02 Nov 26 2014

Posted in on 26 November, 2014 in News

It has been three weeks since the release of The Embroiderer and what a hectic three weeks it has been. The first thing I want to do is thank everyone who has supported me. Judging by the emails and messages, it has been well-received. One thing I’ve noticed is that almost everyone who sees the book for the first time has to stroke the cover. This both amuses and delights me. That The Embroiderer should appear tactile is a tribute to the cover designer who understood the richly decorative world in which the novel is set. I couldn’t have wished for a better response. It is exactly the kind of response shown by the Valide Sultan when viewing the embroiderer Dimitra’s work for the first time.

 Working well into the night, Dimitra embroidered a sash to present to the Sultan’s mother as a gift. Worked in gold, silver and silk thread on a fine silk ground, a row of three identical floral sprays bordered each end of the sash. Each complicated spray was held together by a stylized ribbon and between the foliage, nestled a pair of song birds sewn with such fineness that their very wings seemed in flight. It was the most exquisite piece that she had ever produced. The Valide Sultan and her ladies were captivated.

           ‘Hanim Efendi,’ exclaimed the Valide Sultan, ‘your fine hands create images that only Allah can express. Like a work of art, you dye your colours and spin your silks until they blossom in the spring, and as we see each flower unfurl, before us lies a meadow.’

            She gently ran her fingers over the embroidery.

           ‘Light and shade enhance the beauty of such composition that never before have all my senses become so aroused as when I touch your silken threads. I smell the fragrance of your roses and I hear the melodious song of the nightingale.’

To celebrate the release of The Embroiderer, I planted a rosebush – Double Delight – in my garden. It was a gift from my husband and its perfume serves to remind me of the attar of roses worn by one of my protagonists. From the posts I received, this was a good choice. Anna Belfrage in particular, commented on it and because of this, together with the lovely cover of The Embroiderer, nominated me as recipient of The Lovely Blog Award. 

Double Delight Rose


La Vie en Rose

The intoxicating scent worn by Sophia, my main protagonist in The Embroiderer, is known as attar of roses. It has its roots in Neolithic times. The Romans were also avid rose growers as were the Egyptians before them, using their petals not only for fragrant soaps but for flavouring everything from wine to puddings. Harvested in the early morning while the flowers are still half-open  and the scent is at it’s strongest, sackfuls of Kazanlik Damask petals are gathered during the early summer months on the plains of Anatolia just north of Antalya in Turkey. The sacks are gathered up from the roadside and taken to the distilleries where they must be processed within a day of harvesting. The rose used is called ‘Kazanlik’ after a town in Bulgaria which was the centre of rose production from the seventeenth century. This highly perfumed rose has pale pink petals and is a cross between the dwarf shrub, Rosa Galicia ‘Officinalis’ and Rose Phoenicia, a white-flowered climber.

Attar of roses (from the Turkish ‘itir‘, meaning scent) is made by distilling the petals in large copper vats. After hot steam is passed over them, the contents are gathered into a bottle. Most of this is rosewater, but a thin layer of oil, more precious than gold – the attar – sits on the top and is carefully bottled and exported to the world’s finest perfumeries in Grasse in the south of France. A few drops are powerful enough to remain in a vial after many years, as was the case in The Embroiderer when Eleni Stephenson discovered a small perfume bottle among the contents of her grandmother Sophia’s suitcase many years after her death.

And now I return to The lovely Blog Award.

Awards come with rules. Accordingly, I shall adhere to them. Rule A is to link back to the person who nominated him/her. Rule B is to display The Lovely Blog Award logo. DONE.

One Lovely Blog AwardAnna Belfrage  www.annabelfrage.wordpress.com is the prolific author of seven books in The Graham Saga and is a wealth of knowledge about seventeenth century life, not only in Europe, but in North America as well.

Rule C is to share seven interesting facts about oneself. Here goes.

1. The combination of travel and food is essential to my quality of life. When I travel, which is frequently, I bring home new recipes and try to replicate them as authentically as when I discovered them. Hence, several tiers of tagines and clay charcoal burners sit next to my barbecue “A La Maroc”; Turkish apple tea is served to guests on an ornate tray in tulip-shaped glasses and accompanied by delicate sweetmeats (all handmade of course); ochre pottery from Provence adorns the table at dinner parties and appetizers from around the Mediterranean are served on hand-painted Portuguese platters. Wandering around a market in another country and discovering a new kitchen gadget never fails to excite me.

2. I love to wander through archaeological sites when no-one else is about. The silence fills me with a sense of the past.

3. I spent almost three months in the high Andes in Peru, teaching English at one school and oriental knotted carpet weaving and patchwork at a government school for the Indians. With no coarse carpet wool available, we used the softer Peruvian wool, the result being more like a wonderful cut-velvet than a carpet. A great experience.

4. I still keep my hand in design by making glass jewellery, either flame-worked or in a small kiln which sits on my veranda. The translucency of glass and the way colours react with each other is magical.

5. I can never leave home without wearing perfume and I am intrigued by the stories behind some of the world’s greatest perfumes. The perfumer is an artist extraordinaire and just as the couturier knows how to dress a woman, the perfumer unlocks her soul. One of my favourites is L’Heure Bleue. Created in 1911 by Jacques Guerlain, it conjures up Paris in the years before WWI. ” I felt something so intense,’ he said, whilst sitting on the banks of The Seine with his young son. As the clear light of afternoon faded to ‘the blue hour’ of twilight, the sounds of Paris softened and the beguiling sweetness of closing flowers filled the air. Sheer poetry!

6. As my husband will attest, I am the world’s worst singer. It is so bad that a friend once said he’d never heard anyone sing in ‘Z’ minor before.

7. I have a strong desire to travel the Silk Road – especially Samarkand and Bukhara – and to spend a few days in a yurt (ger) in Mongolia.


Rule D is to nominate a further 15 bloggers.

1. The first is Kimberly Eve: Musings of a Writer. kimberlyevemusings.blogspot.com/ Full of entertaining posts about the  Victorian era and the Pre-Raphaelites.

2. Nik Morton – nik-writealot.blogspot.com for his stories about The Prague Papers, set in 1975 and based on the manuscript of an MI6 agent. I love a good spy novel based on a real person.

3. Eleanor Parker eleanorparkersapia.blogspot.com and whose book A Decent Woman is about to be released. This is about the story of Ana Belen, born of Afro-Cuban slaves who lives in 1900 Puerto Rico, where she fights for the rights of women and male doctors for the right to continue practicing midwifery. Eleanor recently featured an author interview with me. We discovered that we have much in common. She also lived in Greece, is an artist and has lived in Provence – one of my favourite places.

4. Ellen Coates Historical Ragbag http://historicalragbag.wordpress.com  for her articles about Joan of Wales, the illegitimate daughter of King John, and also for her recent posts on marriage alliances.

5. Elisabeth Storrs HNSA blog now promoting the 2015 conference in Sydney. This coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign and is aptly named “Peace and War”.

6. Catherine Delors – http://blog.catherinedelors.com/ Versailles and More for her interesting blogs on 18th Century France and especially for her post on the execution of Marie Antoinette.

7. Evangeline Holland for Edwardian Promenade Arts/Humanities website. For all those Downton Abbey fans and particularly for her post on Gilded Age Cocktails by Stephen Brown, as its approaching the festive season and good cocktails are most desirable.

8. Stephanie Renee dos Santos for her blog about artists and art history.

9. Reading The Past.  News, views and reviews of historical fiction by Sarah Johnson. I particularly enjoyed her interview with author, David Ebsworth about his book The Kraals of Ulundi: A novel of the Zulu War”.

10. Yvonne Payne – www.kritsayvonne for her blogs on Crete and her forthcoming novel, Kritsotopoua, Girl of Kritsa, a story about a woman’s rebellion against Ottoman oppression.

11. Donna Russo Morin whose posts about Renaissance Italy are always inspiring. I particularly enjoyed her article on A Lifetime of Love: A Wife and a Mistress: The Women of Lorenzo De’ Medici.

12. Literary Reviews From A Late Night Reader.  Flashlightcommentary.blogspot.com 

13.  G.W. Gortner – HISTORICALBOYS.BLOGSPOT.COM Enjoyable historical fiction for men and women.

14. Crista Zaat‘s Female artists in history  is another fascinating blog.

15. Alison Hiltz and her Bookwheel blog.