Monday, December 9, 2013

NEW RELEASE! TAMING A GENTLEMAN SPY - The Spies of Mayfair Series, Book Two

Out in e-book! Print released in February.

Reviews: This book hit all the happy places for me: great characters, a touch of intrigue, family, the royals and even a villainous suitor! Gaele.
Will Sibella forget this man who gave her this sweet kiss? Will she choose the man of her life by listening to her heart or her reason? All these questions will be answered when you read this novel. Ms. Andersen's style of writing kept my interest throughout the whole book. I recommend this novel. 
Nicole Laverdure

BLURB: John Haldane, Earl of Strathairn, is on an urgent mission to find the killer of his fellow spy. Has the treasonous Frenchman, Count Forney, returned to England to wreak havoc? Or has someone new landed on English shores to stir up rebellion in the Midlands? After visiting the young widow of one of his agents, Strathairn strengthens his resolve. A spy should never marry. And most certainly not to Lady Sibella Winborne, with her romantic ideas of love and marriage. Unable to give Sibella up entirely, he has kept her close as a friend. And then weak fool that he is he kissed her... Lady Sibella Winborne has refused several offers of marriage since her first Season years ago -- when she first set eyes on the handsome Earl of Strathairn. Sibella's many siblings always rush to her aid to discourage an ardent suitor, but not this time. Her elder brother, Chaloner, Marquess of Brandreth, has approved Lord Coombe's suit. Sibella yearns to set up her own household. She is known to be the sensible member of the family. But she doesn't feel at all sensible about Lord Strathairn. If only she could forget that kiss...


Linden Hall Yorkshire, 1818

            “I trust we’ll bag a few birds on the moor tomorrow, Chaloner.” John Haldane, the 4th Earl of Strathairn, glanced at the guests enjoying the Hunt Ball in his ballroom. Bright chatter rose in the warm smoky air as decorative ladies mingled with the more soberly dressed gentlemen. “My chef plans a grouse dish flavored with juniper berries for our dinner.”

            “Excellent.” The Marquess of Brandreth raised his glass. “We will be out at the crack of dawn, I daresay.” He took Strathairn’s arm and drew him into a quiet corner. “I don’t wish to strain a friendship I value, John, but I must offer a word of advice.”

            “Oh?” Strathairn eyed him warily. He had liked Chaloner better before his father died. The man seemed to lose his sense of humor after inheriting the title.

            “You are often seen in Sibella’s company. Don’t get too fond of her.”

            Strathairn moved his shoulders in a shrug of anger. He glanced over at Sibella in her white muslin, talking earnestly to Mrs. Bickerstaff. “Your sister is intelligent and good company. I enjoy our conversations. Nothing strange about that.”

            “I struggle to believe it is just that. I may not be privy to the details of the work you perform for the military, but rumors do float about the House of Lords. You must admit that due to those circumstances alone, you would not make her a good husband.”

            Chaloner’s determination put him in mind of a robin with a worm. Useless to argue. With a sigh, Strathairn acknowledged that he only strove to protect his sister from possible hurt. “No need for concern,” he said. “I have no wish to marry your sister, or anyone else for that matter. I do intend to ask Lady Sibella to dance, though. Unless you think my waltzing with her will ruin her reputation.”

            Chaloner huffed out a laugh and rubbed the back of his neck. “Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t enjoy having to say this to you, John, but it befalls me as head of the family. Sib has a love of home and hearth. She looks for a husband who will sit by the fire with her at night. That isn’t you, is it?”

            “She deserves the best, and no, it isn’t me, Chaloner.”

After a fruitful day in the fields shooting grouse, Strathairn and his guests made their way over the lawns to the Hall.

            The gamekeeper, beaters and handlers departed for the stables with the hounds while servants came to take the birds to the kitchen.

            On the terrace, Lady Sibella, in a gown the color of lilacs, sat playing cards and drinking tea with the other women in the late afternoon sun.

            Strathairn mounted the steps, carrying his shotgun over his shoulder, intent on returning it to the gunroom. “I trust you ladies enjoyed your day?”

            “We did, my lord.” Lady Sibella’s sister, Viscountess Bathe, smiled. “Or at least those of us who have not lost our pin money at whist.”

            “I see you had a successful day, my lord.” Lady Sibella eyed his gun with a faint shudder.             “I saw your kill on its way to the kitchens.”

            He smiled. “I hope you’ll enjoy our efforts once served in a tasty sauce.”

            “I expect I shall. It’s contrary of me, isn’t it?” Lady Sibella frowned up at him. “But please don’t suggest that all women are so.”

            He eyed the expectant faces of the other ladies and held up his hands with a laugh. “I wouldn’t be so bold.”

            “Perhaps you would like a cup of tea, Lord Strathairn.” Lady Sibella gestured to the teapot a servant was refilling with hot water. “You must be thirsty after your arduous day.”

            She well knew how much he hated tea, for he’d been forced to drink it at a morning call at their house in Eaton Place. She had naughtily offered to pour it into a potted plant when her mother was distracted by another guest.

            Her playful smile was delicious, and he couldn’t help grinning back. Aware of the sharp-eyes on him from around the table, he shook his head. “I’m afraid I must decline for I’m not fit for company. But, thank you.” He bowed and entered the house leaving them to resume their card game.

            Strathairn cleaned his gun and left it on the rack in the gunroom. He’d enjoyed Lady Sibella’s friendship like no other lady of his acquaintance. Her humor seemed so in tune with his and he often found she understood his thoughts before he expressed them. Damn Chaloner, he was such a stickler for convention.

 My book is set in 1819 during a period of great unrest in England. The result of the unpopular Corn Laws brought people together in St. Peter's Field. A riot ensued. Named for Wellington's Waterloo, the Peterloo Massacre shocked England and the government during . Here's more about it:
St Peter's Field
After the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century, Manchester began expanding at an astonishing rate in the 19th Century as part of a process of unplanned urbanization.  In August 1819 on a cloudless, hot summer’s day, a peaceable crowd of some 60,000 to 80,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Field (an open piece of cleared land alongside Mount Street) to hear orator, Henry Hunt speak and to demand reform of parliamentary representation. What happened next was as unnecessary as it was shocking. Cavalry charged into the crowd with sabres drawn, and in the ensuring confusion, 15 people were killed and between 400 and 700 injured.
In March 1819, Joseph Johnson, John Knight and James Wroe formed the Manchester Patriotic Union Society. All the leading radicals in Manchester joined the organisation. Johnson was appointed secretary and Wroe became treasurer.
The local magistrates were concerned that such a substantial gathering of reformers might end in a riot. The magistrates therefore decided to arrange for a large number of soldiers to be in Manchester on the day of the meeting. This included four squadrons of cavalry of the 15th Hussars (600 men), several hundred infantrymen, the Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry (400 men), a detachment of the Royal Horse Artillery and two six-pounder guns and the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry (120 men) and all Manchester's special constables (400 men).

Map of the Peterloo Massacre
At about 11.00 a.m. William Hulton, the chairman, and nine other magistrates met at Mr. Buxton's house in Mount Street that overlooked St. Peter's Field. Although there was no trouble, the magistrates became concerned by the growing size of the crowd. Estimations concerning the size of the crowd vary but Hulton came to the conclusion that there were at least 50,000 people in St. Peter's Field at midday. Hulton, therefore, took the decision to send Edward Clayton, the Boroughreeve and the special constables to clear a path through the crowd. The 400 special constables were therefore ordered to form two continuous lines between the hustings where the speeches were to take place, and Mr. Buxton's house where the magistrates were staying.
           Shortly after the meeting began, local magistrates called on the military to arrest well-known radical orator, Henry Hunt who was asked to chair the meeting, and several others on the hustings with him, and to disperse the crowd. Arrested along with Hunt for inciting a riot and imprisoned was Samuel Bamford, who led a group from his native Middleton to St. Peter’s Field.
Bamford emerged as a prominent voice for radical reform.
Hunt became MP for Preston 1830-33.
To understand what happened in Manchester one must look at the period of economic upheaval between 1783 to 1846, when Britain shifted from being a predominantly agricultural and commercial society to being the world’s first industrial nation. Many of the most contentious political issues of the day, corn and currency laws for example, were really questions of whether government policy should be directed towards encouraging this shift, or trying to reverse it.
Original blue plaque replaced in 2007

 Accompanying the economic changes was the most sustained and dangerous cycle of revolutionary discontent and working-class protest in British history. This prompted a few political concessions on the part of the governing aristocracy, but more significant was the emergence of governmental machinery designed to maintain law and order, which in turn led unintentionally to the foundation of the modern centralized and bureaucratic state.
The power of the Crown declined significantly. Although George III (until he became incurably mad in 1810) George IV, William IV, Victoria, and her consort Albert, could all influence the course of political intrigue, the monarch’s power to control the policies of the state was severely reduced.
As the scope and scale of government business increased during the long French wars, less and less passed through the monarch’s hands. Except possibly where foreign policy was concerned, the Crown was being reduced to little more than a figurehead of state. Effective power remained in the hands of a territorial aristocracy, whose representatives still dominated both Houses of Parliament. They faced an active and vociferous radical movement, particularly strong in 1792 and in the economically depressed years after the end of the war in 1815, when a period of famine and chronic unemployment came into being, exacerbated by the introduction of the first of the Corn Laws.
Postwar adjustment brought depression, with agrarian disturbances, machine-breaking and revival of popular reform agitation. Two meets at Spa Fields 1816 and an attack on the Prince Regent led to suspension of Habeas Corpus and restrictions on public meetings.
 Historian, Robert Poole has called the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester one of the defining moments of its age. It left an enormous psychological scar on a polity which prided itself on its ability to contain discontents. Yet the aristocracy survived, largely because the middling ranks, terrified by the violence of the French Revolution, rejected any sort of revolutionary radicalism.
The Peterloo Massacre called on the Government in 1819 to pass what is known as the Six Acts which forbade training in arms and drilling, authorized seizure of arms, simplified prosecutions, forbade seditious assemblies, punished blasphemous libels and restricted the press.
Resource: The Cambridge Historical Encyclopedia of Great Britain and Ireland.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Medieval Christmas Gifts, then and now

During the Middle Ages, Christmas was seen as a sacred time, the time for the three Christ-Masses. Charitable giving to the poor was encouraged on Saint Stephen's day, December 26, which we know as Boxing Day.  On Boxing Day in the middle ages, the poor received money in hollow clay pots with a slit in the top, nicknamed 'piggies'. Unlike modern piggy banks, these clay pots had to be broken to extract the cash.

A page from the Bedford Hours.
What about gift-giving among other classes?

Sacred gifts - of prayer books and so on - were seen as being appropriate for the holy Christmas period. Anne of Burgundy presented the Bedford Hours to Henry VI, her eight-year-old nephew, in 1430. The book is now at the British Library.

Gifts were sometimes given at the New Year. New Year's day, known at the time as the ├ętrenne, a word derived from the Latin strena,  (used to mean both the gifts and the ritual exchange) was the traditional time to do so. Gifts might be food -Christmas was a time of feasting and, for example, it was considered bad luck to refuse a Christmas mince pie given by a host. A Christmas kiss of peace might be given under the green kissing bough of holly and other green-stuff and mistletoe, the plant of peace. Sometimes the 'gift' might be a joke, such as the 'book' given by the illuminators of Les Tres Riches Heures to the Duke de Berry, which turned out to be a block of wood. 

At times the gifts were part of very formal processions and ceremonies. At the courts of Henry Tudor and Richard II the king rose on the day of the New Year and seated himself in his chamber ready to give and receive presents, given and received in strict order or rank. Sometimes the heralds and messengers bringing such gifts could also find themselves rewarded, as happened in the court of Richard II when the carver of the King was given a gold cup by the French King Charles. Kings and Queens could exchange gifts, often of rich jewels, as a public show of respect and affection. Rulers were expected to be generous but at the same time the size and value of gifts were ranged in order of class - kings and queens, their families, nobles, servants, right down to laundresses and cleaning-women. In some years, certain symbols might be used in gifts. In 1422 at the court of Charles VI, small jewels shaped like peacocks were given out to courtiers -  the peacock being one of Charles's badges. 

In medieval England, such gift-giving also went on. People gave New Year’s gifts to those above and below them in the social hierarchy. For example, peasants who worked on landed estates brought gifts of farm produce to the local lord during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Custom dictated that the lord respond by inviting them to a Christmas feast. Personal gifts between people of equal status might have taken place but there are few records of such. In the records and for many kings and nobles, gift-giving meant ostentation and display.

Christmas and gift-giving features in several of my books:

'The Snow Bride' is a Winter Solstice and Christmas story, less than £2 or $3 on Amazon. You can read the first three chapters here.

A lighter-hearted read, still concerned with Christmas and gift-giving, is my medieval fantasy, 'A Christmas Sleeping Beauty.' This is half-price at Muse it Up.

'Twelve Kisses' touches on a young newly-married couple in early Tudor times and their first Christmas together. This is also half-price at Muse it Up.

All this didn't start in the Middle Ages, naturally. The Roman mid-winter festival, Saturnalia, had its own range of festivities which feature in my Flavia's Secret.

Lindsay Townsend