Monday, 19 March 2018

The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper

I'm stepping out of the Georgian era briefly for my next release, and visiting the trenches of WWI. The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper, co-written with Eleanor Harkstead, is released worldwide on 3rd April 2018.

You can read an excerpt below!

As the Great War tears Europe apart, two men from different worlds find sanctuary in each other’s arms.

Captain Robert Thorne is the fiercest officer in the regiment. Awaiting the command to go to the front, he has no time for simpering, comely lads. That’s until one summer day in 1917, when his dark, flashing eye falls upon the newest recruit at Chateau de Desgravier, a fresh-faced farmer’s boy with little experience of life and a wealth of poetry in his heart.

Trooper Jack Woodvine has a way with strong, difficult stallions, and whispers them to his gentle will. Yet even he has never tamed a creature like Captain Thorne.

With the shadow of the Great War and the scheming of enemies closer to home threatening their fleeting chance at happiness, can the captain and the cavalry trooper make it home safely? More importantly, will they see peacetime together?

Amazon UK
Amazon US


Northern France


The wagon carrying Jack Woodvine bumped and jerked along the poplar-lined lanes, a fine spray of mud rising up each time the huge wooden wheels splashed through a puddle.

He had given up checking the time and, even though the journey was far from comfortable, tried to doze as he passed along under the iron-gray sky. A chateau, they’d said. Different from the barracks he’d been in when he was first deployed. Doubtless it would be a dismal old fortress, but was it silly of him to hope for bright pennants fluttering from a turret?

Finally, the wagon drew up at a gatehouse of pale stone. As Jack climbed out, dragging his kitbag behind him, sunlight nudged back the clouds and turned the gray slate of the roofs to blue.

“You the new groom?” A soldier appeared from the gatehouse. His cap was so low over his eyes that Jack couldn’t make out his expression.

“Yes—Trooper Woodvine. Jack Woodvine.” He took a letter from his pocket and held it out to the man. “I’ve been transferred from another battalion. This is the Chateau de Desgravier?”

“Yes, Trooper! Turn left at the bottom of the drive for the stables. Quick march!”

The last thing Jack wanted to do was march, quickly or otherwise, but he shouldered his kitbag, jammed his cap onto his head and marched down the tree-lined avenue.

It was thickly leaved, but through the branches he could see the white stone of the chateau ahead. He rounded a bend in the driveway and he saw it—Chateau de Desgravier.

An enormous tower rose up in front of him, its roof reaching into a delicate point. Jack sighed, the spots of mud on his face cracking as he smiled. It might not have had pennants floating from it, but it was exactly like something from a fairytale. Beside the tower were the stone and brick and filigreed windows of what looked to Jack like a palace. Who would ever think that the front was only a few miles to the east?

Quick march!

Jack continued on his way, turning to his left just as he’d been ordered. The path here bore evidence of horses—straw, manure, the marks of horseshoes. Ahead, an archway, figures at work. A lad of Jack’s age maneuvering a wheelbarrow, another leading a horse out to the paddock.

This wouldn’t be so bad. It seemed to be a peaceful place, and easy work for a lad like Jack. He raised his hand and grinned at the grooms as he headed under the archway and into the vast stable yard.

Then he heard singing. In French.

Jack dropped his kitbag and looked round. The voice was that of a man, yet heightened slightly, giving it a teasing, effeminate edge, and Jack couldn’t help but follow it like a sailor lured by a siren, pulled along the row of open stables toward that lilting chanson. Inside those stables young men labored and sweated, brooms swept and spades shoveled, yet one of the boxes at the far corner of the yard seemed to have been transformed into an impromptu theater.

Jack hardly dared glance through that open door, yet he couldn’t help himself, blinking at the hazy darkness of the interior where half a dozen grooms lounged in the straw, watching the chanteur in rapt silence.

Right in front of Jack, his back to the door, was the figure of a young man, clad in jodhpurs, polished riding boots and nothing else. No, that wasn’t quite true, because he was wearing something, the sort of something Jack didn’t really see much of in Shropshire. It was some sort of silken scarf, a shawl, perhaps, that was looped around his neck twice, the wide, dazzling red fabric decorated with intricate yellow flowers. They were bright against the pale skin of his naked back, as bright as the tip of the cigarette that glowed in the end of a long ebony cigarette holder that the singer held in his elegant right hand. He gestured with it like a painter with his brush, making intricate movements with his wrist as he sang, his voice a low purr, then a high, tuneful trill, then a comically deep bass that drew laughter from his audience.

He moved with the confidence of a dancer, hips swinging seductively, head cocked to one side, free hand resting on his narrow hip and here, in this strange fairytale place, he was bewitching.

The singer executed a near-perfect pirouette yet quite suddenly, when he was facing Jack, stopped. He put the cigarette holder to his pink lips, drew in a long, deep breath and blew out a smoke ring, his full lips forming a perfect O.

“Well, now.” He sucked in his pale cheeks and asked, “Who on earth have we here?”

Jack blinked as the smoke ring drifted into his face.

“Tr-trooper Woodvine, reporting for Captain Thorne. I’ve been transferred—I’m his new groom. I don’t suppose—”

The words dried in Jack’s throat. As enthralling as this otherworldly figure was, with his slim face and high cheekbones, there was an unsettling glint of mockery in his narrow blue eyes.

“Sorry.” Jack took a half-step backward. “I interrupted your song. I should…”

The singer moved a little, just enough that he could dart his head forward on its slender neck and draw his nose from Jack’s shoulder to his ear, breathing deeply all the way. They didn’t touch but the invasion, the authority, was clear. However lowly their station, Jack had wandered innocently into someone else’s domain.

When the young man’s nose reached Jack’s ear he threw his head back and let out a loud sigh through his parted lips, arms extended to either side. Then he finally spoke again, declaring to the heavens, “I smell new blood!”

Behind him, his small audience tittered nervously and his head dropped once more, those glittering blue eyes focused on Jack.

“Trooper Charles, sir!” He executed a courtly bow, the hand that held the cigarette twirling elaborately. “But you’re so darling and green that you may address me as Queenie. Aren’t you the lucky one?”

Jack reached for the doorframe to casually prop himself against it and essay the appearance of calm. Queenie?

“You may call me Jack.”

He extended his free hand to shake. A handshake showed the mettle of a man, his father was always telling him so. A good, firm hand at the market and a fellow would never have his prices beaten down.

Queenie’s narrow gaze slid down Jack like a snake and settled on his hand. He didn’t take it, didn’t move at all for a few seconds as the silence between them grew thicker. Then, in one quick movement, he placed his cigarette holder between Jack’s fingers and said, “Have a treat on me. Welcome to Cinderella’s doss house!”

Jack brought it hesitantly to his lips, smiling gamely at the grooms who made up Queenie’s audience. He pouted his lips against the carved ebony and inhaled.

The cough was so violent that Jack nearly dropped the holder, but an instinct in him born of a lifetime on a farm of tinder-dry hay meant he clamped it between his fingers. As he heaved for breath, he stamped on the nearby straw, suffocating any sparks that might have fallen.

The other grooms laughed and Queenie’s head tipped back to emit a bray of hilarity as a strong hand walloped Jack’s back.

A friendly Cockney burr chirruped, “Cough up, chicken—there’s a good lad!”

“We have a new little chicky in our nest,” Queenie told his audience, turning to address them. “I want you all to make him terribly welcome, or he might burn down our stables and then where would your Queenie sing?”

The stocky lad who had rescued Jack from his coughing fit was a head shorter than him. He pulled a face that could have been a smile or a sneer and took the cigarette holder from his fingers. He passed it to Queenie, all the while fixing his stare on the new arrival.

“Trooper Cole. Wilfred, that’s me. You’re Captain Thorne’s new boy, aren’t you?”

He laughed, then turned his head to spit on the floor, pulling a skinny roll-up from behind his ear.

“I’m Jack Woodvine. I mean…Trooper Woodvine.”

“I s’pose me and Queenie better take you to your quarters?”

“That would— But…oughtn’t I to introduce myself to Captain Thorne?”

“I’d say that’s a bit difficult, seeing as he’s not here at the moment.” Wilfred picked up Jack’s kitbag as easily as if it were spun from a feather. “Come on, soldier. Your palace awaits!”

“Captain T is an angel.” Queenie draped one arm sinuously around Jack’s shoulders and walked him back across the stable yard, his naked torso pressed to Jack’s rough tunic. “You’re going to have a bloody easy war, he’s soft as my mother’s newborn kitten.”

He glanced back at Wilfred and asked, “Wouldn’t you say so, Wilf?”

“Not half!” Wilfred laughed, striking a match to light his cigarette. “You couldn’t find a nicer bloke in the entire regiment.”

Jack grinned as they headed up the creaking wooden stairs above the stables. New quarters and new friends, and he wouldn’t have to rough it in a tent. Maybe there’d even be warm water for a bath.

“Well, that’s good to know. The officers were a bit…brusque at my last place.”

“Brusque?” Wilfred raised an amused eyebrow. “That’s a fancy word for a groom!”

“Ignore our lovely Wilf. Strong as an ox, bright as a coal shed.” At the top of the stairs Queenie turned to address Wilfred and Jack, his pale hand resting on the crooked handrail. “Thorny is adorable, not brusque at all. Welcome to our little slice of heaven!”

With that he lifted the latch and threw the door open, directing Jack to enter with another low bow.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Mr Wickham and the Prince of Wales!

I’m so excited to share news of two Jane Austen events that I’m taking part in. I’ll be celebrating all things Austen with the Jane Austen Midlands Society on 17th March in Staffordshire. This event is open to non-members and I’ll be chatting all about Jane Austen and the King of Bling, whilst the fabulous John White will be bringing a Regency butler to life! Find out more here.
The second event sees me appearing with Adrian Lukis (perhaps more familiar as the roguish Mr Wickham) again as we bring An with Jane Austen to the breathtaking Waterloo Room at Wellington College!
Join us on 11th March for Regency music and song and readings from the works of Jane Austen. It promises to be a fun evening!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A Library Miscellany

It's an absolute delight to welcome Claire Cock-Starkey to the salon today as she undertakes the promo rounds with her new book, A Library Miscellany.

As with all of Claire's marvellous books, this one is another treasure trove and absolutely beautiful to look at too! It may be small but it's packed with wonderful bits of trivia and fascinating stories about libraries across the world, from the earliest to today. What book lover doesn’t love a library? A whole place full of books that you can borrow as much as you like. I love libraries so it was a real pleasure to read Claire Cock-Starkey’s book full of facts and information all about libraries.

If you love books (who doesn't?) and the wonders of libraries, this is a must read!

You can follow Claire on Twitter and if you're anywhere near Oxford at noon on 20th March, she's speaking at the Oxford Literary Festival. Find out more here!

Without further ado, let's delve into the world of circulating libraries...

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

An Evening with Jane Austen at Wellington College

An Evening with Jane Austen is coming to the stunning surroundings of Wellington College!

An Evening with Jane Austen, Wellington College, 11th March 2018
Historian and author, Catherine Curzon, introduces a magical evening with Austen’s most memorable characters in the evocative surroundings of Godmersham Park. With Caroline Langrishe and Adrian Lukis, alongside period musical entertainment from Rosie Lomas and Camilla Pay. 

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The Wentworth Woodhouse Gin Festival

Like gin? Like gorgeous houses? Of course you do, so I'll see you at the Wentworth Woodhouse Gin Festival!

Don't miss a fantastic fundraising Gin Festival held at the amazing Official Wentworth Woodhouse over three sessions.

Tickets are available on line only at  for £15 per person, which includes a Copa Gin glass and access to dozens of local and nationally produced gins. These include  the launch of "The Spirit of Woodhouse", our very own gin in collaboration with Lincolnshire's Pin Gin.

Add artisan foods, live music and dancers, special masterclasses and the fabulous event sponsors Fever-Tree and it will be a "must go to" event for 2018!

Tickets are selling fast already, we hope to see you there. Enquiries can be directed through the Facebook page or via!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Peter the Wild Boy

I'll be in Oadby, Leicestershire, to chat all about Peter the Wild Boy on 15th February. Tickets are just £5, and refreshments are included!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

New Release: An Actor's Guide to Romance

An Actor's Guide to Romance is available world-wide now! This short story is just 99p, and you can read a short extract below.

An Actor's Guide to Romance
When long-time theatrical enemies are cast as lovers, their late-night rehearsal brings a whole new meaning to method acting.
For twenty years, rakish Adam Fisher and gentlemanly Thomas Fox have been the best of enemies and  their first on-stage kiss is causing  headaches for everyone. Over a bottle of wine on one rainy night in London, these two acting legends will do whatever it takes to banish their first-night nerves. After all, the show must go on!

Every hero needs his villain. The thorn in his side, the shadow on his sun, the fly on his teacake. Holmes had his Moriarty, Superman had Lex Luther, ET had the lack of intergalactic telephone lines and Thomas Fox had Adam Fisher. From that long-ago audition at drama school when each had chosen a monologue that had stopped the panel in its tracks to the first of innumerable shared curtain calls when a new Jeeves met his Wooster, he was always there, always up for the same roles, his name on the same lists that were proposed for your consideration, matching every single achievement until, still chasing one another’s shadow more than two decades after that very first meeting at RADA, together they had waited for Godot. They were like a mirror image, two careers on parallel lines, from youthful love interest to middle-aged gravitas, each as decorated, as popular, as perfect as the other.
Maybe they always would be until one died or they killed each other.
Who knows?
In any titanic struggle, the parties must know their places and right now, theirs was a dingy basement off Covent Garden, where Thomas and Adam were embracing.
“Thank god we found each other. What would I do without you, darling?”
Adam rolled his eyes. Not enough for it to be noticeable from the front row, but Thomas noticed, because he intended Thomas to notice. Because that was the sort of thing that Adam did, the sort of thing he had always done. He rolled his eyes, gave a little sigh and finally whispered, “Did you have onions at lunch?”
Then he raised his voice to an audible volume and replied, “I feel as though I’ve been searching all my life for something, and I didn’t realize until we found each other.”
Thomas gazed down at Adam’s full lips and, despite sudden stiffness in his neck, began to lower his face to kiss him. Adam blinked, his blue eyes shining when they met Thomas’ gaze, his embrace around Thomas’ waist tightening. He pursed his lips, blinked again and declared, “God, that is oniony!”
Thomas flung up his hands and backed out of their embrace. “I can’t bloody do this, Adam, if you keep titting about!”
From the side of the room there came a flurry of movement as their solo audience threw up her hands, dashing script pages across the floor. Gill Henley rose from her seat in a whirlwind of scarves and floral print and exclaimed, “For Christ’s sake, gents, this scene again! Can you not just plough through and pretend you might actually be in love? You’re supposed to be actors, so act!”
“It was a joke, darling!” Adam was all innocence now, of course, because he would be, wouldn’t he? He put his hands on his hips and addressed Thomas. “You dragged me out of character, Tom Fox. It’s a cheap way to steal a scene.”
I dragged you out of character?” Thomas felt his face flush as he tried to rein in his frustration. “You keep breaking out of character to comment on my breath! Which, I might add, does not smell of onions. And don’t bloody call me Tom Fox. I’m not a character in Wind in the bloody Willows.”
“Look,” Gill addressed them as though they were naughty schoolboys. “This isn’t a play about being gay. Stop making it the fulcrum of the drama. Your characters being gay is just part of the fabric of their lives, just like your lives. It’s not as though your whole lives are spent camping about and being as gay as gay can be, are they?”
She looked at Adam and narrowed her eyes.
“Yours is, I know that, but as a whole, gay is part of life, not life itself.” Gill held up her hand before Adam could protest. “You have one kiss in the text. It’s not the end of the world. Let’s call it a day and come back tomorrow, lips puckered, ready to kiss and move bloody on, yes?”
“Tell him.” Adam shrugged, already turning to retrieve his coat. “I’m a professional, he’s an onion-eater.”
Thomas clenched his fists. “It was a shallot, Fisher! It was not an onion!”
“Well, enjoy your evening of onions, Tom Fox.” Adam kissed Gill’s cheek and raised his hand to Thomas. “Because I am off home to study my lines. Bonsoir, my fine supporting player!”
He spun on his heel to give a deep bow then, with another wave, opened the door and disappeared into the hallway.
Even though Thomas knew that Adam could no longer hear him, he raised his chin imperiously and declared, “Equal billing, darling! I am no one’s support.”