Friday, 30 June 2017

A Brief (and not at all definitive) Overview of the Menagerie

It's a pleasure to welcome JL Ashton, author of Mendacity & Mourning, with A Brief (and not at all definitive) Overview of the Menagerie!


One can set a hundred scenes in sitting rooms and ballrooms, on Oakham Mount or in the shrubbery. But if an author has placed her characters in London, there are so many interesting locations ripe for plot twists and full of potential conversations. After all, in London, there was excitement to be had at museums and theaters, opera houses and menageries.

Darcy? Are you with us, man?” Richard’s voice interrupted his reverie. “Miss Bingley was enquiring about Georgiana.”
Darcy sat up a little straighter. “Pardon me. My mind had drifted to an issue with the harvest at Pemberley, and I recalled I must send a letter to the duke about our change in plans. My visit will be delayed at least a week.”
Miss Bingley looked pleased by his news. “How is dear Georgiana?”
“My sister is quite busy with her aunt. During our stay in London, I hope we shall attend the menagerie. In her letters, Georgiana has written of a collection of foreign animals. The tiger and the constrictor are of particular interest.”
“Oh, Lizzy saw the tiger!” Miss Bennet’s face lit up in excitement. “She said it was quite fascinating, if not a bit melancholy.”
While Darcy absorbed the happy news and began forming a query about Miss Elizabeth, he heard Miss Bingley titter.
“A wild cat prone to melancholy? A fierce and bloodthirsty beast such as that has no such feeling.”
In a cool voice, his eyes fixed firmly on Miss Bingley, Richard replied, “I have seen animals feel many things: fear, excitement, joy. Dogs are happy creatures. Horses love to run, but in the face of danger or loud noises, they are frightened. A wild, untamed creature cannot be happy in the city with the cries of children breaking the peace and the eyes of the multitude upon him.”
“Oh, this makes me sad,” Miss Catherine said in a small voice.
“It does, indeed,” Bingley exclaimed. “But to see it makes it real and not a creature of myth and legend.” He smiled when Miss Bennet met his eyes and nodded.
“Yes, Mr. Bingley,” she said softly. “It does.”
Darcy watched as his cousin’s eyes roved over the couple as though assessing the field that lay before him. Shrugging, Richard sat back and enquired as to the whereabouts of Hurst.
Mrs. Hurst averted her eyes as her brother revealed that her husband had met a hearty ragout he deemed the finest of his life but lost the battle. Richard chuckled. “He best not be in the militia or the navy if his stomach is so delicate.”
“Ah, I believe it was the quantity he ate rather than the quality of the dish,” Bingley asserted. “Four servings. And soup, a pudding, and a tart.”
“He is resting upstairs,” Mrs. Hurst added.
Richard coughed out a laugh. “Well. He stands tall in my esteem, even while lying abed.”

Before the London Zoo opened, the menagerie visited by Darcy, Elizabeth and Georgiana in Mendacity & Mourning was the sort of traveling collection of unusual and exotic animals that visited London and other European cities. It was, for many, a walk on the wild side.

Showcasing and exhibiting animals began with William the Conqueror, who established a royal menagerie, including lions and camels, at Woodstock Manor near Oxford. This tradition was maintained by his successors, who received exotic animals as gifts from foreign rulers. It was Queen Elizabeth I who first allowed the public to view the royal menagerie. By then it had been moved to the Tower of London, where visitors could pet the lion cubs that played in the grounds. Entry was free to anyone who brought a dead cat or dog to supplement the animals' diets.
In 1773, to compete with the royal menagerie, showman Gilbert Pidcock (or Pidock, by some accounts) opened his own collection of exotic animals at the Exeter Exchange (or ‘Change) on the Strand. 
The ‘Change was designed with an arcade and small shops on the first floor, and lodgings above. Over time, the upper floor apartments began housing a menagerie formed by Pidcock, who promoted his collection with newspaper ads; in one, he assured the public his wild animals were "so well secured, that the most timorous may approach them in safety.”
In 1812, the animals at the Exeter ‘Change included a Bengal tiger, a hyena, a lion, a jaguar, a sloth, a camel, monkeys, a hippopotamus, a rhinoceros, an elephant, an ostrich, a cassowary, a pelican, emus, cranes, an eagle, cockatoos, elks, kangaroos, and antelopes. “Chunee” the elephant was the star attraction of the menagerie. After arriving in England in 1809, he performed on stage, entertaining audiences in Covent Garden. He often was paraded in the street outside the menagerie. But in February 1826, Chunee killed one of his keepers and, for safety reasons, was put down. Without the elephant, attendance dropped and the Exeter ‘Change was demolished in 1829.

By that time, menageries were not found only in the City. Shoemaker George Wombwell recognised that interest in wild animals, and the populace to pay to see them, went beyond London’s borders. In 1810, he founded one of the first travelling menageries; by 1839 it had 15 wagons of animals and a brass band. His menagerie inspired circuses to start using animals in their shows, but the main attractions remained in London. 
In 1828, as Victorian interest in natural science grew, the London Zoo was founded in Regents Park. Run by The Zoological Society of London, the collection was open only to members. However, exclusivity had it price. With a large collection of animals—including many inherited from the Royal Menagerie—that were costly to feed and maintain, the zoo opened to the general public in 1897. The curiosity of thousands could now be sated.
JAFF writers are not the only ones to utilize London’s menageries and zoo in their stories. Fans of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach might remember that James Henry Trotter was orphaned when his parents were killed by a zoo escapee. 
“Both of them suddenly got eaten up (in full daylight, mind you, and on a crowded street) by an enormous angry rhinoceros which had escaped form the London Zoo… They were dead and gone in thirty-five seconds flat.”
Menageries and zoos…still a walk on the wild side.

Thank you so much for hosting me and Mendacity & Mourning here at A Covent Garden, Catherine!

Mendacity &Mourning
By J. L. Ashton 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gossip in possession of misheard tales and desirous of both a good wife and an eager audience need only descend upon the sitting rooms of a small country town in order to find satisfaction. And with a push from Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins sets alight a series of misunderstandings, rumours, and lies that create obstacles to a romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

This slightly unhinged romantic comedy follows Darcy as he sets off to find himself a wife and instead finds himself pulled into the mire of his aunt’s machinations and his own fascination with Elizabeth, whom he believes betrothed to another. As Meryton judges him the grieving groom of Anne de Bourgh and a caddish dallier with the hearts of others, Darcy must ferret out the truth behind his cousin’s disappearance, protect his sister from the fretful fate of all Fitzwilliam females, and, most importantly, win Elizabeth’s heart.

Author Bio: 

Jan Ashton didn’t meet Jane Austen until she was in her late teens, but in a happy coincidence, she shares a similarity of name with the author and celebrates her birthday on the same day Pride & Prejudice was first published. Sadly, she’s yet to find any Darcy and Elizabeth candles on her cake, but she does own the action figures.

Like so many Austen fans, Jan was an early and avid reader with a vivid imagination and a well-used library card. Her family’s frequent moves around the U.S and abroad encouraged her to think of books and their authors as reliable friends. It took a history degree and another decade or two for her to start imagining variations on Pride & Prejudice, and another decade—filled with career, marriage, kids, and a menagerie of pets—to start writing them. Today, in between writing Austen variations, Jan lives in the Chicago area, eats out far too often with her own Mr. Darcy, and enjoys membership in the local and national chapters of the Jane Austen Society of North America. 

Mendacity & Mourning is her second book with Meryton Press. She published A Searing Acquaintance in 2016.


Buy Links: 

Blog Tour Schedule: 

06/19   Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, GA
06/20   My Jane Austen Book Club; Author/Character Interview, GA
06/21   Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt
06/22   From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
06/23   More Agreeably Engaged; Vignette, GA
06/24   Just Jane 1813; Review, GA
06/25   Margie’s Must Reads; Guest Post, GA
06/26   Of Pens and Pages; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/27   Tomorrow is Another Day; Review, GA
06/28   Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, GA
06/29   My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, GA 
07/01   Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA
07/02   Laughing With Lizzie; Vignette, Excerpt, GA
07/03   Diary of an Eccentric; Review

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Exile by Don Jacobson

It's a pleasure to welcome Don Jacobson, author of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque!


Of Pride & Prejudice, Supporting Characters, and The Wardrobe

Consider these words:

“I wish they were dead! Anywhere but Cornwall!  Anywhere but here!”
The three sentences are simple, no?  Yet, if you read them closely, you will be able to discern much about the person thinking them, her situation and the context in which they passed through her head.
I will readily admit that your context will be a key element in the deductive process. If you are or have been the parent of a teenager, you likely have heard this passing over the lips of your “l’il darlin’” any of a number of times from age twelve to nineteen. If your happy youth is still thrilled to be around you, just wait. 
And, when would such utterances be most likely to occur? When you denied her the car keys? No, that would have sparked a rejoinder like, “You are so unfair. You always let (pick the name of the older sib) have the car. You’re treating me like a baby!” 
This is punishment time. And she understands that her elderly tormenter knows she is in the wrong.  What could he possibly know about love? He is ancient…at least fifty years old! Thus, she is not convinced her crime deserves exile.  But, so deep is her wish to escape to a place where she can be her own person, to be in charge of her own life, that she is willing to endure exile from her family.  Better to fly away than face the music.
How like a teenager.
How like Kitty Bennet.
How fertile the ground for The Wardrobe!
The fourth Bennet daughter was sketched quite lightly by Ms Austen. Kitty coughed nervously when faced with uncomfortable situations, hid in Lydia’s shadow, and giggled like a teenager. The bigger question is not ‘Why did Austen write her that way?’ but rather ‘Why was Kitty the way she was?’ What shaped her past? What will shape her future?
Having stood in front of a class of bookish Marys, speechless Georgianas, terrified Kittys, and overly-impressed-with-themselves Lydias, I continue to be amazed at how accurately Austen portrays adolescent girls (boys have their own categories). Would that she had likewise informed us of what went on in the eighteenth year that acted as a veil through which her negative caricatures had to pass to become (possibly) sensible women like Lizzy and Jane.
We know that Austen’s portraits of the girls—from Mary to Maria, Kitty to Georgiana—was exaggerated for dramatic purposes. 
Many JAFF authors have fixed upon Kitty’s artistic talent.  This may be a process of elimination.  Lizzy plays (at whatever level Lady Catherine may believe) and sings, but embroiders only passably. Lydia is the clotheshorse. Jane rests at the side of the family portrait serenely embroidering.  Mary attacks the pianoforte with Wagnerian zeal.  What is left to Kitty but painting and drawing?  In The Exile, art is used as the modus operandi, much as music served for Mary in The Keeper.  
Yet, Kitty, although a year older, is characterized as always being led around by Lydia.   Many argue that she was Lydia’s accomplice.  Her coughing suggests a nervous constitution exacerbated both by her mother’s constant nattering as well as a desire to be anywhere but where she is at the moment.  There are likely deeper traumas hidden under her compliant nature that will explain her behavior between the ages of six and seventeen. These are the underlying frame-work for Kitty’s story in The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque. This novel explores how Kitty Bennet sheds her fears and worries and takes control of her life.

Centering A Series Around Secondary Characters

I realize that some readers may find The Bennet Wardrobe series to be too far away from the centerline (ODC) of traditional JAFF stories. I do love “Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam” tales and plan to write many once The Bennet Wardrobe is complete. But for now… 
In 2014, a vale through which I was passing set my “what if” brownies to work. What if the other characters actually were three-dimensional?
Perhaps it was one of the Caroline Variations I was reading at the time that inspired me to wonder if she had always been a grasping shrew, sneered at by all, lessers and betters alike. A small excerpt from Volume 1 of the Bennet Wardrobe, The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, offers a thought.
“…Your Excellency and Mrs. Adams, may I present Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, Mr. and Mrs. Bingley, Miss Bingley and Miss Bennet?”
Mrs. Adams brightened and reached out to Caroline.  “Oh, Miss Bingley—you are Miss Bingley now, I assume because your sister has married—it has been far too many years since I saw you last.  Addie will be thrilled to know that we met you.  How are you doing, dear?”
Caroline visibly came to life at Mrs. Adams’ greeting.  This was an unspoiled part of her life, laid down before Darcy ever came into her ken, before the considerations of the ton and its artificial expectations and snobbery had taken advantage of her sense of inferiority.  With the Johnsons, Caroline did not have to fight to fit in. When she smiled back at Louisa Adams, years were stripped away from her face.  She chatted briefly with her old friend.”

My first JAFF writing happened late one night in a motel room in Connecticut where I was staying with my family after a visit to my failing mother. The sheets of scratch pad are carefully folded away for an as-yet-to-be-written work. This fragment was a letter from Caroline Bingley to Jane apologizing for her behavior and thanking her sister-in-law for putting up with her for the past several years. Caroline had decided to change her life and leave Regency Britain to make a fresh start in the United States. As such, she was presuming upon her friendship with Louisa Johnson Adams, another daughter of trade, to accompany her as the couple returned to Washington City where Mr. Adams was to become Secretary of State in 1817.
Change—the heart of Pride and Prejudice—was what Lizzy and Darcy experienced in full over the course of the masterpiece.  The letter from Caroline, thrown up by my subconscious at a difficult time, lit the way to the idea that all of the sisters (and Thomas) were actually heroes in waiting. Ms Austen just did not have the literary reason to create an epilogue to P&P that would tell their stories.
I dealt with Mary’s growth after the weddings in late 1811 in Volume 1 of The Bennet Wardrobe Series: The Keeper. Kitty’s story is told in The Exile. Thomas will stand for his family in The Avenger while Lydia will wander the dusty paths of Northwestern France in The Pilgrim.
The Bennet Wardrobe is an alternative tale in the Jane Austen Universe. While the characters are familiar, I have endeavored to provide each of them with an opportunity to grow into more natural personalities, although not necessarily in the Regency.  If they were shaped or stifled by the conventions of the period, the time-traveling powers of The Wardrobe helped solve their problems, make penance, and learn lessons once they had overcome the inner demons by giving them a chance to escape that time frame, if only for a brief, life-changing interlude.
Would it have been possible for them to do so staying on the Regency timeline? 
Perhaps. However, something tickled my brain—maybe it was my youthful fascination with science fiction meeting my adult love for the Canon—that threw the idea of the Wardrobe up in front of me.  Now my protagonists could be immersed in different timeframes beyond the Regency to learn that which they needed to learn in order to realize their potentials and in the process carry the eternal story of love and change forward to even the 21st Century.
The Wardrobe Series is currently projected as six books to realize the grand arc of the Wardrobe’s Plan.
Please enjoy the following excerpt from The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque.

Chapter XXXIII
la Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, May 9, 1892
The Renoir Likeness

The words from the Founder’s Letter echoed through Henry’s mind as he stepped from the cab in front of la Galerie Durand-Ruel in la Rue Laffitte. There was an urgency pulling on his sensibilities that he could not ignore.
Why did She…the Lady of the voice I have heard in my dreams all these years…beg me to act with all due speed? How does she know my sister? Oh, if only I could have seen her face during those weeks by the beach. What am I seeking?
He adjusted his fedora with a tug on the brim, pushed his dark glasses up his nose with a stiffened forefinger, shot his cuffs from the sleeves of his medium grey suit jacket, and strode across the sidewalk to number 16, a modest building which he knew, from the stenciled addresses on crates carefully unpacked at Matlock and Selkirk throughout his childhood, contained treasures beyond measure. A liveried employee awaited his approach. With nary a flicker of his eyes, the attendant opened the door through which Henry passed into a cathedral of art.
Giant scenic canvases by Monet elbowed for attention with the dancers of Degas and the workers of Pissarro. Then there were walls of Renoir. Riots of noonday color competed with the dimness of russet sunsets and misty dawns.  There was much to overwhelm the senses, but little that would clearly explain why he had been directed to this spot in Paris upon such short notice.
A young man, obviously one of the gallery’s assistant managers, dressed in a pitch-colored suit that accentuated the bleached whiteness of his shirtfront, slid soundlessly across the birch-stained floorboards. He skillfully sized up Henry’s obvious wealth, pegging him as a man of substance and not one of the nouveau riche Américains seeking six feet of painting to cover a blank spot on a wall above a sofa. 
Preferring to conduct his business in his native tongue, Henry reached into his vest and pulled out his card, presenting it to the attendant English side up. The young fellow’s eyebrows shot toward his hairline. He instantly recognized the name of one of Monsieur Durand-Ruel’s best customers…now obviously extending across two generations!
He quickly assumed a deferential attitude and inquired, “Ah, Monsieur le Compte…how may we at la Galerie Durand-Ruel be of service to you? Are you perhaps seeking one of Maître Monet’s latest? He is now studying haystacks and the ways in which the quality of light changes with the seasons.”
While Henry appreciated the manager’s eagerness, he was seeking only information and Durand-Ruel himself, he believed, would be his best source.
“I do thank you for your attention, M’sieur, however, I would ask if you could inquire if Monsieur Durand-Ruel would be available to meet with me. I come on a matter of great urgency and some delicacy,” Fitzwilliam said.
Disappointed that he would not be writing a sales slip for one of the wealthiest art buyers in Britain, but also professional enough to understand that fulfilling even this small commission could result in great rewards for the gallery and, perhaps, himself, the functionary bade Henry to take a seat in a comfortable armchair facing an American grouping of Cassatt and Whistler. Then he hurried away into the rear of the gallery.
Paul Durand-Ruel was now in his in his 60th year. He had spent the better part of the past two decades discovering and promoting the fleet of radicals who had by now been grouped under the moniker “Impressionists.” Finding customers willing to take a risk on unproven and controversial artists had been challenging, leaving him often to despair that his gamble would ruin his family. Then the Americans discovered Impressionism. They silenced French derision with dollars sending countless Monets, Renoirs, Degas, and Sisleys across the Atlantic.
  When his assistant presented the Earl of Matlock’s card, the dealer immediately rose, tossed a soft drape over a painting on an easel adjacent to his desk, and followed the youngster back onto the main floor. The Fitzwilliams and the rest of the Five Families had been mainstays on Durand-Ruel’s list since his earliest days. Yet, the Countess rarely came to the gallery except when she would be in Paris for her annual…how did she put it…ah yes…“museum crawl.” But that would have been in August when the Fitzwilliams repaired to Deauville. For her son to suddenly appear unannounced in early May…well, that was unusual.
The bluff impresario crossed the skylight-illuminated room to where the young man stood with his nose about three inches away from Cassatt’s Woman Standing, Holding A Fan.
“Her understanding of womanhood is astounding, is it not? You may wish to move quickly on that one, my Lord. I have a wealthy Philadelphian coming in tomorrow. I plan to suggest that he repatriate Ma’mselle Cassatt’s painting,” Durand-Ruel playfully stated.
Henry spun and, with a large smile, stuck out his hand, “I am also certain that you have a few other little gems that you will attempt to foist off on Cousin Jonathan, you old thief.”
Durand-Ruel guffawed causing his assistant to glance over sharply as the Monsieur was never loud—especially not in these hallowed halls.
When his mirth had quieted, Durand-Ruel gazed intently at the Earl, “Perhaps, my young friend, we should go into my office where you will feel more at ease.”
Once the two men had settled in armchairs beneath a Monet haystack, and pleasantries had been exchanged, Henry explained what he was about. Durand-Ruel was puzzled as to how he could be seen as being able to provide the slightest assistance in the case of Fitzwilliam’s missing cousin. However, Henry was insistent that he could not reveal what forced him to dash from London to Paris.
After the two men had spent a desultory quarter hour poking and prodding the mysterious case of the lost heiress, Durand-Ruel leaned back and shot a look at Henry.
“I do not know if I should be amused or confused, my Lord. You come here searching for a woman. Of that species, I have hundreds, but all are of oil on canvas or pigment on paper. If you could be satisfied with that, I would end your quest in a moment and send you home with five, making myself all the richer.
“However, you want one of flesh and blood. Of that, I have none.
“Perhaps we are pursuing this problem in the incorrect manner. Here I am, a purveyor of art, yet I have not asked you about the appearance of this young lady.”
Fitzwilliam had the grace to blush when he realized that in his enthusiasm he had neglected to do that which had been done with hundreds of waiters, hotel managers, shop girls, and porters. He speedily pulled a small pasteboard folder out of an inner pocket and presented it to his friend.
Durand-Ruel flipped open the cover and gazed down at the photograph in his hand. His eyes widened and he gave a small gasp. He looked at the young aristocrat.
“Where did you get this photograph, my friend?” he whispered.
Surprised at the older man’s reaction, Henry slowly replied, “I have had this particular print for over two years. Miss Bennet sat for it when she passed through Berlin after her graduation. When she stopped at Menzel’s studio, she encountered the young American Stieglitz who offered to take her portrait.”
Momentarily diverted from his surprise by his critical appraisal of the image, Durand-Ruel murmured, “Such control of light and shadow. This young man has a future.”
Then more firmly, “I fear I surprised you, my Lord. The reason shall become clear in a moment…for you see, even though I have never met your Miss Bennet, I have assuredly seen her before…in fact not more than a half hour ago.”
With that, he stood and walked over by his desk.
Henry started and sat absolutely upright. 
“You saw her? Where? When?”
With a puckish grin, Paul Durand-Ruel, ever the showman, turned the easel he had been studying earlier and, resting a hand near the top of the shrouded artwork, said, “Here is one of those gems I just received from my dear Pierre-Auguste. I was going to sell it to that rich American tomorrow. Perhaps you would rather acquire it for your collection.”

And with a flourish he pulled the violet silk away.


The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque Media Kit
By Don Jacobson

Beware of What You Wish For

The Bennet Wardrobe may grant it!
Longbourn, December 1811. The day after Jane and Lizzy marry dawns especially cold for young Kitty Bennet. Called to Papa’s bookroom, she is faced with a resolute Mr. Bennet who intends to punish her complicity in her sister’s elopement. She will be sent packing to a seminary in far-off Cornwall. 
She reacts like any teenager chafing under the “burden” of parental rules—she throws a tantrum. In her fury, she slams her hands against the doors of The Bennet Wardrobe
Her heart’s desire?
I wish they were dead! Anywhere but Cornwall!  Anywhere but here!
As Lydia later said, “The Wardrobe has a unique sense of humor.”
London, May 1886.  Seventeen-year-old Catherine Marie Bennet tumbles out of The Wardrobe at Matlock House to come face-to-face with the austere Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam, a scion of the Five Families and one of the wealthiest men in the world. However, while their paths may have crossed that May morning, Henry still fights his feelings for another woman, lost to him nearly thirty years in his future.  And Miss Bennet must decide between exile to the remote wastelands of Cornwall or making a new life for herself in Victorian Britain and Belle Époque France.
ArkansasAustenFan reviews “The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey”: 

What an amazing historical novel that has a paranormal Wardrobe, which transports members of the Bennet-blood-family into the future and back… Don Jacobson is a master storyteller weaving English history into the lives of the P&P characters in a unique way. This book is not light, fluffy reading. It is an intriguing novel that would make a wonderful mini series on BBC much like Downton Abby.

Author Bio: 
Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years.  His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio.  His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.” 
 Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations.  As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.
He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound.  Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).
He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear.  Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.  
His other passion is cycling.  Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills).  He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days).  Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).

Contact Info: (Link is embedded in the name)



Buy Links: 

Blog Tour Schedule: 

06/17   Just Jane 1813
06/20   Savvy Verse and Wit

Monday, 19 June 2017

Gadding About All Over

From saucy kings to Jane Austen, wild boys and insane monarchs strapped to punishment chairs, I'm talking about all thing long 18th this year; come along and have a listen!

Catherine's Forthcoming Events 

The Scandalous George IV, Cannon Hall, West Yorkshire, 7th July TICKETS

Join me for an evening of tales delving into the scandalous life of George IV. It has everything with its illegitimate children, scheming mistresses and even a strapping Italian solider. Lots of scandal and “three people in this marriage” as another Princess of Wales once said…

An Evening with Jane Austen, Jane Austen Festival, Bath, 10th September 2017 TICKETS
A magical evening with Jane Austen’s most memorable characters, from the comic absurdity of the Dashwoods to the heartfelt passion of Wentworth and Anne, not to mention the charming duplicity of the notorious Mr Wickham! With Caroline Langrishe and Adrian Lukis, alongside period musical entertainment from  Rosie Lomas and Camilla Pay. The evening will be introduced by historian and author, Catherine Curzon.

Jane Austen and the King of Bling, Jane Austen Festival, Bath, 11th September 2017 TICKETS
This lively talk delves into the sometimes shocking, always scandalous, private life of ‘the first gentleman of England’. It suggests why Austen boldly declared she ‘hated’ this monarch even after she was his honoured guest at London’s most prestigious address. The other side to this saucy Sovereign was a man who championed Jane Austen and her works which secured the Regent his very own dedication from the author he adored.

The Mad King and the Coronation ChairStamford Georgian Festival, 23rd September 2017 TICKETS
The madness of George III is legendary. Restrained, gagged, blistered and plied with leeches, the king suffered humiliating and brutal treatment at the hands of those who were charged with his care. In a country wracked by upheaval both at home and abroad, the monarch’s madness left Britain in turmoil whilst, imprisoned at Kew, he ranted and foamed at the mouth.

The Curious Story of Peter the Wild Boy, Stamford Georgian Festival, 24th September 2017 TICKETS
In 1725, hunters led by King George I captured a feral child in the forests of Germany and took him home as a pet. Nicknamed ‘Peter the wild boy’ the little boy became a novelty at court and was brought to England to entertain and amuse the royals. Living in palaces, adored by princesses and heralded as a celebrity, Peter was a curiosity to thrill seekers and scholars alike. Yet when the glamour faded, what became of Peter the wild boy and, more to the point, where did he come from?

An Evening with Jane AustenStamford Georgian Festival, 24th September 2017 TICKETS
Join us for a magical evening in the company of Jane Austen’s most memorable characters introduced by Catherine Curzon and performed by actors Caroline Langrishe, star of such BBC favourites as Lovejoy and Judge John Deed and Adrian Lukis, a familiar face from the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and ITV’s Downton.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Scandalous George IV

Join me for a look at the scandalous love life of George IV in the gorgeous Cannon Hall!
Join us for an evening of tales from author Catherine Curzon on the marriage of George IV and his wife. It has everything with its illegitimate children, scheming mistresses and even a strapping Italian solider. Lots of scandal and “three people in this marriage” as another Princess of Wales once said…

Includes a glass of Prosecco, Paid Bar
£12 per person
14+ Parental Guidance


July 7 
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

An Orphan of the Regiment

It's my pleasure to welcome Jude Knight, to discuss the fate of children born to camp followers in the Peninsular War. Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win an eBook of A Raging Madness!


To modern ears, the term camp follower may imply someone who follows an army in order to ply one of the oldest of trades.
For most of history, the meaning was far broader. A camp follower was any civilian who provided services to an army on the move. From the Crusades to the Crimean War, this group included blacksmiths, surgeons, cooks, launderers, nurses, and sutlers. And, for just as long, the wives of soldiers have filled at least the last four roles.
Anthonie Constantijn Govaerts - The Sutler

During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, British Army regulations specified the number of wives of ordinary soldiers who could travel with the regiment and receive an army ration. The number may have varied by regiment—I’ve seen four wives per one hundred soldiers, and also six. In a regiment of 1500 men, that’s somewhere around 75 wives. Off to war with the men. 
In this post, it’s the children who interest me. Technically, wives with children couldn’t sail with the regiment, though some may have done so anyway. But wives and husbands in army camps do what wives and husbands do anywhere else, and in any posting of more than a few months, children would start to arrive. 
Their stories are hard to find. They were the sons and daughters, usually, of people who didn’t write letters or keep diaries, and they weren’t army, so were seldom referred to in military logs and dispatches. Their presence is hinted at with tantalising glimpses. For a start, they were assigned one quarter of the full ration given to a soldier. One ration for a soldier. Half a ration for his wife. One quarter for each child. No wonder the few brief mentions include stories of women and children falling behind the line of march.
One of the worst impediments to the free movement of the host came from the unhappy practice that then prevailed of allowing corps on foreign service to take with them a proportion of soldiers' wives…  They were always straggling or being left behind, because they could not keep up with the long marches the army often had to take. [Sir Charles Oman]
Pregnancy was seldom mentioned, unless women gave birth. For example, during the retreat from Corũna in the Peninsular War, a number of pregnant women gave birth, one to twins. 
 John Everett Millais – L’Enfant du Regiment
And tragic deaths might also get a line or a paragraph.
A soldier's wife had sought shelter beneath his (a dead drover's) cart, but she, too, was lying lifeless;· and the tragic part of it was that child, who was still alive, was whimpering and trying to find nourishment at her frozen breasts! One or two officers had the child taken from her, and wrapping it in a blanket, carried it away. [August Schaumann]
So what happened then?
The army had a system for sending widows back to England, though their half portion and their husband’s pay stopped as soon as the man died, and many widows chose to stay and speedily remarry (because in England they would be destitute). But the army didn’t offer such options to orphans.

The memoirs tell us that boys were sometimes adopted, by individual soldiers or by the regiment. But what happened to the daughters and the rest of the boys? A charitable fund , perhaps, if some officers’ wives took up the cause? And a trip back to England to an army orphanage? Or adoption by another camp follower with a kindly heart? That might be the best they could hope for, and a chance to grow enough to join the army as a boy soldier or the camp followers as a young  bride. 

A Raging Madness
Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return. 
Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him. 
In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.
About the Author
Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.
She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

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Kerridge was alone when she brought Ella’s evening dose of laudanum. Presumably Constance believed that Ella was still under the influence of the measure forced down her throat this morning, and would swallow Kerridge’s without offering a struggle. 
Constance was nearly right.
Even though Ella had managed to dribble at least part of what she secreted in her cheeks onto the pillow without Constance noticing, she was still mazed. Another dose would take her under, but Kerridge resented being forced to a task so beneath her dignity as a dresser, and would do no more than make sure the liquid arrived in Ella’s mouth. She would not insist on waiting until Ella swallowed, would not pinch her nose and hold her jaw shut.
Being too meek would be suspicious. Ella turned her head away from the spoon, her teeth clenched shut, but yelped at Kerridge’s sharp pinch and the dresser immediately forced the spoon into Ella’s mouth.
Glaring sullenly, she stopped struggling, and the dresser withdrew the spoon, stretching her thin lips into a smug smile.
“There, Lady Melville. This would go more easily for you if you would just do as you are told,” she said.