Lockdown Diary – 2020 – 30 – Another milestone

Anne by Marte Lundby Rekaa

The Big 30 – another milestone.

Today’s pic by professional photographer and chronicler of RNA events, Marte, was taken on the night of a party in London. Remember them? Remember when?

That was a milestone for me as it marked the publication of Mariah’s Marriage and its inclusion in the Joan Hessayon Award. Didn’t win, but such is the camaraderie of the RNA, we all felt like winners.

So, gave up on the WIP yesterday – meantime. There’s something still askew and I’m not seeing it. Moving on from that milestone, I’m going back into the 19th century where I’m well read and quite comfy.

News of two babies safely delivered yesterday. Thanks to electronic media there were lovely pics of one of them.

We finished the jigsaw. I made good progress with Bath Tangle. The sun shone. The lilacs in next door’s garden ar on the point of bursting.



Lockdown – 2020 – 10 – Double figures

Two years ago in April, I was on holiday in Crete. It was a lovely experience and, as it was underpinned by a trip from RBGE, here’s a photograph of some of the flowers we saw there. The standard of customer service in Crete was high and people were pleasant and helpful. Cretian breakfasts were one of my life’s discoveries. I do hope to go back.

The Royal Botanic Garden is one of the organisations whose anniversary celebrations are being dismantled by COVID-19.

All that planning…

In the writing world a team of people in the RNA have also been planning 60th Anniversary celebrations, and they, too, are being progressively abandoned. Having been the RNA’s Party organiser, I am only too aware of the amount of work this would represent and of the consequent disappointment that some/most/all of it won’t go ahead. Or won’t go ahead at the moment.

And yesterday brought the, not by now unexpected, news that the Festivals won’t go ahead in 2020. Each of us has our favourite, but all of us will be the poorer.

i gather from some private messages that scrabble is popular elsewhere. The DH played online bridge again last night and won with his partner. Yay!

I wrote a good scene in the WIP.

We had sausages for tea.

I walked late yesterday, around 7pm. Some folk out, but not a lot.

Friend and fellow Capital Writer, Kate Blackadder is an avid reader and blogs about her monthly list here. You might find something to suit and, if not, Kate’s opinions are always worth reading.

How are you feeling now we’re into double figures?


Country Mouse was Back in Town

DSC00429Country Mouse was back in town after a gap of, oh, 10 days since an earlier trip. This time glad rags were a necessity and I hope you like my sparkly number in fetching midnight blue. Joining me in the picture is the RNA’s Hon Secretary, Julie Vince. Julie’s dress sported a witty take with its all over writing through the fabric.

The occasion bringing Country Mouse back to the big city was the annual awards’ night celebrating the best in romance writing and featuring the presentation of the best in category crystal stars and the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year Award sponsored by David Headley. Held in the auspicious surroundings of the Gladstone Library in Whitehall Court, there was a great turnout of writers, readers, other halves and our delightful guest presenter, Fern Britten.

IONA GREY won best historical and The Main Award. Congratulations. I’m looking forward to reading Letters to the Lost

Tuesday morning saw Country Mouse rising a little late and enjoying breakfast in the room from a tray. Lovely boiled egg with a glass of orange and a pastry to follow. Then off out before meeting my Town cousin for lunch.

And what did I find around the corner – having stayed in this hotel now many times and not seen it before – this lovely Blue Plaque


Confirms my choice of location.

Then off to Harrod’s for a nosey around. Bet you don’t know where this is:DSC00294The only one outside UK and opened in 1915 – don’t google. Oh well, why not? I would.



Romantic Novelists’ Association – Shortlists for the Annual Awards

I am quoting below, with permission, from the announcement posted on the website of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

“The contenders have been announced for the RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards) 2016 and the overall, most prestigious, award – The Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Fern Britton, television presenter and author, will present the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Awards for 2016 during a glittering ceremony in the Gladstone Library, One Whitehall Place, London SW1 on 7th March.

The awards comprise six categories – Contemporary Romantic Novel, Epic Romantic Novel, Historical Romantic Novel, Romantic Comedy Novel, the RoNA Rose Award (for shorter and category romance) and Young Adult Romantic Novel – with five authors shortlisted for each one.

The winners of the six categories will be announced during the evening and those six authors will then go forward to compete for the overall prize of The Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Fern Britton will then reveal the author whose book has won the RNA’s most prestigious and coveted award, along with a cheque for £5,000 (five thousand pounds).”

Many of the Readers who read and scored books entered for the Awards were sourced through this blog. Thank you all. We couldn’t have got to this point without your patient assistance.

Again quoting from the RNA blog with permission:

“The Category Shortlists

The Contemporary Romantic Novel category is for mainstream romantic novels set post-1960 and includes genres such as chick lit, paranormal and romantic suspense.

Under a Cornish Sky, Liz Fenwick, Orion
High Tide, Veronica Henry, Orion
The Wedding Cake Tree, Melanie Hudson, Choc Lit
It Started at Sunset Cottage, Bella Osborne, HarperImpulse
A Jersey Kiss, Georgina Troy, Accent Press

The Epic Romantic Novel category contains serious issues or themes, including gritty, multi-generational stories.

The Book of Lost and Found, Lucy Foley, Harper Collins
The Secrets We Share, Emma Hannigan, Headline Review
The Years of Loving You, Ella Harper, Avon
After the Last Dance, Sarra Manning, Sphere
If You Go Away, Adele Parks, Headline Review

The Historical Romantic Novel category is for novels set in a period before 1960.

The Secret Kiss of Darkness, Christina Courtenay, Choc Lit
Dangerous Entrapment, Lesley Field, MuseItUp
Letters to the Lost, Iona Grey, Simon & Schuster
At the Water’s Edge, Sara Gruen, Two Roads
The Consul’s Daughter, Jane Jackson, Accent Press

The Romantic Comedy Novel is for consistently humorous or amusing novels.

One Wish In Manhattan, Mandy Baggot, Bookouture
The Royal We, Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan, Head of Zeus
Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Café, Milly Johnson, Simon & Schuster
How To Get Ahead in Television, Sophie Cousens, Corvus
Love From Paris, Alexandra Potter, Hodder & Stoughton

The RoNA Rose Award recognises the best in category/series and shorter romance that focus on developing a love affair between the hero and heroine.

The Wedding Reject Table, Angela Britnell, Choc Lit
From Wallflower to Countess, Janice Preston, Mills & Boon Historical
Doctor… To Duchess?, Annie O’Neil, Mills & Boon Medical Romance
Cora’s Christmas Kiss, Alison May, Choc Lit
His Lost-and-Found Bride, Scarlet Wilson, Mills & Boon Cherish

The Young Adult Romantic Novel features protagonists who are teenagers or young adults.

Crow Mountain, Lucy Inglis, Chicken House
Did I Mention I Love You?, Estelle Maskame, Black & White Publishing
Angel Dares, Joss Stirling, Oxford University Press
Lainey’s Lot, Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, Accent Press
Anya and the Shy Guy, Suze Winegardner, Entangled Teen”

Images of authors and books can be found in our photo gallery.

Readers Wanted RNA Annual Awards

100_5755As the deadline for entries of the annual awards of the Romantic Novelists’ Association thunders towards us, it becomes necessary to find new names for our readers’ panel.

If you would like to be considered for the reading panel, take a look at the form below.

Working towards the shortlist might mean fewer books and a shorter timescale. Readers might also be asked to read for the main awards in paperback.

APPLICATION TO BE A READER FOR THE RoNA Rose Award and E-books in the main Awards

IF SELECTED, I UNDERTAKE TO READ UP TO FIVE NOVELS AND RETURN THE SCORE SHEETS FOR THESE WITHIN SIX WEEKS. I AM NOT A MEMBER OF THE RNA. I am/am not a member of the Choc Lit reading panel. I have/don’t have an e-reader suitable for PDFs (Delete as appropriate)

NAME :   …………………………………………………………………………………………..

ADDRESS : ………………………………………………………………………………………


POST CODE : ………………………………………….

TEL: ……..………………………………… MOBILE :……..……………………………………

E-MAIL : …………………………………………………………………………………………..






20-30                30-40                40-50                50-70                70+


SIGNED : …….………………………………………………. DATE :


Interested? Leave your name in the comments, please, and I’ll get back to you.


Updating Stuff: Storyteller Alley


The very lovely Veronica at Storyteller Alley was in touch about my submission to appear on their great site. StorytellerAlley There was a list of questions to answer and a list of pictures to supply. It prompted me to look again at how I was presenting myself. So I’ve updated my author bio. It’s below. And while I’ve gone with my Facebook photo for now, here’s one taken by Scarlet Wilson, HM&B medical author extraordinaire, on Monday evening. I did take the camera case off before she snapped. My camera case is featured quite enough across the web. Might get a little big-headed, no?



Scottish writer Anne Stenhouse writes dialogue rich historical romance with humour and a touch of mystery in the plot. She lives in Edinburgh in the UK and gets the chance to walk the cobbled streets that appear in some of her fiction because they remain part of the city’s fabric. Anne enjoys wandering in cityscapes, visiting historic houses (particularly the below stairs and outhouses areas) and reading up on life in times past. She finds that place can be very stimulating to the imagination.

She wrote stage drama for many years and enjoyed seeing it performed at both amateur and professional level. Her non-fiction has appeared in Scottish Memories and the magazine of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute among others and her short fiction in magazines and on-line at Shortbread.

Anne has a husband and dancing partner of over thirty years standing. Together they have created three gorgeous children and welcomed a lovely grandson.

The Canadian publisher, MuseItUp brought out two of Anne’s books in 2013 and are publishing a third, set in London 1822, this spring.

Although devoted to her Heroines (bright and articulate) and Heroes (handsome with a touch of arrogance), Anne enjoys the creation of a good and believable villain. The course of true love should be troubled until the last couple of pages, Anne feels, and a strong antagonist is so helpful in achieving that.

Amazon Author Page

Tweet to me at anne_stenhouse

Visit me on Facebook

Party, party,party

Writing is a solitary occupation.

Joan Hessayon contenders 2014

Joan Hessayon contenders 2014

That’ll be why Lin Treadgold is seen here, front centre, partying.

JK Rowling famously wrote in an Edinburgh café. I’ve written on stage sets when the actor needed extra words or different words. I’ve also written in a café, but I wouldn’t like readers to think I’m jumping on any bandwagons.

I did, too, rush to record my impression of arriving in Istanbul airport. It was busy with a returning pilgrimage and crowded with people in their pilgrimage clothes. Not a little surreal to be surrounded by large bearded gentlemen in pristine white robes. I needed to get the impression down.

But truly, the most common experience of writing is in a bubble of aloneness. Here’s Edinburgh JH contender, Jennifer Young.

Jennifer Young

Jennifer Young

A lot of dramatic work these days, particularly comedy scripting is collaborative. It’s really hard to go on thinking up fresh ideas, so having a buddy or buddies to test them against is a good thing. Here’s Helena Fairfax, glamorous in red, with friends.


Helena Fairfax

Helena Fairfax

As always, the Romantic Novelists’ Association put on a lovely evening at their Summer Party following the AGM. Sponsored by Dr. David Hessayon in memory of his late wife, the Joan Hessayon award marks that moment when a writer ‘graduates’ from the New Writers’ Scheme into publication. I was a contender last year with Mariah’s Marriage and like the three ladies mentioned above, I wasn’t the winner on the night, but I had a wonderful time.

Party, party, party because tomorrow you return to the cave and solitary contemplation.

ps the winner in 2014 was Jo Thomas with The Oyster Catcher. Congratulations.

http://goo.gl/pASdjp Mariah’s Marriage amazon US
http://goo.gl/NxYxj5 Mariah’s Marriage UK
http://goo.gl/PKptQg Bella’s Betrothal US
http://goo.gl/5RBzIm Bella’s Betrothal UK



JENNY BARDEN: Author Interview: Mistress of the Sea

Jenny (Portrait 1) pix

Jenny Barden, fellow RNA member and Joan Hessayon Award contender, has dropped in today to answer the Novels Now author questions. We’re lucky to catch her as she’s very recently back from Florida.
Welcome, Jenny.
Qu) Like many other great inventions, the e-reader has taken off. Do you read in both electronic and paper mediums? Which do you prefer?

Ans)I have a Kindle but I still much prefer to read a traditional paper book. I find the whole experience of reading much more satisfying with ‘tree books’ – I like the smell of the paper, the feel of it under my fingers, and the ability to flip back and forth instantly to consult maps, glossaries or references to earlier chapters. I find reading from paper much easier on my eyes – I’m not struggling to adjust the light, get rid of shadow or reduce glare. It’s going to take a very special kind of ereader to wean me away from traditional books heart and soul – though my Kindle is very useful for travelling and keeping down weight in luggage! I see the future as being big enough for both, and I think that there’ll always be a place for paper books amongst book lovers and collectors, though I also think that the market for ebooks will continue to grow – they have provided an opportunity for reaching out to more people with more books and that’s got to be good.

Qu) Do you travel to find locations or do you use the ability to go anywhere in the imagination, to do just that?

Ans)I love to travel to the places where my fiction is set, and I will always try my best to get as close as possible on the ground to the locations that form the backdrops to my stories. Of course there are two obvious difficulties with this for me since my fiction is set over four hundred years ago and much of it involves voyages by sea. The identifiable places on land have often changed beyond all recognition from how they used to be in the Elizabethan era, and the precise routes of sea voyages cannot be pinpointed very accurately – indeed, from a storyteller’s perspective, there would be little to gain from doing so (the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Verde looks much the same as the Atlantic Ocean off the Azores!). But familiarity with the ‘location’ of being inside an Elizabethan ship is crucial to me, so I’ve been inside replicas such as the Golden Hinde reconstruction near London Bridge several times (in fact I’ve given talks and signings there) and I’ve had experience of sailing over the years. In researching Mistress of the Sea I travelled to Panama as well as to Plymouth, and I walked the routes that my characters would have taken insofar as I could find them. That meant travelling along stretches of the old Camino Real – the ‘Royal Road’ by which Spanish bullion from South America was transported overland by mule-train across the isthmus. (There’s a piece about that here for anyone interested: http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/el-camino-real-path-worn-through-time.html ) It also meant taking a boat around the San Blas archipelago: the white coral islands that formed a secret hideaway for Francis Drake and his men before their raid on the Spanish ‘silver train’, and it meant trying to find the site of the old town of Nombre de Dios now lost under sand or swallowed by the sea. I still went there.

Guns of San Lorenzo

Guns of San Lorenzo

<It was important to me to be where the city of my story once stood.

Qu) What is the most important physical sense of your current heroine? (Taste, touch, sight,hearing or smell)
Ans)Sight is of crucial importance to most description and I'd be disingenuous to suggest that it didn't underpin most of Ellyn Cooksley's impressions about her surroundings, but in terms of what really strikes straight at her emotions then I think smell is the sense that has the most profound and immediate impact. There's a scene in Mistress of the Sea in which Ellyn is imprisoned in the small dark attic room of a garrison behind a bolted door with shutters over the window. She can see little but her other senses are heightened. There is one man she fears above all others: Bastidas, the commander of the garrison, and she can smell him in the room because he wears perfume like a woman. The scent of ambergris is far more potent as a threat than the sight of him which comes later…

Qu) Who is your favourite fictional hero?
Ans That's really difficult to answer; if I could have the dependability of Mr Knightley together with the daring-do of Richard Sharpe then that would be my ideal – as long as he had the sensitivity and intelligence of Captain Corelli as well!

You've given us lots to think about there, Jenny. Now, will you share a short extract of your current book/story with Novels Now, please?

Short extract follows (from Chapter 19 of Mistress of the Sea):Mistress of the Sea pbk

Will clasped the little bells in his fist. He did not want them jingling as he brushed by to enter the hut. He could see Ellyn was asleep. So he edged inside; then he settled on a chest from where he could watch her quietly. She sat with her head down, neck arched and turned to one side, eyes closed, lips parted. He took off his cap. He would share a moment with her, and the Cimaroon outside would make sure they were not disturbed. The fort was noisy but, in the place that gave her some privacy, a sense of calm made the hubbub seem less. She had only been on Slaughter Island a few days, and in that time she had hardly relaxed. He was glad to see her resting. Whatever trauma she had been through, rest would help in healing. He was content just to be near her; he would never tire of that.
The pleasure he took in being with her was like waking up in summer time, in England, beneath a bright, cloudless sky. She was a landscape entire. Her body was curved like the coombes and there was promise in her folds. He thought of soft paths through meadow grass leading to field-strips of barley. He looked at her lips, red as poppy petals: lips he had kissed and would kiss again. Merely the imagining was enough to stir him. She was the heartache of home – yearning and joy all rolled into one.
He gazed at her face. No other woman could be as lovely. His blessing was to be with her as she was at that moment, in a time that was his, without sense of its passing. Asleep, her face moved. Her eyelids quivered and her lips curled slightly. She gave a little shudder and took a quick breath. He wondered where she was in her dreams; whatever the place, he would have liked to have joined her. She frowned, rolling her head, and he reached out to calm her. Suddenly she was awake, eyes open and fixed on him.
‘Will! What are you doing here?’
‘Considering you.’ He smiled. ‘Thinking how fair you are.’
‘Flattery will not excuse you. I prefer to invite people into my house.’ She frowned, plainly flustered, and brushed back her hair. ‘What did you see?’
‘You were asleep.’
‘I was pondering.’
‘You were pondering with your mouth open just so.’ He made a little ‘O’ with his lips as if he was blowing a bubble, but he had only mimicked her for an instant before she slapped her hand over his mouth.
‘Will Doonan, you are a heartless, mocking jackanapes. How could you think me fair if I was pouting like a fish?’
He pulled her hand away and kissed it.
‘As easily as I think you fair when in truth you are dark.’
‘So I am not fair?’
At that he reached for her and pulled her to him on his lap.
‘No, not fair at all; so unfair that I expect no justice. You wrong me, sweet maiden.’
‘I wrong you!’
‘Yes,’ he said, kissing her, ‘you do.’ He did not try to put his feelings into words; he doubted that he could, and he feared that if he did then she would only pick whatever he said to pieces. He simply kissed her again.
His reward was her laughter, and her arms around his.
Links are:

•Mistress of the Sea on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1bUzhYI

•my website: http://www.jennybarden.com/
•Twitter: https://twitter.com/jennywilldoit

•Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennybardenauthor
•Blogs are on other sites eg: http://historicalnovelsociety.org/diana-gabaldon-takes-time-out-from-packing-for-the-hns-conference-in-florida-to-quiz-fellow-delegate-jenny-barden-about-her-paperback-debut-mistress-of-the-sea/ and : http://whimsandtonic.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/then-and-now-jenny-barden-author-of-mistress-of-the-sea/
•Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6438523.Jenny_Barden

Lin Treadgold – Debut Novel – Goodbye, Henrietta Street

First time novelist, Lin Treadgold’s debut novel, GOODBYE, HENRIETTA STREET hits the book shelves on 1st July. Lin has an exciting launch tour booked in the Scilly Isles, but you can read a few of her thoughts about location and David Tennant here.

There’s also a chance to win a copy of Goodbye, Henrietta Street and an extract from the book to tempt you. Thanks for dropping in here, Lin. Although we’ve been in touch through the Romantic Novelists’ Association for some time, it was good to learn a little more about you.

9781908208149 - Goodbye Henrietta Street cov

Qu) Like many other great inventions, the e-reader has taken off. Do you read in both electronic and paper mediums? Which do you prefer?

I’m old fashioned I do like a book with a cover, but I also have a Kindle and when I go on holiday the Kindle goes with me. When I am at home, it’s cosy to curl up with a paperback. I think the Kindle helps you to read the book more consistently, because if the phone rings you are always on the right page with Kindle and I can adjust the font to suit my eyes.  A very useful tool.

QU) Do you travel to find locations or do you use the ability to go anywhere in the imagination, to do just that?

After travelling abroad for the last 40 years or more I have visited more than thirty countries.  Finding a location isn’t a problem for me.  I spent many months travelling the world by sea  in the 1970’s and now I live in Holland I travel through Europe.  I tend to stick with the UK because most people know the places well.  In a novella I have in mind, my main character takes a trip to Italy. My father was a prisoner of war in Northern Italy and he left me a pile of war letters from his time in Italian and German prison camps, so one of my novels will surely be inspired by what he wrote.  I was an only child and had to make my own entertainment and I think that helps me make up locations too.

QU) What is the most important physical sense of your current heroine? (Taste, touch, sight,hearing or smell

I think with Pippa Lambton as the main character in my book Goodbye, Henrietta Street, she needs to be touched.  She has gone through so much pain in the past and now she has the chance to move her life forward. She knows it will be a struggle but we find out _MG_4913through reading the book how she copes. So I would say touch is important to her, to feel wanted again. To hear the sounds of the sea and birds helps her to recover from her grief. With Sven around her, she will gain the confidence she needs through his touch.

QU) Who is your favourite fictional hero?


In my book I adore Sven Jorgensen he is every woman’s hero, but in other books/TV etc I would have to say this is a difficult question for me but if I was to be a bit cliché I would have to say David Tennant as Dr Who.  I also like David in his Shakespearean roles, he is a magnificent actor and I especially enjoyed his part in Casanova.   Dr Who is certainly my favourite fictional character, I like Matt Smith  in this role too.

Will you share a short extract of your current book/story with Novels Now, please?

A short extract from Goodbye, Henrietta Street.

Story so far;-

Pippa is on the beach enjoying a quiet afternoon by herself, when Sven surprises her and wants to spend some time with her. From being the local ornithologist and tour guide, his mood changes, and his playfulness soon turns to a more serious tone. What’s really going on his mind? 

Pippa didn’t need to think too much. It must have showed. How could she have a relationship or even have a quick fling with him before going home? She had thought the unthinkable. It was an absolute ‘no’, but going back to Rob? Sven was making it difficult. She gazed at the title of the book she had been reading; she could have secrets of her own and not a soul would know.

Alone, like this, she might be able to accomplish her search for happiness. If she allowed herself to be sucked into this illusion, did it matter? Rob would never know and probably wouldn’t care. She wasn’t sure anymore. Here, she could put her worries behind her, for a short while at least.

She slid her fingers across her lips, back and forth as she watched him washing his feet in the sea. She couldn’t take her eyes off him. With his blonde hair falling over his ears, he was difficult to resist.

On his return, he sat with his legs stretched out, hands patting the wet sand, and his back against the sun-warmed rock, a place he had sat before where thoughts often turned into reality. He saw how she had written her name in the sand and scrubbed out another name—he retraced her writing and with his index finger he wrote SVEN, after PIPPA &.

Pippa realised what he had done and what might be coming next; she had to be prepared, but now was not the right time—and would it ever be?

Goodbye, Henrietta Street will be released on 1st July 2013 with a launch party on the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall.


Your chance to win a copy of Goodbye, Henrietta Street – offer closes 25 June 2013. First correct answer wins!



To order your paperback copy or download go to


The Party’s Over – How did Mariah Do?

Back from London clutching my certificate and cheque as a contender for the 2013 Mariah's MarriageJoan Hessayon award. The overall winner is Liesel Schwartz with her steampunk romance, A Conspiracy of Alchemists.

There are photos here:


I stayed in a small hotel called Searcys. They welcomed me with a tray of coffee and lovely biccies and brought me breakfast in my room. Getting in is like joining an Agatha Christie set as you press the intercom and they send the lift down to street level. Does make you feel very safe once inside and it was only 2 stops on the underground to Park Place where the RNA party was happening.

The party was full of the romance world. Serena Clarke, another JH contender, had flown over from New Zealand. Several of my Scottish writing friends were there to cheer me on and take yet more photos, later, later. There was wine, fizz and canapées.

The romantic novel of the year was also announced and it went to Jenny Colgan who was looking really Glam.

I had allowed myself Friday morning in London and spent it well. You can read about that, if you like, on my Plays’ blog, here: http://www.annestenhouse.co.uk