It is 10 years since The Illicit Love of a Courtesan was first published and she is celebrating with a new jacket

10 years ago I travelled over to the USA alone, on my first trip to America, to attend a promotional event for the release or Illicit Love, as it was called then. I attended the Romantic Times Conference in Kansas City. The magazine review team had read the story and scored it 4.5 stars, which was quite an accolade at the time, anything above 4 stars was rare.

It was a point in my life that was exciting and scary at the same time. I was in a room signing books among authors I’d read and admired for years! I travelled in a lift with Mary Balogh 🙂 I was sitting next to E.L. James in a conference panel session. I also still clearly remember how much my hand shook when I signed the first book for someone. I was terrified I’d spell their name wrong. It was a moment of childhood – life-long – dreams being fulfilled.

In the years since, there have been many more moments. My first visit to the Harper Collins offices and seeing my book displayed in the entrance hall. Signing next to Stephanie Laurens in New York City. Being invited to the Harper Collins parties to celebrate with their other authors, like Philippa Gregory, who I spoke to. Listening to actresses performing my work in audio additions. Changing genre to write thrillers and securing another contract with Harper Collins, in their Killer Reads Imprint at the time. Seeing book after book, from regency romances and new adult stories, to my thrillers rise up into charts time and again.

On the day of the release of Illicit Love I crazily didn’t live in the moment, but ended up being in my hotel room for most of the day thanking people online for posting about the story. So to celebrate the 10 year point, instead, I went out for a meal with the local authors from Romantic Novelists Association who have become some of my closest friends over the years, and there are so many more authors who I’ve met here in the UK, out in America and online who I am lucky enough to consider my friends. These friendships really are the best thing about my publishing journey of the last 10 years.

However, I am now taking the time to say thank you to all the bloggers who took part in my celebration online too, because books are nothing without readers. Thank you for some fantastic reviews – here are some of the highlights of the 10 year tour…

‘This was such an engaging novel that I was thinking about it when I was not reading it, and it was so beautifully written that I could picture the scenes with such vibrancy. The Illicit Love of a Courtesan is a stunning tale of love, loss, family and forgiveness.’ Jo ~ Book Mad Blog

‘A romance with a series of clever twists. Fans of historical romance should add this fabulous novel to their reading lists.’ Cathie ~ Ruins and Reading Blog

‘As the pages flew by and I inched closer to the end, I knew I was going to miss Ellen and Edward, I was so wrapped up in their romance. I think I might have to read the other books in the series, if only to get my does of steamy romance mixed with drama.’ Sharon ~ Beyond the Books Blog

‘The undeniable sexual attraction between Ellen and Edward absolutely sizzles on the page and whilst the story is unashamedly romantic, with some sensual encounters, there are also elements of danger and that is what makes this regency romance such an intriguing and passionate read.’ Jo ~ Jaffa Reads Too Blog

‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan is a superb historical romance that is so moving, it could seriously sever your heartstrings.’ Julie ~ Bookish Jottings Blog

Happy Book Birthday to this fantastic read! I absolutely adored it, and was hooked from the first page.” Jennifer ~ Historical Fiction With Spirit Blog

‘I found myself submerged in this bittersweet tale of two characters who find each other, and find the strength and courage to fight the wrongdoings… This author was a real delight to discover and I cannot wait to read more from her!’ Tiziana ~ Tiki’s Book Reviews Blog

A writer’s mood board

Many of the authors I know, in their story development stage, gather together ideas in the way lots of creative professionals do, by building them into a mood board. It helps to form those early inspirations into a context that creates a good story. A story – in romance that has a strong beginning middle and end, and in thrillers has a strong beginnnig, fifteen suprise deviations and a shocking end ;D .

I’ve often talked about inspirations for the settings of scenes, and the plotlines in my books but there are also inspirations for the appearance of characters. Authors cut out pictures from magazines, of the public, actors and models they identify with and pin them onto cork boards along with pictures of places and sometimes maps of fictional villages and towns. My historical story boards are in my mind, on my laptop and despersed through books. There are hunderds of photos in folders, that I’ve taken on visits to places that have inspired me, and piles of books around the house with coloured bookmarkers or peices of paper poking out of the important pages. As my fans will know, for most books I also capture some of the things I’ve used as inspirtion in accompanying Pinterest Boards. So readers can see the places, items, properties and people that inspired elements of the stories.

These images include the rooms which inspired Clio’s home and lifestyle in Hartlepool, in Entangled. Then the follies at Stourhead and Newstead Abbey, Lord Byron’s property, which were inspirations for George’s home.

But I discovered a new inspiration for characters last year that I haven’t shared here before. My husband and I live in an old cottage and after we’d built an extension decided to change the furniture in the old half of the house too. So, we started hunting for antiques. But while I was searching for antique furniture I found myself being distracted by minatures in the antiques shops. I spent ages looking into the eyes and faces of people in their small portraits. As I said last week, it’s absorbing wondering who they were and how they lived, and then they became the characters. So, I started gathering some of these images. It’s no different from choosing a face in a magazine today, really.

I bought a few minatures. But then I began just saving pictures of them, because I can’t buy them all. I have about a hundred pictures.

What I particularly love is the minatures that look like mistresses. I imagine the small paintings secreted in a gentleman’s chest pocket near to his heart :’D . He’d take it out and look at it, and show his friends to brag about his prize. You can usually spot a mistress in a portrait, even among the portraits on the walls in the large stately homes. They are painted with a coquettish air and usually exposing a large part, if not all, of one breast. I’ve said it often – the Georgian’s kept their mistresses unspoken of in polite society but in plain sight. While the Victorians pretended to be pious and hid their mistresses behind closed doors. Below is the sort of image that makes me imagine this young woman was someone’s mistresss. It’s bejewelled so I think he was very proud of winning her attention, if not her affection. And she probably came at a high price. It’s the sort of portrait that would inspire a story let alone a character. I imagine her to be a woman like Harriette Wilson – and there’s a tale of a mistress that followers of this blog know very well.

The true story of a 19th Century Courtesan ~ Harriette Wilson

The true stories, Harriette Wilson, the 19th Century Courtesan, didn’t tell in her memoirs