Sunday, 30 September 2012

Miss Jacobson's Journey

by Carola Dunn

Adventure, romance, danger, war, murder, high finance, and a touch of humour--

Miss Jacobson's Journey is the first book in this Regency trilogy (aka the Rothschild Trilogy). Originally published in the US in hardcover in 1992, and also available as an ebook, it will be out in the UK in paperback on October 4th, along with the second and third books of the trilogy, Lord Roworth's Reward and Captain Ingram's Inheritance.

Miriam Jacobson refuses the man her parents chose for her to marry, instead travelling through Europe as assistant to her doctor uncle. When he dies, she's caught on the wrong side of the Channel in wartime. Her only hope to get home to England is to accept an assignment from the Rothschilds, to smuggle gold to Lord Wellington in Spain. She sets out across enemy France with two young men who loathe each other--and her!

 (starting middle of Chapter 2)

 "The truth is that Nathan, who is a naturalized Englishman, has been commissioned by the British government to convey a very large sum of money to General Wellington in Portugal. I have received the gold here in Paris and now it must be transported through France and across the Pyrenees."

"I'm delighted to hear that you are working for the British government, but what has it to do with me?"

"You have asked a favour of me, now I shall ask a favour of you. I need a guide to assist in this venture. You speak French and Spanish, you know the country. Help me in this and I shall see that you reach England safely."

"Surely you can hire someone!"

"For this task, I cannot trust anyone I might hire in France."

"I suppose not," Miriam unwillingly agreed.

"You see, Fräulein, your government sent a guardian with the shipment, an English ­goy­ to make sure that we Jews do not cheat. But this ­gentleman­," he said the word in English, "Lord Felix Roworth, knows nothing of France. There is also Nathan's agent,
who must accompany the gold so that he can take Wellington's receipts back to my brother. He too is unfamiliar with the route. What am I to do?"

In the pause that followed this plaintive question, the fall of a log in the grate sounded loud. Her unseeing gaze on the rush of sparks up the chimney, Miriam recalled that one of the reasons she had insisted on accompanying Uncle Amos on his travels was a desire for adventure. The years had been interesting, she felt she had been useful to him, but there had not, really, been any adventure worth mentioning. A bubble of excitement swelled within her.

Hannah read her mind. "Miss Miriam, you wouldn't..."

"Your patriotic duty," Jakob Rothschild interrupted. "General Wellington is in desperate need of funds to pay the British Army."

"You will send us home as soon as we return to Paris?"

"From Bordeaux, if you wish it, Fräulein." Suddenly he was all business. "You brought your luggage with you?"

"No, but we packed in case we needed to leave quickly."

"Give me the direction and I shall send for it. You leave today."

"But I have not take proper leave of my hosts," Miriam protested, "and I am not dressed for travelling."

"You may change your clothes when your boxes arrive, and write to your hosts in the meantime. I shall see your letter delivered. There are writing materials in my office. Come this way, please. You must make the acquaintance of your travelling companions while I complete the arrangements."

He led the way through a connecting door into a large room furnished with a desk, a huge iron safe, a number of straight wooden chairs and three or four plain leather-covered armchairs. Two of the latter were occupied. The occupants rose to their
feet and bowed as Miriam entered.

"Lord Felix Roworth." Jakob Rothschild indicated the tall, broad-shouldered gentleman with golden hair and blue eyes. Immaculate in a coat of snuff-brown superfine, elegantly simple cravat, dove-grey waistcoat, skintight buckskins and white-topped boots, he appeared to be in his late twenties. "Isaac Cohen," Herr Rothschild continued the introductions. "Mees Jacobson."

Miriam glanced at the second man and nodded, but she scarcely saw him. Her gaze swung back at once to Lord Felix. He was the very embodiment of her schoolgirl dreams.

­Chapter 3­

"Here are pens and ink for your letter, Fräulein." Herr Rothschild crossed to the desk and took some sheets of paper from a drawer. "Cohen, the lady goes with you." He spoke in Yiddish now. "I must make final arrangements. I shall return shortly."

Miriam was distantly aware that Mr. Cohen uttered an unheeded protest. She was all too aware of Lord Felix's rude appraisal, swiftly followed by sneering dismissal.

"What did he say, Cohen?" his lordship enquired in English in a haughty tone. 

"Miss Jacobson goes with us," said the other curtly. The air between them crackled with animosity.

As she moved to the desk she turned her attention to Isaac Cohen. Nathan Rothschild's agent, a year or two older than his lordship and a trifle taller, but more slenderly built, was dressed in a fashion less elegant than businesslike. His hair was dark, crisply springing from a broad brow, and his dark eyes stared at her with undisguised hostility.

He looked vaguely familiar. Seating herself at the desk, Miriam wondered momentarily whether she had met him before. Surely she would have remembered him; he was really rather good-looking in his own way, though not to be compared with the
arrogant Lord Felix.

Dipping a quill pen, she began to write to the Benjamins, but already she had half a mind to back out of her agreement with Jakob. Neither of her prospective travelling companions had exactly greeted her advent with delight. In fact, while she wrote she listened with mingled amusement and indignation as they grudgingly united in opposition to taking her with them. They appeared to dislike that idea even more than they disliked each other.

Hannah, who had come to stand behind her, bent down and whispered, "God forbid we should stay where we're not wanted, Miss Miriam."

"It doesn't look promising, does it?" She signed the note, blotted and folded it, though far from certain it would be needed. "Only, what if we can't find anyone else to help us
cross the Channel?"

"There'll be others, God willing, as won't send you to Spain afore they'll send you to England."

"I'd like to help that English general--but you are right. To travel so far with two gentlemen who resent our presence would be foolish. Herr Rothschild will find someone else. I hate to continue to impose upon the Benjamins, though."

"They're glad to have us, for your uncle's sake. Let's be off."

"No, I cannot just walk out on Herr Rothschild. We shall wait until he returns."

An uncomfortable silence enveloped the room's occupants. Lord Felix stood at the window, looking out, his fingers tapping impatiently on the sill. Mr. Cohen strode up and down the room, frowning. His lithe pacing reminded Miriam of a black panther she had once seen at the Tower of London zoo. Neither of them so much as glanced at her, and she realized that neither had spoken a word directly to her. The situation was impossible.


 E-book and large print covers

October 14th, I'll post a blurb and excerpt for Lord Roworth's Reward.

Amazon UK
Kindle ebook
Nook ebook
Also available in other e-formats

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

'Marry in Haste' - Excerpt

My first novella, Marry in Haste, is now available on Kindle!  It’s a Regency romance and here is the blurb:-

‘I need to marry, and I need to marry at once!’

When James, Viscount Demarr confides in an acquaintance at a ball one evening, he has no idea that the potential solution to his problems stands so close at hand …

Amelia Ravenscroft is the granddaughter of an earl and is desperate to escape her aunt’s home where she has endured a life of drudgery, whilst fighting off the increasingly bold advances of her lecherous cousin.  She boldly proposes a marriage of convenience.

And Amelia soon proves herself a perfect fit for the role of Lady Demarr­­­. But James has doubts and his blossoming feelings are blighted by suspicions regarding Amelia’s past.

Will they find, all too painfully, that to marry in haste is to repent at leisure?


Before Amelia could think further, she jumped to her feet and half-ran over to the man by the balustrade. Obviously startled by the unexpected footfall behind him, he turned swiftly, and she saw him frown. ‘What the …?’ he began, then collected himself. ‘I beg your pardon, ma’am, I did not hear you come out.’ He bowed stiffly and threw his cheroot into the flower bed below, then made as if to step around her to return inside.
Amelia stopped him by the simple expedient of taking a step in the same direction. ‘I … I didn’t come out exactly,’ she stammered nervously. ‘I was sitting on the bench over there,’ she pointed towards the shadows behind them, ‘and I’m afraid I overheard your conversation with your friend.’
His eyes narrowed a fraction and he looked at her more closely. ‘I see. And did you learn anything of value?’ he asked sarcastically.
‘Well, yes, I mean no … I mean, oh I don’t know how to say this, but …’ She took a deep breath and the words came tumbling out in a rush. ‘I will marry you if you wish.’
The man stared at her as if she had suddenly grown two heads and Amelia cringed. She couldn’t understand what had possessed her to do this. She must be out of her mind, but having gone this far, she decided she may as well continue.
‘I don’t care for society at all, so I wouldn’t mind being snubbed the way you said your wife would be, and I come from a very good family. My grandfather was the Marquess of Ravenscroft.’
‘Was he indeed? If that is so, then why are you out here on your own proposing marriage to a stranger? I take it you don’t know who I am?’
‘Erm, no. No I don’t, but the thing is, it doesn’t matter. Anyone will do.’
‘How flattering. That makes me feel a lot better,’ he drawled.
Amelia took another deep breath. This was not going at all well and had it not been so dark, the man would have seen that she was blushing from head to toe. ‘What I meant was, like you, I need to marry and I cannot afford to be choosy. I’m one of those females you spoke of who would appreciate having my own establishment, rather than being dependent on an employer or relative. As long as you can give me a roof over my head and a ring on my finger, that is all that matters.’
He regarded her in silence, then shook his head as if he couldn’t believe this was happening. ‘Tell me, what is it you need to escape from? I take it there is a good reason for your desperation? Are you with child?’
‘No!’ Amelia was horrified. ‘Of course not. That’s the whole point – I’m trying to avoid being seduced out of wedlock.’
            ‘Perhaps you should start at the beginning? I’m finding myself increasingly muddled by your explanations. Come, let us sit on your hidden bench.’ He grabbed her elbow and steered her none too gently to the dark corner and sat down ...
UK Amazon buy link here
US Amazon buy link here

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift - Extract

Westmorland 1660

Chapter One 

Anyone else would probably scream – woken in the night like that, with a hand clamped over the mouth in the pitch black. But not Sadie, she knew it was Ella, even though she heard not a single word, for the smell of her sister’s skin was as familiar to her as her own.

A blast of cold air buffeted her through her thin shift as the covers were wrenched back over her feet. Sadie scrambled out of bed. Silently she felt the floorboards for her clothes, shivering as she slipped her arms awkwardly into her bodice and tied on her skirt, with fingers fumbling in half-sleep. She tripped as she put on her clogs and one of them clattered down.

‘Sshh,’ said Ella. They listened in breathless silence for a sound from below. Sadie could hear nothing, except her own heart beating.
A cuff round the ear. ‘Carry them, mutton-head.’
Sadie felt a strong grip steering her shoulder and Ella’s voice hissed in her ear. ‘If you waken him, I’ll do for you.’

Ella half pushed her down the stairs and out of the front door into the wet, before she had time to catch her breath. In the white chalk of the lane Ella was silhouetted in the darkness; Sadie could just make out her dark eyes in the pale oval of her face and the outline of her hair, which had escaped from her cap and sprung into curls from the damp.

‘Is it time?’ whispered Sadie. ‘Have you come for me already? What shall I fetch over?’
‘Nothing,’ said Ella shortly, almost dragging her along the road. ‘Hurry, can’t you.’

Sadie hopped along, trying to fit her clogs on her feet as she went. This was not what she had imagined at all. When Ella had left home to be the Ibbetsons’ lady’s maid she had promised Sadie she would come back for her, as soon as she could find her a position in the household. But surely they wouldn’t be asking for her in the middle of the night.

‘Why are we in such a fret? What’s the matter?’
‘Muzzle it. Or I’ll leave you behind.’ She set off at a run, with Sadie hanging onto her sleeve, haring down the road through the sleeping village, under the shadowy dripping trees. Though at fifteen she was three years younger than Ella, Sadie was almost as tall, but she was not used to running and soon had to let go of her

Ella did not slow – her skirts were hoisted up over her knees, her feet kicked up gobs of dirt as she ran. Sadie dropped behind,clutching a stitch in her side, but when she saw the flash of her sister’s white calves getting smaller she forced herself to sprint on behind her, pounding through the puddles, her eyes screwed up against the sting of the rain.

The big house loomed up ahead of them. The windows were  blacked-out holes, no smoke came from the chimneys. They stopped on the front step, both of them doubled over and panting.Ella produced a key to open up and thrust Sadie into the hall.

Sadie tried to calm her breathing, expecting to see a housekeeper,a footman or other staff. From long-standing habit she pulled her hair forward over the left side of her face to hide the wine stain on her cheek. Strangers often feared this birthmark as a sign of bad luck. But she need not have worried – there was nobody there.She rubbed her eyes and wiped the drizzle from her face with her sleeve, letting her dark hair fall back. It was the first time she had been inside the Ibbetsons’ house. She peered around eagerly.

Ella took out a tinderbox from the drawer and lit a candle on the side table. Sadie gasped as it illuminated a sudden sheen of polished wood panelling. Ella turned around to face her, holding the candle. She was breathless, her face grim. In the flickering light her eyes were like swimming fish, darting from side to side.

A dread settled on Sadie’s shoulders like a cloak. Something was wrong.


Latest Reviews just in:

'The Gilded Lily is impeccably written historical fiction. The detail is superb and life in London is so vividly depicted that the city seems to take on its own persona and become a lurking character in the story'
Let Them Read Books

'The Gilded Lily had me hooked from the first chapter – even the first page. I love a book like that – a book that is almost 500 pages but seemed so much less because I wanted more every time I had to put it down'. 
Peeking Between the Pages

'I thoroughly enjoyed this tale that explored the darker side of Restoration London.'
Historical Tapestry
'I think the author has a knack for writing convincing unconventional heroines. Really enjoyed this one!'
Bippity Boppety Book Blog

'The entertainment value of this novel is extremely high, the storyline fascinating, the characters memorable. I highly recommend this book.'
History and Women

Monday, 17 September 2012

Gothic Revival Architecture in Georgian England and a new release! 'A Baron in her Bed': The Spies of Mayfair Series by Maggi Andersen

Georgian Gothick. Turrets and pointed arches were hallmarks of the style.
In the eighteenth century, until Jane Austen’s birth in 1775, English architecture was dominated by a classical revival of Greek and Roman styles, with symmetrical facades, pedimented windows, porticoes and columns reminiscent of ancient temples. Simple lines were favored, the rooms laid out to a mathematical formula with the tallest rooms on the ground floor. The exterior façade could show a line of stone or brick to indicate the change in floors, This could also be accentuated by a slight change in window style. 

Several new fashions arrived in the last quarter of the century. Gothic style was an imitation of medieval architecture with turrets, buttresses, crenellated parapets, mock moats and pointed-arched windows. It is the windows of Northanger Abbey that Catherine Morland notices – the last remaining feature of the original medieval abbey (from the outside) that had become General Tilney’s massive country house.
Where original Gothic ruins did not exist, they were invented. Landowners instructed their architects to design faux-Gothic ruins for their gardens in the form of guesthouses, lodges, pavilions and gatehouses.
Adlestrop Park, a magnificent house owned by Mrs. Austen’s rich cousins, was demolished in the 1750s to be replaced with a grand Gothic mansion of ashlar buttresses and fretted balustrades. This was formerly the rectory and was visited by Jane Austen at least three times between 1794 and 1806 when the occupant was Rev. Thomas Leigh, cousin of Jane Austen's mother. She is thought to have drawn inspiration from the village and its surroundings for her novel Mansfield Park. The house, basically of 1670, has been altered at different times, especially in 1824-5 with bay windows and Welsh slate roof. ...

Adlestrop House from the churchyard. The last picture is Adlestrop Park, owned by the Leigh family from 1553. ... In 1750-4 Sanderson Miller (mason William Hitchcox) built a two-storey block with a bay window on to the S corner of the house. In 1759-63 he expanded this to form the present exquisite SW front, in his most imaginative Gothick style (builders Thomas & Samuel Collett). It is symmetrical with a large central gable and smaller ones either side which have bays with fretted balustrades and crocketed pinnacles. The bays are panelled and decorated, and the windows have architraves with roll mouldings and Gothick glazing. At the corners polygonal ashlar buttresses, crowned like medieval chimneys. ... 

Newly built parsonages too, were often designed in the Gothic style reminiscent of churches and cathedrals. A Gothic look might be achieved economically by remodeling and installing pointed-arch windows, while leaving the rest of the building untouched. Gothic wallpapers too, were available from the 1760s.
What Uvedale Price called the “splendid confusion and irregularity” of the Gothic, led to a love of the asymmetrical. Wings and rooms were added: conservatories, greenhouses and servant’s halls, without taking into consideration the need to balance them with the other side of the house.
With a desire to enjoy the gardens, which could be viewed through large windows and accessed through French doors, drawing rooms, dining rooms, and reception rooms were moved down to the ground floor, which had been historically located on the floor above.
In my new release: A BARON IN HER BED - THE SPIES OF MAYFAIR SERIES BOOK ONE, Guy Fortescue returns to England to claim his inheritance, Rosecroft Hall, willing to face death to claim his family's estate.

 London, 1816. A handsome baron. A faux betrothal. And Horatia's plan to join the London literary set takes a dangerous turn. Now that the war with France has ended, Baron Guy Fortescue arrives in England to claim his inheritance, abandoned over thirty years ago when his father fled to France after killing a man in a duel. When Guy is set upon by footpads in London, a stranger, Lord Strathairn, rescues and befriends him. But while travelling to his country estate, Guy is again attacked. He escapes only to knock himself out on a tree branch. Aspiring poet Horatia Cavendish has taken to riding her father's stallion, "The General", around the countryside of Digswell dressed as a groom. She has become bored of her country life and longs to escape to London to pursue her desire to become part of the London literary set. When she discovers Guy lying unconscious on the road, the two are forced to take shelter for the night in a hunting lodge. After Guy discovers her ruse, a friendship develops between them. Guy suspects his relative, Eustace Fennimore is behind the attacks on his life. He has been ensconced in Rosecroft Hall during the family's exile and will become the heir should Guy die. Horatia refuses to believe her godfather, Eustace, is responsible. But when Guy proposes a faux betrothal to give him more time to discover the truth, she agrees. Secure in the knowledge that his daughter will finally wed, Horatia's father allows her to visit her blue-stocking aunt in London. But Horatia's time spent in London proves to be anything but a literary feast, for a dangerous foe plots Guy's demise. She is determined to keep alive her handsome fiance, who has proven more than willing to play the part of her lover even as he resists her attempts to save him. 

At least two hours had passed before Horatia guided the horse back towards the road. Distracted by her thoughts, she had ridden farther than she intended. A glance at the skies told her the storm bank was almost upon them.
They would have to take their chances and return by the road. She urged The General into a gallop.
They came to the road that led to Malforth Manor but were still some miles away. She would be lucky to reach home before the storm hit. She eased the horse into a trot as they approached a sharp bend in the road, the way ahead hidden by a stand of oaks. Once round the corner, she gasped and pulled the horse up hard.
A body lay in the road.
Highwaymen tried this ruse she’d heard. She edged her horse closer.
With a quick search of the landscape, she saw a horse disappear over a hill with its reins trailing. She dismounted and approached the man with caution. Barely a leaf stirred. It was oddly still, and the air seemed hushed and quiet as death before the coming storm. It matched her mood as she stood wondering what to do about the problem before her.
The man sprawled on his side. Judging by his clothes, he was a gentleman. Beneath his multi-caped greatcoat his brown coat revealed the skill of the tailor. His cream double-breasted waistcoat was of very fine silk. Long legs were encased in tight-fitting buff-colored suede pantaloons. His mud-splattered top boots showed evidence of loving care.
He moaned.
Horatia knelt beside him and grasped his shoulder. “Are you all right?”
When he didn’t answer, she struggled to roll him onto his back. A nasty gash trickled blood over his forehead where a bruise would surely form.
The man’s dark hair was sticky with blood. “Can you hear me, sir?” His eyelids fluttered. She shouldn’t stare at him while he remained unconscious, but she couldn’t draw her eyes away. He had remarkable cheekbones. His dark looks reminded her of Lord Byron. More rugged perhaps, but an undeniably handsome face, his skin more swarthy than one usually saw in an English winter. There was a dimple in his chin and a hint of shadow darkened his strong jaw line. She gingerly picked up his wrist and peeled back the soft leather glove, glad to find his pulse strong. An expensive gold watch had fallen from his pocket. So, he hadn’t been robbed. It must have been an accident. She looked around for some sign of what had happened but could see nothing.
A gust of chill wind made her shiver, and she glanced up at the sky. Ashgrey snow clouds now hovered overhead. “I have to move you, sir.”
Horatia stood and looked around. The road ran along the boundary of the Fortescue estate. Over the hill among the trees was a tiny hunting lodge.
She’d passed it many times when she roamed the woods, although she hadn’t been there for years. Her godfather, Eustace, lived for a part of the year in the Fortescue mansion, but it was some distance away and the snow had begun to fall.
It was by far the closest shelter, but trying to get the motionless man onto a horse unaided would be impossible. She sighed. That was not an option.
Horatia looked back at him. He was large, tall, and broad shouldered.
How on earth could she move him? And what would she do with him if she did? She looked up and down the deserted road with the hope that someone–preferably someone with big, strong arms–would appear to help her, and yet, she dreaded to be found in this invidious position. This was a quiet back road; most folk preferred the more direct route, so she couldn’t expect to be rescued soon.
She wondered if she should drag him under a tree and ride for help. As she considered this, the snow grew heavier. It settled over the ground and the prone man and touched her face like icy fingers. She couldn’t leave him out in the open, prey to the elements while she went for help. In bad weather it would take ages to ride to Digswell village. By the time she located the apothecary and brought him here, the man would be near death. Somehow she had to move him off the road and under shelter, although in the dead of winter, there was little to be had.
Horatia bent down, wrapped his limp arm around her shoulders, and caught a whiff of expensive bergamot. She took hold of his firm waist and tried to pull him towards the trees, but he was too heavy. She eased him down again.
Horatia pulled off her coat and shuddered at the cold. She tucked it around him. The snow had begun to fall in earnest, and worse, the prospect of a blizzard loomed. The wind gathered force. It stirred the tops of the trees around them and whipped the snowflakes into chaotic spirals of white.
Panic forced her to act. She took hold of the man’s arms and tried again to drag him. In small spurts she edged him closer to the scant shelter of the nearest tree, an oak whose dead leaves remained, curled and brown. Forced to pause, she took several deep breaths. He was quite a weight. She broke into a sweat despite the absence of her coat and the frigid air.
Horatia was severely winded and gasping by the time she reached the tree. It was a victory of sorts but afforded very little protection. She propped him against the trunk.
His eyelids rose. Startling pale blue eyes stared uncomprehendingly into hers.


Sources: All Things Austen. An Encyclopedia of Austen’s World Volume I by Kirstin Olsen
Georgian House Style by Ingrid Cranfield
How to Read Buildings by Carol Davidson Cragoe