came to write them and weave the stories together would be fun too.

Sorry this is so long. It's dealing with any number of your emails. I've been flailing about trying to get a handle on how all this works!

Nicola Cornick
15 December 2003

Love your synopsis, Elizabeth!

As there is quite a lot of intrigue in your two stories, Elizabeth and Joanna, and because I will have to spend some of my words on set up, I've decided not to introduce any more elements of house party intrigue into story 1. IMO there are only so many secret goings on that can take place in one House Party!

What I will do is hint at the stories to come, by giving Cassie's opinions of:

a) Anthony's brief marriage
b) Villain C as a manipulative and possibly two-faced character
c) Suspicions about Amy creeping around in her guise as lady's maid
d) Ned Devereaux as a rather ill-mannered and indiscreet young man and the fact that he disappeared abruptly from the house party.

Hope this is okay with both of you.

In story 1 I need enough characters for a cricket team! Obviously I don't need to name all of them and at least half could be servants, but I'd also like to use Anthony, the Earl of Mardon, and Villain C as well as my hero, Lord Peter Quinlan. This could be the point where villain C (Blankington-Lyndhurst) could perhaps show his true colours in a brief giveaway by cheating at cricket? How unsporting! I might also introduce one or two House Party hangers-on to swell the numbers, since Georgiana and great Aunt Harriet won't be arriving until story 2 and the cast list is still quite small. We only need a core of main characters and I think we have those already, but we do need to give the impression of a few more guests out bagging the pheasants etc.

One question - have I missed how long after Waterloo we are setting the stories?

I have almost finished my draft synopsis and will send it along soon.

PS Elizabeth there were a lot of biting insects at Ashdown this summer but I think we could exercise poetic licence and get rid of them for the purposes of the story!

Joanna Maitland
15 December 2003

Have had a quick run through Elizabeth's synopsis but need to do it again in slow time. Two things strike me at once. Yes, we can really only have one villain, so C it will have to be. However, I'll have to rework my synopsis a bit to leave him standing at the end of story 2. Would it be OK if my hero and heroine suspected C, even if they couldn't yet prove he was the villain?

Second quick point. I'm going to change the Countess's name from Charlotte to something else because I think, with such a large cast, that we should avoid having more than one name beginning with any particular letter. Cassie is much more important, so my Countess has to change. Will your chaperon always be called Mrs Ward, Nicola? That would get round her being a C-name too.

It's obviously going to be tough on you, Elizabeth, since you'll be away in January. What I would find really helpful, if you have time, would be for you to write some of the Anthony/Georgiana scenes so that I (and Nicola, too, for Anthony) can get a better feel for the kind of characters they are and the way they talk.

Love the idea of an invite, Nicola. Much better than a Dear Reader job.

Will respond again once I've digested the emails.

Nicola Cornick
15 December 2003

I hadn't spotted all the "C" names, Joanna, but I can easily change Mrs Ward to Edwina, or something. I haven't even finally decided whether she features in the story. Cassie needs a friend/confidante/female relative but that's about as far as I've got.

I agree it would be tremendously helpful to have some idea of how Anthony speaks. If you have the time, Elizabeth, that would be brilliant.

Went to Ashdown today and was walking around the estate looking for suitable sites for romantic trysts etc. It's a good job I know the estate manager or I'd probably have been arrested for lurking in a suspicious manner!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The first few days...

Elizabeth Rolls
7 December 2003

It sounds as though Linda just wants to give us the general idea and then let us rip. Suits me.The main issues that I can see are as Joanna said, the design of the house, garden and estate and the timing. House, garden and estate can be worked out easily enough. Timing is harderbecause there are several ways we could do it. How long would a house party go for? A week, two weeks?Do we have all the stories running concurrently and each novella has scenes that are common to all three, or even to two, but told from the appropriate characters' viewpoints? This would be harder, but I think more satisfying in this format than straight follow on stories like the Steepwood series. The time frame of a house party suggests a tighter structure. Sylvia Andrews did something like this with her book Christmas Belles. The book was a pair of novels dealing with an identical twin identity swap. It worked brilliantly because she meshed both stories together, especially the endings. You've probably read it, but if you haven't, it would be worth finding copies, even if I post mine to you. Or you could ask Linda to find a couple!As for the backstory - I suppose it needs to be something that can have a partial resolution in each novella. My gut feeling was that it perhaps needs to be something that involves the actual houseparty, or the reason for the houseparty. And if you are going to have a houseparty with a lot of conflict, then why the heck did the host and/or hostess let themselves in for this?

Actually I did just have an idea. Something along these lines. How about if the host is estranged from his wife - she's left him and heeven thinks she may be dead, but can't find out. If the estate ISN't entailed, then he has to decide on an heir from within the family since he can't marry. So he summons a large portion of the family to try and make a decision.We could probably even squeeze a murder out of that in the first novella which could be solved in the third. With perhaps various heroes and heroines being suspected.Anyway if the host's wife isn't dead, but actually in attendance as a companion or something, but we keep that very quiet as to who this femaleis that the host is lusting after, then that would make a nice explosive ending.Just ideas to play with. We have to start somewhere…

Joanna Maitland
9 December 2003

Some great thinking here, Elizabeth. My two penn'orth below:

re design of house/garden etc

If we have to design from scratch, it will take ages. We could base it on an existing house. What about the house you do your National Trust stuff in, Nicola? Is it the right period and size?
Second alternative, can we get info on the house that was used as Pemberley in the BBC's P&P? That was certainly big. And there was that lake, too....


Not sure. Sort of think it would be best to run all concurrently except that story 1 does the scene set and story 3 resolves any plot threads that run through them all. I wouldn't want to do too many of the same scenes from different viewpoints, partly because of wordcount and partly because it's difficult to do. But a few short ones would be good (see below).


Length of houseparty would depend, I think, on time of year. In winter it could be several weeks eg for Christmas, because people wouldn't travel for less. In summer, in the shooting season for example, it might be a couple of weeks or even longer. When I did my racing house party in Marrying the Major, it was a week, since it was just for the race meeting (Epsom Derby and The Oaks, essentially). So I think we need to decide approximate time of year, then whether it's a particular event such as grouse shooting, and the timing will sort itself. Three successful romances in 7 days might be pushing credibility though!


I like your backstory, Elizabeth, and I think we could make it work. I had thought of one on vaguely similar lines. I'm sure we can work out something between us and any leftover plots can be used by the originator in another book!

In my backstory, the host/hostess run regular and slightly risqué large house parties. At the end of the previous one, heroine A's brother (her only relative) wrote to her to say that he'd discovered something very odd and he'd tell her all about it when he got home. Then he never arrived. She has become increasingly concerned and also has no money without brother. She decides she has to investigate but can't go as herself since the host would twig, so she goes as lady's maid to her married friend (because lady's maid goes both above and below stairs). Plan is that heroine A will do bedroom searches and such like while nobs are at dinner etc. [Thought that heroine A could walk in on one of the heroes/villains naked in one novella (from his POV, seeing her as servant, possibly taking advantage?) and get extended view of scene in another novella from her POV.] The intrigue, I had thought, would be that an escaped felon is being hidden in the house. He was wrongly convicted of course and, by the end, will be proved innocent by one of the heroines (possibly the lady's maid) and they will live HEA. Haven't worked out where heroine A's brother would have been all this time. Perhaps he's being kept as a "guest" alongside the felon so that he won't spill the beans. Or perhaps something else has happened to him, as long as the word count isn't too long. He could be one of the three heroes, perhaps?

In terms of conflict, we could have a fair few family members at the house party, whatever backstory we use. Always good for conflict. Think of The Unknown Ajax. I worry slightly about doing all of either backstory in 3*33,000 words. It's the same length as a single book but we have to do three romances plus an underlying plot. So it's going to be hard work and require some slick writing (which, natch, we can all do in our sleep )

Nicola Cornick
9 December 2003

So on with the Regency House Party and thank you both for your comments/suggestions. Plenty to work on there. Here are my thoughts:


I imagine a house party would go on for several weeks and I agree the stories will have to be concurrent or at least closely overlapping. I've read Sylvia Andrew's Christmas Belles books and think she meshed them very well. I like the idea of scenes in common to all three stories, but this is getting quite complex for a short format. If we could make it work, then great! I think it would be easier with just the three of us (and all of us being on email).

Perhaps story three could end with the House Party ending as well? That would be a neat way to tie up the mini-series. We don't necessarily need to start right at the beginning of the house party. Everyone could already have been assembled for a few days when story 1 gets underway. We also need to keep our cast of characters to a core group, I think, or there will be too many for readers to get their heads round in 3 separate stories.

Design of house/garden

I don't think we want somewhere too big. It can get confusing if the house and garden sprawl too much. I'm slightly geographically challenged with settings!

We could use Ashdown (my NT place) which is compact, unusual and very attractive, but that has the same problem - it's comparatively small. I have a garden plan and loads of info (you know what an Ashdown bore I can be!) so if you'd like to go for it that's no problem. If we decided on a summer house party, Ashdown would be good as it's designed as an over-sized hunting lodge and there's lots of potential for shooting accidents!

Back story

I like the idea of the host needing to decide on an heir. That could definitely introduce the tension/conflict element if we need a murder! I think it will be very difficult to introduce a well developed intrigue strand in three stories of only 30 thousand words, especially when the focus is on the romance. So if we do this it'll need to be simple but clever! (And I'm sure we can do that!!!) I love the idea of the estranged host lusting after his wife-in-disguise (assuming that they have been separated long enough for him not to recognise her. I always find the Shakespearean plots of brother/father/sister/husband/ wife not recognising each other stretch credibility a little!)

I also like your backstory, Joanna and think that the two ideas could be meshed very neatly. Even better, your heroine A introduces the "upstairs downstairs" element that Linda was talking about, so that covers the servant angle as well.

The point about 3 successful romances in 7 days or even 14 days is a good one. In almost all the short stories I've read there's a history between h/h to make this possible. That, plus the intensity of being together for 24 hours a day can make things happen. Under those circumstances the idea of the host and his estranged wife is a very potent (pardon the pun) one.

In the joint backstory it looks as though heroine A would need to be the heroine of the first story since she sets up the mystery at the beginning of the houseparty. Similarly heroine C (chaperon/wife) could bring it all to a dramatic conclusion. Which leaves the middle story. I do actually have a plot idea that could fit into the middle slot, involving an impoverished young nobleman who has been sent to the house party under duress to catch a rich wife. It's a kind of Sophie Kinsella "Can you keep a secret" meets Georgette Heyer's "Full Moon" story from Pistols for Two. Except in this case I thought there could be a role reversal with the hero trying to find a way out of an unwelcome match, bumping into the heroine and confiding his difficulties only to discover later that she's the intended bride... That's the romance element, but the intrigue element could pick up from story 1 and lead into story 2.

We seem to have sketched a lot of this out already. I guess we need to see what Linda's suggestions are and then put together a firmer plan. This is fun. Good to be working with you both!

Joanna Maitland
9 December 2003

Terrific stuff, Nicola! I do like the sound of Ashdown, largely because you know it so well. We could always extend it, in an imaginary way, so that it has more bedrooms upstairs, without necessarily extending the public rooms. The readers won't see anything wrong because they won't know the size of the downstairs rooms or even if we've mentioned them all. And it would be very useful to know all about the grounds. Also love the idea of hunting accidents. I feel a murder coming on.

Like your ideas on timing, too, with story 3 ending the house party and it having started before story 1 begins. After all, some of the guests could arrive after the party is well under way, making it a sort of running open house rather than a formally arranged do. I think, if it was running for several weeks, that's what would have happened.

I think I'd plump for a summer house party, possibly running from August (grouse shooting etc) though we might have to move Ashdown to the grouse moors.

Re backstories, I agree that Elizabeth's heir story would be a great thread. Obviously the missing wife/reconciliation has to be story 3. I'm not sure how much of my backstory we can bring in without overloading the trilogy with too much intrigue, at least if I were to write story 1. I wonder whether we could use bits of my backstory in story 2 instead? Story 1 could introduce my upstairs/downstairs heroine in passing -- and apparently as a lady's maid -- and then story 2 could show that she's not what she seemed in story 1. And of course story 1 would have clues for the clued-up reader to pick up! Alternatively, I could do mine as story 1, skating very superficially over Elizabeth's heir story and leaving it to be picked up in stories 2 and 3. What I'm trying to say is that story 1 should focus on setting the scene for either the heir story or the lady's maid imposter story but probably not both unless it's all very sketchy. OTOH, maybe it should be sketchy so that story 1 can concentrate on a real romance and not have to do too much scene setting. Gosh, this is difficult. (And I've managed to confuse myself here)

I think maybe we need to flesh out the backstories a bit more. The appropriate order for the stories might then become obvious.

Must go and cook dinner now. Agree this has the potential to be terrific fun, Nicola. And it's great that Richmond are letting us have so much rope (even though we might hang ourselves with it. Ho hum.)

Elizabeth Rolls
10 December 2003

I did wonder if perhaps one heroine, Nicola's unusual heiress? might be the host's younger sister, or something like that if we were tying it in as a family houseparty.

I was thinking that the scenes used in more than one novella would need to be somehow pivotal to each story. How do we go about plotting this? What is our overarching subplot? Is it the host's dilemma over who should be his heir? Or do we use Joanna's idea about the wrongly convicted felon. Although possibly wrongly accused might be easier to deal with. Given the way the courts operated, an actual conviction would be very hard to overturn. Can we use both? Is there some way of tying the two things together?

At this stage I am wondering if the best thing is for each of us to rough out a synopsis of the story we have in mind and compare them. Then we can work out where they can mesh, how the characters and threads can be linked between each story etc. This is much harder than just one person doing it because we are each working in the dark a bit. Nicola - how did you handle this with the Steepwood books? Although I suppose you had a Bible for that. What we really need is a nice, friendly chat room where we can talk and interrupt each other and get all this roughed out.

Elizabeth Rolls
10 December 2003

I was thinking along much the same lines as Joanna about the house and garden design. Use an existing house!

I was forgetting about Nicola's National Trust activities. Obviously any house older than about 1800 will do us nicely as long as some Victorian didn't do a makeover. Decor isn't necessarily a problem. I have several books on decor. We could pinch the furnishings we need from the appropriate rooms.

More public rooms were usually far more up to date than rooms just used by the family. If we work out which rooms we need, I'll be more than happy to furnish them I'd be able to get the pages scanned to send to you. Then we can all see the rooms and know what's there.

A smaller house might work nicely in the context of an essentially family house party. I'm reminded of the house in GH's A CIVIL CONTRACT where Adam and Jenny spend their honeymoon. It belongs to his aunt and uncle and is not their principal seat. I think it is described as 'a pretty little place in Hampshire. Maybe we could use something like that. Not the host's main residence for some reason. Easier travelling for an elderly aunt or whatever.

The garden - Yvonne on the Yahoo Regency list gave a list of garden refs a while back. I wrote them down. If I can't find them, I'll email her off list and ask for it again. Between us we may be able to chase a couple down through the library systems, if not buy anything.

As for the countryside - once we know where, that's not so hard. For you two! I CAN find out, but not as easily.

I like the idea of a summer party. Shooting accidents are good, Nicola! And it's less claustrophobic than a winter party might be.

As for intrigue - I considered bumping off the host's heir in my scenario and having it turn out that the host's estranged wife did it in self-defence since the heir once tried to bump her off to secure his inheritance and has tried again at the house party. I envisaged it having been a drumhead wedding in the Peninsula and that the host's family, apart from the heir, had never laid eyes on her.

Naturally suspicion would fall on the next heir, and only the host would know that the supposed companion to dear, old Auntie Sue might have a motive. I intended him to recognise her, but keep his mouth shut because there is an outsider in the party. A real gossip. And naturally having your wife show up as a ladysmaid/companion would be scandalous. I had an idea that their estrangement would have arisen out of him having accused her of infidelity, a mistake brought on by the heir's attempt to kill her. Host/hero sees her being succoured by his best friend and assumes the worst. Best friend is killed in battle the following day and heir takes chance to scuttle the marriage completely. This could come out possibly in the form of a letter the friend wrote that never reached the husband. I envisaged their story as being the last of the set and ending the house party.

But I like Joanna's backstory as well. The ladysmaid scenario would work well going above and below stairs. It also leaves her open to all sorts of dubious propositions. Love the idea of her walking in on a stark naked man!

You could always make the wrongly convicted felon the host's younger brother. And of course the ladysmaid's brother finds out and is being held as well. If she suspects that the host has kidnapped her brother that would create lots of lovely conflict.
We seem to be having lots of ideas!

Elizabeth Rolls
10 December 2003

Joanna - could your upstairs/downstairs heroine actually be the missing wife? I envisaged her as a companion, but if we want to use the upstairs/downstairs thing, then disguise her as a lady's maid. I envisaged her as a companion and intended the host to know who she is. That would be a thread running through the first two stories. People could keep noticing the host's interest in the supposed companion/lady's maid.

I went and had a look at Ashdown House on the internet. It looks great. And if the gardens are laid out to a 17th century design that's okay too. Nicola if you can supply us with an idea of the house and gardens, I'm happy to go with that. I agree with Joanna that bumping up the number of upstairs rooms is perfectly fine.

How do we all feel about the order of the stories? Obviously I'm okay with it, because I'm the idiot going to NZ in three weeks and trying to move interstate at the same time! I feel much happier with a later delivery date.

Nicola Cornick
10 December 2003

Now I've had chance to go through all your messages and think about things in a bit more depth, here are my thoughts/ideas/suggestions on the RHP.

Location and season:

Thanks for your positive feedback about using Ashdown House. If you are both definitely happy we will use it as the basis of the house in the story.

Any preferences about the time of year – I think you preferred summer, Joanna? I don’t mind which season we go for. We can also re-locate Ashdown anywhere we like. Berkshire is fine for hunting/racing (Ashdown actually had its own racecourse!) but if we wanted a shooting party we’d need to go elsewhere. Scotland? Does anyone know where Gosford Park was located?


I like the idea of the first story starting before or at the beginning of the House Party and the third rounding it off. There could be some overlap this way, but it would still give us enough flexibility to do our own thing. And how long do we want the House Party to last? A weekend (again, like Gosford Park), one week, or two?


What should the links be between the stories?
Are we definitely going for an underlying mystery/murder or a darker servant sub-plot as Linda suggested? (I’m not sure what one of these would be?!)

Joanna, I agree that the word count is key here. We need to concentrate on the three individual love stories and with only 30 thousand words that’s a tall order in itself. In my admittedly limited experience, I think that if we are going to introduce a continuity element then this needs to be kept as simple (but clever) as possible. We don’t want to come up with a sub-plot so simple the reader guesses it within 10 seconds but equally we haven’t got the words to get bogged down in intrigue or play with too many characters. My preference would be to have the host assemble his house party to choose his heir and maybe build in a murder into this as the rival candidates get hot under the collar. With one or two suspicious servants and some love rivalry as well, this could work well but it could easily get too complicated. What do you both think?

Re the idea of using some scenes in each of the 3 stories – I think this would be great if we could make it work but I have concerns that it might be too complicated. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m all for keeping things simple! However, if we draft out our stories in more detail we may come up with natural points of contact, as I think you already suggested, Elizabeth.

Order of the stories

Elizabeth, are you happy to do story 3? I’ve kind of assumed you are as you came up with such a cracking plot and it does make sense for the explosive revelation of the estranged wife to come with the tying up of all the loose ends of the party.

Joanna, do we want to ask Linda if we can reverse the order of stories 1 and 2, or do you want to use your idea of the undercover lady in book 2?

If I do write story 1 I thought I would simply make reference to your two stories just to set them up a little.

Eg: If my heroine is the host’s sister she could comment on the purpose of the house party and also on the estrangement of her brother and sister-in-law. Since she’s spilling her intimate secrets to a stranger in my story – or so she thinks – she could be quite blunt about what she thinks of her brother assembling the family to choose his heir and also what she thinks about her sister-in-law’s disappearance. I would need you to give me the background details on why they were estranged etc, Elizabeth, but I could just make mention and then step back to let your story unfold.

Similarly, with Joanna’s story, my heroine could notice the antics of the rather suspicious lady’s maid, or notice a resemblance to someone she had met before (the brother?) and set up one or two little clues to lead into story 2. I’d need you to provide these, Joanna. I think that would be quite enough if I’ve also got to build in a sub-plot and a scandalous, sexy, witty, intense and fast-paced love story! (They don’t ask much, do they!)

Phew! I'm preparing myself for another onslaught of great ideas from the two of you!

Joanna Maitland
11 December 2003

I've had a quick look at your intrigue, Elizabeth, and it will add a whole new dimension to the overview I've done, since I didn't find a place to include a murder. (Failure on my part, I admit.) We may need to dump my overview to make room, or it may be possible to modify it. I think that lots of Elizabeth's intrigue could be incorporated -- for example, heroine 2's feckless brother could be put under house arrest during story 1 (rather than before it as I had assumed) because he could be the real gossip Elizabeth mentions. Love the idea of the host knowing who the companion is all the time. Does she think he hasn't recognised her? Lots of scope for conflict etc there. Only real difficulty I see is that the attempted murder of the companion and the self-defence death of the heir would have to happen in story 1 and might overshadow Nicola's main plot. What do you think, Nicola? Maybe it could have happened (just) before the story opens?

I envisaged the lady's maid and the companion as different people, Elizabeth. Please agree! If the companion becomes the lady's maid, I don't have a plot for story 2!! Seriously, I think it's OK to have them both. The abigail is in disguise specifically to rescue her idiot loose-mouthed brother. She is a below stairs character. The companion, I assume, is not in disguise but earning her living in the only way she can, since her husband has dumped her and left her destitute. She's an above stairs character.

I'll send my overview as it currently stands as a Word (.rtf so virus-free) attachment in a separate email. I'll then try to work on it a bit more, subject to your comments so far, plus any more you want to send. If I can make it hang together, I'll send a revised version.

You'll see that I'm working on the basis of Nicola writing story 1, me for story 2 and Elizabeth for story 3. I agree that Linda probably has good marketing reasons for wanting Nicola's story first.

Right. Better get on with mulling over both your comments and emailing my existing overview.

Joanna Maitland
11 December 2003

Haven't read your thoughts in depth yet, Nicola.
Here is my overview Mark I in .rtf format. Please feel free to shoot down in flames. I know it doesn't fit what Elizabeth wants to do. May not fit Nicola's thoughts either. Don't yet know whether it can be modified to incorporate all our ideas but will try.

The cyber connections are certainly burning up with ideas, aren't they?

Synopsis #1: The Abigail’s Tale (The/An Unexpected Abigail)

General Backstory

Host X is gathering various potential heirs. These include:

host’s elder brother or cousin, Earl A, a good character who doesn’t need/want the money and whose wife provides cover for the fake abigail
the accused man B found naked by abigail Z
a villain C responsible for the false accusation of B.
Nicola’s heroine D, though host would perhaps want to be sure any future husband would not squander inheritance before settling it on her. Need to decide what D’s family relationship to X is, if any.

Probably need another important female character because Elizabeth’s heroine G can’t be companion to Earl A’s wife, who has one servant in disguise already. What about an old harridan great-aunt of host? (I love writing those. She could keep making waspish comments about all and sundry in a very loud voice. Never had such goings-on in my day, etc.) Perhaps harridan could be the companion’s godmother in real life? Or maybe harridan genuinely doesn’t know companion’s true identity.

Host X is hiding B until X can find out whether B is guilty and decide whether X wants to make B his heir. Only a few trusted servants (butler, housekeeper, host’s valet) know B is there. Host X has also, in a very gentlemanly way, put abigail’s younger brother E under a sort of house arrest in the apparently unoccupied dower house. Scope for backstairs scurryings.

Relationship of the 3 stories to backstory

So Nicola’s story (Story 1) would sort out D’s position, giving her an eligible potential husband J and possibly improving her position in host’s eyes. I think you said she’s rich already, Nicola? so your hero J wouldn’t be too troubled when she doesn’t inherit in the end.

For the purposes of story 2, story 1 could also drop clues about odd backstairs goings-on and the fact that one of the potential heirs is not at the house party because he’s being sought for a crime (to be specified). Cue knowing looks between senior servants to hint that all is not what it seems there. If possible, story 1 should also drop a clue that there’s something odd on the edges of the estate: my heroine Z’s brother E is being kept under very comfortable house arrest in the apparently unoccupied dower house and spending his time drinking and gambling with his jailer. He is a bit of a loose fish, very immature, and the despair of his practical elder sister, I fear. (Shades of Venetia, perhaps.) I think that villain C shouldn’t appear until story 2 though he could be mentioned in story 1 as another one of the potential heirs, if Nicola can fit it in.

Elizabeth needs to say what info and clues she needs in stories 1 and/or 2. Companion G and her apparent mistress H (old harridan?) don’t perhaps need to arrive till late in story 1 or even story 2? Could add extra complications if mistress H does not know companion G’s real identity.

Story 2 will introduce villain C and resolve hero B’s false accusation. The guilty party is villain C, of course, and he will be removed from the house party at the end of story 2. Heroine Z is masquerading as abigail to her friend Countess F (wife of Earl A). It’s important that Countess F be the highest-ranking female in the house so that fake abigail can pull rank to get herself out of awkward situations below stairs. Heroine Z, while searching house for clues to missing brother, finds hero B’s hiding place. (Have decided that opening scene of book will be where Z walks in to find B stark naked! Not as good as Nicola’s naked widow on a plate with fruit and cream, but has possibilities.) Hero and heroine have met once before so there’s a vague memory but neither can place the other. She suspects him re her brother. He suspects her double-dealing since he’s almost sure she’s not a servant. Later, he saves her from villain C (a serial groper and worse). Cue possible sex scene. In return, she gets proof that villain C dunnit.

By end of story 2, hero B will be restored above stairs as potential heir, and villain C will have been removed. So potential heirs reduced to Earl A, hero B and heroine D. Abigail Z’s brother has been let out of house arrest but told to make himself scarce so that he doesn’t screw up my hero’s and heroine’s plans. (Brother has no discretion at all. In his cups, while gambling etc, he’s quite likely to tell everyone that his sister was pretending to be the abigail. Gets him off stage so you can ignore him for story 3, Elizabeth!) My hero and heroine concoct scheme for saving abigail’s reputation and making their love affair/betrothal seem above board. Abigail Z will have mysterious illness and disappear from scene, to return in her own character on some pretext (to be devised) as an unmarried lady friend of Countess. Then Z and B do scene of love at first sight, slightly hammed up and trying not to give it away by giggling.

Story 3 can then explore companion G’s tale and her relationship with host X. By the end, G will be restored as host X’s wife, I assume, and ready to do her duty by producing a proper heir! And the couples from stories 1 and 2 (D+J, Z+B) will be more than happy with each other and probably didn’t need the money anyway. I include the Earl and his wife in that too.

On the above basis, there would be some overlap between stories but not too much.

Character Crib for above!

A Earl, close relative of X and potential heir, married to F
B hero of story 2, falsely accused and in hiding, potential heir
C villain of story 2, potential heir
D heroine of story 1, potential heir, possibly close relative of host X
E feckless brother of Z, held under (comfortable) house arrest in order to stop him gossiping about B
F Countess, wife of A, allowing her close friend Z to masquerade as her abigail (without husband A’s knowledge)
G heroine of story 3, lost wife of host X, masquerading as companion to female character H in order to be at house party
H (elderly?) female relative of host X, employer of companion G but knows/doesn’t know who G really is
J hero of story 1, possibly with some family ties to host but not a potential heir to host, in need of rich wife
X host of house party, hero of story 3
Z heroine of story 2, masquerading as abigail to F in order to rescue (she thinks) her brother E

Real Servants included in synopsis above:
Host X’s valet
Jailer of abigail’s feckless brother

+ other servants as needed for stories, eg Earl’s valet, housemaids, footmen.

Nicola Cornick
12 December 2003

Many thanks for putting so much work in on the backstory synopsis, Joanna. I like it a lot and think it could work very well. (Loved the harridan great-aunt/godmother, a real Maggie Smith character!) I think both you and Elizabeth have come up with brilliant stories to tell. I'm so excited about it I couldn't sleep last night and when I finally did I was dreaming about a Regency House Party!

I am now working on my own synop.

Elizabeth, I would like my heroine to be the younger sister of the host, your hero, if that's okay. That way she can give some inside info on the need for him to find an heir, the estrangement from his wife and the set up of the house party. When you have a moment, please could you tell me what his name and title is going to be and also the (publicly-accepted) reasons for his wife disappearing. The sister could maybe speculate on this and on how he feels about it, which could set the scene. Also, if there's anything else you would like me to include in the set up, just let me know!

Joanna, I thought I could drop a few hints for your story like you suggest - the strange backstairs goings on, the comings and goings at the dower house (or lodge? Ashdown has two lodge houses - we could move them a bit further away from the main house) and possibly that my heroine thinks one of the maids looks a bit familiar - perhaps they could have met once in London during the season or something like that? It would be nice if they could be friends once your lady-in-disguise is unmasked.

If either of you think of anything else you'd like included in the set up, just let me know!

Happy plotting!