This blog is to keep my readers updated about my forthcoming historical romance books and to tell you a little bit about the history behind each one. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel free to comment.
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Wednesday, 27 May 2015
Old Fashioned Values - First Chapter
The ship was just
like the replica Cara had seen in London of Sir Francis Drake’s galleon, the
Golden Hind. It was two storeys of ornate wooden cladding with windows high up
and sails, lots of sails. It was intricately decorated with painted flowers and
she wondered how far they were going to sail in it. She looked at it with wide,
Her heart raced
with excitement. She had trusted her fiancé, her betrothed he liked to be
called, with this whole wedding.
They had met at the
small, private museum in the city where she had worked for about a year. He had
donated some fourteenth century letters from his family archives which he had
found while he was exploring the castle he had inherited.
The letters were
fascinating, having been written secretly between two would-be lovers and they
formed a chronicle of the black death; there were whole paragraphs about how
their neighbours were dying.
The fact that Chase
owned a castle would have made him instantly attractive, even were it not for
his handsome face and appealing physique. He had very dark, thick hair and was
over six feet tall; his eyes were a velvet brown and they held a warmth which
melted her heart. She could imagine him in charge of a castle; he seemed the
sort of man who would naturally be in charge of anything he set his mind to.
That had been only
six months ago, but Cara was certain he was the one. She had little in the way
of relatives, or friends, and she was delighted to find someone to share her
fascination with the long distant past. Most of the men she had met wouldn’t
know the Wars of the Roses from the Battle of Waterloo.
The letters were
authentic and they had gone on display in a much publicised exhibition which
they both attended. The museum wasn’t often opened to the public, so when it
was it usually brought a bit of a crowd. Nothing like the letters had been seen
since the Paston Letters, although these were not so many of them as those
After the exhibition,
Chase had taken her to dinner in a very exclusive West End restaurant. They had
spent almost every evening together since then, but never going any farther
than a kiss. She had always wanted to be a virgin on her wedding night, like
the maidens of old, but she had never before met a man who would make her
rethink that decision. Chase was different; she found him very attractive and
difficult to resist, but he respected her wish; in fact, he seemeddelighted when she told him.
They visited all
the historical buildings they could in England, from Windsor Castle to the
ruins of Framlingham and Westminster Abbey with its royal crypt. They even
spent a week on the Isle of Wight to visit Carisbrooke Castle, where King
Charles I was imprisoned after the English civil war between the Cavaliers and
Chase had been able
to find some wonderful medieval weekends for them to attend, very authentic
were it not for the expensive cars outside in the car park and the odd
aeroplane flying over. She had her doubts about the fabrics used for the
clothing though, and they were probably machine sewn inside, but it all looked
good and as close to the real thing as Cara was ever likely to get.
With each day that
passed, she was more and more convinced that Chase was the man for her. God
knows, she had waited long enough. Nearly every man she had ever been out with
had tried to get her into bed on their second date, if not the first. Cara had
no interest in that; not that she had no interest in sex, because she could
still be attracted to a handsome, well built man, but she was very old
fashioned about things like that. So was Chase, her fiancé, sorry, her
What could be more
appropriate than a medieval wedding? As they climbed aboard the ship, moored
about fifty yards out, she glanced back at the spectators on the harbour wall,
all staring at them and, she was sure, hoping they could get a ride on the
“Oh, Chase,” she
murmured as she looked about. “This must be worth a fortune.”
“If I wanted to sell
it,” he replied.
“It’s yours?” She
asked. “I thought perhaps you’d hired it for the occasion.”
“No, my love, the
ship is mine. It is as authentic as it can be. I have had many repairs and
restorations carried out, but I have always kept it as it should be, in keeping
with the time.”
She’d always known
he was wealthy; that was obvious by his expensive clothing as well as his Aston
Martin and he bought her lovely gifts, mostly antique jewellery. She’d never
realised he was wealthy enough to own a ship like this and she didn’t like to
ask. She didn’t want him running away with the idea that she was interested in
his bank balance more than him.
The sea was calm,
thank God, as she had never been on a ship before and wasn’t sure if she had any
sea legs. She would hate to begin the journey by throwing up over the side;
that wouldn’t be very romantic, now, would it?
“How are the guests
getting there?” She asked him.
She had given him a
list of people she wanted invited to the wedding, her only relative being a
first cousin she saw once or twice a year. He wanted to do the invitations
himself, wanted to make them in real parchment and sealed with sealing wax. She
smiled when she imagined her cousin’s face when she got that through the door.
“I’ve arranged a
yacht for them,” he told her. “I didn’t think they’d appreciate this vessel
like you and I do.”
He was right there.
Her cousin and her few friends would be far more impressed with a full sized luxury
yacht. He’s made all the arrangements for them and she assumed he had booked
them all into a hotel for the weekend.
Chase led her
through a door, carved out of the same dark wood as the ship, and into a cabin
which was decked out like the rest of the vessel. It was designed in the same,
sixteenth century style, even down to the feather bed which modern medical
thinking declared was detrimental to a person’s spine.
In a chest at the
bottom of the bed, Cara found a blue brocade gown just like the ones she had
seen in paintings. Anne Boleyn wore something like this in her famous portrait,
the one with the velvet necklace she always wore to hide her mole. It was that
mole that had made superstitious people say she was a witch, thinking it was a
third nipple with which to feed her familiar. That and the sixth finger on her
It was well known
now, of course, that many people had a sixth finger and their parents usually
had those extra digits surgically removed at birth, but poor Queen Anne had no
such advantage and had designed long sleeves to cover it.
Cara looked about
at the cabin then turned and gave Chase a delighted smile.
“Are you going to
change?” He asked, taking her in his arms and kissing her.
“The gown is for
you. I did explain this theme is truly medieval. You will find no expensive
motor cars, no television aerials, nothing modern at all; the adventure begins
She was so excited
she could barely keep still. She had always felt a little out of place in the
twenty first century and had studied history since her early school days. All
she had ever wanted to be was an historian, to work in a museum and actually
handle all those old items.
The documents she
worked with in the museum were the most fascinating to her, especially if they
were signed by one of the monarchs. A death warrant actually signed by
Elizabeth I could hold her attention for hours.
As she got to know
him better, Chase showed her his private collection of medieval artefacts, even
clothing. Some of the things he had were quite amazing and she believed they
should be on public display, not kept in a private collection. He even had a
genuine Elizabethan gown, like the ones worn by Elizabeth herself, with all the
quilting, the neck ruffs, the encrusted jewels. Even the Victoria and Albert
Museum had nothing like it; their oldest piece of clothing was an undergarment
from Elizabethan times.
But Chase wanted to
keep his collection exclusive to members of the history society which he ran.
People who joined had to know an awful lot about their chosen period and
membership was very exclusive. It wasn’t expensive though; she remembered being
a little put out by his reasoning that ‘the peasants had as much right to
history as the nobility’.
Cara knew that most
of her friends were not impressed with her choice. In fact she was surprised
they had accepted the wedding invitation, but perhaps they just wanted to see
what it would be like. They thought Chase to be a little odd and she had to
admit that some of his ideas and mannerisms were very unconventional. But to
her, a historian, they were in keeping with her idea of a romantic lover from
the sixteenth century. He behaved like a medieval gentleman, or what she
imagined someone like that would behave like. He was very protective of her,
which she liked, although her feminist friends hated it.
“He is a
chauvinist, Cara,” one of her friends had told her. “He will end up controlling
your every move, you mark my words.”
“You are wrong,”
she argued. “It is just his way.”
Cara thought some
of her friends were too feminist in their ideals. None of them were really
friends, though, only people she went for an occasional drink with. She had
little time for women who would regard a man calling her ‘love’ as sexual
harassment. Cara was all for women’s rights, but a lot of modern women had
taken the whole thing too far and spoilt things for others, like herself, who
wanted a man to treat her as a lady. All this ‘anything you can do..’ attitude
had spoilt a lot of things, in Cara’s opinion.
When Chase proposed
marriage she was over the moon and she wasn’t about to let naysayers spoil
things for her. Now here they were on a galleon ship on their way to their wedding
and honeymoon on a medieval themed island. She wondered just how authentic it
would be, whether it would be a mixture of long dresses and mobile phones.
As Chase helped her
into the many parts of the gown, she wondered how women in the sixteenth
century ever managed to wear these garments. The petticoats were all separate,
the kirtle was a one piece dress, worn underneath an overskirt with tied at the
front and was left open to show the underskirt. The bodice was separate and
laced at the back, so Chase had to help her with it and the sleeves were two
separate pieces, very elaborately quilted and embroidered.
“No wonder ladies
needed personal maids to dress them,” she remarked. “I’m surprised nobody
thought to stitch the sleeves to the bodice before they did. It seems so
These clothes were
far more authentic than the ones they had worn at the many medieval weekends they
had attended. The material was all natural, the embroidery and stitching done
by hand and there were no intimate undergarments. That must have been very
draughty in the winter, Cara thought, smothering a giggle.
“But the idea was
to vary the gown. A lady could wear a different bodice with a different kirtle
and a different pair of sleeves. It was quite clever when you think about it.”
He finished lacing her bodice and stepped back to admire the result. “Besides,
there were bodices made with the sleeves attached, but they were mostly worn by
the lower classes.”
There he goes
again, she thought, with his class distinctions. Cara hoped he would realise
that was one attitude which should be firmly fixed in the past.
He lifted her soft
hair with the palm of his hand.
“It is a pity you
had it cut,” he said. “I wish you’d told me you were going to do that; I would
have talked you out of it.”
wore her dark, wavy hair collar length as that seemed to suit the thickness and
Chase had been nagging her to grow it long. It had got to her shoulders before
it began to really irritate her and she’d given up and had it cut. It didn’t
seem to approve at the time, but it was her hair not his.
“You should think
yourself lucky. When I was in the hairdresser, I considered having it layered
really short. It is thick and wavy enough to take that sort of style.”
He shook his head.
“No, never do
that,” he said thoughtfully. “I like it long. Short hair would not suit this
“What about you?”
She said. “Do you have a suit of quilted satin to wear?”
“I do indeed,” he
replied. “But we are not yet married so I am going behind that curtain to
She wasn’t sure if
he was joking, but she grinned anyway. He may have been teasing her, but one of
the things she loved about Chase was his acceptance of her ideals, that
unmarried people should not see each other undressed. She liked that, it would
make it all the more special when the time came.
He retreated to the
little alcove behind the curtain and she heard him fumbling about in the
While she waited
she gazed out of the tiny window at the sea beyond. She couldn’t see very much,
since the windows did not open, but she could tell by the expanse of water that
they were moving fairly quickly. She soon retreated back inside the cabin to
sit on the bed and wait; the ship was rocking about and watching the waves
outside was making her a little nauseous.
“How long before we
get there?” She called.
“Not long. We
should be there soon.”
“Where,” she asked.
“That’s what I want to know. You haven’t told me where we’re going.”
His reply came from
close behind her, making her jump before she turned to face him. He wore a red quilted
jacket with gold braid along the stitching, a high collar and a white silk
shirt with lace at the cuffs which fell over his hands. His trousers were knee
length and made of the same satin; thank God he hadn’t gone for those awful
bloomer like breeches. She never understood how a woman could fancy a man in
bloomers, even if they were the fashion. He didn’t wear the codpiece either,
which was a huge relief. Important men had worn the codpiece as a sort of
shield for their genitals, especially in battle, but it became a symbol of
virility as time went on, especially after King Henry VIII’s codpieces were
made bigger and bigger and left room for a huge erection.
Cara blushed at the
thought. She wondered if anyone really believed his parts were that big, anyone
except him that is.
There came a knock
on the cabin door and Chase went to open it.
“Your Grace,” the
sailor said. “We have arrived. There is a raft waiting to take you and Her
She giggled. Your Grace! Her Ladyship!
“Come, my dear,”
Chase said, offering his arm. “We will arrive in time for supper.”
They stepped ashore
to be greeted by many people in medieval costume, some dressed as peasants,
many in the aristocratic style of the time, similar in fact to what they were
The peasants skirts
fell just in line with their ankles but the skirts of the noble ladies spread
more than a few inches below their feet and Cara wondered how on earth they
managed to walk in them. She glanced back as one lady moved and she got her
answer; she sort of glided along, slid her feet along the ground, pushing the
fabric along in front of her.
Cara’s own gown
also reached to below her feet and she thought it was simply made for a much
taller woman, but apparently not. She had managed by lifting her skirts when
she walked; she wondered why these women couldn’t do the same.
The men bowed, the
women curtsied, not just the peasants but the nobility as well. The women
curtsied low, their heads almost touching their feet and Cara had difficulty
keeping a straight face. This was going to be so much fun.
It was a short ride
in the carriage, which was fitted with wooden seats and separate cushions. There
was no glass in the windows, just a thin wooden blind which pulled across for
privacy. It must have been freezing to travel far in winter. It was extremely
uncomfortable, every bump in the road jolted her spine and Cara wondered how on
earth people managed long journeys in such a vehicle.
As they rode along,
she peered out of the window and saw a few little thatched cottages like the
ones still to be found in some English villages. Not one of the houses had a
satellite dish or an aerial, just as Chase had promised and there wasn’t a car
or even a bicycle in sight.
There were horses
though, lots of them grazing in a paddock beyond the small village. Before she
met Chase, she had never sat upon a horse. She was afraid of heights and every
time the animal moved she was convinced she would be tumbled to the ground far
It took a long time
to teach her to ride, to control such a powerful creature, but it seemed he
loved to ride and wanted her to join him in the pursuit. That would be great
for when they got home after the honeymoon, but for this holiday he wanted her
to learn to ride side saddle, and she didn’t enjoy that. At least sitting
astride the horse she felt as though she had some control, some grip if it
decided to take off, but side saddle she was sure she would be pitched forward
every time the horse moved.
She felt a change
in the road surface and looked out to see they were driving across the wooden
slats of a drawbridge. Looking down into the murky, brown waters of the moat,
she noticed stains running down the castle walls from small openings up high.
She wondered if this was part of the recreation of if this castle really was
old enough to have had stool closets which opened onto the outside wall. Human
waste would drift down the walls into the moat beneath and many British castles
had these stains. She had no idea where she was, so perhaps it was a real
There was a faint
stench coming from the moat as well which completed the illusion of it being
ancient and full of sewage. Oh, this had been so cleverly done! It reminded her
of the mock up of the Blitz she had seen in Cornwall, where there were the
smells of burning from the bombed out buildings and the sound of air raid
Her heart fluttered
with excitement; if it really was an ancient castle, it would make it all the
more authentic, all the more exciting.
She turned to ask
Chase about it, then smiled at his indulgent expression.
“What do you think?
Do you think you will enjoy being here?”
“It is wonderful!”
She cried. “It is so real.”
rumbled into the castle courtyard and came to a stop on the cobblestones; a
servant ran forward to open the carriage door and Chase got down then turned to
offer his hand to help her alight after him.
She looked about in
awe and noticed once more the bows and curtseys of all the people. These were
obviously servants, dressed in rough linen shirts, not very clean either, and
trousers made of some sort of soft hide. The men wore sandals on their feet,
which were also not very clean.
She assumed they
worked here, playing the parts of peasants and servants. Cara had visited
Disneyworld once and been amazed at the way the attendants got so involved in
the parts they were playing, from cowboys to witches and safari guides. But
this castle was a real one, ancient and made of solid stone, just like Windsor
This was even more
authentic seeming than Disneyworld. Cara thought about the people dressed as
the nobility who had greeted them at the harbour and assumed they, too, were
holiday makers, perhaps on a slightly lower budget than Chase and Cara. Or
perhaps it was because of the wedding and honeymoon they were getting special
He held out his
hand and she settled her own on it, his arm held up high as they walked. She
suppressed another giggle as they followed a servant looking man up a narrow,
stone staircase and through an arched door made of oak with iron slats across. Cara
had seen doors like that in lots of ruined castles around England and Wales.
The servant opened the door and stepped inside, then bowed before he turned and
left them alone, closing the door behind him.
The gown was much
too long and she thought it very inconvenient to have to lift her skirts
whenever she moved, but that was the fashion. She wondered how long that lasted
before women got fed up with it.
The servant didn’t
look for a tip and Chase didn’t give him one. Perhaps he couldn’t. He had left
his modern clothes somewhere; had he left his money as well? For the first time
she wondered where her own things were, where was their luggage?
Inside the chamber
the stone walls were covered in tapestries, all intricately stitched and
looking very old. They even had that ‘old’ smell about them, like you sometimes
get in stately homes where those enormous tapestries hung on the walls. Mostly
they depicted hunting scenes, which made her shudder. Chase knew she was an
animal lover who didn’t approve of hunting, but he probably had no control over
There was a four
poster bed made of solid oak with intricately carved patterns of flowers and
little deer and hung with tapestry curtains. The mattresses were so high there
were wooden steps beside the bed to enable them to climb up.
She even spotted a
trundle bed underneath which could be pulled out. That was where the servants
would have slept, in the same room as the married couple. She had never really
considered before how embarrassing that would be, even with the bed curtains
closed. It would have been embarrassing for the couple as well as the servants.
There was a carved
chest at the end of the bed with more medieval ladies’ clothing inside and
protruding out from the sides of the head board were poles upon which hung
kirtles in fabulous fabrics.
“This place is
amazing,” Cara said excitedly. “There is not even a wardrobe.”
“No, they would not
be in keeping with the time. I told you; you will find nothing modern here. We
have stepped back in time, my darling, into the sixteenth century.”
forward and put her arms around his neck and he bent and kissed her, a gentle,
fleeting kiss. She wanted more but they had promised themselves a chaste
engagement, sorry ‘betrothal’. Tomorrow though, they would be married and
tomorrow night they would be free to allow their passions to emerge, even to
take over. Cara felt a little tingle; she was so looking forward to that part.
“Oh, Chase, I love
you,” she said softly. “I cannot wait for tomorrow.”
“Chase is short for
Charles, I told you that before. Here, in this time, on this island, I am
Charles. Chase is something the hounds do to the fox.”
She shuddered at
the comparison and wondered at the insensitivity of using that particular
simile with her. She’d have that image in her mind all day now.
He really was
taking the whole thing seriously, wasn’t he? Very well, she could play too.
“Charles,” she said
and attempted a curtsey which made him smile.
“And you must be
She stared at him
for a moment, not sure if he was joking, but it seemed he was still very
“Nobody calls me
Caroline,” she retorted. “My name is Cara.”
“I know it is what
you are called, but it doesn’t sound English, does it? Your name is Caroline,
so let us use your given name.”
She stepped back
and studied his face. She was all for taking it seriously, but she wasn’t sure
she liked being told what she should be called.
At last she
shrugged. What difference did it make, really?”
“Ok,” she answered
at last. “Although Caroline is a bit of a mouthful. I am hungry; what time is
this supper you mentioned?”
She hadn’t seen a
clock of any description. There were probably sundials about the place and Cara
had never really learned how to read one of those, but she’d get some idea by
the position of the sun in the sky.
was a great hall, like the ones she had seen in paintings in many galleries and
museums. It was an enormous room, big enough to hold a ball, and there was a
high table where the heads of the family would sit. That table formed the bar
of a T with a longer table forming the stem. This arrangement must be where the
layout came from for wedding breakfasts, even today. It was fascinating to
realise that they still used the same arrangement, the high table being for the
wedding party, the bride and groom and important people. Here this table was
where the servants sat, in order of importance.
The steward and his
family sat nearest the family and gradually down the table sat all the other
servants. The salt was carefully placed at the top of this long table, between
the family and the steward, and Cara smiled to herself, recalling the phrase
‘beneath the salt’ to describe people of a lower class.
It was a saying
which was not used so often in England any more and the last time Cara had
heard it was from the mother of a boy she used to date at school. The woman was
a terrible snob and thought she was somehow better bred than others around her;
she used the term to describe Cara, although she had no idea she was listening.
“Don’t get serious
about that girl,” she had told her son. “She is not quite, above the salt.”
Cara had laughed
quietly but when she heard her boyfriend agreeing with his mother, she left the
house, never to return and thought herself lucky to have been eavesdropping.
Now the layout of
this hall told her precisely where the expression had come from. Chase led her
to the high table and they sat together looking out at the tables set out with
medieval crockery. There were trenchers of stale bread right at the bottom of
the table for the lowest servants, but she and Chase had wooden ones, as well
as a wooden spoon and a mazer for their ale. There were also bowls and cups
made of some shiny, hard material. Cara wondered if it was stone; she had seen
a programme on television about a chalice in Valencia made of stone, thought by
some to be the Holy Grail.
She picked up one
of the bowls and turned to Chase.
“Is this stone, do
you think?” She asked.
“No,” he answered
with a smile. “It is horn.”
replaced the bowl and saw that the cup beside it was of the same material. She
couldn’t drink out of a vessel made of animal horn.
Chase produced a
knife for himself and one for her.
“Keep that with
you. You will likely need it again.”
Of course, medieval
people all carried their own knives and used them for everything from whittling
wood to cutting their meat. And there would be no forks either, as they hadn’t
been invented yet.
As she looked down
the length of the hall, she saw that people were using spoon like objects with
a sharpened end in place of a fork. They appeared to be made of bone and Cara
didn’t fancy that any more than she did the horn bowls.
On the table before
them was a whole pig and Chase was carving into it. Cara turned her gaze away;
meat was one thing but she didn’t want something on the table which looked like
it might get up and run away.
She looked about
for the vegetables, but could see none. She was relieved when two servants carried
in a heavy tureen containing some sort of vegetable stew and began to ladle
some into one of the horn bowls. She didn’t want to use it, but there was
nothing else and she was very hungry.
place didn’t cater much for vegetarians, but then if they wanted to keep it as
authentic as possible, they wouldn’t, would they? Cara would just have to make
do with the stew and perhaps there would be some fruit or cheese. Yes, cheese
would be good; there was definitely cheese.
There was goose as
well as the pig and Chase was gnawing away at it. He tossed the half eaten bone
onto the floor where two dogs waited to devour the leftovers, just like that
painting she had seen in the Louvre in Paris. There were dogs in that, all
waiting beneath the table for the bits which were thrown down when the family
had finished with them. She hoped they didn’t start fighting over the bones;
she wanted to be sure there were some leftovers from her plate for the dogs,
but she wasn’t sure how much interest they would have in vegetable stew.
Surely they would
have something more to eat than this? She fully expected to find somewhere in
this castle where there would be proper dog food stored.
Along with the
thought of dogs came the sudden fear that whoever ran this place had possibly
gone too far. She glanced at the huge fireplace, where often there would have
been a spit with a whole animal turning to roast over the flames. Turning the
spit would be a dog, strapped in place on hot coals and the dog would keep
running in an effort to get away and relieve the pain in his paws.
Cara shuddered; she
loved history, but always tried to forget some of the awful things people did
back then, especially when it came to animals. They had some strange idea that
they had no souls and therefore could not feel pain. She breathed a sigh of
relief to see the hearth cold and empty.
her surroundings carefully, looking for something which would remind her that
she was, in fact, in the twenty first century still. Apart from the smells of
food, there was a very faint aroma of perspiration. It was nothing that would
put her off her meal, but it was there nonetheless. Could it be that these
people had no access to deodorant? Again she smiled at the notion and tucked
into the delicious vegetable stew, wondering if that wonderful ship was really
a time machine in disguise.
She was a little
annoyed with Chase to be enjoying the meat so much when he knew she hated to
see anyone eat animal flesh, but if she wanted authentic, she supposed she
would have to put up with it. Her objections would not save the thousands of
animals who were slaughtered for food every day. Cara watched in fascination as
the servants with the bread trenchers finished their meals by soaking those
trenchers into the stew and eating them. It certainly saved on the washing up.
The light was
beginning to fade and some of the servants came along and lit candles and one
man had a long taper which he lit from a candle and used to light the candles
in the chandeliers hanging high up from the ceiling.