Thursday, 19 January 2017

From the French Revolution to Jane Austen...

I'm so pleased to announce that The Star of Versailles is available now direct from Pride Publishing, a full month before it goes on general sale. This tale of adventure, intrigue and French revolutionary romance can be purchased here!

Whether you'd like to be regaled with tales of courtesans or meet the notorious Mr Wickham, don't miss these fantastic dates for your diary!

Emma Hamilton: Seduction Late, National Maritime Museum, 14th February TICKETS
Be inspired by heartfelt love letters from Lord Nelson to Emma, learn a traditional courting dance, or make a fabulous mask to beguile a stranger. I'll be chatting to visitors about some famous Georgian courtesans, and telling a few eyebrow raising tales!

A Celebration of Jane Austen with Adrian Lukis, Huddersfield, 5th March TICKETS

Join ‘Mr Wickham’ and the Regency Rejigged dancers for a celebration of all things Austen, marking the bicentenary of the author’s death. I'm thrilled to be chatting to Adrian all about his career and, of course, Pride and Prejudice!

To find out more about the inestimable Miss Austen, do visit The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, Austen heaven!

Life in the Georgian Court, London, 18th May TICKETS
The history of ruling families and their courtiers will be covered by a number of humorous and tragic anecdotes, which demonstrate that the life of royalty in eighteenth century Europe was often more dangerous than enjoyable.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Scandal Sheets

I'm delighted to welcome Anngela Schroeder, author of A Lie Universally Hidden!


“Scandal sheets” are a term that have become synonymous today with the numerous forms of gossip pages that surround us in all shapes and sizes. Let’s also not forget the various kinds of digital platforms that we have today streaming “news” at us from all directions! Whenever I think about Lady Catherine and Elizabeth’s tumultuous relationship, I always wonder what the scandal sheets would have been saying about Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship, don’t you?

The Oxford English Dictionary states that the term “scandal sheet” didn’t enter the lexicon until the first decade of the twentieth century, with a Google Books search revealing the possibility of an earlier date in the 1890’s. Even with gossip columns and gossip pamphlets making an earlier appearance, newspapers devoted entirely to scandalmongering weren’t published until the 1820’s. (Reference: Susan’s Parlour)

(The London Times, still going strong today, started life in 1785 as the Daily Universal Register. John Waters was its founder)

In Roger Wilkes’ book, Scandal: A Scurrilous History of Gossip, he provides examples of the eighteenth and nineteenth century love of gossip, and how newspaper reporters purchased their juicy tidbits from loose-lipped servants and gentlemen and ladies willing to expose their friends. Not only did newspapers purchase gossip, they also blackmailed their potential victims, taking money to not print some embarrassing incident. (The Risky Regencies)

However, the scandals grew even greater because there were people who became invested in spreading false stories. Theodore Hook,  a man who not only became friendly with the Prince Regent, he also was the editor of the Sunday paper, The John Bull, and he published all sorts of scandalous stories and many were a fabrication of his vicious lies! The Regent’s estranged wife Queen Caroline and the ladies who attended her, were some of his favorite targets. (The Risky Regencies)

(Theodore Edward Hook)

Obviously, gossip generated certain scandals and no one was looking to be involved with a scandal, even though the Regency Era was rife with them! Today I thought it would be fun if I shared a “scandal sheet” with your readers, based on my new book, A Lie Universally Hidden. Of course we know that gentleman like Fitzwilliam Darcy were looking to avoid scandals, but that certainly doesn't mean it always kept him out of the gossip columns!

Scandal Post Pg 1 ALUH Jan 2017 A Covent Garden.jpg
Scandal Post Pg 2 ALUH Jan 2017 A Covent Garden.jpg

Book Description:

“The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From their infancy, they have been intended for each other. It was the favorite wish of his mother…” —Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Fitzwilliam Darcy was raised to never stray from the path set before him: ensure the continued prosperity of his estate, Pemberley, protect and educate his sister to become an accomplished woman, and marry the woman his mother chose for him—his cousin Anne de Bourgh. With a letter bearing his late mother’s signature, Darcy presumes his fate is sealed and prepares to wed one he does not love. However, his destiny begins to unravel when he glimpses a pair of fine eyes on a quiet, country road.

Elizabeth Bennet is the second daughter of a respectable though insignificant gentleman. She is flattered to have captured the attention of a local squire, a childhood friend, and everyone believes her path is secure—until a handsome, rich gentleman arrives at a neighboring estate. Happenstance begets the unlikely pair together, bridging a forbidden love long past a mere friendship.

In “A Lie Universally Hidden”, two of literature’s most beloved romance characters are destined to marry for fortune and obligation rather than love. How will Darcy and Elizabeth fulfill their true destiny under such circumstances? Shall honor, decorum, prudence—nay, a signed letter from the grave—forbid it?

"A Lie Universally Hidden" is a Regency Romance suitable for most audiences, teen and up.

Author Links:
Twitter: @schros2000

Author Biography
I have a degree in English with a concentration in British Literature and a Masters in Education. I love to travel, bake, and watch college football with my husband of 16 years and 3 rambunctious sons. My goal in life is to make not only my children, but also my students feel that they are loved, and to bring magic into everyone's world. My weaknesses are yellow cake with chocolate frosting, French bread with real butter, and my father's Arabic food, namely grape leaves, and falafel. I live in California where I dream of Disney adventures and trips across the pond.

January 16/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway
January 17/ From Pemberley to Milton/ Book Review & Giveaway
January 19/ So Little Time…/ Excerpt Post & Giveaway
January 20/ My Vices and Weaknesses/ Book Review & Giveaway
January 21/ Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review 
January 22/ Just Jane 1813/ Excerpt Post
January 23/Austenesque Reviews/ Author Spotlight & Giveaway
January 24/ Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/ Book Review & Giveaway
January 25/ Every Savage Can Dance/Book Review & Giveaway
January 26 / Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway
January 27 / Austenesque Reviews/ Book Review & Giveaway
January 28/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice/ Excerpt & Giveaway 
January 29/ Savvy Verse & Wit/ Guest Post & Giveaway

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Rebellion and Radicalism in Regency England

I'm delighted to welcome Amy D'Orazio, author of The Best Part of Love, for a look at Rebellion and Radicalism in Regency England!


Hear me! Ye oppressors! ye who live sumptuously every day! Ye, for whom the sun seems to shine and the seasons change, ye, for whom all human and brute creatures toil, fighting, but in vain, for the crumbs, which fall from your overcharged tables. . . . Your horrid tyranny, your infanticide is at an end. . . . the new creation, at the breaking of the iron rod of aristocratic sway, and at the rising of the everlasting sun of righteousness.  — Thomas Spence, Rights of Infants, 1797

“Parliament is filled with the dissolute and the reprehensible. Our regent is a disgrace, and his behaviour makes us all a mockery. There are people dying in the streets of London, starving, desperate for a crumb of bread while he wastes fortune upon fortune.” — The Best Part of Love

Regency England is an undeniable source of fascination for many of us in modern times. What else would explain the enduring popularity and abundance of books, movies, and television shows based on that time?  It was an era of romance, a time of elegance in dress and manners where beautiful ladies were courted by fine gentlemen in cities like London and Bath or in country estates. What none of us likes to consider is that if we lived in that era, it is more likely that we would have been part of the 95% of people who were not part of the world of the landed gentry. For that group of people, the era was not so romantic.  
The landed gentry and titled nobility of England but this was a minor proportion of the overall population — less than 5%. However, although they were small in number, they were absolute in their control of the socioeconomic aspects of the country. Not only were they the lawmakers and enforcers, but they also controlled the economy. Servants and tenant farmers depended on them for wages and land, and many a tradesman was sunk by a gentleman who did not or could not pay his bills or did not pay them in a timely fashion. 
It would be easy to see why those within the lower classes were discontent with their lots in life, particularly as it was difficult for people to substantially improve their station. Many people in the lower classes had neither the time nor ability to educate themselves and, though some could elevate themselves, most were consumed by mere survival. The average person, born into poverty, would remain there until they died. Such circumstances as these are ripe for rebellion.
In my book, The Best Part of Love, there is a group of radicals which is based loosely on the followers of a man named Thomas Spence. Born at the end of the 18th century, Spence believed in the common ownership of the land. He believed England should do away with the aristocracy and the landlords, and instead distribute equal parcels to every man, woman and child for their existence. He also believed the national government should have limited authority and limited resources.
Although he had radical ideas, Spence wasn’t a violent person and did most of his work through the printing of various pamphlets and books designed to spread his ideas. It didn’t, however, keep him from being arrested and imprisoned several times and it was in prison that he died in 1814. 

In the later years of his life, he had attracted a band of followers, and in the years after his death, these followers began to meet in various locations around London where they discussed Spence’s ideas and began to make plans for a revolution of sorts. 
One of their first attempts at large-scale rebellion — in what some believe to be a test-run of sorts — was the Spa Field Riot of 1816. Two assemblies were held at Spa Fields, the first a peaceful gathering in which two men were elected to carry a petition to the Prince Regent, asking for relief from economic distress and parliamentary reform. 

The second gathering was less peaceful. The petition and the men who carried it were denied the interest of the Prince Regent, and once the populace was assembled, the Spencean Philanthropists took charge, encouraging unrest and dissent and eventually a movement on the Tower of London with the intent to seize control of the government. 
The effort failed as many of the assembled ran away, and the four leaders of the rebellion (Arthur Thistlewood, James Watson, Thomas Preston and John Hoppe) were arrested and, eventually, tried for high treason. They were acquitted on the basis that the only person who was able to attest to the fullness of their plans was a spy with a criminal record. Arthur Thistlewood was jailed later, from 1818-9 for challenging Viscount Sidmouth to a duel.

Following his release, Arthur Thistlewood was quick to resume his radical activities. Again meeting with his former friends, they planned a mass execution of the entire cabinet of Parliament along with Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister at that time. In 1820, a dinner was planned at the home of Lord Harrowby on Grosvenor Street and, according to another of the conspirators, the plan was that Thistlewood would enter the dining room bearing a pair of pistols, a cutlass and a knife. He intended to behead every man therein and carry away the heads of Lord Castlereagh and Lord Sidmouth to display on Westminster Bridge.

Fortunately for those men, the Spencean Philanthropists were discovered before they were successful. They had been, by this time, infiltrated by several men who acted as spies, and it was these governmental agents who arranged for a police presence at the site of the would-be massacre. The main conspirators were apprehended and although some were sentenced to transportation, Arthur Thistlewood, Richard Tidd, James Ings, William Davidson and John Brunt were sentenced to death. They were hanged on 1 May 1820. 

Parssinen, TM. Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1973), pp. 135-141.Alan Smith, "Arthur Thistlewood: A 'Regency Republican'." History Today 3 (1953): 846-52Wilkinson, George Theodore An authentic history of the Cato-Street Conspiracy. Thomas Kelly, London, c.1820

 6 Jan My Jane Austen Book Club; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway
  7 Jan Just Jane 1813; Review
  8 Jan Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, Giveaway
  9 Jan Every Savage Can Dance; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway
10 Jan Tomorrow is Another Day; Review
11 Jan Savvy Verse & Wit; Character Interview, Giveaway
12 Jan Half Agony, Half Hope; Review
13 Jan Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Giveaway
14 Jan Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, Giveaway
16 Jan From Pemberley to Milton; Review   
17 Jan A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Guest Post    
18 Jan Obsessed with Mr. Darcy; Review
19 Jan My Kids Led Me Back to Pride & Prejudice; Vignette, Giveaway   
20 Jan Diary of an Eccentric; Review
21 Jan More Agreeably Engaged; Vignette, Giveaway

The Best Part of Love

Avoiding the truth does not change the truth

When Fitzwilliam Darcy meets Miss Elizabeth Bennet he has no idea that she — that indeed, the entire town of Meryton — harbors a secret. Miss Elizabeth, a simply country girl from a humble estate, manages to capture first his fascination and then his heart without him ever knowing the truth of her past. 

When she meets Darcy, Elizabeth had spent the two years prior hiding from the men who killed her beloved first husband. Feeling herself destroyed by love, Elizabeth has no intention of loving again, certainly not with the haughty man who could do nothing but offend her in Hertfordshire. 

In London, Elizabeth surprises herself by finding in Darcy a friend; even greater is her surprise to find herself gradually coming to love him and even accepting an offer of marriage from him. Newly married, they are just beginning to settle into their happily ever after when a condemned man on his way to the gallows divulges a shattering truth, a secret that contradicts everything Elizabeth thought she knew about the tragic circumstances of her first marriage. Against the advice of everyone who loves her, including Darcy, Elizabeth begins to ask questions. But will what they learn destroy them both?

Buy the book here!

Author Bio:

Amy D’Orazio is a former breast cancer researcher and current stay at home mom who is addicted to Austen and Starbucks in about equal measures. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh PA.

She has two daughters who are devoted to sports which require long practices and began writing her own stories as a way to pass the time she spent sitting in the lobbies of various gyms and studios. She is a firm believer that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses and happily ever afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker. 

Facebook: Amy D’Orazio
Instagram: amydorazio

Monday, 2 January 2017

Lady Hamilton and Jane Austen

Whether you'd like to be regaled with tales of courtesans or meet the notorious Mr Wickham, don't miss these fantastic dates for your diary!

Emma Hamilton: Seduction Late, National Maritime Museum, 14th February TICKETS
Be inspired by heartfelt love letters from Lord Nelson to Emma, learn a traditional courting dance, or make a fabulous mask to beguile a stranger. I'll be chatting to visitors about some famous Georgian courtesans, and telling a few eyebrow raising tales!

A Celebration of Jane Austen with Adrian Lukis, 5th March, Huddersfield TICKETS
Join ‘Mr Wickham’ and the Regency Rejigged dancers for a celebration of all things Austen, marking the bicentenary of the author’s death. I'm thrilled to be chatting to Adrian all about his career and, of course, Pride and Prejudice!

To find out more about the inestimable Miss Austen, do visit The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, Austen heaven!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Dear readers, may your Christmas and New Year be restful, happy and all that you would wish!
The mistletoe, or, Christmas gambols design'd by Edwd. Penny 

Monday, 19 December 2016

The Crown Spire is Free This Week!

The Crown Spire, a tale of intrigue, highwaymen and adventure set in 18th century Edinburgh is available free until Friday! Get it from Amazon US, Amazon UK or your national Amazon link!

If you prefer a hardcopy, the paperback is now available from Amazon UK and Amazon US!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Lady Anne Barnard

It's a pleasure to welcome Stephen Taylor, author of the fantastic, Defiance, to the salon. This wonderful biography of the estimable Anne Barnard, a most remarkable adventuress, is not to be missed!


She lived vividly at the heart of Georgian society, wrote a ballad acclaimed by Scott and Wordsworth, was privy to one of the great secrets of the age and left a body of papers that bear comparison with those of Fanny Burney. So why is she better known today in South Africa than in her native land? As the biographer of Lady Anne Barnard, it is a question I puzzled over for years.

I knew when I started my research that the materials were rich. Anne’s years at the Cape of Good Hope from 1798 established her as one of those indomitable women travellers of the early empire, a free spirit who mixed as easily with indigenous Africans as with aristocratic proconsuls sailing to and from India. Her diaries, published in South Africa and pored over by historians, showed too that she was a brilliant writer and artist.

What I did not realise when I asked her descendants for access to her papers was how much broader the sweep of her pen had been. Rather than a starting point, the Cape had been a climax in Anne’s bewilderingly busy and adventurous life; and her chronicle of it – unpublished and virtually unseen – is a trove of fresh information and insights into the Georgian age.

But to go back to the starting point: why is she not better known?

The eldest child of the Fifth Earl of Balcarres, Anne Lindsay grew up in the brilliant milieu of the Scottish Enlightenment, sharpening her wits among the likes of David Hume and Adam Smith. James Boswell used to relate a story from their Scottish tour how this 23-year-old “lady of quality” could hold her own in exchanges with Samuel Johnson.

But hers was an age when the daughters of impecunious lairds were commonly married off to men of fortune, and from the outset Anne stood her ground against such a fate. She rejected at least eleven suitors, insisting that marriage must go with love. “Matrimony, I am not ready for thee!” she wrote. “To say Yes to a proposal that would thwart the heart as long as I existed? To cheat an honest man out of the only fortune he can expect to get with me, a free heart? No, I can’t”. 

Her defiance of convention sat ill with Edinburgh’s pillars of rectitude. When Anne rejected the son of a judge, Lord Kames, he called her “a witch and a she-devil.” Attempting to turn a page, she fled to London.

Brilliance in company quickly established her as a figure in fashionable society. The Prince of Wales became a close friend and Anne introduced him to Maria Fitzherbert, the Catholic widow with whom he became infatuated. As his attentions intensified, Anne and Maria escaped to Europe, travelling together for almost a year before Maria’s resistance melted.

Meanwhile reputation started to catch up with Anne. To the cream of the social whirl, the haut ton, she was always an outsider. The respectable thought her eccentric – what a later era would have termed bohemian – because she lived independently, buying, decorating and renting houses in fashionable locations like Berkeley Square.

There were also scandals. London loved gossip and though Lady Anne Lindsay never gained the notoriety of Frances Villiers or Mary Coke, her love affairs attracted a good deal of attention. An incident involving a dissipated wastrel, Lord Wentworth, led to Anne being dubbed “the Devil in Scarlet” by Lord Byron’s mother-in-law. In the course of another doomed liaison, with the politician William Windham, she travelled to France to observe the Revolution.

These episodes left scars. As became clear when I discovered her papers, it was Anne’s sensitivity about her past that resolved her, in effect, to blot out her story.

The prospect that she would marry appeared to have passed when she received what was her thirteenth proposal at the age of 42. Andrew Barnard, a handsome but unknown former army officer, was 30. She accepted, and began the biggest adventure of her life.

Together they sailed to the Cape where she had obtained him the post of secretary to the governor. The Barnards lived in a simple cottage called Paradise at the foot of Table Mountain where she kept a small menagerie of wildlife. At the same time she acted as the governor’s hostess. 

For this land, which they both came to love, she had a wider vision. When the Barnards set off on a wagon tour of the interior, Pitt’s government saw the Cape as no more than a strategic bastion to protect its vital shipping network to India from the French. Anne did her best to convince influential friends at home that Africa too had potential. “Here is scarcity, but here will be plenty,” she wrote to Pitt’s deputy, Henry Dundas. “It is in the power of activity to make this the finest scene in the world by planting.”

Andrew Barnard died at the Cape. It is clear from their letters that the marriage had been supremely happy and nothing could replace him in her life. Anne lived at Berkeley Square until her death aged 74 in 1825, devoting her final years to the creation of six volumes of memoirs in which she recorded her life with wit and irony, along with a searing honesty. Hence the edict she issued shortly before her death that they were for the eyes of family only and never to be published.

When writing to the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, custodian of the memoirs, I had no idea of their scope and content. As it transpired, they opened the door to exhilarating and ever more astonishing places. Anne kept me fascinated, and had surprises in store right to the end. So for the reader too, I hope, will Defiance: The Life and Choices of Lady Anne Barnard.