On our way to the UK from our home in Spain we spent a couple of nights in Toledo, a beautiful Medieval city with gothic architecture in soft earthy tones. This is a view from the parador, where we stayed.

We visited El Greco's house. A Cretian by birth, he settled in Toledo after learning his craft in Venice and Rome. His work apparently wasn't particularly well thought of during his life time because of his unconventional style, characterised with elongated figures, and he seems to have possessed rather a volatile character. It was not until the late eighteenth century that he received the acclaim he deserved, discovered afresh by Théophile Gautier.

You can view some of his paintings here:

Because of its many almond trees, Toledo is also famous for its marzipan sweets, made in the old days by the nuns who occupied the many convents in the town. Here is a delightful display showing them at work.

We only had a day to spend there, as a rest during the long drive, but best of all we enjoyed exploring the narrow streets where you half expect to find hooded men lurking in doorways, or peasants to trundle by with their donkey.

Or to see a monk walking in quiet contemplation around one of it's many courtyards or squares. We shall certainly call again, as there is still much to see that we didn't have time for.


Duchess of Drury Lane - Readers Guide

Some readers have asked for a reader's guide to use as discussion points in their reading groups, so as there was no space to include one in the book itself, I've put one here for anyone to print off if interested.

1. It must have been devastating for Dora when her father deserted the family and then died so young. How do you think that affected her outlook and behaviour in her future life?

2. Her mother Grace positively pushed her on to the stage at a very young age. Since actresses were so ill-thought of at the time, was this a good idea? Do you think she saw talent in her daughter, or was she only concerned with the money Dora might earn for the family?

3. Dora was abused by Daly, and naïvely believed in Ford’s promise that he would one day propose. Was this because she craved love or simply longed for respectability? Was it wise of her to become the Duke mistress and give up all hope of marriage after these disappointments? And did she gain sufficient protection for herself? Would you have handled things differently?

4. Do you think the Duke of Clarence genuinely loved her, or was he tempted by her ‘celebrity’ and the money she could earn? There was much ribald comment about whether he kept her or she kept him. What do you think?

5. Dora Jordan proved herself to be a talented actress with a popular following, and she certainly knew how to fight her corner when under attack from jealous colleagues, or the press. Did you admire her efforts at standing up for herself so fiercely by writing a response, and in speaking directly to her audience, or do you think this made matters worse? How would the press and public view this feisty side to her character? Have you ever had the need to make a stand against unfair accusations?

6. The Duke was a kind and caring lover, but how do you see him as a person? Was he a weak man, or genuinely obsessed with a sense of duty? What is your opinion of his closeness to his brother George? Was the Prince of Wales’s influence a good or a bad thing? And was it William’s own fault that he couldn’t find himself a role in society?

7. Why do you think he finally decided to leave Dora? Was it a sense of duty, ambition, a need to settle his debts, or perhaps influence from his mother, Queen Charlotte. Were you angry with him on Dora’s behalf? And how do you think his decision affected their children? Do children of divorced parents today suffer similar problems?

8. Dora had a difficult relationship with her eldest daughter, Fanny. Why do you think that was, and how could it have been improved? Are mother and daughter relationships always a problem in some way, or just go through difficult phases?

9. Dora was ever a soft touch where her family were concerned, even to her own detriment. Were there occasions when you thought her decision to help was the wrong one? Or was she behaving like any loving mother would? How much would you be prepared to sacrifice for your own family? Would it make a difference to your attitude if they were adults themselves?

10. Dora Jordan’s end was a shameful tragedy, and she has never been properly honoured as other British artists have been. Who do you blame? Was she, in the end, the author of her own misfortunes, or do you believe she was manipulated by the Duke’s advisers? If so, could she have done anything to save herself? What would you have done in such circumstances? And did William genuinely mourn her loss?

Review from Library Journal
Set against the backdrop of Georgian and Regency England, this historical novel by a prolific author (The Queen and the Courtesan; Reluctant Queen) describes the life of Dorothy Jordan (1761–1816). It is no surprise that Jordan, born into a theatrical family, took up the life herself. What is perhaps surprising is that she captured the heart of a prince, the Duke of Clarence, and lived with him as though married for 20 years, bearing him ten children. When the Duke left her to marry, he provided a stipend for her so long as she stayed off the stage. Ultimately Jordan returned to the theater to help her eldest daughter, though it meant losing her income from the stipend as well as custody of the daughters she had with the prince. She died alone and in poverty, while her former lover went on to become King William IV. VERDICT Lightfoot’s title, written much in the style of Jean Plaidy, is well paced, and plausible in following Dorothy’s early life, about which little is known. Readers of Regencies will enjoy this, as will fans of Jean Plaidy’s work.


Hardcover ISBN 978-0727882462
Kindle Edition 1 March
Paperback 30 June


New tiles out this month:

A collection of six heartwarming short stories - previously published in My Weekly, My Story, People’s Friend or Woman’s Realm, is now available as an ebook on Kindle. In addition you can get it for FREE FROM 10 - 14 MARCH, just in time for Mother’s Day.

Find it on Amazon

Also out this month is the ebook for The Duchess of Drury Lane, now published by Severn House as an ebook.

Passion, jealousy, scandal and betrayal - a true-life Regency Romance of the rise and fall of an extraordinary woman born into extraordinary times. Growing up in a poverty-stricken, fatherless household, Dorothy Jordan overcame her humble beginnings to become the most famous comic actress of her day. It was while performing on Drury Lane that Dorothy caught the eye of the Duke of Clarence, later to become King William IV.

Her twenty-year relationship with the Duke was one of great happiness and domesticity, producing ten children. But ultimately, Dorothy's generous nature was her undoing and she was to be cruelly betrayed by the man she loved.

Find it on Amazon

Other news:

Dancing on Deansgate, which was published in early December, is now at number 10 in Family sagas on Kindle Store, and still at a special offer price of £1.93.

They called it the Christmas Blitz, but there are no festivities for Jess, locked in the cellar by her feckless, tarty mother. And when Lizzie is imprisoned for shoplifting, Jess is sent to live with her uncle, a bullying black marketeer, who treats her like a slave. Jess’s natural musical talent offers an escape route - and the chance for love. But Uncle Bernie has never forgiven his niece for refusing to join his illegal schemes, and threatens to deprive Jess of her hard-won independence.

I shall be attending the London Book Fair from 15 - 17 April.

I’m speaking at the Du Maurier Festival at 2.30 on Saturday 18 at Fowey Town Hall. Hope to see some of you there. 

This month I start writing a brand new saga, and the ideas are already buzzing. 

 Best wishes, Freda


Mrs Jordan's Children

Dorothea Jordan, or Dora as she preferred to be called, presented the Duke of Clarence with ten children, known by the name of FitzClarence, plus two from previous liaisons. What happened to them all? Were they accepted by society? Did they live a contented life, and remember their mother with affection? Dora had been an indulgent, loving mother. Here is the statue William had made of her after her death.

Dora’s eldest daughter, the child of Richard Daly, had always been difficult and their relationship deteriorated towards the end. But the pair had once been close and she grieved for her mother, angry on her behalf. When her allowance ceased on Dora’s death, she attempted to publish a book of memoirs, perhaps in an attempt to reveal the truth. It never appeared. Publication was halted, probably by Prince William or Barton, his clever man of business. Fanny continued with her acting career till 1820 when the Duke paid for her to go to America. Perhaps he was weary of her sulks and complaints. By this time Fanny had a child, but what happened to it we have no idea. Fanny herself died of a laudanum overdose in her Greenwich Street lodgings in June 1821.

Lucy, wife to Colonel Hawker, was always supportive to her mother, practical and sensible. She became, like Dora, the mother of ten children. As Lady Hawker she saw that her sons followed family tradition by going into the navy, and after some years of widowhood, her husband being considerably older than Lucy, she finally visited Saint-Cloud and her mother’s grave when she was about sixty.

The FitzClarence girls.

They were all charming, clever and pretty, living in Audley Square under the supervision of a Mrs Harpur after their mother’s death. But they were still pilloried and gossiped about in the press, and looked down upon by certain members of the aristocracy. They must have been relieved and delighted to at least be allowed into the royal circle, thanks to Queen Charlotte’s intervention. The Duchess of Kent, however, young Princess Victoria’s mother, would not countenance any friendship, or even contact between them, perhaps in case her daughter became tainted with their scandalous origins. Fortunately their father’s new wife, Queen Adelaide, adored her step-children and was a good mother to them. She insisted that the portraits of their mother remain in place at Bushy.

Sophia had suffered from her lack of status which had badly affected her relationship with her mother during her teenage years, and there must have been some guilt over this following Dora’s death. She married Sir Philip Sidney of Penshurst Place in 1825, dying in childbirth in 1837 aged 42, having given him several children.

Eliza became Countess of Errol in December 1820. She had four children and died in 1856.

Mary married Charles Fox, the illegitimate son of Lord and Lady Holland, great-nephew of Charles James Fox, in 1824, and died in 1864 without issue.

Augusta, or Ta, married John Kennedy Erskine, son of the Marquess of Ailsa circa 1827, with whom she had three children. He tragically died of TB four years later. She married a second time, a Lord John Frederick Gordon in 1836. He was a Member of Parliament and Lord of the Bedchamber. Augusta died in 1865.

Amelia, or Mely as she was called, married Byron’s godson, Viscount Falkland, accompanying him to India where he was made Governor-General of Bombay. She wrote a lively account of her travels, showing herself to be the most adventurous of the sisters.

The FitzClarence boys:
George was promoted to brevet lieutenant-colonel, returning from India in March 1818, and taking his time on the journey home as he explored the pyramids and the Nile. He became something of a scholar, writing a journal of the Peninsular war, and of his travels. He married Mary Wyndham and had a large family. But he could never rid himself of the resentment he felt over his lack of legitimacy. He was an unhappy, discontented man who very much wanted, and believed, he should be King. Instead, a young female cousin, Princess Victoria, was to be second in line to the throne, following Princess Charlotte’s death in childbirth in 1817.

Perhaps he still hoped to be recognised as heir once his father came to the throne in 1830. He was then granted some tasks but William refused to countenance such an act, believing it would lose him credibility with the public. Instead, he made George Earl of Munster, by way of compensation. When Victoria gave birth to a son, Edward, George’s hopes must have been dashed yet again. Nor was he granted any real purpose in life, or way of earning a good income for his own sons, despite asking Sir Robert Peel for a role of some kind. The Prime Minister failed to help and a few months later in March, 1842, George went to his library and shot himself. A tragic end for a man with the potential to have made an excellent monarch.

Henry, Dora’s second son was in India when she died, having spent his early years in the Navy. He’d suffered the icy cold of the Baltic at eleven, campaigns in the Netherlands and the Mediterranean at twelve and thirteen, with the German legion by the age of fourteen, and in the Peninsular War at fifteen. Such a life must have taken its toll as he didn’t grow tall like the rest of his family, no doubt because of the poor food he endured, nor was he robust, or particularly brave. He hated India, and the way his father had treated his mother. News of her death affected his health badly and it was agreed he should be sent home. Sadly, he caught some sort of fever before his departure, and within four days was dead in September 1817. He was 20 years old.

Frederick, a likeable young man with a ‘frank and generous disposition’, spent his entire life in the army, although never saw active service. He married Lady Augusta Boyle, daughter of the Earl of Glasgow. In 1852 he was sent to Bombay, where he died two years later. He had been the one who took possession of most of his mother’s letters, which after his death seemed to become dispersed among other members of the family. He had one daughter who did not marry.

Adolphus or Lolly, served in the navy for thirty-nine years. He always maintained a passion for the theatre, even having his portrait painted in a Byronesque fancy dress. He was involved in founding the Garrick Club where gentlemen and theatricals could meet. He too kept every one of his mother’s letters, never married and died without issue in 1856.

Augustus, or Tuss, managed to avoid the navy, went to Oxford and became Vicar of Mapledurham. It is said that, inspired by Dora’s provision of a girls’ school at Bushy Park, he built a village school in his own parish, and was much loved by his parishioners. His passion for the theatre continued and he often visited Drury Lane where his mother used to perform. He married Sarah Gordon and named his first child Dorothea. He died in 1854, leaving five children.

Resentment and discontent seemed to burn within many of her offspring, yet against all the odds and scandal of their background, they did enter society and make good lives for themselves. Some of their descendants are members of the House of Lords to this day. I’m sorely tempted to research them further and find out what their lives were really like in detail. There’s much more to be discovered, I think.

Growing up in a poverty-stricken, fatherless household, Dorothy Jordan overcame her humble beginnings to become the most famous comic actress of her day. Beginning her career on the Dublin stage, she moved on to the playhouses of Leeds and York before achieving fame and fortune performing at Sheridan’s famous theatre on Drury Lane. 

It was there that Dorothy caught the eye of the Duke of Clarence, later to become King William IV. Her twenty-year relationship with the Duke was one of great happiness and domesticity, producing ten children. But ultimately Dorothy’s generous nature was her undoing and she was to be cruelly betrayed by the man she loved. A spellbinding tale of passion, jealousy, scandal and betrayal, The Duchess of Drury Lane is the incredible story of the rise and fall of an extraordinary woman born into extraordinary times.


Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0727882462

Available as an ebook from 1 March.
Paperback 30 June


Interview with Alison Morton

Today, I’m delighted to welcome my Romantic Novelists’ Association colleague, Alison Morton to my blog, to tell us about her publishing journey and her different way of looking at history. 

Thank you very much for welcoming me to your blog, Freda. Today 1st March, my debut novel, INCEPTIO, is published. Hooray! Three years of slog – researching, writing, and polishing – have led to this exciting moment. Like you, Freda, I love my history. I even went ‘back to school’ after a thirty year break to study for a history MA. So it was natural that I wanted to weave a historical theme into my writing. But for me, it was the Romans.

So what sparked off this interest?
As an eleven year old I was fascinated by the mosaics in Ampurias (a huge Roman site in Spain). I asked my father, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?” Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain that day, maybe it was just a precocious kid asking a smartarse question. But clever man and senior ‘Roman nut’, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?” Real life intervened (school, uni, career, military, marriage, motherhood, business ownership, move to France), but the idea bubbled away in my mind and INCEPTIO slowly took shape.

Alison aged eleven exploring the Roman Mosaic

How did you get published?

Of course, I made the classic mistake of submitting too soon, but had some encouraging replies. Several rewrites later and I’d made some full submissions, even to a US agent! I had replies like ‘If it was a straight thriller, I’d take it on’ and ‘Your writing is excellent, but it wouldn’t fit our list.’ Maybe one day I’ll write a straight thriller or historical fiction, but I was (am!) passionate about my stories so I decided to self publish with bought-in publishing services.

The publishing industry is shifting under our feet. Some commentators see 2013 as the year when self-publishing splits into personal projects, DIY but serious, pick ‘n’ mix (buying in services as required) and full partnership publishing. We do, as the Chinese say live in ‘interesting times’. I chose a high quality publishing services provider who did everything (editing, advice, registrations, typesetting, design, book jacket, proofing, etc.). I’ve found it a fantastic way for a new writer to enter the market.

Alison, you describe your novel as an “alternate history thriller”. Tell us what this means. 

Alternate history is based on the idea of “what if”? What if King Harold had won the Battle of Hastings in 1066? Or if Julius Caesar had taken notice of the warning that assassins wanted to murder him on the Ides of March? Or even if Mrs Jordan’s marriage to the Duke of Clarence had been legal and their eldest son George had become king instead of Victoria becoming queen?

The rest of the story or history of a country, from that point on develops differently from the one we know. In my book, Roma Nova survived from a small colony in the late fourth century somewhere north of Italy into a high tech, financial mini-state which kept and developed Roman Republican values, but with a twist. It’s really fun working this out! The thriller story then takes place against this background.

Stories with Romans are usually about famous emperors, epic battles, depravity, intrigue, wicked empresses and a lot of sandals, tunics and swords. But imagine the Roman theme projected sixteen hundred years further forward into the 21st century. How different would that world be?

What a fascinating approach, and a joy for a writer’s imagination. Having written about Mrs Jordan I can tell you that her son George never got over being illegitimate and not being King, and committed suicide, poor man. An alternative to that outcome would be wonderful. So tell me more about INCEPTIO. 

New York – present day, alternate reality. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to the mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe. Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety, a ready-made family and a new career. But a shocking discovery about her new lover, the fascinating but arrogant special forces officer Conrad Tellus who rescued her in America, isolates her. 

Renschman reaches into her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why he is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it... 

INCEPTIO is available as both paperback and ebook.

You can’t stop now Alison, what do you plan to write next? I’m working on PERFIDITAS, the second book in the Roma Nova series. 

Thank you Alison, that was fascinating. You can read more about Alison, Romans, alternate history and writing on her blog: 

Facebook www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor 
and follow her on Twitter @alison_morton