How a novel begins …

I’ve said it before here, and in other places, that I love how a whole novel can unfold in a moment from seeing something that inspires you, and I’m fascintated by other people’s inspirations. You may remember my previous blog on Inspirations: From J. R. R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, Arthur Ransome, Beatrix Potter, John Fowles to The Brontë sisters and me .

As I said last week, I didn’t share the inspirations behind Entangled, the historical novel I released at the beginning of the summer, because I wasn’t well at the time. So, I thought this weekend I’ll do some catching up.

A little like The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the setting for the last book in the Wickedly Romantic Poets series is a windswept coastal town. The first encounter with the characters is on a deserted beach. I always intended from book one that Clio would end up moving to Hartlepool to hideaway, and that James would encounter her on the beach there several years later. As readers know, there’s a long prologue in book one that starts their story and then through the series you read about the years of their seperation through the lives of others. In book four, their story picks back up when they meet unexpectedly on Hartlepool beach, with the wind whiping up the sand around them. Clio is flying a kite with her son and James walks across the otherwise empty beach with his daughter.

My Nanna and Grandad were born and grew up in Hartlepool, on the northeast coast of England. They left Hartlepool when they were in their twenties. I didn’t visit there until after they’d both passed away. I wish I had. I wish I’d visited with them so I could ask them the stories of life there.

After Nanna died we were staying in Yorkshire, near Whitby, I was researching settings for The Marlow Family Secrets, and I decided to visit Hartlepool in a sort of pilgrimage to explore where she’d come from. I walked through the town to find the street and the house on the Headland (a dairy in the late 1800s and early 1900s) where Nanna grew up. I’d seen pictures of the house, but it was a suprise when I reached it to discover it was only a hundred meters from the harbour wall. We walked down to the harbour and then walked on around the historic Headland. People who know something but not much about Hartlepool will think it’s industrial, and relatively modern, and very large. They are right, but, at the heart of that is a settlement on the Headland that dates back centuries. A monastry was built on the Headland in AD640. That is the area where Nanna and Granded grew up.

When my husband and I went to Hartlepool it was a cold, windy, autumn afternoon. There wasn’t much to do, so, we carried on walking and came across a Headland Story Trail board. We followed the Headland Story Trail boards around the Headland to a long windswept beach. I didn’t know my Nanna grew up so near an amazingly, dramatic, beach. It was a bigger surprise than the harbour. I didn’t even know Hartlepool had beaches. And, in my opinion, beaches are more interesting when there’s a storm 😀 I might not be normal, I love watching a wild sea more than lying on a sunbed. I don’t have a copyright free picture to share but if you follow the Headland link you’ll see it. The waves were rolling up the sand and crashing down in a froth of angry foam, and the wind rushed at us with a strength that made sure you knew you needed to be suitablely in awe of the force of nature; the few trees along the edge of the beach grew with a lean that said the wind was fairly constant too. It was a very Brontë setting.

I’m one of those people who always finds those classic, harsh, Brontë, Wuthering Heights like, environments inspirational. No one was on the beach that day. No one else was on the headland path looking down at the beach. It drew the emotions of someone who needed to isolate (of course that was years ago, so put COVID-19 thoughts aside) they were hiding for some reason. The Wickedly Romantic Poets series began in that moment.

The Brontë family, in their real lives, lead me to take the step from there to the tragic lives of the romantic poets. In the same trip, we visited the parsonage in Haworth, where they used to live. It was another stormy day. The clouds above were a dark steel grey at the edges. It wasn’t raining but it was very windy. The moor began a couple of hundred yards from the parsonage front door, so they would have looked out at the windswept landscape constantly. It is a very macabre setting on a stormy day. Which probably put me in a macabre mood. In the Parsonage Museum I then learned not just about the sisters but their brother, Branwell. Another creative person, who fell in with the wrong gathering of men and lived a hedonistic life – as many of the artists and poets did. He ended his life tortured by addiction as a result.

So the Wickedly Romatic Poets inspirations began by putting together those two things – Hartlepool beach and the tragic life of Branwell Brontë. I then went off, and as you know from all my previous inspiration blogs about the series, read diaries, letters and biographies, visited the homes of the romatic poets (and other period properties), and added lots of realistic details and settings into the lives of my poets. But I thought today I would share where it all began and why.

My Nanna and Grandad. Edith Smith nee Copeman and John Smith.

This picture was taken on Scarborough beach. They used to travel to Scarborough when they were courting even though there were beaches just up the road. It’s no wonder I didn’t realise there was a beach in Hartlepool. They probably travelled there because Scarborough was a place with lots of entertainments, like Brighton. 

Here’s the links to the other blogs on the inspirations behind this series:

Inspirations for the Wickedly Romantic Poets Series

The Truth by Jane Lark ~ a free book exclusive to my blog ~ part forty-two

The Truth

© Jane Lark Publishing rights belong to Jane Lark,

this should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 67, 8, 9, 10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18 ,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33,34,35,36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41

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Emerald

Emerald hurried into the room and closed the door then turned to face Rita who was fully clothed and sitting silently on her bunk. She had put out Emerald’s clothes.

“Miss,” Rita stood up. “Is this wise? Your mother would–”

“My mother is dead,” Emerald answered in blunt denial, a cold pain breathing through her chest. “She is not here to care. Now help me dress. I am late for breakfast.”

As was Richard. The thought brought a smile back to her lips and warmed her inside.

Emerald stood still as Rita pulled tight the laces of her corset and then tied the tapes of her petticoats’. Her body ached from the delicious test of endurance Richard had challenged her with last night. He had displayed a new vitality and he’d seemed so desperate. She could not deny how good it felt to be able to make a powerful man like him desperate for her.

When she left the cabin in Mr Bishop’s company, her hand on his arm, she was smiling broadly, she could not help it. She was living in a dream. The memory of her argument with Richard only made her wish to smile more as she thought of its wicked conclusions.

Mr Bishop held open the day cabin door and she very nearly asked him what had happened about the French ship, when she walked past, only catching her tongue at the last moment when she remembered she should not know. But she had already taken the breath to speak and then stopped. He smiled in an odd way, but then a frown immediately furrowed his brow. He’d been silent as they crossed the deck. She supposed if he suspected, he would disapprove, as Rita who was walking behind them did.

Emerald had a feeling that she blushed. There was only Dr Steel in the room. “Are the others not eating?”

“Mr Pritchard is at the helm and Mr Farrow is with him. Mr Swallow is resting.” It was Dr Steel who answered as he stood.

Rita sat in a chair across the room and Mr Bishop walked ahead of Emerald to withdraw a chair at the table for her. Emerald sat opposite Dr Steel, and felt as though she faced a judge in a court room. But Dr Steel could not know. Mr Bishop would not dare defy Richard and speak even if he had guessed. This was Richard’s ship.

Dr Steel offered her the basket of fresh bread. She still did not want to speak to him. She had not forgiven him for not speaking up about her mother’s illness. Her smile was wiped away.

She accepted some bread and reached for jam. They had cured ham too, which they’d brought aboard in Gibraltar and oranges, with strong coffee or hot chocolate. As she helped herself, Dr Steel asked, “How are you?” His voice formally polite.

“As well as I might be when my mother died unexpectedly a little more than fortnight ago.”

“Am I never to be forgiven, Miss Martin,” he challenged quietly as Emerald took a slice of ham from a plate Mr Bishop held for her.

She looked directly at Dr Steel. “I should not think so. You cannot change the fact you did not tell me and I cannot change the fact my mother is dead and I had no chance to say goodbye. I must endure my pain. You may endure my lack of forgiveness.”

Dr Steel smiled, but it was only an acknowledgement that her jab had cut him as intended. “I am sorry my decision caused you such distress. Yet forgiven or not, if you need to talk to anyone, I am willing to listen.”

She frowned at him. Listen to what? She did not answer.

“Will you sit on the deck this morning?” Mr Bishop’s tone was curt, when normally he was always so pleasant.

She was sure she was blushing again when she looked at him. “Yes, please. I know it is getting colder and soon it will be too cold to do so.”

“Would you like a companion?” His tone was still terse.

The pitch in his voice brought a sense of uncertainty. She wished to ask if he knew about her and Richard and if so would he speak of it? If he would then she would beg him not to. She did not want Richard judged badly because of her. But she could not say anything because what if Mr Bishop had not guessed.

“I would be grateful, if you may spare the time?” Her gaze dropped from his and she focused on her food.

“I may. I know you prefer not to be alone.” There was a change to his voice, it held sincerity and it drew her eyes to look back at him.

He smiled.

She smiled too, remembering how in the beginning she had wanted Richard to be more like him. But she had never been attracted to Mr Bishop, he was kind and polite but he had no spark. It was Richard’s fire which ignited her.

The door into the day cabin from the deck opened. She looked across to see Richard enter accompanied by Mr Swallow.

Mr Bishop stood.

“Sit, Mr Bishop.” It was Mr Swallow who made the direction.

“Gentlemen, Miss Martin,” Richard said in greeting. He bowed his head formally towards her. Her smile became broader again, parting her lips . Less than an hour ago they had been in his bed, wrapped up in each other. She felt another blush and caught the movement of a twist in his lips that implied a smile. She looked away once more, at her food. But when he walked past she distinctly felt the tip of one of his fingers brush across her back.

“What are your plans today, Miss Martin?” he asked when he was seated as he began filling his plate.

She glanced at Richard, very aware of Mr Bishop watching them, and she could not seem to stop blushing. “I have agreed to sit with Mr Bishop on the deck this morning.”

“Then I shall entertain you this afternoon.”

He had not spent time with her for days to avoid suspicion. “Thank you.” She glanced at Mr Bishop and met a look of what seemed to be sympathy. Why? She frowned. Oh. But Richard was probably playing games and facing Mr Bishop’s suspicion head-on denying fear of any speculation. Richard Farrow at his most venomous. But then Mr Bishop would be foolish to speak out. She would not fear it either.

When they had finished breakfast they all stood. “Miss Martin,” Mr Bishop, lifted his arm. She looked back at Richard. He bowed his head then smiled slightly.

“Might I have a word with you later, Captain?” Mr Bishop asked as her hand rested on his arm.

Mr Swallow’s eyebrow’s lifted. “Of course, look me out when you have finished keeping Miss Martin company.”

“Thank you, sir.”

As Mr Bishop walked her from the room, with Rita following, Emerald glanced back again. Richard was talking to Mr Swallow but he saw her look and smiled at her over Mr Swallow’s shoulder, a lightness rising in his eyes. It was the greatest acknowledgement she would receive before his crew.

To be continued…

The Marlow Intrigues: Perfect for lovers of period drama, like Victoria and Poldark.

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The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all 

The Illicit Love of a Courtesan #2 

Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ A Free Novella #2.5 

The Passionate Love of a Rake #3 

The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ A second Free Novella #3.5 

The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4

The Dangerous Love of a Rogue #5

The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel #5.5

The Persuasive Love of a Libertine #5.75  now included in Jealous Love, (or free if you can persuade Amazon to price match with Kobo ebooks) 😉

The Secret Love of a Gentleman #6 

The Reckless Love of an Heir #7

Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback and, yes, there are more to come  :-) 

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Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook  page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark