Tag Archives: Princess Charlotte

The Romantic Novel of the Year Awards 2024

Celebrations for the RNA Awards 2024

This week, the Romantic Novelists’ Association announced their shortlists for the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards 2024

…which means I can now share the news that The Night She Met the Duke is a finalist in the Historical Romantic Novel category. Woohoo!

And it’s not just me: there are any number of familiar names amongst the finalists, this year, including Louise Allen and Kate Hardy   I am in illustrious company!

Wow. Just…wow

There I was, minding my own business one evening when my phone pinged. It was an email from the Romantic Novelists’ Association, informing me that I am a finalist in the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards 2024: Historical Romantic Novel category.

For those who might not know…

Sarah Mallory Historical Romantic Novel finalist, RNA Awards 2024

The Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) administers the Romantic Novel of the Year awards and their website says this:

“The RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year Awards are presented annually, recognising and celebrating the very best in romantic fiction.”

Let me just say that again:

woman in bed uncorks exploding champagnerecognising and celebrating the very best in romantic fiction… What romantic novelist would not want to be included in that? Woohoo!

I confess, I was surprised. I had submitted a book last year and since Christmas I had forgotten all about it. Which is the best thing to do, really – one cannot sit there biting one’s nails.

Then it sank in.  My book – my baby – had been read, and liked, by other people. Strangers. Suddenly I wasn’t feeling like this about my work

Writer in despair

Authors spend their lives…

…making up stories and putting them out there, hoping readers will like them. You have put in all the hard work: lived, loved, laughed and suffered with your characters.

Now the story is out in the big wide world. On its own.Sarah Mallory, looking shocked

Then you find out that someone likes your book. Not only that. They think it’s good enough to go on a shortlist, a finalist for an award.

Suddenly I feel like this…

Historical Romance

The Night She Met the Duke by Sarah Mallory, Finalist for RNA Awrds 2024

Finalist for the Awards 2024

To quote from the RNA’s own website, the Historical Romantic Novel category is “for stories set in the past (pre-1980) where romance forms a substantive and crucial part of the story.” Well, there is no denying my book is full of romance, but it has its share of history, too.

Although Pru and Garrick, my main characters, are fictitious, the background to their story is based on events that were happening in London in the summer of 1814.

For a start, there was the visit of the Allied sovereigns to England in June, to celebrate the defeat of France and Napoleon’s abdication. Then there was the centenary of the Hanoverian Monarchy. And as if that wasn’t enough, Princess Charlotte was going to marry the Prince of Orange!

Well, none of that could be allowed to pass unremarked, could it? The Prince Regent decided on a party. A big one.

And nobody does parties like the Prince Regent

Regency, party

Cruikshank. Inconveniences of a Crowded Drawing Room 1818

Prinny needed glamour; he needed glitz. With no luxurious royal residences such as Versailles or the Hermitage for his guests to enjoy, the best he could do was to evict his brothers from Cumberland House and give the place a makeover.

The great and the good of Europe arrived in Dover at the beginning of June. Just like today, people turned out to line the roads, waiting to see all these royal dignitaries as they made their way into London.

Phillips, Thomas; The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, 24 June 1814

The crowds cheered for Blücher, hero of Waterloo. They fell in love with Tsar Alexander, regal and handsome.

There were military reviews, illuminations, balls, balloon ascensions, banquets,  soirees, a visit to Woolwich Arsenal, a trip to the races at Ascot, honours to be bestowed on Blücher at Oxford and Cambridge.

It wasn’t all plain sailing

The public loved all this, but Prinny wasn’t quite so happy. For a start, the Tsar didn’t like the accommodation in Cumberland House and decided to stay with his sister, the Duchess of Oldenburg, at the Pulteney Hotel. Not only that, but the Duchess was against Princess Charlotte’s marriage to the Prince of Orange and persuaded Charlotte to call it off. Entente Cordiale it wasn’t.

The sovereigns left England by the end of June, but the Prince Regent didn’t stop there.

Jubilee Fair 1814

Jubilee Fair 1814

On 21st July 1814, he hosted a lavish fete and ball in the grounds of Carlton House. Then a Jubilee Fair was organised to celebrate both the centenary of the Hanoverian monarchy and the 16th anniversary of the Battle of the Nile. It celebrated The Treaty of Paris as well, which was supposed to herald the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Such a busy summer!

Yes, there was a wealth of material to choose from. However my characters have their own story and I needed to concentrate on their romance.

Tsar Alexander by Gerard

Tsar Alexander, by François Pascal Simon, Baron Gérard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the parties I used for Pru and Garrick was the White’s Club Ball, at Burlington House on 20th June. Over two thousand people sat down to supper and the triumph of the evening was that Tsar Alexander joined in the dancing. Then, in July, they attended the Carlton House Fete, another lavish affair. If you want to know more about these sumptuous events, there are brilliant descriptions on the Regency Dances website.

There were so many events that summer that it was impossible to include them all, although I will just mention one more. The Jubilee Fair provides the backdrop for some of the most exciting scenes in the story, involving villainous abductors and heroic rescues. However, there just wasn’t space to mention everything that was going on. Which brings me to a serious point:

How much history is too much?

blue question marksA big question!

When I was a new author with a passion for the historical romantic novel, I became aware of the dreaded information dump — putting in too many facts to the detriment of the narrative.  I am writing romance, and much as I love the history, it is the tapestry into which I weave my characters’ stories.

I shall leave it there

The RNA’s judges think The Night She Met the Duke good enough to be a finalist in their awards 2024 and I am very happy about that. I know these things are subjective. We don’t all like the same thing, thankfully. My own reading tastes can change depending on the mood I am in. For now, it is enough that someone liked it.


Sarah Mallory research

Historical Costume : 1800-1831 Royal Jewellery to bling it up

Just before the start of the first lockdown — and doesn’t that seem a lifetime ago? — I spent an afternoon in the jewellery galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum, in London. What struck me was how much of the fabulous bling on display was royal, or had royal connections. At the beginning of the 19th century, a lot of money went on bling. And the ladies of consequence were happy to flaunt it.

Napoleonic bling

In 1806, Emperor Napoleon was intent on securing an alliance with the Prince-elector of Baden as part of the Confederation of the Rhine. To cement the alliance, Napoleon arranged a marriage between his adopted daughter, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, and the elector’s heir. Napoleon presented the bride with this beautiful set of emerald and diamond jewellery. Continue reading

Inspiration : writing ideas and the subconscious

Readers are fascinated by writers’ ideas. Where do you get them from? they ask.
Over and over again.gothic fantasy woman candle mist ideas

Sometimes we writers know. And sometimes — to be frank — we don’t.

How many of us have woken up in the morning with clear ideas about a new book and no inkling about how those ideas came to be? How many of us have more ideas jostling about in our brains than we can deal with?ideas light bulb

For most of us the difficulty isn’t finding the ideas, it’s turning them into a coherent story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Here’s a case in point.

Ideas? Silver shreds for starters…

It began quite a long time ago. And it was all the fault of my crit partner, Sophie Weston of this parish… Continue reading

Love Match Weddings

Love match weddings ? Signing the Register

Signing the Register Edward Blair Leighton

Love match weddings, achieved after much conflict and tribulation, have been a staple of popular novels ever since Pamela. These days it is a given in western society that young people make their own marital choices — in theory, every  wedding should be a love match.Cover of Lawrence Stone's Uncertain Unions & Broken Lives

So it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always so, especially among the gentry and aristocracy about whom Joanna and our guest bloggers Anne Gracie, Louise Allen and Nicola Cornick write so delightfully. The grim evidence of bullying, family interests and the protection of property at all costs, is set out in historian Lawrence Stone’s masterly account of courtship, marriage and divorce in England before the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act, which reformed the law on divorce.

Yet those Georgian and Regency writers do have some historical justification for their True Love and Happy Ever After stories. And that’s all we readers need, right? It wasn’t all bad. Sometimes love triumphed in real life. Continue reading

Weddings: flowers & heavenly music? Not always

weddings: bride in white dress with long blue bouquet


Often when we think about weddings — or write them into our books — we imagine the full works with floaty white dress, olde worlde church bedecked with flowers, rosy-cheeked clergyman, uplifting organ music, smiling friends and family.

But it wasn’t always so.


Weddings: not IN church, but AT the church door

St Eval church, Cornwall. Wedding venue?Strange though it seems, in medieval times, weddings didn’t take place inside a church. In fact, many weddings didn’t involve a priest at all. Even if a priest was there, his job was only to bless the couple. In 1215, the Church decreed that a contract of marriage was to be “in the approved manner at the church door“. The priest was to be at the church door too, but in order to oversee the wedding, not to do the marrying — that was done by the consent of the couple themselves.

The Catholic Church decreed in 1563 that marriage required mutual consent plus joining by a priest. Since the Reformation was in progress, however, that didn’t apply everywhere.

Queen's Head Pub, Springfield, a Scottish wedding venue

Closest marriage house to the border. Yes, it’s a pub! In Springfield near Gretna

In Scotland, even into the 20th century, a couple could marry by simply exchanging consent in front of witnesses. Think of all those romantic Gretna Green weddings. The runaway couple might have assumed that the strange Scotsman in the Marriage House was doing the marrying, but in fact they were doing it themselves, by declaration before witnesses. Continue reading