Friday, 24 February 2017

From the French Revolution to Jane Austen...

The Star of Versailles is now available worldwide and is a tale of adventure, intrigue and French revolutionary romance between a scandalous dandy and a secretive spy!

My Forthcoming Events

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.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I'm Gonna Pray for You So Hard

I'm super excited to announce that Adrian Lukis is returning to the London stage this month in the UK premiere of I'm Gonna Pray for You So Hard. Adrian is better known to readers of this blog as Mr Wickham, of course, as well as the leading man of An Evening with Jane Austen, which has its online home here on the salon.  Read on for more about the production, and don't miss the chance to play  your part in bringing this remarkable work to life by clicking here!


by Halley Feiffer.

"Everything I did - every decision I made - led me right here - right to this moment, here with you."

The UK premiere of an award-nominated black comedy from American playwright Halley Feiffer, I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard opens at the Finborough Theatre for a four week limited season on Tuesday, 28 February 2017 with Adrian Lukis and Jill Winternitz.

Ella is a precocious and fiercely competitive actress whose sole aim in life is making her famous playwright father, David, proud. Over the course of a wickedly intense evening, Ella and David deliberate whether to read the reviews of her off-Broadway debut. But that decision could shatter their relationship forever.

A hilarious and gut wrenching black comedy which sheds new light on the eternal struggles of family life. I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard reminds us that you don't have to be part of a theatrical family to know that life is filled with drama. And for that, there's no dress rehearsal.

I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard received its critically acclaimed Off-Broadway premiere in 2015, breaking box office records and earning Feiffer a nomination for an Outer Critics' Circle Award. It is directed by Jake Smith, previously Staff Director on Breakfast at Tiffany's (Theatre Royal Haymarket and National Tour), who returns to the Finborough Theatre following his sell-out revival of Andy Capp the Musical.

Playwright Halley Feiffer began her writing career at a young age when she won the National Young Playwrights' Contest in 2002. Full-length plays include How to Make Friends and Kill Them (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City (MCC Theater). Theatre as actor includes The House of Blue Leaves (Walter Kerr Theater, Broadway) for which she won a Theatre World Award, Tigers Be Still (Roundabout Theatre Company), Some Americans Abroad, suburbia and Election Day (2ST), Still Life (MCC Theater) and None of the Above (Lion Theatre).

Director Jake Smith began his career at Hull Truck and was a founding member of Assemble Fest, a large-scale theatre festival launched following Hull's winning City of Culture campaign. He was the Trainee Director in Residence at Chichester Festival Theatre from 2014-2016. Jake is currently Resident Director at The Almeida Theatre and was recently Staff Director on Breakfast at Tiffany's (Theatre Royal Haymarket and National Tour). Productions at the Finborough Theatre include Andy Capp the Musical. Direction includes The Tempest (Petersfield Shakespeare Festival), Citizenship (National Theatre Connections, Chichester Festival Youth Theatre and The Capitol Theatre, Horsham), The Boy Who Built Clock (Arts Theatre), A Christmas Carol (Chichester Festival Theatre), Smoke (and mirrors) (Derby Theatre for Theatre Uncut), The Little Match Girl (Assemble Fest, Hull), Alice's Site (Hull Truck) and The Coronation of Poppea (Middleton Hall, Hull).

Readings include Arthur (Theatre Royal Haymarket), Swan Song (Minerva Theatre, Chichester, and Chichester Festival Theatre), I am Scratch (Old Red Lion Theatre) and Betjeman with Edward Fox (Chichester Festival Theatre). Jake has worked as Assistant Director with Howard Davies on For Services Rendered and Jamie Glover on Miss Julie and Black Comedy (Minerva Theatre, Chichester, and Chichester Festival Theatre), Nadia Fall on Way Upstream, Dale Rooks on The Hundred and One Dalmatians and Jonathan Kent on Gypsy (Chichester Festival Theatre), Max Stafford-Clark on Pitcairn (Chichester Festival Theatre and Out of Joint), Christopher Morahan on Stevie (Hampstead Theatre), and Sarah Louise Davies on Whale Music (Hull Truck).

Adrian Lukis | David
Trained at Drama Studio London.
Theatre includes The Seagull (Chichester Festival Theatre and National Theatre), Dinner (Wyndham's Theatre), The Philadelphia Story, Cloaca (The Old Vic), The Taming of the Shrew (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Relapse, Sleep with Me (National Theatre), Versailles (Donmar Warehouse), Dead Funny, The Front Page, (Chichester Festival Theatre), Sherlock Holmes - The Best Kept Secret (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Orson's Shadow (Southwark Playhouse), Pygmalion (Theatre Royal Bath), As You Like It, Hay Fever (Rose Theatre, Kingston), The Winslow Boy and Arthur and George (Birmingham Rep).
Film includes City Slacker, Victim, Nine Miles Down, Innocent, Nightwatching, 7 Seconds, Me Without You, Young Blades and The Trench.
Television includes The Crown 2, Grantchester, Red Dwarf, Judge John Deed, Downton Abbey, Death in Paradise, Silk, Pride and Prejudice, Midsomer Murders, Agatha Christie's Poirot, Silent Witness, Doctors, Fresh Meat, Outnumbered, Lewis, Heartbeat, A Touch of Frost, The Bill, Spooks and Foyle's War.

Jill Winternitz | Ella
Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
West End Theatre includes Girl in Once (Phoenix Theatre) and Baby in Dirty Dancing (Piccadilly Theatre).
Other theatre includes Dark Tourism (Park Theatre), A Handful of Soil (Drayton Studio Theatre), Hamlet, The Canterbury Tales (Cunard Queen Mary 2) and The Seagull (Moscow Art Theatre School).
Film includes 10x10, A Streetcat Named Bob, Relics, The Sorrows and The Replacement Child.

“Bone-chilling… A potently acted, punishing drama by Halley Feiffer” Charles Isherwood, The New York Times

“Viciously funny… Brutally effective… Feiffer takes a tough look at the forces that can bring us to our knees” ★★★★ Four Stars, Time Out New York

“One of the best plays I’ve seen this season… Provocative, sensitive, shocking… The writing is polished and probing… A tense thriller that left me shaking” New York Observer

“Spectacular tension and real danger” Entertainment Weekly

“It’s a fearless piece of work, riveting and hilarious!” Bergen Record

The Press on Director Jake Smith:

"The young director Jake Smith is one to watch." Terri Paddock

"A moment of artistic genius by director Jake Smith. Mirrors loveable rogue is brought to life in stunning style" Daily Mirror on Andy Capp The Musical

"Jake Smith's witty production on the tiny Finborough stage gives it plenty of warmth, and a versatile cast frequently double as actor musicians to give the two person band added heft" Mark Shenton, The Stage

“Wonderfully inventive staging by Dale Rooks and Jake Smith" ★★★★★ Five Stars, The Argus on A Christmas Carol

“It is rare to see such a stunning piece of theatre among professional productions nowadays… A charming retelling of Dickens’ classic tale” ★★★★★ Five Stars, The Reviews Hub on A Christmas Carol

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

The Star of Versailles

As the Reign of Terror tears Paris apart, a dandy and a spy are thrown together on a desperate race through France.

I am thrilled to announce that The Star of Versailles, a thrilling tale of the French Revolution, is now available to buy worldwide. Co-written by my good self and Willow Winsham, The Star of Versailles

Buy The Star of Versailles in paperback
Buy The Star of Versailles ebook at Amazon UK
Buy The Star of Versailles ebook at Amazon US

About The Star of Versailles

In the darkest days of the Reign of Terror, rumors grow of the Star of Versailles, the most exquisite treasure ever owned by the doomed Marie Antoinette. For Vincent Tessier, the notorious Butcher of Orléans, this potent symbol of the ancien régime has become an obsession and he’ll stop at nothing to possess it.
When Alexandre Gaudet arrives in France to find his missing sister and nephew, the last thing he expects is to fall into Tessier’s hands. With Gaudet tortured and left for dead, salvation stumbles accidentally, if rather decorously, into his path.
For Viscount William Knowles, life as a spy isn’t the escape he had hoped for. Yet a long-held secret won’t let him rest, and the fires of Revolution seem like the easiest way to hide from a past that torments him at every turn.
Adrift in a world where love, family and honor are currencies to be traded, the world-weary Viscount Knowles and the scandalous Monsieur Gaudet have no choice but to try to get along if they want to survive. With Tessier in pursuit, they search for the clues that will lead them to the greatest treasure in revolutionary France—the Star of Versailles.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Mystery of Lady Macclesfield

It's my pleasure to welcome Jacqui Reiter, author of the brand new release, The Late Lord, to the salon, for a dip into the mystery of Lady Macclesfield!


While writing my biography of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, I discovered several instances where the records were frustratingly thin or even non-existent. Many of these instances were connected with the life of Chatham’s wife, Mary Elizabeth, Countess of Chatham. Lady Chatham (who I have already written about here) is a shadowy figure, remarkable in the historical record largely for her absence from it. This is I suspect partly because of her lengthy episodes of mental illness in 1807-9 and 1818-21. Information about these episodes is sparse: the Chathams were a deeply private couple at the best of times, and this (clearly) was not the best of times. 
One of the mysteries connected with Mary Chatham’s ill health is the role of Mary Frances, Countess of Macclesfield. I was first alerted to this by a letter, probably written by Lady Chatham’s sister Georgiana Townshend to Lady Chatham’s physician Henry Vaughan (later Sir Henry Halford) in April 1807. At this time Mary was at her worst, and Georgiana was in despair. Lady Chatham’s maid, she told Halford, “thinks her no better or she would write to me, & L[ad]y Macclesfield thinks on the whole she is not”. Georgiana’s next line makes it obvious Lady Macclesfield somehow had an important steadying influence on Mary Chatham: “She will be in Town tomorrow please God, & will see her then & after”.[1]
This was a puzzle. I had never before come across either Lord or Lady Macclesfield in my research on the Chathams. Shortly after I came across the following in a letter from the politician George Canning to his wife, dated March 1810. Lord Chatham was then undergoing scrutiny during the parliamentary inquiry that followed the failure of the Walcheren Expedition of 1809, which he had commanded. At the time this letter was written Chatham was under the shadow of censure by the House of Commons. Canning had left the government a few months previously and was marshalling his personal following: “[Lord] Binning called upon me Friday, to make his profession of faith & following reserving only the question about Lord Chatham against whom he cannot vote for private reasons, Lady Binning being Lady C[hatham]'s intimate friend, I believe connection. For the rest he vows to follow me, in or out, implicitly.”[2]
Lord Binning
Now this was interesting. Thomas Hamilton, Lord Binning (later Earl of Haddington), was married to Lady Maria Parker, the only child and heiress of Lord and Lady Macclesfield. A chance discovery had provided me with another piece of the Macclesfield puzzle.
I still only had two pieces, however, and Lady Macclesfield herself wasn’t helping. What I knew about her was sketchy. She was born Mary Frances Drake in about 1761, the daughter of Reverend Thomas Drake, Vicar of Amersham. She and her two sisters were co-heiresses, and she managed to bag an earl, so presumably Thomas Drake had been a rich man. He was certainly from a rich family: his elder brother, William, was lord of the manor of Amersham and possessed of considerable political influence (Amersham was a “rotten borough”). The Drakes had been one of the most important families in Amersham since at least the seventeenth century, when Mary Frances’ ancestor Francis, godson and namesake of the famous Elizabethan privateer, had first bought the right to return MPs.[3]
George, 4th Earl of Macclesfield
(Wikimedia Commons)
I have not managed to work out how Mary Frances met the 4th Earl of Macclesfield, but Amersham isn’t a million miles from Shirburn Castle, Lord Macclesfield’s country seat, so it’s possible the pair met socially. The wedding took place on 24 May 1780, when Mary Frances was still a minor, with consent of her uncle and guardian (her father died when she was in her mid-teens).[4]
There could have been several reasons for the marriage (chief of which may have been Mary Frances’ sizeable fortune), but one of the most suggestive is mathematical. The couple’s daughter, Maria (the future Lady Binning), was born on 23 January 1781, less than eight months after the wedding.[5] Either she was premature, or Lord and Lady Macclesfield married in a hurry. Whatever the truth, the young couple’s baby daughter never received any siblings. This lack of fecundity may have given Mary Frances something in common with her friend Lady Chatham, who never managed to bring even one pregnancy to term.
Lady Macclesfield was prominent at court, and seems to have been a favourite with Princess Augusta. She was also a lady of fashion: her court wear is frequently described in the newspapers. On her presentation after her wedding she was said to have “attracted the eyes of every one” in a dress of “laylock and silver, superbly trimmed, with variegated silver gauze interspersed with tiffany and foil”.[6] 
All these things might have made Lady Macclesfield and Lady Chatham likely to form a firm friendship. They were of an age and married young; they moved in the same social circles. Misfortune only strengthened their bond. When Mary Chatham fell ill in 1807, she seems to have been unable to confide in close family. This was particularly the case with her husband, who got in the way to the point that Mary’s doctor eventually told him to go away for a while. Mary Macclesfield must have been a point of normality to which Lady Chatham could cling.
Lady Macclesfield’s importance to the Chathams is borne out by several other clues in the correspondence. In the summer of 1809, while Lord Chatham was abroad with the army at Walcheren, Lady Chatham (who was still ill) left London with Lady Macclesfield. She spent almost the entire time her husband was away at Shirburn Castle. From here, Lady Macclesfield sent increasingly positive health bulletins to Chatham through his cabinet colleague Lord Liverpool. As the Walcheren campaign collapsed into ignominy, these positive reports must have been the only heartening things for Chatham on an increasingly bleak horizon.[7]
Shirburn Castle,
Wikimedia Commons

There is no evidence that Lady Macclesfield played any role in Mary Chatham’s second illness, nor is there a record of her reaction to Mary Chatham’s death in May 1821. By this time, however, Mary Macclesfield herself was very ill. She suffered for over a year before dying at half past ten in the evening on 1 January 1823, her husband and daughter at her side. 
The widowed Lord Chatham was then in Gibraltar, where he was serving as governor. Lord Binning, Lady Macclesfield’s son-in-law, wrote less than forty-eight hours later to apprise him of the passing of his wife’s close friend. “Lord Macclesfield was very anxious that you should be written to among the first,” he wrote, “as he well knows the place that for various reasons she bore in your esteem & friendship.”[8]
Whoever Lady Macclesfield was, and whatever she did, her role in the life of Lord and Lady Chatham was clearly invaluable.

[1] [Georgiana Townshend] to Henry Vaughan [Sir Henry Halford], 14 April [1807], Leicestershire Record Office DG24/819/1.
[2] George Canning to his wife, 3 March 1810, BL WYL 250/8/24.
[3] Information from See also George Lipscomb, The History and Antiquities of the County of Buckingham, volume 3 (London, 1847), p. 155.
[4] The registers of marriages of St Mary Le Bone, Middlesex, 1668-1812 … Part III (London, 1921), p. 71.
[5] Information from The date is confirmed by various newspaper reports.
[6] Morning Post, 6 June 1780.
[7] Morning Chronicle, 28 July 1809; Lord Liverpool to Chatham, 14 August [1809], TNA PRO 30/70/6 f. 417.
[8] Lord Binning to Chatham, 3 January 1823, TNA PRO 30/8/365 f. 195.

About the author

Jacqueline Reiter has a PhD in late 18th century political history from the University of Cambridge. A professional librarian, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. She blogs at and you can follow her on Facebook ( or Twitter ( Her first book, The Late Lord: the life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, was published by Pen & Sword Books in January 2017.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Austenesque Short Stories

It's my pleasure to welcome Elizabeth Adams, with a look at her Meryton Vignettes, inspired by Jane Austen!


I love short stories. They’re just the right length to read over breakfast or when you have a short break in a busy day. I love how they give you a whole story in a tiny, brilliant package, and can be just as enjoyable as a long novel without the lengthy wait for resolution. Angst in short stories is generally short-lived (unless it’s just a depressing story—I hate those), and knowing I’ll be out of the woods soon makes the hard stories easier for me to read. 
This collection is a mixture of light and dark. To make it simple for the reader to know what they’re getting into, I’ve divided the book into three sections, each with two short stories. 
Down the Road explores the future of certain P&P characters following the canon book. 
Alternate Paths twists canon just a little and shows what might have been, although I suppose both of those could fit into canon somewhere, if you really use your imagination. 
In the Dark is for stories with a murky edge. One is more humorous and a little twisted, the other could be downright disturbing depending on the reader’s perception. 
When writing, I usually get an idea or an image for a story and run with that. That was definitely the case with First Attachments; one of the scenes just popped into my head one day, in vivid technicolor with stereophonic sound, and I couldn’t ignore it. The rest of the story bloomed around that scene.
It was a similar experience with He Had It Coming. I got the idea for the basic plot several years ago and ran with it. As I wrote the scene with Mrs. Wickham sewing up her own face after being beaten by her husband, I shuddered and felt my own skin crawling, it was so real to me. I never thought Wickham would maintain the illusion of a good husband for long, and once I got the idea of him as an abuser, it wouldn’t let me go.
Part two of that story, which I happen to love immensely, came along a while later but with no less clarity. I saw Lydia surrounded by Darcy and Bingley children and how she would have changed through the years. I couldn’t wait to explore that scenario and see where she would take me.
Occasionally, I get ideas when I’m reviewing something else. 
The stories about Charlotte and Caroline are the result of too many late nights trying to divine character depth from the pages of P&P.  Last year, I was a member of a Jane Austen blog and did a series of character studies on my monthly posts. As I was studying Charlotte, I noted how she would likely make a great CEO in today’s world—her brute practicality, her ability to manage difficult people, her unending patience. And, of course, her ruthless willingness to seize an opportunity when it comes her way.
I was incredibly curious about what life would be like for her once she went home to Meryton as Mrs. Collins. Would the neighborhood accept her as the rightful mistress of Longbourn? Would they feel she had gained it unfairly? Would they put her through a bit of hazing first, but then eventually draw her into the fold?
For Caroline, I wondered what she would do with herself once her life’s ambition was no longer a possibility. Who would she talk to? How would she behave? What was running through that scheming head of hers? And, of course, I wanted to know what kind of man would want a woman like Caroline. I’ll admit that she was ridiculously fun to write. She may be vain and delusional, but she has a certain sass that could have made her an endearing character had she not used it for such vile purposes. 
Being able to play with so many characters is what I love about a short story. It is freeing and confining at the same time to only focus on a specific event or time period or character. That’s why I love short stories; I wouldn’t want to read an entire book about Caroline—she’s too abrasive for that—but I do enjoy a glimpse into her future and listening to her crazy thoughts for a minute.
I just hope readers enjoy it as much as I do!

An Extract from Mistress of Longbourn
Charlotte Returns

Charlotte ran her hand along the back of the sofa, her gloves skidding lightly along the upholstery. Her eyes scanned the room: the pair of chairs by the empty fireplace, the windows covered in lavender drapes, the aged mirror over the mantle.
Of all this, she was now mistress. 
She gazed at the portrait of Mr. Bennet, painted in his prime, and remembered the man who had been her neighbor for twenty-seven long years, and who was now, by his failure to produce an heir, the means of her husband having his own estate. In a way, he could be credited with her having a husband at all. If he had not agreed to host Mr. Collins all those years ago, and supported Elizabeth’s refusal of her cousin’s proposal, Charlotte would have never met and married Mr. Collins. 
And now, seventeen long years after her wedding, she was here. The mistress of Longbourn. Second only to Netherfield Park, it was one of the most respectable estates in the area, belonging to one of its oldest families. 
And now, it was hers. 
“Was your journey pleasant?”
Charlotte jumped and looked over her shoulder. “I didn’t hear you come in. Forgive me, Mary. How do you do?”
“As well as can be expected, Mrs. Collins,” replied Mary Bennet.
“Please, call me Charlotte. We are such old neighbors,” said Mrs. Collins kindly.
“I think not,” Mary said plainly. “Nearly everything is packed. We shall be gone tomorrow.” 
Mary turned and left the room, leaving a bewildered Charlotte behind her.
Charlotte shook off the feeling of guilt that had tried to settle on her shoulders and went upstairs to see to her children. She did not particularly enjoy her husband’s company, and she found the act of begetting children quite off-putting, but the results of her endurance were more than adequate recompense. 
“Mother, have you considered my request?” asked a voice to her left.
She turned and looked into the face of Charlotte Rose, her eldest daughter. She was quite a pretty thing if Charlotte could say such about her own daughter. She had the look of her Aunt Maria about her. 
“I have, Lottie, and since you have been so helpful throughout this move, I have decided to grant your request.”
“Oh!” the girl squealed, jumping on her toes and clasping her hands in front of her. “May I choose my chamber now?”
Before her mother could answer, the eldest of the Collins children ran off and began opening doors and comparing views. Charlotte shook her head at her enthusiasm. 
“Oh, to be fifteen again!” she mumbled to herself.
She went into the nursery to help settle in her younger daughters. 
Two years after her marriage, she had been delivered of a girl, Charlotte Rose, Lottie to her family. Only eighteen months later she had born a son, William John. He was followed in two-year increments by Catherine Ann and Mildred Grace. Believing she had done her duty, and not wishing to die in childbirth as her years increased alongside her womb’s fecundity, Charlotte told her husband she wished for no more children. Having birthed four babes, he couldn’t possibly expect more of her.
Mr. Collins acquiesced as she knew he would and no more was said about it.
Unfortunately, when young William was but five years old, he succumbed to a fever and was buried in the churchyard. Charlotte was devastated.
Within a year of his death, at thirty-seven years of age, Charlotte was with child. When she delivered a boy, she thanked God she would be spared further confinements. Lying in bed exhausted and spent, so happy and relieved was she that she didn’t hear her husband clearly at first when he suggested a name for the babe. She cuddled the white bundle closer to her and asked again what he had said.
“William, after his father. It’s fitting, don’t you think?” Mr. Collins said with an ingratiating smile. 
He clearly had no idea of his suggestion being denied. 
“We already had a son called William. Do you not remember, Mr. Collins?” she asked, her voice calm. 
She remembered perfectly. How his skin had felt so hot and yet so thin, his cheeks flushed and his forehead clammy. She remembered how he had struggled for breath as she held him, praying with every fiber of her being for God to spare her only son. How she had bargained with fate, promising to be the best mother, the best wife, if only her boy would live! And how lost she had felt when the last ragged breath had left his body limp in her arms, his eyes unmoving, his chest eerily still. 
She had let out a mighty wail the likes of which Hunsford had never heard, lost to everything but the profundity of her grief. She had not been practical Charlotte in that moment. She had been nothing but a mother, deprived of her life’s greatest achievement and proudest joy. 
Her husband’s idiotic rambling brought her back to the conversation and his insulting suggestion.
“Well, yes, but, as the boy is no longer with us, a man wants his name to carry on, that is, I am his father…” 
He spluttered on and Charlotte settled her eyes on the window, the church just visible in the distance, and next to it, the churchyard that held her beloved boy in its peaceful clasp. 
“No, Mr. Collins, we will not,” she said simply.
He looked at her stupidly for a moment, but her eyes remained fixed on the window.
“What was that, my dear?” he asked.
“We will not name him William.”
“But surely, I am his father, my name, I must—”
“No,” she said forcefully. “I have already birthed and buried a son called William. There will not be another.”
Mr. Collins stood gaping at her, his mouth opening and closing like a fish.
“I shall call him Lucas Adam, after my family and my grandfather.” She looked at the baby fondly.
“He was always kind to me.”
Mr. Collins had left the room then, and she had written it in the family Bible before he could argue further. 

About the Author

Elizabeth Adams loves sunshine and a good book. If she had her druthers, she’d live in a villa on the Mediterranean and go tango dancing every Friday. She makes great cookies and often laughs at inappropriate moments.
 She is the author of The HouseguestUnwilling, and Meryton Vignettes: Tales of Pride and Prejudice.
Buy the Audiobooks

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
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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