Thursday, 28 January 2016

An Interview with Barbara Gaskell Denvil

I am absolutely delighted to welcome Barbara Gaskell Denvil to the salon today for a chat about writing, inspiration and her fabulous novels. Barabara has been a friend and champion of the blog from the very early days and it's a privilege to share a pot of tea with her!


It’s lovely to talk to you Catherine. I feel I’ve known you for years – and consider you one of the hardest working bloggers online. So thanks very much for the chance to chat.

1. Is it your love of history which inspires your writing, or is it your writing which inspires your love of history?

Each has always inspired the other. I come from a literary family and writing seemed the natural thing to do. As a child I never learned to ride a bike nor went on holidays to the beach, for all my gifts on Christmas and birthdays were automatically books, pencils, paints or pens.  But then my love of history, probably first prompted by a passion for Shakespeare on stage and film, combined with the writing and seemed to bring everything to life. There are so many historical periods and charters that I find endlessly fascinating, such as the English civil war and the following Restoration, Wellington and the Napoleonic wars, the relentless march towards French self-destruction and its poor victims such as Marie Antoinette, the rise and fall of Catholic power and the many eccentric popes, the battling Italian States and the English road onwards from Feudalism towards the end of the medieval period before the Tudors. I am immensely moved by the struggle and suffering of past eras and those attempting to escape disease and injustice, and all this haunts my dreams. In particular my passion finally took me to the winding alleyways of 15th century London. That seemed to absorb me so completely, that I have based most of my historical novels in that period.

2. Is all your fiction set in the late medieval, or have you ever written anything different? 

I also adore fantasy, and my latest novel, which will be published worldwide in both Kindle and paperback editions at the end of this month, is the first part of a fantasy trilogy. This book is entitled A White Horizon, and is set beyond the Arctic Circle during the 9th century. Still history then – but the plot is pure fantasy. 

I have always read and adored every single genre, but the novels which have influenced me most over the years have either been historical fiction – or fantasy. Certainly that is why those are now what I write myself.

My three existing published novels are historical fiction. So now comes the fantasy...

3. Well, clearly you have a favourite time period for your writing. Do you also have favourite characters amongst your own books? 

All my heroes, I’m afraid, are usually my favourite characters. And the one I love most is whichever one I’m writing at the time. I love my heroines too, but I usually identify with them – so they combine with me, and together we fall for the hero! But actually I love my minor characters and my villains too. I put so much into characterisation because I believe that is the heart and soul of every book, even more than the plot. So they all come alive to me, they move in and live with me, and are my very best friends while each book is being written.

4. Do you agree with those clichéd nuggets of advice most authors have heard a hundred times? Such as, “Write what you know”, and “Never write ten words when you could use five”

No, I think most advice given to authors is subjective, and also depends on passing fashions. I write novels with plenty of mystery, adventure, crime and danger set in the distant past and sometimes fantastical – so no – not at all the life I have lived myself. Writing ‘what I know’ would be very limiting. I suppose we all include elements of whatever we have learned and experienced in our lives, but in general I do not at all believe we should restrict ourselves to writing only what we know. I rarely enjoy the books of those writers who do. The contemporary short novels concerning people – invariably embittered women – who lead more boring lives than we do ourselves – do not interest me much. 

Nor do I believe in minimalism. We all write to the length our plots demand, and I tend to write long fast-paced novels crammed with variety.

I prefer the advice offered to us by Somerset Maugham: He said, “There are only three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.”

5. So has your own life inspired you at all? And do you live a quiet life, preferring the author’s supposedly essential isolation?

My own life has taught me a great deal, and I’ve lived through many changes, challenges, extremes and contradictions.  I’m half English, half Australia, and have three adult daughters including identical twins. I have lived at length in six different countries and travelled to many others as I lived on a yacht sailing the Mediterranean for many years. Widowed, I now live in rural Australia and am loving the peace. But not isolation. Authors need the quiet times to be alone with their imaginations and their computers, but we also need the opportunity to bounce our ideas off other people’s opinions. 

My life is certainly more peaceful than it was when I was younger, but too much isolation turns imagination to madness.

6. Introduce us to your three published novels.

SATIN CINNABAR starts on the battlefield of Bosworth, and is basically a romantic crime mystery. A family murder implicates the hero, who must prove his innocence while also coming to terms with a new king and enforced regime. History combines with fiction, and my characters go through some extraordinary adventures before they really discover their own bonds of love and friendship.

SUMERFORD’S AUTUMN is set just a little later during those early years of the dawning Tudor dynasty. Genuine history again leads into fiction, with coverage of the ‘Perkin Warbeck’ affair and subsequent treason, arrest and torture, with plenty of other adventures, threats and dangers combined with friendship, loyalty and romance. 

BLESSOP”S WIFE is set earlier around the time of Edward IV’s death. History again combines with many fictional characters, twists and turns. The romance is fundamental to the plot but there is a great deal more than that.

I don’t base any of my novels around the kings, queens and other genuine historical figures from our school books – although some of these make relevant appearances between my pages. But I prefer to follow the ordinary folk, and the lives of trouble and struggle which were endemic in those times.

7. What do you plan next?

My next published novel (due out soon) is pure fantasy! It  is the first of a trilogy, entitled A WHITE HORIZON. Quite a change of direction for me! It is still set against a historical background, although a very different one since I go back to the frozen north of the 9th century. But this book demanded far less historical research, and was a joy to write. I certainly haven’t finished with historical fiction and my planned fourth hist/fic (The Flame Eater) will be out in the not too distant future – but a little fantasy can be a delightful change from time to time and gives my inner inspiration free reign.

It’s been great talking to you, Catherine – I’ve enjoyed talking all about myself for once.!!

Meet Barbara Online


Written content of this post copyright © Barbara Gaskell Denvil, 2016.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Pitt and the Pendulum of Reform

It's my pleasure to welcome Sue Wilkes, a fellow member of the Pen and Sword Books fold, to discuss Pitt the Younger!

Pitt and the Pendulum of Reform
Regency SpiesWilliam Pitt the Younger (1759–1806) took office in 1783 (with George III’s backing) following the death of the Whigs’ leader, Lord Rockingham. He became prime minister during an era when Britain’s elite faced great dangers abroad and at home. 
During his early days as a politician, Pitt was in favour of reforming Britain’s rotten, corrupt electoral system. Various measures for reform had been mooted for many years, but it proved impossible to make headway against the upper classes’ vested interests. When Major John Cartwright founded the Society of Constitutional Information in 1780 to campaign for parliamentary reform, Pitt became a member. 
However, the outbreak of the French Revolution, and war with Britain’s traditional enemy (France), meant that many formerly liberal-minded gentlemen no longer backed reform: any change to status quo might usher in a bloody revolution at home. 
The Whig party split in two - the Duke of Portland and other prominent Whigs joined Pitt’s Tory government. Charles James Fox, a supporter of republican ideals, became Pitt’s main opponent in the House of Commons, but his extreme views meant that he only had a small band of followers. 
Pitt became an implacable opponent of parliamentary reform, and he virtually had a free hand when his government cracked down on the democratic reformers, or Radicals as they became known. They were nick-named ‘Jacobins’ (French revolutionaries) and considered to be enemies to law and order. 
In fact, most reformers only wanted parliamentary reform by peaceful means. The London Corresponding Society (LCS), formed in early 1792, advocated universal male suffrage and annual parliaments. (‘Votes for Women’ was a concept as yet undreamed-of in most reformers’ philosophy, except for a few free-thinkers).
The LCS wrote to similar societies in Manchester and Sheffield to discuss parliamentary reform. Its membership of a penny per week (with a shilling entrance fee) was affordable even for working-class men. The shoemaker Thomas Hardy and John ‘Citizen’ Thelwall, a writer and speaker, were influential members. 
When the LCS wrote to societies like ‘the Friends of the Constitution at Paris, known by the name of Jacobins’, this grabbed the government’s attention. Spies such as ‘Citizen Groves’ attended the society’s regular meetings at Thelwall’s lecture-room in the Strand. 
Meanwhile, the government received secret information that many disaffected Irishmen supported a French invasion. It knew that there were links between the Irish and British democrats, and that the LCS had written to France. 
Pitt’s government suspended the Habeas Corpus Act - the people’s legal protection against illegal or arbitrary imprisonment without trial – despite Whig protests. On 12 September 1794 Thelwall, Hardy and others were arrested and their papers confiscated. Another Radical, John Horne Tooke, was later arrested after one of his letters was intercepted by the Home Office.
After being examined by the privy council, Horne Tooke, Hardy and Thelwall were charged with high treason: plotting to kill the King. While Hardy was in prison his pregnant wife, terrified that her husband would be hanged, lost her baby and died soon afterwards. 
When the radicals’ trials took place at the Old Bailey, much evidence against them was spy testimony; there was little hard evidence of treason. Hardy’s defence counsel, Thomas Erskine, made mincemeat of the government witnesses. 
Embarrassingly for Pitt, when Tooke was on trial, he called the prime minister as a character witness to prove that he had formerly been in favour of parliamentary reform! Hardy, Tooke and Thelwall were found not guilty by the jury.
In October 1795, when the king went to open parliament, a bullet or stone passed through one of his carriage windows. This so-called assassination attempt gave the government the excuse it needed to crack down on all political agitation for reform. The Treasonable Practices Act 1795 extended the scope of the law on treason so that ‘compassing or imagining the death of the King’ by means of any writing or printed matter was now a treasonable offence. 
The second Act effectively outlawed all political meetings except under very strict conditions. A meeting could be broken up by magistrates if any language disrespectful of the government was used. The freedom of the press was curtailed; vocal opponents of the government were silenced, jailed or transported. As the Tories’ grip on the nation grew ever tighter, Charles James Fox could do little but make fine speeches as Pitt’s government snuffed out the lamps of liberty one by one. Many people in the upper and middle classes believed that Pitt’s ‘terror’ was necessary, however, to protect Britain from revolution. 
Pitt masterminded the Act of Union with Ireland in 1800 following its great rebellion two years earlier, but resigned office in 1801 when George III refused to let him ease restrictions on Roman Catholics. 

William Pitt served a second term from 1804 until his death in 1806. Pitt had lived through tumultuous times, and his many supporters believed that he had safely steered Britain through dangerous waters. Parliamentary reform, however, had to wait until over two decades after his death. 
About the Author

Sue is the author of numerous books: and her latest release, Regency Spies, is available now. She is a member of the Society of Authors. She writes for adults and children and is a creative writing tutor for the Writers Bureau. Sue like toast, crisp clear autumn mornings, and haunting secondhand bookshops.

Written content of this post © Sue Wilkes, 2016.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The History of the Lorgnette

It's my pleasure to welcome Mimi Matthews with a dip into the history of the lorgnette!


Lady with Lorgnette by Unknown Artist, 1830s.
Lady with Lorgnette by Unknown Artist, 1830s.
A lorgnette is, quite simply, a pair of spectacles mounted on a handle.  The precursor to modern opera glasses, lorgnettes were a common sight during the 19th century at the theater as well as the opera.  And since the name lorgnette derives from the French word lorgner – meaning “to ogle” or “to eye furtively” – one can only imagine the many uses to which a curious socialite in the balcony might have put them.  Whether employed to sneakily spy on a rival across the way, stealthily investigate a young gentleman down in the pit, or to merely watch the action on the stage, a lorgnette was an indispensable accessory for the 19th century lady about town.
Until the 17th century, optical aids were primarily the province of men.  However, with the invention of the lorgnette, women became much more involved in the world of eyeglasses.  Feminine interest in the lorgnette inspired many new designs, including the “jealousy lorgnette.”  Author Kerry Segrave describes the jealousy lorgnette in her book Vision Aids in America: A Social History of Eyewear and Sight Correction:
“Like all the early lorgnettes, it was constructed for one eye only and resembled one half of a fair-sized modern opera glass.  Besides having a lens at each end, the jealousy lorgnette contained an oblique mirror through which, when looking into it from a hole hidden in a decorative part in the side of the device, one could see who was behind or to one side of the viewer.”
During the 18th century, Madame de Pompadour was never without her ornate jealousy lorgnette and Madame du Barry carried a jealousy lorgnette studded in diamonds.  The jealousy lorgnette was not only an accessory of the rich and paranoid, however, it was also, in many ways, a polite necessity.  It was not good manners for a lady to turn around in her theater box and stare at those entering so that she might discover who had arrived with whom.  The jealousy lorgnette enabled her to see what was going on behind her without ever turning her head.
Brisé lorgnette fan, French, late 18th/early 19th century.(Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.)
Brisé lorgnette fan, French, late 18th/early 19th century.
(Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.)
The lorgnette was at its most controversial during the 18th century.  Marie Antoinette is credited with inventing the “fan lorgnette,” wherein the hidden lorgnette was placed within the fan itself.  According to Segrave, soon lorgnettes were hidden in meshes of lace and “in any spot the imagination could devise.”  Women flirted through these hidden lorgnettes and, in his book The Eye in History, author Frank Joseph Goes states:
“The lorgnette was part of the elegant games of high society, in the same way as the ‘language’ of the fan.”
The early 20th century magazine Hygeia explains the effect of the controversy and scandal surrounding the 18th century lorgnette:
“…the more aroused and controversial public opinion became, the more popular grew the lorgnette of every type and in every conceivable form; and whoever laid even the least claim to distinction or style sported a variety of them.”
Lorgnette of Gold and Glass, mid-19th century.(Courtesy of The Smithsonian Design Museum.)
Lorgnette of Gold and Glass, mid-19th century.
(Courtesy of The Smithsonian Design Museum.)
By the 19th century, the lorgnette had become more practical and fashionable than scandalous.  Fashion historian C. Willett Cunnington even declares that in 1893:
“Nearly every smartly dressed woman wears a lorgnette.”
Early prototypes of the lorgnette were made with an unjointed handle.  Later incarnations had a jointed handle and, by the 19th century, a spring had been added which allowed the lenses to fold together within the handle, which also served as a case.  The 1915 American Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Ophthalmology, states that:
“Such a device, manipulated with one hand, can be quickly placed before the eyes and is convenient for momentary use by presbyopes, who thus avoid being burdened with other glasses.”
Lady with a Lorgnette by Jozsef Borsos, 1856.
Lady with a Lorgnette by Jozsef Borsos, 1856.
In this way, the lorgnette transcended its role as an accessory for the theater or opera, becoming instead an accessory of daily, practical use.  Many 19th century figures kept a lorgnette permanently about their person.  Alexander I, for example, was known to hide his lorgnette in his pocket.  Because he lost it so frequently, he ultimately tied it to a button on his sleeve and was observed by many contemporaries to constantly bring up to his eye “a gilt lorgnette that was hanging from his right hand.”
For 19th and early 20th century ladies, a folding lorgnette was also frequently hung from a chain around the neck or worn as a brooch.  And in the 1930s and 1940s, it was quite popular to wear a dress clip worn to the front of a dress neckline, a pocket, or lapel which concealed a lorgnette inside.
Dress Clip Lorgnette, American, 1940s.(Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.)
Dress Clip Lorgnette, American, 1940s.
(Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.)
It should be noted that the word lorgnette is often used to describe both the “miniature telescope” or “prospect/perspective glasses” of the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the 19th and 20th century folding spectacles which snapped into a protective case or handle.  The invention of the latter variety of lorgnette is credited to Englishman George Adams in 1785.  Adams original design was meant to be carried in the pocket.  Later improvements in design were made in 1825 by English optician Robert Betell Bate who patented handled spectacles.  According to author J. William Rosenthal in his book Spectacles and Other Vision Aids, Bate’s design included a hinge in the bridge which allowed for the two lenses to be folded together as one and used as a magnifying glass.  Later, a spring would be added so that:
“…moving a small lever in the lorgnette handle would unlatch a catch and allow the lenses to spring apart.”
Rosenthal also notes that:
“…although popular with women as a fashion accessory and as a necessity for clarity of vision, public use of the lorgnette was decried as poor decorum because it was often used for ogling neighbors or strangers.”
Rossel & Fils Lorgnette, yellow gold with blue enamel and diamonds, with watch, circa 1860 .(Image by Pierre EmD CC BY-SA 3.0.)
Rossel & Fils Lorgnette, yellow gold with blue enamel and diamonds, with watch, circa 1860 .
(Image by Pierre EmD CC BY-SA 3.0.)
Lorgnettes were made of a variety of materials including tortoiseshell, horn, bone, ivory, metal, enamel, mother-of-pearl, silver, gold, and jewel encrusted.  Rosenthal describes lorgnette cases of the early to mid-19th century as being “beautifully decorated.”  Cases often contained a “silver cartouche” and some of the tortoiseshell cases were “protected on the edges with a band of silver.”  Further embellishments included cases with “enameling of decorative designs or pastoral scenes” which were encrusted with precious stones.
Tortoiseshell Lorgnette with long handle, 19th century.(Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.)
Tortoiseshell Lorgnette with long handle, 19th century.
(Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.)
From the mid-19th century to the end of the 1800s, Rosenthal reports that lorgnettes typically had longer handles, measuring as much as 20 to 30 centimeters in length.  The handles were either straight or curved and they were often heavily embellished.  Handles were made of real and imitation tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, and silver.  The real tortoiseshell might be carved or plain, while the imitation was frequently molded to a design.  The silver lorgnette handle might be embossed or ornately engraved.
The era of the lorgnette is not at an end.  When attending the opera or theater, one can still occasionally see lorgnettes mingled amongst more contemporary varieties of opera glasses.  Recently, while shopping, I even encountered a sales associate who wore a single lens lorgnette around her neck on a chain to enable her to see the labels of make-up products.  That is a purely anecdotal way to close a fully cited article, I know, but it struck me how much in the present, despite all our modernity, the remnants of 18th and 19th century life still manage to pop up in purely practical ways.  So next time you are out and about wearing your Regency era shawl, don’t forget to bring along your 19th century lorgnette.  It is yet another historical fashion accessory which can be easily incorporated into your 21st century wardrobe today.

Works Referenced or Cited in this Article
About the Author
Mimi Matthews is an author of contemporary and historical romance.  She is a member of Romance Writers of America and The Beau Monde and is currently under contract with a New York literary agency.  In her other life, she is an attorney with both a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.  She resides in Northern California with her family – which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

Written content of this post copyright © Mimi Matthews, 2016.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Irish Rebellion

It's my pleasure to welcome Bliss Bennet, who is here to share the tale of the Irish Rebellion.


Since I turned eleven the same year the United States turned two hundred, my childhood was filled with tales of the glories of the American Revolution. And by my high school years, I had been taught more than a bit about the terrors and triumphs of the Revolution that took place in France in 1789. But it wasn’t until I started researching the history of the Regency period as a writer of historical romance that I discovered that the Irish, too, had taken up arms against their government during the same period in history, with hopes similar to those of the Sons of Liberty in America and the sans-culottes in France: hopes of establishing an independent country, free from the oppression of aristocratic rule.

Why did so many Irishmen rebel against their government in 1798? England had been meddling in the affairs of the Irish since the twelfth century, and took full control of its government in 1542, when the Irish Parliament declared Henry VIII “King of Ireland” after an uprising by the Earl of Kildare threatened English interests in the country. In the years that followed, thousands of English and Scottish immigrants settled in Ireland, turning the small island into a de-facto English colony. Penal Laws enacted in 1691, which discriminated against the property rights of Roman Catholics, aided such settlers in displacing many Catholic landowners. And these same Penal Laws also barred Catholics, as well as non-Anglican Protestants, from voting or holding government office in Ireland.
The Society of United Irishmen’s symbol  (Co. Kildare Federation of Local History Groups)

The Society of United Irishmen’s symbol 
(Co. Kildare Federation of Local History Groups)

During the 1780s, a handful of liberal members of the ruling Protestant Ascendancy, sympathetic to demands from Catholics and non-Anglican Protestants to overturn the Penal Laws, spoke out on behalf of political reform in Ireland. But their successes were limited. In the wake of such limited reforms, a radical group of Protestants, inspired by both the American and the more recent French revolutions, formed the Society of United Irishmen in 1791. The United Irishmen agitated for the complete removal of English control of Irish governance. A central tenet of the group was the need for all Irishmen, no matter what religion they practiced, to band together to achieve their common political goals.

The Society of United Irishmen’s symbol; here, the woman on the harp wears a cap of liberty instead of a crown. (
The Society of United Irishmen’s symbol; here, the woman on the harp wears a cap of liberty instead of a crown 

The oath that each member had to take illustrates the non-partisan nature of the organization:

I, A. B. in the presence of God do pledge myself to my country, that I will use all my abilities and influence in the attainment of an impartial and adequate representation of the Irish nation in Parliament; and as a means of absolute and immediate necessity, in the establishment of this the chief good of Ireland, I will endeavor, as much as lies in my ability, to forward a brotherhood of affection, an identity of interest, a communion of rights and an union of power among Irishmen of all religious persuasions, without which every reform of Parliament must be partial, no national, inadequate to the wants, delusive to the wishes, and insufficient for the freedom and happiness of the country (McNeil, 86–87).

A cartoon by English caricaturist James Gillray, lampooning the United Irishmen as more interested in pillaging and looting their fellow countrymen rather than struggling for political liberty. (“United Irishmen on Duty” source: Wikimedia Commons)
A cartoon by English caricaturist James Gillray, lampooning the United Irishmen as more interested in pillaging and looting their fellow countrymen rather than struggling for political liberty. (“United Irishmen on Duty” source: Wikimedia Commons)

Unsurprisingly, the English-controlled government viewed this new organization with suspicion, especially after war between England and France broke out in 1793. Fearing the United Irishmen’s admiration of the French revolutionaries would lead the group to aid the French in invading Ireland, Dublin Castle actively suppressed the society, arresting many of its leaders, sending spies to infiltrate its ranks, and silently condoning violent retaliation against suspected Society members and sympathizers by both the English military and by the loyalist Orange Order.

Forced underground, the United Irishmen became a secret society. And its focus shifted, from reforming the government to overturning it. The group in fact did work with the French on a plan of invasion, but bad weather prevented the 14,000 French soldiers sent in 1796 from landing.

Despite English efforts to suppress the group, leaders of the United Irishmen planned a countrywide insurrection for May of 1798. But the citizens of Dublin, the country’s major city, failed to heed the call to rise. The rebels won temporary victories in counties surrounding Dublin, and later, in Antrim in the north, but by September English troops had stamped out every cinder of revolt.

An Illustration from English writer W. H. Maxwell’s History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798, with Memoirs of the Union and Emmett’s Insurrection in 1803. London: Baily Brothers, 1845), featuring the stereotypically barbaric view of the murderous Irish. (Source: Villanova Library Special Collections)
An Illustration from English writer W. H. Maxwell’s History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798, with Memoirs of the Union and Emmett’s Insurrection in 1803. London: Baily Brothers, 1845), featuring the stereotypically barbaric view of the murderous Irish. (Source: Villanova Library Special Collections)
During the brief, bloody conflict that later became known as the Rebellion of 1798, between ten and twenty five thousand rebels were killed. Many lost their lives actively fighting; others were massacred by the English military after they surrendered. In contrast, only six hundred English soldiers lost their lives.

Mary Ann McCracken
Mary Ann McCracken 
(, via the Ulster Museum)

I could not help but feel sympathy for a movement that began with hopes of “a communion of rights and a union of power among Irishmen of all religious persuasions.” I began reading more about the Rebellion, in particular, accounts of women who had played a role. My reading led me to Mary Ann McCracken, the sister of northern rebel leader Henry Joy McCracken. This single line in her biography, taken from a letter by one of her family members, provided me the inspiration for my first historical romance, A Rebel without a Rogue:

We have got an addition to the family since you were last here, it is a little Girl said to be a daughter of poor Harry’s, it was bro’ very much against my inclinations.

Henry Joy McCracken, hung as a traitor for his role in the Rebellion, had left behind him an illegitimate child.  What would it have been like, I wondered, to have been that child? To have been born the bastard daughter of an Irish peasant, to have lived with a rural Irish Catholic family for the first years of one’s life, and then suddenly to find oneself uprooted and thrust into a genteel city family, one with Scottish roots and Presbyterian beliefs? And, on top of it all, to know that one’s father had been executed as a traitor? As I thought about this “what-if,” the main character of A Rebel without a Rogue, and her quest to redeem her father’s reputation and win a secure place in her father’s family, was born.

For more information about the Irish Rebellion of 1798, check out:

Nancy J. Curtin, “Women and Eighteenth-Century Irish Republicanism.” In Margaret MacCurtain and Mary O’Dowd, eds. Women in Early Modern Ireland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1991: 133-144.

Gahan, Daniel. The People's Rising: Wexford 1798. Dublin, Gill and MacMillan, 1995.

Keogh, Dáire and Nicholas Furlong, eds. The Women of 1798. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998.

_____. The Mighty Wave: The 1798 Rebellion in Wexford. Dublin, Four Courts Press, 1996.

McNeill, Mary. The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken: A Belfast Panorama. Dublin: Allen Figgis, 1960.

Whelan, Kevin, ed. The Fellowship of Freedom: Companion volume to the Bicentenary Exhibition by the National Library and National Museum at Collins Barracks, Dublin 1998. Cork University Press, 1998.

About the Author

 Bliss Bennet writes smart, edgy novels for readers who love history as much as they love romance. Despite being born and bred in New England, Bliss finds herself fascinated by the history of that country across the pond, particularly the politically-volatile period known as the English Regency. Though she’s visited Britain several times, Bliss continues to make her home in New England, along with her husband, daughter, and two monstrously fluffy black cats.

twitter: @BlissBennet

A Rebel without a Rogue

Rebel Without a RogueA woman striving for justice
Fianna Cameron has devoted her life to avenging the death of her father, hanged as a traitor during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Now, on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, only one last miscreant remains: Major Christopher Pennington, who both oversaw her father’s execution and maligned his honor. Fianna risks everything to travel to London and confront the man who has haunted her every nightmare. Only after her pistol misfires does she realize her sickening mistake: the Pennington she wounded is far too young to be her intended target.

A man who will protect his family at all costs

Rumors of being shot by a spurned mistress might burnish the reputation of a rake, but for Kit Pennington, determined to win a seat in Parliament, such salacious gossip is a nightmare. To regain his good name, Kit vows to track down his mysterious attacker and force her to reveal why she fired on him. Accepting an acquaintance’s mistress as an ally in his search is risky enough, but when Kit begins to develop feelings for the icy, ethereal Miss Cameron, more than his political career is in danger.

As their search begins to unearth long-held secrets, Kit and Fianna find themselves caught between duty to family and their beliefs in what’s right. How can you balance the competing demands of loyalty and justice—especially when you add love to the mix?

Hearts Through History’s Romance Through the Ages contest (Georgian/Regency/Victorian category)
The Beau Monde’s Royal Ascot contest
The Valley Forge Romance Writers’ Sheila Contest

Buy Links:
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Written content of this post copyright © Bliss Bennet, 2016.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Itch Exposed: Special Report for Admirers of Regency and Georgian Fashion

Those of a delicate disposition look away now, because today Suzan Lauder visits the salon to discuss the intimate matter of bottom scratching!


The Itch Exposed: Special Report for Admirers of Regency and Georgian Fashion
By Suzan Lauder, Author of Alias Thomas Bennet

Madame Gilflurt and I share a fixation with anything Regency, including the bizarre. My recent focus on Regency costuming has led me down peculiar paths. Readers may have enjoyed the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, a 30-episode blog series about upcycling and modifying used, budget, vintage, discount, and found items into Regency gowns, reticules, bonnets, tailcoats, walking sticks—the works! The ups and downs of my experience were shared with humour, and I posted patterns for some of my original designs, too!

1803 from La Miroir de la Mode

While I call it research, far too much of my time is spent perusing Pinterest for museum pieces, fashion magazine drawings, and original artwork of the Regency period. On one occasion I was searching for a specific type of gown and noticed the image you see above (from Mirior de la Mode, 1803). This Georgian-era costume is interesting—I love the feathers—but it was not quite the example suited to my blog post.

Even so, I kept returning to review the drawing because I was struck by an unexpected impression: it appeared as if she was scratching her bum! The image was saved and filed, and each time I noticed it, I had a giggle. Of course, she’s really holding up the train of her gown, but knowing that tidbit did not one jot of harm to my ability to see it otherwise.

As if my fascination willed it to happen, other similar examples appeared! I began collecting images of bum-scratching ladies, most of which were displayed in Costume Parisian between 1801 and 1809, the Georgian years that immediately preceded the Regency era proper (1811-1820). The numbers in parenthesis are the year of the fashion plate. Click on the thumbnails to see larger images.

The Itch Exposed #1

The Itch Exposed #2

The Itch Exposed #3

The Itch Exposed #4

The Itch Exposed #5

Five ladies can be considered bona fide bum-scratching fashion magazine art: Costume Parisien drawing numbers 335 (1802), 478 (1803), 602 (1805), and 615 (1805), as well as the lady on the left from the pair of ladies, #3, in yellow (1802). 

Two ladies seen from the front are probably scratching their bums. They are John Hoppner’s painting of Mrs. Dottin from 1803-04 and the 1809 fashion plate with the unusual olive green short-sleeved spencer.

The Itch Exposed #6

The Itch Exposed #7

The Itch Exposed #8

The Itch Exposed #9

The Itch Exposed #10

Three Regency ladies above are sneaking their hand back to scratch their bum! The guilty parties  include Costume Parisien plates 275 (1801) and 1157 (1811), as well as the 1811 La Belle Assemblée evening dress with the Van Dyke edged overskirt and unique light blue back draping.

The Itch Exposed #11

The Itch Exposed #12

Two others (Costume Parisien numbers 248 (1801) and 660 (1805)) have each clutched such a great twisted knot of silk, I conclude they want to ensure no one can accuse them of bum scratching.

The so-called professional costumers may roll their eyes at me once again, but one must have a sense of humour in life!

About the Author

Suzan Lauder fell in love with Jane Austen because of Austen’s snarky comments on people who diss novelists in Northanger Abbey, the first Austen book Lauder read. This passion for Austen’s work was brought to the like-minded Jane Austen Fan Fiction community, where Lauder has been active as a reader, writer, collaborator, researcher, beta editor, and mentor of new authors for over six years. 

Her Austen-inspired Regency romance novel with a mystery twist, Alias Thomas Bennet, was published by Meryton Press in 2013, and she’s joined MP again with a short story called Delivery Boy in the award-winning holiday romance anthology, Then Comes Winter, released in fall 2015. Her latest Austen-inspired Regency romance novel, Letter from Ramsgate, is currently being serially posted on JAFF mega-site A Happy Assembly prior to publishing. 

Lauder blogs at road trips with the redhead and the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, and creates her own original Regency-styled gowns and accessories. She and her husband of thirty years bought a little 19th century casita in Mexico for their two rescue cats, and hang out there for three months of the winter. The balance of the year, they live on beautiful Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

Written content of this post copyright © Suzan Lauder, 2016.