An Earthly Elysium

ringmaster's daughterGuest blog by Grace Elliot, author of The Ringmaster’s Daughter

Have you heard of a pleasure garden?

Pleasure gardens were all the rage in Georgian and Victorian England, and as the name suggests they were open air spaces where people went to be entertained. It’s difficult to think of a modern equivalent and perhaps closest would be an amusement park or major concert venue but neither of these reflect the varied nature of the entertainments that were found in a pleasure garden. In the 18th and 19th centuries, gardens such as Ranelagh and Vauxhall held open air concerts, firework displays and balls, and the visitor would encounter strolling musicians, acrobats and singers, they could shelter in an exotic pavilion, rotunda or a supper box, or else walk along lantern lit paths to see mirror fountains, trompe l’oeil grottos, light shows and statues. Indeed when the 18th century novelist Tobias Smollett visited Ranelagh he described it thus:

“[Ranelagh] made me almost think I was in some enchanted castle or fairy palace.”

The reason for his delight were the nightly illuminations which consisted of ropes of coloured lanterns strung along vast avenues of trees – if you remember that this was in an era when there was no electricity and candles were a luxury, such a display was extravagant to say the least. Indeed, such was the fascination with light that visitors came specifically to see the almost miraculous spectacle of the lanterns lit simultaneously via a special fuse mechanism. (The usual way of lighting lamps was a man and a taper, so this sight was truly breathtaking).

Such was the popularity of pleasure gardens that eminent composers such as Handel premiered work there, including his Royal fireworks music. Indeed, as a publicity stunt a barge sailed along the Thames with musicians playing excerpts on board, to entice visitors along.

Gardens such as Vauxhall were described as ‘an Elysium on earth’, or an earthly paradise away from the noise, smell and bustle of London. For the one shilling entry fee anyone from the common man to a prince could walk through enchanted grottoes and marvel at the wonderous sights with his sweetheart. And hence the reason for my post. What better setting for a series of romances than the backdrop of a pleasure garden?

My latest release, The Ringmaster’s Daughter, features the fictional pleasure gardens at Foxhall. Indeed, the idea came from my fascination with the actual Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. In #1 of the Foxhall series we join our heroine, Henrietta Hart, with her father’s livelihood is in danger. She enters a battle of wills with the new manager, Tobias Wolfson, and as mutual attraction grows between them, they face a stark choice between love and survival…

Excerpt: Chapter 1

So far that morning, Tobias Wolfson, the new manager of Foxhall Pleasure Gardens, had watched an overweight acrobat, an arthritic contortionist and a ballad singer who was so out of tune that she made his teeth ache. Small wonder the gardens were losing money, he reflected, if these were Foxhall’s best entertainments. And given that the next act was late, his mood showed no sign of improving as he stared across the deserted stable yard.

“Perchance Mr Hart does not value his job?” Wolfson said.

At his side, a florid man in a periwig, smiled nervously. “He should be here, I told him myself.”

“Where is he, Mr Uglow? Answer me that!”

Mr Uglow’s shoulders drooped. “Happen Mr Hart has been detained.”

“Hart’s Performing Horses,” Wolfson murmured, making a mental note to strike the act from the list of those retained.

“Perhaps he’s inside.” Uglow’s plump hand gestured towards the large stone barn.

Wolfson studied the two-story building. Evidently the stables and a tack room were on the ground floor, while the upper housed both a hayloft and some cramped accommodation. He nodded toward the loft.

“Mr Hart and his daughter live up there. Anyone else?”

“No. There was a groom, but he was let go.”

“A quick look and if Hart’s not there, it’s his loss.”

With a grunt, Wolfson marched toward the tack room but, as he passed through the open door, he felt a disturbance in the air and — before he could shout a warning — a young woman cannoned into the wall of his chest. She hit with such force, he heard the breath knocked from her lungs as she rebounded and tumbled backwards. By sheer reflex, Wolfson grabbed her upper arms to steady her. Instead of seeming grateful for his help, the girl glared back, her dark eyes fizzing angry as a wasp’s nest poked with a stick.

Raising a brow, he studied this whirlwind. She had an oval-shaped face, her complexion glowed with health and hair, the color of ripe chestnuts, fell in a thick plait down to her bottom. She was dressed in working clothes, an apron covering a plain woolen skirt, a chemise and a shawl. She was, he realized, a young woman rather than a girl – with a curvaceous figure to match. His interest peeked.

“Sir, release me!” She jerked a shoulder.

With a start, Wolfson found he still gripped her surprisingly muscular upper arms. “Apologies, madam.” He let go and couldn’t help inspecting his hands, puzzled by the tingle of static on his palms. Bemused, he looked up to find her staring back, her mouth softly parted in question. Feeling an unwanted tug of attraction, Wolfson scowled.

Composing herself, the woman stood hands on hips, her brow furrowed in challenge. “What are you doing in my yard?”

Bold as a lioness, she held her head high, and something jumped inside Wolfson as he returned her stare. Even standing still, she exuded energy — and the faint smell of lavender and horses. Perhaps it was the vivacity behind those dark eyes — so dark as to be almost black — or that determined expression, but her spirit excited Wolfson and his brow rose further.

“Your yard?” he said, faintly amused.

Mr Uglow coughed politely. “Ah, this is Mr Hart’s daughter, Henrietta — she may know what has detained her father.”

For the first time, the young woman faltered. “You want Pa?”

“Indeed, I would be most grateful,” Wolfson continued, “unless he has more important matters to attend to than keeping his place.”

Miss Hart eyed him suspiciously. “And you are?”

With an ironic smile, Wolfson tipped his tricorn hat. “Mr Wolfson, new manager of the Foxhall Pleasure Gardens.”

Miss Hart hesitated, her gaze flicked to the stout man by his side. “The gossip is true — Mr Uglow isn’t running things anymore?”

Wolfson proceeded smoothly, “Mr Uglow continues as a valuable asset to the gardens, but I am here to ease his workload and provide fresh insight during the renovations.”

“Mr Wolfson and I will be working together.” Uglow’s tight lips suggested he disliked the arrangement.

“Oh, I see,” Her dark eyes widened and deepened to black. “And you wanted Pa because…?”

“To decide the act’s future.”


Was his imagination or had Miss Hart just trembled? Beside him, Mr Uglow shuffled his feet. With effort, Wolfson marshalled his thoughts back to the task in hand.

“Miss Hart, will your father be honoring us with his presence?”

“Pa’s out. Being fitted for a new costume. Not expected back afore late afternoon.” She held his gaze, but Wolfson’s skin prickled as it did when he was being lied to.

“Is that right?”

Miss Hart licked her lips. “I just said so.”

Wolfson arched a brow at her impertinence but let the disagreement go, for he would get to the bottom of matters in his own time. He folded his arms across his chest, tapping a manicured finger against the opposite sleeve.

“I understand your father has performed at Foxhall for many years.”

“Yes, sir. He started when I was a babe in arms. There was a time when Hart’s Performing Horses were the star attraction,” she added hastily. “Of course the act is still very popular.”

Wolfson inclined his head toward Mr Uglow. “What are the gate receipts like?”

The ruddy-faced man waved his hands in exasperation. “I’m far too busy running the gardens to keep track of every little detail.”

Wolfson hid his irritation behind a genial smile. “But you can find out?”

“I suppose so. There will be ledgers somewhere.”

“Have them sent to my office as a matter of priority. And Miss Hart,” He faced those devastating dark eyes – that he decided were a deep hazel, bordering on brown. “Please explain why last night’s performance was cancelled.”
Her skin, lightly tanned from time spent outdoors, paled slightly. “The lead horse, Stardust, he went lame.”

There it was again, the skin prickling sensation. For some reason Miss Hart was lying, but he nodded as if sympathetic. “I trust he will be fit for tonight.”

“Oh yes, sir.” She smiled, but her lip quivered. Clearly something was troubling her.

“Even so, I would like to speak with Mr Hart urgently.”

“I can pass on a message.”

“Very well. Tell your father that tonight I will be in the audience deciding whether or not to re-commission the act. Nothing I have seen or heard to date inspires confidence. I suggest he gives the performance of his life.”

For the first time, Miss Hart seemed dumb-founded. “Of course, Mr Wolfson, I will tell him.”

“Good,” he sighed. “Next on my list are the giant tortoise and his handler. Lead on, Mr Uglow, lead on.”

Aware of Miss Hart’s eyes burning into his back, he left the stable yard with the niggling impression that Miss Hart was as an uncut diamond amongst coals.

Buy: The Ringmaster’s Daughter

The Ringmaster’s Daughter – synopsis

1770’s London

The ringmaster’s daughter, Henrietta Hart, was born and raised around the stables of Foxhall  Gardens. Now her father is gravely ill, and their livelihood in danger. The Harts’ only hope is to convince Foxhall’s new manager, Mr Wolfson, to let Hetty wield the ringmaster’s whip. Hetty finds herself drawn to the arrogant Wolfson but, despite their mutual attraction, he gives her an ultimatum: entertain as never before – or leave Foxhall.

When the winsome Hetty defies society and performs in breeches, Wolfson’s stony heart is in danger. Loath as he is to admit it, Hetty has a way with horses…and men. Her audacity and determination awaken emotions long since suppressed.

But Hetty’s success in the ring threatens her future when she attracts the eye of the lascivious Lord Fordyce. The duke is determined, by fair means or foul, to possess Hetty as his mistress – and, as Wolfson’s feelings for Henrietta grow, disaster looms.

Buy: The Ringmaster’s Daughter

graceelliotAuthor Bio:

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is housekeeping staff to five cats, two teenage sons, one husband and a bearded dragon.
Grace believes that everyone needs romance in their lives as an antidote to the modern world. The Ringmaster’s Daughter is Grace’s fifth novel, and the first in a new series of Georgian romances.


Subscribe to Grace’s quarterly newsletter here:

Grace’s blog ‘Fall in Love With History’

Grace on Twitter: @Grace_Elliot

Buy: The Ringmaster’s Daughter

Men’s Attitudes to Women

Verity's LieGuest blog by Grace Elliot, author of Verity’s Lie

In my new release, Verity’s Lie, the heroine faces a future controlled either by an over-protective father or a manipulative husband. Sadly, in the 19th century this was not an uncommon problem because the male dominated society of the day decreed that women were irrational, disruptive creatures in need of a firm (male) hand to guide them. Women were looked on as descendants of Eve or Delilah – whose impulsive nature would land them in trouble if not kept in check. One quote (obviously written by a man) neatly sums up the opinion in which women were held in, describing them as – “children of larger growth”.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, the perfect woman was one that was passive, submissive and subservient, and society colluded to ensure they stayed exactly that way. Even in wealthy families, there was a marked distinction between how male and female children were treated. The daughter would be educated in reading and writing sufficient to manage household accounts, plus embroidery or music, with the sole purpose of making her into good wifely material. Her brother, however, would be taught about the world, learn languages and politics – equipping him for ruling –if not the country then his own life.

This injustice does not end there, because even in marriage, men had the better end of the deal . If a husband was unfaithful , the wife was expected to turn a blind eye to his infidelity – on the grounds that men needed their sexual needs assuaging. If however, the wife had an affair the husband could summarily divorce her – and refuse the wife any contact or access to the children of that marriage.

A woman who didn’t marry had limited options. Very few women, although there were exceptions, could make a living at a genteel career. The work available to women was usually low paid; as a seamstress, servant or governess – and many were forced into prostitution as the only way of providing for themselves. Again, male society condemned prostitution whilst men remained the created the market – it was the exceptional man who questioned the rule of supply and demand, or stopped to wonder what had driven women to such dire lengths.

In this excerpt from Verity’s Lie, the heroine is introduced to Eulogy Foster – a woman who has succeeded in creating an honourable living – as an artist’s muse.

Farrell removed the brush from behind his ear. “Come, Ryevale, let’s retire to my study and ring for tea.” He indicated for his lordship to go first, and they left.

Verity stared after Ryevale, suddenly bereft without him, but then Eulogy seemed such easy company that there could be nothing to be anxious about. Then the suspicion hit that Ryevale had intended this all along, for her to be alone with his sister-in-law.

“There, now that those two men are gone, we can talk properly.” Eulogy slid her arm through Verity’s and guided her to a window seat.

“Whatever do you mean?”

“Come now. What is there between you and my brother-in-law?”

Verity hesitated. “I’m not sure what Lord Ryevale has said, but he is a friend and barely that.”

Eulogy look amused. “That—in itself—is remarkable.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ryevale isn’t the ‘friendly’ sort.”


“Now, tell me honestly. Has he kissed you?”

Verity colored violently.

“I’ll take that as a yes, then.”

“But he only did it to protect me.”

Eulogy’s eyes widened. “That sounds exciting. Do tell.”

“We were at Vauxhall. My father disapproves of such places…and I saw two of his acquaintances. Ryevale kissed me to conceal my identity.”

Eulogy sucked in her cheeks and nodded. “I see…things begin to make sense.”

Verity had the dizzying impression that Miss Foster already knew quite a lot about her. “Look. I’m not sure what Lord Ryevale has said…”

“Nothing, dear. Nothing, other than your father is overbearing.”

“Ryevale really has not business interfering. Father loves me dearly.”

“But has impossibly high standards.”

Verity opened her mouth and closed it again. It was true. Much as she wanted to deny it, her father expected her to be a paragon—and the expectation exhausted her. Her shoulders slumped.

“Sometimes,” Eulogy’s face softened, “doing what’s expected of you and doing what’s right aren’t the same thing, and you have to make a choice.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Let me relate a little of my story.”

Seated side-by-side beneath the window, in a low voice Eulogy recounted how she was orphaned and as a young woman travelled alone to London in search of her one remaining relative, only to be turned onto the street by her brother. Verity listened open-mouthed at how Jack Huntley had saved Eulogy from being raped and then helped reunite her with an old family friend, Tristan Farrell.

Time flew past as Eulogy explained how Farrell had recognized her true identity and how she became his muse. How, despite being hounded by her estranged brother, Eulogy had fought back against attempts to blacken her reputation. She had been sustained by the determination to earn an honorable living and even refused Jack’s first offer of marriage in order to remain independent.

Verity’s mind raced: this woman had risen above destitution with dignity to make a career for herself. Compared to that, standing up to an overbearing father was nothing.

Verity’s Lie – Synopsis

Charles Huntley, Lord Ryevale, infamous rogue…and government agent.

In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge.

When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. If Lord Ryevale can lie, then so can she…but with disastrous consequences.

Buy: Verity’s Lie (The Huntley Trilogy)

Grace Elliot

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is passionate about history, romance and cats! She is housekeeping staff to five cats, two sons, one husband and a bearded dragon (not necessarily listed in order of importance). “Verity’s Lie” is Grace’s fourth novel.


Subscribe to Grace’s quarterly newsletter here:

Grace’s blog ‘Fall in Love With History’


Grace on Twitter: @Grace_Elliot


Buy: Verity’s Lie (The Huntley Trilogy)

What Makes a Great Hero?

Guest post by Grace Elliot, author of Eulogy’s Secret (The Huntley Trilogy)

Mean? Moody? Magnificent? What makes for a truly great hero?

A good starting point is if the hero has a toned and sculpted physique, or perhaps that’s just me! Let’s face it the cliché about “tall dark and handsome” doesn’t come about for no reason. Romance is about escapism, so who wouldn’t want to be pursued by a brooding Adonis with a pert behind and biceps that make you weak at the knees? But if a stunning body as taken as fact, what then makes the perfect hero?

Part of the excitement of a really great hero, is his emotional transformation: the personal journey from rake/rogue/jerk/insensitive brute (delete as applicable) to realising the heroine is a jewel beyond price and her will must be obeyed in all things. You could say an element of enslavement is in order, where the hero is so captivated by the heroine’s beauty, courage or honour such that he lays his brute strength at her disposal.

This journey is particularly poignant if the hero is damaged in some way; be it physically injured or emotionally scarred. In Eulogy’s Secret the hero, Jack Huntley, is the latter because he once fell deeply in love only to be betrayed and humiliated. This resulted in Jack swearing never to be beholden to a woman again, which gives the heroine, Eulogy Foster, a tough task to overcome.

For a damaged hero to defend his heart, he has an armoury of tricks to hand and for Jack this takes the form of desensitisation. What does this mean? Well Jack acquires a portrait of Eulogy and forces himself to stare at it in the belief that familiarity will lessen her power to bewitch him – as in this excerpt.

But before he [Jack] left, there was one last thing he must do and the ache in his chest intensified. After taking a deep breath Huntley turned to face the portrait, leaning against the tallboy. Even though he had prepared himself, it still robbed him of breath, his dark eyes grew darker and a small vein pulsed at his temple. He could stare at the painting for hours, trying to armor his emotions, but each time it was the same eyes that pierced his soul, and with no more weapon than a stare, made him her prisoner.

He, or rather Chaucer, had come across the picture by chance. A few weeks earlier, to his amazement, rumors circulated in artistic circles that Tristan Farrell was painting again. Out of idle curiosity Huntley had dispatched his man to Red Lyon Square to investigate, only to have Chaucer return bright eyed and burbling on about a stunning portrait of a brown-eyed woman. It amused Huntley to instruct Chaucer to buy the painting, for an anonymous client of course, as an investment in the resurgence of a once great talent. But the moment Huntley saw the piece he knew he could not bear to part with it.

So here he stood, like a priest before an altar. Goosebumps raised on his arms as he gazed at the pale-skinned beauty with softly parted lips and enormous brown eyes, warm and alluring, staring out of the canvas as if taken by surprise. The swirling background of chocolate browns served to heighten the woman’s natural beauty. The piece was unfinished and yet utter perfection. Only an artist of great foresight would stop when he had, capturing the moment when a great artist discovers his muse. Huntley’s instincts had been correct. The model was Eulogy Foster, and the painting as divine as the woman it depicted.

Another thing that makes for a very human hero is having faults and foibles; Jack is anal about the time, he hates being late and resents anything or anyone that delays him. He can be rude, abrupt and intolerant – and yet he also has a softer side and quite likes cats – although he’d never admit it.

So what about you? What do you think makes for the perfect hero?

Eulogy’s Secret – a story of greed prejudice and a stolen identity.

 In the four weeks since her guardians’ death, Eulogy Foster has lost everything. Penniless and alone she seeks the help of her estranged brother, Lord Lucien Devlin. But Devlin throws Eulogy out onto the streets and the mercy of a passing stranger, Jack Huntley. As Eulogy seeks the truth behind her birth, she is drawn into the world of art and artists, where her morals are challenged and all is deception.

Jack Huntley: bitter, cynical and betrayed in love. He believes women are devious, scheming, untrustworthy creatures – and when he rescues a naïve Miss from being raped, his life is about to change forever. As his attraction to Eulogy grows, caught in a deadlock with both denying their true feelings, events take a sinister turn as someone seeks to silence Eulogy….forever

Buy: Eulogy’s Secret

Author Bio – Grace Elliot

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace works in a companion animal practice near London and is housekeeping staff to five moggies, two teenage sons and a guinea pig. She turned to writing as an antidote to the stress of modern life and believes intelligent people have the greatest need to read romance!

If you would like to know more about Grace please visit her blog or website.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment for a chance to win an eBook copy of Eulogy’s Secret. Open internationally. Last day to enter is November 20, 2011.

Learn to Flirt – Regency Style

by Grace Elliot, guest blogger and author of A Dead Man’s Debt

One of the many reasons I love regency romances, is the subtly of courtship… subtle, yet sizzling! With a chaperone present our regency heroine has limited ways of seducing her dark lord….but sometimes less is more.

In A Dead Man’s Debt, during a drawing lesson with Lord Ranulf, Celeste Armitage plays the ‘proximity’ card with consummate innocence.

Very well, we begin. First I will show you how to measure proportion.”

Sitting side by side, the warm press of her leg through her skirts against his thigh was, Ranulf decided, exquisite torture. A curl of chestnut hair escaped its pins, bobbing against her neck and desperately he wanted to reach out to tuck it back behind the shell of her ear. But he resisted, instead barking gruff instructions.

“Hold the pencil thus,” Ranulf extended his arm. “Overlay the tip against the crown of the head…and slide your thumb along to mark the position of the chin…”

His pulse raced a Celeste’s lips parted in concentration. Was it his imagination or was she trembling, her tongue darting between moist lips. His eyes locked with hers, drawn into their emerald glitter, falling deeper under their spell. He heard her breath hitch as her arm drooped down to her side…

Of course once you have hooked your brooding lord, you need to transform him into more husbandly material. And to do this, flattering flirtation is required, whereby the heroine reveals the hero’s hidden depths. Celeste does this with aplomb; admiration in her whispered tones as she skillfully massages the delicate male ego.

At her invitation Ranulf flicked out his coat tails to sit beside her in the shade of the high brick wall.

The sketch was of a handsome man with dark soulful eyes; part rogue, part lost boy. Over his shoulder a horse draped his head, nudging his velveteen nose against the figures chest, devoted and trusting.

“This is me.” Ranulf’s eyes dilated in surprise, “only this version looks …content…at peace with the world.”

Celeste whispered, her words nearly lost of the breeze. “Behind that façade you are a gentle man, in the truest sense. It’s just that you hide it well.”

“That comes,” Ranulf replied with bitterness, “of being a constant disappointment to those around me.”

Her eyes glittered. “How can you even think that?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me.” Tentatively, shy as a startled rabbit, she reached across and touched his hand. Ranulf’s shoulders slumped from the sheer relief of human contact.

When a regency rogue is targeted by a determined tonnish Miss, he might as well give up there and then. For if she wishes, once she has evoked an animal response from his body, her wit and pluck invades his sanity such that no even a stiff ride in a thunder storm can purge her influence from the mind.

How could a woman affect him so? Ranulf pressed Fable on harder. Startled, the horse leapt forward, all his energy spilling over into the exhilaration of speed. But as Ranulf  transferred his weight to his knees, he  seemed  cursed, for even the steady, drumming of a headlong gallop, beat out the rhythm of her name…



She had bewitched him.

Go faster.

Ranulf crouched low over Fable’s neck, the smell of horse grease filling his nostrils, the silvered mane lashing his cheeks. Like a warrior training for war, he recognized weakness and must destroy it. Damn her.

Achieving all this under the watchful eyes of a chaperone. Go Celeste! Oh la la! Go those Regency girls! They could teach us a thing or two about flirting!

A Dead Man’s Debt by Grace Elliot.
– A story of personal sacrifice, pain and redeeming love, set against a background of blackmail and family duty.

Celeste Armitage has a plan…and that plan doesn’t include marriage.

After deliberately humiliating a suitor, Celeste’s despairing parents exile her to the country. But once there she discovers a sketch book of daring nude studies and is shaken to find the artist is her hostess’s eldest son, Lord Ranulf Charing. This darkly cynical lord is exactly the sort of dissipated rogue she despises most…if only her blood didn’t heat at the thought of him…

Nothing is as it seems. Lord Ranulf’s life is a façade. Only he can save the Charing’s from disgrace as a blackmailer tries to ruin his late brother’s reputation. But just as Ranulf dares to open his heart to Celeste, the fury of his nemesis is unleashed… facing him with the stark choice between true love and family duty. However when Celeste guesses the truth behind his rejection, Ranulf underestimates her resolve to clear his name and in so doing places the woman he loves in mortal danger….

Buy: A Dead Man’s Debt

About the author:

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. She firmly believes that intelligent people should read romance, as an antidote to the modern world. Grace is addicted to books and all things feline. If you would like to know more about Grace and her work please visit:

The sensuous historical romance A Dead Man’s Debt is widely available from most good eBook stores, Amazon Kindle and

What’s in a Name? Kittens and Characters

by Grace Elliot, guest blogger and author of A Dead Man’s Debt.

Last Thursday I found a stray kitten playing in the road; the cutest little thing all purrs and passion paws. Being a veterinarian, for safety’s sake, I took her into work but despite notices everywhere no owner has come forward. With a boring weekend in a kennel looming, I decided to ‘foster’ her at home. From previous experience I’ve avoided the trap of giving her a name, since inevitably then she would never leave, so for now she’s affectionately referred to as ‘It.’

So what has a cute kitten to do with a romance blog? Well it set me thinking about how characters get their names.

Set in Georgian England A Dead Man’s Debt is the story of two damaged people, Lord Ranulf Charing and Miss Celeste Armitage. Bizarrely, the naming process started when I saw a road sign to ‘Cadnum’. A light went on in my head. What a great place name, full of gravitas and history, the perfect home for a Marquis… the Marquis of Cadnum (*)

The Marquis of Cadnum’s heir, and our hero, is a man of duty, weighed down by venerable ancestors, whilst denying his own calling as an artist. His given name needed to suggest a restless adventurer and ‘Ranulf’ popped into my mind (after Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the British polar explorer.)

So what about our heroine? Celeste, such an ethereal and aloof name but she is stubborn and rebellious, and needed an appropriate surname. ‘Armitage’ seemed just right, (in the UK ‘Armitage Shanks’ manufacture bathroom porcelain – strong and practical!)

Get the right name and the character talks on the page, becoming permanent…which is why it is foolish to name the kitten. But don’t worry, I’ve dodged the issue, only now It is beginning to sound dangerously like Itsa.…Itsa Cute Kitten. Can’t possibly keep her…too many cats… but, oh, she is sweet….

* Names and titles -the confusing bit explained.

In formal society a Marquis was addressed as, ‘the Marquis of Cadnum’, or ‘the Lord of Cadnum,’ rather than by his family name (in this case, Charing.) The eldest son is called by his family name i.e. Lord Charing.

‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ will be available from Solstice publishing later this fall.

For more details visit Grace’s website at:

Or her blog at:

[Book Blurb.]

‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ by Grace Elliot.

Set in Regency England ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ is a story of blackmail, duty and an unexpected love.

After publically humiliating a lecherous suitor Miss Celeste Armitage is sent from the Ton in disgrace and resolves never to marry. But when she finds a sketch book of nude studies and discovers the artist is her hostess’ eldest son, Lord Ranulf Charing, she finds herself dangerously attracted to exactly the sort of rogue she has sworn to avoid.

Nothing is as it seems. Lord Ranulf’s life is a façade and he is being blackmailed over his late brother’s debts. But just as the darkly restless Ranulf finally learns to love, the full fury of his nemesis, the vindictive Lady Ursula Black, is unleashed. To protect Celeste he faces a stark choice between duty and true love. However Ranulf has underestimated Celeste’s stubborn resolve to clear his name and in so doing places the woman he loves in mortal danger….