Hello, my Friends – A Contest!

I have been absent at the Riskies for a bit, but I am here today. ::hand waving:: as to reasons, but the short version is Life. I have had my head entirely in my very overdue current project, Surrender To Ruin, which is currently out for the second round of editorial.  Here’s the cover:

Cover of Surrender to Ruin. Hot guy sitting on the arm of a couch. He's super hot and has the legs for breeches.
Surrender to Ruin

It’s Book 3 in the Sinclair Sisters series, and I expect the book to be out by summer, though right now it feels like the Never Ending Project. (Life. Yeah That.)

Anyway, my birthday is coming up very soon and I would like all the Risky Readers to celebrate. I will assemble a prize of some of my favorite books (across all genres) and a few other surprises, and we’ll work out the shipping etc and select a winner or two or several from among the commenters.

Rules:

Void where prohibited. Must be 18 to enter. No purchase necessary. Contest closes at 11:59PM EST April 30, 2017.

This blog is in EST!! Your comment timestamp serves as the guide for timely entrance.

Winner chosen at random from among the qualified comments. Alternate winners will be chosen if I don’t hear from the winners within 7 days of notification.

To enter:

  1. Leave a comment to this post in which you tell me something interesting or tell a funny joke or anecdote. No judgment here. “I like pretty flowers” is kind of short, but hey. That’s sufficient.
  2. Provide a valid email when you comment so you can be contacted. The email for the comment form is sufficient.
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Sleeve Buttons, a Gentleman’s Accessory

Let’s have fun and look at a male accessory today. I give you sleeve buttons!

During the Georgian era shirts did not open all the way down the front (no matter what you see on covers). They had a partial neck-opening from the collar to about mid-chest. So the shirt had to be pulled off over the head. They buttoned closed at the throat, though this is hidden by the cravat. The cuffs of the shirts were generally wide (2”-3”) and buttoned closed in an overlapping fashion (like a modern dress shirt, not like a French cuff). I have found extant sleeve buttons (aka cuff links) dating back to the 18th century, but all the extant shirts I’ve seen have buttons; I have not seen shirt studs pre-Victorian). So while they may not have been a common accessory, they’re something a man could have worn and something you can use as a plot point.

 

Late Georgian sleeve cuff

 

Silver and paste sleeve buttons, late 18th century.
Silver and agate sleeve buttons, 1770s-1820s

 

Gold sleeve buttons, early 19th century.

 

Are there any clothing items or accessories you’re curious about? Let me know and I’ll cover them in future posts!

Posted in Clothing, History, Isobel Carr, Regency | 1 Comment

A Class, a Sale, and a Fundraiser!

I want to thank all the lovely readers who’ve been patiently waiting for my next book. I also need to apologize for how long it is taking. I tried to work on a new romance project last fall, but realized that I needed to do a lot of therapeutic journaling to unblock. I’ve been doing that and making peace with a lot of inner demons in the process. At the same time, I’m feeling the urge to reconnect with my career as a Regency author, so I’m working on a couple of related projects.

Halley Hixson, one of those lovely readers and also a writer, asked me to teach an online class for Low Country RWA. Since I’m more of Regency jack-of-all-trades than a mistress of any specific topic, I decided to offer an introductory class. The goal is to help writers who enjoy reading Regencies but are just getting started writing their own and could use a jump-start with the research including some basics and suggestions for further exploration. My challenge has been to figure out what to include and what to leave out–each lesson could be whole class of its own! But I’m having fun with it and it’s helping me to get the Regency world back into my head again.

If anyone would like to register (or suggest this class to someone else), here’s the registration form.

Below is a cute cartoon of “A Receipt for Courtship” that I found while putting together the section related to courtship.

My other project is to connect my concern for social issues with my writing. (One of my friends calls my books “social justice smut”—from her, it’s a compliment!) I’m planning to start running sales of my backlist titles and donating my portion of the proceeds to a different cause each month.

This week, Lord Langdon’s Kiss is on sale for 99 cents. The heroine, Nell, is a vicar’s daughter and very involved with the families in her father’s parish. She would be moved by the plight of refugees from Syria and many other places, so I decided to share the proceeds of this sale with the International Rescue Committee, a 4 star charity. Here’s a short description from their website.

International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.

One of the many things they are doing is helping the medical response for civilians in Syria suffering from recent attacks using chemical weapons. Learn more at www.rescue.org

Lord Langdon’s Kiss is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

Please consider giving directly as well. I’ve created a fundraiser page at Crowdrise where you can make a direct donation.

What projects has everyone else been up to (writing or otherwise)?

Elena

Posted in Risky Book Talk, Writing | Leave a comment

Bookish News & a Reading

The cover of the print edition of The Return of the Earl, by Sandra SchwabI’m terribly late with today’s post (so late that it’s already tomorrow here in Frankfurt) because I had this brilliant idea to record a reading for you only to realize that after more than a year out of the classroom, my vocal cords aren’t quite what they used to be…. In other words, Chaos Sandy has struck once again.

BUT!!!! I’ve finally finished that recording, and I even still have a voice! Wheee!

So, remember how back in January I told you all about my return to Regency England and the garden follies and how I used the grounds of Harewood near Leeds as an inspiration for the grounds of the stately home belonging to the very grumpy earl in my WIP? Well, the very grumpy earl is about to be unleashed unto the world: On Friday, The Return of the Earl will hit bookshelves! Here’s the blurb:

CAN THEY OVERCOME THE BETRAYALS OF THE PAST FOR A SECOND CHANCE AT LOVE?

On the Continent they call him the Ice Prince, icy of manner, icy of heart. Now, after thirteen years of exile, Con returns home to England and to Harrowcot Hall, a place haunted by memories of a long-lost friendship and past betrayals, a place where all of his dreams shattered and died.

But the past is over and done with, and can no longer touch him — or so Con thinks. He certainly does not expect to come face to face with Bryn Ellison again, the man whom he once loved beyond everything and who repudiated their bond in the cruelest way imaginable.

As snow and frost close in on Harrowcot Hall, Con’s icy demeanour starts to melt while he grapples with old hurts and newly awakened passions. Will he give in to the lure of the past against his better judgement?

WARNING:
This book contains a very grumpy earl, a dashing stablemaster, some ravishment in various places, several garden follies, a lot of snow, and a horse called Lancelot

And now please grab a cup of tea and follow me to Harrowcot Hall as I read to you a few snippets from the novella.

I hope you enjoyed the reading!

The Return of the Earl is already available for pre-order on Amazon, and the print edition should be ready by next week.

Now the only question is: What should I write next? I think I might stay with the garden follies of Regency England… I’ve missed them so! 🙂

Posted in Regency, Writing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Mechanical Music in the Regency

No release date yet for The Magnificent Marquess! Possibly end of this month? Or early May? In the meantime, I’d like to share a recent, new-to-me discovery.

Do you listen to the radio all day or play music on your computer while you work? In the Regency, was there any way to listen to music that wasn’t being performed on live instruments? Actually, there was. You might have received the gift of a music box from your forever-love, or at least have been wealthy enough to own one. Or your parents’ parlour might sport an automaton of singing birds!

I was inspired to explore this topic by my recent visit to Phoenix, Arizona, where we visited the very impressive Musical Instrument Museum (affectionately known as “the MIM”). The international collection there ranges from some very early and exotic instruments to items as recent as the broken guitar Adam Levine threw into the air during a Maroon Five concert. Many of the instruments are gorgeously decorated works of art beyond their artistic function. But I digress.

When I’m in museums I admit I tend to focus on anything that is from our period (obsessed much?). At the MIM I thoroughly enjoyed seeing guitars and pianofortes that were played by upper class women and made during the Regency. I was delighted to discover a video clip from Pride & Prejudice used to illustrate the significant social role of such musical performance.   But I already knew about those things. My favorite discovery was some early music boxes in the “mechanical music” room. I had never thought about when those first became available. Did you know that musical snuff boxes were the forerunners of the modern music box?

As with most inventions, earlier developments led to a needed breakthrough in technology. For music boxes, those steps included the 14th or 15th century creation of mechanisms for playing carillons in bell towers,  and the realization by German clockmakers that small bells and the rotating cylinder could be combined with clockworks to produce chiming or musical clocks. In the17th century the first fully automated musical clock was created in Germany, and the first “repeater” pocket watch was created in England.

Chiming English mantel clock

I’m not going to give the whole history with dates and names in this blogpost (especially since sources don’t all agree), but in the 18th century watches and snuffboxes were being made that played tunes using a tiny pinned cylinder or disc and bells.

The generally accepted big change happened in 1796 when Swiss watchmaker Antoine Favre-Salomon (1734–1820) — some sources name him as Louis Favre –replaced the tiny bells with a small, resonating steel “comb” tuned by varying the lengths of the “teeth”.  This snuff-box music box showing the working cylinder and comb is in the MIM in Phoenix.

Favre’s invention not only saved space but also allowed more complex sounds. In 1800 another Swiss watchmaker, Isaac Daniel Piguet, used a pinned disc with radially arranged steel teeth. Watchmakers were the first to produce music boxes. But by 1811 the first specialized factory for making music boxes was established in Saint-Croix, Switzerland, and by 1815, 10% of Swiss exports were music boxes. A new fad for the wealthy was born!

There’s a story that Beethoven was so charmed by a music box that he composed a piece especially for the music box maker.  Improvements soon included adding more teeth to the comb, methods to shift the cylinder or disc position to play more than one tune, and experimenting with different types of wood to improve music box resonance. Here is a picture from the MIM of a piano-shaped music box c. 1835 that was also a lady’s sewing box.   Music boxes became more and more elaborate over the course of the 19th century, and also less costly. The music box industry in Europe and America eventually employed more than 100,000 people. The invention of the player piano and then the phonograph put most of the makers out of business by the early 20th century.

Let me not forget the singing birds! Those have a long history, too, but the first mechanical birds that “sang” are generally credited to the Jaquet-Droz brothers, clock and automaton makers from La Chaux-de-Fonds, in 1780. The same sort of mechanism as music boxes provided their sounds. Singing bird automatons were a fad for the parents or grandparents of our Regency characters, so there is no reason why a set might not still be lurking in a parlour, or parked in the attics of the family home. Automatons could be the topic of another entire post, a separate fascinating rabbit hole!

Do you love music boxes? Do you own any, or did you as a child? Did you know they first gained popularity during the Regency? I didn’t, but many thanks to the MIM in Phoenix for pointing me to that discovery!

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Posted in Frivolity, History, Music, Regency, Research, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

New Release! Bound By Their Secret Passion

Bound By Their Secret Passion is now in bookstores, with online vendors, and in ebook version.

This is the last book in my Scandalous Summerfields series–Lorene’s story. Here is the back cover blurb:

A forbidden attraction… A hidden desire!

Years ago, penniless Lorene Summerfield wed for duty, giving her siblings the chance to marry for love. But now the generous-hearted countess finds herself widowed…and the man she’s loved in silence for years is falsely accused of her husband’s murder!

Although he closed his heart to love long ago, the Earl of Penford has always found Lorene irresistible. Their newly ignited passion may be scandalous, but now he’ll stop at nothing to clear his name and win Lorene’s hand!

Book 4 of The Scandalous Summerfields—
Disgrace is their middle name!

Here are what some readers/reviewers said about Bound By Their Secret Passion:

BOUND BY THEIR SECRET PASSION is an emotional romance packed with heartache yet also hopeful longing.
With this being the last book in the series, I was delighted to see all the past couples featured, thus letting me get caught up with their current lives. There are also plenty of other secondary characters in the story that I came to know well, as their personalities were brought to life with colorful behavior. The author inserted historical facts into quite a few scenes, and I enjoyed these moments of reality.
A. Richard, Amazon reviewer

Diane as always never ever disappoints, went through every emotion and was fully immersed into the book and it was a complete honour to read it, fell in love with the hero, usually in historical romance its the Hero’s you want to shout honour be damned listen to your heart first, utterly adore also the epilogue, and seriously want to slap the ever interfering Duchess but you need characters to love and hate to balance an amazing book Diane definitely does this, thank you Diane and Mills and Boon for letting be an insider reader member so I could read and review this amazing story
–GT, Goodreads

I have followed the fortunes of the Scandalous Summerfields as each of them found happiness. Each of the four books in the series has been immensely satisfying, and the final one, “Bound by their Secret Passion”, was no exception. It managed to tie up the loose ends and round off the series clearly, while also being a complete story in itself. And what a story! It had everything: intrigue, extortion, star crossed lovers and a scandal.
–HM, Goodreads

Read all the Goodreads reviews.

I’m a little sorry to say goodbye to all the Summerfields. I grew very fond of them and was happy to give each of them their happily ever after. I do, however, have a new book to be released by Harlequin Historical. I don’t know when yet, but more on that as soon as I know.

Meanwhile, I need to start another book. I’m open to all suggestions of what sort of Regency Historical I should write. A governess story? A story with some suspense? Heroes and heroines who are not aristocracy? Or would you like to see me write about a duke? How about more soldiers? How about another road story? Or popular themes like secret baby, a fairtale theme, reunion story, marriage of convenience?

Let me know!

Bound By Their Secret Passion can be purchased at any of these sites.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Risky Amanda Slipping Through Time!

We’re delighted to have Amanda McCabe/Cormack/Laurel McKee pop in for a quick visit! Here’s her post.

         I’m so happy to be posting at the Riskies again today!  I miss being here regularly, though it’s fun to still be risky in an honorary way. 🙂  I’ve been very busy lately, having just finished a Regency Christmas story (The Wallflower’s Mistletoe Wedding, out in November!), working on a new 1920s mystery series, planning the next Elizabethan mystery, and plotting a new romance series set in Victorian Paris.  I feel like I need a Tardis to take me to every time period where I need to go right now!

I do enjoy getting to explore time periods, discovering how human nature hasn’t changed and never will, and the very different ways people in different times interpret and deal with that nature.  There’s always love, anger, greed, family, compassion, sacrifice, power, and it’s fascinating to think about how a person would wield those emotions in a world different from our own.  But I also see how all these time periods (Elizabethan, Regency, Victorian, and the 1920s) have something in common with the era we are living through right now—they were moments of vast and swift change in the way the world works and how people deal with those changes. 

The Elizabethans were exploring the globe in ways never seen before, as well as being ruled by a woman (!!), dealing with changes in religion and government, and seeing the explosion of the arts in a way never seen before or since.

The Regency was a bridge between the Enlightenment and revolution and the world of the Victorians, a moment of Whiggery and moral openess (at least among the upper classes!) and unpopular monarchies, while the Victorians saw the agrarian way of life that had gone on for centuries shift to cities and new jobs in industry (for better and also for much worse).  The railroads and telegraph systems opened the world to common people in a new way as well.  Oh, and there was also a woman on the throne again!  (A woman who projected a new image of domesticity and respectability, in contrast to her uncles, though she was not such a prude as all that in her real life…)

Right now, I am living in the 1920s, seeing the world through an artist of the period’s eyes.  Art was seeing major changes after the Armory Show, and women could now vote, drive cars, have jobs beyond nursing and teaching (or at least the possibility of such things, for the first time).  World War I had changed everything.

Of course, there are also fun parts of research, and one of those is finding silly slang to use.  For instance:

A silly person could be: “bacon-brained” (in the Regency) or “nerts” (in the 1920s)

Money could be: “blunt” (Regency) or “cake” (1920s)

A spirited woman could be: a “bearcat” (1920s), and “out and outer” (Regency), or “a filly” (Victorian)

Something pleasing is; “Berries!” (1920s), or (my favorite) “bang up to the elephant” (Victorian)

A wallflower could be “a cancelled stamp” (1920s), an engagement ring “handcuffs”

Nonsense could be: “Phonus balonus!” (1920s—I am using this one in real life now!) or “Fustian!” (Regency)

Of course, the best slang always has to do with being drunk.  Can you guess the time periods here”  “Half seas over,” “Ossified,” “Spiffilicated,” “A trifle disguised,” “Half-rats,” “In one’s cups”.  Being on a bender could be “On a toot,” “Top heavy,” or “Benjo.”

What are some of your favorite time periods???

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Posted in History, Risky Book Talk, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Some possibly unpopular thoughts

A few things have happened in the last month or so to put diversity in historical romance at the forefront of my mind. All of them came to a head when I was reading tweets discussing the recent post on SmarthBitches. So I went over and read it. It’s basically the same argument/discussion that I’ve seen kicking around Romancelandia since the oughts when I first joined. I’ve seen it called a chicken and egg syndrome: readers can’t buy what isn’t for sale, but I’m here to tell you, readers don’t seem to buy it when it is for sale. And while we may all bemoan this, that doesn’t change it.

Historical romance is very white, straight, cis, and upper-class. It’s also kind of like playing jenga. It’s really hard to remove one of those and not have the whole thing come crashing down. Why? Let’s take a look (hopefully without making judgments about readers or authors, which I’ve seen quite enough of lately).

Dukes sell. They just do, like it or not. A few authors have managed to make names for themselves by moving into the gentry (Carla Kelley and Rose Lerner spring to mind) and some authors are pulling off love stories among the lower classes (like Erica Monroe), but from what I’ve seen during my writing career, when you leave the ton behind, you lose a lot of the readers who want that extra soupçon of fantasy.

Books set outside of Georgian/Victorian England and Scotland are harder to sell. I honestly don’t know why this is, but even Ireland and France are hard, let alone Ancient Rome or Shogunate Japan. A lot of us thought (hoped!) that indie publishing would unleash a tidal wave of settings that would brush away Regency England’s chokehold on the genre. Didn’t happen. And every time a new historical TV show is a hit, I see a flurry of hope that the setting will crossover into publishing. But it never seems to. Thankfully, there are authors writing other settings (like Beverly Jenkins, Jeannie Lin, and Sandra Schwab), but those are labors of love. Readers vote with their wallets, and the majority of them vote for Georgian/Victorian England and Scotland (preferably with dukes).

Because the most popular setting is among the 18th and 19th century British ton, the most popular characters are by default Caucasian. There are ways to work in characters of other races/ethnicities (England certainly had free blacks, a Jewish population, Anglo-Indians, Indians, and Chinese), but outside of an Anglo-Indian character, it’s hard to get a non-Caucasian character into the ton. For example, the movie Belle radically changed her actual history to make her wealthy and accepted in a way that she wasn’t in real life. Why? My best guess was that her real life story wasn’t romantic enough. The best examples I can find for how she might have been viewed in her own time are in the works of Austen (Sanditon) and Thackeray (Vanity Fair), which both have wealthy prospective brides who are mixed race as Dido was. Austen treats it as a non-issue. Thackeray does not. Both of which fit with the changing ideas of race and class as depicted in the book White Mughals (which I highly recommend).

Straight and cis. Yep. See above. There are certainly ways to tell gay and trans stories in a historical setting. There are real world examples (Lord Hervey, the Chevalier d’Eon, possibly the Ladies of Llangollen, maybe Dr James Berry), and I’m glad to see these stories being told (e.g. KJ Charles and Cat Sebastian), but we’ve not yet reached a place where these books aren’t niche when it comes to readers (I’ve seen discussions about why some readers avoid these and it’s much the same as why they avoid roms about working class people: the nagging worry about security breaks the fantasy for them; so while a contemp LGBTQ rom works for them, a historical one doesn’t because the HEA never feels “safe”).

So, what does this all add up to? It adds up to authors wanting to make a living (which I’ve been told is an inadequate excuse; a statement with which I strongly disagree) and publishing being a risk-adverse business. When it takes months (or years, depending on the author) to write a book, purposefully writing one that isn’t “to market” is a risky choice, especially if this is how you support yourself. And it comes down to readers.

How does this play out in real life?

When I pitched my first series, c. 2004, I pitched a black hero for book three. I was told by agents and editors that it was a no-go. The profit and loss on it was too risky, especially since those sales numbers would haunt us forever and would probably kill my career (which is funny, since losing a slot at a certain Big Box store killed that pen name long before this book would ever have come out). I did squeeze in a half-Turkish hero (my lowest selling book to date) and I got roundly told that bi-racial characters were “cheating” (as someone who IS bi-racial, this still pisses me off to no end).

[As an aside, I’ve also seen authors’ attempts to diversify their series dismissed as “tokenism”. So I’m damned if I don’t include any diverse protagonist in my series, and damned if I do, but not to the (arbitrary) extent that pleases whomever is deciding these things. Please note, there was a long discussion of this at a recent conference and several authors flat out said they’d rather be dismissed with the faceless majority than paint a target on their back so they could be singled out for tokenism or fake-diversity. I sincerely doubt this is the goal those pushing for diversity wanted, but it’s the one they got.]

Back to me: When I brushed myself off and began pitching again, I always pitched that guy’s book. Agents and editors were suddenly talking about wanting unusual, stand-out books (c. 2008). Books with a different angle. Books with a hook. Books they could promote as DIFFERENT. You know what they meant? They meant maybe not a duke, but still duke-adjacent. Oh, they loved the younger sons angle, but could I throw in a secret society to make it all hang together? I wish I were joking.

Sneak Peak: cropped image of my fencing master’s cover image

Ok, so this time I put that black character IN the series. I was hoping I’d get fan mail asking for his book that I could show my editor. I never did. Not a single email or tweet. What did I get? Requests for very minor (white) walk-on characters. *sigh* When I submitted by my black fencing champion as the hero for one of the books, I got told they’d let me do an e-only novella for him. Not even a novella set with other authors who were also writing Georgian (which they had!). None of that came to fruition anyway, and I left NY, so his book is still sitting there on the back burner (though I have cover shot, so I’ve got that tucked away waiting). This is a story I really want to write, but to date no one has wanted to publish it and I’m honestly not sure readers will pick it up unless I’m very, very lucky. And yes, I have a plan to hopefully help my luck, but if I had to pay my bills with writing monies, I can’t say that this book would ever be written. I know that every hour I put into that book is an hour I might not get paid for; or at least not at the rate that I would get paid if I was writing a duke. But I’m lucky. I have a day job that pays my way and a stubborn streak that wants to write what it wants to write. So, eventually my fencing master will get his book and I’ll get to see if readers love him or if only I do.

So that’s my take. YMMV.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Isobel Carr, Rant, Reading, Risky Book Talk, Writing | 44 Comments

Who wore it best?

Yesterday, my daughters and I went out to shop for a prom dress for my youngest. We had a lot of fun and she found a lovely princess-y dress that fits her perfectly. It’s making me think about pretty dresses in general, and the gowns Austen heroines wore to balls and other events.

Here’s Catherine Morland in the 2007 Northanger Abbey, looking very pretty as she should. Love the embroidery!

I had to show the 2007 version first. Here’s an image from the 1986 version, which I thought as weird and problematic as the 2007 version was charming.

On to Pride & Prejudice–so many versions!

The costumes in the 1940 version always crack me up! I have heard they were reused from Gone with the Wind, but I can’t verify that particular rumor.

Here’s Elizabeth Garvie in the 1980 version, which I know many people like, though I thought David Rintoul was too stiff for Darcy. Anyway, she looks lovely and Regency, though perhaps that decolletage is more revealing than I expected for Elizabeth?

Here’s Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth in the much-loved 1995 version with Colin Firth. This must have been taken for promo purposes because it isn’t from a scene in the movie, but shows the gown nicely. I love the pleating in the bodice and think her hair looks both accurate and lovely. Yes, I think this is my favorite P&P outfit.

And here’s Keira Knightley in the 2005 version, known for its controversial costumes. The waist is lower than we expect for Regency (maybe it was an attempt at doing something more transitional, late 1790s?) but it is pretty. Her hair looks nice but doesn’t feel quite accurate to me. The lack of gloves is rather jarring, too.

I know she’s a minor villain and not the heroine, but I can’t go without mentioning Caroline Bingley as played by Kelly Reilly. I’ve only seen one sleeveless gown in any period images, and that was in a portrait where the dress may have been more of a costume than regular apparel. Maybe this “gown” was intended to portray Caroline as racy and fashion-forward, but I can’t help thinking real Regency people would be worrying that she’d lost her mind showing up at a ball in what looks more like undergarments. Though unlike Elizabeth, she is wearing gloves.


I thought the 1971 version of Sense and Sensibility was rather a snooze, but I’m finding some of these pics quite amusing. I hadn’t remembered how much the sisters looked like twins. So dramatic and so fluffy! Though actually I rather love the gauzy sleeves.


These are not ball gowns but this image of matchy-matchy outfits is too funny not to share.


I really, really like these dresses from the 1996 version with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. I have a pale blue Regency gown, but if I ever get another, I’d like to have one like these, in a deeper color with metallic trim.

I liked the 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility, but I’m puzzled by the gloves in these pictures. Evening gloves in fashion prints and other pictures are nearly always white though I’ve heard of pink and yellow (not green though). Since the Dashwood sisters aren’t wealthy, I would have thought they (especially Elinor) would have white ones that would go with any gown. But these don’t even go well with the gowns! I have a theory. Maybe the kind but somewhat vulgar Mrs. Jennings bought them for the girls as a gift, and they felt obliged to wear them?


Here’s Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1996 version of Emma. This is a nice example of a layered dress. Very chic! I’ve heard that the gowns for this production were a bit fancier than reality, but they are lovely to look at.

And here’s an image from the 2009 version, which reminded me that that I have never seen it!  Now putting it onto my To Do List!  This gown is lovely and although white was popular, it’s also historically accurate to have some colors.

Here’s Amanda Root in the 1995 version of Persuasion. I like the detail around the neckline and the jewelry. Very lovely and ladylike!

Here’s an image from the 2007 version, which I have mixed feelings about (well, no mixed feelings about that awkward-not-in-a-good-way kiss). But I like the velvet and the color is interesting.
I’ve seen two versions of Mansfield Park, neither of which I feel is a good representation of the book. Letting that go, I did enjoy the 1999 version as a story on its own. The embellishment on this dress is interesting–I’d like to hear from a costume expert as to whether it is accurate. But again, there is a shocking dearth of gloves.

The 2007 version I saw only once and thought it very strange. I couldn’t find a ballroom image but here is Fanny on what must have been her wedding day. I’m not sure what I dislike more: the inaccuracy of the costuming, her pose, or her sullen expression.

 

So which dresses are your favorites?  Any theories on the odd gloves in the 2008 S&S, or Caroline Bingley’s gown in the 2005 P&P? Or why Fanny looks so unhappy about marrying Edmund?

Elena

Posted in Clothing, Frivolity, TV and Film | Tagged , | 15 Comments

The Argyll Rooms

When I was writing Bound By Their Secret Passion, the final book in the Scandalous Summerfields series, I needed to invent a masquerade that would attract the most scandalous of London’s aristocracy and the Cyprian world. I decided to place the ball in the Argyll Rooms. The year is 1818.

The Argyll Rooms were originally at the corner of King Street and Little Argyll Street in what was once the north wing of the mansion of the Duke of Argyll, partially demolished to build Little Argyll Street. It opened as the Argyll Rooms in 1806, hosting various entertainments such as music, dancing, burlettas, and dramatic performances, including readings by the famous Sarah Siddons. And, of course, the infamous Cyprian’s Ball.

In 1818, though, the old Argyll Rooms were to be demolished to make way for New Street, which would eventually be called Regent Street.  Here’s the map showing the eventual path of Regent Street.

So I invented a last Masquerade Ball in the old Argyll Rooms. Luckily I found a detailed description of the rooms in British History Online.

The Rooms were ‘fitted up in a style of great magnificence. Corinthian pillars, illuminated by gilt lamps, grace the entrance and the lobbies. The ground-floor consists of three very extensive rooms, the first of which is hung with scarlet drapery. The drapery of the second is a rich salmon colour, lined with pea-green. The third, though inferior to the others, is nevertheless, finished in a capital style; and the whole is most brilliantly lighted up.

‘The grand saloon is of an oblong form, with elliptical terminations, and is used for the purpose of theatrical representations; and also for masquerades and balls. Above the entrance, on each side, are three tiers of boxes, amounting in the whole to twenty-four. The first range above the ground tier is ornamented with elegant antique bas-reliefs in bronze; the upper tier is of ethereal blue, decorated with scrolls in stone colour, and both are enclosed with scrolls in rich gold mouldings. Over each box is a beautiful circular bronze chandelier, with cut-glass pendants. The draperies are of scarlet; and the supporters between the boxes represent the Roman ox, and Fasces, in bronze and gold.

‘At the opposite end are the orchestra and stage, over which is the following appropriate motto: “Sollicitæ jucunda oblivia vitæ”. The walls of the middle space, of an ample size, are superbly ornamented with ranges of Corinthian pillars, representing porphyry with gold capitals. On the intermediate pannels, which are surrounded with borders of blue and gold, are basreliefs, in stone colour, as large as life, the subjects of which are admirably adapted to the purposes for which they are placed there….’

I was able to sprinkle in this description as my characters moved from room to room at the masquerade ball, eventually winding up in one of those very private boxes.

Here’s how my imagined masquerade ball might have appeared, although this print is from 1825 when the new Argyll Rooms would have been opened:

Theodore Lane, George Hunt – The British Museum

Bound By Their Secret Passion will be released in paperback on March 22 and as an ebook on April 1. You can get a sneak peek here.

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