Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Regency comedy GOOSED! OR A FOWL CHRISTMAS is Here!

Goosed! or A Fowl Christmas, the first in my Regency The Feather Fables series, is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and Apple.


The Feather Fables--where birds twitter and chirp and bring romance.

Ah, Christmas, what a glorious season. Decorations, friends, good will to all, a time of magic and miracles.

But not for Miss Julia Shaw. She is new to the area, her farm desperately needs upkeep, and the pittance she earns from her artwork doesn’t pay the bills. And then her pet goose escapes. Making matters worse, when she first meets the devastatingly attractive Lord Tyndall, the abominable man insults her as he returns her goose. No peace and good will for her this Christmas.

Exhausted from a year of business travel, Robert, Baron Tyndall, returns to London only to fall prey to his mother’s matchmaking attempts. Escaping to his country estate, he finds solace with the birds in his aviary. Except that a plague of a goose that belongs to his new neighbor, Miss Shaw, has somehow entered his aviary and wreaked havoc. That disagreeable lady had better keep her misbegotten bird to herself. Too bad she is so lovely. What a horrendous Christmas this season has become.

But even in the blackest depths, a spark of light can glimmer. For at this wondrous time of Christmas, miracles and magic can and do happen.

A sweet, traditional Regency romance with fantasy elements. 61,000 words.

What was that infernal din? Catching up her shawl, Julia dashed down the stairs and then out through the front door. Winding her shawl around her, she rounded the house and almost slammed into an unfamiliar gig.

The vehicle blocked her view of the goose pen, from which the honking emanated. But no one was there—her pet goose had run off. She ran around the conveyance and stopped dead.

Her pet had returned! Flapping, honking and biting, the flying goose—He could fly? She had never before seen him do so—attacked a large, stylishly dressed gentleman.

The man, his arms high to protect his head, flailed at the goose. His back was to her, his upended hat lay in the dirt and white feathers covered his black greatcoat. He swore. Loudly.

Julia’s ears burned. “Do not hurt my goose, sir!”

The man batted at the goose again and turned toward her.

Julia gasped. He was the man on the road a few days ago. His dark eyes blazed, his brown hair was mussed, and his sharp cheekbones had flushed from the effort of warding off the goose.

Her pulse raced. He had looked handsome at a distance. Up close, he was magnificent. Tingles raced over her skin.

“This spawn of Satan is your property, madam?” He jerked his head back from the goose’s open bill as the bird dove in for a bite.

“He is, sir, and you will not harm him!” She jumped between the man and the goose.

The goose, breathing heavily, plopped to the ground. Eyes afire, he angled his head around her. He hissed at the man.

“Gracious, what is the matter?” She stroked the goose’s head.

The bird went limp, as if he had been pumped full of air and all the gas suddenly escaped.

She tipped her head back to glare up at the man. Good gracious, he was tall. “He has never acted this way before. What have you done to him?”

The man’s jaw dropped. “I? This feathered blackguard has tried to bite me ever since I saw him. And just now he attacked me.” He scowled at the goose. “If he is your property, you are welcome to him.”

Available at

Also available at the other Amazon stores

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords (note, all formats are available on Smashwords)


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thank you all,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My world of Historical Hilarity!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

New Release from Jen Black : ABDUCTION OF THE SCOTS QUEEN

Henry Tudor demands the Scots Queen be brought south, by force if necessary, to marry his son. Young Englishman Matho Spirston accepts the challenge only to fall foul of the king's niece, bold beauty Meg Douglas.
She has her own problems with ambitious Lord Lennox. Her trickery forces Matho to use his wits and all his courage to survive in the brutal world of 16th century Scottish politics.
Observing them all is Marie de Guise, the Dowager Queen with a loyalty to France, struggling to protect her daughter's birthright amongst headstrong lords who think any one of them could rule the country better than a mere woman.

A bright, sparkling story with both drama and humour set in sixteenth century Scotland when life was an uncertain thing and death never far away.

Excerpt 1:
‘Spirston, you’ve dealt with forays of Scots across the fells to steal a few cattle and sheep. You know men don’t always return from a raid or a trod. This persuades me the pair of you may have a chance of success. But don’t take this task lightly, either of you.’ He cast a warning glance at his son. ‘It could cost you your lives.’
   ‘Aye.’ On a wave of confidence, Matho flicked his fingers against Harry’s green velvet sleeve. ‘You’d best get out of those fancy duds, Harry. They’ll give you away in a trice. Splurge some money on a less gaudy set of clothes, man.’
   ‘Quite.’ Humour lit Wharton’s eyes. ‘I dare say Harry will be loath to shed his favourite boots. He is ever light-hearted about too many things, Spirston. I’m relying on you to talk sense into him.’
   Matho’s glance fell to the boots in question. While he had never begrudged Harry his expensive clothes, his time at court nor his chantry school education, he stared at the fine brown leather boots with red, turn-down cuffs embossed with tiny gold flowers, and promised himself he would own a similar pair before the year turned. Either that or he wouldn’t be worrying about boots at all.

Excerpt 2:
Meg Douglas braced her palms on the cold stone windowsill high in the north-west tower and stared out to sea. A mile away, Bass Rock heaved its white, guano-smeared sides out of the indigo water and the usual coronet of seabirds circled its cliffs. Her gaze moved to hills of Fife on the far side of the Forth estuary, where waves hitting the shore threw up a faint haze and hid the beaches from sight.
With a hiss of exasperation, Meg banged the shutter closed and turned back into the small chamber. Father’s summons to this ancient Douglas stronghold had been unwelcome and badly timed. He must know Henry of England had married for the sixth time in July, and a budding court jostled round his new queen. By the time Meg rode south again, the plum positions would have gone and she would face the simpering smiles of the favoured ladies-in-waiting. She would have only King Henry’s erratic generosity to rely upon for the coming year.
Father would not care. Thanks to King Henry’s gold, Father was happily ensconced twenty-five miles from Edinburgh, and as busy as a bee in clover encouraging the populace of Scotland to accept the marriage of their infant Queen to England’s young Prince Edward. He could do it and welcome. She would be polite, even charming, do his bidding and get back to London as soon as possible. Scotland held nothing for her.
‘Margaret? Are ye ready? Daughter?’ Father’s bellow echoed up the spiral stairs from three floors below.
On the long, uncomfortable ride north she had received the unwelcome news that her father had re-married. At fifty-three, for God’s sake, he had wed a girl of eighteen. No doubt the new Countess of Angus would be waiting beyond the curve of the stair.

or for the UK link

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Elisa DeCarlo: 'The Abortionist's Daughter'


In 1910, before her father was convicted of accidentally killing a woman during an illegal abortion, Melanie Daniels was considered the most marriageable girl in her tiny Adirondack village. Now, six years later, the “Killer Doc” has been released from prison and the family are social outcasts. To cope with her fear of ending up an “old maid”, Melanie loses herself inside glamorous motion picture magazines. Until she meets James, a handsome stranger who promises adventure and a chance to leave the stifling small town life behind her. Shortly after they elope to New York, Melanie meets James’s ‘friend’ Gladys Dumbrille, a Broadway actress, and discovers he is not the man he seemed. In an attempt to re-invent herself, Melanie lies her way into Gladys’s new show. Their lives become intertwined in ways neither of them could have expected.

From the backwoods of the Adirondacks to the backstage of Broadway, The Abortionist’s Daughter explores love, sex, work and freedom in the first decade of the 20th century.  Filled with a colorful cast of supporting characters and vivid depictions of social mores, fashion, and family, Elisa DeCarlo tells one woman’s story with intelligence, passion, and wit.


ELISA DeCARLO was raised in Westchester CountyNew York. Her first novel, The Devil You Say (Avon, 1994) won both “Locus Best First Novel” and “Amazing Stories Best First Novel”, and received the CaB Magazine Special Achievement Award. Its prequel, Strong Spirits, was published by Avon in 1995.  Her humorous essays have been collected in the 2002 Random House anthology “Life’s A Stitch: The Best of Women’s Contemporary Humor”; Morrow Books “The Best of The New York Times’s Metropolitan Diary”; and Freedom Voices Books “Goddesses We Ain’t”.

Elisa’s been a working journalist, an audiobook abridger, magazine staff writer, and comic performer.  For 10 years she sold plus-size vintage clothing, both online and privately.  She has a keen knowledge of both fashion and show business history.

Her latest novel, The Abortionist’s Daughter, reflects her passion for vintage fashion and theater while painting an elaborate portrait of New York City just before World War One.


"It is crucial that we understand the historical challenges women have experienced regarding family planning and reproductive choice and the sacrifices that were made because it also sheds light on the very concerning roll back of rights in the present day. Elisa DeCarlo's historical  novel brings this to light in her imminently readable, dramatically rendered and useful book."
-Joan Lipkin, Artistic Director of That Uppity Theatre Company

"Elisa DeCarlo masterfully takes us back to 1916 New York City with a tale of romance and betrayal that rings even more true for today."
- Mike Player, Author, Viral - The Story of the Milkshake Girl, Out on the Edge

"Truly entertaining and entertainingly true, DeCarlo's novel gives us the unforgettable and flawed Melanie Daniels, a heroine not only of her time, but of every time that women struggle to be fully human."
 Ruthann Robson, Professor of Law & University Distinguished Professor, CUNY School of Law, author of Dressing Constitutionally: Hierarchy, Sexuality, and Democracy

Elisa DeCarlo brings the “risqué” world of turn-of-the-century Broadway to life with the story of Melanie Daniels, an aspiring actress who moves to NYC with a dream and violet-trimmed toque. Melanie struggles with the puritanical morality of her upbringing and her nascent feministic awakening against the backdrop of this captivating historical novel -
Lisa Haas, playwright, In Heat, Crown Hill Cemetery, Rita & Inez: The True Queens of Femininity


Melanie knew she was pretty, but a lot of good that did her.  If only she were a movie actress, like Pearl White, who was on the cover of that month’s Photoplay.  Famous, rich, sought after.  Actresses weren’t just people.  Actresses didn’t have to muck out stables or darn the same pair of wool stockings ten times over.  “I’d make a wonderful actress,” she told herself.  In school, she had played Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet”.  It had been such fun, wearing the long romantic costumes and saying Shakespeare’s words.  And having everybody watching her, with admiration rather than queasy curiosity, not like the way they stared at her during the trial, or when she accompanied her mother to church.  Instead of Shakespeare, she would have rather done a rip-roaring melodrama like “The Drunkard”, but the school would hardly approve of such a thing.
Her pace slowed. Unconsciously Melanie arranged her face into an expression of languorous boredom and began to walk with her hips slightly forward, head back. She saw herself, glittering and desirable.  Away from her parents, she could transform herself into a “vampire” like the screen actress Olga Petrova.  A “vampire” was the antithesis of the sweet, innocent blonde movie heroine: a coldblooded temptress with long black hair and carmined lips. Melanie swayed down the road, the mud impeding her progress and interfering with the attempted seductiveness of her walk.
She was in a sitting room, filled with fine antiques.  A man in a velvet smoking jacket murmured, “Would you care for a cordial, my lovely?”  Her white shoulders were  magnificent in a backless evening gown.
“Hey!  Hello there!”
Startled, Melanie straightened up and turned.  A tall man in gray lounged against the rail fence of Abercrombie’s meadow.  It was the man from the ice cream parlor.  He was still in his gray worsted suit and a dashing black fedora.
“Hello,” he repeated.  Melanie knew that she should ignore such freshness.  But he was good looking. 
“Good afternoon,” she said, in what she hoped was a suitably uninterested tone.  She kept the languorous expression on her face, her eyes half-closed.
The man straightened up and swept off his fedora. “If it isn’t Alice Blue Gown!” he exclaimed, grinning. He had a wide, friendly mouth. Melanie remembered the small, bright eyes, bushy black eyebrows, the small, bulbous nose. His skin was ruddy, and there was a nice heft to his figure.
Her heart accelerated: what would a “vampire” do at this moment?  She wished she was wearing something more alluring, but in this weather she would have frozen stiff.  She favored him with a smile.
“You remember my dress,” she said. Oh, mercy, why couldn’t she think of anything to say?
“It was some dress,” he said.
“I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.” She fished for the right tone of  indifference. “Do we have—ah—mutual acquaintances?.”
“No, I don’t know anybody here,” he said. “My name is James Louis Throckmorton. Won’t you tell me your name? That’s a cute hat you got on.”
“Thank you.” He was indeed older than Lawrence Badger. The dusty look to his hair was caused by the gray sprinkled through his black curls. There were fine lines around his eyes.
He fell into step alongside her. “Come on, what’s your name?  I’ll wager it’s an attractive name.”  His accent was citified, with the r’s pronounced very strongly, his voice deep.
Melanie looked up and into his eyes, then looked away. Her throat was drying up. “I ought not to tell you this, Mr. Throckmorton. I don’t, ordinarily, but those who know me call me Miss Daniels.”  She cleared her throat.  On impulse, she added, “But you can call me Melanie.” She averted her eyes, her heart pounding. She had gone too far.
“Say,” said Mr. Throckmorton, “that is an attractive name. Are you from these parts, Miss Daniels?”
A gentleman!  She smiled.  “Yes.  Where are you from, Mr. Throck­morton? Tupper Lake?”
“No, I’m just traveling through these parts. I was in Saranac Lake and thought I’d take a look around.”
She felt that he hadn’t quite answered her question, but she let it pass. “Oh, that’s nice. My mother is from Saranac Lake.”
Mr. Throckmorton smiled, trying to see her face under the brim of her hat. “I might be in Muller’s Corners for some time, Miss Daniels. Perhaps I might call on you? You’re awfully pretty.”
Again, she managed to look briefly at him, then away. She couldn’t look directly at him.  When she did, she could feel his interest.  She didn’t know why it scared her, but it did.  “I don’t mind,” she said.
“How’s about tomorrow afternoon? Or tomorrow night? If you’d let me, I could stop by your house.” 
“No, no. Why don’t we make it in the afternoon? If it’s a nice day, we could go for a--for a walk.” Melanie did not want Mr. Throckmorton coming to her house. That would spoil everything. She wanted him to herself, without her mother languishing over him.
“That would be swell,” he agreed. “That would be grand. You know this town better than I do, Miss Daniels. Where’s a good place to meet?”
“You can meet me at White’s. I might want some ice cream, if it’s a warm afternoon.”
“You’ve got it! Two o’clock all right?”
They had reached the top of the steep hill that sloped down into Main Street. At the foot, Melanie saw with dismay that the usual gang of boys was hanging around Saxton’s Garage. She didn’t want them to see her with Mr. Throckmorton. It was bad enough having to listen to their filthy remarks, without this man also hearing them. He would find out her reputation in the worst possible way.
She stopped and smiled at him as prettily as she could. “Mr. Throckmorton?”
“Yes, Miss Daniels?”  He held his fedora in his hand, lightly tapping it against his thigh.
“Those boys down there, by the garage.”  She lifted her hand daintily, the way her sister would. “It wouldn’t do to be seen together by them. We haven’t been introduced, you know.  You do understand, don’t you?”
“Oh, sure, I understand.” He nodded vigorously. “Wouldn’t want them to get the wrong idea about you.”
“No,” she said with a light laugh. “People will talk. They haven’t got much else to do around here.”
“I’ll wait up here for a spell. It’s such a beautiful day, it’s a pleasure. You go on home, Miss Daniels.”
“All right.” She extended her hand. He shook it. His hand was fleshy and warm, the skin surprisingly soft.  Melanie blushed to the roots of her hair.
“Until tomorrow, at two?” Mr. Throckmorton said.
“Until tomorrow. Good day.”  Melanie hurried down the hill, not daring to look behind her. If she looked back, he’d be looking at her, and she didn’t know if she could bear that just at the moment. Melanie didn’t know which frightened her more, his interest in her or her reaction to his interest.
The gang of boys in front of the garage were between thirteen and nineteen years old; a cheaply dressed, loud, obnoxious crew. Sometimes their loitering spot of choice was in front of White’s Candy and Soda Emporium; more often it was Saxton’s Garage (Ford Authorized Sales and Service), because Saxton didn’t care if the boys were there and White did. No unmarried woman in Muller’s Corners was safe from the boys’ lascivious cat-calls.  Melanie was a particular favorite. It was a gauntlet she ran at least once a week when she went to the market, because the garage was on the only road leading in and out of the village. She didn’t dare look at any of the boys, lest they take it as encouragement.
Melanie went hot and cold all over, hearing the low murmurs begin. But she kept walking, head high, eyes fastened on a point in the middle distance.  I’m better than all of you, I’m better than all of you, I’m better than all of you, she repeated with each step.
“Hey there, baby doll,” said Lucas Freeman, one of the older boys. He had been two years behind her at school. “Have fun at the dance?”
“How’s the old doc doing?” said another boy. “Killed any whores lately?”
“You rape ‘em, we scrape ‘em,” a youth said, to raucous guffaws from his fellows.
“How’s about some squeezin’? Hey, Rufus, how’d you like to get her behind the baseball field?”
“Ah, she’s too old,” said Rufus, a virile specimen of fifteen.
Melanie was shaking all over by the time they were out of her earshot.  She wanted them all to burn in everlasting flames.  Thank heaven Mr.Throckmorton had stayed behind.  The boys only said what everybody thought but was too polite to say.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

New Release: Woodland Daughter

Woodland Daughter is set in Yorkshire in 1902, Queen Victoria has died and the new century has brought in many changes, including another Boer War in South Africa, which features a little in this story.

A new century brings change to the carefully ordered world Eden Harris maintains, change that threatens all she holds dear. Despite years of devoted service to the Bradburys, the leading family of the community, Eden hides a secret that would affect them all. When an enemy returns, her world is shattered and her secret exposed. Torn and provoked, she strains to protect her family until a devastating accident leaves her alone and frightened. As the threat against her grows, Eden takes her precious daughters and flees from the only place she's called home, to live amongst masses in York. Her attempt to start anew is not so simple as the past haunts her, and the one man she thought lost to her so many years before, returns to claim what has always been his. Eden must gather her strength and look into her heart to accept what the future offers. Can she find the happiness she longs for?

Joel rested his body against the ship’s rail, bracing himself for the slightest pain in his shoulder. With one arm in a sling tucked beneath his uniform jacket, he was careful to keep out of the way of people. The slightest touch could have him sweating in pain. The sea breeze lifted the hair on his forehead and neck, cooling him slightly. He needed a haircut, but he’d wait until he’d reach England before attending to that.
Below him on the deck, he watched the crowds scurrying about like ants. Soldiers, nurses, travellers, ship crew, dock workers all hurried back and forth. Behind him, from within the ship, came the noise of eager travellers settling in for their ocean journey.
He stared out into the distance, where Table Mountain dominated the view. He was sad to be leaving Africa. He’d come to think of it as home in a way. The sights and sounds, the heat and people were familiar now. Of course nothing competed against Bradbury Hall, but he’d been in Africa for seven years. It was a long time. The army had replaced his family. He’d learnt to rely on his fellow officers to ease the loneliness, and at first it had worked well. The adventure and excitement kept his mind from thinking of home. But lately, for the last year and a half, a yearning to return home had claimed him and not let go.  
The ships funnels belched smoke and the boarding siren wailed. Under his feet he felt the deck shudder as the enormous engines surged with power. Anticipation welled. He was going home. Despite the ache in his shoulder, he smiled. Time to start a new phase of his life. Time to reaffirm the links with his family, the estate, old friends, and… Eden.
He was conscious of the changes awaiting him back home. Much had happened in his absence. Not long after he joined the regiment, his mother died. That had been a blow, but on the whole he had managed to keep the family and home intact in his mind. When he’d left England, his father had been alive, Charlie well, Annabella cheeky, pretty, naive and Eden… Eden had been beautiful, a free spirit of the woodland where she lived.
What awaited him now?
The ship eased from its berth and glided out into the harbour. The breeze sharpened and Joel turned away from the rail. He glanced at a crippled solider standing near the door leading into one of the saloons. The soldier swayed on his crutches, one leg gone in battle.
“Major Bradbury?”
Joel checked his step and hurried over to steady the man with his good arm.
“Thanks, Sir.” The solider smiled.
“Stevens, isn’t it?” Joel mused, helping the man to lean against a wall and out of the way of other passengers.
“Stevenson, Sir, Corporal Dave Stevenson.” He leaned against the support and breathed out slowly. “I still haven’t got the hang of these things yet.” He held up the crutches.  
Joel grinned. “I think it might be an art that takes practice, Corporal.”
Dave took of his hat and wiped the seat off from his forehead, his fair hair stuck to his head. “Do you mind, Sir, if I sit down? This leg isn’t used to holding all the weight and gets a bit shaky, like.”
“Of course, man, sit.” Joel again aided Stevenson in lowering to the deck. There were no chairs about and after a moment’s hesitation, Joel join him and gently eased his backside down, careful not to jar his shoulder. “We should have gone inside, it would be more comfortable.”
“Sorry, Sir, but I’m no sailor. Once inside my stomach has a mind of its own. I’m better out here.”
“Well, I’ll keep you company for a while until dinner is announced. My stomach is the opposite of yours. Once on the ocean I’m always ravenous. I do nothing but eat.”
“You might struggle with a knife and fork, using only one hand.”
Joel chuckled. “Yes, true. So far I’ve had only soup and sandwiches.”
Stevenson laid his crutches beside his good leg and gazed out through the iron rail. “So, we’re going back home to England. I’ve been away three years. I should be happy to be going back, but I’m not as excited as I should be, I don’t think.”
“It affects men in different ways.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, Sir, how do you feel? Was your clipped wing the reason for you to go home?”
“Yes. My shoulder stopped a bullet.” He glanced down at his padded and bandaged left shoulder. “Normally they’d take it out and I’d be back in the mix of things, but this Boer bullet went in at an angle and wedge itself deep. The surgeon managed to get it out, but he wasn’t sure what damaged had been done. Only once the swelling has gone down and the soreness gone, will I know what strength remains in the arm.”
“Does your family know about it yet?”
“No, not yet. It didn’t seem worth writing when I was going home anyway. What about your family?”
“Oh aye, they know. I’ve been in hospital a while, long enough for letters to go back and forth.” Stevenson bent up his leg and rested his elbow on it. “They say they don’t care if I come home missing a leg, as long as I’m coming home to them. I’m an only child see, and I used to help my father run our grocers shop.”
“Will you do that again?”
“I guess so. Funny how things change, isn’t it. I hated working in that shop as a lad. All my friends would be out playing football or cricket and I’d be stuck behind a counter. The first opportunity I got to leave I took, and that was the army.” He tapped the toe of his boot on the deck. “Now, I can’t wait to get back there. I miss me mam and dad, and me gran, who lives with us. My mam makes the best jam roly-poly you’ve ever tasted. Dad brews his own beer in the back shed and Gran used to be my partner in cards.”
“There’s nothing better in this world than returning home to a family that loves you.” A picture came into Joel’s mind of the estate in autumn, the tall graceful trees, their leaves turning gold and amber, the squirrels scurrying around in the wood, collecting the last of their booty, harvest time and bringing in the hay, the smell of open fires as the gardeners raked up and burnt the fallen leaves.
He leaned his head back and smiled in remembrance. “I long to go riding with my brother. We used to ride for miles. Sometimes we’d stop at a pub and have an ale and a hot pie smothered in gravy.”
“Me mam has written of a neighbour’s daughter, Vera, who she hopes I’ll one day marry. I’m not so sure what Vera has to say about it though. We got along all right before I went away, but…well, I’m not as I once was.”
“If this Vera is a decent woman, she’ll not mind.”
“Maybe.” Stevenson lifted his face to the breeze. “Will you have a girl waiting for you at home, Sir?”
Joel’s stomach clenched. “Perhaps. I’m ready for a family. However, I’ve been away longer than you, and I’m not sure what to expect when I arrive home.”
“None of us are, Sir, none of us are.”   
A group of children ran by, the shoes thundering on the timber deck. One cheeky boy paused and waved to Joel and Stevenson before scampering off again. A harassed nanny tried to catch up as she wheeled a pram after them. Joel watched until they turned a corner at the bow of the ship and were out of sight. His heart constricted, thinking of the boy’s lively face. A son. He wanted a son so badly it hurt. A boy to teach all the things his father taught him, to hunt, to fish, to ride, to play sports. He thought of Charlie. Two sons perhaps. Two fine boys to grow up together like he and Charlie did.
Emotion clogged his throat and he coughed to clear it.  He’d been away from home too long…

Buy in ebook or paperback from all online retailers such Amazon USA and Amazon UK, iBooks, Nook, etc. 

I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Isabelle Eberhardt: Dreamer, Nomad, writer

By Marie Laval

My friends and the people who have read my stories know that I was always fascinated by North Africa. My mother was born and brought up in Algiers. She was from a French, Spanish and Italian background and had a very colourful family (to say the least!). She left Algeria during the war of Independence in 1962, never to return, but her wonderful stories about the places and people of her childhood always made the place special for my sisters and I.
My grandparents' house in Suffren, near Algiers which was shared with two other families
As a teenager I read novels and short stories which were set there. I particularly loved 'Bivouacs sous la Lune' by Frison-Roche for his beautiful tales of the Sahara and its lost kingdoms.

Maxime Noiré Les marchands arabes à Biskra
And then I discovered Isabelle Eberhardt and fell under the spell of her short stories, which brought the tastes, smells and landscapes of North Africa to life. Her often tragic characters were unforgettable. Her writing was neat, precise, simple but incredibly powerful and transported me to a bazaar in a small town of the M'zab, or along the steep, narrow alleyways of the Algiers Kasbah, or again across the magnificent wilderness of the Saharan plains.

I was also intrigued by her as a person because her life is definitely a case of reality being more fascinating than fiction. Like Alexandra David-Neel who travelled to Tibet and converted to Buddhism, Odette du Puigaudeau in Mauritania, or again Ella Maillart in Asia, Isabelle was one of the very first Twentieth century women who travelled alone - and relished the adventure and the solitude.

'For those who know the value of and exquisite taste of solitary freedom (for one is only free when alone), the act of leaving is the bravest and most beautiful of all.'

Isabelle Eberhardt: 'A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places.'

Isabelle was born in Geneva in 1877, the illegitimate daughter of Natalia, the widow of a former aide de camp to the Russian tsar Alexander II, and a Ukrainian scholar - an anarchist, according to some. Although her family was shunned by Geneva's polite society, Isabelle was well educated and spoke French, Russian, Italian, German as well as Greek, Latin and Arabic.

From a young age she dreamt of adventure in far away lands, North Africa especially, where two of her brothers joined the Foreign Legion. She was twenty when she travelled to Bône in Algeria, where she lived with her mother and converted to Islam. After her mother's death, she started travelling extensively across Algeria, alone, dressed as a man and under the name Si Mahmoud Saadi. 

'Je suis seul, et je rêve' (I am alone, and I dream). 

It's interesting to see that she writes about herself as a man (by using the masculine form of 'seul'). Dressing up and living as a man allowed her freedoms which would have been denied to her as a woman - the freedom to travel or have access to zouaias (islamic religious schools), taverns and brothels.

In 1901 she married Slimane Ehnni, a spahi - a soldier from the French colonial army's light cavalry regiments, but her life was cut tragically short by a flash flood in Ain Sefra in October 1904. She was only 27 when she died.
'Oued dans une oasis' by Maxime Noiré, to whom Isabelle dedicated her story 'Pleurs d'Amandiers'  1903 ('Weeping Almond Trees')
I can't resist posting this beautiful painting by Maxime Noiré, 'the painter of horizons on fire and weeping almond trees'. Actually it sounds better in French: 'Le peintre des horizons en feu et des amandiers en pleurs'.

And what about this extract of one of her short stories set in Bou Saada - the Saharan oasis nicknamed 'the city of happiness' which was well-known to Hugo and Lucas Saintclair, the heroes of my historical romances ANGEL HEART and THE LION'S EMBRACE.

'Bou-Saada, la reine fauve vêtue de ses jardins obscurs et gardée par ses collines violettes, dort, voluptueuse, au bord escarpé de l'oued où l'eau bruisse sur les cailloux blancs et roses.' Isabelle Eberhardt, Pleurs d'amandiers, 1903

I won't even attempt to translate this into English!

What about you? Who was the writer who influenced you the most and made you dream?

Marie Laval

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A DISTINCT FLAIR FOR WORDS, Book 3 of Love and the Library

A Distinct Flair for Words, the latest in my Regency Love and the Library series, is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and Apple.
Love and the Library - A celebration of the beginnings of love wherein four young Regency gentlemen meet their matches over a copy of “Pride and Prejudice” at the library. 

Book 3: Felicity and Frank

Every woman should have her own Mr. Darcy--unless she prefers Mr. Bingley.

Something strange goes on in that library.

Not one, but two of Mr. Frank Wynne’s friends found the ladies of their dreams at the library over a copy of “Pride and Prejudice”. Magic? Divine providence? Hardly. Coincidence or luck? Perhaps. And to prove or disprove the possibilities, he’ll go to the library and read “Pride and Prejudice”. Day after day after day. To his surprise, the book is funny, and he does like that Bingley chap. His lady doesn’t appear, though. Of course not. But still…

Miss Felicity White adores “Pride and Prejudice”. But while most ladies swoon over Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley is the man after her own heart. Happy, good-natured, cheerful, outgoing Mr. Bingley. She loves him so much, she even rewrote “Pride and Prejudice” from his perspective. Now, if she can only find a gentleman like him…

When Felicity and Frank run into each other, the enchantment of “Pride and Prejudice” and the library just might strike again.

A sweet, traditional Regency romance, but not a retelling of “Pride and Prejudice.” 45,000 words.

I write in the style of my favorite author, Barbara Metzger. If you like her Regency comedies, you may enjoy mine.


“I have the most wonderful news!” Felicity maneuvered herself and Frank to the only two seats together. Unfortunately, they were in the middle of the semicircle, with ladies on both sides
Frank sat on the edge of his seat. The chairs’ arrangement was unnervingly like a gigantic feminine claw, ready to snap shut on a tasty treat.
He stilled. Mayhap if he didn’t move, they would forget he was there. And pigs will fly.
Miss Barrett clapped and the murmuring ladies quieted. “Felicity, please tell us your news.”
Felicity popped up. “You know I have written Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Bingley’s viewpoint.” She gave a little bounce. “Mr. Blackmore of Blackmore Publishing has requested the manuscript!”
Feminine squeals reverberated around the room. Miss Barrett rose to shake Felicity’s hand. “Well done. Mayhap you will pave the way to the future, when others will want to read about the further adventures of the Pride and Prejudice characters.”
Miss Liddell, one of the ladies who had squinted when he entered, squinted anew. “I doubt anyone will want to read about Mr. Wickham’s experiences. Or Lydia’s.”
“Never say never.” Miss Nisbet, seated at Frank’s other side, sniffed. “Some people enjoy tales about villains. I daresay they like to see the blackguards receive their just deserts.” She leaned closer to Frank. “Have you read Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Wynne?”
Gazes on both sides of the pincer-like arrangement of chairs closed in on him. More perspiration broke out on his forehead. “Yes, I have.” Outnumbered. Perhaps he had better say as little as possible.
Miss Liddell squinted again. “You are unusual, sir. Most men do not read novels. Or at least, they claim not to.”
He flashed his most winning smile, the one that normally made the ladies melt. Almost-clergyman he might be, but that did not preclude him from appreciating the fairer sex. “I am not most men.”


Amazon US 

Also available in all the other Amazon stores.

Barnes and Noble

Nook UK

Smashwords (note, all formats are available on Smashwords)


Coming soon to Kobo

Thank you all,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Extract from The Captain and The Countess




Rosemary Morris’s most recent novel The Captain and the Countess has received 5* reviews and is available as an e-book for 77p from and for $0.99 from until midnight on the 17th August.


Exract fromThe Captain and The Countess


London 1706


Edward, the Right Honourable Captain Howard, dressed in blue and white, which some of the officers in Queen Anne’s navy favoured, strode into Mrs Radcliffe’s spacious house near St James Park. 

Perkins, his godmother’s butler, took his hat and cloak. “Madam wants you to join her immediately.”

Instead of going upstairs to the rooms his godmother had provided for him during his spell on half pay—the result of a dispute with a senior officer—Edward entered the salon. He sighed. When would his sixty-one year old godmother accept that at the age of twenty-two he was not yet ready to wed?

He made his way across the elegant, many windowed room through a crowd of expensively garbed callers.

When Frances Radcliffe noticed him, she turned to the pretty young lady seated beside her. “Mistress Martyn, allow me to introduce you to my godson, Captain Howard.”  

Blushes stained Mistress Martyn’s cheeks as she stood to make her curtsey.

 Edward bowed, indifferent to yet another of his grandmother’s protégées. Conversation ceased. All eyes focussed on the threshold. 

“Lady Sinclair,” someone murmured.

Edward turned. He gazed without blinking at the acclaimed beauty, whose sobriquet was ‘The Fatal Widow’. 

The countess remained in the doorway, her cool blue eyes speculative.

Edward whistled low. Could her shocking reputation be no more than tittle-tattle? His artist’s eyes observed her. Rumour did not lie about her Saxon beauty.

 Her ladyship was not a slave to fashion. She did not wear a wig, and her hair was not curled and stiffened with sugar water. Instead, her flaxen plaits were wound around the crown of her head to form a coronet. The style suited her. So did the latest Paris fashion, an outrageous wisp of a lace cap, which replaced the tall, fan-shaped fontage most ladies continued to wear perched on their heads. 

Did the countess have the devil-may-care attitude gossips attributed to her?  If she did, it explained why some respectable members of society shunned her. Indeed, if Lady Sinclair were not the granddaughter of his godmother’s deceased friend, she might not be received in this house.

The lady’s fair charms did not entirely explain what drew many gallants to her side. After all, there were several younger beauties present that the gentlemen did not flock around so avidly.

He advanced toward the countess, conscious of the sound of his footsteps on the wooden floor, the muted noise of coaches and drays through the closed windows and, from the fireplace, the crackle of burning logs which relieved the chill of early spring.

The buzz of conversation resumed. Her ladyship scrutinised him. Did she approve of his appearance? A smile curved her heart-shaped mouth. He repressed his amusement. Edward suspected the widow’s rosy lips owed more to artifice than nature.

“How do you do, sir,” she said when he stood before her. “I think we have not met previously. Her eyes assessed him dispassionately. My name is Sinclair, Katherine Sinclair. I dislike formality. You may call me Kate.”

“Captain Howard at your service, Countess.” Shocked but amused by boldness more suited to a tavern wench than a great lady, Edward paid homage with a low bow before he spoke again. “Despite your permission, I am not presumptuous enough to call you Kate, yet I shall say that had we already met, I would remember you.”

“You are gallant, sir, but you are young to have achieved so high a rank in Her Majesty’s navy.”

“An unexpected promotion earned in battle which the navy did not subsequently commute.”

“You are to be congratulated on what, I can only assume, were acts of bravery.”

“Thank you, Countess.”

The depths of her ladyship’s sapphire cross and earrings blazed, matching his sudden fierce desire.

Kate, some four inches shorter than Edward, looked up at him.

He leaned forward. The customary greeting of a kiss on her lips lingered longer than etiquette dictated. Her eyes widened before she permitted him to lead her across the room to the sopha on which his godmother sat with Mistress Martyn.

With a hint of amusement in her eyes, Kate regarded Mrs Radcliffe. “My apologies, madam, I suspect my visit is untimely.”

Her melodious voice sent shivers up and down his spine, nevertheless, Edward laughed. Had the countess guessed his godmother, who enjoyed match-making, wanted him to marry Mistress Martyn? No, he was being too fanciful. How could she have guessed?

“You are most welcome, Lady Sinclair.  Please take a seat and partake of a glass of cherry ratafia.” Frances said.

 “Perhaps, milady prefers red viana,” Edward suggested

“Captain, you read my mind, sweet wine is not to my taste.”

In response to the lady’s provocative smile, heat seared his cheeks.

Kate smoothed the gleaming folds of her turquoise blue silk gown. The lady knew how to dress to make the utmost of her natural beauty. Her gown and petticoat, not to mention sleeves and under-sleeves, as well as her bodice and stays, relied for effect on simple design and fine fabrics. He approved of her ensemble, the elegance of which did not depend on either a riot of colours or a multitude of bows and other trimmings. Later, he would sketch her from memory.

Kate inclined her head to his godmother. “Will you not warn your godson I am unsound, wild, and a bad influence on the young?”

Edward gazed into Kate’s eyes.  Before his demise, had her husband banished her to a manor deep in the country? If it was true, why did he do so?

Kate’s eyebrows slanted down at the inner corners. She stared back at him.  He laughed, raised her hands to his lips and kissed each in turn. “I look forward to furthering my acquaintance with you.”

“High-handed.” Kate gurgled with laughter. “Captain, please release me.”

     What did he care if she were some ten years his elder? He wanted to get to know her better. Edward bowed. “Your slightest wish is my command.”

…. A frozen glimpse of despair deep in her eyes unsettled Edward. Did he imagine it? He could not speak. Why should a lady like the countess despair?