Tag Archive: Regency

House Rules

Over the past week or so, Hubby and I have binged on “Downton Abbey,” zipping through Season 1 and half of Season 2. During the same time, I’ve been editing the final proof of the “Author’s Edition” of As You Wish (hopefully out by the end of the month). So it’s been a weird couple of weeks immersed in two period dramas set in England and thinking about how much the houses in both of them dominate the storylines.

After watching the special on Highclere Castle (see my last post) and learning that the castle inspired “Downton Abbey,” it was fascinating to see that theme in the show. The fictional Lord Grantham is so set on properly maintaining the Abbey that he doesn’t even fight the entail that will keep his wife’s money with the house (and a distant cousin who is heir) instead of going to his eldest daughter. It’s not that he cares more about the house than his daughter (I think); it’s just that both are his duties, and he figures Mary will survive without the money, but the Abbey won’t. There are more plot twists that revolve on the entail (inspired by Pride and Prejudice, I suspect), but I won’t post spoilers, in case there are other latecomers to the show who still plan to watch Season 1.

Meanwhile, without giving away too much of As You Wish, I will say that the Marquess of Solebury — father of the hero in the story, David Traymore — also takes extraordinary measures to try to save his estate, which is destined to go to his wastrel of an heir rather than the more deserving but illegitimately born David. Since the heroine Leah Cantrell has seen Solebury House in a state of ruin in the 21st century, she wonders if saving the house may be the reason she’s been transported to the past. I’d never thought about how central the house is to the plot of the book until re-reading it while watching “Downtown Abbey.”

To read the blurb and first couple chapters of As You Wish, please click on the book title to head over to the book page. If you’re an Amazon Prime Member, you can watch “Downton Abbey” episodes free on Amazon Instant Video (like Hubby and me); if not, you can buy the boxed set of DVDs here.

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Two obsessions have fueled most of my stories: the English Regency and Roman archaeology. They seem to be unrelated subjects, so it surprised me to stumble on the image shown here. This caricature by James Gillray, dated to 1801 (technically, a little before the Regency), shows Sir William Hamilton studying his collection of antiquities. The wall behind him features paintings of Cleopatra, Mark Antony, the emperor Claudius and an erupting Vesuvius.

I’m not sure what the vampire-like statue in the background represents, but the Wikimedia description page for the image explains that the joke behind it is that the paintings of Cleopatra and Mark Antony are actually portraits of Hamilton’s wife Emma and her lover Vice Admiral Nelson (renowned for fighting against Napoleon and dying at the Battle of Trafalgar). I imagine the volcano symbolizes something else, too. 🙂

It turns out that William and Emma Hamilton have bios as fascinating as Nelson’s. His Wiki describes him as a “Scottish diplomat, antiquarian, archaeologist and volcanologist.” Hers tells of her evolution from maid to actress/model (a favorite of painter George Romney) to titled lady. William reportedly encouraged her relationship with the war hero Nelson, and the three of them lived together in London.

The truth is stranger than fiction, so it’s hard to follow up a tale like that, but one of my books also touches on both of my obsessions: Lord St Leger’s Find is about an aspiring female archaeologist during the English Regency whose family thinks it’s more important for her to find a husband than to find antiquities. For a complete description and sample chapters, please check out the book page here.

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Art and Austen

How important was fine art to Jane Austen? And how does it influence her books? We know that Jane sketched, and so did other members of her family. A couple of her heroines draw, too — but it’s not portrayed as their calling in life. It’s more of a hobby.

Janine Barchas, an associate prof at the University of Texas, points out in her essay “Artistic Names in Austen’s Fiction: Cameo Appearances by Prominent Painters,” that Austen also alludes to artists in some of her characters’ names. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy’s housekeeper, who shows off her employer’s portrait to Lizzie, is named Mrs. Reynolds — maybe a reference to portrait painter Joshua Reynolds? In Emma, the title character, who sketches, has a housekeeper named Hodges — maybe inspired by William Hodges? Other characters who share names with painters of the time are George Moreland in Northanger Abbey and Charles Hayter in Persuasion.

In my Regency-set romance, The Artful Miss Irvine, the title character is a serious artist, and her work plays a key role in the plot, giving the hero insights into her personality and her past. Of course, art is always open to interpretation, and her artwork also sets the stage for a misunderstanding between the characters. 🙂

For a description and sample chapters of The Artful Miss Irvine, please hop on over to the book page here. Janine Barchas’ essay is available (for a price) from Amazon here. It also appeared in Volume 31 2009 of the Jane Austen Society journal Persuasions. More on them on this this site.

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If you have a Kindle or read Kindle books on other devices, hop on over to Amazon now through Monday to get a free copy of my Regency romance novella A Perfect Duet. Here’s the blurb:

Meek Miranda Granville only comes alive at the pianoforte, but even there, Andrew Owen intimidates her. His playing moves her like nothing else, but his critiques of her spoil the effect.

Andrew only wants to share the advantage of his training with Miranda, but his words always come out wrong. The trouble is he’d rather run his fingers over her than the keyboard, but she’s been promised to his rogue of a cousin Julian since childhood.

When Julian stands Miranda up at a bonfire celebration, Andrew gets a chance to strike a chord with her –- but if he wants to make her his, he’ll have to outplay both his cousin and her father.

Have a great three-day weekend!

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Working Against Time

The concept of time travel is a surprisingly recent thing. Only a handful of old stories (and no ancient ones) feature characters who maybe slept for years or visited a strange place, then learned afterwards that while they were out, years had passed. As for traveling backward in time, that’s an even newer concept. I guess going forward is less of stretch since we’ve all traveled from the past to the present, but no one known has traveled back in time.

One of the first stories that describes a character traveling to the past (as well as the present and future) is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, published in 1843. Interestingly, only Ebenezer Scrooge’s soul, not his body, seems to travel back, since he remains invisible to other characters during his visits.

In 1889, Mark Twain published A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, in which a man gets knocked unconscious and wakes up, body and all, in the past. A few years after that, in 1895, H.G. Wells introduced the idea of The Time Machine and purposeful time travel.

It’s interesting to me that my only time-travel book, As You Wish, was the first manuscript I sold (though the third or fourth one I wrote) and that year after year, it continues to sell better than my other books. Why? Is it because of the setting? (The heroine travels to Regency England, and maybe people find that elegant or romantic?) Or is it the past in general that appeals to readers — a simpler, more natural lifestyle than ours? Of course, maybe it’s just the title of the book that grabs attention somehow.

I’m fascinated with the past, which is why I love reading classic literature, from Austen to Shakespeare, from Apuleius to Herodotus. I’m working on some ideas for a story about a contemporary heroine who winds up in an ancient Roman town. Anyone want to go there?

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