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.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Christmas is coming . . .

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

Joanna 23rd December 2003

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

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

Joanna 23rd December 2003

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

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

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

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

Nicola 23rd December 2003

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

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

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

Hope this is a help!

Joanna 23rd December 2003

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth 23rd December 2003

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

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

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

Must go and check the shortbread.

Joanna 23rd December 2003

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

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

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

Elizabeth 23rd December 2003

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth 23rd December 2003

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the synopsis!

Joanna 23rd December 2003

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

Let me know what you think.

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

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

Joanna 23rd December 2003

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth 24th December 2003

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

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

Joanna 24th December 2003

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

Elizabeth 24th December 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicola 24th December 2003

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth 24th December

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

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

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


The Prodigal Bride


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening – The Prodigal Bride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joanna 24th December 2003

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

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

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

Nicola 24th December 2003

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

Joanna 24th December 2003

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

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

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

On which happy note, merry Christmas again, both.

Joanna 24th December 2003

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth 24th December 2003

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

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

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