Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Motto to Live Up To

WE HAVE A WINNER! The download of A Lady's Lesson in Seduction goes to commenter Katherine White.

Several years ago I visited Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire, England. It’s a beautiful old house and well worth the visit. It started as a peel tower in the 14th Century, but the house as it now stands was constructed mostly in the Elizabethan age and renovated extensively in the 19th Century. Its history is connected with the witches of Pendle Hill, and Charlotte Bronte was twice a guest there.  

I spent quite a while squinting up at the mottoes on the central tower. One of them reads Prudentia et Iusticia. Even I, with my meagre Latin, could guess that it translates as Prudence and Justice. The other motto looks like Old English to me:  Kynd Kynn Knawne Kepe. I’ve found a few translations: Keep your own kin-kind or Kind friends know and keep, or perhaps Take care of your own

I’m not sure how I got from these mottoes to the entirely different one plaguing my hero, Camden Folk, the Marquis of Warbury, in my Christmas novella, A Lady’s Lesson in Seduction. Maybe it’s because Gawthorpe House is Elizabethan, like my hero’s – but Camden lives much farther south, in Oxfordshire. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always wondered how it felt to have a motto, and thought what a burden it might be if one felt compelled to live up to it.    
For Camden, living up to the Folk family motto presents an unusual problem. The first part of the motto is missing and has been for centuries, since before the house was built. All that’s left is Secundum, Non Nocere, which translates as Secondly, Do No Harm. Camden has no idea what he’s supposed to do first…although he and his cousins had fun dreaming up first halves for the motto when they were children.

Even though the Marquis has quite a reputation with the ladies, he always does his best to live up to the second half of his family motto and harm no one. This becomes a challenge when in a good cause (or so he sees it), he takes on the seduction of his friend’s widow, the lovely, vulnerable Frances Burdett. The story is full of Christmas customs and even has a wee hint of magic.

Here’s a blurb:

Once a notorious rake, Camden Folk, Marquis of Warbury, is now consumed by desire for only one woman: beautiful young widow Frances Burdett. The Yuletide festivities at his country estate present the perfect opportunity for seduction…

After her brief, unsatisfying marriage, Frances swore never to become tied to another man. Then a passionate kiss under the mistletoe reawakens longings she thought buried forever. Can she give in to the pleasures of the body with a rogue like Cam—without losing her heart?


And an excerpt:

Frances should never have agreed to go to the orchard with the Marquis of Warbury—to gather mistletoe, of all things. She sent him a fierce, furious glare. “If you must have it, I don’t enjoy kissing.”

He eyed her from behind the apple tree. “Not at all?”

“No.” She pressed her lips together.

“Come now,” he teased. “Surely you’re exaggerating.”

Her voice was low, suffused with passion. “You can’t possibly judge how that—that invasion made me feel.”

“That bad, was it?” The marquis reached up and snipped with his shears. “You’re right, I can’t judge, but the general popularity of kissing tells me you were merely unlucky.” He came around the tree, a sprig of mistletoe in his hand.

What a fool she was; in spite of bitter experience, she wanted to kiss him, wanted kissing to be wonderful. How stupid! She was much better off—much safer—as she was.

He kissed the fingertips of his gloves and blew. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Frances huffed.

He picked a berry from the mistletoe and dropped it. “We’ll make it a very light kiss,” he said, coming closer. “Short and sweet.”

She didn’t trust him; she wanted yet didn’t want—

A flurry of snow tumbled from the branches above, distracting her. He swooped in, dropped a swift, cold kiss on her lips, and drew away—but not far. “Was that too unbearable?” Another mistletoe berry fell to the snow.

“No, of course not,” she said, “but—”

“Well, then.” He took her hand and pulled her behind the tree. “If you don’t want me to invade you—accidentally, needless to say—you’ll have to keep your mouth shut.”

“You mustn’t do this—”

“Of course I must. No talking.”

She gave up, shutting both her mouth and her eyes. It was her own fault for coming to the orchard this morning, but she’d enjoyed their time together in the middle of the night so very much. It was only a kiss.

Nothing happened. She opened her eyes again. He was contemplating her mouth from under his lashes. “You have lovely lips.”

Through her teeth, she said, “Get it over with.”

“I’ve never kissed a martyr before.” His lips curled in a lazy smile, and then he pressed his mouth coolly to hers and withdrew again. “It requires a more careful approach than we disgustingly hasty men are used to.” He flicked another berry off the sprig.

She couldn’t help but watch his mouth. What was he going to do, and when?

“Close your eyes, and whatever happens, keep your lips together.”

This time his mouth lingered on hers a few seconds, then pressed light kisses from one corner of her lips to the other. Kiss. “One.” Kiss. “Two.” Kiss. “Three.”


Any ideas of what the first half of the motto should be? Any suggestions of other stately homes I should visit on my next trip to England? Favourite Christmas customs you’d like to see in a story? I’d love to give away a download – for Nook or Kindle – to someone who comments here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Man Who Broke the Rules

Over on the Harlequin Community blog at the moment, there’s an excerpt posted from the November 1816 edition of Derby Mercury. Admittedly it’s not a genuine excerpt (it was in fact written by me!), but it contains a fascinating account of the visit of a Mr Virgil Jackson to Castonbury village school. A visit which features in my story in the Castonbury Park series called The Lady Who Broke the Rules.

Lady Katherine Montague, scarred by her failed betrothal, shunned by society as a result, decides to pour all her energy into philanthropic causes – such as the establishment of a village school. Virgil Jackson, my freed-slave hero, is determined to use his hard-earned wealth to provide the opportunities for other slaves which he struggled so hard to earn. So naturally he’s interested in Kate’s school. His interest in Kate herself, however, is something he’s less keen to admit to.

Kate’s village school takes its inspiration from Robert Owen’s model village in New Lanark, not too far from Glasgow where I went to university and made my home for several years. Finding my day job at the time pretty unexciting, I started studying history with the Open University, and it was one of my tutors here who first introduced me to New Lanark. I was, from the start, fascinated by it’s creator’s vision.

If you ever get the chance, the village and the beautiful Falls of the Clyde, which were the powerhouse driving the mills, are well worth a visit. It was established by David Dale in 1786 to provide homes for his cotton mill workers, but it was Dale’s son-in-law, a Welsh philanthropist called Robert Owen, intent on testing out his ideas for social reform, who was the real trail-blazer.

I’ve learned enough about Owen to suspect that he would be quite a difficult man to like, but then social reformers need to be strong-willed and single-minded, don’t they? Owen possessed such a singular vision as to make anyone else’s views on any matter – well, irrelevant. He was very religious and very moral, with an incredibly strong work ethic – so woe betide any slackers or back-sliders in his work force. Basically, I think it would have been  his way (which became known as utopian socialism) or the highway – but what a revolutionary way it was.

New Lanark.Photo Credit Stara Blazkova via Wikipedia 
Most of the mill workers came from the poorhouses of Glasgow, some from the slums of the city’s east end, with a good dash of Highlanders on the run from the dying embers of the Clearances. In New Lanark, they lived in tenements, many with just one room per family, but even this was a vast improvement on what they’d left behind. The actual working conditions at the mills were good in comparison to other such places, with less injuries and fatalities, good ventilation and so better general health. And Owen’s workers didn’t just get on-site accommodation – provided they toed the company line which insisted on regular attendance at church – there were a host of other benefits. Their children were educated at a school which was not only heated, but at which learning was intended to be fun. Then there was the Institute for the Formation of Character, through which Owen hoped to demonstrate in practice his theory of practical determinism – basically, that character can be formed and is not innate. The institute opened in 1816 and became the focus for education in the village – for all ages, with classes of all types including drill, dancing and instructional lectures.

Robert Owen left New Lanark for the new world in 1824, where he established the Community of Equality of New Harmony in Indiana. In my story, Kate is inspired by Owen’s book, New View of Society, and Virgil, who visits Owen, although he has some reservations, is also inspired enough by the underlying philosophy  to spend some of his own wealth on establishing another such community.

It astonishes me sometimes how people I’ve admired, characters I’ve read about and places I’ve visited in my own past find a place, almost by osmosis, in my stories. I do wonder though, what on earth my austere Open University professor would make of finding his beloved New Lanark featuring in a Harlequin romance. Do you have a favourite person or place from your past you’d love to see feature in a romance?

The Lady Who Broke the Rules is out now, print and digital in the UK, digital only in US and Canada, though it will be released in print as a duo in December.  

'Your rebellion has not gone unnoticed...' Anticipating her wedding vows and then breaking off the engagement has left Kate Montague's social status in tatters. She hides her hurt at her family's disapproval behind a resolutely optimistic facade, but one thing really grates...For a fallen woman, she knows shockingly little about passion! Could Virgil Jackson be the man to teach her? A freed slave turned successful businessman, his striking good looks and lethally restrained power throw normally composed Kate into a tailspin! She's already scandalised society, but succumbing to her craving for Virgil would be the most outrageous thing Kate's done by far...

Castonbury Park
Flirting with Ruin (Undone! Prequel) - Marguerite Kaye, June 2012
The Wicked Lord Montague - Carole Mortimer, August 2012
The Housemaid’s Scandalous Secret - Helen Dickson, September 2012
The Lady Who Broke the Rules  - Marguerite Kaye, October 2012
Lady of Shame - Ann Lethbridge, November 2012
The Illegitimate Montague - Sarah Mallory, December 2012
Unbefitting a Lady - Bronwyn Scott, January 2013
Redemption of a Fallen Woman - Joanna Fulford, February 2013
A Stranger at Castonbury - Amanda McCabe, March 2013

There are excerpts, background and more about Castonbury Park and all my other books on www.margueritekaye.com. I’m also always happy to chat on Facebook or Twitter