Category Archives: Guest Posts

Carlton House | Georgians | Catherine Curzon | Philippa Jane Keyworth

Carlton House: A Lost Palace by Catherine Curzon

George IV is a man whose name is synonymous with profligacy, debt and debauchery. He is the king who did nothing by halves whether it was eating, gambling or wenching and nobody, but nobody, could spend money like George. He wasn’t all about the pleasures of the flesh though, and had a passion for art and architecture. When he got his hands on the keys to a residence that was, to put it politely, in need of renovation, it wasn’t long before the most illustrious architects in London were called in.


Renovating Carlton House

George’s first major renovation project was Carlton House, a residence given to him in 1783 when the then Prince of Wales came of age. With the rambling house came a stipend of around £60,000, which the prince was supposed to use to renovate the shabby building. It was a spectacularly ill-judged scheme, as his father, King George III, was soon to discover. After all, what harm could possibly come from giving a young man who loved to spend money and have the finest of everything a home that was not in the best of repair? It’s hardly as if he would immediately commission an eye-wateringly expensive programme of repairs, renovations and improvements, is it?

Of course it is.

The prince snatched at the cash with both hands, moving into Carlton House with indecent haste. Here he started spending as though money was no object, commissioning the famed Henry Holland to make extensive and ruinously expensive renovations. It was with some horror that the king learned that the prince, with his £50,000 annual allowance, was spending more than £30,000 of it on stables alone.

The Carlton House Set

Surrounded by his friends and hangers-on, the influential Carlton House set, George’s residence became the most fashionable in London. The repair costs spiralled out of control, with George approaching his father and parliament for ever more money to satisfy his debts and ensure that the house might one day be finished. No expense was spared to ensure that Carlton House had the very best of everything and by the time it was completed, the house had become notorious, representing extravagance of the most extreme sort.

Newspapers devoted whole articles to the interior of the magnificent royal residence, taking readers on a room-by-room tour and describing the stunningly rich drapery, the enormity of the chambers and the magnificent decor. It was a world that few could ever dream of being part of but one who was was Lady Lyttelton, and she wrote:

“Carlton House is very beautiful, very magnificent, and we were well amused looking at it yesterday. I don’t know whether you are worthy of the beauties of old china vases, gold fringes, damask draperies, cut-glass lustres, and all the other fine things we saw there. I can only tell you the lustre in one of the rooms, of glass and ormolu [sic], looking like a shower of diamonds, cost between two and three thousand pounds. I write the number at full length, that you mayn’t fancy I have put a cypher too many. However, it is such a peculiarly English manufactory that our heir-apparent is right in encouraging it.”[1]

George loved Carlton House and learned no lessons from it, going on to repeat the same financial mistakes when he began work on the Marine Pavilion at Brighton. The house remained in his ownership as he became first Prince Regent yet by the time he was crowned King George IV, his attention had wandered to Buckingham Palace.

The End of Carlton House

The house that had once been his pride and joy was demolished. For all the expense of its renovations and rebuilding, Carlton House had lost its romance for George and he shed no tears for its loss. For those of us who study the era, painting and written description are all that remain, a tantalising glimpse of this temple to one man’s monumental ego.

By Catherine Curzon

About the Author

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian and blogs on all matters 18th century at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.

Life in the Georgian Court | Catherine Curzon | Philippa Jane KeyworthHer work has been featured by publications including BBC History Extra, All About History, History of Royals, Explore History and Jane Austen’s Regency World. She has also provided additional material for the sell-out theatrical show, An Evening with Jane Austen which she will be introducing at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, in September (tickets are available here).

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

Her book, Life in the Georgian Court, is available now from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Book Depository and all good bookshops!

Life in the Georgian Court is a privileged peek into the glamorous, tragic and iconic courts of the Georgian world, where even a king could take nothing for granted.’


Anonymous. George III: His Court and Family, Vol I. London: Henry Colburn and Co, 1821.

Baker, Kenneth. George IV: A Life in Caricature. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.

Black, Jeremy. The Hanoverians: The History of a Dynasty. London: Hambledon and London, 2007.

David, Saul. Prince of Pleasure. New York: Grove Press, 2000.

Hadlow, Janice. The Strangest Family: The Private Lives of George III, Queen Charlotte and the Hanoverians. London: William Collins, 2014.

Hetherington Fitzgerald, Percy. The Life of George the Fourth. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1881.

Huish, Robert. Memoirs of George the Fourth: Vol I. London: Thomas Kelly, 1830.

Irvine, Valerie. The Kings Wife: George IV and Mrs Fitzherbert. London: Hambledon, 2007.

Lloyd, Hannibal Evans. George IV: Memoirs of His Life and Reign, Interspersed with Numerous Personal Anecdotes. London: Treuttel and Würtz, 1830.

Smith, EA. George IV. Bury St Edmunds: St Edmundsbury Press, 1999.

Spencer, Sarah. Correspondence of Sarah Spencer Lady Lyttelton 1787-1870. London: John Murray, 1912.


[1] Spencer, Sarah (1912). Correspondence of Sarah Spencer Lady Lyttelton 1787-1870. London: John Murray, p.104.


A hard road… Prue Batten guest posts

The wonderful Prue Batten has agreed to guest on my blog. Here she talks about researching the 12th century (a period I am not familiar with…haha), and the beauty of online research resources! Enjoy:

The twelfth century

One of the best but potentially the most frustrating things about writing historical fiction is research. In my case, within the twelfth century, I am continually learning but I also have to make extensive executive decisions along the way. Academics disagree – it’s the fundamental core of academia, I suppose, that no academic will spontaneously support another’s view on a historical fact.

Medieval bathing

Prue Batten Historical Fiction Author | 12th Century Research | Philippa Jane Keyworth Blog

Medieval bathing

Take for example bathing in the Middle Ages. On the one hand, no – they were dirty folk with no plumbing, and filth was endemic. But then on the perverse other hand, yes – they did bathe. Often. It may perhaps have been in the river, lakes or in the sea (unless they lived in the few castles or priories that had an early form of plumbing), but they did wash and valued cleanliness because of the disease rife in the times. I like that particular view and so follow that line.

Medieval velvet?

Or perhaps take velvet. Sharon Penman was forced to apologise for using velvet in one of her books. She says,

In Here Be Dragons, I draped Joanna and other female characters in rich velvet gowns. I later found out that velvet was not known in the 12th century.’

I consider the fact that she felt obliged to apologise unfair, because she is one of our most learned fiction writers.

Non-‘academic’ research shows that velvet did indeed exist ‘…as early as 2000 BC in Egypt, where samples of exquisitely fine linen and silk fabrics have been unearthed. An inventory list from 809 AD, of treasures belonging to Caliph Haroun al-Rashid, includes five hundred bolts of velvet…Velvet production became firmly established as an industry in the Middle East and eastern Europe by about the tenth century…Moorish Spain was a second major centre of velvet production; it had been manufactured there since 948, and various velvet-weavers’ guilds and organisations served to ensure the industry’s prosperity…’ ( – The History of Velvet.)

In my historical fiction books, my twelfth century trading house is based in Venice and its sources of cloth are along the Mediterranean (the Middle Sea) shores and further into Constantinople. Given that trade was not only alive but expanding rapidly, it is surely not a big step to assume that velvet was traded by Moors throughout the Middle Sea, perhaps from Al-Andalus. Basic common sense would indicate that it was entirely possible and indeed probable.

Tobias & The Triptych Chronicle

Prue Batten Historical Fiction Tobias | 12th Century Research | Philippa Jane Keyworth Blog

‘An atmospheric journey through the seedy underbelly of medieval Europe.’ SJA Turney, author of the bestselling Marius’s Mules

When I began writing Tobias, the first book in The Triptych Chronicle, I had planned for him to travel to Byzantium, to the great city of Constantinople. However there were enormous issues in establishing a setting with complete veracity. For one thing, much of the architecture of the twelfth century and earlier was destroyed in the Fourth Crusade and the later Ottoman Invasion.

So what to do?

I spoke with a friend who by chance had discovered a stellar online resource. The link became my lifeline, the images something akin to a favoured GPS. That link was

Walking around Byzantium

In an instant, I was transported. The 3-D modelling is exceptional, and daily I would wander with Tobias, arm in arm, as we discovered scenes for the drama that would eventually unfold. It wasn’t hard then, to overlay my own sensory perception of crowded streets, cobbles, of watery smells and stone waterfronts slippery with seaweed upon the images I was seeing. Slowly, Constantinople in 1194 AD came alive.

Prue Batten Historical Fiction Author | 12th Century Research | Philippa Jane Keyworth Blog

Hagia Sophia

In one part of the novel, Tobias must climb the Valens Aqueduct and run along the top of it, at night and in the rain. This was something I hadn’t foreseen in the novel. It was one of those lightning moments when the story rushes along without you. I wondered what the top of that aqueduct was like and being in the far-flung southern hemisphere, couldn’t immediately hop on a plane to visit. But I had images of various aqueducts, along with an image of the extant aqueduct and I was able to put them all together and create what it may have been like in the twelfth century.

Prue Batten Historical Fiction Author | 12th Century Research | Philippa Jane Keyworth Blog

The Aqueduct of Valens

In addition, I have a very good friend who lives in Istanbul and armed with a list of various sites of twelfth century Constantinople, she would find the unfindable and in so doing, sent me videos and sensory comment, so that I could be as truthful to the geography as possible.

Most of it was indeed unfindable – one location being the Patriarch’s Palace, which was described as being loosely ‘south west of the Augusteon’. This was one of those moments when a writer of historical fiction has to take a leap of faith and draw a conclusion that may at some point in the future, be shot down by a dissenting academic.

But the point is, to date it has worked for any reader reading Tobias, and it definitely worked for me at the time (and probably for Tobias too).

I can only say how grateful I am to those at for the licence they have given me to imagine. And I hope by the existence of the wonderful images, they are allowing readers to imagine as well.

By Prue Batten

Prue Batten Historical Fiction Author | 12th Century Research | Philippa Jane Keyworth Blog

Prue Batten, author of historical fiction including Tobias of The Triptych Chronicles, The Gisborne Saga & the fantasy series The Chronicles of Eirie

A former journalist from Australia who graduated with majors in history and politics, Prue is now an award-winning cross genre writer who enjoys creating fiction from history and fantasy.

Her eighth novel, Tobias, has been short-listed as a semi-finalist in the 2016 M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction.

She is also a farmer, dog owner, gardener, embroiderer, swimmer and kayaker.

Direct links to purchase Prue’s books are on her website. See below:

Ladies Ride Aside – A history of riding side saddle – Helen Hollick guest post

Jumping Riding Aside or Side Saddle | Helen Rollick | Philippa Jane KeyworthThe lovely Helen Hollick agreed to guest-post on my blog and I was thrilled to open her post and find out it was a history of women (and apparently men too!) riding aside! As a horse lover this is a fascinating post and as a history lover it just ticks all the boxes – enjoy:

We’ve all seen ladies riding side-saddle in various movies and TV dramas (Downton Abbey as an example.) The correct term is Riding Aside. My daughter rides, competes and jumps aside. (Yes, that is what I said: jumps.) Contrary to belief riding side-saddle, at least with a modern (post Victorian) saddle, is safer than riding astride!

Tudor & Elizabethan side-saddle

The ‘saddle of queens’ by Tudor times was considered the proper way for a lady to ride. Early side-saddles were – literally – side saddles, a bit like a chair with a footplate. They were padded, highly decorated, and built upon a man’s astride saddle. Presumably, the lady rider was led, either by a man on foot or from a rider on another horse for it would have been uncomfortable (and difficult) to control a horse at anything faster than a walk while swivelled at the waist to face forward enough to steer. In Greek and Roman art women ride aside, probably also sitting on a chair-like structure.

The sideways-facing ‘chair’ was turned to face forward in Tudor times. Queen Elizabeth I rode this way, her back supported by the ‘chair’ shape, with her right leg hooked round a front horn, or ‘ pommel’.

It is unknown when the more modern upright horns came into use. The second horn, an appendage that comes from the right side of the saddle, is commonly attributed to Catherine de Medici (1519-1589). This gave women a more secure seat, enabled independent control and a faster gait.

Victorian side-saddle

Original c.1880s Victorian Riding Habit in Blue Velvet | Helen Hollick | Philippa Jane Keyworth

Original c.1880s Victorian travel habit in blue velvet with leg ‘o mutton sleeves!

The late Victorian era is typically how we think of side-saddle riding. Early in the 1800s the ‘leaping horn’ or ‘head’ was introduced, and the balance strap (another girth) was created. This is attached to the right rear of the saddle, passes under the horse’s belly, and fastens to the left front. It stabilises the saddle and offsets the extra weight from both legs being on the left side of the horse.

The hunting field was a great place to meet a future husband; unmarried Victorian ladies wore a navy habit with a bowler hat; while married ladies wore a black habit with silk (top) hat, or a black habit and black bowler for less significant meets. As a widow, Queen Victoria wore black and ladies of the day emulated her. Prior to Prince Albert’s death, ladies dressed more colourfully.

A side-saddle horse was trained to walk and do a steady canter as it was thought unseemly for a lady to be ‘bouncing about’ at the trot, (especially a particular part of her anatomy!) Victorian riders were quite often sewn into their habits in order to show off their figure to best advantage, with the jackets cut to resemble a bustle – bustles, and corsets were not designed for riding!

Riding aside with modesty!

A big problem would be what to wear for modesty underneath a habit. Bloomers were not in use, so possibly women donned men’s breeches beneath their skirts, just in case a fast pace or the wind inadvertently revealed all.

Men riding aside

Men also rode aside: soldiers who lost lower limbs in World War I, and in World War II, aside riders laid field telephone cables from a cable-drum on the back of a galloping horse. Male grooms would also have ridden side-saddle, primarily to school a lady’s horse or to ensure it was exercised before she mounted.

Riding along Rotten Row

Rotten Row, in London’s Hyde Park was the place to ride for the Victorian lady. It was the Facebook of the age – want to meet your friends? Find a husband? Get yourself a horse and ride (elegantly aside) in the Row.

And if you were a horse-dealer with a horse to sell (that possibly wasn’t all it was cracked up to be) an evening in the Row could guarantee a sale. All you had to do was find a lady of ‘ill-repute’, put her in a fancy frock with a low neckline, and mount her aside on the horse. The men would be so busy ogling her they would buy the horse.

A strategy still used today by the motorcar trade!

By Helen Hollick

Helen Rollick Author | Historical Fiction Author | Philippa Jane Keyworth's BlogHelen Hollick lives on a thirteen-acre farm in Devon. Born in London, Helen wrote pony stories as a teenager, moved to science-fiction and fantasy, and then discovered historical fiction. Published for over twenty years with her Arthurian Trilogy, and the 1066 era, she became a ‘USA Today’ bestseller with her novel about Queen Emma The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) She also writes the Sea Witch Voyages, pirate-based adventures with a touch of fantasy.

As a supporter of Indie Authors she is Managing Editor for the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, and inaugurated the HNS Indie Award.

Helen’s social:



Twitter: @HelenHollick

Sea Witch FB page: 


[All images under copyright to Helen Hollick]

Marie Antoinette: Queen of French Fashion

I am delighted to welcome Ginger Myrick onto my blog for a guest post and excerpt from her latest historical fiction novel exploring the life of the enigmatic Maria Antoinette – enjoy:


Marie Antoinette was perhaps most iconically known for her sense of style. Although many of the ideas of French fashion we associate with her—the elaborate gowns, towering wigs, and fanciful headpieces—were already in place at Versailles by the time she arrived on the scene, she did take some of the concepts to new heights and bent the rules to make her own way. But she wasn’t always as chic as we have come to regard her.

When fourteen-year-old Archduchess Maria Antonia first crossed the River Rhine and arrived at the border of France, she was dressed in the Austrian fashion. The fabrics and cut of her gown were luxurious and very expensive, but Austrians had the reputation for being much more staid and businesslike than their French counterparts. Although the young archduchess was the offspring of the Holy Roman Empress and considered a Daughter of the Caesars—the most high-born of European royalty—she was still looked upon as provincial by the sophisticated French. The first thing they did, before even allowing her to cross into their land, was to strip her of all things Austrian—undergarments, jewelry, hairpins, etc.—and dress her à la française. This meant that nothing from her homeland was to cross into France with her, even her little pug Mops. All of her former belongings were left on the Austrian side of the border, and Maria Antonia, clothed, made-up, and with her hair dressed according to the customs of Versailles, emerged on the French side of the line of demarcation as Dauphine Marie Antoinette. Although this process was meant as more symbolism than fashion statement, she now looked the part of first lady of the most stylish court in Europe.

Anyone who has dealt with a finicky daughter knows what it’s like to go through several changes of clothing in one day. For the new Dauphine, though, it was not persnicketiness but a necessary evil of her position. There was a huge difference between the stylish new gowns she desired to wear and being dressed appropriately for her state duties. When Marie Antoinette woke in the mornings, she went through the steps of her lever–the everyday toilette routine of her rising–during which she was dressed somewhat informally for the pre-noon activities she could not accomplish in her dressing gown. At noon, she went through the process of Chambre–her formal toilette–during which she applied her make up and donned her official court gown in front of whomever had been admitted to Versailles for the day.

These court dresses were very different than the regular gowns in fashion at the time. They were made with heavy traditional fabrics—brocades, satins, and laces—and trimmed with excessively ornate accessories—tulle, bows, tassels, and trains. You name it, it was thrown on there. The panniers required to hold these confections out to their best advantage were nearly twice the size of the ones worn under everyday dresses. There are accounts of women having to enter rooms sideways to accommodate their gowns. The necklines were low-cut and revealing, and the tightly fitted bodices—which lent even more contrast to the bell-shaped skirts—required a corset to be worn underneath.

This seemed to be one of the things that Marie Antoinette objected to the most. There are letters still in existence today in which her mother chastised her over and over again for refusing to wear her corset. When Marie Antoinette became Queen of France, along with her subservience to her elders, her corset was one of the things she cast aside in the name of her newfound independence.

This was also when her relationship with Rose Bertin began in earnest. As Dauphine, Marie Antoinette frequented the dressmaker’s fashionable boutique and occasionally sent for her to come to Versailles. Now they began a more regular association. The couteurière packed up her tools of the trade twice a week and trundled them to the new Queen’s apartments to plan their creations for whatever the upcoming schedule of events had in store. Marie Antoinette also designed many of her own fabrics, usually a light background embroidered with light and airy floral patterns. This custom needlework found its way into Rose Bertin’s designs and many accessories of the Queen’s personal habitations. There were chairs, draperies, even silk wall panels and tables made to her specifications.

Working with the Queen’s hairdresser, Léonard, Mademoiselle Bertin also designed custom poufs—the inner pads and cushions—that supported the towering hairstyles of the time, some of which measured over three feet tall. Although wigs had been a required part of the costume of Versailles since its inception they literally reached new heights during the reign of Louis XVI and were cunningly sculpted to celebrate current events, one of the most famous commemorating the King’s inoculation against smallpox.

Shortly after Louis XVI’s coronation, he gifted his Queen with le Petit Trianon, which became her personal escape from the rigors of her position. Along with discarding the strictures of etiquette, she also put away the detestable corset and opted for simpler gowns that did not require one. Of course there were still state occasions when she had to revert to the overdone court dresses, but left to her own devices, she resorted to the comfort and easiness of poplin, muslin, tulle, or cotton lawn topped with a straw hat to complete the look. She even had a portrait painted dressed in this same simple manner. It sparked an unforeseen controversy, drawing nasty remarks ranging from outrage from courtiers at the Queen being depicted in her nightgown and diminishing the standing of the royals, to the common folk clamoring against her ‘playing at’ being a peasant. Although innocently done, many such unwitting blunders contributed to the disparaging of her character and the vilification of her public image, in part, leading to the downfall of the monarchy and the rise of the French Revolution.

* * *


As the Austrian party looked on, the teenager was summarily stripped and every last vestige of her homeland discarded. Even her little dog Mops was removed from her possession, and she cried out in surprise in her upset. Finally she stood there, naked and trembling without even her shift to shield her. She brought her hands up to cover the most feminine parts of her anatomy as a sour-faced woman, in charge of her transformation from Austrian to French form of dress, began an impersonal and meticulous inch by inch inspection of her flesh.

Antoine tried to keep her disdain from showing. Was this painstaking process really necessary with so many people in attendance? Surely this part of the ceremony could have been accomplished more quickly and privately. The thought occurred to her that she had probably not been so closely examined in the moments following her birth. It was said that her mother had only paused her paperwork long enough to push Antoine into the world then resumed her signing of documents immediately after. The picture was a silly one and produced a reflexive giggle from the fourteen-year-old, already discomfited over standing so exposed before a roomful of onlookers.

The woman interrupted her prodding to shoot the Austrian girl a reproving glare, mistaking Antoine’s amusement for contempt. She cleared her throat audibly and went on to explain in a haughty tone.

“These strict traditions have their origins in times long past. I assure you that they are completely necessary. They allow us to determine that you are exactly the pure and wholesome bride we are expecting and welcome you to France with great ceremony, leaving your former life behind. Essentially, you are entering on one side as Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria, and you shall exit on French soil as Marie Antoinette, Dauphine and future Queen of France. Oh,” she said with a frown, “what is this here?”

Antoine turned and glanced over her shoulder to see what the woman had discovered to provoke the comment. The view of the woman’s dark eyes peering out over the curve of her bottom was almost more than she could bear. Her lips quirked to one side as she stifled her rising giddiness, reluctant to incur another reprimand.

“That’s just a scar left from small pox,” she managed in a normal sounding voice. “I had a mild case when I was a baby. Of course I don’t remember, but now I am immune, which is all to the good, because it means I can’t get infected.”

“Yes, it would be terrible for you to get infected,” the woman said enigmatically, looking up at her charge out of the corner of her eye. But she was still not convinced. “Are you certain? It is shaped somewhat like a bite mark,” she insisted, manipulating the flesh of the surrounding area, making sure it showed no signs of recent infection, no discoloration or seepage.

“My brothers may have been rough with me on occasion, but I don’t recall them ever biting me,” Antoine remarked wryly. Especially on my behind! she added to herself.

She shivered in her state of undress, wishing the woman to be done with the inspection and get on with the job of dressing her. When she had imagined herself as the Queen of France, this had not been a part of the vision. It was decidedly unlike the fairytale she had conjured.

Eventually the woman seemed to have satisfied her misgivings and called for the fine French linen chemise, which she settled down over the girl’s head with her own two hands. Her part accomplished, she signaled for the other ladies to bring forth the remainder of the garments necessary for the transformation. Then she sat back to make sure they performed the task to her exacting standards. Finally, the Austrian girl was dressed à la française to the satisfaction of the woman in charge and stood waiting for her next cue.

“It is now time to bid goodbye to Austria and be welcomed into France.”

Antoine began the process almost gaily, testing out her new persona with alacrity, buoyed by the beautiful French gown and elaborate new coiffure with its glittering adornments. But as the realization set in that this was probably the last time in her life she would see these staid, upright Austrian nobles, so representative of her native soil, she began to sniffle in sadness, dreading the final separation. By the time she reached the end of the line and her carriage companions stood before her, equally as miserable, the tears were flowing in an unstoppable stream. She clung fast to the princesses, knowing that as soon as they released each other, their connection would be severed in fact as well as principle.

As the last of her Austrian entourage vacated the room, Antoine was immediately set upon by the French attendants, who dried her tears and attempted to repair the damage to her meticulously applied maquillage. They wiped away the black smudges under her eyes and the streaks on her cheeks left by her tearful farewells. They dabbed white face paint over the bare patches followed by powder and rouge and relined her eyes with kohl. When Antoine was once again presentable, one of the friendlier girls drew close and made a show of neatening her hair.

“Courage, Madame Dauphine,” the girl whispered under her breath. “You must now be presented to your French family, but first, la Comtesse de Noailles. If you will suffer a bit of advice, even la Dauphine would be wise to obey. The Comtesse prides herself on her strictness and adherence to the rules and regulations of etiquette. She attended the previous Queen of France and will not suffer the merest hint of insolence.”

“Thank you,” Antoine whispered back with a meaningful look.

The girl gave her a mischievous wink then turned and declared, “Madame la Dauphine is ready.”

* * *

Although my latest release, INSATIABLE: A MACABRE HISTORY OF FRANCE ~ L’AMOUR: MARIE ANTOINETTE, is a work of alternate history and borderline horror, I have stayed true to Marie Antoinette’s reputation and include ample mention of the Queen’s panache and her concerns with the world of fashion. The eBook editions of INSATIABLE (Kindle and Nook) are currently on sale for an introductory price of $2.99 and are available at:

Amazon US

Amazon UK


Connect with Ginger at:

Amazon’s Ginger Myrick page Facebook

Goodreads Twitter

Rosanne E. Lortz writes on ‘Switching Time Periods: Some Considerations for HF Authors’

L. P. Hartley wrote: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” This, as every historical novelist will tell you, is true. But perhaps it is an oversimplification. Perhaps the past is not just one foreign country, but several.

Is the process for writing historical fiction the same regardless of the era in which you are writing?

Rosanne E. Lortz - Philippa Jane Keyworth's Blog

Rosanne E. Lortz

My first two novels were both historical fiction set during the Middle Ages. For my WIP, I’m currently two-thirds of the way through writing another medieval novel, but I’ve also branched out a little bit and am two-thirds of the way through writing a Regency romance. As I’ve been writing both of these books concurrently, I’ve had ample time to ponder the process that has gone into each of them.

Should I be approaching these books differently? And if so, in what way? Should I be researching differently? Writing differently? Thinking differently?

Acceptable Sources. One thing that became obvious right away is what kind of sources are acceptable for research. In my eleventh century Chronicles of Tancred books, I am happy to find primary resources on food and clothing that are dated within a century of my WIP. This is because sources, for this era, are scarce, and—since the time period is so distant—one is forced to generalize about many decades. But with my Regency work, I would never dress my ladies in gowns from the 1750s or 1850s. The sheer wealth of source material on Regency period dress would make that kind of generalization inexcusable.

The same goes for geographical descriptions. I would be happy to incorporate physical descriptions of Jerusalem, give or take a hundred years, into the scene where the Crusader army sets up its siege lines (although I do need to be careful with the later sources about what architectural changes might have been made after the Crusaders took the city). I would be aghast to hear that any Regency author relied on descriptions of London that were written a century later during World War I.

Verisimilitude in Dialogue. Another area where differences emerge between my two novels-in-progress is in the creation of dialogue. The everyday conversation of people in the eleventh century is not particularly well-documented. Added to that is the fact that even if they were speaking “English”, it would be completely unlike the English of today. In some ways, this gives me more freedom in choosing what words to use in dialogue. Naturally, I need to stay away from modern idioms and words with overly-modern connotations, but there is no need to confine myself to “only the words that were actually used at the time.” I can decide to create dialogue with an “older” feel to it, or I can write dialogue more akin to contemporary speech patterns. I have no fear of readers running to the OED to say, “This word didn’t come into use until after 1550!” Yes, that could be said of a large chunk of the words I am using in this book. What about it?

The “rules” for writing dialogue in the Regency period, however, seem far more constrictive. (And here, some writers may differ with me—I would love to hear your opinion in the comments.) We are aware what words Jane Austen did and did not use.  There are letters and diaries and dictionaries from the period giving a full picture of Regency speech. Authors should have the freedom to decide whether they will confine themselves to “period” words in their narrative sections…but in dialogue? I believe Regency romance authors should make the utmost attempt to craft their characters’ speech along the lines of what early nineteenth century Englanders would actually say. This adds an extra element of research to Regency dialogue that, for me, is not there when writing medieval historical fiction.

Getting Inside the Characters’ Heads. One area where the Regency period does make an easier study than the Middle Ages is when I try to get inside of the characters’ heads. Part of this might be because I write about battle, and famine, and political intrigue in my medieval books, and about balls, and carriage rides, and country houses in my Regency one. But, the fact remains that I find it much easier to size up my Regency characters than my medieval ones.

It’s always awkward trying to get your head around the glee of the Frankish bishop—who is clearly a pious and selfless leader—at accepting fifty Saracen heads as “tithe” after a battle.  And then what about the whole reason for the Crusaders leaving Europe in the first place? Some of them—I would hazard, the majority of them—genuinely believed in the cause, and I need to be able to figure out WHY in order to bring authenticity to their beliefs on the written page.

The challenges presented by Regency era characters are different. It would be naïve to assume that the people of the early nineteenth century are just like us today, but I will assert that they are far closer. They are living after Martin Luther, after Copernicus, after Isaac Newton, after Voltaire, in the throes of the Industrial Revolution, and only two centuries away from our understanding. It cannot be coincidence that I find it much simpler to slip inside the skin of my Regency characters. I can imagine the annoyance of having to “retrench” and sell the family carriage. I can feel the pang of getting “cut” by acquaintances at an assembly. Perhaps this is a reflection on my own shallowness, but it is far easier to get inside a character’s head when she has a hairstyle that you actually consider attractive (no offense to the medieval hennin, but I’d rather look like Lizzie Bennet).

So, is the process for writing historical fiction always the same? Not in my experience. Each era has its own challenges to offer, with proximity in time making some things easier, some things harder. I imagine authors of Ancient Egyptian and WWII novels feel the nearness and distance of time even more acutely. What are your experiences with stepping backward into the past? Is it all one foreign country, or is it several? And in which one do you feel the most at home?

Rosanne E. Lortz “Rose” is a historical novelist, a copy editor, a former high school teacher, a mom to three boys, and a native of Portland, Oregon. She has two published novels, I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince and Road from the West: Book I of the Chronicles of Tancred and loves working with young authors to help develop their writing skills.

PJK interviews Stuart “Sir Read-A-Lot” MacAllister, writer & blogger.

It is my pleasure to welcome onto my blog today, Stuart MacAllister. Many of you know him as the blogger behind Sir Read-A-Lot and today you can get a glimpse of him not only under that alias, but also under the alias of writer! Enjoy my bloggerinos:

Stuart MacAllister & Helen Hollick - Philippa Jane Keyworth, Regency Romance Writer

Stuart MacAllister & authoress Helen Hollick

Tell me a little about yourself, Stuart? (e.g. name, what type of food you like etc)

What do you want to know? Well, I am a decrepit, middle-aged teenager from Bristol, England with a passion for writing and historical fiction.  I have a blog called Sir Read-A-Lot  where I review historical fiction books by independent & mainstream authors and it has proven to be very successful in the year it has been online.  I am the Managing Editor of the Independent Review Team of the Historical Novel Society, a job I very much enjoy – even if it is hard work!

I suffer with a medical condition called fibromyalgia which basically means I live with chronic and constant pain on a daily basis.  It is challenging to say the least, especially as I have to cope with other health problems.  What I don’t do, however, is let it get me down too much.  However bad I am, there is always someone worse off than me, even if it doesn’t feel like it at times!

I  love football and I support Liverpool FC and my local side Bristol Rovers.  I enjoy baking & cooking too.

That’s very inspiring that you have such a positive attitude. Now, I know you mostly as a blogger, but I’d love to know, when did you start writing?

I started writing when I was at school. I remember writing stories about dragons, knights and other wonderful tales of heroes and heroines.  My teachers at junior school were always telling me off because I would fill up exercise books so quickly and in the end I stopped writing until I reached secondary school because I felt no one liked me writing, even though I loved doing it.

I was very lucky from the ages of 11-16 as I had some wonderful English teachers, Mrs Brown in particular, and they were each responsible for re-igniting my love of writing.  I cannot count the number of times I had my stories read out in class, or the number of “A”s I was awarded for my writing.  That isn’t being bigheaded, but rather shows how important teachers can be to students.  I will always be grateful to them – Mrs Brown sadly passed away many years ago, but she is still the most positive influence on my work!  I will be mentioning her in the dedication of my debut novel.

What a lovely thought, and so interesting to hear the impact teachers can have. So, you mention a debut novel, very exciting stuff, and it leads me to ask, what genre do you write in and why?

I write historical fiction mainly.  I say mainly because I am also a poet and I have written two thrillers.  Like many, at this moment in time I am unpublished, but I do not see that as a hindrance and I still believe I can justifiably call myself a writer.

I love history and happen to live in a city with a vibrant past.  Bristol is filled with fascinating stories, characters and has contributed not only to the growth and development of England and the UK, but also the world.  John Cabot sailed to NewFoundLand, George White developed and built the first jet engine and formed the British and Olympic Airplane Company which became BAC one of the world’s largest airplane manufacturers; John MacAdam developed and laid the first ever covered road, a process known as TarMac; Thomas Chatterton, the boy poet, was born here – as was Sir Michael Redgrave (Actor), Cary Grant (Actor), Banksy (Artist), Paul Dirac (Physicist/Mathematician), Samuel Plimsoll (Social Reformer & inventor of “the Plimsoll Line”), Damien Hirst (Artist) and J.K. Rowling (Author) – all famous Bristolians!

History is absorbing because it encompasses everything we are.  It helps us understand the present and can teach us how to improve our lives as well as educate and entertain us.  Whether you like battles, medicine, social issues, the monarchy, literature, the arts or more modern pursuits, the study of history directly influences your passion.

I had no idea Bristol had produced such a distinguished line of individuals! Tell me a bit about your work in progress?

I have an idea to write a series of novels set in different eras of Bristol’s long and colourful history.  I have three planned out but have finished the first draft of my first novel, set in the 12th Century and titled “Slave to No Man”.  Bristol was, at this time, a port that had a history of importing slaves.  By the time of Richard the Lionheart, the practice was probably almost redundant thanks to the social reforms of Bishop (later Saint) Wulfstan, but with close links to the traders from Ireland and in particular Dublin, it is not inconceivable to assume that some slave traders still traded here.

My novel is a “What If?” – What if, whilst King Richard the Lionheart was on Crusade, Prince John decided to make a bid for the throne of England?  What if John made the decision that “my enemies enemy is my friend”?  So – John convinces a well-known Bristol slaver, Richard de la Warre, to use his connections and recruit an army of Muslim warriors in order to usurp the throne from his brother.

There is a young knight in Acre who stands between De La Warre and the restoration of his family’s name and reputation.  Richard has sent word to his younger brother Hugh in the Holy Land to not only recruit Muslim warriors of a certain rank and reputation, but to find Samson d’Bristou and kill him.  However, the apple never falls far from the tree and Hugh sees a chance to double his profit and captures Samson and intends to sell him to the wealthiest and most discerning of his clients.  A high ranking General in Saladin’s army has already been captured by Hugh and is being readied, along with 400 muslim warriors, to be sent to Bristol where they will be kept in a specially constructed palisade, outside the city until John is ready to make his move.

A Templar Knight inadvertently hears of the kidnapping and the description of the abducted knight brings back long buried memories and a past he had hoped to forget.  And so, making a decision that imperils his oath as a member of the Templars, he rescues Samson and they race back to Bristol to stop John and De La Warre from achieving their goal.

I hope that sounds interesting and exciting enough for you!!

Very exciting indeed. I like Ken Follett who also goes along with ‘what if’ scenarios in his novels. So, the most important question for a writer to answer in my opinion; do you prefer writing with pen and paper, or on a computer?

I have to admit that writing with a pen and paper is my favourite method, but I suffer with arthritis and holding a pen for an extended length of time is problematic – as is typing on a computer keyboard!  I have a voice recognition program which allows me to dictate my handwritten notes or passages.  It is not an easy program to use because it “learns” about your voice and gets more accurate the more you use it.  But I love using a fountain pen – I feel like Charles Dickens!

So, we’ve covered your writing exploits, now for the blog. What was it that made you start blogging?

I have always been an avid reader and I noticed that most historical fiction review blogs were based in America and run by women.  So being a man and based in the UK, I saw there could be a “gap in the market” and I approached some trusted friends to see if they agreed – they did!  So, after a few days of mulling over a pseudonym and learning how to use Blogger, “Sir Read-A-Lot” was born in May 2011!

In the twelve months I have been live, I have been so fortunate.  The most influential and respected names in the genre have been gracious enough to be interviewed and even promote my blog.  Four major publishers send me ARCs of their latest bestsellers and I get to read some of the best independent writing around.  It is very humbling when writers like Sharon Penman, Helen Hollick, Robyn Young & Elizabeth Chadwick send you an email saying how much they enjoyed your latest review!

But the best thing about blogging is the contact I have with readers from around the world who love to read the books I review and feedback their own comments.  Lively discussions are sometimes had and I love exchanging emails with the people who follow my blog.

 Finally, as per your request, I want to ask you, at which event in history would you have liked to have been a fly on the wall?

I ask my guests this question and realise now how difficult it is to answer! I am going to be totally greedy and pick two.  The first is the Crucifixion; I would love to see what really happened from the time of the Last Supper to the time of Christ’s death at Calvary. Those few days have carved out the last 2000 years of history and influenced our lives in ways that we cannot possibly comprehend.  The second event is a bit more sedate; I’d love to see what Bristol Castle looked like in its heyday.  It was built in the 12th Century and was vitally important to the Angevin Empire; when Bristol was given over to a publicly elected council, King Henry II retained the Castle as his own and kept it under his military control.  For nearly 500 years it stood towering over the ever growing city before going into decline and eventually being destroyed by Oliver Cromwell after the Civil War.  Sadly there are no surviving illustrations of the Castle, but the administrative records survive to this day and are wonderful to read!

Well, Stuart, it has been lovely to have you here on my blog and I have really enjoyed learning more about ‘Stuart the writer’ as well as the ‘blogger’. People who are interested in Stuart’s writing and his reviewing, can use the links below to follow him:


Blog – 

FB – 

Twitter – @SirReadalotUK 

Thanks for stopping-by everyone!

A Good Old-Fashion Swashbuckler! by Author Shawn Lamb

Yep, those are my favorite types of books and movies, swashbuckling adventure. I couldn’t get enough when I was younger. Top of the list was Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. Being so captivated, I took up fencing with the rapier. While other girls daydreamed about being swept away by Prince Charming, I imagined fighting with D’Artagnan and the Musketeers. As a result, I started writing my own swashbuckling story The Huguenot Sword when I was sixteen years old.

Being Christian from a Protestant background, I chose to tell a story from that side as all the books I read were from the Catholic perspective. However, when I researched 17th Century France, I found a new and deeper appreciation for the Huguenots – as the French Protestants were called. The most prominent Huguenot at the time was, Henri, the Duc de Rohan, a man of great moral strength, faith and courage. Sadly, he is little mentioned in history.

Henri, Duke de Rohan - Shawn Lamb - Philippa Jane Keyworth Blog

Henri, Duke de Rohan

The term “Huguenot” was actually a derogatory term as the French Catholics purposely mispronounced the German word eidgenosse – which “means sworn companion”.  The Huguenots followed the teachings of John Calvin. The trouble began with Henry Navarre, who became King Henry IV of France. No, I didn’t misspell his name, as he spelled it with a “y” instead of “i”. Henry’s ascension to the throne placed the House of Bourbon in control of France.

Henry’s mother, Jeanne d’Albert the Queen of Navarre, was a strong-minded woman and staunch Huguenot and raise her son in the Protestant faith. One of the most profound and outrageous acts of religious intolerance happened a couple of months after Henry married Margaret of Valois – the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Thousands of Huguenots visiting Paris for the wedding where killed in the streets, and thousands more across France in the days that followed. This set off a series of religious wars in France.

In 1589, Henry Navarre became Henry IV of France, but accepting the throne meant converting to Catholicism. Being pragmatic, Henry believed this would help to unify France and even issued the Edict of Nantes in 1598 ensuring religious freedom and autonomy to the Huguenots. Unfortunately, that did little to mend the hearts and minds of many of his Huguenot compatriots, who felt betrayed by his decision. Among those was his younger cousin, Henri de Rohan, whom he made duke and peer for loyal and faithful service in 1603.

Henry showed great favor to his cousin, and Rohan became very influential at Court and the presumptive leader of the Huguenots. He forgave Henry of his conversion and diligently sought to keep peace between the Court and Huguenots.  Upon Henry’s assassination in 1610, Rohan turned his attention, loyalty and support to the young son and heir, nine-year-old Louis. However, his loyalty became sorely tested by Queen Marie and her favorite bishop turned Cardinal – Richelieu.

Marie worked fast to undermine everything Henry did to give the Huguenots freedom and authority. Richelieu took a more measured approach in reducing the power and presence of the Huguenots since many of the princes and peers of France were Huguenots. Rohan’s fortitude, courage and faith made him the perfect rival and counter to Richelieu.  It is said that the great Cardinal feared Rohan, for the Duke’s family connections stretched across the monarchies of Europe including the powerful Hapsburgs of Germany and King Charles of England.

Even during the fateful siege of La Rochelle, Rohan never waivered in his loyalty to Louis. Alas, Marie and Richelieu’s influence worked, and the Huguenots were driven to near extinction in France. Yet even then, Rohan’s resilience and moral fiber would not let him fail those loyal to the Huguenot cause. When Richelieu offered an olive branch in the form of the Edict of Grace, pardoning all Huguenots for rebellion, it came with one condition – Rohan’s permanent exile from France.  The Duke accepted the condition and did as bade, retiring to Venice.

In an ironic twist of fate, years later, Richelieu would call upon Rohan to aid France as military commander in the Val Telline campaign. Rohan died in the battle of Rhienfelden defending the country he loved but that exiled him for his faith. Even in death, Richelieu still feared Rohan’s influence and forbade the return of his body for burial. Thus, the great Huguenot leader, a man of staunch faith, lies in state in Geneva.

The Huguenot Sword by Shawn Lamb


Shawn Lamb’s book the Huguenot Sword is available in both eBook and Paperback – For more information about her writing, her books and how to purchase please follow this link: