Our most gracious houseguest today is the lovely Rowan Keats. She’s here to celebrate the release of the first book in her Claimed by the Highlander series, TAMING A WILD SCOT. Her wonderful debut garnered a 4 1/2 star review from RT Book Reviews, which also named her as “a rising star of medieval romance”.
When not writing, Rowan can frequently be found in a dark movie theater indulging in a large bag of popcorn, or watching the sunrise with a mug of steaming coffee wrapped in her hands. She lives in Central Canada with a goofy black lab, a very talkative cat, and a daughter whose own creative talents awe and inspire her every day. Please join me in offering Lady Rowan a warm Duchess welcome to our House Party.
I’m utterly delighted to join your House Party, Your Graces.
Circulating amidst such polite company, I thought it apropos to discuss a topic near and dear to my heart—how to tame that overbold creature known as the Wild Scot.
Wild Scots make fascinating romance heroes. They liven up any party to which they are invited, regaling guests with shocking tales of defending their hearths at all cost, raiding cattle, and stealing brides. And spying them in their Highland garb… Dear me. Someone hand me a fan.
There are several important steps in taming a Wild Scot, all of which require fortitude. First, you must ensure the Wild Scot you’ve chosen is indeed wild. Many Scots appear wild, but are in fact committed to another woman. Next you must attract his attention in a bold manner, often with bright colors. Wild Scots are fierce hunters, so under no circumstance should you stalk or corner a one. Once you’ve gained his attention, you must draw him closer. The simplest solution to this problem is food. If you can make a fine bannock or stuff a champion haggis, you will have an easy time of enticing him forward. You must then earn his trust in a slow, steady fashion—by being as steadfast and loyal to him as he is to you.
The last stage of taming a Wild Scot is the hardest. Before you can be certain your brawny Highland warrior is truly yours, you must let him go. Set him free, then wait to see if he walks away. For example:
She tilted her head and studied him. A droplet of rain plopped from her makeshift hood to her nose. “Would you be traveling faster if you were alone?”
He glanced away. “Aye.”
“Then leave me behind.”
A frown stormed onto his brow. “Don’t be foolish.”
“Why is that foolish?”
“I can’t leave you out here in the wilds alone.”
She held his gaze steady. “You did it once before.”
Twin flags of color rose to his cheeks. “That was different. I barely knew you then.”
“The only thing different is that this time we are ahorse.”
“Nay,” he said, glaring at her. “The last time I also had my brother to care for.”
Ana blinked. “MacCurran is your brother?”
Niall’s face tightened, and he prodded his horse forward. “Aye.”
Well, that explained a lot . . . and yet nothing. It made sense of his willingness to risk his life breaking the man out of Lochurkie, but added to the confusion over his lineage. Hadn’t he implied his mother was a whore?
“I’m perfectly able to fend for myself. You need not trouble yourself with my welfare.”
He halted again, but did not turn around. “Is that what you think this is? A mere execution of chivalric duty?”
Ana frowned. “Isn’t it?”
“Nay.” He slid off his horse and strode over to Ana. Grabbing her by the waist with a pair of big, warm hands, he tugged her to the ground. “Let me make myself clear, as it appears that I have thus far failed. I do not risk life and limb to save women I don’t give a damn about. I love you, you bloody frustrating woman.”
If he doesn’t leave, but rather insists on remaining by your side for eternity, then you’ve succeeded. You’ve tamed a Wild Scot.
Wild Scots are worth the investment of your reading time; they truly make awesome romance heroes. Aye, they are fierce and shocking and the very opposite of a proper Regency lord, but they will also risk life and limb to defend you, find you whenever you are lost, and cradle you against their brawny, broad chests when life gets a wee bit overwhelming.
So, what’s your favorite type of wild romance hero? The blatantly wild one who marches to his own drum or the urbane one with his wild side tightly held in check?
Here is more information on where to find Rowan and her books:
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1imC8x0
Today, the Duchesses welcome Amazon Bestselling Author Beverley Kendall to our house party. Please join us in the Grand Salon as we settle in for a chat.
Beverley Kendall: Twice the Temptation follows on the heels of An Heir of Deception, which is the final book in the connecting series, The Elusive Lords.
This book is Lucas and Catherine’s love story. We meet them first—as a potential couple in An Heir of Deception. A year later, Lucas returns to court Catherine and make her his wife. Everything is okay (a few bumps along the way) and then Catherine discovers that Lucas proposed marriage to her identical twin sister when the met over five years ago. From that point on, things go downhill pretty fast—as you can imagine.
Leigh: This is your sixth full length novel. You’ve also written a novella. In your experience, what was the difference between writing a novella and a full-length novel? Did your writing change to fit the medium?
Beverley: LOL. I wish that were true for me. My books just tend to always run longer than I anticipated. For me, the only difference is the word count. I still plot and write the same. The stories themselves—as in character ARC—is a lot shorter in the novella, but other than that I put the same amount of work into both.
Leigh: Ah, if only something were easy. Is there anything you find particularly challenging while crafting a story?
Beverley: Oh my goodness. What don’t I find challenging. Tons. Not repeating myself. Remembering all my characters names. Trying to keep their behavior consistent and in keeping with their character. Not repeating myself. You see how hard it is? Fixing the first draft so the second draft makes a semblance of sense.
Leigh: You’ve written both historical and contemporary novels. What do you find intriguing about history? What brings you back to the genre?
Beverley: Hmmm. I guess I romanticize certain periods of history. Which is really funny when you know how very little power women held during those periods. Women didn’t have the right to vote, divorce their husbands, keep their children. Men were able to literally sell their wives when they didn’t want them. It’s so unsavory you’d think historicals wouldn’t have the lure they do with women but it’s the dress, the manners, the lifestyle of the privileged that holds sway. We tend to romanticize that because the reality was not palatable.
Leigh: Very true, Bev. One has to wonder just what a woman’s real experience was. Any first-person accounts from the Regency era you particularly enjoyed reading?
Beverley: If you say Victorian, I’ll say yes. J I actually read Adventures of an American Girl in Victorian London by Elizabeth L. Banks. That was a great read and good for research. It’s the true story of an American journalist who travels to London and passes herself off as both a rich American and a servant. Very interesting the treatment she receives in those differing roles.
Leigh: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your books? About yourself, history, art, or the process of publication?
Beverley: It’s much much harder than it looks. Don’t let anyone tell you writing and publishing a book is easy. It’s not. J
Leigh: As webmistress of The Season blog you get to read so many advanced copies of books. I am always jealous! Who are some of your favorite authors?
Beverley: Samantha Young, Tammara Webber, Julie Anne Long, Sophie Jordan (loving her NA stuff so much), Sherry Thomas (if not just for her prose alone), Emma Chase (if she keeps up what she did with Entangled), Sarah Mayberry.
Lots of great book here. Now for my favorite part! Please share a teaser (100-250 words) with our readers from your novel.
Beverley is giving away one paperback copy of TWICE THE TEMPTATION to a lucky commenter (USA only please).
While I love British history, I must admit that I am partial to American history, especially the presidential variety. In fourth grade I memorized the Gettysburg Address and recited it for my entire elementary school. (No memory of whether I put the school to sleep or not, but *I* was riveted.) So when I was thinking about my post for this month, I knew I had to write about the house party to end all house parties. Or, in simpler terms, “The First Official Kegger at the White House.”
Andrew Jackson was a rapscallion. A slight, hot-headed man with a shock of red hair (think Heat Miser), Jackson was a dueler and a slave owner, did a serious injustice to the Native Americans, and destroyed the National Bank. He was the first president targeted by an assassin—and ended up beating said assassin off with his cane.
It’s widely believed Jackson married his wife before her divorce was final—a little tidbit his opponents enthusiastically used against him in his first presidential campaign. Not one to let mere facts get in his way, Jackson challenged one of his attackers to a duel and won. In fact, Jackson is the only president to have killed a man in a duel.
Despite all of this (or because of it?), the American people loved Jackson. With his humble beginnings and self-made image, he was known as “the people’s president.” He joined the military at the ripe old age of 13 and served in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. He was our only POW president, and Americans thoroughly enjoyed the way he crushed the British at the Battle of New Orleans.
So when Jackson won the 1828 election in a landslide, he decided to return a little of the people’s love. The inauguration ceremony, which for the first six presidents had always been held indoor at an invite-only affair, took place outside on the East Front of the Capitol Building. And it was a mob scene, with most accounts stating that more than 10,000 people were on hand to see their man sworn in.
It was customary, thanks to Thomas Jefferson, for there to be a genteel, post-ceremony reception for supporters at the President’s House. But no one gave the memo on manners to the masses at Jackson’s inauguration. Shortly after Jackson was sworn in, more than 20,000 folks began pouring into the President’s House, where they stood on furniture, broke dishes and glasses, pulled down draperies, and spilled food and drink everywhere. It’s said the carpets smelled of cheese months after the event. One account:
Sen. James Hamilton Jr. wrote that “the mob broke in, in thousands — Spirits black yellow and grey, poured in in one uninterrupted stream of mud and filth among the throngs many fit subjects for the penitentiary.”
Jackson himself supposedly had to sneak out a side window to escape to a nearby hotel until the next day. In an effort to get the crowd to disperse, servants eventually brought washtubs of punch and whiskey out to the White House lawn. The building was left in shambles, with many valuables either smashed or stolen.
But as eyewitness Margaret Bayard Smith wrote at the time:
“This concourse had not been anticipated and therefore not provided against. Ladies and gentlemen, only had been expected at this Levee, not the people en masse. But it was the People’s day, and the People’s President and the People would rule.”
So how does this compare to your wildest party?
“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.
Today at our house party, we’re going to eavesdrop on a family discussion in the parlor. The basis of this family drama is the book Bluestockings, The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education, by Jane Robinson.
In the room we find Lord Luvaduc, Papa, pacing over the Persian carpet. Lady Luvaduc, Mama, is sitting on a cream colored sofa, the mauve pillows pushed out of her way as she embroiders. Miss Daisy, their nineteen-year-old daughter has finished her first season without accepting a proposal and now has told her parents she wants to go to Newnham College for Women in Cambridge.
“I don’t see why you feel a need to go to Cambridge. I think Lord Pintail would ask for your hand if you’d just give the chap a little encouragement.”
Daisy rose from her chair and said, “Papa, he’s so dull. I want to go to Newnham College and take a first in History. There’ll be plenty of time to spend the rest of my life with Lord Pintail and raise little Pintails.”
“If he’ll have you. You’ll come back rude and unfeminine and experts claim you’ll lose your natural ability to produce children by over-taxing your brain. Imagine. Not producing an heir.”
“Papa!” Daisy was scandalized and furious.
Mama said, “We’ll have the doctor inoculate her before she leaves, Harold.”
“I blame this on you, Clarissa. Letting her spend all her time reading.” Papa marched to the window and looked out on the flower beds.
“Don’t blame Mama. That’s not fair. We’re almost into a new century. Why can’t you stop acting like we’re still in the Middle Ages?”
“At least then women didn’t get the silly notion of attending university.”
“Oh, they had the silly notion. They just couldn’t do anything about it,” Mama said into her embroidery.
“You’re not helping, Clarissa. And why Newnham, young lady? That’s where they had the riots last year.”
Daisy faced her father, her arms crossed over her chest. “Newnham didn’t have the riots of 1897, the men students and graduates of Cambridge had the riots. They locked the gates on the Gaius and Jesus students for threatening anyone voting for women getting degrees with a fire hose. The rest were sent home at ten o’clock after burning stuffed effigies, setting off fireworks, building a bonfire and singing ‘God save the Queen.’ And all because of a vote they won. Women still won’t be given degrees.”
“Think if they had lost,” Mama murmured.
“Exactly,” Papa said. “I don’t understand this obsession you have with higher education. What will you do with it?”
Now it was Daisy’s turn to pace. “I don’t know. Raise brighter children, perhaps? Carry on intelligent conversations with my husband?”
To Daisy, standing nearby, it sounded as if Mama said, “Good luck with that.”
“Well, I don’t want you in that environment. I know what I was like as a young man at Cambridge. Why would you want to be around a lot of rowdy young men?”
“Sounds like fun,” Mama said, not looking up from her embroidery.
“Clarissa!” Papa heard that comment and was fuming.
“Papa. Everywhere we’ll go, there are chaperones. It’s unlikely I’ll ever get a chance to speak to a young man in Cambridge.” Daisy walked up and took her father’s hand. “I’ll be as safe as I am at home. Newnham has been around almost thirty years, and nothing untoward has happened there.”
Oh, dear. Hide, ladies. The butler is coming our way. Time to disappear before we’re caught eavesdropping. That would be a terrible social embarrassment.
Kate Parker’s first novel, The Vanishing Thief, is set in London a year or two before the Cambridge riot of 1897. And unlike Cambridge student life of that time, in The Vanishing Thief people stay out past ten o’clock and get murdered.
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?
So, check this out! When I was researching my last post about the Prince of Wales marrying the twice-widowed (and very Catholic) Maria Fitzherbert, I came across a little something about a token called an eye miniature. I found it quite fascinating and vowed to go back and look into it a bit more. Here’s what I discovered…
The eye miniature was a life-size portrait of a person’s eye (yes, that’s right, just the eye) painted inside a locket or other piece of jewelry. They were given as a sign of affection or remembrance. The Prince of Wales, George IV, was said to have given Mrs. F his eye miniature and she returned the favor. It was considered a clandestine token between lovers. Since only an eye was visible, in theory, no one else would know whose eye it was, but the owner of the eye would and could surreptitiously glance at the thing throughout the day. I suspect there was a great deal of sighing that went with it.
Once the Prince started the trend, all the rich folk jumped on board and wanted an eye miniature of their beloved.
In an age where people were falling in love with other people who they couldn’t really be with due to money, religion, family obligations, etc. the eye miniature (or lover’s eye) was one form of rebellion. Not that Mrs. F’s Catholicism or widowed state stopped the Prince from marrying her, but that’s another post.
I dug up one other interesting bit of info on the eye miniature as well. Apparently, an optometrist in the UK has a collection of over 100 of these things and they were on display in the summer of 2012.
I try to imagine my husband and I gazing fondly at each other’s painted eyes during the day but I can’t exactly render the image. I think I prefer my background image of the two of us together that pops up every time I turn on my iPhone. What? Not romantic?
So, what do you think? Eye miniatures: creepy or romantic?
Of course after keeping our pearls and diamonds hidden away while we pay house calls in our morning attire, a house party is just the place to make our assortment of gems and heirloom pieces sparkle.
No, I am not referring to the piddly demi-parures with matching earrings, necklace and a bracelet or two. La, no – we are, after all, ladies of the ton. We prefer parures that include a necklace, earbobs, combs, diadems, bracelets, pins, brooches, clasps and even pins for the sleeves of our gowns. We want to veritably drip with diamonds. And why should we not?
While diamonds are preferred, any gem really is acceptable. Napoleon had a penchant for jewels and extravagance, so much so that it’s rumored he actually gave his officers money to buy their wives gems. (If you’d imagine!) While we might find the fellow himself quite dastardly, we can’t deny that the man has quite an eye for fashion and we find ourselves revelling in the displays of emeralds, rubies and sapphires. Our jewelers are even so crafty as to play with the color of the gem by placing copper behind the stone. It catches the candlelight quite nicely.
Pearls are also the thing once more. True they fell out of fashion some years back when every last one of them seemed to be a cheap replica, but a massive harvesting reassured us of their originality and put them back in our perfectly-crafted settings. We could not be more overjoyed.
Now, if I’m being completely honest, not everything you see sparkling at a house party is real. Scandalous, I know! They’ve gotten crafty with gems they call rhinestones, really just bits of crystal coated with metal on one side and glass on the other, but it’s so passable, one would never notice the difference (though, of course, many insist they can). In addition to fake gems, there might even be fake gold, though it’s quite passé at this point. Several decades back, a gold alternative was concocted by an innovative man named Pinchbeck who named his creation Pinchbeck Gold (how very original). It served its purpose well for those who rode often in carriages and didn’t want to sacrifice their real gems in the event of a robbery (those were quite common, unfortunately). Imagine the highway men’s faces when they realized later their hauls were naught but paste gems and Pinchbeck gold! Truly someone ought to write a book about that. Something decadent and romantic, of course!
But I digress. Jewelry is a topic in which one must not lose focus. I imagine at the house party, there will be some sympathizers to all the strife going on in the world. I imagine also that those supporting the Prussian empire in their battle against Napoleon might actually be sporting Fer de Berlin pieces. This jewelry is easily picked out as it is not gold, nor are the gems brilliant and eye-catching. While they do have craftsmen who are able to etch the most delicate pieces, it doesn’t change the fact that the jewelry is all black lacquered iron. Apparently, the thing to do in Prussia is to donate one’s gold to the cause and then wear the consolation piece given in return by the government. Inside most pieces is inscribed “Ich gab Gold fur Eisen” (I gave gold for iron). Yet another notion where one might lose themselves to the romantic possibilities…
Alas, this duchess has several prize pieces to consider before the big event, but I did so enjoy you keeping me company as I ramble on about one of my favorite topics. Adieu!
Art collecting has been going on since the first cavemen figured out how to draw horses (although their drawings weren’t very portable). But the Regency collectors took their efforts to new extremes. Some of this was borne out of a necessity to fill the walls of their lavish new townhouses and country estates. Some stemmed from a more serious interest in antiquities – the Georgian period, and the Regency period in particular, saw the early precursors to what we would consider serious historical study (although their archaeological methods left much to be desired). And some, of course, was the result of vast shifts in wealth that created in a newly-rich upper class that wanted all the trappings of aristocrats’ homes even if they would never have their titles.
Any Regency house party worth its salt would have the opportunity to peruse the owner’s art collections, often in picture galleries. The biggest houses might have a purpose-built ‘museum’ to house their collections.
Because of this interest in antiquities and art, some of the best homes built during the Regency were designed as showcases for their owners’ hoardings. Sir John Soane’s house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, is a prime example (one that you can still visit in its original state today! It’s a must-see for any Regency-lover who visits London).
Soane started off as the son of a brewer, but he became a highly skilled architect and designed the Bank of England, his own homes in London and the countryside, and a wide variety of other public and private buildings. His house, which is really three townhouses that he combined over the span of thirty years, was constantly remodeled to accommodate his growing collection. He wasn’t above knocking out a wall to be able to get a statue into the house. And when he acquired the sarcophagus of Seti I, he held a three-day party with almost nine hundred guests to celebrate his triumph.
Soane, like many of his contemporaries, opened up his home for public viewings. His collection is a jaw-dropping hoard of some 3000 catalogued objects spanning an insane variety of styles and time periods. He collected vases, urns, sculptures, paintings, a whole series of famous images by Hogarth, spoils taken from the fall of Seringapatam in India, a whole bunch of memorabilia related to Napoleon (including a lock of Napoleon’s hair in a gold ring), first editions of books by Shakespeare and Milton, two copies of the Decameron from the 16th-century, and tons of other stuff. Soane, disappointed that his son was a reprobate who didn’t care for architecture, got an Act of Parliament passed to disown him and donated his house and its contents to the nation as a museum upon his death.
Soane wasn’t the only hoarder of his day. Christie’s auction house was founded in the 1760s, and by the Regency it was possible to buy many different kinds of art via public and private sales. And there were more infamous collectors circling through London, peddling artistic goods that had often been looted (see the Elgin Marbles) or fabricated entirely. So if you were living in the Regency and had a steady supply of income, you could outfit your house to look like a Grecian temple, an Egyptian fantasy, a Chinese dream, or some weird amalgamation of all those decorating schemes.
The reason I’m thinking of Regency art collectors is because the fourth book in my Muses of Mayfair series, The Earl Who Played With Fire, comes out later this month. It features Miss Prudence Etchingham, a proper spinster who is responsible for some of the best antiquities forgeries in London. Read on for the description, and one random commenter will get an ebook copy of the book when it comes out!
A woman courting ruin…
No one would suspect prim, proper Prudence Etchingham of lusting after her best friend’s brother. Nor would anyone guess that she’s responsible for dozens of the best forgeries in London’s antiquities markets. But if her love for Alex is doomed to fail, she must raise enough money to escape the marriage mart. She just needs one last, daring forgery to set herself up for life…
A man evading disaster…
Alex Staunton, the rich Earl of Salford, lives a charmed existence. No one knows that he’s dangerously attracted to his sister’s best friend. Nor has he revealed that he suffers from an ancient curse — one that has given him everything, but prevents him from marrying the woman of his dreams. But when an enemy from his past takes an unseemly interest in Prudence’s future, Alex must find a way to break the curse…or risk losing her forever.
A love they’re destined for…
Every seductive encounter brings them closer together — but their secret, smoldering desires will inevitably burn them. And when Prudence’s illicit forgery collides with Alex’s desperate search, more than their hearts are at stake. Can they break Alex’s curse and save Prudence from her unwanted suitor? Or will their love become a weapon that will destroy them both?
Sara Ramsey writes fun, feisty Regency historical romances. You can usually find her in San Francisco, drinking Champagne while trying to keep her tiara on straight. Her next book, The Earl Who Played With Fire, comes out in November. Find out more at www.sararamsey.com.