Posts Tagged ‘Victorian’
Congratulations to Duchesses Kathleen Bittner Roth and Diana Quincy on today’s release of The Seduction of Sarah Marks and Engaging the Earl! And take note dear readers: To celebrate, both books are on sale for just $.99 the first week of their release. Their Graces are here to tell us a little something about their wonderful stories.
Duchess Kathleen: Thanks for inviting us into your drawing room, Duchess Ashlyn, I can’t wait to chat.
Duchess Diana: Thanks for hosting us today, Duchess Ashlyn.
What is the era and setting of each of your stories, and can you tell us a bit about them?
Duchess Diana: Engaging the Earl is set in Regency England. The hero returns from fighting Napoleon on the day the woman he left behind becomes engaged to another man. Here’s a little teaser:
Vivacious Lady Katherine Granville is the toast of the ton, but society’s most eligible miss secretly yearns for her childhood love, an untitled loner who vanished long ago after her father forbade their marriage.
After years abroad, the dark and brooding Edward Stanhope returns to England a changed man. No longer a second son with no prospects, his battlefield strategies have won him an earldom. His return should be a victorious one, but the new Earl of Randolph is battling secret demons that no one can discover. Least of all, Kat.
When the man she can’t forget reappears at her betrothal ball, Kat’s perfectly arranged future is thrown into tumult. Edward remains cold and distant, hoping she’ll marry a man worthy of her. But nothing is settled when Kat sets out to win back her first love. Can the new Earl of Randolph resist the woman he’s loved for so many years?
Duchess Kathleen: The Seduction of Sarah Marks is set largely in the Kent District of England in 1857. The story involves a prim and proper country miss who finds herself stranded in a strange inn with no memory other than her name. Viscount Eastleigh’s well-laid plans to find a proper wife—far removed from his eccentric, meddling family—run afoul when an accident forces him to return home with this straitlaced miss in desperate need of shelter. Here’s a little teaser:
Are each of your stories of a serious nature or can we look forward to a bit of humor as well?
Duchess Kathleen: Although the themes of amnesia and war wounds are very serious ones, I can’t seem to write any story without including a few laughs.
Lord Eastleigh hails from a large and unconventional family. Even though they are close-knit, he refers to them as a swarm of locusts. There’s a sexy-as-sin reclusive cousin with a mysterious past who is hell-bent on irritating everyone but Sarah; a sister named Will who prefers wearing men’s clothing, and three younger sisters who think nothing of riding their horses straight through the main corridor of the house. I mustn’t forget Eastleigh’s three roguish brothers who encouraged the girls to run rampant with their steeds.
Eastleigh’s eccentric grandmother lives with him (think Betty White the actress). She “tipples” all the gin, ciders and cordials she concocts, steals apples and cherries on the sly from the cook to concoct her illicit brews, and pretty much does as she darn well pleases. She is called Mum because she thinks she’s the Queen Mother and Eastleigh’s mother the Queen. Or is it all an act?
Duchess Diana: Edward, my hero suffers from nostalgia, which we know today as Post Traumatic Stress, so he can be somewhat dark. (By the way, the US military has dropped the term “Disorder” when referring to PTS, hoping to reduce the stigma associated with it). However, at times his humor shines through, as does that of the heroine, as we see in this scene when he finds her dog running loose in the park.
“This messy-looking creature can’t possibly belong to you. I’d expect an incomparable such as Lady Kat to own the best-groomed canine in town.” He smiled down at the dog. “Not a hopelessly mangy whelp like this fellow.”
“Now you’ve gone and insulted a lady.”
He looked up quickly. “I meant no insult to you.”
“Not me,” she said, amusement in her voice. “That messy fellow is called Vera and is female.”
He grinned at her and light came into his eyes. For a moment they fell back six years—to when they had talked easily and enjoyed each other’s humor. “Ah, then I must offer my apologies.” He favored Vera with a doubtful look. “Although, while she may be female, she does not appear to be a lady. What breed is she?”
“No one really knows. We’re not certain how my father’s Pomeranian came to be enceinte at the country estate.” Her face warmed to be discussing breeding with him.
Turning his attention back to Vera, he didn’t appear to notice her discomfort. “She has the look of a pointer to her. Perhaps her mother had a clandestine meeting with a neighbor’s hunting dog.”
“A female of easy virtue.” She arched a brow after the canine, who wandered away, distracted by a fluttering butterfly. “Thereby proving your point that Vera is no lady.”
Duchess Kathleen, can you give us a hint of the more passionate side of your main characters?
Duchess Kathleen: Seduction can take many forms when a certain chemistry exists between two people, even if it’s not done with purpose. Here’s a scene where Eastleigh rescues Sarah from a downpour:
The horse took a step forward. Sarah gripped the saddle and let out a pitiful squeak. No, she definitely did not ride by habit.
“I’ve got hold of you,” Eastleigh said from behind her. “Grab a handful of the horse’s mane to maintain your balance.”
His words of encouragement were warm and husky in her ear, his hand splayed across her stomach comforting, yet sending shockwaves of…of sinful pleasure through her. A squeeze of his legs against the horse, and the beast eased into a walk, then a trot. Sarah bumped about in the saddle.
“Let your hips relax, and you won’t bounce so.” Eastleigh gripped the side of her waist, and with strong fingers, urged her hips into a back and forth motion that matched the horse’s movements—along with Eastleigh’s. Not only was the difference in the ride immediate, but oh, dear, the cadence of the horse set her and Eastleigh’s hips moving together in a manner that was wickedly provocative.
Could he be aware of what she was thinking? Or feeling? Or was this rhythmic movement so common while astride a horse that she would be considered a prig to make note of it?
Duchess Diana, dog lovers might especially enjoy your story. Vera, the heroine’s pet, plays a key role in the book.
Duchess Diana: I really enjoyed writing Vera. I decided to bring a dog into the story after being moved by an article about an Iraq war veteran whose trained service dog helped him manage his PTS. These service dogs assist their owners through panic attacks and nightmares as Vera does for Edward. They are trained to stand in front of their masters to maintain a safe distance from anyone who might approach. They also learn to sit behind their owners to provide enough space when they wait in line. I made some of these behaviors instinctive in Vera, since no one was training service dogs back in the early 1800s.
Your books are on sale at $.99 during the first week of the release, which is practically a giveaway, but do you have anything else you are offering to celebrate?
Duchess Kathleen: Yes, of course. Anyone leaving a comment will be automatically included in a drawing for a free digital copy of The Seduction of Sarah Marks and a $10 gift certificate from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Starbucks.
Duchess Diana: Since no duchess likes to be outdone, I’ll match Duchess Kathleen’s giveaway. A second commenter on the blog will receive a digital copy of Engaging the Earl and a $10 gift certificate from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
To celebrate the release of their books, Duchesses Kathleen and Diana are having a Facebook party, tonight at 7p.m. (EST). Numerous guest authors (including yours truly) are stopping by and giving away great prizes. Click here now to join the fun later!
What happens when a talented romance author with an expertise in deviant behavior decides to combine the two into a deliciously dark Victorian novel? Robyn DeHart joins the duchesses today with a little taste of her newest book, The Temptations of Anna Jacobs.
When I was in college I got my degree in Sociology with an emphasis on social deviance. Of course it wasn’t me that was being the deviant only that most of the classes I took focused on those topics. Juvenile Delinquency, Criminology, Violent Crimes, Social Deviance… I was fascinated. Yet when I had the meeting with my internship director and she asked me “if you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” I proudly declared, “an historical romance author.” Needless to say she was momentarily dismayed, but we worked it all out, in the form of my internship with Bestselling Author, Pamela Morsi. Of course that’s a whole ‘nother blog.
But all my friends and family who knew what I studied in college kept asking when I was going to incorporate all my “kill your mama” stuff (as my sister calls it) into my writing. I’ve dabbled in it through the years, the body count is pretty high in my Legend Hunters series, but frankly I was dying (okay bad pun!) to write a romantic suspense. I wanted to write a serial killer book. And hello, I already write in the Victorian era so you know there’s that one killer…Jack the Ripper.
There are so many different theories about the identity of Jack the Ripper. Even today the mystery begs to be solved. Patricia Cornwall thinks she solved the case. I watched a fascinating documentary about a former NYPD cold case detective who thinks he’s uncovered Jack’s identity. He made a very good argument. At the time of the murders the theories ranged from a barber to a doctor to a member of the royal family. I came up with my own story for Jack, but I don’t want to reveal any spoilers.
The first book in the series, The Secrets of Mia Danvers, received some great critical acclaim. And now readers can return to my dark Victorian series with the sequel, The Temptations of Anna Jacobs. I really can’t wait for readers to step into the world I’ve created and I sure hope everyone loves it.
Love and justice…
When Drew Foster is released from prison, he doesn’t much care about salvaging his soiled reputation. Though he’s working undercover, everyone in Victorian London believes him guilty of the Jack the Ripper murders and that his brother paid for his “innocence.”
Despite her genteel upbringing, Anna Jacobs is intent on finishing medical school and becoming a physician. Society’s ridicule has never bothered her, but when her brother, the Yard’s best detective, is scorned for letting Drew go, she confronts the one man who can set the record straight at a ball. She certainly doesn’t count on the rogue being dashing and handsome, nor on him stealing a passionate kiss.
Anna’s brazen contempt for his dangerous reputation captivates Drew, but he is harboring secrets that make him unfit to court any proper woman. As he finds himself an outsider among his colleagues at Scotland Yard, the feisty beauty offers up her medical knowledge to assist him on the case. But when the real killer returns to London to continue his reign of terror, can Anna find safety in Drew’s arms?
Duchess Robyn has very graciously agreed to give away a digital copy of The Secrets of Mia Danvers, the first book in her Dangerous Liaisons series, to one lucky commentator.
I am thrilled to reveal the cover of Alanna, book number two in my When Hearts Dare series, a historical romance. It is due to release November 4th through Kensington Publishing.
Here’s a little bit about the book:
Intent on shedding a fiancé handpicked by her social climbing parents, a high-spirited young woman embarks on a blazing love affair with an enigmatic lone wolf whose quest to find his mother’s murderer threatens their love—and their lives.
My first book, set to release in June of this year through Entangled Publishing is, The Seduction of Sarah Marks. My second book, the first in another series, A Duke’s Wicked Kiss is set to release August 26, is a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist. The first book in When Hearts Dare series about three different, but equally strong women who must forge their own path in life. Celine, will release October 7th. Alanna will release November 4th and the third book in the series, Josette, is currently set to release in September 2015. I feel really blessed to have had five books contracted all at once!
Oh, and I have another exciting announcement to make: The audio rights to both Celine and Alanna have already sold!
About Duchess Kathleen:
Once Kathleen Bittner Roth realized that making a living was not the same as making a life, she founded an international well-being center. Her goal was to help others become self-empowered, and become aware that happiness and joy are daily choices. Little did she know when her journey began where the path would lead. She had no idea she’d one day walk on fire, marry in a castle in the Scottish Highlands, learn to ride English style, and spend hundreds of hours giving seminars of her own creation on self-empowerment. Nor did she have any idea she would be given the opportunity to guest on hundreds of radio shows and every major television network, including the History Channel.
“Making a life” for Kathleen includes writing Victorian romance novels. She considers this her perfect venue to create characters faced with difficult choices, and who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit in order to overcome adversity and find unending love.
In addition to being part of the Dashing Duchesses, Kathleen is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America® and belongs to the Hearts Through History Romance Writers chapter. She has been a contributing editor of an online romance magazine, and has been a guest on numerous blogs. She has won or finaled in various writing contests, including the 2012 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart®.
Although she has never considered herself a vagabond, she has somehow managed to live in six U.S. states and several foreign countries. Currently, she resides in Budapest, Hungary, but has deep roots in Minnesota and Texas. You can find her on Facebook; Twitter, or by visiting her website at: www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.
10 Signs You Might Be a Gothic Heroine
- On the run from certain death, the only available shelter is a crumbling abbey even sketchier than the madhouse you just fled.
- Like, seriously sketchy. Code Red “No one knows what happens to those who dare enter” sketchy.
- The owner is insanely rich, insanely sexy, and insanely . . . insane.
(Two outta three ain’t bad?)
- Your love interest may or may not be a murderer. Or a demon.
- You yourself may or may not be a murderess. Nor are you remorseful.
- You’re stronger than anyone realizes, and your secrets are even darker than the lord of the manor.
- You discover your love interest keeps someone hidden behind lock and key.
- Your love interest also keeps you behind lock and key.
- This does not detract from his ability to seduce your knickers off.
- He’s a devil between the sheets . . . and, luckily, you like it hot.
For this second installment of Historical Romance for Dummies, we are going to focus on those things you might commonly read about in a historical romance set in the Regency-Victorian eras in Britain (our apologies to those authors and readers who long for something less constricting – we understand dears, truly we do).
Any new historical romance reader picking up a Regency or Victorian-based book should start with a minimum understanding of the following terms, as they are scarcely ever defined in the books themselves.
Regency and Victorian Terms, A-Z
abigail: another name for a ladies’ personal maid.
Almacks: A rather stuffy dance venue to match up young men and women, that was nonetheless wildly popular. One could not be admitted without a “voucher” and these were tightly controlled by some very judgmental matrons. Interestingly, obtaining a voucher often depended more on what these matrons thoughts of your propriety and morals than simply social standing. Think: a VIP club pass in historical times, where only the good girls get past the velvet rope.
bluestocking: the name applied to a young woman with decidedly too-modern ideas for her time. A woman who supported suffrage (women’s voting rights) in the Victorian era would have been a decided bluestocking, as but one example.
cattle: A common term applied by boisterous young men about their horses.
chaperones: In both eras, young unmarried women were generally not permitted to move freely about without adequate supervision, although the requirement could vary based on a woman’s social standing, whether she was in London or in the country, and her family’s financial circumstances. The appointed chaperone was usually an older female companion of good character who could ensure said young heroine didn’t sneak off for a forbidden kiss… or worse. It was considered improper for a young unmarried woman to be in the company of any non-relative male without a chaperone. To be caught in a compromising position lacking a chaperone could spell social ruin for a woman of good breeding, and in many cases an absolute requirement for the man in question to “come up to scratch” and marry the young lady whose reputation has just been shredded.
chit: a young woman who might be a bit silly
coming of age: Twenty-one years of age. If a woman had inherited money, she did not come under control over it until this magical age. This was the age of consent, meaning a woman could then choose to marry without her parent’s or guardian’s permission.
courtesan: a high-class prostitute or mistress, one who was usually elevated in social status and entertained men of power
gaming hell: a place where men placed wagers and played cards, roulette, etc.
gel: a shortened form of “girl”, often delivered down the nose of a stuffy dowager duchess
Gretna Green: The first stop across the border into Scotland, where a marriage could take place without any of the time and waiting requirements of English law. A popular place for young couples in love to elope.
Mayfair: The fashionable district to live in near London during this time period.
mews: The set of stables in the back of a London home housing horses, and carriages, etc.
musicale: a social event featuring music and often some poor chit who couldn’t really sing
on-dit: a snarky or gossipy tidbit
peer: A peer was someone who held one of the hierarchical titles that defines British upper class society. These were hereditary titles, passed to the oldest son or otherwise closest male heir. Men, therefore, had to deal with the issues of estate management and political expectations that accompanied inheritance of one of these titles. Peers in the Regency and Victorian eras also carried some political weight: they sat in the House of Lords, and often operated by their own set of ethical and legal mores that were quite different from those of the lower and middle classes. **Note to the new reader: A man in possession of a title instantly elevated him as “marriageable material” in the Regency and Victorian eras, meaning women might be more inclined to pursue him with an eye toward marriage. Many books portray these men as trying to avoid the dreaded “marriage noose”, despite the fact that most would eventually need to marry to produce an heir (the point seems to be not to succumb too soon). Because understanding hierarchy is important to understanding British social structure, suffice it to say that those of higher order wield more power and respect (as well as get to sit at the head of the dinner table). So, in order, best to not-best, you have: Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron, Baronet.
posting of the banns and special license: In England at the time, one could not marry without some prep work. A regular marriage required a posting of the banns in the church parish for three consecutive Sundays, which meant (at a minimum) a 3 week wait. If one was desperate, one could procure a special license signed by a bishop, which would let one marry immediately. Special licenses usually were only available for the wealthy, as you had to pay for them. A Special license also carried an air of “desperation”, and might promote gossip (see “ruin” below).
rake/rakehell: a young man bent on mischief and seduction
reticule: a ladies’ small bag or purse, often on a loop that hung from the wrist
ruin: Oh, the horror – the thing all young ladies feared (but secretly dreamed of). Quite simply put, this was the destruction of a young lady’s reputation and an alteration in her future ability to marry well. Ruin could happen in a myriad of ways: promiscuity, pregnancy, rumors of promiscuity or pregnancy (barring an actual event), being caught alone with an unmarried man, being a little different for the time… and oddly enough, most historical romance heroines are constantly courting this mythical “ruin”.
Season: This was an annual series of social events that coincided with the sitting of Parliament and necessity of the peerage to be in residence in London. It was characterized by parties, balls, and other opportunities to “see and be seen.” A Season was a woman’s time to be presented as “marriage-eligible”, and the social events were designed to ensure maximum exposure to men who might be a good match. A woman’s first Season was called “coming out”, usually around the time she turned 18. A woman might have several Seasons before she found a good match, but it was very expensive (think: new gowns, shoes, etc), and so women of more limited means were often desperate to maximize their chances with one Season. The timing of the Season usually spanned Easter-late summer, but the peak was May-July.
the ton: (also: bon ton, beau monde, Society, the upper ten thousand): The upper classes and peerage of Britain
waltz: A new (and at the time, scandalous) dance that was introduced in the Regency era. It required people to dance so close their bodies were almost touching (gasp!) At Almacks, a young unmarried woman could not waltz without permission being first granted by one of those stuffy matrons.
Whites: A famous gentleman’s club in London, frequented by peers and members of the upper crust of Society. A place for cards, wagers, male camaraderie. Women were not admitted. There was a famous betting book in Whites, with wagers placed from anything from “which horse would win which race” to “who would be married before the year was out.”
valet: a male servant whose job it was to dress a peer and care for his clothing.
The Duchesses hope you find this informative. Please feel free to share it with those poor, misguided souls who have not yet discovered the beauty of Regency and Victorian-set historical romance.
Disclaimer: We don’t really think any of our readers are dummies. In fact, we consider you quite intelligent for choosing to follow our blog!
Most authors struggle with some degree of unexpected interest from friends and work colleagues who—sad though it may be—have never read a historical romance in their life. Sometimes, we even feel as though we should offer something of a disclaimer to them.
“Keep in mind it’s a Romance,” we say to their enthusiastic claims of having pre-ordered it. “A historical romance.”
More often than not, they blink at us in happy confusion. “Great,” they say. “I like history.”
Errrm…. Yes. That will indubitably help.
But as most Duchesses can tell you, enjoying one’s high school lecture on Alexander the Great is not enough to ensure instant appreciation and understanding of historical romance. Don’t mistake us—we are thrilled to welcome some readers who might have only ever read, say, the odd Nicholas Sparks book, or 50 Shades of Grey. But such books are a far cry from historical romance, and because we eagerly embrace our role as ambassadors bringing the stories of by-gone eras to life, we wanted to assure you that there is more to discover, if given half the chance.
It occurs to us, however, that newcomers to the world of historical romance might be confused by one or two things in our books that we originally felt no need to explain. And that perhaps they would be more inclined to think favorably upon the book—and the genre—if they had a primer on some basic background information. So the Duchesses have planned a series of posts on the topic, which are intended to help ease the way for those new readers and hopefully keep them focused enough to appreciate all the amazing things historical romance has to offer.
Today, we shall start with the basics. After all, one must walk before one waltzes, and we don’t want skinned knees and tears right off the bat.
Romance: a genre of fiction whose central plotline is centered on the development of a romantic relationship. The standard story arc leads to a HAPPY ENDING. That doesn’t mean the author can’t put those characters through an emotional tailspin, just that those bits should be resolved by the time you reach “THE END.” If we are going to get specific, the most common and widely sold romance is m/f (male/female), but there is also a lively market for m/m and f/f romance should you care to investigate.
Historical Romance: a type of romance novel that is based on characters in the past. Most folks consider a historical anything up to about WWII. Many Duchesses would like to challenge this notion, especially as the WWII standard has been in place for something like 50 years… surely we can count the Korean War, Vietnam, and even the Cold War as historical eras worth writing about by now.
Bodice Ripper: a derogatory name sometimes applied to historical romances, based on an outdated perception of the overbearing heroes and meek females that were sometimes portrayed in older historicals. These days, the heroines tend to be much stronger, and more assertive of their individuality, and if a bodice is going to get ripped they are as likely to do it themselves, so some Duchesses don’t personally mind the term. But be warned–some authors will be all too willing to whack you over the head with their reticule (for those of you newbies in our audience, a form of purse or handbag) if you say this in their presence.
The Eras: These are important, because the social mores differed for each major period of history, and also differed based on the setting (i.e. British-set historicals vs. American or exotic settings). A good deal of conflict in historical romances is based on the societal expectations of the time and the main characters rubbing up against those constraints, so the political backdrop, views toward women, and views toward sexuality of a given time all heavily influence the tone of books.
Briefly (and bear in mind, these are largely convenience groupings, rather than an intentional history lesson):
Medieval Romance: These romances tend to be set in the 5th through the 14th century. BBC’s Merlin is a great example of the period. Think: Knights. Plague. The Crusades.
Renaissance: This is roughly the period from the 14th to 17th century. Think: Henry VIII, the Tudors, and everyone’s head getting chopped off.
Scottish Romance: There is a tremendously popular market for Scottish romance spanning both the Medieval and Renaissance areas. Think: Men in Kilts. Braveheart (before Mel Gibson got weird).
Georgian: Technically defined as the time under the rule of the Georges I-IV, this era stretches from 1714 to about 1811, and often is just broadly defined as “the 18th century”. This was a turbulent time in British society, with parties and debauchery a bit more accepted among both men and women. Think: Powdered wigs, breasts bulging over plunging necklines, and those funny wide hoops that made women turn sideways to get through doors. Remember that video Walking on Broken Glass? That is tres Georgian!
Regency: This is one of the most popular historical eras for historical novels. It was technically the time the Prince Regent was at the helm of Britain, 1811 to 1820, but is often extended to 1837, when Queen Victoria took the throne. The era saw the introduction of greater simplicity of fashion, but also, we think, more elegant social graces. There was a stiff set of expectations placed on upper class females: they were expected to marry, and to marry as well as they could for social power and financial security. Think: Country house parties, high-waisted gowns, Jane Austen, and those scintillating dances that involved standing across from one’s partner and bowing. Duchess Valerie has written at greater length on the topic here.
Victorian: A very long period in British history (1837 to 1901), mainly because the monarch, Queen Victoria, lived so long. Queen Victoria had firm views on propriety and the role of women, and this period of time was a bit more uptight than either the Georgian or Regency eras. Charlotte and Emily Bronte wrote during this period, and unlike Austen, their words tended to be darker, more dramatic. The movie The Piano is a hauntingly beautiful portrayal of both the period’s dress and expectations for women. Think: sexual repression, whalebone corsets, séances and an obsession with death and mourning.
Edwardian: The period when Edward, Victoria’s son, sat as king. Although he died in 1910, this period is often extended up until 1919, the end of World War I. Fashion lines became simpler, cleaner, with lots of ornate beading. Women began to emerge with greater independence, and access to education/learning, and also began to challenge traditional stereotypes. Think: Titanic, Downton Abbey, World War I.
Roaring twenties to WWII: The 1920 to about 1945. Think: the movie Chicago. Flappers. Prohibition. The Great Depression. World War II. This was definitely a time period where women broke out of older, traditional roles and their independence became more commonplace and accepted.
For the new reader, understanding which era their book is set in is the first step. Once they have that in-hand, they can begin the process of understanding more advanced details.
Be on the lookout for our next post on Historical Romance for Dummies, which will focus on terms for the new historical reader of Regency and Victorian fiction.
The Duchesses must offer this disclaimer: we are not history professors, nor do we pretend to be. We are first and foremost spinners of stories. If you notice any errors, or have new ideas that might be useful to share, please do contact us and let us know! We do believe, with these basics, most of the uninformed can safely tackle the wonderful world of historical romance.
Welcome to the Dashing Duchess’s House Party, held annually in the month of November! We say hello to returning friends and new visitors, and encourage you all to stop by often this month to meet the Duchesses, learn fun new historical facts, and participate in a parlor game or two.
When I realized I had signed on for the first post of the party, I knew I needed the perfect festive topic to put everyone in the right mood… coming so close on the heels of Halloween, I was led to the Victorian phenomenon of spiritualism, with the séance elevated to both art form and parlor game.
Spiritualism (or a belief in the ability to communicate with the dead) rose to prominence in the Victorian era, my favorite historical period to write about and study. Many theories abound as to why the Victorians developed such a strong sense of spiritualism, from the sometimes oppressive atmosphere of Victorian society, to Queen Victorian’s obsessive mourning after the death of Prince Albert, to the rise of the upper middle classes, who had far too much time on their hands. While one may be tempted to prescribe religious importance to such beliefs, in truth spiritualism was also rooted in the burgeoning scientific beliefs and discoveries of this era, and a need to seek an outlet from religious expectations of propriety.
With etymological origins in the French word for “seat”, seances were meetings where people gathered for the express purpose of communicating with the dead, assisted by an expert medium. Beginning in 1848 with the famous Fox sisters (right) of New York (who could produce a remarkable array of “tapping” from almost any inanimate object), séances soon spread across the pond and became wildly popular in Britain. The process of assembling friends and family for the single-minded purpose of communicating with the dead offered wealthy women a chance—perhaps, even, an expectation—to shrug off the conventions of Society while simultaneously upholding Victorian notions of family as the center of their universe. Séances captured the imagination of educated, intelligent figures, including Mary Todd Lincoln, who held several such sessions during house parties and while in residence at the White House to communicate with her deceased children. These were attended by President Lincoln and other prominent members of Society, which no doubt lent some weight of authenticity to the process.
Among the higher social classes, spiritualism collected ardent and devoted followers, and séances became popular as social pastimes and party games. Artwork and etchings from this time period show women and men dressed in stunning evening wear, awed by such events as “table-turning” and “spirit-rapping”. Levitation of people and things, mysterious floating lights, raps and tapping, pinches and hair-pulling—all delighted and terrified Victorian audiences, especially during parties. Where else were you not only permitted to dress up and hold hands with a member of the opposite gender, but it was absolutely necessary for the process?
Cynics loudly decried such activities as the work of talented heisters. There were certainly elements of showmanship to a successful séance—most agent mediums were female, and many were beautiful, desirable, and scandalous.
One such medium was Cora Scott Hatch (left), who from the age of 15 enthralled audiences with her beauty and supernatural elegance (and who was married a jaw-dropping four times). Scientists obsessively studied mediums who claimed they could communicate with the dead, seeking to expose them. While some objectors became convinced of their authenticity (and presumably enamored of their feminine charms), others decried the talents of such mediums as “sorcery”, or, worse, “frivolity” (truly, was there anything worse in the Victorian era than to be called useless?) Some outspoken critics of the Fox sisters claimed their famous “rapping” sounds originated from beneath their long, full skirts, but who would dare try to expose them (and their ankles) to the truth? The increasing use of props like “spirit trumpets” (which magnified the whispers of the dead) and “spirit slates” (on which would magically appear messages from beyond) seem to confirm the idea of stage magic being prominent to the process to the modern reader. But imagine, if you would, how exciting—and titillating—such things must have been to the strait-laced Victorians.
Have you ever attended a séance at a party? How to did it influence the mood and interactions of the guests? I would love to hear about your encounter, and compare them to that of the Victorian experience!
Jennifer McQuiston writes Different. Historical. Romance set in the Victorian era, and tries to avoid Ouija boards at all costs. Her first book, What Happens in Scotland, was a NYT bestseller, and her second book, Summer is for Lovers, is available now. Her third historical, Moonlight on My Mind, is available for Pre-Order and will be released March 25 2014: given that it is a murder mystery, she is already regretting not writing a scene with a séance in it! Follow her on Twitter at @jenmcqwrites, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jennifermcquistonauthor
If Jane Austen didn’t precisely write such words, she ought to have.
Where else but in a world of wealth and privilege would gentlemen be so bored as to place a bet of £3,000 on which raindrop would reach the bottom of the bow window at White’s gentlemen’s club first? (A genuine fortune at the time, it was an amount roughly equivalent to $600,000 today!) White’s famous betting book provides solid proof of such hijinks in the historical record. One has to imagine, however, that such wagers were merely the penultimate example of crass betting behavior, and that untold numbers of bets passed between gentlemen daily without ever being recorded in the books.
My new release SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS features the Victorian seaside resort of Brighton as backdrop, and an indelicate wager between bored gentlemen plays a central role in the story.
When she is still a child, my heroine, Caroline Tolbertson, saves a struggling young man from drowning off Brighton’s rough coast, and in the process reveals her painful secret: she swims, and better than most grown men.
(No, no, he isn’t drowning in THIS scene. This is…er…later. Much later.)
Now eleven years later, Caroline is a young woman who must marry to rescue her family from insolvency, but finding a suitor to save them is proving difficult because Caroline just doesn’t quite fit in. Tall, athletic, and socially awkward, she finds herself struggling against the prejudices of Brighton’s summer set down from London, particularly a London dandy named Mr. Dermott who has kissed her on a bold wager and then spread tales far and wide.
Caroline Tolbertson knew she would never forget her first kiss … even though she desperately wanted to.
It wasn’t the mechanical part of the act that bothered her. One almost expected some discomfort in a first kiss: a bump of noses, a clash of teeth. Technique could be learned and practiced, and she had mastered far more difficult tasks in her twenty-three years. No, the execution of the kiss was not the problem. It was the aftermath she couldn’t tolerate.
And that aftermath was heading straight for her.
Caroline froze, distracted not by the sound of seagulls or the chatter of nearby strollers along the Marine Parade, but by the perforating sound of Brandon Dermott’s laughter. And just like that, the kiss she had tried so hard to forget came flooding back in all its inglorious detail.
The awkward parting of lips. The amused frown on Mr. Dermott’s face. And the next day, the cupped hands and whispers among the vacationers down from London.
“It was like kissing a boy,” Dermott had told them all. Not the kind of notoriety a girl wished for.
Especially a girl like Caroline.
Our hero, David Cameron, has brought his ailing mother to Brighton to take a sea water cure, where he is reunited with the girl he first met by happenstance over a decade ago. Only, she isn’t a girl any longer—and she has apparently never forgotten him. Struggling with a painful past that he believes makes him an unsuitable choice for an innocent young woman, he is bound and determined to keep Caroline at arm’s length, for her own good. But he cannot help but feel protective when he sees first-hand how she is being treated by the summer crowd in Brighton.
Finally, someone cleared his throat. “How did it go then, Cameron?”
David fixed the inquirer with a stern glare. “A gentleman does not kiss and tell.”
Mr. Dermott snorted with laughter, a harsh, mean-spirited sound. “Oh come on, it’s just a bit of good sport. We all want to know. Was it like kissing a boy for you too? Took a bloody impressive wager to get me to kiss her, I can tell you.”
The snickers he had detected earlier from the crowd returned, growing in volume and meaning. Clarity descended, swift and unfortunate. Young men were infamous for such wagers. During his years at Cambridge, he had been little different, having once wagered—and lost—an entire month’s allowance on the outcome of a race between two very uncooperative snails. He had no idea why young men did such things. Perhaps it was because their brains were not yet fully formed.
Or because their cocks unfortunately were.
No matter the reason, men of a certain age were undeniable idiots. They hurt people for no reason other than their own sport or their own selfish, shortsighted needs.
He ought to know.
David sets out to convince the eligible young men of Brighton that Caroline is a woman any man would be proud to call wife—as long as it isn’t him. But David can’t stop thinking about the unconventional Caroline, and soon finds himself wondering if he has just made the biggest mistake of his life. As the contenders for her hand begin to line up, her future seems assured…provided David can do the honorable thing and let them have her.
The Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpznycdbreE
To celebrate the release of SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS, I will be giving away a fabulous prize pack that will make you think it is still summer, including a free signed copy of SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS and a box of vintage salt water taffy. To enter, share with us the most outrageous bet or dare you’ve ever taken. Winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Friday, September 27th.
Jennifer McQuiston writes Different. Historical. Romance. She lives in Atlanta with her family and the pony she promised her girls if “mommy ever got a book deal”. She would rather be at the beach than anywhere else in the world…and apparently so would the characters in her head. Her first book, What Happens in Scotland, is also available now, and her third book, Moonlight on My Mind, will be released March 24, 2014.
My darling duchesses, today I am especially delighted to sit down to tea with fabulous historical romance author, Zoe Archer. Her grace and I happen to share the same agent and editor so I can personally vouch for her good taste. Ms. Archer is visiting us to discuss her latest release, Sweet Revenge, and to answer a rousing round of questions.
Sweet Revenge is the first book in her new NEMESIS, UNLIMITED series, and it came out this week! Zoe calls the new series “gritty historical romance that’s like Burn Notice/Leverage in Victorian England.” Ooh, it does sound delightful, does it not? So please gather round and grab a teacake.
One lucky commenter will win a copy of Sweet Revenge!
Duchess Valerie: Thank you so much for joining us today, Duchess Zoe.
Her grace, Zoe Archer: My pleasure.
Duchess Valerie: Let’s begin with a bit of writerly fun! Since becoming a writer, what’s the most exciting thing to ever happen to you?
Her grace, Zoe Archer: Selling a four-book series to Kensington was pretty amazing (The Blades of the Rose), and then getting a RITA nomination for Rebel was also incredible. When I got the call, my heart was pounding and I thought I was going to pass out…in a good way.
Duchess Valerie: Yes, the good kind of passing out. I completely understand. Now, on to food. (This teacake is distracting me.) If you could choose one dessert or snack food that you could eat as much as you want of (and never gain an ounce!) what would it be?
Her grace, Zoe Archer: Baking is one of my favorite non-writing activities. And of all the different kinds of desserts and baked goods I’ve made over the years, my favorite is a blondie—preferably with toffee bits and chocolate chips.
Duchess Valerie: Hmm. I want one right now. Where is the butler? Speaking of sweet, how did you get the idea for Sweet Revenge?
Her grace, Zoe Archer: My husband is Nico Rosso, who’s also a romance novelist, and we’d been talking about a secret organization in Victorian England. This organization would right wrongs perpetrated against those without power, like women, and those in the middle and lower classes. We started thinking more and more about this idea, and it really intrigued me. Victorian society was so stratified, and geared toward privileging men, especially men of wealth. It seemed like the perfect setting for gritty, exciting stories that could also be deeply romantic. And so Nemesis, Unlimited was born. Sweet Revenge is the first book in the series.
Duchess Valerie: Ooh, I do adore that idea. Power to the people! What kind of research did you have to
do to bring this story to life on the page?
Her grace, Zoe Archer: It’s not a spoiler to say that Sweet Revenge opens with the hero, Jack Dalton, breaking out of prison. And he’s been in prison for five years. So I did a lot of research into Victorian prisons, and based Dunmoor Prison on Dartmoor Prison. That was some pretty grim stuff. And then I just researched a lot about the structure of Victorian society, especially in London, and the ways in which women and the poor were disenfranchised. Victorian England may have worn a very proper face, but it was also quite brutal, and it took a tremendous amount of
strength to survive within it.
Duchess Valerie: I think that same thing every time I read a Dickens novels. Tell me, your characters seem so alive and real…what’s your secret?
Her grace, Zoe Archer: I try to think of them as people, rather than characters in a romance. So their responses and thoughts don’t necessarily have to adhere to romance conventions. They can be rude, angry, melancholy, afraid of their needs. I think that helps keep my characters rounded and real.
Duchess Valerie: On that note, who’s your favorite character in the book and why? Who was the most fun to write?
Her grace, Zoe Archer: I do love the heroine, Eva Warrick. She’s a woman who won’t tolerate any foolishness, and has a backbone of steel—though that isn’t to say she doesn’t have a softer side. But I absolutely loved writing Jack. He’s rough, tough, a little crude, and driven. Jack grew up in Bethnal Green, one of London’s toughest slums, and did some thieving before he became a bare knuckle brawler in underground boxing matches. Then he became a bodyguard to a wealthy peer. There’s nothing genteel or refined about Jack. He’s not a gentleman. And there’s nothing more fun to write than a character who’ll say or do anything.
But, in truth, it was fun to write the crew of Nemesis, Unlimited, from Simon, the well-bred gentleman to Marco, the spy, and the squabbling (but secretly intrigued) Harriet and Lazarus. I liked creating the dynamic between them, and that, even though they all work together for the same goals, they don’t always have to get along. Kind of like the Avengers. *wink*
Duchess Valerie: I’m loving this already, especially Marco, the spy. If your book were to be turned into a movie, would your dream cast be?
Duchess Valerie: I can’t stand it any longer! Tell us a bit about the book itself.
Sweet Revenge: A Nemesis, Unlimited Novel
The first in a breathtaking new series about the dangerous business of undercover revenge—and the undeniable pleasure of passion…
In the business of vengeance
When Jack Dalton escapes from Dunmoor Prison, he has only one thing in mind—finding the nobleman who murdered his sister and making him pay. But when he reaches the inn where the Lord Rockley is rumored to be staying, three well-dressed strangers are there to meet him instead. And the pretty blonde is aiming a pistol right at his head …
Desire is always dangerous
Joining Nemesis, Unlimited has made Eva Warrick much more than the well-mannered lady she appears to be—one who can shoot, fight, and outsmart any man in the quest to right the injustices so often suffered by the innocent. She’s not afraid of the burly escaped convict, but she is startled by their shared attraction. She and her partners need Jack’s help to get to Rockley, but Eva finds she wants Jack for scandalous reasons all her own…
Zoë Archer is an award-winning romance author who thinks there’s nothing sexier than a man in tall boots and a waistcoat. As a child, she never dreamed about being the rescued princess, but wanted to kick butt right beside the hero. She now applies her master’s degrees in Literature and Fiction to creating butt-kicking heroines and heroes in tall boots. She is the author of the acclaimed BLADES OF THE ROSE series and the paranormal historical romance series, THE HELLRAISERS. She and her husband, fellow romance author Nico Rosso, created the steampunk world of THE ETHER CHRONICLES together. Her new gritty Victorian romance series, NEMESIS, UNLIMITED, launches this Spring. Zoë and Nico live in Los Angeles.
Take a look at the tantalizing trailer!
Have any burning questions about Victorian prisons? (I know I do!) Leave a thoughtful question for Zoe for a chance to win a copy of Sweet Revenge! (US and Canada only)
Ash: Greetings, and welcome today. I’m very excited because my debut is coming out tomorrow, and…
Ash: Oh, you’ve heard. It’s the day before my book release. It’s called A Most Scandalous Proposal. Thank you for dropping by to congratulate me. *smile smile*
Jen: Erm, actually… It’s the day before my book releases, too.