Monday, August 18, 2014

Montacute House Part VII


I frequently find myself gazing out of the windows when visiting one of these great houses.  Here is another view showing the garden and at the end of a wall, one of two pavilions which were designed as extra bedrooms.

I would love to have been one of the guests assigned to one of these rooms. Imagine the quiet. Though it would be a hike for breakfast.
I
A huge feature of Montacute is its Long Gallery. An important room, used for exercise by the family in inclement weather and I would guess, the odd ball.

It is in a room like this that I imagined Merry playing battledor with Caro's young son Tommy in More than a Mistress, though I had invested that gallery with suits of armor. I needed something for them to tie a string to.

Interestingly enough, several bedrooms lead off this gallery.

I took this picture to show the length of the gallery. These days I would think a gym would be pleased to have such a space for a running track.


At the southern end of the gallery there is an oriel window. It is hard to see it because of the drapery.

But here it is from the outside. Just beautiful


And here is another view. Not all of these gardens are as they were in the Regency owing to the the vagaries of fortune, but they are still beautiful to see.


Until next time....

Thursday, August 14, 2014

There's an App for That

Novel EngagementSo exciting. Romance Writers of America has put together a new app to help readers find their favourite authors and new romance novels.  The link to the app is in the logo.  I have also added it to the right margin in case you need to find it again.  This is a new venture and still a work in progress, but check out your favourite romance author or genre. Find new books.

Try it, and let me know what you think.  I'll pass along any comments.

Until next time

Monday, August 11, 2014

Regency Fashion August 1814

Hot days of summer here in the Northern hemisphere.  What are you wearing at the beach?

I bet it looks nothing like this.  Our ladies of 200 years ago might have had the prettiest ballgowns, but I bet you wouldn't swap your bathing suit for this one. Though to be honest it is  a walking dress too.  I liked seeing the cliffs in the background and the bathing machines lined up on the beach. And that must be a towel over her arm.

Reminds me a bit of a scene in my next book Captured Countess out in December.  Our heroine, Nicky, is learning to swim -- with the King.

All right, here is the official description. But I am not sure what Carcassian refers too? Circassians perhaps?

From La Belle Assemblee:
Carcassian Ladies’ Corset Bathing & Sea-side Walking Dress 
High dress of rich Indian or Parisian chintz, made in a form peculiarly novel and elegant; it is trimmed with chintz bordering to correspond, or a rich silk trimming. Long sleeve, with the fullness let in at the top. The collar is extremely novel and beautiful, and the trimming most tastefully disposed, so as to give the appearance of a shirt to the pelisse; it is loose in the body, but fastens in to the waist.  
We forbear a particular description of this elegant and convenient dress, as it must be seen to be properly understood; we have only to observe, that it is made in a form never before introduced, that it is equally tasteful and becoming; it enables a lady to dress herself in a few minutes without assistance, prevents the chance of taking cold by the long delay in dressing; and, when dressed, to look as completely fashionable as if she had employed the longest time at her toilet.  
The principal novelty, however, consists of Mrs. Bell’s new invented Circassian corset, which unites the advantages of being conductive to health and comfort, by being made of novel materials, free from superfluities, such as steel, whalebone, or any hard substance; so that ease, gracefulness, and dignity are given to the female form in a manner perfectly novel and original. It gives relief and protection to pregnant ladies, and at the same time adds dignity and beauty to the appearance.  
Head dress Chapeau Bras. Slippers of pale green; and gloves to correspond.

Now some of you may be interested in the comment on the corset.  Novel materials. One can only wonder. And the fact that she can dress herself after bathing means this outer shell comes off before she takes a dip leaving her in that corset and her chemise?

Until next time

Thursday, August 7, 2014

History versus Story

Or: Does it have to be right?



As the writer of period stories this is an issue I often struggle with. How accurate do I need to be? How much creative licence can I take in my stories.

Over time I have vacillated from the utter fear of getting it wrong, and embracing the concept of: story trumps all.  But as we all know, a pendulum, when it stops swinging, always ends up bang smack in the middle of its arc.  Oh, I do love a good metaphor.

Over time I have come to recognize that I am writing stories for entertainment. Stories set in an earlier time period whose history we know about. Some of that history was learned long after the events actually happened, some of it well known at the time.  Genre fiction has the expectation that it will transport the reader to another place and leave them with a feeling of having had an enjoyable experience.  It is not designed to teach or moralize or guide, any more than Two and Half Men was supposed to teach us how to behave or Big Bang Theory is intended to turn us into nuclear physicists.  Yes, these programs comment on aspects of life today and make us laugh not only at the characters on screen, but also at ourselves. In the first instance, they likely shock us, as we secretly wish we could be as bold as Charley, and in the latter, we might wonder at our own lost innocence as displayed by Sheldon. Or not.

It doesn't matter.  We are entertained.

A period novelist has to get major facts right about his or her era, as does a genre fiction period author. But the stories are character driven. The story is about the people on the page, not the political climate or the economic reality. Those are backstory. And like all backstory, needs to be fed in as and when required. In my opinion, a  fiction author needs to let the imagination fly free, while remaining within the bounds of her world. Somethings are easy to get right, the buildings, the clothing, even the flora and fauna which I have expounded on at length in this blog.

But are there hundreds of Dukes and earls running around in the Regency doing heroic or unheroic things? No. Certainly not.  We all know that. Readers and historians alike.

In my next book, Captured Countess, coming out in December 2014, there is a plot by Napoleon's agents to kill King George. Did it happen?  Well it might have. How do we know for certain it did not? Could some as yet undiscovered cache of documents reveal that it did? It is in the realm of the possible.

Did the characters who set out to foil the plot really exist? No, they did not. But the King was at Weymouth that summer.  Napoleon did plan to invade England. So the setting and the backstory is accurate, but the story is unashamedly all my own.

I often hear complaints that covers are not period accurate.  Here are two covers for books in the same series, "Rakes in Disgrace".

The cover for the Gamekeeper's Lady couldn't be more accurate for the Regency period, both in style and setting.  The second cover, for the second book, More Than a Mistress is way too early. The shoes, the gown, reek of a pre-Regency era, but the scene it represents.... is right out of the book. Both covers are evocative of the story.

Each book sold as well as the other, because in the end it was all about the story inside the cover.

So, to writers and readers I say, enjoy the story along with a soupcon of history. Use it to spice the broth so to speak.

I will address a few issues that I do think writers of period stories in my genre ought to get right and some others that I think might be borderline.

What do you think?

Until next time......

Monday, August 4, 2014

Montacute House Part VI


It is always fascinating exploring the nooks and crannies of someone elses' house, and Montacute House has a great many.  For a writer it is always handy to have pictures of odd corners. You never know when you might need a spot for your characters to lurk or meet.




  Our next stop, way of stairs and passages,  is the library, once the Great Chamber where the Elizabethan family would have received their most important visitors and dined in state.



 It became a library in 1791.




During the regency and after it became as we see it today, with the original Elizabethan chimney peice and frieze and the stained glass window.





 I particularly like this set of rolling steps which were u8sed to access the higher shelves of the book presses.










This next item, a porch of sorts was added to the library much later. It used to be the entrance to the parlour.
Intended to intimidate wrong doers who appeared before the magistrate, no doubt.

The motto says  "Do This".


Until next time

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fashion July 1814

I could not let July slip away without one more post on the fashion from the Regency Period.


From La Belle Assemblee:

Russian and Prussian Bonnet with Pelisse a-la-Militaire

I often put my heroines in something al-la-Militaire because it sounds daring. And let us facing we would all like to be daring, within bounds of course.

My first thoughts were, not so very Militaire and a bit hot for July.  But given the weather we have been having lately, well perhaps not. And does the military bit just refer to the colour, you know, Prussian blue?

Here is the description, it might shed a bit more light on the ideas of the designer.

Jacconet muslin high dress, with a rich letting-in of lace and embroidery of the same materials round the bottom: the body and sleeves of this dress are richly appliqued with lace. 
A most delicate blue sarsnet pelisse, trimmed a-la-Prusse, either with crape or satin of a dark shade. The sleeves and the front of the pelisse are slightly ornamented in the same tasteful manner; the back is full, and fastens round the waist by a fancy military girdle; an appliqueing of crape, to correspond in colour with the pelisse, is let-in round the bosom, and on each applique is a small satin flower. A rich lace ruff falls over. 
This walking costume is at present wholly confined to the highest class of our fair pedestrians, and we must say, it is equally distinguished for novelty and elegance; it also displays the figure to the greatest advantage. The captivating military bonnet which accompanies it, is highly characteristic of the elegant taste of its inventress: it bestows upon a pretty face that air which the French term piquant. 
We have observed of some hats which have formerly made their appearance under military appellations, that they gave a look of fierceness even to soft features: the reverse of this is the case with the Russian and Prussian Bonnet, which is one of the most generally becoming that we have ever seen.
 
The above dresses were invented, and can be obtained exclusively of Mrs. Bell, the Inventress of the Ladies’ Chapeau Bras, removed to No. 26, Charlotte-street, Bedford-square.

I'm not convinced. How about you?  It is certainly good to know that Mrs Bell has moved. I wouldn't want our heroines showing up at the wrong location.

Until next time

Monday, July 28, 2014

More RWA 2014

It is always great to come away from a conference feeling inspired. RWA 2014 did that for me.

Not only did a friend Molly O'Keefe win the RITA, the most prestigious award of all in the Romance Writers world, Go Molly but I attended several really great sessions that will help me moving forward.

And who could not enjoy San Antonio with its river walk wandering through the centre of downtown and all those marvellous historic sites (more about them later).  And all the local people I met were just so darn friendly.  I felt right at home.

And if there were a couple of snags, like leaving my phone at home - eek all those people I am supposed to call and now I don't have their numbers and yes, I did sit in something in my new white pants -- all easily fixed. Now Fedex and dh are now the best of friends, and it is quite easy to do laundry in your hotel sink. Hotel soap makes a great detergent.


Oh and it was hot hot hot. Weather I mean. But a shady tree and a marguerita with lots of ice works wonders. (With a nap to follow.)

Here I am wandering the city after a visit to "the Alamo" historic site. The new white pants are back in the hotel drying off.

And thereis nothing like bumping into your glamourous editor in your hotel pool. umm. Oh well, she knows the crazy things my head, she might as well know what I look like in my swimsuit.

And then there were the parties.  Thank you Harlequin Mills and Boon.

The historical authors were taken to tea in the King William district and as always the Harlequin Party was amazing. Red socks this year. They must have known I planned to wear a red dress, don't you think?

Anyway I was having too good a time to take many pictures, but here is a glimpse into a writer's life (once a year anyway).

And I have to say I was so lucky to share my experience with my sister Erika this year. We had a blast.

Until next time…..







Tuesday, July 22, 2014

RWA San Antonio

It is always fun to go to a conference in a City you have never visited before. This year RWA's (Romance Writers of America) conference  is being held in San Antonio.  And who hasn't heard of The Battle of the Alamo. So naturally the history buff in me just had to visit.

And as luck would have it my sister decided to join me on this adventure.  We arrived on Friday, and after a long day of travelling it was dinner and bed.  But Saturday we set out on our travels. The Alamo would be first on our list. But first is breakfast. It was recommended that we go to Shiloh's, a very popular deli. So we headed out and were surprised to find ourselves lining up.  Of course it has to be good if you have to stand in line.

And it really was an excellent breakfast.  And more so because, when we went to pay, the couple at the table beside us, who were fascinated our English accents, had already paid the bill. You can imagine our surprise.  That couple had already left and the gentleman had left a message.  "Welcome to Texas."  So as you can imagine, we will always feel very welcome here.


Our next stop was the Alamo itself.  We made the mistake of wandering around some of the other parts of the museum and exhibits and when we went to go inside, lo and behold there were hundreds of people in the line up, whereas there had been only a handful when we first got there. So we decide we would go on the next day.

And moved on to Market Square a traditional Mexican market with small stalls.





Thursday, July 17, 2014

Montacute House Part V

How about this for a view from one of your windows?

I have to say, they did know about pleasing the eye and that kind of pleasure has not diminished over the centuries.







All right, so you may think I am strange, after seeing this next series of pictures of a staircase. I just loved this staircase and if you are bored please feel free to skip.


Isn't that such an interesting corner?  That door just itches to be opened.

The steps are built of huge slabs of Ham stone.





They flow upwards in short runs, to stop one from getting tired, I assume. And look at the wide  surface of each step and the gentle rise.

One can imagine the elegant and stately progress. An easy glide in a long gown.
  Some interesting dimensions for those who have persevered.

The steps measure seven feet across.

They wind around a central pier that measures five feet by twelve feet, almost the size of a small room.

The walls are pierced by shell-headed niches at intervals. You can see one in the picture directly above this text.

Naturally, you want to see where these stairs go.  Naturally, I am saving that for another  time.

Until then.....

Monday, July 14, 2014

Regency Fashion ~ July 1814

Nothing like a party dress to put a girl in a good mood, don't you think?  This is one of the prettiest I've put up for a while.  I can definitely see one of my heroines wearing this out to dinner.

Oldenburgh Dinner Dress from the July 1814 LBA

French white satin slip, decorated round the bottom with a rich blond lace, and headed with a superb pearl trimming: a wreath of laurel leaves formed of pearls, in an angle in the front of the slip. 

The trimming is perfectly novel, and the effect of it is more elegant than can be conceived from the engraving which we have given. Over the slip is a short Russian robe of white crape, open front, edged round with a rich pearl trimming to correspond with the slip; the wreaths which ornament the robe is formed of pearls also, to correspond. 

The front of the dress is formed in a most novel and tasteful style, peculiar to the inventress, Mrs. Bell. The back continues full, and the waist very short. Crape long sleeve, trimmed with pearl bands at regular distances. 

Small lace cap, superbly decorated with pearls, and finished with tassels to correspond; a fancy flower is placed to the side. The form of this cap is extremely elegant, exquisitely tasteful, and becoming.

 A white satin Chapeau Bras, ornamented with a spread eagle on the crown, worked in chenille, is indispensable. 

The hair is worn up a-la-Grecque on the left side, where it is fastened in a full knot. Gloves and slippers of white kid. Plain ivory fan.

Until next time:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Montacute House Part IV

It's ages since we started the visit to this house, so having left you in the parlour I thought it might time to rescue you and moved on. 

We enter the drawing room, that originally had served as a bedroom. It retains none of its Regency features with regards to decoration, but some of the pictures are from our era.

The hunting scene is from 1790

 The lacquer cabinet is from around the late 17th early 18th Century so could easily decorate a Regency drawing room. as could this Louis XIV Boulle writing-table. on the right.

I particularly liked this mahogany card table from around 1750. I thought it elegant. The top leaf would fold when not in use.

Until next time:





Monday, July 7, 2014

Three Tips for the Aspiring Writer

I don't often give advice. But this past week I was at the optician's  I let fall that I was a published author, as one occasionally does. The recipient of this information, a very nice man, offered that he had wanted to write a book, then decided that he didn't have anything to say that he thought others might find of interest.

Really? Don't we all have stories to tell? Even if it is only what happened at work today. It wasn't the time or the place to offer advice, nor was I asked for it, but here is some of what I might have said had I got it together.

I must say that unlike other authors I have met over these past several years, I had no thought of becoming an author.  Yes I liked the challenge of crafting a clearly argued memo, or creating a well thought out report on some item of business but an author?  No.  I was an avid reader.

Until one fine day; I wrote a novel. What a surprise.

All right so it was a very bad novel, but I finished it.

Tip # 1

Finish the book.
You will hear authors say that a finished book can always be fixed. I would suggest that while it is likely true for some, not my first one.  It was an exercise of undeveloped muscles. A training run. Never to see the light of day. You know all those things they say never to do in a book. I did them all. I had no clue, apart from writing THE END.

And then I took classes

Tip # 2

Learn your craft. Books on the subject. Classes. And above all reading books by authors you admire.

It took five more novels under my belt before I won my first contract. It was like winning the lottery.
 Amazing.

Also quite painful.  All those: thanks but no thanks. Interestingly enough all but one of those next books are now in print.

Tip # 3

Persevere

Don't give up. Don't second guess yourself. Or put yourself out of the running. Finish, polish and submit.

We all know the classic examples, Stephen King, J K Rowling etc. etc and Ann Lethbridge. Oh well, I couldn't resist (not that I am putting myself in their category, of course).

And a publisher is not your only option. These days, self-publishing or inde-publishing provides a whole other avenue of getting you're work out there. More on that another time.





Fashion for June

PROMENADE OR WALKING DRESS from Ackermann's Repository June 1812
A ROUND robe of jaconot or fine cambric muslin, with long sleeve and high waist, with fan ruff of lace, ornamented up the front with borders of needle-work or lace, and finished at the feet with ball fringe. 
A Spanish hussar cloak of deep amber sarsnet, lined with sea green or white, and trimmed with broad thread lace, put on very full. 
Hair disposed in bands and waved curls; a large square veil of white lace, thrown over the head and shading the face. 
Half-boots amber-coloured kid, and gloves a pale primrose. 
Small French cap of lace, ornamented with a small cluster of spring flowers, on one side, are often seen in this style of costume, and have an appropriate and pretty effect beneath the long veil.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Regency Fashion May 1814



Bourbon Hat and Mantle.

Frock of the finest jacconet muslin, embroidered round the bottom in fleurs de lis; the waist of the dress is the same length as last month, but the bosom and shoulders are not quite so much exposed; the bosom is ornamented with embroidery to correspond with the train. The back is full, and a narrow white satin sash is tied in long bows and ends behind. Three very small white silk fleur de lis ornament the dress in front of the bosom. Plain long sleeve. 

The Bourbon mantle of azure crape worn with this dress is remarkably novel and elegant; it is ornamented behind with white satin, which forms the back in a manner perfectly original and singularly tasteful; the crape is cut at each side of the back in points, as is also the front; each point is ornamented with fleurs de lis and rich tasssels; the mantle is edged round with narrow byas white satin, and finished at the edge by a very light and elegant trimming, which we understand was invented expressly for it. A small byas white satin collar which falls over, is fastened in front with a pearl brooch, and edged with trimming to correspond. 

The Bourbon Hat, patronized we understand by the Duchess d’Angouleme, is truly elegant, and admirably adapted to the season; it is in fact, a most novel and tasteful emblem of royalty; its form, which is peculiar, has never before been introduced, and it is decorated in a style of novelty, simplicity, and elegance; nor is it its least recommendation that it is completely portable, as it may be packed even in a portmanteau in scarcely any space, without its being in the least degree injured. 

For the form of this attractive hat, we refer our readers to the Plate; the materials of which it is composed are azure satin, and fleurs de lis, with which it is ornamented in front, are composed of pearl; a light and beautiful trimming of floss silk intermixed with pearl, goes round the edge of the hat, and an ostrich feather is tastefully placed to the side. Parasol, gloves, slippers, and Bourbon ridicule to correspond.

A hat that travels well in a portmanteau is a must, I should assume. The Bourbon star was on the rise with Bonaparte signing the Treaty of Fontainebleau on April 13 1814 and agreed to his exile on Elba.

Naturally this momentous occasion warranted a complete outfit in honour of the Bourbons who were to be returned to their rightful throne.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Murder & Mayhem Regency Style

Romance writers beware, this is story extracted from the Belle Assemblee's Anecdotes of Illustrious Females for November 1813.

Mademoiselle De Scudery

This lady, who was a celebrated romance writer in the reign of Louis XIV (1638-1715) met with a curious accident when travelling with her brother, who also employed his talent in composing works of fiction and being at that time engaged in writing together a work when on their journey at a considerable distance from Paris they began to speak of the various incident they meant to bring forward in the course of the composition; the hero of with they had named the Prince Mazare.

"What shall we do with Prince Mazare?" sad Mademoiselle Scudery to her brother; "is it not better that he should die by poison, than b a poniard?"

"There is time enough yet," said her brother. "We can dispatch him when we please, but we have not yet done with him."

Two merchants in the next apartment overheard this curious conversation, which they concluded intimate a conspiracy for the murder of some Prince, whose real name these cruel people had disguised under that of Mazare.  Full of this discovery, they immediately told their suspicions to their landlady of the inn, who with the merchants resolved to acquaint the police officer with what had happened.  The officer immediately put the travellers under arrest, and escorted them, strongly guarded to Paris; and it was not without extremely difficulty and expense that they procured their liberation.

The moral of the story is -- be careful who is listening while you brainstorm your story

Until next time.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Regency Fashion April 1814

This Morning Dress pairs with the previous plate.

Also from Ackermann's Repository for April 1814

A petticoat and bodice of fine jaconot muslin, finished round the bottom in vandykes and small buttons.

 The Rochelle spencer is composed of the same material, appliqued with footing lace down the sleeve, and trimmed at the edge with a narrow but full border of muslin. Double fan frill of muslin round the neck, very full, continuing round the bottom of the waist, where it is gathered on a beading of needle-work.

Bourdeaux mob cap, composed of lace, with treble full borders, narrowed under the chin. A small flower placed backward, on the left side. Hair much divided in front, and in full waved curls on each side. Necklace of twisted gold and pearl, with pendent cross in the centre.

Spring Greek kid slippers; and gloves of the same.
 
The beautiful cloak given in our last Number, as well as both the dresses in this, are from Mrs. Gill, of Cork-street, to whose taste and invention this work as well as the world of fashion are under continued obligation.

Until next time

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Return of the Prodigal Gilvry

In stores now. This is the last book in the Gilvrys of Dunross Series. Each book can be read alone but you may not want to miss each brothers story. I am sad to be saying goodbye to them, I must say.
The e-book will be able on May 1 and is available for preorder.

BEHIND THE HIGHLANDER'S SCARS… Reeling from betrayal, the once devastatingly handsome Andrew Gilvry has returned to Scottish shores to fulfill a promise made to a dying man. The widowed Rowena MacDonald has been entrusted to his care, and Drew must do all he can to protect her…. LIES A DARK PASSION! But Drew's honor is about to be tested—because there's something in Rowena's dove-gray eyes that awakens a flame long extinguished. And on a perilous journey across the Highlands, with only this alluring woman for company, how long can he deny his desires?

Amazon.com
Chapters.ca
Amazon.ca

Don't forget to check my website to find out more. Until next time

Monday, April 14, 2014

Regency Fashion April 1814

The first of our fashion plates for this month is a Promenade Dress. It makes sense that we are starting to think about walking in Spring.

This is from Ackermann's for April and the description is as follows.

A fine cambric round robe, with high bodice and long sleeves, not so full as of late; embroidered stomacher front and high collar, trimmed with muslin or lace; a Tuscan border of needle-work at the feet.

 A Cossack mantle of pale ruby, or blossom-coloured velvet, lined with white sarsnet, and trimmed entirely round with a broad skin of light sable, ermine, seal, or the American squirrel; a short tippet of the same; the mantle confined at the throat with a rich correspondent silk cord and tassels, very long.

A mountain hat of velvet, the colour of the mantle, finished round the verge with a narrow Vandyke trimming: a small flower placed in the hair beneath, on the left side.

Half-boots the colour of the mantle; and gloves of primrose kid or pale tan.




I thought this quite pretty. And I was interested in the term, mountain hat and the use of American squirrel.


Until next time.....

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Montacute House III

Our next part of the visit is to the Parlour.  Oddly, I wrote this blog before, but the text and pictures disappeared. The great mystery of the age.  Onward.

Luckily for us this room while it has had several purposes, it has retained its chief features. In Georgian times it was used as a dining room.


The fireplace is something to behold, but of course one need to ignore the hot water radiator placed in the middle of it. It is made of Ham Hill stone. The upper register is decorative plaster over strapwork.





This gilt over walnut furniture dates from George I which along with the screen you will see later are embroidered in gros and petit point. As a stitcher I one can  imagine the hours of work that went into them.

The tapestry is a c 1731 Gobelins of the Hunter.


The wainscoting is thought to be original and certainly in the room in 1667.

This is a George II gilt sidetable with cabriole legs.

Lots more to see, next time