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 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....

concurrent?

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).

timing

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!

backstory

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:

Structure

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?

Timing:

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?

Structure:

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:
Butler
Housekeeper
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!

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