Category Archives: New Release

The Devil You Know by Sophia Holloway

 Today’s post is from a long-standing British Armitage admirer.

My name is Sophia, and . . .

I write ‘classic’ Regency romances. Sadly, it is something one says nearly apologetically, and sotto voce, because the genre has a very poor image (not entirely unearned). Yet I am not ashamed of the books I write. I follow in the Heyer tradition with an accurate world in terms of history, the fashions, language and attitudes. I want the reader to be able to enter that world lit by candelabra, and clothed in silks, muslins and barathea, and step away from the mundane realities of daly life, from the hassles at work, the heaviness of the shopping or that pile of ironing that grows when you look away for a moment. I want them to smile at the repartee, travel at the pace of a carriage, follow the highs and lows as the romantic relationships build, and emerge in a positive and happy frame of mind. Escapism is not a dirty word! I would also say we are now in a world where sex is all about us and romance in short supply, so I wish to provide it, with floss trimming and intricately tied cravats.

I do not see readers as passive, sponges soaking up what is presented to them. I want them, expect them, to engage, to feel, to use their own imaginations. Unlike Heyer, I write far more of the male perspective, After all, the majority of Regency romance readers are female and thus know how females think, and it is nice to hear the other side of the situation. (I do, by the way, have men read the drafts to make sure I am not getting it wildly wrong.)

This expectation of interaction is reflected in two other aspects of my Regency novels – I do not have bedroom scenes, and I do not over describe the characters’ physical appearance. The primary reason for omitting bedroom scenes is not prudery, but that in the world I describe, that of the Regency social elite, unmarried girls of marriageable age were closely chaperoned, and a hint of immodest behaviour with a man would bring ruin to any chance of a good marriage. A wife was at one level merely the method of ensuring the succession to title and estates. Any doubt as to the fatherhood of an heir was potentially disastrous, and taking a girl to wife whose name had already been bandied about as one less than chaste would be foolish. Failure to marry generally condemned a woman to being a ‘hanger on’ within her family, and left her totally dependent. Thus, for the vast majority of my books, the idea of ‘bodice ripping’ is simply historically a no no.

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Having said which, the first book to be published, The Devil You Know, is set within a marriage, and yet there is no bedroom scene and merely allusions to the disastrous first night that takes place. The book is actually about two people who marry as strangers, and their path towards expunging the memory of that first night. It is also a tale of mutual desire and male sexual frustration, as George Ledbury is used to an ‘active’ bedroomexistence, (with a series of bored married ladies). He tries to be good, but finds assorted circumstances preventing ‘relations’ with the wife with whom he is falling in love. The more desperate he becomes the more mistakes that he makes, to the point he may lose the woman he realises he cannot live without. I could have had bedroom scenes in this book, but few descriptions of the conjugal act are worth reading. Many are cheap thrills or laughable in the manner of description, and if you need to know how it happens, the best answer is a biology text book! The reader’s own imagination is by far better than instruction from an author, whom I feel does better to give the broad brush strokes by allusion and hint, the atmosphere and frisson, and leave the detail to the reader. After all, the reader will pitch the encounter at the level with which they are comfortable, and indeed according to mood. I am sure most adult readers have imagined what happened ‘after the bedroom door has closed’ in books, and in a book that is well-loved, imagined it differently at different times. You, the reader, cannot shock yourself, nor yet be disappointed.

As an extension of this I do not put too much detail into the physical description of the characters. Fifty readers ought to have fifty very slightly differing images of the ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’. How often is a film ruined when the casting is such that you cry ‘but he is nothing like . . .’ as you have imagined him in that book you love.

Despite the above, this being the Armitage Authors blog it will come as no surprise that a certain tall, dark actor has provided material for many of my ‘leading men’. I have reviewed the ten in my novels thus far and confess all are baritone in voice. Mr Armitage has a voice that is an acting class in itself, can be assertive, cold, passionate, pleading, and very funny. George Ledbury is also pretty much totally Guy of Gisborne, with a better haircut and negative leather. I always found Guy’s emotional maturity of a three year old, and his semi permanent confusion, terribly appealing. Hands up those who also wanted to give him back the teddy he’d ‘thrown from his cot’, soothe his insecurity and then . . . Ah, there is where the imagination comes in!

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Of the other gentlemen, a few have little bar the voice, though all are varying levels of ‘tall’ and I am sure you would spot a couple of his mannerisms. Some have his natural colouring, or the dark versions we have seen in various ‘incarnations’. A couple are 85% plus based upon the gentleman. I will not reveal which and spoil things, and hope, if the other books reach print, that you will enjoy finding out for yourselves – and listening to ‘that’ voice when you read his dialogue.

The Devil You Know by Sophia Holloway is available as an ebook and print on demand from Amazon. (Audiobook available in the spring.)
Find out more about Sophia and her upcoming books at

A modern take on North and South: “Collide”

Armitage Authors is pleased to introduce fellow Armitage fan, Melanie Stanford. Melanie shares with us a little about using Richard Armitage’s John Thornton as an inspiration for her newest novel: Collide, a modern romance based on North and South.
Tell us how you found John Thornton. Were you an Armitage fan before finding N&S? 
     I was what I’d call a moderate Armitage fan before I watched North & South. Moderate meaning I thought he was incredibly talented in both Robin Hood and Spooks, the kind of actor who really loses himself in a role so you forget who it is you’re watching. And then came North & South. The funny thing is, I didn’t want to watch it at first. The whole mill owner and strike and dirty Northern town didn’t really appeal to me. My mom had a Gaskell collection and we watched Cranford and Wives & Daughters before I finally agreed to watch N&S. And then WOW. Not only did N&S become a favourite, but I was suddenly seeing Richard Armitage in a whole new (read: swoon-worthy) light.
Were you already a writer when you discovered N&S? What have you written?
     Yep, I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I started out writing epic fantasy, but my first finished novel was a Young Adult time travel romance. I’ve also written a YA Urban Fantasy retelling of Les Mis, and a YA Mystery. My first published novel is an adult romance called Sway, a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. It’s the first in my Romance Revisited series, with Collide being the second. I’m currently writing the third book in the series, a modern retelling of Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. (The books are in a series but can all be read as standalones.)

Melanie’s modern version of Austen’s “Persuasion”

Tell us a bit about your book. What inspired you to create a modern version of N&S? Was Richard Armitage‘s portrayal of John Thornton a factor? Would we see elements of him in your book?
    After publishing Sway, I knew I wanted to write other romances based off of classic novels. Because N&S had become a fave by then, it seemed right to do that one next. It proved a lot more difficult to modernize than Persuasion had been. I had no clue how to include the strike in a modern-day setting. I played with different concepts, different settings, different jobs the characters might have… I knew I wanted Maggie (my Margaret) to be artistic in some way. I also saw her rejecting a proposal right off the bat, like in the original. For Mr. Thornton, what really struck me was the scene in the movie where Margaret first sees Mr. Thornton beating up Stevens because he was caught smoking. That first impression is so vivid, and so obviously horrible (I mean, it’s no wonder Margaret doesn’t like him right off the bat), it really stuck with me. So I ended up making Jay (my Mr. Thornton) a loan shark’s enforcer- someone who beats people up for a living. Of course, this meant that I was deviating from the original by not making Jay his own boss or owning a business, like Mr. Thornton, but I hope readers will forgive me this change. There are definitely moments, from the movie especially, that I included in the book because I loved them so much. And when picturing and describing my Jay, he was always Richard Armitage in my head, so I think some of that will come through the character.
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Melanie’s modern version of “North and South”

What do you love about N&S and the characters?
      I love the story as a whole- it’s like Pride & Prejudice but with so much more going on. (P&P is also a fave!) I love the contrasts- dirty and bustling northern town and slow southern paradise, worker and master, rich tradesman and poor gentleman’s daughter. Contrasting Margaret who was brought up in higher society than Fanny but is so much more down-to-earth. The differences between the two mothers. Feeling the same as Mr. Hale when he’s learning about masters and workers and how he feels for both and can’t choose a side. The deep sadness and tragedy that threads throughout the story. Watching both Margaret and John change and grow as the story progresses. The compelling secondary characters. And let’s not forget that proposal! Wowza! One of my favourite things about the movie are the actor’s facial expressions. There are so many times when you can read exactly what they’re thinking on their face with the subtlest of looks. And let’s not forget Richard Armitage and that voice of his… “she did save me. But mother, I daren’t  believe such a woman could care for me.” I mean, we all read that in his voice, right?  (By the way, I love the way he says “but” in this movie. Silly, but true.)
What would you like Armitage fans to know about you?
     There’s this meme that has pictures of John Thornton and it says, “Some women like Chippendale’s… I prefer broody, buttoned up men with cravats and top hats.” Despite writing moderns, that is 100% me.

I think many of us are with you on that score, Melanie! Thanks for coming by our blog to tell us about your new book. There are far too few North and South fics out there! We’re glad to hear of any new additions to the Thornton list. 

You can find more about Melanie at her website, or follow her at Twitter,  Facebook, or Goodreads,

Marked to Die: medieval mystery with hints of Richard Armitage

Third in a series of medieval murder mysteries, Marked to Die has just been released by historical fiction author Sarah Hawkswood. Sarah’s writing is superb. The historical details she weaves into her narrative sweep the reader into the atmosphere of the era from the very first page.
Sarah shares with us how words transport us into realms of imagination, and how a certain British actor with a sultry voice inspires her writing:
Computer. Keyboard. Action.

Fiction writing is words, but it is about images and emotions. When we read we are looking at typeface or a pen’s strokes, but we are ‘seeing’ the images those words create in our minds, feeling the emotions they initiate. Factual writing informs, moulds ideas, gives frameworks of knowledge, but fiction is about imagination. Our brains are stimulated not by the letters S U N S ET but an image of a sunset that the letters spark; the word on the page frees us from time, space, the limitations of our own abilities, and I think it can give our minds as good a ‘workout’ as a challenging sodoku or crossword puzzle. When we learn to read, the magical point is when the mind is not applying itself to the task of spelling out the letters into a word, but when it does that automatically and is freed to gambol in the wide fields of imagination.

So a novel takes one away from that cramped seat on the train with the stranger next to you jiggling slightly as they listen to the music in their earphones; the wet winter’s afternoon with a pile of ironing still to do; the snoring spouse; the everyday and humdrum. It should take you away as you read it, and it takes me away as I write. Writing as a profession, even when giving up ‘the day job’ would be impossible, has its stresses. There are days when each word emerges reluctantly, deadlines that run towards one like a charging rhino, but it is also, to me, as much escapism as reading.

When I write, I see, I feel, I hear, I taste and smell. I am there, in a world bounded only by imagination, given structure by history, given motion by plot and character. I see every scene as though through a film lens, with the ability to view the rushes immediately, move the scenery, set the actors new marks, change their lines without them throwing a hissy fit, and tweak it until it feels natural, yet crafted and as close to perfection as possible.The only difference to film is there is no Hans Zimmer or Howard Shore adding a score to it.

In this way of writing, casting is important. It does not mean that everyone in my books is based upon a particular person, actor or otherwise. Many are broad brushstrokes, ‘a small, motherly woman with deep crow’s feet at the corners of laughing grey eyes’ is casting, even if there is no name. However, real people can be a huge help, especially with major characters, even if it is one aspect of a person, a mannerism or tone of voice. Having a specific person also gives continuity, though after a while their presence is second nature. It also avoids the danger that if a character is made up of elements from too many people the author is creating not something natural but a Frankenstein’s monster. The mix may be infelicitous, show all the suture lines and fall apart before the denouement. By the same token, sticking rigidly to every aspect of one person is just teleporting a clone into your story. A muse is, I feel, a dangerous thing, a limitation.

At which point, as an author who has also been a member of the C19 Forum, I hold up my hand and admit that ‘casting’ a certain Mr Armitage, to various degrees, has been a joy. He is wonderful to work with because of the quality of his acting, the way he subsumes whoever he really is into the character he is becoming; he also has little mannerism that are easy to give as tell tales to a character, so that in a given situation the character will do a certain move of the hand, lift of the brow.


The Bradecote and Catchpoll 12th century murder mysteries are into their third book on shelves, and I am ahead of the game and writing number nine in the series. I long ago reached the point where I do not have to think how any of the detecting trio will react in a scene because I know them so well. It makes writing interchanges and situations very easy and natural, and though the plot and the dialogue thread, are down to The Words, the story in my head, how they appear on paper is hugely influenced by me ‘watching them’ as I write, letting their voices guide the phrases, the nuances. Hugh Bradecote has been about 85% Mr Armitage since the first revision of the very first book, Servant of Death (though it first saw print as The Lord Bishop’s Clerk). I have been writing Bradecote, Catchpoll, and the third member of their triumvirate, Serjeanting Apprentice Walkelin, for over a decade and they are ‘my boys’. Do I consciously think ‘ah another few hours watching Richard Armitage’ when I settle to write? No, I do not, because it is just the way it is, habitual, normal. Besides, I did not see Mr Armitage when I was privileged to see The Crucible at The Old Vic in London; I only saw John Proctor. The gentleman might not appreciate being kidnapped for my purposes, even 85% of him, but he would appreciate that I am not watching R. C. Armitage but Hugh Bradecote, one subsumed into another.

Of course the reader need not know my casting, may cast for themselves, interpret characters slightly differently, because the writing has evoked different images, but if you are told, and you like watching a certain actor . . .

I account myself a very lucky woman. I have The Words (even if occasionally the wrong Words crowd my head and I have to stop what I am writing and set down fifteen thousand for a short story that will never be read except on my computer), and I have a strong imagination. The icing on the cake is that in my ‘world’ I have been able to watch a certain long stride and mobile brows, hear a certain baritone voice, for hundreds of hours not in the canon of his work, and running through what is thus far, over three quarters of a million words. Feel free to join me.


Marked to Die, the third of Sarah Hawkswood’s Bradecote and Catchpoll novels, is out in hardback (US 2 November 2017) and ebook, published by Allison & Busby.

For more information on Sarah Hawkswood and her work visit her website at:

Visit Lyme Regis through “Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Café” series.

Legacy Armitage fan Georgia Hill has recently released book two of a charming romantic series. She’s excited to share a little background on her latest series with fellow period drama lovers:

Huge thanks to The Armitage Authors Network for inviting me on again!

I’ve been busy writing a series of novellas. They’re about Millie and her battle to save her seaside café business. The newest one is the second in the Millie Vanilla set of novellas:
Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Café Summer Loves. I loved writing these books as I really enjoyed creating the town of Berecombe and its inhabitants. It’s a completely fictional place but is loosely based on Lyme Regis, which is a little seaside town on the south coast of England, in Dorset.

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New Release: A Knight to the Rescue

Legacy fan Elizabeth Hanbury has recently released her 7th novel. Liz writes delightful Regency romance stories with wit and humor. I’ve read all her works, and I’m excited there’s a new short story to read — just in time for summer vacation!

This publication is special in it’s intention, however. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to Crohn’s MAP Vaccine fund, a charity based at King’s College, London researching a cure for Crohn’s Disease.

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Life is a song, but love is the music…

Life is hard for Jessica Smeaton in Regency Bath. She lives in a shabby lodging house and struggles to survive on what she earns from teaching music, hoping that one day the waltzes she composes will sell.

When handsome artist Richard Knight moves into the room above, things start off on the wrong note but could he turn out to be her knight to the rescue?

And here’s a teaser from the opening pages…

The knocking from above didn’t disturb her at first. She was so absorbed in her composing.

The second bout of knocking wrenched her mind out of her music.

The third and much louder series of knocks rang in her ears and sent a hum of indignation flowing through her veins. A stream of plaster dust drifted down from above and settled on the music manuscript in front of her. Jessica jumped up from her battered pianoforte, raised her eyes to the ceiling and uttered a growl of fury.

This was too much. The unseen brute in the room above (no woman could knock with such disdain) disliked her playing and was letting his feelings be known using the heel of his boot. She was vaguely aware of a new tenant had moved in a week or more ago but she had not yet met the person. She was too busy earning a meagre living and now he was banging the floor to complain about her playing. How insulting!

Jessica walked back to her pianoforte, flexing her fingers. Defiantly, she struck the keys as hard as she could.

The reply from above was not long in coming: ban, bang, bang!

Slowly and deliberately she closed the lid. Heat seeped into her cheeks and she tilted her chin: the light of battle had entered her soul. She’d had a dreadful week and now this. Enough was enough. Stopping only to tidy her hair in the mirror and make sure she had no plaster dust on her face, she wrenched open the door, crossed the hallway and started to climb the stairs. For once she dod not notice the peeling paintwork and faded wallpaper of the rambling old lodging house. 

Jessica didn’t consider the impropriety of tackling the idiot in his lair. The landlady Miss Cardew took an unconventional and bohemian attitude to stifling society rules. She believed it helped her tenants” artistic muse to deal with each other as they saw fit with only a few rules to keep the right side of respectable Bath society, the lodging house being tucked away in a quiet street off Queen Square. Miss Cardew loved to encourage artists and offered low rents to such types, for which Jessica was extremely grateful.

Today even the benignly vague Mis Cardew would have scuttled our of the way and felt a pang of pity for the wretch about to get a piece of Jessica’s mind. She reached the door and was tempted to bang on it with her clenched first, but her old teacher’s edict to always be a lady no matter what provocation is offered flashed before her and instead she drew a steadying breath, tapped firmly and waited.

‘Come in,’ said a voice.

She was forced to admit it was a very pleasant, silky voice even if its owner lacked an taste in music.

Jessica entered. The room was scantily furnished, as were most of the rooms in Miss Cardew’s lodging house.  A few threadbare rugs were scattered over the floor. A small fire burned in the grate. Paints and Brushes were spread out over the table under the large window, through which streamed a bright afternoon sun. Various canvases were popped up around the walls. In the centre was an easel, behind which Jessica could see top boots and a pain of breeches covering muscular thighs.

Distracting. Very distracting.

She pulled herself together. ‘I have come–‘ began Jessica.

‘I don’t need any models at present. You can leave your card on the table,’ announced the silky voice.

She felt her cheeks grow pinker, her indignation deepen. ‘I am not a model,’ she said in icy tones, ‘I cam to–‘

At this the brute emerged from behind his easel, wiping his hands. Jessica stared, her mouth falling open a little.

She might have guessed how it would be. Fate delights in playing tricks. Not only did The Brute have a voice as smooth as hot chocolate, he had  devilishly handsome exterior. Broad shouldered and of athletic build, along with the breeches, he wore a white shirt with sleeves rolled up the elbows to reveal strong forearms sprinkled with soft dark hair. his shirt was splattered here and there with paint and open at the neck to reveal a tantalising glimpse of chest hair. He was clean-shaven but his colouring meant late afternoon stubble was already shading his jaw. Beautiful brown eyes were fixed on her in a disconcerting manner. His hair was disheveled and standing up on end as if he had run his fingers through it often. Jessica felt an inconvenient urge to do the same, admitting to herself that he was one of the most attractive men she had ever seen. She might be furious but she was always fair.

I think Liz must have been remembering a certain train scene as she wrote this!

For more about Liz Hanbury’s long history as an Armitage fan, check out our earlier interview with her  here and her post about North and South‘s ten year anniversary here.