So we all know the De’il has the best tunes. Have we wondered why? Why are villains so often the most attractive character on the page or stage and why, oh why, do girls fall for the baddie?

It’s true in every aspect of life. That cake with two inches of frosting is chosen nine times out of ten, but the slice of fruit cake languishing quietly has more depth and intensity of flavour. It just didn’t wear its best clothes to the party.

In sixth year I took what were called sixth year studies in Scotland. As part of the English exam, I had to write a ‘dissertation’: in reality a long essay supporting my chosen theme and including references. I went for the anti-hero. It was a time when Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels were all the rage and boy did they enrage my Head of English.

What can I say? Dr MacQueen was a dedicated teacher whose attention got me into my choice of course at my choice of University. I was a teenager.

Writing that essay began to let me see how the surface story isn’t the whole reveal and people, characters, have light and shade, good and bad. Would the hero necessarily have chosen the ‘right’ path if he’d been dealt the same chances in life as his antagonist?

I have villains in my two published books, Mariah’s Marriage and Bella’s Betrothal. They are crafted from known personality traits. The abuse of privilege is behind Lucas Wellwood but he adds murder, gambling addiction, physical mistreatment and theft along the way. It all sits purposefully in the story and moves it forward. How much did he get away with? You can find the answer in Mariah’s Marriage?

In Bella’s Betrothal there’s a male antagonist for my hero. He’s called Graham Direlton and he is a dissolute personality nursing a deep sense of grievance. This book, however, also hosts two female villains whose behind the scenes behaviour is deeply rooted in the restrictions and constrictions of being female at any time. Intelligent, feisty women get on with making life what they want. There are others who work to bring down their sisters: who cannot, as we say in Scotland, allow anyone to ‘be better nor she should be’. In other words, if I cannot achieve that, I’m not going to let you. It’s a theme I’ve used often in playwriting.

These are a few of my thoughts on my villains. If the subject interests you there are other blog posts up today about it. You can visit any of the following:

Aimee writing as A.J. Maguire at
Marci Baun
Diane Bator at
Fiona McGier at
Ginger Simpson at
Geeta Kakade at
Connie Vines at
Beverley Bateman –
Rhobin Courtright – Mariah’s Marriage amazon US Mariah’s Marriage UK Bella’s Betrothal US Bella’s Betrothal UK


MuseItUp Flash Fiction In-house contest

Devil Baby, Melbourne Festival 2011

Devil Baby, Melbourne Festival 2011

My publishers are running an in-house flash fiction competition for authors and staff. But you, THE READER, could win an awesome prize. Visit MuseItUp’s mainstream blog to read all the entries and the rules. That’s here: Mariah’s Marriage amazon US Mariah’s Marriage UK Bella’s Betrothal US Bella’s Betrothal UK

When Daisy Meets Mariah

London Girl

London Girl

Just a wee extract to remind us how very difficult some characters can be…

“Miss Mellon…”

“Actually it’s Lady Daisy, being the daughter of an earl, but as I’m certain we’re going to be excellent friends, I insist you call me Daisy.” The girl rushed the words out and Mariah was not surprised when her mama intervened.

“Katerina Grizelda Anne Di Torres are the baptismal names available to my daughter, Miss Fox, but she chooses to be known by a name that she overheard in the pantry.” The countess uttered the words in sharp staccato and Mariah had no trouble understanding that she attracted all the respect she required be paid to her as countess.

Daisy smiled and Mariah did, too, despite the heat this argument clearly roused between her visitors. It was understandable that the older woman deplored her daughter’s choice, but on the other hand, she had the demeanour and vivacity Mariah could more easily associate with Daisy than Katerina Grizelda Anne Di Torres.

“It is not obvious at our births, I believe, what the dominant traits of our personality will be,” she said diplomatically. “Perhaps Lady Daisy feels the weight of history and expectation carried by her formal names to be too much for such delicate shoulders.”

“Daisy, please,” the younger woman said. “But it is acknowledged by even the sour-faced tabbies at Almack’s that I have very delicate shoulders.” Mariah’s Marriage amazon US Mariah’s Marriage UK Bella’s Betrothal US Bella’s Betrothal UK

The Work in Progress

The work in progress picks up life for one of the characters in my debut novel, Mariah’s Marriage. She’s Daisy.

Scottish primroses

I thought I would write a short novella in six weeks, maybe, telling her story. Well, like all characters, she had other ideas. However, today, or more accurately last night in the wee small hours, we reached a truce. It’s easier to write today and a lot more fun. Mariah’s Marriage amazon US Mariah’s Marriage UK Bella’s Betrothal US Bella’s Betrothal UK

Winner Mariah’s Marriage in TRR Party 7th March

Outward Looking

Outward Looking

London Girl

London Girl

Congratulations to Tammy Sommervold, the winner of an e-copy of Mariah’s Marriage in Friday’s TRR Party Q&A.

The party continues through March. Check it out for the chance to win other fantastic romances by a quiver-full of wonderful writers. Mariah’s Marriage US Mariah’s Marriage UK Bella’s Betrothal US Bella’s Betrothal UK

Country Mouse goes to Town: Anne Stenhouse in London

London Girl

London Girl

Leaving the chapel in London’s 19th century Thames’ side where she teaches the alphabet to a raggle-taggle of urchins, Mariah Fox is charged by a stray pig. The quick intervention of Tobias Longreach saves her from certain injury. Mariah has always believed her destiny to be teaching. After the early death of her mother, she was brought up by her papa, Jerome, to believe that she could learn anything a boy could. She shares his vision of a future in which everyone, rich or poor, boy or girl, will be taught at least the rudiments of reading, writing, and counting. Tobias was brought up a second son, but following his elder brother’s premature death, inherits an Earldom and the need to provide it with an heir. He comes to believe that Mariah will make a perfect countess and enrolls her papa’s help in securing her hand. However, Sir Lucas Wellwood, whose debts have made him urge his sister to attempt to trap Tobias into marriage, has sinister intentions. Mariah suspects Wellwood has been mistreating his sister and she heads off impetuously to rescue her. Will Tobias and his friends reach Wellwood’s home before he can exact revenge on Mariah?

Writing Bella’s Betrothal and Mariah’s Marriage gave me a great excuse to get away from the desk and wander the streets from time to time. Bella’s Betrothal is set in Edinburgh where I live so that’s literally a moment or two’s walking and I’m on the roads Bella, would have walked, albeit they’ve changed a wee bit since.

Mariah’s Marriage and the continuation I’m working towards, Daisy’s Dilemma, need a train ride. So country mouse. Anne Stenhouse, headed up to town. And had a lot of fun.

Firstly, straight off the train, I walked along to the British Museum where the Georgian Exhibition
is running until sometime in March. Composed of items mainly from their collection, I found the exhibition full of interest, if London-centric. Country Mouse was impressed by the maps, the artefacts, the children’s toys and the few but well chosen pieces of Georgian clothing. There’s a great catalogue, too, and I’m going to find that an invaluable reference for future projects.

The 17th century is before the time I write about, but I have enjoyed a lot of fiction set in that period. Charlotte Betts’ The Apothecary’s Daughter, for example, and the mysteries of Deryn Lake. However, the exhibition running at The Museum of London called The Cheapside Hoard is fantastic. Go!

At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of labourers digging foundations below cellars in Cheapside unearthed a hoard of jewels, gold and buttons. It was distributed into three collections with the bulk going to the Museum of London. That museum is very close to the old Cheapside where London’s goldsmiths once congregated. The pieces are exquisite. Wonderful examples of chains, earrings, pendants with a few rings and brooches; and enamelled buttons. Many pearls have survived, but many didn’t. There are, however, garnets, sapphires, amethysts, diamonds and gold. Around the walls are contemporary portraits of ladies and gentlemen wearing the type of piece found in the hoard. I do find that so useful for the writer’s imagination.

Waiting for my friend to arrive, I had time to wander the Museum’s galleries and strayed into their dramatisation of visits to the Vauxhall Gardens. Ladies and Gentlemen of the period, flitted about, often up to no good as in many a Georgian set or regency novel, dressed in period costume. A voice-over takes you into their dramas. On my final morning, I passed the entrance to the contemporary Vauxhall gardens, but didn’t have time to stop and read the board.

It is worth going to see where you’re writing about, if at all possible. Country mouse had a great weekend. Mariah’s Marriage US Mariah’s Marriage UK Bella’s Betrothal US Bella’s Betrothal UK