History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

29 March 2013

In Apology....

In an ideal world, this post today would be on early aviation.

When I was researching The Ashford Affair, I spent a fair amount of time looking into the early days of airplanes-- or aeroplanes-- with special attention to the aviation scene among the expat crowd in Kenya, since one of my main characters, my anti-heroine, Bea, was engaged in learning how to fly, following in the footsteps of Beryl Markham and Denys Finch-Hatton.

Among other things, I found some hysterical videos from the 1930s (a little later than my period, but still fun) on the care and use of your private plane for the average English girl.  Seriously.

This not being an ideal world, other events intervened.  Ironically, my having a plane to catch in an hour has something to do with it-- although I certainly won't be flying it myself.

So, instead, with apologies, I offer you something that just popped up in my inbox yesterday: the first chapter of The Ashford Affair audio edition, hot off the soundwaves:

(This chapter is one of the modern bits, rather than one of the 1920s Kenya bits.  To read the 1920's Kenya-set Prologue, just click here.)
Happy weekend and happy listening!  And once I'm off the plane, I promise to hunt up those amusingly absurd early airplane videos....

25 March 2013

Research Mecca

Last weekend I was up in Portland with Delilah Marvelle and Jenn LeBlanc working on a cover shoot (yes, Illustrated Romance now has period accurate stock photos for Georgian, Regency, and Victorian books, go get 'em!).

On top of having a great time doing that, I got to go to Powell's Books. Aside from the fact that they didn't have single copy of my books--new or used!--it's a pretty amazing place and I went a bit nuts before dialing it back. Even though I know I can find most books nowadays on either Amazon or AbeBooks, there's something about the thrill of discovery while browsing that just can't be beat.

I found a hardback copy of THE PRODIGAL RAKE (would anyone like my paper copy? I'll give it to anyone who asks for it in the comments), THE ENGLISHMAN'S CASTLE (sort of a giant love letter to the English concept of home and hearth), MAYFAIR: A TOWN WITHING LONDON (a book I've been looking for for years), THE MODE IN COSTUME (a book my mom had when I was a kid that I just couldn't pass up), and a nice copy of Katie Hickman's DAUGHTERS OF BRITANNIA which I somehow didn't own already (this is where I love having all my books listed on GoodReads, as it makes it easy to check my library on the fly).

Do you have any favorite bookstores you want to recommend? Is there one in Atlanta that I just can't miss when we're there for RWA this summer? And don't forget to ask for my extra copy of THE PRODIGAL RAKE if you'd like it. It's really quite an amusing memoir.

22 March 2013

The Bride and the Bandit is a light-hearted western romance by the author of Gauchos & Gumption.  The story features an imaginative small-town librarian in Maple Falls, Oregon, who is writing a summer theatrical, "The Trials of Cleopatra," and the undercover detective who comes to town, posing as a photographer, and ends up playing Antony to her Cleopatra, capturing the notorious Black Bandit, and falling in love---all in one summer.

11 March 2013

After Waterloo...

The battle of Waterloo may have ended the major fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, but it was far from bringing an end to the simmering tensions of the past quarter century. When Napoleon escaped from the field at Waterloo, Louis XVIII was still in exile in Ghent. Much of the negotiating for France in the immediate aftermath of the battle was done by two men whose careers had been closely intertwined with that of Napoleon Bonaparte and with the Revolution - Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and Joseph Fouché.

Prince Talleyrand, Napoleon's former foreign minister (though he had left office well before Napoleon's exile)  had survived in the first Bourbon restoration to represent France at the Congress of Vienna and had not rejoined Napoleon when Bonaparte escaped from Elba. Fouché, Napoleon's minister of police for much of his rule, had worked with the Allies against Napoleon in 1814 but then rejoined Napoleon after his escape from Elba and served as his minister of police during the Hundred Days. After Napoleon's resignation was demanded by the Chamber of Deputies, Fouché became head of the provisional government and negotiated with the victorious Allies (whom Talleyrand had joined). Louis XVIII was a weak king and the Allies saw the need to keep both Talleyrand and Fouché to fill the power vacuum, at least temporarily. Talleyrand became Prime Minister and asked Fouché to stay on as Minister of Police. 

Emboldened by Napoleon's second defeat, the Ultra Royalists, led by Louis XVIII's brother the Comte d'Artois, wanted vengeance on those who had gone over to Napoleon during the Hundred Days (and really for everything since the Revolution). Though the Ultra Royalists despised Fouché as a regicide who had voted for the execution of Louis XVI, it was Fouché who recieved denunciations against former Bonapartists. Fouché, expert at using terror to maintain control (and preserve his own position) played a key role in carrying out the White Terror against Bonapartists (and suspected Bonapartists) who were proscribed from the amnesty, though the Ultra Royalists went too far even for him. Talleyrand advocated a more temperate approach and made the best of a weak hand as he negotiated with the Allies. Ultra Royalist gangs attacked Bonapartists in the south. Allied soldiers - British, Prussian, Dutch-Belgian, Bavarian - thronged the boulevards and quais of Paris and were encamped in the Bois de Boulogne, leading to frequent tension with the French populace. Royalist émigrés, many of whom had fled France two decades ago, returned seeking to have their estates restored.

Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch, the protagonists of my series, step into this glittering, simmering cauldron in my forthcoming The Paris Affair. The mystery they investigate twists through the glamorous veneer of Restoration Paris and the smoldering tensions beneath. Both Talleyrand and Fouché are major characters. The book also gave me the chance to revisit old friends such as Talleyrand's niece Dorothée and her sister Wilhelmine, the Duchess of Sagan. I loved writing about Waterloo in Imperial Scandal, but I found its aftermath every bit as intriguing to research and write about.

Can you think of other examples where the tensions after a major historical event are as interesting as the event itself? Of books that take place in such settings?

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08 March 2013

ASHFORD Influences

My new novel, The Ashford Affair, comes out in just a bit over a month, on April 9th. This was a departure for me. After years of writing books set in 1803 and 1804, I had moved a hundred years up into a whole new realm: Edwardian, World War I, and 1920s England.

When beginning a new book, I always like to start with real people to use as models for my characters: after all, if someone else trod that same path in that same time, it makes me confident that my characters are in sync with their era. In the case of The Ashford Affair, my two main historical characters, Addie and Bea, have grown up in a great house in the English countryside: Addie the poor cousin, Bea the beloved daughter of the house. Both of them find their lives interrupted by World War I, which hits just as they’re starting to think about their debuts (or, at least, Bea is!).

One of the main inspirations for The Ashford Affair was Frances Osborne’s The Bolter, about her much-married great-grandmother, whose life and marriage were turned upside down by World War I and who then embarked upon a series of much publicized marriages and liaisons, racketing back and forth between England and Kenya. For me, though, Idina was much more interesting as a model for the later part of the story; she was slightly older than my characters and her childhood rather different from theirs. I knew I would need other examples to draw on for that part of Addie and Bea's story.

Although the book branches out later on, to 1920s Kenya and beyond, I knew that Addie and Bea's English childhood was key to my story, since it shaped the people they were and their reactions to the changing world around them. My first port of call was, naturally, the Mitford sisters. I’ve always been a huge Mitford fan and there’s a wealth of text written both by and about that famous—or infamous—clan. Nancy Mitford’s In Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate both helped provide a sense of “voice” for the time, as well as providing me a model for Addie’s intimidating Aunt Vera in Mitford’s Lady Montdore.

I also owe a debt to Lady Diana Cooper, daughter of the Duke of Rutland, whose experiences nursing at Guy’s Hospital during World War provided fodder for my story (and whose memoirs filled in a number of necessary details), and, of all unlikely people, Barbara Cartland, who wrote vividly of the experience of being a debutante in the years just after the Great War, with the world turning cartwheels around them, all the usual proprieties forgotten in a rush to jazz-filled nightclubs.

But the most important model for those formative years of my characters’ lives weren’t the Mitfords (or Barbara Cartland): it was the Curzon sisters, particularly Cimmie, who was almost exactly the same age as my Addie and Bea, and, like them, had her debut delayed because of the war. The friction between Irene (the oldest) and Cimmie (the middle sister) with their father in 1919 as the older generation clung to the old standards while the younger generation found itself changed and changing with the experience of World War I helped provide a pattern for me for the dislocation between Bea and Addie and their elders-- not to mention some excellent descriptions of denuded ballrooms!

In that research phase, there's nothing like finding real people who have lived through the same events as your characters....

04 March 2013

White’s: A (very) Short History

 White’s: A (very) Short History
As described by Percy Colson in his book White’s 1693-1950.

White’s began as White’s Chocolate House on the site of what was to become Boodle’s. By the Regency period it had moved several times and finally settled at the location it currently occupies on St. James’s Street and the Young Club and the Old Club had combined their membership (1781), ending the two-tiered system that had been in place for nearly forty years, during which all members elected to the Old Club had to first be members of the Young Club). The manager was Benjamin Martindale (son of John Martindale, who had been manager before him) until 1812, when he was succeeded by George Raggett (who was more of a businessman than his predecessors and immediately set about raising the cost of membership and dunning members for dues that were in arrears).

A typical night at White’s described c. 1743: “Dinner say at seven o’clock play all night, one man unable to sit in his chair at three o’clock, break up at six the next morning and the winner goes away drunk with a thousand guineas.”

The “Rules of the Old Club” as written down in 1736:

  1. That no one be admitted but by ballot.
  2. That nobody be proposed but when twelve members are present.
  3. That there be twelve members present when the person is balloted for, which is to be the day sevennight after he is proposed, and one black ball is an exclusion that that time.
  4. That any person who is balloted for before nine a clock is not duely elected.
  5. That every member is to pay a guinea a year towards having a good cook.
  6. That no person be admitted to dinner or supper but what are members of the Club.
  7. That every member who is in the room after ten a clock is to pay his reckn’ at supper.
  8. That supper is to be on table at ten a clock and the bill at twelve.
  9. That every member who is in the room after seven a clock and plays, is to pay half a crown.
  10. That no person be proposed or balloted for but during the sitting o Parliament.

Important dates:

1745 Bets in the Betting Book are written by the betters themselves rather than entered by an official of the Club (some wit has written in the book “About this time it is supposed the nobility of England began to learn to write.”).
1743 The Young Club is established.
1753 It was ordained that “no person be admitted into this Club [the Old] from ye 24th June until ye 3 October inclusive, but those gentlemen who are members of the other Club [the Young].”
1773 The Old Club added a rule, “that every member who ws in the billiard room at the time supper was served was liable for his share of the reckoning unless he had already supped at the Young Club.”
1781 The Old Club (120 members) and the Young Club (230 members) are combined.
1789 Ball to celebrate the recovery of George III (from his first bout of madness).
1811 The famous Bow Window is installed when the front door is moved.
1812 George Raggett becomes proprietor.
1814  (June 21) Fete given by White’s at Burlington House to the allied Sovereigns to celebrate the peace of Europe (cost, nearly 10K pounds; attended by 2400 people).
1814 (July) Banquet to the Duke of Wellington at the Club.
1819 Death of Robert Macreth (proprietor from 1755-1763 and owner until his death).
1833 Committee appointed to take over the election of members from the Club for a period of one year, due to excessive black balling on the part of the Club.
1845 Smoking room is created for cigars (up till now snuff had been the only tobacco used in the Club).
1850 The Club’s committee ruled that the Club was no longer required to “make advances of any sums of money for any game of cards or play, or to give unlimited credit for house diners accounts which has exposed him [the proprietor] to considerable pecuniary loss”. They further requested the resignation of the member whose refusal to pay his gaming losses had forced the proprietor to appeal to the committee for the rule changes in the first place.
1866 Rejection of the proposal to allow smoking in the Drawing room.

While White’s was a very exclusive Club, it was not “snobbish” in the modern sense of the word. You find a smattering of doctors and lawyers among the list of members (as well as writers and artists). The key is that all of these men were noted for some desirable trait: wit, gaiety, knowledge, skill. Army and Navy officers were also frequently found on the list. As with Almack’s, wealth alone was not a guarantee of entrée, nor was a title. And while White’s was not political at its founding, during the Regency it took a decidedly Tory bent during the Regency (though there were still plenty of Whig members).
The layout shown here is from the Survey of London. I have altered it to remove the expanded billiard room that was added in 1880 by enlarging it though the courtyard the smaller wing across from the original. I have also labeled as many rooms as possible, given the information in the description and other layouts from earlier periods (specifically the 1787 drawings by Adams that were never executed). If your book is set pre-1811 it is worth noting that the bow window did not exist and the entrance was through a door where the bow window is now shown (with the morning room being in two parts, separated by the entrance hall).

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