Friday, 12 June 2015

Midsummer Dreaming


In celebration of the e-launch day for Alison May’s brand new romantic comedy, Midsummer Dreams, I’m posting today on the theme of all things dream-related.



I had a dream…

...or rather Jocasta did… 


Lost in a glorious memory of twinkling, smoky-flint orbs and a heady masculine scent, Jocasta drifted off to sleep. She dreamed she was in an enormous ballroom, with full length mirrors along one wall and two rows of marble columns supporting the ceiling, which was adorned by a Renaissance painting of Venus and Cupid in a meadow, surrounded by bright flowers. At the far end of the room, opposite the heavy oak doors through which she had entered, arched glass doors opened on to a paved terrace. An orchestra was playing and a dozen couples were performing the steps of La Chaîne Anglaise.

Jocasta hesitated, surveying the scene. A gentleman was walking towards her. Attired in a maroon coat of watered silk, pale cream breeches and white clocked stockings, he was the picture of elegance. At first she did not recognize him, for his dark wavy hair had been tamed into a fashionable style. He bowed with perfect grace, but as he straightened, she saw the glint of humour in Richard’s slate-grey eyes. He held out his hand.

“Do you care to dance, my lady?” he asked.

Dropping a deep curtsey, she laid her hand in his. Even through her thin white silk gloves, the heat of his touch tingled in her fingers and prickled in her veins.

Then the scene changed and she was on a stretch of moorland, which in an odd way appeared familiar. She was wearing breeches and in the distance a man was riding in her direction...

Jocasta awoke in a rush and flapped the covers on the bed. She was too warm. Sticky perspiration had gathered in her armpits and her heart was pumping faster than it should be doing. It was that strange dream. Had this sort of thing happened to her before? Was this how it felt when one found a gentleman attractive? She searched her memory, but still discovered no answers. With a sigh, she flopped back on the linen covered pillow. Who would have thought lying in bed could be so exhausting?

 

Excerpt from A Sense of the Ridiculous, Second Edition due out in the summer.



I had a nightmare…


...or rather a cavalryman did at Waterloo…


 
The soldier lifted his blurry eyes, his attention caught by a horse and rider picking their way deliberately among the dead and dying carpeting the battlefield. Splashes of scarlet, black and Rifleman green, interspersed with the more subdued colours of bay, brown and grey, made a sombre garnish to a dish of mud and trampled corn. For many of the great, domed shapes, their suffering was over, their carcasses – so grotesque in death when compared to the beauty displayed in life – a sad testament to a horse’s role in war. Some lay thrashing in agony, entrails spilling forth in bloody disarray from gaping wounds inflicted by slash of sabre or whistling cannon shot. Others limped forlornly on the edges of the mud-bath which had once been a fertile valley, one leg dangling in useless condemnation. Screams of animal torment intermingled with the moans of the human injured; and, for an occasional, brief moment, the silence of doom. The reek of excrement, blood, powder and wet earth was a powerful odour the soldier knew he would never be able to clear from his senses. It had not only infiltrated his nostrils, it had taken up residence in his very soul.


Someone would have to destroy those pitiful creatures, he thought, pushing himself off the ground with one shaking hand. He was lying at the edge of the field, just a ditch between him and the road to Brussels. His head was thudding as though the kettle drums were being pounded inside it and his stomach was roiling like the washerwoman’s cauldron. Slowly he turned his head. Barely two feet below him, unseeing eyes stared up at the pinkish, blue-grey sky from a face which had nothing behind it. Unbidden, vomit spewed up into the soldier’s mouth. He managed to avoid desecrating the corpse; in truth, he had little more than bile to expel, having not eaten since the night before. On the other side of the road, a crow sat on the distended belly of a horse, its cry one of ghoulish triumph. The soldier felt in the soil beside him, found a stone and pitched it at the bird, which flew off, cackling in derision.


Pushing up to his knees and then to his feet, the soldier swayed and almost collapsed again. Dusk was falling and his vision was impaired by crusts of blood and mud, yet he instantly knew the great chestnut stallion and its rider, even at a distance approaching a quarter of a mile. No man whom had lived through the previous thirty-six hours’ campaign could fail to recognize the distinctive figure in grey greatcoat, Hessian boots and white breeches ‒ now liberally splattered with mud ‒ or the handsome, copper-coated charger.

 

Excerpt from Copenhagen’s Last Charge (anthology Beaux, Ballrooms and Battles: A Celebration of Waterloo)

 



 

My dream for the future…


...Amelia dreamed of love, but it was not to be. Could the damaged Hugo possibly be her future?


 
“I admit I have had few dealings with governesses, but it seems to me that you are not just in the common style,” he said in a careful tone. “I mean no disrespect.”

“Oh, no, sir.” She contemplated the path ahead. They were walking slowly down an avenue of horse chestnut trees. The flowering season was over for the towering sentinels, but she loved to see the glorious cones of white flowers, for they reminded her of candles in a tiered chandelier. Spring had been late this year, the flowers lingering longer than usual, so it seemed no sooner had they faded than June had burst forth with its blaze of colour. Beside her, Hugo kept pace with her, his free hand behind his back and his long stride adjusted to match hers. How much should she tell him? Her heart wanted to tell him everything, but an innate sense of caution made her fear the consequences.

As if he had read her thoughts, he then took the breeze from beneath her fluttering indecision.
“You need not fear my judgement,” he said gently. “Short of having murdered a previous employer and made off with the family silver – and I can see that is not the case by your wardrobe – there is little you can say that will shock me. I am a soldier and have travelled around the globe. Some of the things I have witnessed would make those pretty locks of yours turn white!” His hand half lifted as he spoke, his fingers curling as if he were imagining trailing them through her hair.
Tentatively, she turned her face towards him. The tender light in his eyes stole her capacity for coherent thought. Perhaps if she told him part of the story; it would not be lying, as such, except by omission. Mayhap one day she might be able to furnish him with the whole tawdry tale… yet her heart shrank from the idea of that softened look being withdrawn.
“I married to disoblige my family,” she said at length, grateful for his quiet patience. They left the avenue and entered the shrubbery through an archway cut in a yew hedge. Pirate shuffled ahead with his rolling, three-legged gait before stopping to investigate an interesting smell at the side of the path. “I was young and silly; he was very handsome and dashing. I fancied myself in love. My parents disowned me. They were, of course, quite right and he proved to be just as feckless and unreliable as they had said him to be. I left him and returned home, but they closed the door to me. My father refused to even acknowledge me and all my mother would say was I had made my choice and must make the best of it.”
Hugo covered her hand, where it lay lightly on his arm, with his and gave her fingers a comforting squeeze. Would he be so sympathetic, were he to know the whole? A tiny piece of her soul died at the thought. The truth was, Roderick had never married her. They had travelled all day, as she thought, to Scotland and had arrived at an inn late at night. When she had refused to share a bed with him until they were legally married, he had sought his amusement elsewhere, returning in a drunken stupor and falling asleep. The following morning they had continued their journey, but it was only when they came to Barnet that she realized they had come south and he had never had any intention of marrying her. She had understood then what her father had meant about Roderick being ‘half flash and half foolish’, for he had flounced out of the mean room he had brought her to in a boyish sulk. He had spent their last few pennies on a drunken spree, been taken up by the Watch and had somehow become involved in a brawl where a constable had been stabbed. With no money and no-one of standing to give him a character, the magistrate had deemed him culpable and he had been thrown into Newgate pending trial.
Amelia had found a job as a seamstress and somehow survived the next, miserable ten months. Roderick was sentenced to transportation, since the constable had not died, but she had received a letter less than a year later informing her Roddy had perished from a wasting disease. A lump rose in her throat. She had won through those times, had achieved a measure of respectability through hard work, but the loss of her true position in life and her parents’ affection had been bitter medicine to swallow.
Hugo’s hand patted hers. “Tell me,” he urged.
“I-I cannot.” She looked away. The heady perfume of mock orange filled her nostrils from several large Philadelphus bushes, which were a riot of creamy white flowers, almost overpowering the more delicate jasmine, also covered in a profusion of white blooms.
“Then I shall be forced to conjecture, so you must not be offended if I am fair and far off!” He paused in dramatic fashion. “Let me see, now. You were found, as a baby, on a barge which had run aground on a sandbank in the River Thames, brought up by gypsies until you were fifteen, whereupon you ran away to join a travelling circus. You learned to juggle, ride backwards on a horse, train dogs to do tricks and brave wild beasts from the jungle. However, this life did not contain sufficient excitement, so you dressed in male clothes and joined a merchant ship. This was sunk by pirates in the Spanish Main and you were captured by the pirate captain, who discovered your gender and took you for his own. How am I doing so far?”
She giggled in spite of her doubts and insecurities. “I believe you could rival Sir Walter Scott with your romantic ideas, sir!”
“Ah, you flatter me, my dear.” Amelia’s stomach lurched at the endearment. Did he – could he possibly – have tender feelings for her? “I have much to learn, I fear, about such matters. Indeed, I am wary of making an irretrievable mistake.”
What was he trying to tell her? She slowed her steps and came to a halt beside a small stone fountain in a circular junction of two pathways. Running her fingers over the pitted bowl, she pretended to be fascinated by the green water.
“I am sure,” she said carefully, “that with the right lady, you would have no difficulty.”
Hugo turned as he stopped, so he was now facing her. Pirate sat down at his feet and gazed expectantly from one to the other.
“I fear the lady is concerned that her past might affect her future. I wish I had the words to tell her there is nothing – nothing – she may have done that could outweigh or diminish the high regard in which I hold her.”
A sob threatened in the back of her throat. With difficulty, she managed to speak.
“Oh, my dear sir, I think you just have.” 
Excerpt from Treasure Beyond Words (anthology Sweet Summer Kisses, due out 23rd June!) 


  

I suspect most Regency authors share with me a dream to emulate Georgette Heyer’s wonderful novels of the era. Unfortunately, as my friend Elizabeth Bailey once said, ‘We can only aspire.’


We study our craft and read endlessly of our favourite period in history, endeavouring to be the best we can be, yet must forever be doomed to fall short of her unparalleled excellence. Nevertheless, it is my sincerest wish that ONE DAY my books will be enjoyed and remembered by a new generation of Regency readers and, if destined never to be viewed as ‘another Heyer’, at least to be considered ‘not half bad’.


 

~*~

 


 

 

You can download the kindle edition of Midsummer Dreams here: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00XJOEJTM

 

About Midsummer Dreams

 

Four people. Four messy lives. One party that changes everything …
Emily is obsessed with ending her father’s new relationship – but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect.
Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he’s hardly noticed he’s not happy himself.
Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers.
Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach.
At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not always the right one.

 

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