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Sex and the City

There were two ways for a girl to get on in the 18th century and they both involved sex, the risk of disease and the likelihood of an early death. A woman could become a wife  or a city prostitute; of course the latter was the far riskier option and the one most...

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Princess Sophia Dorothea the uncrowned Queen of Britain

This is the shocking case of the Princess who was married against her will, spurned, divorced, and imprisoned for 33 years. In August 2016, a human skeleton was found under the Leineschloss (Leine Palace, Hanover) during a renovation project; the remains are believed...

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A Room of One’s Own

The history of letter writing is part of women's history. Writing letters to family and friends was one of the new pastimes enjoyed by 18th century middle class women. Although the Post Office had been open since 1660  it was not until the 18th century that the use of...

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The Portland Vase

The story of the Portland Vase encapsulates so much about the 18th century. It is a story of fascination with the classical world, the acquisition of antiquities and of technological and artistic excellence of British manufacture. The vase that is known as the...

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The Swan and the Prince

Princess Dorothea von Lieven (1785 – 1857) was the wife of Prince Khristofor Andreyevich Lieven, Russian ambassador to London from 1812 to 1834. Considered cold and snobbish by London Society Dorothea was not an instant success when she arrived fresh from the Russian...

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18th Century British Art

European painting in the eighteenth century is generally conceived as radiating from Paris. Rococo portraits and decorative mythologies invaded Germany, the Scandinavian countries and Russia; French influence was powerful in Rome and Spain. As the French Revolution...

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The Present Past

In linguistics and rhetoric, the historical present or historic present (also called dramatic present or narrative present) is the employment of the present tense when narrating past events. It is widely used in writing about history in Latin (where it is sometimes...

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The Duchess of Hamilton

Born in Ireland, Elizabeth Gunning was a celebrity beauty who caused a sensation when she and her sister were introduced into high society. Though the sisters had neither dowries nor rank, their physical attractiveness secured them excellent marriages. Elizabeth...

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The Palazzo del Re

The Palazzo del Re was home to the exiled Jacobite court in Rome. Owned by the Muti family, it was rented by the Papacy for the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart. Both James's sons, Charles Edward ('Bonnie Prince Charlie') and Henry Benedict, were born in the...

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How to write a good love letter

In 1779 Benjamin Franklin, when serving as the U.S. envoy to France, fell in love with Anne Catherine Helvétius, the widow of the Swiss-French philosopher, Claude-Adrien Helvétius. Nicknamed "Minette", she maintained a renowned salon in Paris using her dead husband’s...

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Washer Woman Disguise Helps Criminals Escape Justice

It is a surprising thing to say but Bonnie Prince Charlie and Kenneth Graham’s character Toad, (Wind in the Willows, 1908) have much in common. Both were good-natured, kind-hearted and not without intelligence but they were also spoiled, reckless and...

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Six Rules for Writing Historical Fiction

When Wolf Hall won the Booker prize some commentators suggested that the term "historical fiction" was itself becoming a thing of the past. So many novels these days are set prior to the author's lifetime that to label a novel "historical" is almost as meaningless as...

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The Aftermath of Culloden – 1746

The retribution that followed the defeat of the Jacobite Army at Culloden in 1746 has passed into legend for its brutality and savagery and has formed the backdrop to many classic stories including Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped and more recently Diana Gabaldon’s...

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18th Century Smuggling Fact and Fiction

In the 18th century, the British government collected a good deal of its income from customs duties - tax paid on the import of goods such as tea, cloth, wine and spirits. The tax on imported goods could be up to 30% so smuggled goods were a lot cheaper than those...

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5 Ways to Improve Your Writing

So you're thinking about writing - for your blog, for your company, for industry publications, or maybe just for fun. Maybe you've never considered writing but you’re quickly realising you’re going to have to do it, and do it well, for your career. If you've not done...

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How to Make a Character Stand Out in a Novel

Believe it or not, the profession or the jobs of your characters do plays a major role in making your novel a hit. That's because a character’s profession affects the entire story. That's because it gives an indication of personality, class, wealth and motivation. You...

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Sinclair Extras – Onboard the Sherwell

This scene was almost entirely edited out of the final version of the book. I enjoyed writing it as I was developing the characters of Sinclair and Greenwood. In these scenes the men emerged as they appear in the final novel. The scene is based very loosely on the...

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Writers of Influence – Mary Wesley

I loved Mary Wesley's books. I think I read them all in the 1980s and 1990's before my children were born. I really enjoyed the TV adaptations too. Her work was refreshing, vivid and bitter sweet, her style was effortless. She is a great influence on me still. Mary...

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Sinclair_Cover Julia Herdman