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Tag Archives: Mr Bishop and the Actress

Today at the Riskies we’re pleased to welcome back Janet Mullany (contest details and excerpts on her website) whose Regency chicklit Mr. Bishop and the Actress is officially released tomorrow but is available right now at, free shipping worldwide.

Hi Janet!

Hi Janet!

Tell us about the book.

You know what it’s about.

[Go on, pretend]

[Heavy sigh] Mr Bishop and the Actress, a work of staggering genius, stark unrelenting beauty, and fierce, unbridled passion between a man, a woman, and the regiment who loves them–oh sorry, wrong book. It started with the title and a first line, Sorry, darling, it’s either you or the horses. That actually became the first line of chapter 2. It’s about an actress–

An actress? Again?*

So? Yes, an actress who’s a mistress being discarded, hence the first line of chapter 2.

Maybe we should talk about what’s new for you in the book.

Okay. There is a prologue in third person omnipotent point of view, past tense.


I think that’s what it is. There’s also childbirth, death, a virgin hero, annoying parents, runaway children, bad jokes, and a look into the marriage of Shad and Charlotte from Improper Relations after three children.

No dancing bears?**

Very few animals. There are some dogs, a pig whose best friend is a dog, and a donkey whose best friend is a horse, and some poultry with Shakespearian names, but that’s about it.

That’s disappointing.

Not really. There is a bearded lady whose stage name is Fatima the Bearded Woman of Constantinople but who is really called Sylvia Cooper and who comes from Wapping.

That makes a nice change. How about sex?

Absolutely. Here’s an excerpt from page 46.

“Do you wear those spectacles all the time, Mr. Bishop?”

“Yes, except when I’m in bed.”

She smiles and rises to her feet. She reaches for the spectacles and removes them.

And then?

Explicit details follow in chapter four.


Chapter four is one page long.

Moving on, can you explain the title?

It’s an English joke. If you add “as the actress said to the bishop” to an innocent statement, it can sound quite dirty. It’s rather like the pleasing effect of adding “in bed” to a fortune cookie motto, which improves it no end (even if it’s a bible quote).

So please give us your example of an innocent sentence corrupted by the addition of “as the actress said to the bishop.” Janet will give away two signed copies of the book, winner to be announced on Saturday.

*A Most Lamentable Comedy, The Rules of Gentility
**A Most Lamentable Comedy

First, a bit of blatant self-promotion that is actually relevant to what I’m talking about today: I’m making a debut as a Harlequin Spice author in the summer (Tell Me More), under my own name since at my advanced age I have no innocence/innocents to protect (and before that, kicking and screaming, drag it out of me, then, Mr. Bishop and the Actress is being released next month. More on that later. Of course).

So I’m writing contemporaries for Spice which means I have to write in American, which is tricky. But what I found even worse was not having the gorgeous array of props and costumes you have at hand when writing historicals. Take this lousy passage:

The Duke leaned against the marble mantelpiece and raised his quizzing glass while taking a sip from the glass of brandy. [Internal Ed: careful, you know where this is heading] The sunlight from the open shutters turned his hair, carefully arranged in the latest windswept to burnished gold. He brushed at a tiny speck of dust on his skintight pantaloons [Internal Ed: oh crap, he does have three hands]. “My dear,” he drawled, “I assure you marriage was the last thing on my mind.” [Internal Ed: what!? Who’s he talking to, anyway?]

Now, translate this into a contemporary:

The [Internal Ed: the what? Cop? I don’t do cops. OK. The mayor? Nah. Come back to it later] leaned against his car [Internal Ed: we’re outside, then? OK] and pushed his dark glasses further up his nose [Internal Ed: I can live with it but it doesn’t imply anything to do with his status, only that he can’t buy dark glasses that fit] while taking a sip [Internal Ed: sip? Are you sure? Gulp?] from his beer [Internal Ed: remember your responsibility to your readers! Is he going to drink and drive?]. The sunlight turned his mussed hair to burnished gold. [Internal Ed: zzzzz] He brushed at a tiny speck of dust on his skintight jeans [Internal Ed: see three hands, above, also sounds a bit gay and not in a good way, but then so does the Duke]. “Honey,” he drawled, “I ain’t talkin’ about a weddin’.” [What? Has this guy ever been inside a library in his life?]

And so it goes.

On the other hand, instead of this:

Heart pounding, she sat at her writing desk and sharpened a knife. On a clean sheet of paper she hastily wrote a note, scattered sand over it, and folded and sealed it. Reaching for the bell pull, she summoned the footman to deliver it to the Duke’s house, warning him that he must return with his grace’s answer immediately.

You have this:

She texted him.

And instead of this:

For three long days and nights the carriage lurched across rutted roads, stopping only for brief pauses to change the horses while the weary passengers took what refreshment they could, and several times alighting to help push the vehicle out of the filthy mud in the torrential rain [Internal ed: enough already]

You have this:

One hour and one packet of roasted nuts later, the plane landed. [Internal ed: long enough for her to join the mile-high club, surely? Call yourself a writer?]

What do you miss when you read contemporaries? What sort of details and how much do you like in historicals?

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Since I’m fiendishly on deadline I thought I’d give you a sneak peak of Mr. Bishop and the Actress (March 2011) which is in the works and available for early order with free shipping worldwide at

The actress of the title, Sophie Wallace, auditions for lecherous Jake Sloven:

His lips descend to my face. He has had onions for dinner, it seems.

“Goodness!” I drop my reticule and duck, a major mistake as he assists me to an upright position. “Why, certainly I’ll read for you. What would you like to hear?”

By this time, in a ballet of gropes and evasion, we have reached the stage.

“In my office,” he says, breathing heavily.

“Oh, no. Here, surely. There will be more room for me to dance.” I swish my skirts and he breathes heavily at the sight of my ankles and licks his lips as I remove my bonnet.

Foolishly I let him choose the play and he thrusts a playbook of Othello at me.

“Fair Desdemona.” He removes the napkin from his waistcoat and dabs his thick lips. “And I shall play Othello.”

There is a sofa on the stage. Well, of course there would be. The noble Moor hitches at his breeches and gestures to me to recline.

“Should I not be praying?” I’m not sure I want to be on my knees in front of Jake Sloven—at least, I had not intended to assume the position so early—and it crosses my mind that I should run out screaming. But I am an actress! There is no reason why Sloven should not hire me (and doubtless he has dozens of prettier women in his employ).

I outwit him by standing with my palms together, eyes raised heavenward. Of course this way I cannot see what he is about—for a large man, he moves quietly (from long practice)—and I shriek as pudgy hands land on my hips and I drop my playbook.

“Down, strumpet!” he trumpets in my ear.

I fall to my knees and scrabble for the playbook, bringing myself on a level with the fall of his breeches, and it is not a pleasant sight, gravy stains and straining buttons. Having found my place again, I respond with throbbing pathos, “Kill me tomorrow: let me live tonight!”

“Nay if you strive—” Othello strives to get his hand into my bosom.

“But half an hour!” I must be the only Desdemona who wishes the scene to last but half a minute.

Sloven hauls me to my feet, a firm grip on bosom and thigh. “Being done, there is no pause.”

And there certainly is not. I scramble to my feet and run around the couch. “But while I say one prayer!”

Sloven lumbers after me, breathing heavily with the effort. I grab a pedestal, a good two-foot length of sturdy wood painted to look like marble, and thrust it in his direction.

“It is too late!” Sloven says with gusto, but not as Shakespeare intended, tossing his playbook aside and bearing me onto the couch, hoisting my skirts.

I swing the pedestal and it meets the side of his head with a loud thud.

He drops like a stone onto the couch that cracks beneath his weight and slowly subsides to the floor in a ruin of gilt wood and velvet. Blood spreads in a dark pool on the floorboards.

And don’t forget to enter the LOLRegencies 2010 contest! You can also visit My Jane Austen Book Club where I’m chatting today and giving away a copy each of Jane and the Damned and Bespelling Jane Austen.

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