Letter from Rohana Shaheen in Visnagar, India, to Mayuri Falodiya in London

08 August 1800

Mayuri Falodiya, Proprietress
Masala Rajah Gentleman’s Retreat
London, England

Miss Rohana Shaheen Visnagar, India

My dearest friend, Mayuri,

It has been so many years since I have seen your face, heard the soft lilt of your voice, the grace of your fingers on the sarangi. I can hardly remember the dances of our youth, the music we once made together, the joy and laughter of our nights with Ramraja, days filled with young women’s silly dreams of love and devotion. It is my fondest hope for you, who once I called my sister, that you found such affection with a lover after your departure from India.

After my disgrace before the Chhatrapati and the tawaifs, I do not forget you were the one woman who came to my defense. You paid dearly for your insistence that the actions of my lover were not my own, that as Ramraja himself offered me up to the Vikanta as a gift, I deserved the protection of the emperor, not his contempt. For your defense of me, you were scarred beyond reckoning and banished with only your jewels to keep you, and I have grieved for the loss of your beauty and your livelihood since that fateful day.

I write at long last with news of my life since your departure for England and to ask the greatest service any woman can ask another. I will not dissemble, my friend, as you must know my years have not been easy, nor the life of comfort we were promised as the most favored tawaifs of the Maratha princes. Indeed, raising two children with no husband or protector has been a daily challenge for more than a decade. Were it not for the Vikanta’s generosity upon his leave-taking, we might have starved, for such is the charity shown by the royal family.

But such children! Both lovely girls: Kali, a graceful, thoughtful young lady who turns thirteen today, showing signs she will grow into an incomparable woman; and Kamala, who is yet a silly miss of almost eleven, and prefers stories of romance to her lessons. Both have a distinct flair for languages—English, French, Hindi, Sanskrit, and Farsi—and both show talent for the arts, Kamala with a special aptitude for the yaal harp, Kali an extraordinary dancer. Both are well-mannered and well-trained to the caste; I have seen to that myself.

This, however, is why I must ask a more important indulgence than I have ever asked anyone, as you will soon be the only hope for my daughters.

My health is failing, death slowly stalking me, as it often does, but I do not have so much time left as young girls dream. Without me, they will be alone in the world with no one to speak for them, to keep them safe, to be the mother they will yet need, both still so young. I believed, ten years ago, the Vikanta’s orders of protection by his soldiers were a boon, but now I see they only aligned my fate with those who would become my country’s enemies, ignoble men disinclined to provide shelter on the orders of a man an ocean away.

I have begged Emperor Shahu to place my girls under the imperial court’s protection, but you know his temperament better than any. I was fortunate to be granted an audience, but only so he could speak of how poorly I have aged and give vent to his long-standing hatred of my former lover. Of my children, he suggested only that they sell themselves to British soldiers, as that is what he considers I have done.

Our shared friend, Nitara, called me aside as I left the palace to say you have opened a kotha in London to train girls to our way of life. It is my dearest hope you will accept Kali and Kamala to study with you—the most talented tawaif of our generation—and help them find their start in life.

I do not ask out of remembrance of our childhood friendship, but rather offer the last of the fortune I was gifted by the Vikanta, not an inconsiderable sum, holding out only what the girls will require to make their way when they are fully grown. There is no other woman in the world to whom I can entrust my greatest treasures and the monies saved to keep them from harm.

As you are in London, you may yet discover the whereabouts of the Vikanta, Sutcliff Knightley, formerly Viscount Asheton and Lieutenant-General of the 29th Regiment of Bengal Sepoys, who will surely by now be the Earl of Birchbright. I cannot provide his direction, but if he can be located and is still the decent man I remember, he will honor his promise to protect our daughters. I beg of you, my friend, help me save my girls from certain ruin.

Namaste, my sister,

Rohana Shaheen


Find out what happens to Kali and Kamala in

La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess.

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Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends. When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.

Order from your favorite retailer HERE.

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Lucinda Brant wows me again! (Not to mention, puts my book to shame!!)

Review of Autumn Duchess, by one of my favorite historical romance authors, Lucinda Brant.

***SPOILER ALERT***

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I admit it: I am a sucker for a dastardly duke, and I was more than half in love with the Duke of Roxton in Noble Satyr. I’ve been putting off reading Autumn Duchess, because I feared for his life, and didn’t know how the Roxtons (or I) could go on without him.

Indeed, he is sorely missed in this volume, even if ever-present. However, his bride, the intriguing, playful, headstrong Antonia, has grown up! She is now a sadder-but-wiser, still playful, still fascinating woman–maybe more so, depending on whether one prefers debutantes or characters with considerably more depth. (I fall in the latter camp. There is only so much depth an 18-year-old can manage, no matter how many obstacles are placed in her way, or how skilled the author.)

Antonia does not, in Autumn Duchess, manage to replace the duke, for speaking as one who counts him a book boyfriend, no one ever can or will. However, the younger man with whom she becomes aligned is more than a match, and will, I think, prove as devoted as her first husband ever was. (He won’t ever be my book boyfriend, but he will for hundreds of other women, without a doubt, and I would easily count him a friend.)

Lucinda Brant’s books are intelligent and interesting, and unlike some historical fiction authors, she never talks down to the reader or leaves out unpleasant details in the interest of our sensibilities. Her ability to integrate action and character development with historical fact and a “feel for the times” is really unparalleled, even going so far as to interconnect her books in small ways. In this case, she reminds me in passing of the Earl of Salt Hendon, protagonist in the first book of hers I read, Salt Bride (and, indeed, still my favorite).

Lucinda Brant is a historical fiction author who I will follow as long as she is writing, and will read again and again.

http://www.amazon.com/review/RW304AY32FYNT

New Title Tuesday! Tony Riches – The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months, in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham, by Tony Riches
Genre: Medieval Historical

eleanorThe year is 1441. Lady Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, wife of Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, one of the richest men in the country and next in line to the throne, hopes to one day become Queen of England. Then her interest in astrology and the dark arts, combined with her husband’s ambition, leads their enemies to accuse her of a plot against the king.

The beautiful Duchess Eleanor is found guilty of sorcery and witchcraft. Rather than have her executed, King Henry VI orders Eleanor to be imprisoned for life. For ten years, she lives as the king’s prisoner in the finest palaces in the country, such as Leeds Castle in Kent, to some of the worst conditions, in Peel Castle on the windswept Isle of Man.

Finally she is taken to the Welsh fortress of Beaumaris Castle on the Island of Anglesey. More than a century after her death, carpenters restoring one of the towers of Beaumaris Castle discover a sealed box hidden under the wooden boards. Thinking they have found treasure, they break the ancient box open, disappointed to find it only contains a book, with hand-sewn pages of yellowed parchment.

Written in a code no one could understand, the mysterious book changed hands many times for more than five centuries, between antiquarian book collectors, until it came to me. After years of frustrating failure to break the code, I discover it is based on a long forgotten medieval dialect and am at last able to decipher the secret diary of Eleanor Cobham.

Buy at:
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Smashwords

What was the first thing you thought when you saw your published book the first time? 
‘Eleanor’ was my fourth novel, so the early excitement is replaced by the realisation that now the hard work starts. It doesn’t seem to get any easier, despite all the ‘awareness raising’ experience I gained over the past five years.

When did you first decide to call yourself a writer? What prompted the decision?
I was writing regularly for magazines for over twenty years – but it was only when my first book was published that I started adding ‘writer’ to my bio. Now, eight books and many thousands of words later, I feel comfortable calling myself an ‘author’.

What is your best advice for someone just starting their first manuscript? Halfway through? Just finished?
I think it was Stephen King who said the only way to become a writer is to WRITE. For someone starting out, my advice is to just write, whenever you can, and not to worry about your first draft being perfect. Halfway through is a good time to take stock of things like plot and character development and asking if the story starts when it should. (This probably means scrapping that ‘foreword’ you liked so much and launching right into the action.) Just finished? Find some honest ‘beta readers’ and take careful note of what they tell you.

About the Author
Tony RichesTony Riches is a full time author of best-selling fiction and non-fiction books. He lives by the sea in Pembrokeshire, West Wales with his wife and enjoys sea and river kayaking in his spare time. For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his popular blog, The Writing Desk and his WordPress website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches. His latest historical fiction novel is The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham, the amazing story of one of his wife’s distant ancestors, who was imprisoned for life for treason and necromancy.