Miranda Neville guest blogs

Today we welcome Miranda Neville as guest blogger with a copy of her latest release THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT to offer as a prize. Your question or comment will enter you into the drawing and Miranda will drop in during the day to chat. And now, over to Miranda…

When I helped my father move out of my childhood home, he asked me to go through a box of family papers. Along with my grandfather’s World War I diaries, I discovered a curious volume listing family members and friends and their weights. Investigation revealed that for seventy years, beginning in 1850, there had been a weighing scale in the hall of the family house in Norfolk, England. After reeling with gratitude that the practice of weighing visitors had ceased long before my time, I decided I needed to put this piece of lunacy in a book.

THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT is, among other things, a book about opposites attracting. Sebastian Iverley is a bookworm, a real Regency nerd and a misogynist to boot. Diana Fanshawe is a girly girl. She loves parties and fashion and worries about her weight. And she knows about her weight, even without the chart of Recommended Weights For Women (I hate that chart, but I digress), because her eccentric father has a scale in the hall and insists on weighing his friends and relations.

I had to find out what the scale should look like. The St. James’s Street wine merchant, Berry Brothers & Rudd, still exists from the Regency. Gentlemen (including Byron) used their scale—shown here in a photo from their website–to weigh themselves, but it’s obviously a commercial machine. With a little research I figured out what kind of contraption Diana’s father might have owned.

Then, in one of those bits of serendipity that occur in writing, I was researching a scene set in Gentleman Jackson’s Boxing Saloon. Beau Monde member Anke Fontaine produced an engraving which includes – a weighing machine! And it was pretty much as I had described it three hundred pages earlier.

Unable to avoid her father, Diana submits to being weighed and there’s a witness to her humiliation. Luckily it isn’t Blakeney, the hunky ducal heir she has her eye on. It’s only Blake’s nerdy cousin Sebastian and who cares what he thinks?

“Up you get, my dear,” Mr. Montrose ordered. She looked around as though contemplating flight, then climbed into the swinging chair.

Watching her father conduct some business with blocks of metal hanging from a horizontal bar, Sebastian realized the device was a weighing machine.

“Eight stone, two pounds,” Mr. Montrose announced. “Let me see.” He picked up a vellum bound volume from a small table and flipped through the pages. “Five pounds more than last time.”

“I’m wearing a riding habit. This cloth is very heavy,” she said.

Her father wagged his finger at her then pointed at the entry in the ledger. “None of that. Last time you wore a winter gown and full-length fur-trimmed pelisse. See? You made me record it in the book.” He dipped a pen in an inkwell kept handy for the task and entered his daughter’s new weight.

Although not in the habit of judging people’s emotional reactions—men, thank God, didn’t have them—Sebastian noticed Lady Fanshawe looked as though she were about to cry. Was she, for some reason, upset about the increase in her weight? He couldn’t imagine why. He found her figure absolutely perfect. Its diminution by even an ounce would be a sad loss.

Though things like counting calories and the science of nutrition were in the future, people of the period did go on reducing diets. The most famous is probably Byron’s regime of vinegar and mashed potatoes. Diana wants to lose the extra inches from her bust so I invented a couple of diets for her, including one in which she eats nothing but dessert. (That one isn’t a great success).

Despite her appalling obesity (I’d pay good money to weigh only eight stone two [114 pounds]!) Sebastian falls for her. She is totally not interested (in addition to all his other disadvantages her mother likes him). Trying to impress the future duke, Diana bets Blake she can get Sebastian to kiss her and Sebastian is devastated when he finds out about the wager. With the help of his friends in the Burgundy Club, he gets a makeover, transforms himself into an eligible London bachelor, and plots to seduce her. Stuff happens, yadda yadda yadda, and they live happily ever after. If you want to know whether Diana loses the weight you’ll have to read the book.

What’s the oddest thing from your own life you’ve put into a book? And if you are sensible enough not to attempt the writing of fiction, help out a desperate author by sharing an experience I can turn into an utterly improbable scene in a novel. One commenter will win a copy of THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT.

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Virginia C
11 years ago

Hello, Miranda! Sebastian is certainly a delicious “Regency Nerd”. I love to read about his intriguing male makeover!

Don’t ever let anyone else convince you that you don’t know who you are…

I live in a very small, Southern railroad town. One other lady in town had my first and last name with a different middle initial. I had met her, and she was at least 40 years older than me. However, through the years I received some of her mail, phone calls & etc., and I am sure she got some of mine. One of her friends, another older lady, kept calling my house by mistake. I repeatedly told her she had the wrong number, but this went on for years. When the lady with my name passed away, her friend actually sent a sympathy card and flowers to my house! So….I sent her a thank you note, and signed my first and last name, which are the same as the deceased. I never heard from the “mistaken one” again!

US Resident, GFC Follower, Subscriber

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Jane Holland
11 years ago

Can’t wait to read this – Sebastian is going to be the unlikely hero, yes?

The oddest thing in my own life that went into a story was a three-in-a-bed scenario when I was a young wild thing. Bit embarrassing and horribly cramped in real life, but in my novel I embellished like crazy, as you can imagine. 😉

Ah, those were the days …

Megan Mulry
Megan Mulry
11 years ago

Well, I was going to leave a comment. But clearly Jane Holland should win the book : ) *sigh*

Loved the scale. Loved Sebastian. Loved the book.

Thanks Miranda!

Karen H in NC
11 years ago

So, Diana is fretting over 114? I guess it’s true what they say…people look larger in photographs…but wait, they didn’t have photographs in the Regency era. Then people must look larger in the eye of the artists because it seems to me that women were on the plumb side in that era. That said, I’m just freakin’ glad no one wants to weigh me when I walk into their house! LOL

Love the idea of a Regency nerd and I can’t wait to read more about Sebastian’s extreme makeover!

Kirsten
11 years ago

Something odd I always wanted to put in a book and have documented in my diary is:

I got a cactus from a female relative. She would ask me how he was. “Is he doing all right dear?”

It never did much, stayed the same shape and appeared to be frozen, then one year it grew and grew and almost doubled in size.

It even flowered and died: ON THE SAME DAY that the relative, from wich I got it died. Spooky! but also very interesting.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Hello: lovely to be visting the Riskies again and thank you to Janet for hosting.

Virginia: that’s funny! The lady who sent the flowers sounds dotty enough she may have thought it normal to receive a thank you note from a dead person.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Jane: are you seriously going to leave it there? Inquiring minds want to know…. I assume you are not talking about a threesome of wild six-year-olds.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Hi Megan – thank you. I’m trying to get the truth out of Jane. Wonder if she’s susceptible to bribery.

Karen: reading this now, I may have gone a bit low on Diana’s weight. I remember changing it several times, trying to figure out weight for height and nutrition level in the early 19th century. Something that struck me in the family book of weights was how little these people weighed compared with today. The thing about noting what she was wearing came from the volume too. There were several entries that noted heavy clothing.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Kirsten: That’s a nice spooky little story that people probably wouldn’t believe if they read it in a novel. To me the strangest thing about your story is that it lived at all. Personally I’m instant death to all house plants.

Jenny Brown
11 years ago

Diana’s family is so wonderfully eccentric in a way that is completely convincing–and charming.

But charming eccentricity seems to be something that the English have mastered that Americans can only dream of.

My relatives tend to be peculiar rather than eccentric.

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Miranda, welcome back to the Riskies! And thank you for the entertaining blog and the charming excerpt from The Dangerous Viscount.

I absolutely love that you have those family treasures, as odd as the weight chart seems.

Absolutely nothing very remarkable has happened in my life to put into a book, but probably the oddest thing I ever wrote was the “Buried Alive” sequence in The Marriage Bargain, my Diane Perkins book, which came from a bargain book I bought at Barnes and Noble about peoples’ fears about being buried alive and some true historical examples.

Louisa Cornell
11 years ago

Delightful excerpt, Miranda, but then again I love everything you write!

And I really love that you included this nice bit of family history in your latest. Things like that bring our ancestors to life in the most enjoyable way.

There is a story in my mother’s family of a lady who lived on the farm next to theirs. She was a retired schoolteacher who had traveled to South America. (This was the early 1940’s so for a woman from South Alabama that was a very big deal.) She brought back two parrots and she had a perch on a long pole with which she set them in the tall trees of a pecan grove during the day and kept them in the house at night. My uncle was about ten years old and often did chores for the lady. He was picking up pecans in the grove when the parrot, Polly (what an original name) said very clearly from the tree above him “Watch out.” Bobby looked around but could see nothing and told Polly to hush. Once more she said “Watch out.” Again he saw nothing. A third time she said “Watch out.” He looked up just in time to have a large bird dropping hit him in the eye. “Dammit, Polly!” he yelled. To which she replied “I told you to watch out!” The Polly stories are some of our favorites at family reunions. I am glad we recorded them all as my uncle is in his 80’s now and in poor health.

Karyn Gerrard
11 years ago

Hey again Miranda!

LMAO about Diana’s diet, maybe, you could write a book called ‘The Regency Diet’ A lot of kippers and lettuce leaves.

You know I loved Sebastian, and what a dull life I must live, I have nothing remotely interesting that could go in a book!

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

Oh, come, people! Teenagers do strange things all the time… Like pick and eat weeds from the yard when Mom’s cooking just didn’t work out… Some of the weeds are tasty, some are nasty, and some will smell so bad that even a teenager won’t try them…

Susan in AZ

Janet Mullany
11 years ago

I have a lot of family anecdotes which wouldn’t fit in a Regency, because so many of them seem to revolve around public transport mishaps, like the time my father (a notorious disliker of cats) was charged with taking a black cat called Sammy on a train journey. Sammy escaped from his basket and my father had to crawl around beneath the seats to rescue him, afraid he’d escape from the train.

Then there was his friend who went to visit relatives in the country and brought back a suitcase full of horse manure for his garden which he inadvertently left on a bus. I’m wondering what they thought at the left luggage department.

catinbody
11 years ago

Several stories of my grandmother’s grandmother, who came to Oklahoma in the late 1800’s in a wagon train, have been passed down, and I always wanted to include them in a book, but I can’t say that I have, yet. One story included her doing laundry in a river and so having taken off her stockings and shoes when a cowboy stopped by to talk. When she saw the man coming she didn’t have time to put on her stockings and shoes, so she just sat down to cover her ankles. He had been away from people (and presumably women) for a very long time, and so talked to her for hours, or so the sotry goes, and so she was stuck there, sitting to keep her ankles covered, until her legs fell asleep. I always loved that story and a peek into modesty and male/female relationships at the time. As a child, it seemed very romantic, and it still does, really.

Kim in Hawaii
11 years ago

Aloha! My great-grandmother grew up in a small village outside of Exeter with 7 other siblings in a two bedroom house. This probably left a lasting impression that drove her to move evey 2-3 years once she was married. According to my Grandmother, Great-Grandmother frequently opened her home as a B&B where returning vistors always brought tea cups (they worked in a china facotry). So my grandmother and mother had this extensive collection of tea cups, never enough to make one set, but enough to serve tea to Buckingham palace!

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Hi Jenny. Judging by southern fiction, there have to be tons of delightful eccentric American families. Thinking northeast, offhand I’m coming up with Eugene O’Neill. Uh oh. Long Day’s Journey into Night.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Diane: it’s a pleasure to be here. Being buried alive always seems terrifying to me and I suspect many others. I’m impressed that you really do make up all that great stuff in your books.

Louisa: Ha! I knew there had to some good southern stories out there. Funny pet stories are a rich source of anecdotes. Everyone seems to love a cat, a dog, or indeed a parrot, in a book. How about a parrot that sang opera? You could write that one.

Maureen
11 years ago

Well, it may not seem terribly odd…but I included the idea of a working internet in a 1690s pirate book…

I mean, I blog on the Romance Writers Revenge…just seemed like the thing to do!

And I think I’d hate a public weighing machine. Why Weight Watchers never worked for me!

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Hello again, Karyn. I wish I’d thought of kippers and lettuce leaves. Trouble is, kippers like everything else are better with butter.

Hi Susan. There’s only one kind of weed I remember teenagers wanting and it wasn’t for cooking…

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Janet do you think you could do the escaped cat on a stagecoach? As for the horse manure, LMAO. I can totally imagine some old gardening mad relation of mine doing that but certainly wouldn’t work in the Regency when the stuff was everywhere. It makes me think a little of the scene in Bridget Jones (I think only in the book) when her mother tries to get her to take some meat back to London and puts it in her bag without telling her. The smell is so bad she thinks there’s a dead body in her closet. My mother was always pressing strange food and other dubious items on her children.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Catin: I want to know what happened next. Did she marry the cowboy? It would make a great “meets cute” opening to a book.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Kim: I love non-matching china. What fun to have it accumulate like that. As for the seven kids in a two-bedroom house, I can’t imagine it. I had to share a room with two of my sisters for a while and I assure you the experience scarred me for life.

Isobel Carr
11 years ago

Love the bit about the weigh-ins. What a horrible fate to know was in store for you . . .

Everything from my *real* life that I’ve used in a books seems to revolve around animals. Lots of little bits with dogs and horses. In LORD SIN, I have a scene where one of the children is given a lesson in trick riding by one of the performers at Astley’s. It’s the same lesson I was given as a teenager by a friend whose family were circus performers.

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

A nerdy hero? I am SO reading this book! 🙂 Welcome back to the Riskies, Miranda

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Hi Isobel. Anyone who can write a scene at Astley’s based on personal experience impresses me.

– always lovely to be here 🙂

librarypat
librarypat
11 years ago

I read an excerpt which included what led up to this scene. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It tells you so much about these characters especially her relationship with her parents.
Our life has been one chaotic event after another. Hard to think what you could include in a book. My son was attacked by a black bear in our yard while he was house sitting for us .(That is a story in itself) We came home 2 days later and got in and to bed about 2 AM. At 4 AM we were awakened by our dogs barking furiously at the front door which is near our bedroom. I could hear thumping out on the porch and furniture being shoved around. Was the bear back? Nope. A heifer had gotten out of the neighbor’s pasture and wandered onto our porch. (The back side of the porch is at ground level. The front is 4 feet off the ground.) We finally got her headed in the right direction and got her back in the pasture and got back to bed about 30 to 45 minutes later. Short night.

I really enjoyed the expanded excerpt I read and look forward to reading the whole book.

Alison
11 years ago

On the subject of diets, the one that tickled me was from one of Peg Bracken’s books years ago (the I Hate to Cook Book – does anyone ever read these now? One of my formative influences!). Anyway, she posited the ‘Eat as much as you like of whatever you like, for two minutes three times a day’ diet, which, assuming you have it all lined up in front of you, might make for amusing viewing.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
11 years ago

Pat: A bear attack would be unlikely n Regency England but the heifer story is great.

Alison: I’ve never heard of that diet. I’m envisaging doing it at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

catinbody
11 years ago

Miranda,

I know–it does feel like something good has to follow this story, but I don’t think anything else appened in reality because my grandmother was already married at the time. But, the romantic potential was very apparent to me as a little girl.