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Today’s winner of a print copy of The Vanishing Thief is Ashlea. Congrats, Ashlea. I’ll be contacting you by email.
I hope you all are enjoying November’s house party as much as I am! Just as I imagine it was years ago, our house party has featured interesting topics for discussion, novel entertainment and delightful guests. The only thing missing is a massive house numbering bedrooms in the double (and sometimes triple!) digits, with stocked lakes for fishing, lush park land for walking and hunting, and of course, a world class stable.
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with the English country house. The scale alone of most of the homes, not to mention the creativity, craftsmanship and stunning beauty to be found in them is both breathtaking and a little awe inspiring.
Which is why the topic that I’m discussing today is enough to break my English-country-house-loving heart: the houses that have been lost to demolition—most in the past century. Someone bring me a dainty embroidered handkerchief, for it’s enough to make a lady—even a duchess—want to weep!
Drakelow Hall. Its owner, Sir Robert Gresley, the 28th Baronet in succession to own it, was forced to sell due to economic vulnerability in 1932. Demolished in 1937. A power plant now stands on the site.
It is said that 1 in 6 country houses were destroyed in the twentieth century, somewhere between 1200 and 2000 of them, depending on who you ask. 38 houses were demolished in 1955 alone, according to an article in History Today.
Oh, the pain! Can you imagine these unique and glorious homes, having survived generations—centuries, even—only to fall prey to the wrecking ball as progress marched on?
There are many reasons, most of them monetary. As the world changed and the power shifted from the land owners to the middle classes, these grand homes became too expensive to maintain. Add in increased taxes and death duties, agricultural depression, and the selling off of land to tenant farmers (who would have no need of a grand old house on valuable farm land) and it’s hello demolition crew.
World Wars 1 and 2 took their own toll on the English country house, between the tragic loss of heirs in battle to conscription as hospitals and headquarters, you can see why so many have been lost in the last 75 years.
Waterhouse Hall was used as a hospital during both World Wars, as well as housed the Britannia Royal Naval College after the school was bombed in Dartmouth. Also used for officer cadet training until National Service was ended in 1958. Rather than repair and redecorate the house, the duke who owned it decided to demolish it in 1963 and build a more modern and manageable home. The new building’s plain white exterior was deemed “unsympathetic in appearance to the local countryside” and a new façade was put on the replacement home in 1991, but nothing would match this (at least in my eyes!).
Some houses were repurposed in an effort to save them. For example, Lathom Hall was sold off by the Earl of Lathom in 1925 to settle debts. It housed a boys’ school for a brief period, but by the 1950’s it had been destroyed and an (ugly!) office building put up in its place.
The Deepdene, a gorgeous Georgian home, fell out of favor with its owner, a duke who preferred one of his other houses. Eventually it fell into receivership and was sold in 1917, only to be turned into a hotel before finally being demolished by the British Rail service in 1967.
If I haven’t depressed you enough (and if you have time to kill), here’s a great resource listing details and links to 1905 lost country houses:
For a more in depth look at the reasons for the decline of the country house, there’s a great article here:
And, if you’re truly a glutton for punishment, here’s a book I own and recommend, though prepare for your heart to ache as you flip through photos of homes that are no longer:
Thankfully, the National Trust shifted much of its focus to preserving the country houses in the mid twentieth century when they realized that many of the owners were unable to maintain them, and thanks to those decisions and the hard work and commitment of many, hundreds of homes have been preserved for us to visit today. Hundreds more still survive in private hands. I’ve had the privilege of visiting a few while in England and have many more on my list to visit next time.
Have you visited any remarkable homes?
Even though house parties were often arranged to facilitate advantageous society matches, strict social codes limited the interactions a young lady could have with the gentlemen in attendance.
However, she did have a little help from her fan, which was much more than a mere accessory. An artful manipulation of her fan could do the talking for her without the young lady ever having to utter a word.
Fan were mostly used in royal courts until the Victorian era, when mass production brought the accessory to the masses. In royal courts, fans were kept closed. Opening them and waving them about was considered a sign of poor breeding…until the son of Paris’ premier fan maker arrived in England.
The concept of the fan as a tool of communication is believed to have been brought to London by Louis Duvelleroy, the illegitimate son of the founder of the House of Duvelleroy.
He opened a shop on Regent Street and it was an immediate success. Although there is no concrete evidence fans were used to send coded messages before this time, Duvelleroy played up this idea, and even invented a few secret fan gestures of his own, in order to sell his wares.
Fan makers said there was no passion the fan could not reflect and, held up close to a lady’s face, it seemed to convey its owner’s mood.
Duvelleroy even published a pamphlet called Language of the Fan, which highlighted the coded gestures women had supposedly used for centuries. These messages included sentiments such as “I love you”, “follow me” and “you are cruel,” all with a simple twist of the fan. The Maison Duvelleroy in London included instructions on how to flirt with each fan it sold.
According to Victorian Fashion Accessories by Ariel Beaujot, the following fan gesture instructions appeared in a pamphlet published in 1899:
Open and shut: You are cruel.
Open wide: Wait for me.
Closing: I wish to speak to you.
Shut: You have changed.
Handle to lips: Kiss me.
Dropping fan: We will be friends.
Carrying in right hand: I wish to be acquainted.
Twirling in right hand: I love another.
Twirling in left hand: I wish to get rid of you.
Resting on right cheek: Yes.
Resting on left cheek: No.
Drawing across forehead: We are watched.
Drawing across eyes: I am sorry.
Drawing across cheek: I love you.
For some, the fan was as much of a weapon for a practiced seductress as a sword was for a man. This view highlighted the fear of the power of female sensuality, rather than of the fan itself.
There were, of course, practical uses of the fan. It could hide a yawn if one was bored and the fan could shield one’s emotions, such as an unwanted embarrassed blush, from public view. One presumably wouldn’t have needed a pamphlet to decode these particular gestures.
There is no way to know just how much ladies and gentlemen really knew about fan gestures. The uninitiated might have easily found themselves betrothed or unknowingly arranging a scandalous liaison by an untutored movement of the fan, especially if the young lady happened to place her open fan over her heart, which meant “I love you.”
Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of Diana’s upcoming book, Compromising Willa.
Diana Quincy is the author of Seducing Charlotte, Tempting Bella and the forthcoming Compromising Willa (December 2013). While researching the language of the fan, she tried to employ the flirtatious techniques she learned about, but Mr. Quincy did not appear to notice.
Today the Duchesses are most pleased to welcome Merry Farmer to our November house party! Merry is an award-winning author of both historical romance, and what she likes to call “sci-fi for women.” She lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats and enough story ideas to keep her writing until she’s 132 years old. Her second novel, The Faithful Heart, was a 2012 RONE Award finalist, and her unpublished futuristic novel, A Man’s World, won first place in the Novel: Character category at the 2013 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. Some of her published historical works include The Loyal Heart, The Faithful Heart, and The Courageous Heart, Our Little Secrets, Fool for Love, and In Your Arms (coming November 2013.)
Merry is going to dazzle us with us an excerpt of her newest release, Fool for Love and then begs the question, “What would you do?” Thanks for joining us, Merry! The floor is yours!
Thanks for asking me to visit the Duchesses!
Now, imagine yourself alone, in trouble, no one to turn to, the people you thought you could trust betraying you. You stand on the verge of being cast out by society and sinking into dark, unknown depths.
Then, out of the blue, help comes in the form of a handsome semi-stranger. He offers you a solution to your problem, an answer to your prayers…with one hitch. You have to leave the world you’ve known and everyone in it behind you and start anew in a foreign land.
Would you do it?
This is the dilemma that faces Amelia Elphick in Fool for Love. The man she thought she loved has left her pregnant and alone. It’s a devastating fate for any woman, but in London of the 1890s, there would have been no recovery, even if she was a lady from a noble family. So when Eric Quinlan offers her a chance to move to Montana and start over, she takes it. And so the story begins.
But what if you came face-to-face with this kind of a crisis in your own life? It’s easy for us to read our favorite novels and watch the heroines we love get into a bind. We love to cheer them on and hope that some handsome hero will come along to get them out of trouble. And we might think that, of course, if we were in the same situation, we would take any offer of help that was given, particularly if it came from a tall, rugged cowboy with a lazy smile. We in the modern world like to think of ourselves as bold and daring. But the choice that was faced by Amelia, the choice that was faced by every woman and every family that picked up and moved out west to start over, is something beyond what we usually have to deal with these days.
Transportation and communication was advancing in the 1890s by leaps and bounds. It was possible to cross the ocean in two weeks or less and the continent of North America in a matter of days. The telephone had been invented and with a little time and effort you could talk to someone across great distances. But for most people, these epic journeys were a once or twice in a lifetime experience. Moving from London to Montana was an almost permanent prospect. For someone who had a past to run from, it might have been a godsend. For those who wished to hold on, it could have been a nightmare.
So what do you think you would do? Would you rather risk shame and ruin but stay near to everything you’ve known in your life? Would you take your chances and find a way to make life work at home? Or would you strike out, trading one culture for another in an attempt to clean the slate? Do you think you could hide the sins of your past if you did?
For your pleasure, here is an excerpt from Fool For Love:
The ballroom of Mr. Reginald Hamilton’s townhouse was awash in bright, swirling colors. The lamps were all lit, bathing the room in a warm, sparkling glow. Musicians played a lively waltz. The scents of candles, perfume, and bodies was rich as half of London society danced their cares away. But above it all, the room buzzed with the sound of lords and ladies spreading the latest gossip.
Amelia Elphick wedged her way through it all, heart pounding terror in her throat, one hand clutching the not-so subtle curve of her stomach. Her simple cotton skirt and blouse marked her as an interloper amongst the finery, even as she struggled to keep her head high.
“Who is that?” she caught one of the ladies murmuring.
“Dear Lord, that’s the Marquess of Horsham’s daughter!” a second woman gasped.
Amelia blanched, pushing on through the crush. It was too late to turn back.
“Look at the state of her!” the first woman said.
“I heard she’s the governess here now,” the second woman informed her with a haughty sniff.
“That’s not what I meant,” the first replied. “Look at the state of her.”
Amelia dropped her trembling hand from her belly. She was well aware that she was past the point where her sins could go unnoticed, but this was her last chance. Nick was at this ball.
She spotted him several yards away, deep in conversation with her employer, Mr. Hamilton. Nicholas Hayworth stood tall and handsome, the aristocratic lines of his face sharp in the lamplight. The rich blue of his eyes and black of his hair drew the attention of every woman in the room. She knew his face so well, knew every contour of his nimble body. Even now, with shame threatening like a thundercloud, she wanted to embrace that body, to melt into him and have him tell her everything would be all right.
A different body, as tall as Nick’s but broader and more muscular, bumped into Amelia as she surged toward Nick. The man knocked her off balance, sending her spilling over her feet and his. She flailed for balance and hit a glass out of one of the fine guest’s hands. The man caught her, but the sound of shattering glass and a lady shrieking broke through the hum of gossip. All eyes snapped to her.
“Watch it there, Miss Amelia.”
Amelia raised wary eyes to the man who had both tripped and caught her. Her heart sank. Of all the Hamilton’s guests, she had bumbled into Mr. Quinlan, the American that had been staying in the house for the last few months. He smiled at her with his artless brown eyes and boyish grin and set her back on her feet. The hush that had followed her spill burst into a full roar of whispers.
“You all right?” Mr. Quinlan asked again as he brushed imaginary dirty off of her skirt.
All Amelia could manage was a tight nod. “I’m fine, thank you.”
It was a lie. She swallowed and turned, wincing, to Nick. He had seen her stumble. Everyone had seen her stumble. Nick sneered at her, his head tilted with aloof grace. She had to do this now, before it was too late. All eyes bored into her as she rushed through the gap that had formed in the crowd.
“Nick,” she kept her voice low as she reached him, “Nick I must speak with you. It is a matter of utmost urgency.”
She reached out to him. Nick backed away. His glance darted through the crowd that now judged him as much as her.
“I have nothing to say to you, Miss Elphick,” he hissed.
“Please, Nick!” The threat of tears pinched Amelia’s voice. “You know … you know what it’s come to.” She smoothed her hand over the bump of her belly.
Nick sniffed and backed further away. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
To his side, Reginald Hamilton’s back stiffened. His eyes went round with shock and disgust. “Miss Elphick!” he exclaimed in a whisper. “What is the meaning of this?”
A flash of boldness stiffened Amelia’s back and her resolve. “Ask Mr. Hayworth,” she said. “It is his doing.”
Nick blanched, shrinking from the eavesdropping guests. “How dare you!”
“No, Nick, how dare you!” Her attempt at bravado withered as the horror of the situation spilled over her. “I have your child growing inside of me and you know it. You have known it all along, yet you turn your back on me?”
“Miss Elphick,” Mr. Hamilton was red with rage, “Have I have entrusted the care of my precious little girls to a harlot?”
Before Amelia could summon a defense, Nick muttered, “Like mother, like daughter.”
The pitch of whispered gossip around her spun with such fevered intensity that Amelia thought she might swoon. Ripples of shock spread through the room as London’s finest stood on tip-toes to see the tragic farce unfold.
Amelia met Nick’s eyes with what was left of her pride, tears running two hot trails down her cheeks. “I loved you. We were to be married … before.”
“Yes, well that clearly isn’t the case now.” The smirk that bit at Nick’s beautiful face was too much to bear. Every promise he had made shattered.
“My family is not what it once was.” Amelia made one last attempt to stave off ruin, sniffling and wiping her eyes. “But you and I have been friends for too long to break over such things. I thought … I thought you still cared for me.”
“I care for certain parts of you.” Nick’s gaze flickered down.
“Mr. Hayworth,” Mr. Hamilton warned, “my house has seen enough scandal for one night. Pray do not make it double.”
“Forgive me, sir.” Nick bowed low to his host. “It was not my wish to disrupt your magnificent gathering. That, I believe, was the lady’s intent.” His stare pierced Amelia with such malevolence that her heart withered.
“I have no wish to make our private emergencies public,” Amelia countered.
“Our emergencies?” Nick balked. “I think not.”
Amelia’s chest constricted in panic. “You must help me, Nick,” she implored in barely more than a whisper. “You must-”
“There is nothing I must do,” he clipped his reply. “You have ruined yourself, now face the consequences.”
Amelia gulped, tears stinging. A sob caught in her throat as the weight of her sins piled down on her. She stole a desperate glance around the room. Men and women who had smiled and welcomed her at her coming-out just three short years ago now turned up their noses at her as if she was diseased. It was all because she couldn’t control her instincts. Her cheeks burned scarlet in humiliation.
With one last deep breath she laid her life at Nick’s feet.
“So you have no intention of fulfilling your responsibility toward….” She couldn’t say it. She couldn’t even think that Nick’s child was inside of her. “After all we-”
“Enough, Miss Elphick!” Mr. Hamilton snapped. “Go to your room! We will discuss this in the morning.”
Amelia gasped, blinking rapidly. She had heard that tone of voice, seen the same sharp glower from Mr. Hamilton when one of his daughters had disobeyed. She took another step back, lowering her head. It was no use resisting. Her great gamble had been a failure. Her life was over.
She turned to flee, but where she had hoped to find a quick escape, she was met by a wall of faces. Women and men of refinement and breeding, their jewels as bright as the scorn in their eyes, stared at her as though she was a guttersnipe loose amongst her betters. The turned-up lips, the pointed glares at the bulge of her stomach, the whispering behind hands and fans, flayed Amelia like a scourge.
It took all of her effort to put one foot in front of the other. Her whole body shook as she walked through the crowded ballroom, the last vestige of what her life had been. The musicians had stopped playing, the dancers had stopped dancing. Her heart had stopped beating. She couldn’t lift her head or raise her eyes to meet any of them. With all the awkward humiliation of her fall, she shuffled toward the door.
“Of course you’d expect that from Sophia deLaurent’s daughter,” someone murmured to her left.
“She always did give herself airs,” another voice chased her, “but ones true nature always shows through the gloss, doesn’t it.”
“Such a pity,” a male voice chuckled to her right. “I wonder how much she’ll charge once she’s taken her place on the market.”
Amelia burst into a sob, clapping a hand to her mouth. It was over. She didn’t care who she crashed into or whose toes she stepped on as she fled the room at a run.
She passed Mr. Quinlan, who was red with fury, at the door. His fury was no more than she deserved. She was furious with herself for the folly that had cast her out of the life she’d tried to resurrect for herself. But there was no hiding from the truth of who one really was at heart.
So, let me ask again: What would you do? Risk shame and ruin but stay near to everything you’ve known in your life? Take your chances and find a way to make life work at home? Or would you strike out, trading one culture for another in an attempt to clean the slate? Do you think you could hide the sins of your past if you did?
To contact Merry and find out where to get her books, here are links to her various social media venues.
Ten Reasons Ian Maddox Can Never Be a Proper Hero
1. No title in sight. (Unless one counts being the king of guttersnipes)
2. Instead of a respectable education at Eton and Oxford, Ian was raised on streets, becoming a legendary criminal.
3. He has escaped from prison twice. One time, breaking back in for breakfast then leaving again.
4. He spent the last ten years of his life as a spy, doing terrible things in the name of the Crown. This has left him scarred and very disillusioned.
5. He has an obnoxious tendency to act like he knows everything. And, unfortunately, he is often correct.
6. He has no proper respect for authority. He steals brandy from his supervisor at the Foreign Office, insults dukes, and confronts beautiful princesses in their bedrooms.
7. He often has some irreverent comment when things should be serious. He once stopped to compliment the Prince Regent on how well he filled the royal throne.
8. He never stays where he is supposed to. Although rich, he doesn’t own a house and he never sleeps in the same place two nights in a row. He also is fond of disappearing in what he thinks is a mysterious manner.
9. He takes more than his fair share of biscuits at tea.
10. He has no intention of ever falling in love—especially not to a clever foreign princess who asks him to teach her how to be a thief.
Unfortunately, Ian Maddox is used to getting what he wants…
Sins of a Wicked Princess by Anna Randol releases October 29th! Pre-order your copy today!
In the scorching finale of Anna Randol’s wickedly tempting Trio series, the Wraith takes on a mission— and a princess— he’ll never forget . . .
Ian Maddox, aka the Wraith, is happy to leave his life as a spy— as soon as he discovers who’s been trying to kill his friends. All clues lead him to the bedroom of an exiled princess. Yet Princess Juliana isn’t the simpering royal he expects, and this irresistible beauty agrees to give him the information he seeks . . . for a price.
Princess Juliana has never cowered—not even as she fled her burning castle in the midst of a rebellion—so she won’t tremble before the darkly charismatic man who appears in her bedchamber and holds a knife to her throat. Instead, she bargains with the infamous spy to help her retrieve sensitive documents and restore her kingdom. But Juliana quickly finds that Ian is no humble servant, and she never imagines that lessons in thievery will lead to schooling in seduction.
So readers, what naughty traits do you like to see in a hero? Two lucky commenters will win a copy of Sins of a Wicked Princess. Must be 18 or older. Void where prohibited.
Duchess Anna Randol lives and writes in sunny Southern California. When she’s not plotting sexy storylines, she’s usually eating chocolate, having wild dance parties with her kids in the living room, or remodeling her house, one ill-planned project at a time. Sins of a Wicked Princess was chosen as the Pick of the Week by Publishers Weekly said: “The chess match among different political forces, family members, and lovers is as refreshingly complex as the characters’ personalities and histories, making Ian and Juliana’s triumph that much sweeter.”
In the early 19th century, a popular new color hit the scene: Scheele’s Green. It was a brilliant yellow-green that quickly became all the rage. Women donned garments dyed with this, rooms were covered in Scheele’s Green wall paper, confections were tinted with it as was the paint used in children’s toys.
But then everyone started to get sick. Green-dyed dinner parties resulted in the death of its attendees and children were getting very sick. As it turns out, Scheele’s Green contained copper arsenate and those fashion dandies sporting all the Scheele’s Green they could get their hands on were starting to slowly suffer from arsenic poisoning. This was alerted to the public once it was uncovered, ironically on paper printed with that same toxic green, and a new safer replacement hit the scene – Paris Green, also known as Emerald Green.
People trust the color to be safer than Scheele’s Green and once again fell into the production of wall papers, printed fabrics and confections. But Paris Green wasn’t named for the luxurious laws of Parisian parks. No, it was named for the rat poison used in Paris’ streets. Once more people became ill. The sickness didn’t happen as quickly as it had with Scheele’s since the toxicity levels weren’t as high, but eventually the paper lined walls got damp and created arsenic-laced mold spores that were breathed in by occupants. Ladies in green dresses were fainting and complaining of gastrointestinal problems. After all, skin damp from a night of dancing was the perfect missing ingredient to invite arsenic to seep into the body. Unfortunately, the arsenic poison was often misidentified as cholera symptoms and so Paris Green had a significantly longer run that did it’s more lethal cousin, Scheele’s Green.
Doubtless it was a sad tale not only for the men, women and children of the ton who paid the heavy price for fashion, as did the hard working factory employees exposed to it on a daily basis. The most famous victim of arsenic poisoning during the Regency period was none other than Napoleon Bonaparte who had requested his bedroom be painted green. Though it was not what ultimately killed him, the natural toxicity of Paris Green wall paper and the high humidity on St. Helena exposed Napoleon to arsenic mold spores on a regular basis. Samples of his hair contain very high levels of arsenic in his body.
Copper arsenate can actually still be found in use today, but you won’t see it dyed into the fabric of a maxi dress or coloring paints used for toys – you can find it in insecticide and rat poisoning.
So the next time you put your Regency heroine in a green dress, just keep in mind that you may have a historically accurate plot twist on your hands, especially if she ends up getting a little sweaty.
Thanks to everyone who provided amazing comments (and amusing stories of dares they had taken) on last week’s SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS giveaway. The winner is Sharlene Wegner. Congrats Sharlene!
Be sure to stop back by on Monday when Valerie Bowman blogs about her upcoming release, SECRETS OF A SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE.
And the winner of Rose Gordon’s giveaway of The Officer and the Southerner is … Tiffany Jorgensen! Tiffany, Rose will be in touch. Thank you everyone for stopping by and visiting with Guest Duchess Rose! Be sure and dash in on Monday when Her Grace, Duchess Jennifer McQuiston celebrates the release of Summer is For Lovers. This event is not to be missed! Have a lovely weekend.