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.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Dreaded Synopsis continues...

[Note to blog readers: this is the cover from the UK edition of A Regency Invitation, published December 2004. If you want to see the North American cover, it’s with the previous post. More covers in future posts!]

Joanna Maitland
17 December 2003

Thanks for this, Nicola. Haven't read your synopsis yet but will do. I agree we should make it 1819, well away from royal mourning, provided Elizabeth agrees. That makes your Georgiana 21, doesn't it, Elizabeth? (On the basis of 1819, I'll put some suggested dates on the family tree and resend it.)

I suppose I've had quite a few titles in my books so far. I could always elevate Marcus, I suppose. His grandmother could have married a title instead of just money But I think I'll hold that in reserve. Obviously, for the reasons Elizabeth gave earlier, her Anthony can't have a title.

I think Lady of Fortune is a lovely title. Did you try to use it once before, for your lottery story? Or am I misremembering? Only one slight problem. Linda might veto "Lady" in the title since we've had lots of them of late and My Lady Angel is coming out in November. OTOH, if "lady" is not in the book title, surely it won't matter?

Looking forward to your synopsis. Have fallen a bit behind with my character details. Sorry. Must try harder

Joanna Maitland
17 December 2003

Nicola, I've now read your synopsis and it's terrific! Love it. The bit with the clay pipe is a touch of genius. As is Peter plying Cassie with brandy to make her talk.

It sounds like you really want great-aunt Harridan to be a spinster. I don't have a problem with that if Elizabeth's happy. Elizabeth?

I will immediately kill off Cassie's mother, as required. Also (sorry to be a pain) I'm having second thoughts about Kitty as a name for the Countess. Haven't thought up another one yet. It just sounds to me as if we've got too many names ending in the -ie or -y sound. I'll have a think and go through my names book.

Working out ages and so on, I reckon GAH must be about 72. I now have Cassie and Georgiana both at 21, Anthony at 31-32, Marcus at 28-29, William L-F at 33, the Earl at 42, the Countess at 30 (with two sons aged 5 and 3 but off stage), and everybody else in the Lyndhurst family mercifully dead! Please shout if I've got any of that wrong. I was making some of them up this afternoon.

Elizabeth, how did you get on with your potential house-buyers?

Elizabeth Rolls
17 December 2003

Thanks for all the details, Nicola. Am I right in assuming that it's chalk up there? The house is built of chalk so I wondered. Love the bluebutterflies you get with chalk!

I'd like to go with 1819. It avoids all the mourning as you say and also gives Anthony time to have accepted that he has lost Georgiana. That she may even be dead. 1816 would be too soon.

Elizabeth Rolls
17 December 2003

The house BUYERS?? Did you say BUYERS?? Yesterday was a really hot, horrible day. I spent two hours of my writing day cleaning, they came, walked out to the enormous (and immaculate!) living space, heard the sound of students out for recess time over the fence and the woman announced it was far too noisy! They walked straight back out.

I was absolutely furious. Total waste of time. Okay if they didn't want to buy, but to just walk out without even looking at the house! Complete waste of a morning when I should have been either writing or Christmas shopping. GRRRRR!!!!!

Now, are you sorry you asked?

All your ages are fine with me, Joanna. I'm quite happy for harridan to be a spinster. Who is chaperoning Cassie? The Earl's wife? As for titled heroes - wait till they ask.

Love Lady of Fortune. Wish I was. Then I could afford to give all pesky non-buyers what my son calls 'the rude finger!'

Elizabeth Rolls
17 December 2003

Thanks Joanna for the Word tree!

If you two are happy with Lyndhurst Chase, then let's go with that.

Joanna - have you already furnished/done Anthony's bedchamber? Your Marcus is going to spend quite a bit of time there after all. I know it has a dressing room and a firescreen. Any preferences? Humungous bed and I think a couple of chairs a chest of drawers and a dressing table. Probably a night table and a candle stand. There would also need to be candlesticks on the chimneypiece and a lamp on the night table. Fairly plain furniture, but I don't think we have enough space to go into massive detail.

There is no separate bedchamber for the mistress of the house. Ashdown is small anyway and it suits my plot if once Georgiana is unmasked she has to share Anthony's chamber.

Nicola Cornick
18 December 2003

How utterly infuriating about your house viewing, Elizabeth. I can't bear these time-wasters. Grrr!

Glad that the story 1 synopsis got the thumbs up. Thank you! I read the bit about radicals smoking clay pipes in a reference book, Joanna, and knew Ihad to put it in.

Yes, the Earl's wife is nominally chaperoning Cassie at the house party, Elizabeth, but since she's a bit preoccupied with Amy's situation it gives Cassie plenty of opportunity to roam around getting in to trouble.

The downland is chalk and the house was built from locally quarried stone. It is a beautiful creamy white colour and when it rains hard the water runs down the outside as white as milk. Surprising it's still standing, really! Iwas doing a bit more reading up on it yesterday and noted that there are lots of springs in the chalk downs. Perhaps one could have been dammed to make our stream/lake? And yes, the butterflies are absolutely beautiful. Oh Elizabeth, I really want you to be able to come and visit with Joanna and me! We should make Linda finance a book signing tour for you!!

Joanna Maitland
18 December 2003

Elizabeth, I'm muttering into my proverbial beard about your house viewers. Hanging is too good for them. We had some like that when we were selling. And some of our viewers were just local nosey parkers who wanted to see the inside of our house and poke around. Absolutely no intention of buying. Made me want to throw things.

Very happy with the date of 1819. It occurs to me that we can make the date clear on the invitation page. (We'd need to decide the month. Late August, early September? Partridge shooting begins on 1st September, I think, and pheasant shooting not till 1st October. It could be assumed that guests would stay for both.) As in something like:

Mr Anthony Lyndhurst
requests the pleasure of your company
at a House Party
at Lyndhurst Place
from xxth September 1819

No, I haven't furnished Anthony's bedchamber. He's your character so I'll go with whatever you want. I imagine the dressing room is pretty small and that Marcus is sleeping on a very narrow bed there, and hiding in a very large clothes press if he hears anyone coming. I am assuming that the butler, the housekeeper and Anthony's valet all know Marcus is there, but maids/footman bringing coal, bathwater and the like don't know, so Marcus has to hide. Anthony's valet brings Marcus's food while all the nobs are at breakfast/dinner etc. In story 2, after Amy has endured the bath scene (!) she will start to notice such odd things and wonder why she hadn't noticed before.

I had written separate bedchambers for the Earl and Countess but I can change that. BTW, I woke up this morning with Sarah in my mind for her. Hope that's OK. I'll try not to do any more name changes.

What are we going to do with William? I woke up with that thought, too. At the end of story 2, Marcus has been more or less exonerated (clearly, the warrant for his arrest still has to be formally rescinded), the hired assailant is still out there somewhere and has threatened to expose his master (William) if he doesn't pay up, William probably can't afford to pay, and William must also know that the use of the assailant has been discovered because the letter has been found. Marcus will be vowing, somewhere at the end of story 2, to find the assailant and force him to confess the name of his paymaster. I can see William lurking by the door, blenching at Marcus's venomous words.

William could go to meet assailant and they could shoot each other, perhaps? (Problem: it then puts the family into mourning.) Or there could be a fight and the assailant is conveniently killed, William perhaps injured. It would have to be overheard/seen by someone else (Anthony? perhaps Ned, if the encounter takes place near his hiding place when he's just leaving?) so that William's guilt was established once and for all, but he was seen to have killed the assailant in self-defence.

If I put something like this in story 2, it would undermine William's plausibility for story 3, so I think the resolution of the William problem probably has to happen latish in story 3. What do you think Elizabeth?

I'm assuming the family wouldn't want William to go to jail and would fix it so that the dead assailant was seen to be solely guilty of the original attack. Once William's guilt over Georgiana is also established, would John banish William to the colonies, or something? (That's your lot, Elizabeth!!) We can't send him off to the army because it was being downsized too much. I don't think we can let William off too lightly. Any better ideas, both?

Some other questions for Elizabeth. (Sorry, Elizabeth.) What name is Georgiana using? Not, I assume, Mrs Lyndhurst? and not her maiden name either? Is she still wearing her wedding ring? (I could envisage a very effective scene with Anthony taking it from the chain around her neck and putting it back on her finger, possibly while she's not wearing anything else. ) And was William actually in the army at the time of his treachery to Anthony or was William just a hanger-on? If William was in the army, he'd have become very unpopular, to say the least, if he was failing to pay his gambling debts.

Final question for now. When are you going off on your hols Elizabeth? In other words, how long have we got to finalise the overview story and the three synopses and send them to Richmond? I imagine they'll all be off for Christmas now and not back until about 5th January. Assuming we send them the stuff in early January, I wonder how long it'll take them to respond?

Elizabeth Rolls
18 December 2003

Thanks for your kind words of support, Nicola. And if you can get Linda to finance a book signing tour, I'm in.

I'm sure in your connection with Ashdown House, you know this, but I just bought myself a book on Harriette Wilson the courtesan - you know, the one Wellington told to 'publish and be damned!' when she blackmailed him over her memoirs. Her first protector was the then Lord Craven and guess where he took her . . . Ashdown. There is an engraving in the book showing thehouse and quartering rides, absolutely surrounded by trees. The engraving is dated to 1716.

Do we know when the trees came down? Or even if they were really there in such quantities. Love your synopsis! It definitely ties in with the way I see Anthony. As for Cassie flagging the arrival of Great Aunt Harriet, that would befabulous. Anthony might even evince some surprise that Harriet HAS acompanion. Since she is fully aware of who her companion is, she would have been careful never to mention her.

Would Cassie's affection for Anthony be enough to have her behave a little coolly towards Georgiana at the start of Story #3? Not nastily so, just a little protective of Anthony. Marcus probably needs to be hoofed out of the dressing room at the very end of Story #2, since Anthony is about to stalk out in pursuit of Harriet's companion.

My opening scene is in Anthony’s POV as he leaves the 'drawing room' or wherever Joanna stages her denouement, to find Georgiana who has already disappeared. If possible, Joanna, could Anthony ring the bell and request that Marcus' belongings be removed, before he leaves? Then we won't have readers wondering where Marcus spent the night since Anthony is in bed with Georgiana.

It sounds as though the three heroines are all going to be markedly different from each other. It'll be a wonder if the house is left standing, never mind the rain. Does anyone know about early nineteenth century fireworks? If we want a display at the end of Story #3, I'd better find out.

Elizabeth Rolls
18 December 2003

Great if we can go with 1819 and set the date in the invitation.

It would be better if William is not exposed until somewhere near the end of Story #3. I was envisaging that perhaps Georgiana could see him heading off from an upstairs window and follows him to demand the truth about the lost pearls from him. She does have enough sense to ask a footman to tell Anthony where she has gone.

So if Anthony et al go after her, everyone will be apprised of William's guilt.

William wasn't in the army. He was just one of the hangers on in Brussels that spring. And no, the family would not want the affair to come out and cause a scandal. I can either kill him off or we could shunt him off to India with the East India company, to assist in the moral degradation of the Chinese through opium! Which is about his style!

I'm off on the 2nd for NZ. (Before that I'm down at my sister's holiday house from the 24th-27th.) If we get the synopses and overview story to them by the 2nd, I think we can be pushy and ask for a fast response. Suspect you will find that Linda is still at her desk at least until Monday. Maybe we should email her and ask. She'll be there today at all events.

Joanna Maitland
18 December 2003

Elizabeth, how soon does Cassie discover Georgiana's real identity? She might indeed be cool towards her, once she knows who Georgiana really is.

I've got Harriette Wilson's memoirs. I'll have a look for what she actually says about Ashdown, since it should be roughly contemporary with our story.

And on the subject of Ashdown, Nicola, can you tell us which direction is north in relation to the front and back of the house, please?

Elizabeth, Anthony will indeed have Marcus's belongings removed. I was planning to do that anyway and Lord Peter was going to be turfed along the corridor next door to Cassie (or perhaps up to the next floor, Nicola?) I can stage my denouement in the drawing room so that it gives you a setting for your opening scene. I'm sure you need to get it all down on paper. I certainly do. I'm having to rewrite some that I've already done but I couldn't help starting. Itchy fingers.

Fireworks? Gosh, hadn't thought about the techie side. Can't Anthony have a bailiff/steward who organises such mundane things?

Elizabeth Rolls
18 December 2003

Sorry, Joanna. Georgiana is using the name Miss Emma Saunders. And you are quite right - she is wearing her wedding ring on a chain around her neck. Hidden of course by the very modest gowns a companion was expected to wear. She sold her mother's wedding ring to get herself back to England.

Thanks for the idea about when Anthony could put it back where it belongs. Mmm! Definitely has possibilities.

Joanna Maitland
18 December 2003

Elizabeth, don't you ever sleep?

Happy with what you propose on William as long as we also dispose of the paid assailant somewhere along the line. I think India is the best solution since family deaths have too many consequences.

If you like, I'll email Linda and ask about dates when she's in the office. I can say we're well on with the synopses and should be finished very soon. If she's going to be in the office on Monday, do we think we'll have it nailed down enough to send it all in then?

Elizabeth Rolls
18 December 2003

Joanna - Cassie discovers Georgiana's real identity along with the rest of the houseparty because they walk in on Anthony trying to persuade her to remain in his bed - metaphorically speaking - and he is saying something along the lines of, 'Dammit, Georgie! You're my wife for God's sake! Of course you're going to sleep in my bed!' I can see everyone except GA Harriet being dumbfounded. She, of course, is unutterably pleased with her role as matchmaker.

Will certainly tie up the loose assailant one way or another. Can't have him arrested of course. He'd sing like a canary. I think he'll have to be shot dead.

I can get my synopsis nailed down enough by Monday. Assuming that I don't sleep . . . only joking. I do sleep, but late at night is a good time for me to work because I don't get hi-jacked by the kids or feel that I really ought to be doing something productive, like cleaning the bathroom for unappreciative non-buyers.

I'll be up for a while. Let us know when/if you get a reply.

Joanna Maitland to Linda Fildew
18 December 2003

I'm pleased to say that Nicola, Elizabeth and I are making good progress on the outline and synopses and we hope to have them finished soon. (The email "wires" from UK to Australia are red-hot!) Can you let us know when you and Kim (and others) are in the office before/after Christmas, please, so we have an idea of when you are all available to receive them? And should everything be copied to everyone on this email list?

Obviously, if we are to have a chance of meeting the delivery deadlines for the stories, the outlines/synopses will have to be agreed very quickly, ideally by the middle of January. If the response were delayed much beyond that, especially if changes had to be made, it might be impossible to finish the writing by the end of February. Actually, it's going to be a midnight-oil job, whatever we do! (And my poor family is going to go a bit short in the Christmas department, since I've been scribbling instead of shopping!)

BTW, the order we're working on is Cornick, Maitland, Rolls after all.

Joanna Maitland
18 December 2003

Yes, Linda is in on Monday. However, even if we've finished it all by then, I'd be tempted not to send it, in case it gets lost among all the Christmas stuff. What do you both think? Or should we surprise her?

Nicola Cornick
18 December 2003

Okay, you’ve done it again! I go out to see Lord of the Rings III (admittedly for 3 and a half hours!) and when I come back there are another 14 messages! Please…

Joanna, I think Sarah is fine for the Countess. Sounds very appropriate – and different from all the “ie” names.

Elizabeth, spooky coincidence about Harriette Wilson! I did know that Lord Craven was her first lover but until yesterday I hadn’t known that he had taken her to Ashdown. I was reading a book about Jane Austen and it quotes her writing to Cassandra that she had met Lord Craven when she was staying in Berkshire and that he seemed a very pleasant man but it was a pity he had his mistress staying with him at Ashdown! From the memoirs, it seems Harriette found him a bit of a bore. He went on to marry an actress. BTW, you may have read that when he parted from Harriette he accused her of being unfaithful to him, to which she replied: “Had I wished to deceive you I assure you that I should have had the wit to do it successfully.” Great girl!

That must be Kip’s engraving (?) of 1716. Yes, there really were such quantities of trees because it was originally a hunting forest. It must have looked amazing. It’s still pretty impressive today. The trees were still there in the nineteenth century, only thinned out through farming and storms in the twentieth.

Good idea about Anthony expressing surprise over Great Aunt Harriet’s companion in book 1. I also think it’s entirely plausible that Cassie might be a bit cool with Georgiana until she realises what a nice person she is and that she will make Anthony happy. Then I am sure she will love her!

Joanna, the drawing room and stair hall face North ie. it’s to the right of the front door. Hope this makes sense.

Elizabeth, I love the way everyone discovers Georgiana’s identity by walking in on Anthony telling her she’s going to share his bed! Brilliant!

Joanna Maitland
19 December 2003

Have I missed one of yours, Elizabeth? Not quite following the thread here. Who is Roger the Shrubber? The mind is boggling even as I type. All sorts of connotations of the word Roger! Nuff said. Except that it sounds like a wonderful name for a character. Can he have something to do with Ned's imprisonment? Please?

Joanne Carr phoned me this morning about a couple of other things and I told her we were all very excited about this project and sparking off each other no end. I said that the heroines were an heiress, a fake lady's maid, and a companion, but I wouldn't say more than that. I said we had the overarching story and were pretty near to the synopses as well. And that we even had ideas for titles, the overall title, and the cover. But I didn't say (or even hint) what they were. She sounded very enthusiastic and implied that they'd picked the three of us because we were sparky writers (or something along those lines). I said I doubted that we would be submitting stuff before Christmas. She said, in effect, that the eds wouldn't thank us if we did, because they're all trying to clear their desks for Christmas.

Checked up on Harriette Wilson last night and was disappointed to find no references to Ashdown in her memoirs. Pity. She was obviously out to bad-mouth Craven so wouldn't have wanted to describe any good times with him, I suppose.

Yes, Nicola, I think we do need to send the overarching story with our synopses. We obviously need to all agree the text. I think we've got most of it already, spread over various emails. I'd suggest that we include the family tree in it as well. Then, belt and braces, I'd recommend that each of us send the overarching thing with our individual synopsis.

Elizabeth Rolls
19 December 2003

Roger the Shrubber is in the Holy Grail film, I think. I was following up on the Monty Python theme!

I think it's an excellent idea to send the family tree and the overarching synopsis from each of us.

The Harriette Wilson biog - not memoirs - is called The Courtesan's Revenge. It mentions the Jane Austen letter to Cassandra as being the source telling us where Harriette was that year. How amazing that we discovered it like that. The engraving is the Kip one. Shall we have the grounds heavily wooded? Maybe one quarter might be clearer to allow for the stream and shrubbery (Joanna!) and various other activities.

Glad you approve of Anthony's outburst. I can see him being very, very embarrassed. Perhaps you two might like to flag your characters' likely responses to me? GA Harriet of course is delighted.

Elizabeth Rolls
19 December 2003

Definitely like the idea of Roger the Shrubber! I did have Roger the Footman in my first book. I made him Roger as a joke and it passed without so much as a murmur.

Joanna - I have never read the HW memoir, but I understand she doesn't provide much in the way of place or date.

Do I take it then that we are not trying to get the synopses and overarching story in by Monday? I'll aim to get mine through to you before I head off to my sister's on Christmas Eve.
Afraid I'm going to bed early tonight. Big day tomorrow with an inspection and a Christmas tree to buy and deck.

Have read your last, Joanna. It just popped in. Which quarter of the grounds shall we save for clearer parkland? Nicola told us about the tree types in an earlier email.

Joanna Maitland
19 December 2003

You must be spitting, Elizabeth. Perhaps you need a trap-door in your house, so that nasty viewers can fall down into a pit of writhing snakes?

I don't think we need to aim for Monday to send things to Richmond. Let's aim for the date that suits you, Elizabeth, to get everything agreed between us and then we can send off to Richmond individually. I imagine you'll want to email yours on Christmas Eve, Elizabeth, so that you can enjoy your hols. No one will do anything with them till 5th January, I imagine.

I think we need some of the wooded bit to be suitably gloomy for my nefarious assailant, Elizabeth, so how about the Northern bit being thickest, the East and West bits being clearer, with wide rides where there are lots of butterflies, and the South being like Parkland, with just the odd splendid tree in the rolling grassland? Does that fit the park, Nicola? Where are we putting the trout stream and/or lake? I think we may need a sketch map to show paths, rides etc. Would you be able to do that, Nicola?

Hope you get a great tree, Elizabeth. As of last year, we've migrated to a fake one but it's not down from the loft yet. The house is very unfestive at present but must improve before the young adults arrive next week or we'll be in trouble.

Sorry did no work on this today. Will try to do better tomorrow. Definitely falling behind.

Nicola Cornick
20 December 2003

>I think we need some of the wooded bit to be suitably gloomy for my nefarious assailant, Elizabeth, so how about >the Northern bit being thickest, the East and West bits being clearer, with wide rides where there are lots of >butterflies, and the South being like Parkland, with just the odd splendid tree in the rolling grassland? Does >that fit the park, Nicola? Where are we putting the trout stream and/or lake? I think we may need a sketch >map to show paths, rides etc. Would you be able to do that, Nicola?

This fits the park very well, Joanna. I will draw up a very amateurish map with the woods featured and a suggestion of where the lake and shrubbery etc could be. It won't look too much like Ashdown since a) we will have added/moved features and b) my drawing is rubbish! I will try to do this by tomorrow (weekend a bit busy, as no doubt it is for all!)

I did wonder whether we wanted to include a map of the estate in the front of the book? My m-i-l has done a terrific calligraphy map to accompany my trilogy that is coming out next year. I'm sure she could be persuaded to do one of Lyndhurst Chase. Just an idea...

Joanna Maitland
20 December 2003

I think a calligraphy map is a terrific idea if your mil would do it, Nicola, though I'd like the invitation to the house party as well. Hope we could have both. In the meantime, a rough sketch of a plan would be really helpful for Elizabeth and me. At present I don't have a feel for where things are on the ground.

I've now done about 2 pages of characters note on Marcus, Amy, John, Sarah and William. Hope to finish that today and send it round. I've also done a first draft of an overview piece. Not sure what sort of format it should take so I've been making it up as I went along. Should be able to send that round later. It is currently just a couple of paragraphs about Anthony and why he's invited all the heirs, plus a para about each of the heirs and how Anthony views them. It ends with a list of the stories (and their titles) but doesn't say what the plots are, except that the question of the heir is resolved in story 3. There may be a much better way of approaching this, so please feel free to suggest we bin this one. If we do decide to work from this one, can you view what I've said about Anthony with a very critical eye, please, Elizabeth?

Have put up the first (fake) tree this morning. It was a freebie with a large stationery order. It's about 18 inches high, and comes complete with gold decorations and lights already fitted. I *have* seen trees that are much more naff. However, it has been relegated to the (newly decorated) garden room. Visitors to the house will see a rather better, and much bigger, tree in the hall.

Elizabeth Rolls
20 December 2003

That layout sounds wonderful, Joanna and Nicola. A sketch would be great. Then we all know where everything is. Are we still going to have the formal parterres in the immediate vicinity of the house? About the servants' quarters - should we put the bulk of the servants in the lodge houses and keep the personal servants, valets, ladies' maids and possibly the housekeeper in the main house? How would they have handled it?

I'll aim for Tuesday night - antipodean time - to send in my synopsis. But what I might do is send it to you guys first. I'll be back by the 27th and if there are any changes I can make them before going to New Zealand and send it to Richmond.

Good luck with the decorating Joanna. We now have a gorgeous, and seriously overdecorated, tree, paper chains and tinsel draped everywhere and a pervasive odour of pine needles. Kids are thrilled. Cats too. So far dog has refrained from the obvious doggy response to a tree.

Just got your latest Joanna. I'll write up character notes on Anthony for you both. Except for Georgiana, I think all the other characters are well and truly on stage by the time we get to The Prodigal Bride. Think I'll dig my heels in over that title. Given that Anthony thinks that she has sold his mother's necklace, it seems appropriate.

Queries? The minor character, Quin - is he going to be around for the entire house party, or does he vanish after Peter snabbles his heiress? I'm assuming that he is a good friend of John and Anthony's and that the latter would be perfectly happy to have him around, but do we need him? Or does he get written out once he has served his purpose?

And what about John and Sarah's children? I note that they have two little boys. God help them! Where are they?

Back to the synopsis and character notes. Which have to happen on paper with a pen. God knows why, but they do.

Joanna Maitland
20 December 2003

Great stuff, Pam. I attach my draft character notes (some if it cribbed from you, as you will notice!) I need some time away from the notes now, so it seems simplest to send them round. You are both spared the Mardon children. They are at home with their nurse/tutor, though the Mardons (doting parents) are missing them.

I think Nicola said that the servants weren't accommodated in the main house at all, but we will need some to be there, eg Amy the abigail. Don't see that's a problem since we're going to have an extra wing.

Will now get back to the overview and send that round soon.


Characteristics and Backstories: Marcus, Amy, John, Sarah, William

Marcus Alexander Sinclair—tall, very dark/black hair, blue-grey eyes, strong hands with long fingers, athletic build. He is 29, born 1790. He’s very fit—all the manly sports, including boxing, at which he excels (and will use on William, later). He reads, too, having inherited a love of the classics from his father. He has little else to do while hiding in Anthony’s dressing room. The lack of physical activity is doing nothing for his temper which is now on a very short fuse.

Like Anthony, Marcus was in the army, and loving it, but his mother insisted he sell out in 1811 when his father died, since Marcus was the only child. Marcus was only 21 at the time and had to grow up fast, since he was taking on huge responsibilities and had suddenly become a highly eligible parti. He quickly learned to be less open and easy-going and adopted a veneer of cynicism, partly as a defence mechanism against those in Society (including ladies on the catch) who wanted to take advantage of a very young man with a lot of money. He is now anything but a soft touch. In public, it suits him to give the impression of being totally laid-back, fazed by nothing, perhaps bored, but underneath he is as sharp as a tack. He has learned, from the bitter experience of being hunted, not to trust women. He often takes refuge in watchful silence. He can be brusque, laconic, sometimes cutting, especially with those he does not trust. With his close friends, such as Anthony and John, he is more open and lets his sense of humour show. He has a strong sense of duty and family loyalty, particularly to Anthony. (They served together in the army and Anthony, being 3 years older, helped Marcus a lot. Did Anthony save Marcus’s life at some stage, Pam, or something equally important?)

Amy Frances Devereaux is 25 (born 1794). She is a little above average height. She has striking silver-blonde hair which, as abigail Amelia Dent, she takes pains to keep hidden under a very unflattering cap. She has deep blue, almost violet eyes. As Dent, she is trying not to look directly at people so they won’t notice the colour. Constantly looking down gives her a demure appearance but it can also seem flirtatious. That can be dangerous with roués like William. Amy has always loved acting, so knows how to alter her appearance. She has put pads in her cheeks to disguise her fine bone structure; they also change her voice a bit, which helps too. Her figure is curvy rather than slender. She’s wearing loose clothes to disguise it. That will be one of the things that makes Cassie wonder about her, since a Countess’s abigail would normally be dressed almost as fashionably as her lady. Below stairs, Amy is aloof and relies on the fact that she is the highest servant to cover up any mistakes, but she’s finding it much more difficult than she expected. She affects a degree of piety to account for her plain, unflattering attire to the higher servants; she refuses to acknowledge the lower ones at all (even though that’s not a very pious way to behave). If Cassie comments on Amy’s dress, Sarah can mention Amy’s unusual religious views. Cassie would be unconvinced—why is Amy a dresser at all, then?—but probably too polite to argue.

Both Amy’s parents are dead, her father when she was 19, her mother when she was 21. Her season was interrupted by her father’s illness and death. (It was during her season that she first became friends with Sarah who had been married for less than a year and was being looked down on by some members of Society who saw Sarah as an upstart.) After her mother’s death, Amy found herself effectively responsible for her younger brother Ned (born 1798, then 17, now almost 22) and his inheritance. She, being the practical one, and a mere female, gave up her future prospects to stay at home to run the estate while Ned went to Oxford. Ned (also fair-haired and rather angelic-looking before he became dissipated) had been spoilt rotten by his mother who took the view that girls should do their duty but males could do no wrong. Since he reached his majority, Ned has been squandering his inheritance. He’s mortgaged the estate for ready money and to pay his gambling debts. Amy’s modest dowry is still safe, just, but may have to be used if Ned doesn’t mend his ways.

Amy loves Ned in spite of all his faults and still feels responsible for him. She has an optimistic, sunny nature, and is sure that, eventually, her feckless brother will grow up. She also has a lively sense of humour. At first, this masquerade seemed to be a great lark, especially as she’d be conspiring with her great friend, Sarah, but she is becoming increasingly worried that something really has happened to Ned. In her anxiety, she’s taking more and more risks above stairs and failing to avoid the gentlefolk as much as she should. William has already groped her at least once. Having been surrounded by servants all his life, John tends to ignore them which is why he hasn’t registered who Amy is. He hasn’t seen her for nearly 5 years; the friendship between Amy and Sarah has been continued by letter since Amy’s mother’s death.

John Frederic Lyndhurst-Flint, Earl of Mardon is 42 (born 1777). He has the family height, though he’s rather more solidly built than his cousins. He has dark hair, grey at the temples, and brown eyes. He began to go grey during his first (arranged) marriage (from 1797-1808). His first wife was demanding, mercenary, and impossible to live with, but his sense of duty made him continue to do his best by her, even though he grew to hate her. Their sex life soon became non-existent (his sense of duty did not run to bedding a woman he detested and who detested him) and they had no children. He had become socially withdrawn, taciturn with the servants and immersed himself in work. He kept fit by riding his estates, checking up on their management. He gave up hunting and all other sports except (solitary) fishing. He would not talk about his troubles, even to his brother, William.

Sarah Alice, Countess of Mardon is 30 (born 1789). She is tiny, vivacious, and full of fun. She has brown hair with reddish glints and mischievous hazel eyes. Although she is a lady, her background was relatively poor. She didn’t have a Season. John met her in 1810 when she was teaching in a village school on one of his estates. His first wife had been (mercifully) dead for over a year by then. John was captivated by Sarah’s bubbly personality but it took him a long time to take the risk of falling in love. Sarah didn’t think she was good enough for him and, after they married, the Society matrons made clear that they agreed. With help from Amy and John, however, (and also GAH, before Georgiana joined her) Sarah established herself, though she still doesn’t go to London except when she has to. Sarah and John have now been married for about 8 years and are very happy. He provides the anchor she needs. She has given him back his zest for life. She loves to tease him, especially when they are alone. He remains sensible and totally dependable, but now he is able to laugh again. To his family, he now seems younger than he was before he met Sarah, whom he adores. His hair is no greyer than it was ten years ago and he now has laughter lines at the corners of his eyes. He takes immense joy in his two sons, John, 5, (Baron Langhorn) and Hugo, 3, and is a very involved father, having taken up all his old sporting pursuits again so that he can start to teach them. He is missing them and wondering what mischief they are getting into back home. He feels very sorry for Anthony and slightly guilty that he has so much happiness in his marriage while Anthony has none. As a result, John finds it difficult to talk to Anthony about his marriage and how it went wrong.

William James Lyndhurst-Flint is 33 (born 1786). He is of medium height, with dark brown hair and brown eyes. He is of more slender build than John and passably good-looking. He takes great pains over his appearance and spends more than he should on clothes. He has poor eyesight (short-sighted) and as a result he is a lousy shot and doesn’t really enjoy the shooting season. He does play cricket but doesn’t bat terribly well, particularly if the bowling is fast. William spent his teenage years believing he would inherit the earldom since John had no children and his wife was in good health. Even after she died, John said he would never marry again so William, by then aged 22, began to trade seriously on his expectations. John’s remarriage, less than two years later, was a horrible shock, especially when the children came along. William is very resentful at being cut out. (John feels slightly guilty about it because he knows he’s partly to blame for having encouraged William to see himself as the heir. Because of that, John has paid William’s debts more than once though his patience is now being sorely tried. John thinks William should have the strength of character to accept what has happened and make a decent life with what he has. John is not prepared to settle money on William because he will need it for his own second son.)

William drops a lot of cant into his speech, sometimes in front of ladies when he shouldn’t. He has also adopted a fashionable drawl. He is clever and manipulative, very quick to capitalise on someone else’s mistake and twist people’s thinking, but he always ensures that he’s close enough to the truth that he can’t be caught out. (He did that in Brussels, over Georgiana.) He is smooth-tongued and plausible. Some people, such as Cassie, have suspicions about him, but no one, not even John, has yet been able to pin anything on him, apart from his gambling and his unsettled debts.

William is very much a favourite with the ladies of the ton because he looks the part, dances beautifully and pays nicely-turned compliments. They know he’s too poor to be a potential husband, however, and that, too, rankles with him. With women of the lower classes, and servants, he is predatory, taking revenge for the way upper-class ladies treat him. Unfortunately, John has not discovered this because he pays so little attention to servants. Sarah suspects, though, and learns the truth from Amy in the course of the house party. She doesn’t feel she can tell John until she has concrete proof which William is too clever to provide (until book 3, if at all).



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