Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Duke's Mysterious Lady by Maggi Andersen

I've finally decided to tackle publishing my backlist. The first is a Regency novel, THE DUKE'S MYSTERIOUS LADY. 
(A reissue of Rules of Conduct)


Viola, so named by her benefactor, Hugh, Duke of Vale, has lost her memory, along with her respectability, after being found unconscious near his estate dressed in a male servant’s clothes. She is a mystery unto herself, with her knowledge of books and Latin, and her skill at the pianoforte.
Thanks to the duke’s kindness, Viola has found a temporary home with his nanny in a cottage on his estate, while danger lurks in the shadows and darkens her dreams. She must leave beautiful Vale Park before Hugh marries Lady Felicity Beresford, the neighbor’s daughter; their marriage arranged when they were children. And before Viola and Hugh succumb to an impossible passion.

As the announcement of Hugh’s engagement draws near, he tries to accept the inevitable, he must marry a woman he doesn’t love. He is intrigued by Viola. Who is she and what has driven her to such an act? As the Bow Street Runners work to find the answers, Hugh grows more deeply and dangerous drawn to the mysterious lady. 

 Review of the original book:

"This is one of those stories that you just can't help but like...The characters were memorable and the plot solid. I totally enjoyed every page and found the ending well worth the journey. It was one that I can see re-reading many times before /if I get tired of it.
 Ms Andersen has done a great job in creating a wonderful tale that kept me interested and involved. I look forward to reading more from this author." Seriously Reviewed.

Viola opened her eyes and wriggled her toes, luxuriating in the comfort and warmth of the feather bed. Dawn light filtered through the lace curtain of the attic window. For a brief moment, she felt cocooned, safe from the world, but then the worry of her lost memory niggled at her. It was as if a veil had been draped over her mind, hiding the past from view, and she was helpless to do anything but wait for it to lift. She tensed, was something portentous hiding beneath the veil? When it did lift what would she discover?
            She couldn’t bear lying there worrying about it. The cock crowed in the home farm. It was still very early. The faint voices of the farm hands reached her, herding the cows in for milking.
            Curious to see more of her temporary home, she climbed from the bed and poured icy water into a bowl from the pitcher on the table. She splashed her face and shuddered. Wide-awake now, she quickly dressed. Opening her door, she hesitated. Was it wise to walk about the grounds alone? She pushed commonsense aside, eager to see more of Vale Park. Ignoring the inadequacy of her house slippers and the thin gown, she wrapped the shawl Nanny had given her around her shoulders, crept down the stairs, and out into the brisk air.
            She followed a meandering path that led around the cottage down through a meadow of bright yellow buttercups, to a river. The wide stretch of water flowed swiftly away through the meadows, its far side rimmed by forest.
            Flocks of birds swooped overhead. The peace and beauty of her surroundings revived her and she bent to pick a wild rose. The pink flower had a delicate perfume, a surprise in such a hardy, prickly plant. She stood, pressing its petals to her nose, the scent a wistful hint from her past that unsettled her. Somewhere, she had seen these flowers before. Her attempts to remember brought such anguish, she almost cried out.
            She swung round at the sound of hoof beats, as a horse galloped around a copse of trees. The rider pulled on the reins and cursed as the horse reared. Viola stepped back off the path and lost her footing, falling hard onto her bottom in a patch of dewy grass. Two hounds bolted out of the bushes. One was upon her in an instant, nuzzling and licking her face.
            “Oh, don’t,” she cried with a laugh, attempting to push it away.
            “Down, Henry!” His Grace growled from atop the tall bay, and the dog returned to his master’s side.
            “What the devil are you doing out so early?” The duke leapt down. “Are you hurt?”
            “Only my dignity, I’m afraid.”
            He grasped her arm and pulled her to her feet as if she weighed no more than the fluffy head of a dandelion. His hands lingered on her back as if to steady her, but it seemed to have the reverse affect and she almost stumbled. Aware her face was probably as pink as the rose Viola held, she threw the flower away and tried to brush down her skirt.
             The duke’s gaze took in her sodden slippers and shabby dress with the damp patch where she’d fallen onto the ground. He brought with him the bitter truth of her predicament, leaving her feeling grubby and foolish, her brief delight in the morning ruined.
            “I apologize for startling you. I never meet a soul on this path. What are you doing wandering around so early?”
            “I thought it lovely, with the sleeping world awaking to a new day.” How lame her words sounded.
            “Have you remembered anything?”
            “No, nothing.” No doubt, he thought her foolish; perhaps he hoped this madwoman would disappear back to where she came from. Viola wrapped the shawl around herself more closely.
            “Come, I’ll walk back with you.” He led his horse along the lane and in a short while, the cottage appeared through the trees. “I assume you’re feeling better?”
            “Yes, thank you. Nanny’s been wonderful. She is well versed in herbs. Nanny gave me something that made me sleep like a baby!”
             “Ah, yes. I well remember her potions. I’ll never forget some of the foul brews I was made to swallow as a child.”
            He looked down at her with a devastating grin. “I’m sorry you had to endure them.”
            Viola couldn’t help responding to that grin. “You don’t look at all sorry, Your Grace.”
            The duke laughed. “I’m sure they are beneficial.” He turned back to the path. “We must make you well quickly, Miss Viola. There may be a family which is worried about you.”
            His words tumbled her back into reality. She trembled with frustration. If only she could remember. How long would it be before she outlived her welcome?
            They arrived at the cottage gate.
            “I’ll leave you to Nanny.” Mounting his horse, he raised his hat. “Do take care of yourself. You don’t want to be laid up too long with Nanny in attendance.”
            Viola certainly did not. He rode off with his dogs running behind him, and she turned to walk along the garden path where roses, delphiniums, and hollyhocks waved tall heads above the rhubarb and the cabbages. Her feet were so cold that she could hardly feel her toes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kitty McKenzie's Land re-release

After a bit of a delay, I've managed to get the sequel to my novel, Kitty McKenzie, re-released.
Titled, Kitty McKenzie's Land, the story continues of Kitty's new life in Australia after leaving England to follow the man she loves. But not all goes to plan.

This story was previously published in 2006, so it's been a while since it's original 15 minutes of fame. I'm hoping this time around, the story reaches new audiences and readers enjoy the two books about Kitty and her extraordinary life.


Kitty McKenzie's path has taken her from the slums of York to the inhospitable bush of colonial Australia. Yet, when she believes her dreams will never be attained, she is shown that sometimes life can be even better than what you wish for.

Kitty McKenzie is gifted land in the far north of New South Wales. Life at the northern property is full of hardships as she learns how to become a successful landowner.

However, Kitty’s strength of will and belief in herself gives her the courage most women of her time never realize they have. A decided thorn in her side is the arrogant and patronizing Miles Grayson, owner of the adjourning run. He wants her gone so he can have her land, but he wants her even more.

Available 0.99c as an ebook in several formats.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

‘Perdita’ - Fashion icon.

Mary Robinson - portrait by Hoppner

Mary Robinson would never have been seen out and about looking anything but at her most elegant, although her style, at least in her early years, was less flamboyant than most. On her first visit to Ranelagh she wore a simple Quaker gown which ensured that she was noticed. It was of light brown lustring with close round cuffs. She left her auburn curls unpowdered, upon which she pinned a plain round cap and white chip hat, without any ornament.

Later, when she became famous as mistress to the Prince of Wales, she set tongues wagging by entertaining lavishly, and sending female hearts beating with envy. Every new gown she wore, the very latest Paris had to offer, was imitated and emulated to the smallest degree. And ever the actress, she loved to drive about Hyde Park in her new blue and silver phaeton, drawn by milk white ponies, playing to the crowds. Sometimes she would be very simply attired wearing a straw hat tied at the back of her head in the style of a paysanne, at others painted, powdered, patched and rouged to perfection as any fashionable leader of the ton should be.

Charles James Fox and Mary

A courtesan, demi-rep, or member of the Cyprian corps, as they were sometimes known, was expected to dress at the height of fashion, own at least two carriages, and live in the most fashionable part of town. In the eighteenth century they were rather looked upon as celebrities. But this hedonistic lifestyle required high finance, supplied by a man of considerable wealth in return for her exclusive attention.

Unfortunately, Mary Robinson never did succeed in finding a man rich enough to afford her, and as a consequence of her love of spending she quickly fell into debt. Not that her concerns over lack of money ever taught her prudence. She considered her high living standards as necessary for her status. The £5,000 that she managed to squeeze out of the young Prince George after their brief affair ended, helped a little. She believed this allowance to be well deserved as she had given up her career on the stage for him. And of course credit was easily available in anticipation of more from the Prince once he came of age.

Money sometimes came her way if her husband had a win at cards at Brooks’s. And famous artists such as Hoppner, Sir Joshua Reynolds and George Romney would paint portraits of her without charging a fee as they could sell print copies to the masses because of her beauty and status as a fashion icon.

Banistre Tarleton - portrait by Reynolds

A new love came into her life and Mary and Tarleton were very much the celebrity couple. Banistre Tarleton, a hero of the American War of Independence, with his famously cropped hair, looked exceedingly handsome in his hussar uniform of blue jacket, waistcoat and leather boots that fitted as tight as silk stockings. Mary was proclaimed as a fashion icon by Lady’s Magazine, who even named a hat after her. ‘The Perdita’, as it became known, was a chip hat with a bow tied under the chin and pink ribbons puffed around the crown. It proved to be immensely popular.

On her return from France in January 1782, Mary wore one of her Paris gowns of white satin with purple breast-bows for the opera. Her head-dress was a cap composed of white and purple feathers entwined with flowers and festooned with diamond pins. According to the Herald she looked supremely beautiful, so lovely that the audience lingered to watch as she stayed to select a box to rent following the performance. Later, her decoration of the box caused a flurry of gossip in the newssheets as she upholstered the chairs in pink satin, and lined the walls with mirrors.

Mary Robinson- portrait by Romney

Mary became famous for her gold clocked stockings and a cataract muff. This was also French with long-hairs that hung down like a waterfall. And then there were her gold-clocked stockings for which she was dubbed ‘Lark-heeled Perdita’. She caused a sensation by wearing the Chemise de la Reine to the opera. This was a simple muslin gown adapted from that worn by Marie-Antoinette. It had three-quarter length puffed sleeves and frills around the neck. Falling simply and gracefully it clung deliciously to the figure without hindrance of hoops or pads. It soon became all the rage among aristocratic ladies, not just with the Cyprian Corps, including Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. It did, however, result in some criticism from the press, as it made it much more difficult to judge a lady’s status by her appearance.

Despite the fact that Mary considered herself to be intellectually superior to most courtesans, and infinitely more sensitive, she was considered to be very much the leader of the Cyprian corps. But no one, not courtesan nor aristocrat could rival her beauty or style. Her life might have been considered utterly scandalous, but in her prime she remained very much the centre of attention.

The story of Mary Robinson, also known as Perdita

Available from Amazon

Or on special offer from Sainsburys 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Could the daughter of Downton Abbey cope?

Imagine the daughters of Downton Abbey losing their home, their parents, their wealth, their status, their friends.
This is what happens to the characters in my historical novel, Kitty McKenzie.
Kitty has lost everything, and as the eldest daughter, she has to now provide and care for her younger siblings, a task she has no experience or knowledge of how to do. From a life of privilege she is faced with all kinds of adversities to overcome.
How will she manage to cope with these new challenges when the only decisions she used to make was what dress she needed to wear and what book to read after dinner?
How was she to create a home for them all, and an income?
She never realised that buried deep inside her was an inner strength that would come to the fore and allow her to manage, even prosper, in an alien world of the working class.

Could Mary or Edith from Downton Abbey have coped so well? I'd like to think they would.