Planting Weekend!

It is a long weekend in Canada. PLANTING WEEKEND... also known officially as Victoria Day Weekend. In honour of the occasion, I have pulled out some photos of flowers and gardens. See if you can guess where they were taken: country will do, but extra kudos if you can name the garden. I have included two of each place, one being a hint.

Do you want to know where these photos were taken? From the top left - Kew Gardens/hint- Buckingham Palace gate; Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen/hint-The Little Mermaid Statue; Villandry Garden, Loire Valley/hint-a chateau... and me; Versaille Gardens, outside Paris/hint - part of the chateau; Griffin's Pond, Halifax Public Gardens/hint - iconic bandstand; the last would be impossible to guess as it was a garden in a house we were touring in Seville, Spain-but the wall of bougainvillea was gorgeous!/ hint - not likely much help but a pretty photo of Giralda, the bell tower of the Seville Cathedral.

Launch of Duels & Deception

Duels & Deception was launched Monday, April 10th as a Tea and Talk at the Sacred Heart School in Halifax.

Librarian, Laurie T, began with an introduction, after which three student volunteers read (with great verve) excerpts from Duels & Deception. It was amazing to hear my words being spoken aloud and to watch the reaction of the girls. When it was my turn, I talked about Robert and Lydia and the reasons behind the relentless search for a good match by the mamas of Regency upper society. I addressed the complicated process of introductions and answered questions offering advice for aspiring authors and discussing the influence of my travels on my writing. 

Fortunately, the bell rang just as my nerves were about to render me speechless and we adjourned to the library for tea and cake!

In the beginning

In honour of the two week count down to the release of Duels & Deception, I offer you the original beginning--before it was revised.

 

Despite being in possession of a mind weighted with heavy thoughts, Lydia Whitfield stepped past her butler, Shodster, at the usual hour of ten minutes after one for her daily constitutional. Buttoning her gloves as she surveyed the treed grounds of Roseberry Hall, Lydia felt the pervasive calm of the outdoors settle her swirling thoughts and lessen her burning frustration, if only temporarily.

With a deep-restorative breath, Lydia leaned forward to begin her walk, then hesitated. She stared down the drive, puzzling over a strange shadow behind one of the trees. She knew her estate down to the last blade of grass… and yet the shape of the silhouette was somewhat odd—as if the shadows were hiding a person lingering and watching from behind the greenery.

 Lydia knew Sam and Brad, the under gardeners, to be working on the rhododendrons on the west side of the manor and Mr. Doune, the head gardener, was busy with the seedlings in the greenhouse. There was no reason for a dawdle of any sort, behind the elms or otherwise. Only one explanation was plausible; her imagination was running amok.

With a ghost of a smile, Lydia dismissed the shape, deciding that her heightened emotions were affecting her thinking capacity. Taking another soothing fresh breath, she turned her mind to a more relevant subject—how to proceed. Should she walk around the east wing through their extensive park and down to the lake? Or should she march over to the small-drive that led to the river and then, return by way of the main gate?

“It is Tuesday, Miss,” Shodster said as he slowly closed the door behind her.

“Thank you, Shodster.” Lydia nodded to the narrowing threshold. Shodster must have seen her uncharacteristic confusion and realized, as all good butlers would, that she was overwhelmed with important matters and had, therefore, forgotten the day of the week—for it was, indeed, Tuesday.

“I always walk to the river on Tuesdays.”

Turning, Lydia skirted the east wing of the Elizabethan manor, where the conservatory had recently been added some sixty or seventy years ago, and headed toward the service road just past the low-walled kitchen gardens. Lifting her skirts a full inch above her ankles, Lydia minced her way around a muddy patch and jumped up onto the small drive.

Cut Scene From Duels & Deception

Duels & Deception will be launched in ONE month! In honour of the occasion, I give you a short cut scene that illustrates the contentious relationship between my MC, Lydia, and her Uncle Arthur.

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It was a lament that Lydia had not meant to echo through Roseberry’s grand hall, but her temper had finally gotten the best of her and the words had slipped out. That was all, a simple reference to the recently retired old gentleman. Well, that and her incredulous tone when Uncle had announced the crop of choice for this year’s planting. Yes, such a horrid mood for two small comments. Well, she had also referenced the direction of Uncle’s road in the afterlife. She had not meant to say it quite so loudly, thought it was going to be under her breath, but it had burst from her quite clearly and bounced around the hall until they had stood facing one another—mouths agape in surprise.

Not a proud moment—for which Lydia had immediately apologized. But she could not unsay the words. They were there, and any reasonable person would realize that it was a mere statement of frustration rather than a true desire to see him bathed in eternal fire.

 

Regency Bath

In Duels & Deception, I stepped away from London, caught a coach headed west to Somerset and eventually arrived in Bath. Bath’s heyday had come and gone by the Regency period and yet it was still a place to see and be seen. Though the city’s tenants might have been a quieter more genteel group than the rich aristocrats of the eighteenth century. By 1817, the magnificent Circus had been built as well as the Royal Crescent both becoming iconic images of its Georgian glory days.

 

Various attractions included the Pump Room—where one drank the warm, smelly water for health purposes—and the Upper and Lower Assembly Rooms. These rooms drew large numbers of people by offering well-organized social programs of balls and concerts, places to play cards or simply to meet and exchange gossip—the life-blood of the idle. There were circulating libraries, coffee shops and the Theatre Royal on Orchard Street as well as parks and walks—places for picnics and promenades.

 

On Sundays, the well-bred would attend services at the Bath Abbey-a medieval church next to the Pump Room. And when so inclined a Vauxhall type garden, called Sydney Gardens, offered arbors, groves of trees, formal flowerbeds and enticing views of the countryside. They also had musical entertainments, alfresco breakfasts, illuminations and a labyrinth.

 

Yes, indeed, Regency Bath was not too shabby!

 

Duels & Deception Quotes

She quite enjoyed the intensity of the stranger’s gaze whenever their eyes met, and her sudden shortness of breath was not in the least alarming. Perhaps she should cultivate more encounters with strangers if this were to be the result.


Had she been of the right disposition, she might have snapped at Mr. Newton for his uninformative conversation. She was now overburdened with thoughts of tardiness and broken wheels while her solicitor’s emissary thought nothing of being mysterious.


This whole state of affairs was nothing short of a disaster.

Frowning, Lydia plopped—very unladylike—onto the firm morning room settee.

Disaster. Her father would not appreciate the word’s use—too much emotion, smacked of an indecent amount of sensibility. 


"Might as well take the bull by the horns. Tomorrow it is.”

Lydia watched Lord Aldershot wend his way out of the garden, taking the west gate to the stables. She wasn’t too sure that she liked the analogy. A bull? Was she the bull or its horns? Neither sounded flattering.

Regency Clothing

When imagining my characters walking around Regency London or skipping (through the mud) on their country estates, I have to see them in my head. I have to know their facial features, their hairstyles and their manner of dress. I cannot picture ladies and gentlemen entering and exiting a scene—bowing and curtsying—clad in jeans, and a t-shirt that says Keep Calm and Carry On.

 

Fortunately, I have a plethora of books on the shelves behind me, and a chair that swivels. Not only that, but the Regency period, of only nine years (1811-1820), has had a fair share of literary/movie attention on which I can fasten my imagination. Below are a few inspirations:  sample fashion plates and slice of life paintings by Charles Haigh-Wood.

 

Regency Occupations

Did you know?

 

That a Chandler sold candles as well as basics such as cheese and bacon, a corner store type of establishment

 

That a Cheap-jack sold inexpensive metal objects such as knives at fairs

 

That a Costermonger sold fruit, vegetables and fish either at a stall, or a cart or barrow while walking street to street

 

That a Crossing sweeper kept major intersections of London clean of mud and muck for a small remuneration

 

That Mudlarks walked out into the mud of the Thames at low tide to scrounge for coal, rope, nails etc.

 

That an Orange girl could sell bootlaces or staylaces as well

 

That a Packman was a travelling peddler

 

That a Pieman was exactly that, but whose pies were as likely to be filled with mutton and eel as currants or gooseberries

 

That a Waterman described two different occupations: a man who rowed out to vessels on the Thames (requiring a seven year apprenticeship) or someone who watered horses 

And so it begins...

Welcome to Cindy Anstey’s blog where she will stop talking in the third person and discuss the weird, wild and wonderful aspects of her characters and peculiarities of the 19th century. 

Over time, I hope to include cuts from my books, fill in the background of my characters (major and minor) and perhaps continue their lives beyond the book’s conclusion. There are oddities of the Regency and Victorian eras to reveal, as I explore new topics of research, and the general process of publishing to discuss.

January 8, 2017

Here is a scene cut from Love, Lies and Spies, where Spencer follows a false communiqué to France.

 

The splash of cold brackish water startled Spencer awake. He lay still for some minutes orienting himself to the sounds around him. Lifting his head from the gunnel, he squinted to hear. Yes, they were lowering the dinghy; they must have reached the French coast.

Disguised as a rough and ready smuggler, Spencer had left England a fortnight after Juliana had taken the sunshine with her to the country. Not that London had proved to be any rainier than usual but somehow even bright sunny days seemed gray without her. He knew it to be due more to his mental state than an actuality, but he found Town exceedingly dull without Juliana’s effervescent presence.

Fortunately, Spencer had had diversions aplenty—those of a most serious nature. Treason, traitors and disloyalty. Hart had taken the bait. Hart the younger, for it soon became apparent that Lord Hart was not party to his son’s faithless escapades. It made the passing of false information more difficult to achieve but in the end, Bibury came through with an elementary scheme that involved a grand performance of coughing and switching papers.

A meticulous but imaginative list of troop numbers, locations and intentions was now in the hands of the French messenger. A lanky man with a thatch of black curls who waited—twitchy and watchful—not ten feet away from Spencer’s outstretched legs. The French man was not recumbent as Spencer was, but leaned in an overly casual manner across the rail, staring into the dark.

Spencer rose slowly and joined him at the rail. He fashion a grin but the man ignored his presence. “Good night for a run,” Spencer said in French jerking his head toward the weak light of the half-moon. There was no reply.

Bibury, looking even more disheveled than Spencer, placed himself on the other side of the messenger. “Mon Dieu, it will be good to get back. Well worth it though, eh?”

They were supposed to be French smugglers returning from a lucrative delivery of brandy in Devon…St. Ives Head—with the messenger tagging along. But, in fact, the small ship and now the dinghy was crewed by agents from both the War and Home office. The true smugglers were languishing in an Exeter jail, whisked away from Lambhurst before word could reach Ryton Manor. Lady Pyebald herself had accompanied the messenger to the cliffs and watched his descent to the ship. Winfrith was going to pay her a visit in the morning.

The plan called for Spencer and Bibury to befriend the messenger and stay with him until the false communiqué was delivered into the hands of the French army. So far, the man was proving to be the frosty type—not a surprise considering the price he would pay if caught.

A whispered word wafted up from below and they were over the rail in a trice, stepping down into the waiting dinghy. Only the dipping and dripping of the oars made any noise as they crossed the final expanse. The solid bump of a rock warned Spencer that they were coming aground and he grabbed the side of the boat. He jumped into the frigid water as soon as the momentum pushed the small boat up onto the beach. Crouching, he paused for a moment to get his bearings and then, made for the tall reeds edging the shoreline. Bibury and the messenger joined him, hunkered and listening.

Once the dinghy disappeared out on the water, the three men stood up. They nodded to one another and shrugged as if it was all in a day’s work. Even the messenger permitted a modicum of relaxation to change his expression—his frown eased slightly; his brow was no longer as deeply furrowed.

Letting out a ragged breath, as if his nervousness was gone, Bibury slapped Spencer on the back and draped his arm around the messenger’s shoulder in a display of male comradery. “I think we deserve a drink after such a long night, non?” He gestured toward the flickering lights in the distance.

Absolument. To our success.” Spencer adopted the same position on the other side of the messenger. “On me, eh? Let’s drink.” They started toward what Spencer hoped was the main road and a tavern of some sort, propelling the messenger between them. Within a few steps, the man no longer resisted but instead steered the trio toward the east side of the village.

Due to the lateness of the hour, Spencer was pleased to find that they were approaching an open, and active inn, complete with a noisy public room. They found themselves a spot near a drafty window and, fortunately, excited little curiosity, merely a shrug or two in their direction.

However, providence was not entirely on their side. Before their first beers were less than a quarter gone, the door burst open with a loud crash as it hit the wall behind it. The jovial chatter went silent.

Two French soldiers entered and pushed the patrons back further into the room, allowing an imposing officer to enter unimpeded. He wore a white uniform with red epaulettes, and had placed his impressive gold and red helmet under his arm—a carabinier-a-cheval. Standing on the threshold long enough for everyone to take in his costume, the officer exuded importance and authority before he had so much as opened his mouth. Stepping forward, he slowly scanned the patrons… until locking eyes with the messenger. Gulping audibly, the French man rose.

Spencer dropped his hand from the table into his pocket. The pistol he had prepared on the ship waited in the ready. He prayed the dampness of their voyage had not ruined the wick or the powder.

“You have it?” The officer’s voice was deep and deceptively mellow, cutting easily to the far reaches of the room.

Oui, oui, but of course.” The messenger shook and swallowed convulsively.

Looking down his nose and curling his lip ever so slightly, the officer glanced at the partially filled beer mug sitting in front of the messenger. “Did you want to finish your drink before we leave? I wouldn’t wish to inconvenience you.” His snide tone told one and all that it was exactly what he wished to do.

Scrambling around the table, the messenger knocked Spencer’s mug flying in his haste. The thud of its descent to the straw strewn floor was ignored, as was the spray of foamy liquid. “Non, non, I wish to go immediately.” And to prove his words the messenger hurried out the door without a backward glance. The soldiers followed.

The officer, however, stayed and so did the silence and air of menace. Glancing at the mess created by such a hasty and plebeian exit, the officer pursed his lips and then met Spencer’s stare. A frown flashed across his face but it was quickly replaced with a smile that was in no way benevolent. “My apologies, monsieur, I will replace your… beer.” He reached into a pouch hanging at his waist but continued to watch Spencer with a speculative eye.

Spencer knew he was treading on very thin ice. There was something in his stance or appearance that had caught the attention of this observant officer. Perhaps it was his hand hidden in his pocket. Spencer elected to nod, with some deference, rather than speak in case something in his accent gave him away. They were too close to seeing this job done. Too close to returning home unscathed. He held his breath, and then, caught a coin as it came sailing through the air towards him; he used the hand that had been in his pocket—leaving the pistol behind.

The officer continued to stare at Spencer, as if unconvinced.

And so Spencer shrugged; he only used one shoulder and made it short, casual and loose.

Rather than acknowledge the gesture, the officer shook his head in disgust turned on his heels and left. At once, the room burst into a cacophony of nervous laughter and loud conversation. Nothing was said about the intimidating carabinier as if to do so would call him back.

Bibury shifted down the bench, and signaled for another mug of beer. “Well, monsieur,” he said retaining his French persona. “That would be that then. Record time. Got two days to while away before the return. Any ideas of what we should do?”

Spencer thought of Juliana and smiled. “Oui, most certainly.”

* * *