The Beau Monde Conference

One of my favorite parts of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Annual Conference is that the Beau Monde chapter of RWA holds their annual conference the Wednesday before. I try always to attend. It is a great chance to see old friends and to hear great presentations on my favorite topics–anything about the Regency era!

IMG_0082This years conference keynote speaker was Miranda Neville, who honored her recently deceased father in her speech. Her father nurtured Miranda’s interest in history and took her and her sister to museums throughout Europe as a result. If that wasn’t enough to envy, she also had an idyllic childhood on a farm in Wiltshire and went on to work for Sotheby’s, writing catalogues of rare books and original letters and manuscripts. This meant she was paid to read the personal correspondence of historical figures, including those of “our” time period. Needless to say, Miranda likes to get the history correct in her books!

Our Risky Janet Mullany presented a workshop on servants, but I won’t say much about that, because she may be telling you herself. She told us about Black servants who were in England for many years. She mentioned one of the duties of footmen was to deliver messages for the lords and ladies for whom they worked. I thought it a clever fact to use in a future story that the footmen might take hours to deliver such messages, even though the distances might be nor more that a mile away.

Another Risky who presented a workshop was Isobel Carr, who spoke about the fabrics of the time period, about the different weaves of fabrics and the different materials from which they were made. Isobel has so much expertise to share on this topic, it is much too extensive for me to repeat. One interesting fact, though. We all believed that Scottish clans each had their own tartans. I imagined the clans rushing into battle at Culloden each wearing their clan’s plaids. It turns out that, in the late 18th century, a man named William Wilsons published a pattern book in which he assigned clan names to different tartans. The clans themselves had nothing to do with it.

Edmund_Blair_Leighton_-_Singing_to_the_reverendRisky friend Louisa Cornell talked about The Musical Education of a Regency Young Lady. I’ve heard Louisa speak on this topic before and I was so happy to hear Louisa, formerly a professional opera singer, sing some of the examples. She showed us what (and how) a sweet young might sing at a recital, what a talented young lady might sing, and what selections would be scandalous for a young lady to sing. Turns out, singing scandalous songs was acceptable in society.

Jackie Horne spoke about The Material Culture of Childhood and showed how the different cultural views on childhood were reflected in their toys, furniture, and clothing. Before 1750, children were rushed to adulthood, so their furniture, clothing, etc. reflected that. 1750 to 1830 was the era of the Natural Child, the belief that childhood was a special time requiring more freedom of movement than children had experienced previously. One interesting fact Jackie told us. Baby carriages were not invented until 1830, so don’t have your Regency characters pushing one!

Cheryl Bolen shared tons of information on the interiors of Regency houses, both in Town and in the country. She showed us slide after slide of wonderful Regency interiors, including some beautiful Adams rooms. You can see these images on her Pinterest Boards. An interesting fact–her floorplan of a typical Regency town house showed that the master’s bedroom was on the ground floor behind the dining room.

georgette-heyer-biographyThe Beau Monde was honored to have Jennifer Kloester, author of the recent acclaimed biography of Georgette Heyer. Ms. Kloester gave us a lovely picture of Heyer, including many of the insider tidbits she’d learned doing her research. She showed us a photograph of Heyer in her 20s by a then famous photographer. She looked like a 13 year old. Another photo the next year was more like the one on this book cover.

I missed the last workshop, because I needed to get ready for RWA’s huge Literacy Book Signing, but I heard it was wonderful, too. It was about Regency dance and was intriguingly titled Rethinking the Regency Ballroom with special guest Susan de Guardiola.

Miss Guardiola also led us in dance later at the evening soiree, where I joined other Beau Monde members, many in period costume, dancing the dances of the Regency. My dance partner was Joanne Grant, Senior Executive Editor at Harlequin UK. She and I have danced at previous soirees and it was a delight to have her attend this year’s and dance with me again!

It was a wonderful Beau Monde conference. Special thanks to Janna MacGregor, the coordinator of the conference. She did a marvelous job! And has become a great friend of mine, as well!

What topics would you like to hear presented at a Beau Monde conference? I’ll pass on your ideas!

Posted in Regency, Research, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sarah Eagle: Waterloo Anniversary Part 2

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Hillingford’s “Wellington at Waterloo”

Today Riskies guest Sarah Eagle continues sharing her experience of the Waterloo Anniversary celebration. Last week she offered us a glimpse of the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, 2015, and this week we go along with her and fellow author Eileen Dreyer on their tour of the battlefields, complete with reenactments.  Headshot2011  Sarah, who also writes contemporary romantic comedy as Sally Falcon, is offering a copy of LADY VENGEANCE, the first LadyVengeance-330Regency Historical she wrote for Harper Monogram (1995) after writing traditional Regencies for Berkley, to a randomly chosen commenter. For her full bio and more details on her giveaway book, please revisit her post here last Wednesday (July 22). *  *  *

We returned to Brussels early Thursday morning (June 18) since we were meeting The Cultural Experience group (http://theculturalexperience.com) at the train station at noon. Once we were divided into our groups –named for French officers for some reason – the Reille bus headed for Waterloo and the Wellington Museum. The other tour members were a mix of Brits and Scots. Unlike the conversation before I left, all the people on the tour knew Waterloo and lots of details. Our admin on the bus was a retired Captain in the Queen’s Royal Lancers. Our tour guide, a retired NATO Lt. General, began almost the minute the bus left the train station.

Wellington Museum
Wellington Museum

CE provided a lovely 60 page book of color contemporary paintings of the area around Ligny, Quatre Bras and Waterloo as well as campaign maps for all the battles. When we arrived in Waterloo at the Wellington Museum,   which had been headquarters for both Napoleon and Wellington, we were greeted by a cluster of reenactors both men and women. That seemed to be the norm anywhere you went around area. Across the street was the Church of St. Joseph that holds the memorials of many British who fought, including Royal Scots Greys. One memorial at the museum is now blank. It was Lord Uxbridge’s dedication to his leg he lost at the end of the battle of Waterloo. His family many years later decided to claim the leg and return it to his grave in England.

Entry battle 1st night
Entry to Battle
View 1st night
View 1st Night

The next day was of Ligny where the French and Prussians fought. This was the first battle after the sighting of the French disrupted the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball. Jonathan, our guide, had us walking the fields and covered the ground that had been fought over. That night was the first reenactment.    What an adventure! Stadiums had been put up in an L shape. Our tickets were in section K, but we hadn’t counted on the Belgian alphabet. The short part of the L for VIPs was A through D but when you rounded the corner it started at Z with K at the top of the stands. Our direct view was of the French cannons while the big action took place closer to the VIPs. Most of the narration was in French. The grasses on the field were about three feet high, which we’d seen in the fields during the day. That meant the horses were chest deep. In 1815, the wheat and rye were six feet high – about three feet higher than 2015.

Bivouac 1
Bivouac 1

On Saturday we continued our recounting of the battles with focus on Waterloo. The tour visited the bivouac of the allied troops who were camped around the Hougoument  and the area marked off for the reenactment. The Battle of Waterloo was fought in a 3 mile square area. Looking at that area now it’s very hard to imagine the numbers of men, horses and cannon maneuvering. Tour members and troops mingled. That night we returned to the stands. Did I mention it was over a mile from the bus parking lot to the stands among a crowd of thousands?

Royal Scots 1
Royal Scots
Bivouac 2
Bivouac 2
View Down field 2nd night
View down the field

The owner of The Cultural Experience had spoken to the people in charge over some issues from the first night. This evening all the horses and a good number of troops entered the field in front of where we were sitting. The narrative was in 4 languages. It was thrilling. Most of the action was still down field, but the wind shifted as the cannon started. The smoke moved over the VIP area and stayed there the rest of the night. Even though we weren’t level with the field it was exhilarating to be there for such an event.

The last day was spent at the Waterloo Visitors Center at the foot of the Lion’s Mound.   The lion was erected by the King of the Netherlands for his son, the Prince of Orange. It’s interesting the interpretation of each country. “Slender Billy”, the prince, seemed to be responsible for a high percentage of the death (along with Jerome Bonaparte) but he has the Visitors' Centerbiggest monument. The Belgians also seem to think Napoleon won. It was very hard in the gift shops and elsewhere to find Wellington commemoratives. The fun part of the visit that day were all the reenactors who were taking the tour in uniform. It was a lovely ending to an amazing trip.  * * *

For a daily report on the trip go to http://eileendreyer.com/2015/06/waterloo-15-tour-day-1/

Sally and Eileen will be offering a program on their trip at the Novelists, Inc conference this fall.

What do you think about Sally’s adventure? Don’t forget to comment below if you want to be entered in the giveaway!

Posted in Giveaways, Guest, History, Places, Regency, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

how many men have been beguiled and captivated by a soft voice offering them a meringue?

Barbara Cartland came up a few times at the Romance Writers of America conference this week, which reminded me of her wonderful cookbook. I posted some scans from it a long time ago, back when I had my first author photo taken (I still had long hair then!). This is some of the funniest food photography I’ve ever seen and I think you all deserve to see it.

***

I think my favorite author photo ever is this one of Barbara Cartland from the back of the cookbook:

In fact, the only photos to rival it are other photos of Barbara Cartland [google image search: look!!!]. I hope that someday I’m confident enough to have a photo that over-the-top taken of myself.

I bought this book at the library book sale a couple of years ago. It’s called The Romance of Food. It’s one of the best book sale purchases I have ever made.

The inside front cover describes it as “a collection of recipes which will revive even the most jaded lover and put a song in the heart of the most enraptured[…]Also, to show just how irresistible to the eye as well as to the palate are dishes such as Flower of the Heart, Summer Splendor and Fleur de Lis d’Amour, they and many others have been photographed at her own home, one of the most romantic settings in England.”

On page 12, we learn:

“Some of the youngest-looking men on the screen and stage declare they owe their youthful appearance to a large consumption of liver and kidneys. Pope Pius V, famous for his aphrodisiacal dishes, originated a pie in which layers of sliced bull’s testicles alternated with ground lamb kidneys.”

Here are some of the best photos:

“Seafood in a Melon Basket: the hidden wonders of the deep evoke the mystic wonders of Love.”

The caption for that one reads: “An exotic creature from the deep, the color of two red lips, which can invite, provoke, and surrender.”

And this one is just for Susanna Fraser:

“Beef Wellington: England’s greatest General who defeated Napoleon and a plate worthy of his name in the Battle of Love.”

Some other great captions [tw: racism]:

“Noisette of Lamb with Baby Vegetables: What woman does not long to be carried like a lamb in the arms of the man she loves.”

“Gypsy Magic and Imperial Splendor: The gypsies wandering romantically through the Countryside make watercress soup but the Russians with fire and passion prefer Borsch.”

“Duck with Orange and Grand Marnier Sauce: A plate of Chinese magic in whose life the duck has always had a very special place.”

“Normandy Pheasant: The leaves of Autumn fall from the trees but the beautiful exotic pheasant, who comes from China, delights the sportsman and surprisingly the sportswoman.”

“Mocha Chocolate Cake, Black Currant Gateau and Meringues: An English tea; how many men have been beguiled and captivated by a soft voice offering them a meringue?”

Can you describe a plate of food in the style of Barbara Cartland?

Posted in Food | 6 Comments

Sarah Eagle: Waterloo Anniversary -Part 1, the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball

egmontpalaisprint
Palais d’Egmont

Did you wish you could have gone to the Waterloo Anniversary events? Our guest today, Regency author Sarah Eagle (aka Sally Falcon & Sally Hawkes), did and she’s sharing the experience with us this week and also next Wednesday in a two-part guest post. She’s also offering a book giveaway –read to the end to find out more!

Sally Hawkes spends her days as a librarian working with library computer stuff and databases. Headshot2011Her “evil twins” are responsible for writing romantic comedies. Sally Falcon uses the contemporary setting and takes advantage of the places that she had lived around the country. Sarah Eagle goes back in time to Regency England. Ms. Eagle has been nominated for Best Regency Comedy by Romantic Times and by the Colorado Romance Writers.
Her love of old movies (a TCM addict), travel and history have helped a great deal in creating her stories. Currently she’s exploring the world of mysteries and Steam Punk. She also contributes to the Novelist, Inc. writer’s group monthly newsletter. She has BS in Education from Bowling Green State University and an MLS from University of South Florida.     *  *  *

“You’re going where on your vacation?” The questioner’s expression changed from expectant, because I’d originally mentioned Europe, to one of bewilderment.
“I’m going to the reenactment of the 200th anniversary of Waterloo,” I had to repeat. With several people I had to remind them what Waterloo actually was. However, I know anyone reading this blog will understand the excitement of this journey.

Fellow author Eileen Dreyer and I decided 5 years ago that we would go, if possible. Phone calls began last fall. The first one centered on “Do you still want to go?” YES. Some of the planning was normal and some not.   Eileen called one night and said “We can go to the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball.” (I could tell that someone really wanted to go.) OK, add one Regency period ball gown to the packing. Another call came with Eileen thinking she had to talk me into joining a tour at Waterloo. Hmmm, 100,000 spectators (later numbers were 200,000) 5,000 reenactors, 300 horses and 100 cannon were scheduled to be on site. I’d been thinking the same thing. Finally the months of planning came to the day of departure.

After a few days in Amsterdam we took the train to Brussels for the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball. We had our gowns, evening gloves, fans, ridicules, jewelry and, of course, our tiaras. Cinderellas Both gowns were made from vintage patterns. Eileen’s was made from sari silk and fully authentic. I had to tie her into it. Mine was an overdress made from curtain material. (“I saw it in the window and couldn’t resist.” -Carol Burnett)

We went to our carriage – a taxi – and realized we’d left the tickets in our room.   I got to stand very conspicuously at the curb while Eileen retrieved them. One lady asked if I was going to the opera. After the first false start our taxi driver didn’t have a clue about our destination – the Palace d’Egmont. With such an auspicious beginning, I wondered what was next. A spectacular evening!

The entrance was easy to find since two reenactors, resplendent in their uniforms, were guarding the entry. Once we showed our tickets they guided us to a photo area to have our picture done with a guard on either side. Then we were directed out in the courtyard. Courtyard2-EgmontPalaisWe walked across cobblestones between two curved lines of 10 reenactors on either side and a piper played. They were representing different regiments. Once across the way we were offered our first glass of English sparkling wine. Although the website had seemed to encourage period dress, Eileen and I were among about a dozen that followed through. It did turn out to be a wonderful conversation starter. We mingled, drank wine and ate lovely hors d’oeuvres as we talked to various guests while watching others arrive. (We didn’t know who we were rubbing elbows with sometimes.)

After an hour we were asked to move back to clear a good portion of the courtyard. I moved up the steps to the doorway and Eileen stayed on the cobblestones. She ended up near the Wellingtons. Sword danceThe reenactors exited stage right and the Royal Marine Band came out stage left to perform what our program called a Post Horn Gallop. Fantastic. Their display was followed by the Highlanders doing the traditional sword dance that had been done at the original ball in 1815. I’ve read about it many times, and it’s stunning in person.

We were called into dinner and moved up the marble stairway.  Tables had the last name of an officer who had fought at Waterloo. We dubbed our table the Colonials’ table since we had two Australians, two New Zealanders and us out of 9 people at the table. I had talked to two ladies from Texas earlier and they were at the next table. The abundance of glassware and silver sparkled while we all shared our reason for being there. It wasn’t too surprising that most everyone had read Georgette Heyer’s An Infamous Army. (Eileen wore sandals and painted her toenails gold and homage to Barbara Childe the female lead.)
At the table was a goody bag that included a monograph of Alasdair White’s Dancing in the Time of War: The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball 15 June 1815, a history of the British Charitable Fund (founded by Wellington after Waterloo) and a list of the auction items for the evening. Two of the top items were 4 tickets to the opening ceremony of the newly renovated Hougoumont and a tea with Hugh Grant at the Savoy. They went for 3,000 and 2,500 Euros respectively. Dancing? There was only modern music for a band but since it was a beautiful night, we returned to the courtyard for coffee, drinks and cake. It was a night I will remember fondly for a long time.

ball1
Anniversary Ball Committee (Front L-R: British Ambassador to Belgium, Duke & Duchess of Wellington)

The next day we rested and did some sightseeing, then left for Bruges. The ball was on June 13, a Saturday, and the reenactments would be the following weekend. * * *

Sally’s story will continue next Wednesday with Part 2 of her adventure at Waterloo, and more pictures. Would you have liked to be at the anniversary ball with Sally? Would you have wanted to be at the original event on the eve of battle? Why do you think the Duchess of Richmond decided to hold a ball that night in 1815?

Sally is offering a book giveaway to one commenter randomly chosen from among those who comment either this week or next. (Some of our Risky followers may be off at RWA National this week!) The book she’s offering is LADY VENGEANCE, the first Regency Historical she wrote for Harper Monogram (1995) after writing traditional Regencies for Berkley. Romantic Times called it: “Fast-paced and brimming with humor.” Library Journal said: “this sexy historical with well-researched Regency roots combines the ambiance and wit of the traditional Regency with the passionate sensuality of the historical.” Please leave a comment to be entered in the drawing! LadyVengeance-330

Posted in Giveaways, Guest, History, Places, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Sage of Waterloo

How many books have been written about Waterloo? Leona Francombe, the author of THE SAGE OF WATERLOO estimates over two hundred with her book one more entry into the field. And a very unique entry it is.

The Sage of Waterloo is a rabbit named William. With an anthropomorphic bent which I usually dislike the author gives a unique view (wow that’s stating the obvious) of a battle that is as well known as DDay.th9IB0KITG

Waterloo is not a subject that I have studied extensively (hello Diane Gaston!) But I think even the well-educated student of the war will find this book fascinating and beautifully written. William hooked me on page 6 “If you just stumble across Hougoument the scene is quite unremarkable….Until you see the three chestnut trees. Two are dead, the third not far behind them. They look like freaks…and then you realize they’re over three hundred years old, and the only remaining witnesses to the fighting and you understand. Place your hand on one – even a dead one, and you will feel a pulse.”

William’s home is the farm that was the scene of the earliest fighting at Waterloo, a battle that claimed close to fifty thousand dead and wounded (counting both sides together) and ended a war that was as all involving as the World Wars that came over 100 years later.

William’s story manages to cover some of the more familiar aspects of Waterloo including the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, but what fascinated me the most is his recounting of what happened at the once elegant and serene chateau/farm of Hougoument the day before the Waterloo.

“Go there yourself and you will feel it: the knowing wind…and a strange sort of peace that is not peaceful at all. Sometimes, …it’s as if a worn curtain is shifting and through a tear in the fabric you can see something unimaginable for such a sleep backwater.”
Who can resist reading on after that? The New York Times reviewer, Laline Paull, says that “will hinge on whether its premise instinctively charms or alienates.”

Obviously I was charmed.

What is your favorite recounting of the Battle of Waterloo and why has the battle never been made into a movie?

Posted in History, Places, Research, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Snuff

As I’m preparing my first two novels for re-release, I’m reminded of all the research I did while I was writing those first books for Dorchester and exploring the Regency period at the same time. In Bewitched, I had my hero and heroine buy presents for the hero’s family, and for some reason, I thought it would be an excellent idea if they bought snuff for his brother. And so I happily dived into all things to do with snuff…

Beau Brummell
By the Regency era, snuff had become the preferred choice of tobacco in the fashionable world and had largely replaced pipes and cigars. In this, the beau monde followed the example of dandy extraordinaire Beau Brummell, and what’s more, he also dictated how snuff was to be taken: According to Brummell, only one hand should be used to open one’s snuff box and transfer the snuff to the nose. To take a pinch of snuff in an offhand manner—even better: in the middle of a conversation!—without glancing at either snuff or snuff box and, most importantly, without grimacing, was considered the highest art. If you were clumsy or if you took too large a dose, you ran into danger of dribbling the snuff down your neckcloth or, even worse!, to stain your nose. (And now let’s all imagine a romance hero with… On second thought, let’s not.) (Ugh!)

Snuff-taking was an expensive habit—not only did the prices for snuff ran high, but the substance also had to be carried around in a suitable container: the snuff-boxes of the rich were pieces of intricate workmanship. The lids were often decorated with miniatures—some of them innocent, some of them… err… less so. (The latter were sometimes hidden on the inside lid or behind a sliding cover.)

The collecting of snuff boxes became a rich man’s hobby, and again, Beau Brummell was leading the fashion. According to his biographer William Jesse, among the boxes Brummell owned was one particularly intricate container: “His passion for snuff-boxes was extreme: he had one which he only could open, and some friend of his, while he was at Belvoir, tried it with his pen knife, with the intention, no doubt, of purloining his snuff, which was always excellent. Hearing of the outrage, Brummell said, ‘Confound the fellow; he takes my snuff box for an oyster.'” (from The Life of George Brummell, Esq.) (There are also slightly different versions of this particular anecdote.)

Indeed, you didn’t just share your snuff with anybody. Sharing snuff acted as a marker of favor and a sign of friendship: “If you knew a man intimately,” Gronow writes in Recollections and Anecdotes: A Second Series of Reminiscences (1863), “he would offer you a pinch out of his own box; but if others, not so well acquainted, wishes for a pinch, it was actually refused. In those days of snuff-taking, at the tables of great people, and the messes of regiments, snuff-boxes of large proportions followed the bottle, and everybody was at liberty to help himself.”

Snuff was provided in dry or moist versions, many of which were scented as well, with jasmine, orange flowers, musk roses, or bergamot. It came in different colours, ranging from yellow to brown, black or even purple. Detailed descriptions of different kinds of snuff can be found in Arnold James Cooley’s Cyclopaedia of Six Thousand Practical Receipts (1851):

“Among some of the most esteemed French snuffs are the following:—Tabac de cedrat, bergamotte, and neroli, are made by adding the essences to the snuff.—Tabac perfumée aux fleurs, by putting orange flowers, jasmins, tube-roses, musk-roses, or common roses, to the snuff in a close chest or jar, sifting them out after 24 hours, and repeating the infusion with fresh flowers as necessary. Another way is to lay paper pricked all over with a large pin between the flowers and the snuff.—Tabac musquée. Any scented snuff 1lb.; musk (grown to a powder with white sugar and moistened with ammonia water) 20 grs.; mix.”

(My hero & heroine eventually bought tabac de neroli.)

PS: Oh gosh, I’ve just discovered that back in 2006, there was a film about Beau Brummell based on Ian Kelly’s biography. With James Purefoy as Brummell and Matthew Rhys as Lord Byron. *swoons*

Matthew Rhys as Byron*swoons again*

Posted in Regency, Research | 3 Comments

Location Map of Georgian and Regency London

Someone on Twitter was saying she has trouble keeping track of all the locations that get tossed around in Regency Romances. This is entirely understandable as we fanatics tend to treat Mayfair and the City of London (c. 1800-1830) as though they were our hometown. There are some GREAT map resources out there. Even if you don’t want to invest in a hardback copy of the Regency London A-Z, you can go to Motco and look at John Fairburn’s wonderfully detailed 1802 map (snippet provided) or the even more detailed Horword map (1799) which shows individual houses. I once printed out all of Mayfair and had it pinned up like wallpaper so I could plot my books.

1280px-1806_Mogg_Pocket_or_Case_Map_of_London,_England_-_Geographicus_-_London-mogg-1806
Edward Mogg’s 1806 case map of London. (This file was provided to Wikimedia Commons by Geographicus Rare Antique Maps).

I started out making a small map with a few places on it based on the Fairburn map, but then it occurred to me I could use Google Maps to make a “perioid” map that was zoomable and scalable and that I could even put links into! And once I got started, it became a bit of a monster project. I now has well over 200 locations and I will continue to add new locations and details as I have time and find new resources.

CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO GEORGIAN/REGENCY MAP

Currently I’ve input info from a few Georgian blogs, The Georgian Index, The Survey of London, and several books about historic homes. I plan to add info from The Epicure’s Almanack (an 1815 book about hotels, restaurants, chophouses, and pubs) and a couple of period guide books that I have either print or Google Book copies of.

If anyone has further suggestions for specific locations or sources, please let me know!

There’s also this amazing overlay of John Rocque’s 1746 map of London you can check out. Unfortunately, they don’t have a KML export I can find so I can overly it onto my Google Map, but I’ve emailed to see if they will provide one or alternatively add my map as an option to theirs. *fingers crossed*

Posted in History, Isobel Carr, Places, Regency, Research, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Happy Bastille Day!

Bastille1Or rather, happy day before Bastille Day, since July 14 is the time to celebrate the day in 1789 when an angry mob stormed the prison and released scads of prisoners–well, 7 anyway. It was officially declared a national holiday on July 6, 1880. It’s a good excuse to spend your weekend drinking champagne, eating wonderfully unhygenic cheese, wearing berets, and listening to “La vie en rose” over and over (it’s MY excuse, anyway, though really every day is a good day for champagne and Piaf!)

To help you get your celebration in order, here are a few links to give you some party pointers and a few quotes to inspire you.

Fun party drinks (they mostly appear to be sticky-sweet concoctions made from things like cherry brandy, but I think the Marie Antoinette sounds sort of yummy…)

Fun party menus (though with drinks like the Montmartre, who needs food???)

Official stuff from the French Embassy

And more on how to celebrate

“France has more need of me than I have need of France” –Napoleon

“It’s true that the French have a certain obsession with sex, but it’s a particularly adult obsession. France is the thriftiest of all nations; to a Frenchman sex provides the most economical way to have fun. The French are a logical race.” –Anita Loos

“In America, only the successful writer is important; in France all writers are important; in England no writer is important; and in Australia you have to explain what a writer is” —
Geoffrey Cottrell

“I have tried to lift France out of the mud. But she will return to her errors and vomitings. I cannot prevent the French from being French.” –Charles de Gaulle

“Boy, those French. They have a different word for everything.” –Steve Martin

“Paris is always a good idea.” –Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina

“To err is human. To loaf is Parisian.” –Victor Hugo

“Frenchmen are like gunpowder, each by itself smutty and contemptible, but mass them together and they are terrible indeed!” –Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Strong Heroines of All Kinds

Janeway_PicsI’ve been streaming Star Trek: Voyager on Netflix a lot lately. Although the series (like all the Star Trek series) had some uneven writing, I do love the strong female characters, including Captain Kathryn Janeway.

Some Star Trek fans hated her, but I’m with Sara Eileen Hames, who wrote this blog post on the TOR website: “Janeway Doesn’t Deserve this Shit”.

Hames quotes one of the more egregious bits of snark she has read about Janeway:

“What they needed was a take charge, dynamic female Captain, what they gave us was a moralizing, overly-liberal pushover all too willing to throw her crew’s life away for no reason at all if it made her seem superior and at least as interested in prancing around in frilly dresses on the holodeck as she is in leading her crew.”

So there it is—her worst offence is taking a little free time from her stressful job to enjoy a romance holo-novel. The horror!

And not just any romance, but a historical romance featuring a governess. How cool is that?

Here’s something Hames herself wrote that sums up how I feel:

“Janeway is a strong female character to rock all strong female characters: A leader who is female-gendered, in touch with her sense of gender, and yet invested with a non-gendered position of highest responsibility which she executes with capability and compassion.”

In other words, everything that is most frightening to the fan-boys who admire Kirk’s girl-on-every-planet exploits. (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Kirk, but he does fall in love rather easily…)

Here’s another reason I love Janeway. She’s older than your average kickass heroine. While I enjoy heroines like The Avengers’ Black Widow, as played by Scarlett Johansson, and though they are interesting characters in their own right, they can also be perceived as serving the purpose of appealing to the fantasies of teenaged boys (and less evolved older men). Captain Janeway is sexy but her purpose is to captain a starship.

Likewise, a good romance heroine has more to her than beauty. She may or may not be physically tough, but she always has strength of character, like Jane Austen’s heroines who refuse to cave in to pressure and marry men not worthy of them.

It’s been far too long since I’ve had much time to read, so my favorite examples of strong historical romance heroines are from older books: Alys from Mary Jo Putney’s The Rake and the Reformer, who works as a land steward and supports the hero in battling his alcoholism, and Melanthe from Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart, who is outwardly tough as nails while hiding heartbreaking secrets.

I hope at some point to have time to read more for pleasure, so help me out. Which historical romances have you read recently that feature particularly strong heroines?

Elena

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An Awful Crush – Redux

I am deep in “finishing a book” mode and coming up with an interesting topic for my blog seemed impossible. So I went back to some old postings I wrote and found one worth repeating. It was from 2008 and seemed apropos since many of us will be taking vacations and visiting museums and historic sites that tend to attract crowds (like the 4th of July holiday weekend in Washington, DC).

Here’s the slightly revised post from 2008:

I opened one of my (newly rebound)Annual Registers and found this account from June 27, 1811, about what happened when the Prince Regent opened Carlton House to the public to tour the interior. I’m abridging it greatly!

(This is also apropos because I just wrote a scene where my hero walks by Carlton House with Marc Grenville from Bound by Duty!)

Yesterday being the last day that the public were permitted to view the interior of Carlton-House, the crowd from an early hour in the morning was immense; and as the day advanced, the scene excited additional interest….The gates were only opened at certain intervals and when this was the case, the torrent was to rapid, that many people were taken off their feet, some with their backs toward the entrance, screaming to get out….Lord Yarmouth and the Duke of Gloucester appeared, and announced to the public, that the gates would not be again opened…this, however, had not the desired effect….Those behind irresistibly pushed on those before, and of the number of delicate and helpless females who were present, some were thrown down, and shocking to relate, literally trod on by those behind without the possibility of being extricated. When at last the crowd got inside of Carlton-House gates, four females were found in a state of insensibility, lying on their backs on the ground, with their clothes almost completely torn off. One young lady, elegantly attired, or rather who had been so, presented a shocking spectacle; she had been trodden on until her face was quite black from strangulation, and every part of her body bruised to such a degree, as to leave little hopes of her recovery: surgical assistance was immediately had, but her life was not expected to be saved. An elderly lady had her leg broken, and was carried away in a chair; and two others were also seriously hurt, but on being bled, were restored to animation….The situation of almost all the ladies who were involved in this terrible rush was truly deplorable; very few of them could leave Carlton-House until furnished with a fresh supply of clothes; they were to be seen all round the gardens, most of them without shoes or gowns; and many almost completely undressed, and their hair hanging about their shoulders….

Can you imagine it?

Now there’s an exciting scene for one of our books.

Have you ever been in such a crowd where you feared being trampled? I’ve been at exhibits that were so crowded you couldn’t see what you came to see, but this Carlton-House visit was literally a crush!

Hope you all are enjoying your summer and I also hope no one trods on you!

Posted in Regency, Research | Tagged | 3 Comments