Month: March 2013

An Interview with Maria Grace

All the Appearance of Goodness

Following on from my interview with Regina Jeffers, here’s another historical fiction author for you to meet! Ladies and gentlemen, I present the lovely Maria Grace.

1)  Explain why the Regency period is important and tell us why we should want to read about it.

The Regency is an interesting era.  Technically it lasted only about 9 years, with the Regency of George IV. Many consider a wider period, from 1788-1830, the Regency era because it represents a relatively cohesive period in history. In France, the period was known as ‘Empire’ and in America, the ‘Federal’ era.

The period bridged the gap between the slow paced, non-industrialized 18th century and the industrial revolution of the 19th century. It was a time of rapid social change and contrasts, which make it fascinating to read and write about.

2) Who is your favourite Regency personality?

Sir John Fielding (1721-1780) actually died just before the start of the Regency era, but he is one of the most fascinating personalities of the 18th century to me.  He was an English magistrate and social reformer of the 18th century. He was also the younger half-brother of novelist, playwright and chief magistrate Henry Fielding. Though blinded in a navy accident at the age of 19, John set up his own business and, in his spare time, studied law with Henry. He became his brother’s assistant in 1750 and was instrumental in the formation of the first police force, the Bow Street Runners. He also established the basis for the first police criminal records department. He was active in crime prevention and youth employment and assisted in the foundation of the Asylum for Orphan Girls.  His life helped inspired one of the main characters in my next novel.
3) Share a quirky fact from your research?

In Regency England, shaking hands was considered rather intimate.  You did not shake hands with an acquaintance, only with people you were close to and ladies did not shake hands with men unless they were engaged or close to being so. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this early enough on and I ended up needing to do a fair amount of rewriting because of it.
4) One of historical romance’s hardest questions:  Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer?

 Jane Austen without a doubt. I love her social commentary.
5) Tell us about All the Appearance of Goodness  

I just released All the Appearance of Goodness, part three of the Given Good Principles series. It is a Jane Austen inspired piece that explores how the events of Pride and Prejudice might have been different had Darcy and Elizabeth been able to follow the ‘good principles’ they had been given. They meet each other with considerably less pride and prejudice, but other challenges test their principles along the way.
6) What will you be working on next?

The real question is which one? I have 6 works in progress right now.  I have another Austenesque piece finished and waiting for final edits. This is the piece I mentioned earlier with the character inspired by John Fielding.

One more Austenesque piece is three quarters through the rough draft. But probably the next thing I will work on is my science fiction series.  The underlying idea for that was: what might it look like if Regency era culture and mores occurred in a technologically advanced, space-faring society. My hero and heroine are from vastly different social classes but must come together to stop their version of Napoleon from conquering their home worlds and peoples.
7) Can you recommend some other books, fiction and non fiction, set in your period?

Of course, anything by Jane Austen, but her book Lady Susan, is a guilty pleasure of mine.  It is almost like watching a modern reality show, complete with a villainess we love to hate.

If anyone is interested in it, I offer a free download of the book to my newsletter subscribers on my website.


8) Girly question – if you could design and make your perfect Regency outfit, what would it be like?

I’m actually hoping to do this yet. It’s been a while since I dragged out the sewing machine, but I figure if I could manage my own wedding dress, I can probably manage a Regency gown.  I just need a good six months with nothing else on the schedule!

I’d love to do something in a rich red, rather than Regency white, long sleeves since I’m always cold, and trimmed with pleats and lace. I’d bead the bodice in a floral motif and accent it with silver or gold embroidery. The skirt would have a modest train with a rich embroidered floral pattern in scallops around the skirt. A soft woolen shawl, embroidered to match would be necessary.  A silk turban, accented with pearls and a few small feathers would finish the outfit.

Thanks so much for having me today!

Maria Grace

You can buy All the Appearance of Goodness for your Kindle here or for your Nook here

Connect with Maria on Facebook at facebook.com/AuthorMariaGrace and follow her on Twitter @WriteMariaGrace!

Prinny’s Women

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As Prince of Wales, Prince Regent and finally King George IV, one thing was certain: George Augustus Frederick liked his women. Thanks to Cruikshank’s caricatures and popular legend, we have the image of lecherous, womanizing prince embedded in our minds.  But just how many women was George – how shall we put it – intimately acquainted with? And how on earth did he avoid contracting a venereal disease with his track record?

In biographies of George, you will come across the ladies I call the big five: official mistresses who made it into the history books. Here is a summary.

Mary Robinson

1) Mary Robinson. An actress, unhappily married, who caught George’s attention playing the role of Perdita in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. His wild love letters to her were signed in the name of the role’s hero, Florizel. A romantic and slightly vain young lady, Mary always cherished her connection with the prince and kept his portrait into old age. But more than George himself – who she only managed to meet on a few, short, breathless occasions –  Mary relished the style in which he set her up. She was shrewd and managed to make the prince come good on his promises when he finally tired of her. Her imprint on the history of George IV is mainly financial – he had to ask his father for help when he realised how much he had promised her, and she received a considerable annuity from the royal coffers for her brief “services”. There’s a lot more to Mary than her affair with the prince, however, and I would highly recommend Paula Byrne’s biography of her. In historical fiction, she has appeared in Jean Plaidy’s Perdita’s Prince and I understand Freda Lightfoot’s next book will be about her.

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2) Maria Fitzherbert. I – and Maria herself – would debate the term “mistress” when it came to her relationship with George. He married her before a priest, although the ceremony was considered null and void in law due to the Royal Marriages Act. George could not marry without the permission of his father or parliament – permission which would never be granted, because the woman of his choice was Catholic. As I covered in my previous post, there were many reasons the English were adverse to Catholics near the throne, but the main obstacle in George’s case was that  marriage to a person of this religion excluded him from inheriting the throne. As such, he conveniently “forgot” this marriage when it suited him. However, the Catholic church and even the Pope himself declared the union to be binding, which explains why poor Maria continually returned to George when he summoned her, despite much provocation.  I don’t want to give away too much here because Maria is a heroine in A Forbidden Crown, but here is an old post about her from my early research. Two great biographies, each with a different approach to this complicated woman, were particularly helpful: one by James Munson and one by Valerie Irvine.

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3) Lady Jersey As a rival to both Mrs Fitzherbert and Queen Caroline, Lady Jersey is the villain of my piece. The actual woman wasn’t all bad, but she certainly wasn’t someone I’d pick as a friend. She was famously described as a serpent, a lady who was not happy unless she had a rival to torment. Married to an older but fashionable peer, she was already a grandmother by the time she took up with George. Her influence over him was a key factor in breaking up his relationship with Mrs Fitzherbert (the first time round!) and she made Caroline’s early married life a misery. It is often said that Lady Jersey persuaded George to marry Caroline, having picked her out on purpose as a wife he would hate. Supposedly, she thought animosity towards his wife would secure her position as mistress. However, we don’t have any proof of this, or the other allegation that she helped smuggle copies of Caroline’s incriminating letters to the Queen. Whatever this fashionable beauty’s sins, she was amply punished by the hatred of the common people, who took the side of their princess. A good blog post (not mine!) on Lady Jersey can be found here.

Lady Hertford

4) Lady Hertford A haughty Tory matriarch, not much to look at, Lady Hertford seemed an unlikely match for George. But his devotion to her was undoubted, driving him to fits of tears and days locked up in his room refusing to eat when she initially rejected his advances. It has been argued that Lady Hertford probably didn’t play a sexual role in George’s life – she and her family were there as bosom buddies and companions. Whether she granted the “last favours” or not, Lady Hertford must have persuaded George she returned his love, even if her marriage prevented her acting upon it. Either way, George was obsessed with the family and unhappy when out of their company. Rather cruelly, Lady Hertford used Maria to cover her reputation, making sure she was present when they met so no gossip got out. But Maria was there under duress: Lady Hertford had it in her power to take away her adopted daughter – a thing which Maria would do anything to prevent. However, George’s continual mania for the Hertfords did eventually lead to his second and final break with his patient Catholic wife.

Lady Conyngham

5) Lady Conyngham George’s last mistress made no secret of her motives – at least not to her friends. She was in it for the power and the money. As George’s health deteriorated, she found herself bored with him and is recorded as departing Windsor after his death with “wagon-loads of treasure”. However, she has often been underestimated by historians. Though she came from what was regarded a “low” background at the time, she was by no means stupid and actively pushed George towards Catholic Emancipation. George was not her first lover, but he was certainly her greatest triumph. With her ambitious husband, she managed to see many dreams come true for the family and their children thanks to her “services”. However, accounts of her time with George are tinged with sadness. We hear of him constantly kissing her, staring at her dewy-eyed all through his Coronation and other such foolish marks of devotion. He was besotted, but she was clearly indifferent.  Perhaps he deserved such treatment after all the women he had disappointed over the years, but I do feel sorry for the elderly, doting George.

Although these five were the main influences in George’s life, there are countless others. He reputedly seduced one of his mother’s ladies-in-waiting, attempted to start an affair with his sisters’ subgoverness (she was far too sensible to say yes), had two affairs with Elizabeth Armistead, who was later to marry his friend Charles Fox, and nearly broke up the marriage of a foreign ambassador. Amongst his female friends, he attempted but failed to take up with the Duchess of Devonshire, her sister and Madame de Lieven in turn. He was married to Caroline and although he hated her, clearly slept with her at least once to produce his heir Princess Charlotte. In my notes I have so many names of women he dallied with: Lady Bamfylde, Mrs Clare, Lady Melbourne, Mrs Johnstone, Mrs Crouch, Lady Archer, Miss Paget, Harriet Wilson, Mrs Crole, Mrs Davies, Grace Dalrymple Eliot.

It would appear, on paper, that George was a heartless seducer. The strange thing was, he genuinely believed himself desperately in love each time over. He had frenzies over women, falling dangerously ill with despair if he couldn’t get his way. He would weep copious tears and promise them the world. With such a strange and self-destructive compulsion, his life was ultimately a very lonely one. For all the women who had been happy to take his money, none were by his death-bed; only his faithful first wife, Maria, had written to him and her letter remained under his pillow. It has been suggested that George had mother issues, which led to his preference for managing, older women. While his relationship with Queen Charlotte wasn’t easy, I don’t feel it can adequately explain his behaviour, and I will discuss this fully in a later post. But isn’t it sad to think that a young man who started out so handsome and with so much promise ended alone, discarded, having alienated all the women who had ever given him a piece of their heart? He wanted to be loved so desperately – yet he betrayed that love when he got it.  He was, indeed, a complicated man to involve yourself with!

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An Interview with Regina Jeffers

Clearly, I love the Georgian and Regency eras. But so do many other people, and, excitingly, authors! I’m quizzing my historical fiction friends and giving them the chance to tell you about their fabulous work – I do hope you enjoy it. One of the very first up is the wonderful Regina Jeffers.

Regina

Why is the Regency Period important and why should we want to read about it?

The Regency marked the beginning of the Britannia Pax, a period of relative peace in the Europe and the world. From the time of the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) to the beginning of World War I (1914), the British Empire controlled the key maritime trade routes. During this period, the British Empire became the largest empire of all time. In this era of “peace,” the British Empire provided services such as the suppression of piracy and the elimination of slavery. During the early years of the 19th Century, England’s economic and social countenance changed forever. England moved swiftly from the cottage industries to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. The time saw the rise of the merchant middle class. Of course, social class held tight to its traditions, but the merchant class was the backbone of the nation and could not be denied.

The British dominated India, the West Indies, and the countries in the area of the present day Persian Gulf, and built its wealth and power with each acquisition. London became the most prosperous city in Europe. The years of the Regency saw a complete revolution in dress for both men and women. Commerce and industry fluctuated, but overall, greater wealth was known. Technological innovations affected the means of production. By 1815, Britain was an industrial nation without any real competition.

Who is your favorite Regency Era personality?

I am certain most people who know me would think that I would respond with the name of “Jane Austen” for this question. After all, I have written eight Austen-inspired novels, but that answer is too predictable for my nature. Unfortunately, other than Austen, I cannot say I favor one of the Regency “personalities” over another. I have a tendency to spend my leisure time research with those of the Royal Court. For a long time, I have thought of mapping out the relationships of George III’s many children, along with the princes’ and princesses’ families, lovers, etc. Of late, I have been reading passages on Harriette Wilson, the courtesan par excellence of the Regency. (In June 2012, BBC Radio 4 series Classic Serial by Ellen Dryden adapted Harriette’s memories for broadcast. Harriet’s book, Publish and be Damn’d: The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson was an instantaneous bestseller in 1825.) The list of Harriette’s lovers would rival Debrett’s list of the nobility. I hold no intention of writing a novel about Harriette, but I am fascinated by the way she conducted her life in a time when women had few rights.

Share a quirky fact from your research.

A Scottish legend brings us the gruesome tale of Sawney Bean. Bean was the head of an incestuous cannibalistic family. For some five and twenty years in the 15th Century, the Beans robbed and murdered unsuspecting travelers along the Ayrshire/Galloway coast. Reportedly, the Bean family lived in a sea cave close to Ballantrae on Bennane head in Ayshire. The tale appears in horrific detail in “Historical and Traditional Tales Connected with the South of Scotland” by John Nicholson (1843).

Supposedly, Bean and his wife killed and then ate their victims. Their family grew to 46 sons, daughters, and grandchildren, all who lived in a watery cave. Much to the horror of coastal communities, bones and skulls often washed ashore after the Beans disposed of their “leftovers.” King James IV reportedly led the mob, which searched for the Beans after a botched attack by the family. Finally caught, the Beans were taken to Edinburgh to meet a barbaric execution. The execution was a slow one: the men bled to death after their hands and legs were cut off, and the women were burned alive after they were forced to watch the execution of the men. John Nicholson tells us about the execution: “…they all died without the least sign of repentance, but continued cursing and venting the most dreadful imprecations to the very last gasp of life.”

One of historical romances hardest questions remains: Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen?

Obviously, this is an easy question for me: Jane Austen. Austen wrote stories of ordinary life. Her subject was common and ordinary, and she rendered it in minute detail. I am not criticizing Heyer. In truth, I have never studied Heyer’s works in detail. My opinion is based purely on my life-long love of all things Austen.

Tell us about your current projects.

In February, I brought out two Regency era novellas in one volume. His: Two Regency Novellas brings together two of my favorite minor characters. Lawrence Lowery is the older brother of one of the main characters in my Realm Series. He has a brief scene in A Touch of Velvet, another in A Touch of Cashémere, and a final one in A Touch of Grace. “His American Heartsong” is Lowery’s story. The second story in the volume is “His Irish Eve.” It is the story of Adam Lawrence, the future Earl of Greenwall. Adam is a regular in my stories with multiple walk throughs. He was given a major role in The Phantom of Pemberley. At the end of Phantom, he releases his mistress Cathleen Donnell. “His Irish Eve” brings us full circle some six years later.

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“His American Heartsong”

Lawrence Lowery has been the dutiful elder son his whole life, but when his father Baron Blakehell arranges a marriage with the insipid Annalee Dryburgh, Lowery must choose between his responsibility to his future estate and the one woman who makes sense in his life. By Society’s standards, Arabella Tilney is completely wrong to be the future Baroness–she is an American hoyden, who demands that Lowery do the impossible: Be the man he has always dreamed of being. (A Novella from the Realm Series)

“His Irish Eve”

When the Earl of Greenwall demands his only son, Viscount Stafford, retrieve the viscount’s by-blow, everything in Adam Lawrence’s life changes. Six years prior, Lawrence had released his former mistress Cathleen Donnell from his protection, only to learn in hindsight Cathleen was with child. Lawrence arrives in Cheshire to discover not only a son, but also two daughters, along with a strong-minded woman, who fascinates him from the moment of their first encounter. Aoife Kennice, the children’s caregiver, is a woman impervious to Adam’s usual tricks and ruses as one of England’s most infamous rakes. But this overconfident lord is about to do battle: A fight Adam must win–a fight for the heart of a woman worth knowing.

On March 12, Ulysses Press will release my latest Austen-inspired novel. It is another cozy mystery based on Pride and Prejudice. It is set some six months into the Darcys’ marriage. The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy promises to leave you guessing.

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The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy

Fitzwilliam Darcy is devastated. The joy of his recent wedding has been cut short by the news of the sudden death of his father’s beloved cousin, Samuel Darcy. Elizabeth and Darcy travel to Dorset, a popular Regency resort area, to pay their respects to the well-traveled and eccentric Samuel. But this is no summer holiday. Danger bubbles beneath Dorset’s peaceful surface as strange and foreboding events begin to occur. Several of Samuel’s ancient treasures go missing, and then his body itself disappears. As Darcy and Elizabeth investigate this mystery and unravel its tangled ties to the haunting legends of Dark Dorset, the legendary couple’s love is put to the test when sinister forces strike close to home. Some secrets should remain secrets, but Darcy will do all he can to find answers—even if it means meeting his own end in the damp depths of a newly dug grave.

With malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy will keep Austen fans turning the pages right up until its dramatic conclusion.

What will you be working on next?

For White Soup Press, I have begun writing book 5 of the Realm series (The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, and A Touch of Grace). A Touch of Mercy is tentatively scheduled for an early May 2013 release. A Touch of Love will follow in October. The series will finish next February with the release of a second anthology entitled “Hers” and will feature the solution to where the emerald can be found.

Ulysses Press and I are developing a new Austen-inspired for an early 2014 release.

What other books (either fiction or nonfiction) could you recommend, which speak of the Regency Period?

Kristine Hughes’s The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England

Daniel Pool’s What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew

Amanda Vickery’s Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England

John Summerson’s Georgian London

Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn Series: Slightly Married; Slightly Wicked; Slightly Scandalous; Slightly Tempted; Slghtly Sinful; and Slightly Dangerous

Louise Allen’s A Most Unconventional Courtship; “An Earl Beneath the Mistletoe” from Snowbound Wedding Wishes; The Notorious Mr. Hurst

Girly Question: If you could design and make your perfect Regency outfit, what would it be like?

I am not a fashion person. Although I have watched every season, I have never picked the winner of Project Runway, so this was a difficult question for me. I have several Regency day dresses, which I use for presentations, etc., but for this question I wanted some “classier.” Therefore, I did an Internet search.

I particularly liked this white mull gown from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is from 1810 and is made from white mull with silver tinsel embroidery. The sleeves are gathered and designed to set off the slope of the shoulder. The waist is high and sports a knotted cord, which is accented with tassels. The “V” neckline is designed to accentuate a woman’s full bosoms.

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Wow, cannibal Scots and the murder of a Mr Darcy! To find out more about Regina and buy her books, use the following links.

Website  http://www.rjeffers.com

Blogs  – Every Woman Dreams  http://reginajeffers.wordpress.com/

         Austen Authors   http://austenauthors.net/

                    English Historical Fiction Authors  http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/

Twitter  @reginajeffers https://twitter.com/reginajeffers

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Regina-Jeffers-Author-Page/141407102548455

Purchase Links:

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy

Amazon  http://www.amazon.com/The-Mysterious-Death-Mr-Darcy/dp/1612431739/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358967571&sr=8-1&keywords=the+mysterious+death+of+mr.+darcy

Books-a-Million  http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Mysterious-Death-Mr-Darcy/Regina-Jeffers/9781612431734?id=5581760318252

Barnes & Noble  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mysterious-death-of-mr-darcy-regina-jeffers/1112705054?ean=9781612431734&itm=1&usri=the+mysterious+death+of+mr.+darcy

Ulysses Press   http://ulyssespress.com/?books=mysterious-death-of-mr-darcy

His: Two Regency Novellas

Amazon  http://www.amazon.com/His-Regency-Romances-Regina-Jeffers/dp/061575774X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359572029&sr=8-1&keywords=his%3A+two+regency+novellas

Kindle  http://www.amazon.com/His-Two-Regency-Romances-ebook/dp/B00B6QTTL8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359402822&sr=8-1&keywords=His%3A+Two+Regency+Novellas

Nook  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/his-regina-jeffers/1114234802?ean=2940015971132&itm=1&usri=his%3a+two+regency+novellas

Kobo  http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/His/book-_SMXzWmrU0OkNjT4HatqHg/page1.html?s=Adqex3mxTE2rVgvyNAn2hQ&r=4