I am thrilled to welcome author Jane Lark. Jane writes Historical Romance and New Adult Romance for Harper UK. After reading her debut, The Illicit Love of a Courtesan, I just *had* to ask her to join us here in the Duchesses’ sitting room.
Welcome Jane! Can you tell us a little bit about your latest release, The Scandalous Love of a Duke?
I’ve been busy sharing some of the excerpts from The Illicit Love of a Courtesan and The Passionate Love of a Rake on my blog, because the third book in the series is about John, the son of the heroine of The Illicit Love of a Courtesan, Ellen. In the first two books John is a child and then a youth. The Scandalous Love of a Duke is his story as an adult, fractured by his mother’s past, and his grandfather’s strength of will. You don’t have to read the earlier two books to enjoy his story, but you will get the depth of it far more if you have followed the series.
I can hear your passion for John’s story. I’m certain The Scandalous Love of a Duke will be a very engrossing read. Would you like to share your inspiration?
The Scandalous Love of a Duke is probably my best example of where human points of view and historical research and settings collide. I was writing the Scandalous Love of a Duke when Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton. Yes, it has been sitting on my hard drive awhile. But watching the two of them together in interviews, you could see how much he gains his strength from her, and it was very public in his youth, that by choice, he would have given up all official responsibility. But he had no choice in that. I’ve read memoirs of several periods where other princes have suffered the same tugs of war emotionally. So why not a Duke…
How romantic & compelling! You mentioned connections between your releases. What do you love most about the fictional world of these stories?
From a personal point of view, while you enjoy stepping into the Regency period in my books for a couple of days, writing it, I get to live there in my imagination for months! I guess that is another reason why I love memoirs and letters, because it makes you feel more like you are there… There are scenes in all the Marlow Intrigues books where I’ve taken settings from Harriette Wilson’s memoirs, and used her view to be able give my own. In the fourth full book, out later this year, I have started using scenes described by others who captured them in letters.
I loved reading the fascinating historical tidbits you’ve discovered in your research on your blog, including your adventures reading those infamous memoirs. What have you discovered in your research that surprised you most?
I guess the thing that I find most surprising, although it really shouldn’t be, is just how little people have changed. The world people lived in, in the 1800s, was different, and the social rules they lived by – but the human emotions, and the thought processes people had, when you read memoirs and letters of the time, people thought just as anyone does today. That’s why I prefer researching through letters and memoirs over text books, because you get the human insight on things that happened, and I love including that in my books.
Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp?
There really isn’t meant to be a message in my historical books, I know I tackle issues around abuse and messages may slip in subconsciously, but really the stories are developed as fairy tales. I just love writing good, strong, heroes who may be emotionally scarred and make errors, but ultimately at the core of them they are knights in shining armour. I love stories that take my characters on emotional journeys (and I do love including a lot of passion because physical relationships are integral to loving relationships, where physical relationships are possible).
But oddly in my contemporary books, which Harper Collins have begun publishing too, I do deliberately share messages. These stories are written about young people growing up. I had quite a hard time of growing up due to illness, if I can help others avoid some of the things I went through, I will. The theme of these will be about acceptance, accepting yourself, for who you are and accepting others for who they are too. The later historical books following the Marlow’s children will move more into this area too.
The first issue I explore in my contemporary novel, I Found You, is mental health, the message being that people who have conditions can lead a normal life. What is fab is that last week someone with the condition reviewed the story and gave it five stars. I am thrilled by that.
I return to my favorite books because they teach something about how not just to survive but to deepen and heal. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Anya Seton, Elizabeth Chadwick, Gaelen Foley, Mary Balogh, and in contemporary books my current favourite is Jay Crownover.
Before you go, let’s end things on a light note. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I guess maybe that I never stop… I am still working a day job, so my writing time is squeezed in all over the place, I will take my laptop in the car, if my husband is driving, even if we are only going to the supermarket, and I take editing to work and read it over lunch… Never stop… Lol
And your readers appreciate that dedication! Thank you so much for stopping by!
Leave a comment for Jane and you will be entered in a contest. One lucky commenter will win a $10.00 gift certificate to Amazon. And, as a special treat for our readers, here is an excerpt from The Scandalous Love of a Duke:
The mantle of a duke was lying heavy on his shoulders.
Richard had said several times it would feel normal after a while. John could not imagine it. Even though the house was straining at the seams with people today, he felt as isolated as he’d been in Egypt, and incapable of relaxing. That was not due to the responsibility though. It was just who he was – a buzzard among peacocks.
A glass of red wine balanced in one hand, the stem dangling between his fingers, he joined another group of guests, fulfilling his duty. He trusted no one here.
God, this was his life now, duty and falsehood. He missed Egypt, he missed adventure and peace and simplicity. He was already bored of people’s endless supplication. Everyone seemed to want something from him. They sought to attach themselves to either his wealth or his power.
His grandfather had warned of this…
… His gaze swept about the room then stopped.
There was a young woman standing amidst his family, like a blonde beacon of light amongst his dark-haired black-clad cousins. She was an angel in her pale mauve dress.
Her figure was a sublime balance of curves and narrow waist. Her spine had a beautiful arch as it curved into the point where her dress opened onto a full skirt.
Wheat-blonde hair escaped a dull dove-grey bonnet, caressing her neck and drawing his eyes to a place he’d like to kiss…
So what is the Georgian Period, anyway?
The period refers to four successive kings, all named George. These monarchs held the English throne from 1714-1837* and were also Electors (princes) of the Hanover region of Germany. Georgian England is one of my favorite settings for Historical Romance because Georgians loosely defined morality, fashion was flamboyant and political intrigue abounded.
Hold on a minute! How did England come to be ruled by a succession of “German Georges”?
The answer is a snoozy slide through Stuart history which you can avoid by skipping this question and the next. This history, however, drove the age’s spirit.
In 1649, Charles I, who believed in the divine right of kings, lost his fight against the armies of the English and Scottish Parliaments and was beheaded. Note that Charles’ sister Elizabeth Stuart married Frederick V, Count Palatine of the Rhine …but for now, back to England. Following a period known as the Interregnum, Parliament restored Charles I’s son, Charles II to the throne. Charles II died without issue, and his brother James II was crowned. James had two daughters, Mary and Anne, by his first wife, English protestant Anne Hyde. After she died, James II married the devoutly Catholic Mary of Modena. When this union produced a male heir (James, later known as The Pretender), Parliament feared a loss of power and a return to Catholicism. With the help Dutch armies loyal to Mary’s husband William III of Orange, Parliament forced James II to flee to France. Parliament jointly crowned William III and Mary II, but they died without issue and then the crown went to Mary’s sister Anne. None of Anne’s 17 pregnancies resulted in a surviving heir, so Parliament sorted through the remnants of the Stuart family tree in search of another protestant. The 1701 Act of Settlement declared Sophia of Hanover, daughter of Elizabeth Stuart (Remember her—sister to Charles I?) heir presumptive. Sophia died a few weeks before Anne, and her son, German-speaking George became both heir presumptive to the English throne and, through his father’s line, ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover).
Phew, that was a bit tangled. What happened to James and his heirs?
Well, James and his heirs did not go gently. Their supporters, called Jacobites (from the Latin “James”) believed that Parliament didn’t have the right to interfere with the line of succession. Several wars were fought, the two largest in 1715 (on behalf of James, The Pretender) and 1744 (on behalf The Pretender’s son, Charles, known as Bonny Prince Charlie). The Battle of Culloden (April 16, 1746) ended the final uprising, resulting in abolition of Scotland’s Clan system.
Interesting, but what I’m really interested in is how this all applies to Georgian **Romance**!
Ah yes, of course! Well, the deposition of James II (known as the Glorious Revolution) resulted in limited monarchy and an increase in Parliament’s authority. During George I’s reign, the Whig party began a domination of government that lasted until George III. Their power is the heartbeat of Georgian Romance. Constant political maneuvering among the aristocracy meant social clout=political power. Answering the correct invitations, displaying the informed slant of your education & belief system and, of course, making a marriage of alliance all became essential. Love could (and did) put everything at risk. A love match was such a threat, Parliament passed “An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage” in 1753, necessitating those infamous Grenta Green runs for lovers who could or would not wait for the banns to be read. If that wasn’t enough, rapid population expansion, industrialization and a dramatic increase in urban area added to the tension of the time.
Oh, sounds like that could lead to some interesting plots. What kinds of things did the Georgians read?
In 1695 the Licensing Act lapsed, ending pre-publication censorship. Pamphlet, newspaper and book publishing proliferated. ‘How to’ books provided instruction on anything, even (for our poor heartsick heros) how to write a love letter. Prints from engravings allowed even those who could not read to get involved in the hot topics of the day. For a quick (and often dark) education on daily life in early Georgian England, google William Hogarth, and you’ll find a visual chronicle of life in Georgian England that includes everything from political satire to warnings about the ruinous effects of Gin, wayward husbands and all manner of scandal.
But onto the most important reading material of all–the novel. The 18th century was the height of the enlightenment, an intellectual movement emphasizing reason and individualism. This sea-change in thought informed not only science but architecture (Robert Adam), landscaping (Lancelot “Capability” Brown) and even a “new” form of literature known as the novel. One school of Enlightenment thought known as Sensibility suggested knowledge grew from sensation, and those with more highly developed senses lived with greater truth & understanding. Although there was a backlash (think Marianne in Sense and Sensibility), many early English novels featured dramatic stories of heroines-in-peril that would certainly have made a Georgian heroine’s heart race. If you are interested, Samuel Richardson’s novels Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740) and Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) are two novels of Sensibility.
How about the important stuff, like what they wore? Were the men dark and dashing?
Possibly, but the dark clothes associated with menswear didn’t come into vogue until the influence of Beau Brummell in the 1790s; the mid-Georgian hero was more likely to be colorfully dressed, with lace and stitching to show his wealth and status. Among the most outrageous dressers were the Regency Dandy’s forefathers, a ‘set’ known as the Macaroni, called so because the young men who expressed this over-the-top fashion had traveled to Italy on their Grand Tours. They wore curls and sported quizzing glasses and were always dressed a la mode, or as they would put it, very macaroni. Remember Yankee Doodle Dandy? The joke was that just because he stuck a feather in his hat, he thought he was fashionable and could call himself macaroni (poor deluded fellow). The hair powder tax didn’t come around until 1795, so both sexes powdered their hair or wore powdered wigs. Later in the century, hair design went to new heights, literally. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire wore her hair so high she had to travel sitting on the floor of her carriage. Also, if a lady wished to dazzle, panniers were a must. These hoops extended the width of a woman’s skirts, sometimes by several feet, while leaving the front and back flat. While a woman may not have had direct political influence, those hoops gave her a commanding presence!
Enough! This is getting to be too much information.
I hope I haven’t worn you out, dear Dashing Duchess readers, but I’ve grown to love exciting time in history (and I didn’t get to Henry Fielding and his Bow Street Runners, Dr. Samuel Johnson and his dictionary, or the Duke of Bridgewater and his Canals. Nor did I touch on the more important developments toward the end of the era like the American Revolution and the French Revolution). Just remember, in Georgian romance the dukes are deliciously ducal, the earls often enlightened and the learned ladies are certainly lovely.
If you have a favorite element found in Georgian Romance, please comment & share. If you are new to the era and are intrigued, my favorite Georgian romances include anything by the brilliant Elizabeth Hoyt, The Malloren Series, by Jo Beverley (also be sure to have a look at her awesome Georgian timeline), and The Desperate Duchesses series, by Eloisa James. Also, I recently read & enthusiastically recommend debut author Alison DeLaine’s A Gentleman ’til Midnight.
*this post focuses on the early-to-mid Georgian period up to George III’s first bout with madness in 1788, which eventually led to the Regency in 1811.
I hope those of you who celebrate are returning after the happiest of Christmases! I started this holiday season by watching one of my favorite movies…Love Actually and I have been thinking about the final phrase of the movie, ‘love actually is all around.” It’s true. For instance, when visiting the Cathedral of St. Peter & St. George in Bamburg, Germany I did not expect to be inspired by romance. But, after gazing at a striking double sarcophagus with the images of Cunigunde of Luxembourg (sometimes spelled Kunigunde) and her husband Henry II (also spelled Heinrich) carved earth-colored marble, I knew I had to know more.
Henry and Cunigunde ruled the Holy Roman Empire just after the turn of the first millennium and are one of the only historical couples to be sainted. Cunigunde was her husband’s closest political adviser, was crowned Empress in her own right and was the first woman to take an active role in imperial councils. Together Henry and Cunigunde founded monasteries and abbeys as well as the Diocese of Bamburg and the Cathedral itself. On her husband’s death, she ruled as regent until a new Emperor was appointed. Although the dry facts of their story are extraordinary, the real intrigue is in the many legends about the couple.
According to one Legend, they took a daily evening stroll in the courtyard adjacent to the Cathedral (awww). The cathedral contained a bell dedicated Cunigunde and one dedicated to Henry. When Henry discovered his bell had a better tone than hers, he took off his golden ring and threw it onto the bell to deaden the sound. (Gallant, no?) A darker legend says when enemies within the court accused her of infidelity, she voluntarily walked barefoot over hot plowshares and was unharmed…the ‘miracle’ proved her innocence. (Courage! Fortitude! Fidelity!) Although some have speculated that their marriage remained unconsummated (rather unromantic, if you ask me), several historians cast doubt on the claim.In a 1757 English translation of Travels through Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, Switzerland, Italy and Lorrain, Johann George Keyssler reports that the emperor referred to Cunigunde in his letters as “Empress, my beloved wife” and “we who are two in one flesh.” (sigh) Keyssler also says their devotion to one another was so renown, that even in the 17th century, visitors to Bamburg believed “if a man puts on the emperor’s robes he may promise himself success among the ladies and if a woman puts on that of the empress, she may expect the love of the other sex.” How romantic is a love so deep that after 800 years, people still wished don the couple’s robes in the hope that such a love will touch them in their own lives?
And so, at the foot of a tomb, I was inspired by love. I hope, dear readers, you find the story of Henry and Cunigunde interesting as well and, if you’ve been touched by a story of love in an unexpected place, please, do tell!
“I have discovered a scent that reminds me of a spring morning in Italy, of mountain narcissus, orange blossom just after the rain. It gives me great refreshment, strengthens my senses and imagination…”
In 1708 Johann Maria Farina chose these words to describe his newly-created scent to his brother. In the following decades Farina used both his exceptional marketing savvy and his commitment to excellence to ensure his blend would become the most famous scent of the 18th century. The scent, named Eau De Cologne for his adopted city-on-the-Rhine, made him one of the most successful international businessmen of the Rocco period, is still in production 300 years later and has inspired countless imitations, including the famed no. 4711.
Johann Marina Farina was born in 1685 in Santa Maria Maggiore, Italy. For centuries his Piedmont ancestors had been aromatiseurs—specialists in distilling pure alcohol from wine, which is used as the base of perfume. Farina showed an early talent for identifying and blending scents but the family decided he was to be apprenticed to his uncle, a merchant of fine goods in the Netherlands. While working with his uncle, he not only traveled to the Netherlands, but also traveled to Genoa, London, Rome, Versailles, Rotterdam, Madrid, Vienna and Constantinople. All the while he collected scents and refined his sense of smell. Later in life, he was said to have a ‘nose’ so well-developed he could identify a person’s country, region and occupation with his eyes closed.
In 1714, he settled with his brother in the city of Cologne. Cologne was a free imperial city and the Rhine was an important trade route navigable year-round—perfect for an ambitious entrepreneur. There, he took up the only occupation allowed foreigners: the sale of luxury or “French” goods. But he didn’t forget his primary passion and with every sale he gave away cloth doused with his signature scent.
Regular bathing at the time was uncommon and to cover the stench the wealthy carried balls doused in heavy essences such as deer musk or essential plant oils. Farina wanted to offer a better product…a light scent that would transport the wearer to a sunny, warm clime. According to the Farina museum, no one before this time had attempted to create a scent so complex, so light and so consistent. Although since 1709 only 30 people have ever known the secret recipe, Eau de Cologne contains notes of Bergamot and grapefruit among others. Without synthetics, scents could vary from harvest to harvest, so to achieve consistency, Farina insisted the cuvees and monoessences be reconstituted with each vintage to match his reference sample. He also demanded quality. In one letter, he chastised a supplier of bergamot for buying from a farmer who, from scent alone, Farina knew was not properly watering his trees. Another sign of his obsessive commitment to quality: Eau de Cologne had to mature for two years in barrels made of wood from Lebanon cedars before being bottled for sale.
His passion paid. Eau De Cologne enjoyed wide popularity among the noble in both the 18th and 19th centuries. Of the scent, Voltaire said in 1742, “At last a fragrance that inspires the spirit.” And Goethe is said to have kept a bowl of Eau De Cologne-scented cloth on his writing desk for inspiration. Eau du Cologne became so valued, during Emperor Charles VI’s long struggle to ensure his daughter Maria Therese (Mother of Marie Antoinette) would be crowned Empress on this death, he sent each head of 36 noble houses a flacon of Eau Du Cologne. By 1736, the cost of two flacons (220 milliliters) equaled the monthly salary of a church official or ½ a civil servant’s annual salary. Napoleon is said to have had boots made to fit a flacon, so he could ‘refresh’ at any time. In addition to those mentioned, the books of the family Farina include the names of Madame DuBarry, Honore de Balzac, Alexander I of Russia, Maria Theresa of Austria, King Louis XV of France, Mozart and Queen Victoria. So if you use Eau De Cologne while attending our house party, your excellent choice will place you among the most refined (& sometimes notorious) of company.
Note: Thank you to The Farina Fragrance Museum for their helpful assistance as well as permission to use their photo. If Dashing Duchess readers have the chance to visit Cologne (or Koln in German), I highly recommend a visit to the museum, housed in the same location Charles VI’s courtiers visited to purchase those 36 flacons:
Johann Maria Farina gegenüber dem Jülichs-Platz, or in English, John Maria Farina opposite Jülich’s Square.
Greetings, dear readers! Today I’d like to welcome the fabulous Ella Quinn to The Dashing Duchesses. But first, a little introduction. Ella’s a bit of a world-traveler; she’d lived in the South Pacific, Central America, North Africa, England and Europe and she and her husband now live St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. She is a member of the Romance Writers of American, The Beau Monde and Hearts Through History and is represented by Elizabeth Pomada of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency. Ella has been very busy working on her debut series The Marriage Game for Kensington Books. The first book, The Seduction of Lady Phoebe is available now, with six more books to follow.
Welcome, Ella! Could you tell us a little about The Seduction of Lady Phoebe? Lady Phoebe and Lord Marcus met just before Marcus was to leave for the West Indies, where his father was banishing him. They fell in love, but they were both very young, and Marcus behaved badly, destroying Phoebe’s confidence in herself when it came to men. Eight years later, he’s back and still wants to marry her, but first he must overcome her distrust of herself and him.
Ah, I do love a reunion story! And, how fascinating to include a hero who has experienced the West Indies. We duchesses love our historicals. What do you find intriguing about history? That what we know isn’t necessarily accurate. I love Jane Austen, but she lived in one strata of a much broader society. Even her views of the ton were not the be all and end all. For example, Mary Wollstonecraft’s views on the emancipation of women were so popular, that a couple of other writers felt the need to try to rein in women. To complicate matters, during the Victorian era men in particular, destroyed many letters and other records of their Regency parents and Georgian grandparents.
Can you imagine all the interesting information that’s been lost to time? In your research, have you come across any particular fact that stands out as interesting, bizarre or thrilling? I don’t know about bizarre, but over fifty percent of children were born before 9 months of their parents’ marriage. Some would like you to think that it must have been the lower classes, but since birth records were required to be kept until much later, the only people really keeping records were the upper and middle classes.
More Regency and Georgians behaving scandalously! Any links that you saved upon researching this novel? Yes, I have a wonderful link on seasonal foods that were eaten during the Regency I use it a lot. Also, I discovered the online etymology dictionary.
I love the online etymology dictionary, and Teresa Thomas Bohannon’s in-season food reference is an instant favorite. Let’s talk hands-on research (gloved hands, of course). Have you ever gone on a research trip for your books? I lived in England and Europe, so I was pretty knowledgeable about the generalities. Still some things have changed, so I had to go see the old road going through the Fernpass for Desiring Lady Caro, book # 4 of The Marriage Game. Also for book #5, Pursuing Miss Eugénie Villaret, I had to go Tortola and find a destroyed church.
A destroyed church in Tortola sounds like an atmospheric setting. In your travels, what did you love, hate or gasp over? I loved that the old road was still there. In Tortola, I hated that the church had been allowed to be destroyed.
Have you ever considered writing something other than a historical? No, I don’t think I could write contemporaries. I don’t even watch TV. I do have an idea for a time-travel, but again, the Regency would be involved.
Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp? That family is important. Love doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Most of us have family or friends who influence us, or even actively interfere for good or bad.
Why don’t we close with some revelations about the writing and publishing process? What was one of the most surprising things you learned? I was a little surprised by the process of publication. It wasn’t until after I had an agent that I discovered most agents only take between 1-5 new clients a year.
Thank you so much for joining us on the Dashing Duchesses! It has been a pleasure. Before you go, would you share a teaser with our readers?
“Have you much experience in this sphere?” Her knight moved a bit closer.
“I believe I stay well informed as to the issues. When I visit my aunt and uncle I attend all the political dinners and other entertainments.” When she glided nearer to him, a hurry of spirits coursed through her.
He narrowed his eyes curiously. “What made you seek out the library?”
“I was avoiding someone.” Phoebe found herself even closer to him and wanting to be in his arms again. His deep, soft voice was like a warm wave, drawing her in. Did male sirens exist?
“I see.” He closed the distance a little more.
She searched his face. Barely a foot separated them. If only he would reach out to her. “You were in Littleton for the fight last week.”
“Yes, I attended with a friend,” he replied, his tone, intimate.
Phoebe tried to steady her thudding heart. “I remember your voice. You rescued me from the young man pounding on my chamber door and spent the night guarding me.”
She drew a ragged breath. Why was it so hard to breathe? “You didn’t want to be thanked. You have now saved me twice from importuning young men.”
His gaze seemed to focus even more intently on her. “Yes, I took him from your door. I thought, at the time, I didn’t need to be thanked.” His lips curled into a provocative smile. “I may have been mistaken. You may thank me, if you wish.”
Lovely! Thank you, Ella. Now, dear readers, if it pleases you, leave a comment for Ella and she will graciously bestow an e-copy of The Seduction of Lady Phoebe on one lucky winner.
Please welcome Regency Author Bronwen Evans! She’s here to share some background on the Regency Wager:
I love a good Regency romance, mainly because I love the dashing rakes of the early 1800’s. Obviously having read a lot of Regency romances over the years, I became intrigued by the gentlemen clubs such as Whites and Brookes and what went on in these male bastions.
I’m sure all manner of revelry and drinking and more salacious activities occurred. But one I find mentioned more frequently in Regency romances is ‘the wager’.
I’ve read many stories where wagers were laid at Whites in the infamous betting book. I did some research and found some ridiculous and downright cruel wagers, placed by men who were obviously bored, were sadists and had far too much money. Read the rest of this entry »
The Duchesses are thrilled to receive Regency Author Bronwen Evans for what promises to be a delightful morning call.
Last year, Bronwen made her debut with Invitation to Ruin, an eloquently and expressively written book I adored. I wasn’t the only one. Invitation to Ruin was given a coveted 4.5 star review by Romantic Times Book Reviews and nominated for Best First Historical by RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards.
Duchess Wendy: Welcome, Duchess Bronwen. Tell us a little about your latest releases.
Duchess Bronwyn Evans: Thanks for having me here today, ladies. I’ve had a few releases in the last two months. May 2012 saw the release of my second Regency romance with Kensington Brava, Invitation to Scandal.
Invitation to Scandal is the story about love and honor and what happens when a man has to choose between the two. Rufus Knight, Viscount Strathmore’s late father was accused of treason and so Rufus lives his life focused on atoning for his father’s sin, while trying to restore his family’s honor. He hides his true self from the world in order to gain approval for his mother and sister. He sees the world in black and white. So, when he finally falls in love, what happens when he’s forced to choose between the woman he loves and clearing his father’s name?