Stir-Up Sunday

images-2Stir-Up Sunday falls on the last Sunday before Advent, which is the twenty-second of November this year. The name is derived from a quote from the Bible: ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord!’ This may have been part of a stirring Sunday morning sermon and a timely reminder to make the pudding so that it would have matured by the twenty-fifth of December.

I love the festive traditions and, when I was a child, helping my mother to make the Christmas pudding on Stir-Up Sunday was one of my favourites. There was something very comforting about chatting together as we sat at the kitchen table picking stalks out of the currants and raisins. The fruit was then washed and dried on a clean tea towel in a low oven while we weighed out the remaining ingredients. The scent of drying currants mixed with nutmeg, cinnamon and brandy always smells like the essence of Christmas to me.

Once the pudding was mixed, silver sixpenny pieces were added and all the family gave the pudding a stir and made a wish. Whoever found a silver sixpenny piece in their pudding would have good luck in the coming year. I was delighted to discover that the Royal Mint has recently announced plans to give away over two thousand sixpenny coins in an attempt to revive the tradition. Sixpenny bits were first minted in the rein of Edward VI in 1551.

The Christmas pudding, often known as a plum or figgy pudding since it sometimes contained dried plums or figs, was an important part of the Georgian and Regency Christmas dinner. The pudding included thirteen ingredients to represent Jesus and the twelve apostles and it was garnished with a sprig of holly to remind us of Christ’s crown of thorns.

Once the pudding has been steamed for several hours it is doused with brandy and set alight. Flickering with blue flames and carried with ceremony to the table in a temporarily darkened room, the Christmas pudding makes a theatrical grand finale to the festive dinner.

Here is a recipe for Christmas pudding reputedly used for the Royal Family.

1 1/4 lb. Suet
1 lb. Demerara (cane) sugar
1 lb. raisins
1 lb. sultanas
4 oz. citron peel
4 oz. candied peel
1 tsp. mixed spice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 lb. breadcrumbs
1/2 lb. sifted flour
1 lb. eggs (weighed in their shells)
1 wineglassful brandy
1/2 pint milk

Prepare all ingredients, well whip the eggs, add to milk, and thoroughly mix. Let stand for 12 hours in a cool place, add brandy and put into well-greased basins and boil 8 hours or longer. Sufficient for twenty to twenty-eight people.

If you would like to discover more about a Regency Christmas you can read my festive short story, Christmas at Quill Court available from Amazon at 99p.

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Posted in Georgian and Regency Life, Miscellaneous

Women and Marriage in the Georgian and Regency Period

Growing up in the nineteen fifties, perhaps it’s easier for me than for today’s young women to imagine what it might have been like to live in the Georgian or Regency era. Although the women’s liberation movement was gaining strength during my teenage years most women still lived lives constrained by domesticity and their menfolk.

Today women take it for granted that we have the freedom to speak our minds, own property, marry for love, have a career and gain custody of our children, etc but this wasn’t always the case for our female forbears.













A woman, and her fortune, became her husband’s property when they married and he had almost unlimited power over her. Many marriages were arranged between families where the bride had little say in the choice of her husband. Sometimes love or affection grew but when love didn’t flourish some husbands were cruel. Divorce was almost unheard of and society didn’t think badly of a man who found love elsewhere, whilst infidelity in a woman might cause her to be cast out of society and to lose her children. Sophie, one of the characters in The Chateau on the Lake, suffered such a husband and this forced her to take dramatic measures.

A good marriage to a man with a comfortable income was vitally important for a woman as she rarely had any other means of financial support. Spinsters were often forced to live upon the charity of their families, passed around like a parcel to nurse elderly relatives or sick children. You only have to read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to see what a worry it was, especially in the case of a family with several daughters to settle.

Death stalked even the wealthiest families and it was common for women to die in childbed. This was an opportunity for women who hadn’t found a husband whilst in the first flush of youth, or for widows, to marry a widower and take responsibility for the ordering of his household and, perhaps, his children too.

Despite the risks, marriage was still a state desired by women and usually preferable to the alternative of a life of uncomfortable spinsterhood.

In many cases, with a little kindness and some accommodation, friendship and love often grew between spouses even if the marriage had been made out of convenience.

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Posted in Georgian and Regency Life

Christmas Short Story

ChristmasQuillCourt cover

It’s time to get in a festive mood and Christmas at Quill Court, my seasonal short story, is now available  to download. I do hope you like it! 

December 1815: the Stanhope sisters are eagerly preparing for Christmas at Quill Court, decking the halls and chattering excitedly about the festivities.

Emily, the eldest Stanhope girl, pines for her dashing but distant fiancé Captain Hugh Seymour, whom she loves desperately but she worries he holds a candle for her flighty best friend Selina. Emily has competed with Selina for a man’s affection once before, and her surprise arrival at Quill Court this Christmas has set the Stanhope family on edge.

Can Emily overcome her doubts about her impending nuptials, and prevent the captivating Selina from enticing away her beloved Hugh? Whatever the outcome, this will be a Christmas to remember . . .

Introducing the sumptuous Regency world soon to be seen in Charlotte Betts’ The House in Quill Court, this is a story sure to warm your heart this winter.

Posted in News

Liz Harris – Guest Author

In pearls, on arm of chair3In pearls, on arm of chair2In pearls, on arm of chair3021

I’m delighted to welcome Liz Harris as my guest today.

Liz, tell me all about the history that inspired your new book, The Lost Girl.

The Lost Girl (1)

The Lost Girl is the third historical novel I’ve set in Wyoming Territory, which is what I should call Wyoming as it didn’t become the 44th State of the Union until 1890, and my novels are set prior to that date.

I am clearly drawn to Wyoming, but not because of its beauty. It isn’t a beautiful State, although it has areas of great beauty within it, the most famous being Yellowstone Park. I’m drawn to it because of its fascinating history, and each of the novels I’ve set in Wyoming is a love story that brings to life a different part of Wyoming’s history.

A Bargain Struck was set in 1887 because I wanted to show one of the most important consequences of the worst winter in Wyoming history, the winter of 1886-1887. My novella, A Western Heart, was set in 1880, just after the invention of the first ventilated rail car, which made it possible for dressed beef to be shipped back east, something which had implications for ranchers and railroad owners alike. My latest novel, The Lost Girl, is set in the 1870s and 1880s, a period in which Chinese immigrants in the US were appallingly treated, with nowhere worse than in Wyoming.

Yet Wyoming is known as The Equality State, and with good reason.

In 1869, Governor John Campbell extended the right to vote to women, making Wyoming Territory the first in the US to give the vote to women. It was also the home of many other firsts in the US for women: in 1870, Esther Hobart Morris became the first female justice of the peace, and in the same year, women jurors were first allowed and a female court bailiff was appointed.  In 1924, Wyoming was the first US State to elect a female governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross.

But some people were more equal than others, and the Chinese who settled in the US were treated as very far from equal.

From 1854, Chinese girls had been shipped into San Francisco expressly to work as prostitutes. Frequently, they’d been kidnapped from villages, purchased from impoverished parents, captured by pirates or given false promises of marriage. Once in America, they were contracted to individual Chinese or sold to a brothel. Girls with bad luck attached to them, would spend their short lives in small rooms called ‘cribs’, with only a bed and a barred window. Few made their way as far as Wyoming. Those who did were generally lone prostitutes in small mining camps.


While the discovery of gold at South Pass, Wyoming, in 1867 encouraged many to come to western Wyoming, it was the building of America’s first transcontinental railroad, which had started a few years before, that brought most immigrants there.

In 1863, Central Pacific began working towards the east on the railroad from Sacramento, California, employing Irish immigrants, Mexican labourers and Civil War veterans to build the track. After two years, when progress had been so slow that they’d laid only fifty miles of track, one of the four owners, Crocker, decided that it would be cheaper to bring in Chinese workers from Canton by boat than recruit labourers west of the Mississippi, and on an experimental basis, the company brought in fifty Chinese labourers, experienced in drills and explosives, to level roadbeds, bore tunnels and blast mountainsides.

Employing them was so successful that six months later, there were almost three thousand Chinese immigrants working on the railroads.


The railroad was finished in 1868. Trains run on coal, however, and Union Pacific realised that the blasting skills of the Chinese could be used in the mining of that coal, and when the white miners went on strike in Rock Springs in 1875 in protest at Union Pacific lowering the price they were paid for the coal they’d dug, the company sent in Chinese miners to break the strike.

The whites had to go back to work or lose their jobs and so, full of anger and hate, they returned to the mines where they were forced to work alongside the Chinese, who stayed on after the strike and settled into the town and with them their barbers, their food stores, their laundries …


Tension between the Chinese and the white miners was inevitable, and the law colluded well into the twentieth century with the oppression of the Chinese in towns across California and the American West. Despite the tremendous contribution made by the Chinese to the development of the US, they were not to be accorded the equality enjoyed by Wyoming women until well into the twentieth century. This was my inspiration for The Lost Girl.

Many thanks for inviting me to guest on your blog today, Charlotte. I’ve very much enjoyed talking to you about Wyoming, a State whose history has been a great source of inspiration.


What if you were trapped between two cultures?

Life is tough in 1870s Wyoming. But it’s tougher still when you’re a girl who looks Chinese but speaks like an American.

Orphaned as a baby and taken in by an American family, Charity Walker knows this only too well. The mounting tensions between the new Chinese immigrants and the locals in the mining town of Carter see her shunned by both communities.

When Charity’s one friend, Joe, leaves town, she finds herself isolated. However, in his absence, a new friendship with the only other Chinese girl in Carter makes her feel as if she finally belongs somewhere.

But for a girl like Charity, finding a place to call home was never going to be easy.

THE LOST GIRL is published by Choc Lit and currently available for your Kindle.






Posted in Guest Authors

The Joy of ‘Free’ Time

Hattie, waiting for walkies.

Hattie, waiting for walkies.

Another year has gone by and I’ve just delivered the manuscript for my fifth novel, The House in Quill Court, to my publisher. I feel very odd. After ten months of rising at dawn to write, scribbling a few hundred words in my lunch break, tap-taping away at the laptop while I cook the dinner, talking over plot problems with Hattie, my dog as we walk, fighting off the villain in my nightmares and spending almost all my weekends and evenings writing, it’s done.

Except, of course, that it isn’t. My editor is currently reading the manuscript and her carefully considered comments and suggestions will be back with me in ten days. There are generally two to four rounds of revisions to follow. I always write too l-o-n-g, usually to about 145,000 words but the finished novel must be between 100,000 – 114,000 words. I’m hoping to have saved my editor some grief by slashing the manuscript to 118,000 words before submitting it this time! Once the revisions are completed, the polished manuscript is sent to the copyeditor, who looks at it with fresh eyes to pick up any missed problems and advise where I can give it a final sparkle. Later on there will be the painstaking job of checking the proofs.

Still, for now I have ten free days. Ten whole days! Well, that’s the theory, anyway. My fourth novel, The Chateau on the Lake, was released as a mass market paperback in May so I’m busy with promotional blog tours, breakfast meetings, talks and bookshop visits. I’m writing a short story, Christmas at Quill Court, to be published before Christmas and I’m preparing notes for a workshop I’ll be taking at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference in July. Oh, and I should be outlining Novel Number 6 by now.

Meanwhile, I must attempt to locate my desk underneath ten months’ worth of unfiled paperwork, find the tax form that keeps giving me nightmares, iron heaped baskets of crumpled clothes, restore a garden that looks like a jungle, see grandchildren that have grown several inches since our last hug and visit friends who have forgotten what I look like. I think my husband would quite like it if I say hello, too!

Recently I gave up the day job so I’m hoping my time will be more under control very soon. Hmm. I have a funny feeling that I should be using this extra time to be more active on social media, to give more talks, visit more bookshops and write more short stories or novels.

It seems to me that writing time is like storage space – the more you have, the more you fill it up. Right, no time to waste, I’m off to my study to write the Christmas short story. But I might take a very large glass of red wine with me. And, yes Hattie, I promise we’ll go for walkies later on.



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Posted in My Writing Life

The Chateau on the Lake Blog Tour


The Chateau on the Lake has been on a blog tour and I’m absolutely delighted by the fantastic response. Many thanks to all those who took the time to read the book and to post such enthusiastic reviews. You can read the full reviews on the following websites.

The Chateau on the Lake was released in paperback on 7th May 2015 and is also available as an e-book.

A truly epic story. Charlotte Betts’ writing is a triumph that brings this momentous time to life in a vivid realistic way.

The Chateau on the Lake takes you on a captivating and emotional journey … It is a stunning story that has stayed with me long after finishing the last page.

Pulse-raising, nail-biting … If I could have a shelf full of any author’s work, then I think I’d choose Charlotte. … reading The Chateau on the Lake has just reminded me of how much I absolutely bloody adore them!

Fast paced, evocative and unexpected, The Chateau on the Lake is a must read for historical fiction old and new fans. … I can’t recommend it enough.

This book is a perfect mix of history, romance and drama. It’s one helluva novel!

Then there were the secrets. Oh how I loved the mystery in this book. I couldn’t put it down

(The hero) was a pretty damn hot guy!

I was enthralled with this novel from the first chapter. This book is both exciting and heartbreaking

This is staying firmly on my shelf for rereading.

Captivating, gripping and heart wrenching.

I was captivated from the very first line of this book.

Tragedy, drama, longing, dark secrets, death, wonderful heart warming moments.  I absolutely loved it.

This is the first of Charlotte Betts’s books that I have read and it won’t be the last.







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Posted in Events, News, Reviews, The Chateau on the Lake

A new cover for The Chateau on the Lake

Chateau on the Lake (1)

A lovely new cover for the mass market paperback of The Chateau on the Lake, perfect for summer holiday reading.

Posted in News, The Chateau on the Lake

The Chateau on the Lake – The Inspiration behind the story






















I began to plan The Chateau on the Lake with the vague thought that it would be interesting to write a love story set at the time of the French Revolution. I didn’t know much about it then but everyone knows that the starving poor rebelled against the greedy aristocrats and beheaded Louis XVI, don’t they? Except that, once I started to research, I quickly discovered that it wasn’t as straightforward as that.

France had been involved in several wars in Europe and America in the forty years leading up to the Revolution and the financial implications of this were considerable. The cost of maintaining the army severely depleted a treasury already drained by royal extravagance and the country was almost bankrupt.

There was no call on the titled nobility and the wealthy clergy to pay taxes and the burden of this fell on the bourgeoisie and the poor. This was manifestly unfair and the bourgeoisie began to rally support in the salons of Paris and London.

The discontent grew and an angry mob stormed the Bastille. In 1790 the nobility was abolished and two years later Louis XVI was guillotined. Soon France was not only at war with Austria, Prussia and Britain but also had to contend with bitter civil war and rioting.

It’s often perceived that the victims trundling their way to the guillotine in a tumbril were all powdered and patched aristocrats but this wasn’t the case. The great majority were working class who had taken up arms against the Revolution. Many ordinary people were denounced for very little reason and a terrifying atmosphere of suspicion and fear prevailed.

I began to wonder what it would be like to live in France as the Revolution gathered momentum. How would it feel to be in constant fear for your life? What if you were half French and half English and visiting France for the first time to search for relatives you hadn’t known existed? What if France declared war on England just as you arrived and you couldn’t go back? These questions intrigued me and so Madeleine Moreau, the heroine of The Chateau on the Lake, came into being.

More questions followed, thick and fast. Could Madeleine pass for a native French woman? How would she find a way to live undercover, whilst in perpetual fear of being denounced and guillotined as a spy? Would she maintain her idealistic pre-conceptions of the people’s revolution or would she discover that it was not at all how she’d imagined it would be?

As the Reign of Terror casts a dark shadow over the populace, two very different men become rivals for Madeleine’s affection. One is a forbidden love, a former noble, and the other his charming friend and estate manager who has high political aspirations. Madeleine cares for both men but she must take control of her own destiny and unravel the tangled secrets of the past before she can find future happiness.

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Posted in My Writing Life, The Chateau on the Lake

‘My Writing Process’ Blog Hop

I’m always interested to discover how other authors go about writing their novels so I was delighted when historical novelist, Jenny Barden, invited me to join her on this blog tour to describe how my writing process works for me.

Jenny has four children and lives on a farm in Dorset with her husband and an ever-increasing assortment of animals. Jenny is currently working on her third Elizabethan novel, The Queen’s Lady and you can read about her writing process questions and answers on her website:

So here are my answers to the writing process questions:

What am I working on?

Charlotte BettsI’ve just submitted to my editor the first draft of The Chateau on the Lake, which is set in England and France during the French Revolution. Here is a brief synopsis:

After her mother and French father are brutally murdered, bluestocking Madeleine Moreau flees to France in search of relatives she hadn’t known existed. When France declares war on England it becomes unsafe to return and Comte Etienne d’Aubery offers her shelter in his chateau. Impulsive and self-opinionated, Madeleine favours the people’s revolution in France but her views are shaken after she witnesses Louis XVI’s death by the guillotine. The revolution gathers momentum and as passions of the populace are enflamed, Madeleine sets off on a dangerous race against time to save the man she loves.

Researching the French Revolution has been fascinating because the historical events are so complicated. There’s much more to the Revolution than simply the peasants revolting against the aristocracy and beheading Marie Antoinette because she said, ‘Let them eat cake.’  (She didn’t actually say that!)

Of course, while I’m waiting for my editor’s comments and suggestions for revisions on the first draft, I’m busy gathering ideas for a plot for the next novel, which will also be set in the eighteenth century.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

the-painters-apprenticeI’ve been a designer for most of my working life but now I paint with words. Readers often tell me that what they like about my writing is the rich detail, which makes them feel as if they have been transported to that time and place. It’s important to me to use all the senses to bring the scene alive and I need to be able to imagine the scene as clearly as if I were looking at a film. I watch my imaginary movie, rewinding if something is unclear, until it all feels real. Once I’ve reached that point I write what I see in my mind’s eye.

Whilst researching, I look for original sources where possible, to bring authenticity to my writing. Then I weave the lives of my fictional characters though an accurate historical timeline. If I possibly can, I’ll visit the locations I use in the book and imagine the place with all the modern elements stripped away. Sitting quietly, I’ll  visualise my characters and timagine the location though their eyes.

Why do I write what I do?

The_Apothecarys_DaughterAlthough I found history lessons at school were very dull, I’ve always had a keen interest in the way people lived in the past.

I wrote six contemporary novels before I wrote The Apothecary’s Daughter, set in Restoration London, which was not only my first historical novel but also my first published novel. I realised then that I had found my niche .

I read Pepys’ Diary as part of my research and he gives a marvellous insight into London of the 1660’s. It’s a huge buzz to learn something new about our history with each novel that I write.

How does my writing process work?

Spice-Merchants-WifeI daydream a lot! This is an essential part of the process, as important as asking myself, ‘What if?’ while I imagine different scenarios. Once I have the germ of an idea, whether it be for a plot, a character or a setting, I scribble it down in a notebook that never leaves my side for the next few weeks. Like Jenny Barden, I find walking the dog is a marvellous way to lose myself in my story and to ‘talk’ to my characters until I know them as well as myself.

When the skeleton plot has become clearer, then I move to the laptop and transfer the notes into a list. Meanwhile, I start a Character Grid and write a brief bio and a list of physical characteristics and goals for each character.

The next stage is to research and set out in date order the list of historical events that will form the background setting. After this I weave the main scenes of my love story through this. I only use a small part of my research but I have to be confident that I know enough about a particular subject before I begin to write about it.

The final step is to write a ten page outline, including all the subplots, so that I can see where there are plot holes. Once this is complete I have my ‘road map’ to lead me through writing the story to the end.

Here are the writers who will be joining me on the ‘blog hop’ next week. (28th  April)

Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre as a set and costume designer.She is the author of three novels set in the 17th century, The Lady’s SlipperThe Gilded Lily, and A Divided InheritanceShe lives in the north of England in a small village that dates back to the Domesday Book.

Kate Lord Brown is the author of The Beauty Chorus and The Perfume Garden, which was shortlisted for Romantic Novel of the Year. She also writes the Ahlan! magazine Book Club column, the first of its kind in the Middle East, and lives in the only true desert country in the world with her


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Posted in Q and A, The Apothecary's Daughter, The Chateau on the Lake, Writing Tips

Meet My Main Character – Madeleine Moreau

images-1This  post is part of a series started by Debra Brown and passed to me by Deborah Swift who used to work in the theatre as a set and costume designer.She is the author of three novels set in the 17th century, The Lady’s SlipperThe Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance. She lives in the north of England in a small village that dates back to the Domesday Book.

 The posts are designed to allow readers to gain an insight into what authors are working on at the moment. I’ve just completed the first draft of The Chateau on the Lake set at the time of the French Revolution and I’d like you to meet my main character. #histfic

What is the name of your character?

The heroine of my current work in progress is twenty-two year old Madeleine Moreau. Her mother is English but her father is French and she speaks the language fluently.

When and where is the story set?

The story opens in 1792 in Madeleine’s family home in London’s Soho Square. Later, Madeleine travels to revolutionary France and is subsequently trapped in the country when France declares war on England.

What should we know about Madeleine Moreau?

Madeleine regularly meets her bluestocking friends at Lady Georgiana Woodhouse’s literary salon and takes a keen interest in the political events of the French Revolution. She has little time for the aristocratic emigrés and is firm in her opinion that the peasantry must be freed from the yoke of servitude.

What is the main conflict she must face?

When war is declared, Comte Etienne d’Aubery gives Madeleine shelter in his chateau. When she begins to fall in love with him she must overcome her prejudices, not only about the aristocracy but about France where the political reality is very different from her preconceptions.

When will The Chateau on the Lake be published?

Piatkus will publish this novel in November 2014.

Now I need to pass the baton on to these lovely novelists:

Pippa Croft is the pen name of an award-winning romantic novelist, Phillipa Ashley. After studying English at Oxford, she worked as a copywriter and journalist before writing her debut novel, which won the RNA’s New Writers’ award and was later made into a TV movie. She lives in a village in the heart of England with her husband and daughter.

Follow her on twitter @PippaCroftBooks or visit

Jean Fullerton

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Posted in Guest Authors, My Writing Life, The Chateau on the Lake

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About Charlotte

Charlotte Betts Always a bookworm, Charlotte discovered her passion for writing after her three children and two step-children had grown up. She lives with her husband in a cottage in the woods on the borders of Hampshire and Berkshire.


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Press Officer

Contact Charlotte via Clara Diaz, Press Officer on 020 3122 6565 or at Little Brown Book Group, Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0D2