A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris. When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet? Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father? The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery. The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice
I am happy to share an extract with you. I hope you will enjoy it.
From Steven Neil, the author of THE MEREST LOSS
A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.
Using newspaper articles
I like the idea of using different points of view to provide variety for the reader. The most obvious way to do this is by switching the narrator from, say, an omniscient third person narrator to a character narrator, in the first person. It is also possible to change the tense from past to present and back again. The challenge for the writer is to generate interest and variety rather than confusion. Sometimes it works well, but care needs to be taken. Another way to vary point of view is to use a device like a newspaper article, a review or an exchange of letters or notes to provide additional perspective. In chapter five of The Merest Loss I used a newspaper review of Harriet Howard’s acting performance, borrowing text from a real London Weekly Chronicle theatre review of the time, thus capturing the style and language of the age and giving the reader a break from the main narrator.
London and Liverpool, England
London Weekly Chronicle Saturday 23rd February 1839
This week we were fortunate enough to see the arrival of a startling new talent on the London stage, in Mr Macready’s new production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, at the Sadlers Wells Theatre, which commanded an exceedingly large audience.
Miss Harriet Howard shone as Juliet and we forecast an illustrious future ahead of her. Seldom have we seen such a combination of vivacity and grace. She is young and charming and altogether presents a most elegant appearance. She was entirely believable as the innocent, star-struck lover of Romeo, but it was the poise and style of the performance that so captivated the audience. The play was throughout well performed and we must pick out for special mention, Mr Samuel Phelps, for his sympathetic and finely executed portrayal of Romeo and Mr Robert Walden, for a flamboyant interpretation of Mercutio. In addition, we should say that we were much pleased with the simple and judicious acting of Miss Kitty
Hopkins, as Nurse. Similarly, Mr James Roper, as Tybalt certainly gained a laurel, to which we hope he will have many additions.
The theatre has recently undergone an extensive renovation and this new production of the play was beautifully mounted, having had the advantage, accordingly, of new scenery and decoration.
At the end of the play, the crowd made their affection known and the whole cast was warmly applauded by a house, equally overflowing in enthusiasm and numbers. Miss Howard herself excited extraordinary adulation and it was five curtain calls before her admirers would let her go. Even then the cheers rang on into the night. If you can find the means to obtain a ticket, we urge you to go and see this wonderful play, performed with much effect, for yourself. It is indubitably destined to be a decided, indeed a remarkable, success.
Thank you, Steven Neil and RachelsRandomResources.
About the author
Steven Neil has a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. In his working life he has been a bookmaker’s clerk, management tutor, management consultant, bloodstock agent and racehorse breeder. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire.
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