Tuesday, 10 December 2019

A Tyrant and a Demon

It's a pleasure to welcome Lucienne Boyce, author of Death Makes No Distinction, for a tale of two women from different worlds.


A Tyrant and A Demon

In Death Makes No Distinction one of the subjects I was particularly interested in was the relationship between the rich and poor. One of the ways I explored this was by looking at the relationship between two fictitious women writers – Louise Parmeter, a bluestocking who had been mistress to the Prince of Wales – and Agnes Taylor, her protégée. 

Their relationship is inspired by the story of Hannah More and Ann Yearsley. Both women were born in Bristol. Hannah More (1745–1833) was brought up in comfortable surroundings. Her father, a school teacher, encouraged her to pursue a wider education than that usually allowed to girls. He taught her Latin, and she also learned French, Italian, and Spanish – though he did draw the line at too much mathematics, which was not considered appropriate for a girl. 

After her wealthy fiancé, William Turner, jilted Hannah, he compensated her by settling an annuity on her which gave her financial security and independence. She became a renowned playwright who moved in bluestocking circles, counting Dr Johnson, David Garrick and Elizabeth Montagu amongst her friends. She also befriended William Wilberforce and supported his campaign against slavery. 

Unlike Louise Parmeter in Death Makes No Distinction, however, she was strict in her own morals – and in the standards she set for others. She wrote several books exhorting women to lead virtuous and Christian lives. She later turned her moralising and evangelical attention to the working classes, setting up charity schools for poor children and lecturing the poor on their duties in a series of tracts.

Ann Yearsley (née Cromartie) (c1753–1806) was also born in Bristol. Her mother was a milkwoman, and it was from her that Ann learned to read and write. Nothing is known about her father. She married a labourer, John Yearsley, and they had six (some sources say seven) children. In 1784, the family was destitute and living in a stable in Clifton. A Mr Vaughan rescued them from near-starvation. Ann then worked as a milkwoman, selling milk from pails she carried about the streets. Hannah More and her sisters were running a school on Park Street at the time and it was their cook who showed Hannah some of Ann’s poetry. Hannah was so impressed she took Ann under her wing, taught her grammar and spelling, and collected subscribers to fund the publication of a book of poems. 

Ann Yearsley (British Library on Flickr, No Known Copyright Restrictions)

However, it was not More’s intention that Ann should give up selling milk. She was very careful to ensure, as she pointed out in her introduction to Ann’s Poems, on Several Occasions, published in 1785:

“It is not intended to place her in such a state of independence as might seduce her to devote her time to the idleness of Poetry….as a wife and mother, she has duties to fill, the smallest of which is of more value than the finest verses she can write: but as it has pleased God to give her these talents, may they not be made an instrument to mend her situation, if we published a small volume of her Poems…?...if I did not think her heart was rightly turned, I should be afraid of proposing such a measure, lest…by exciting her vanity, [it should] indispose her for the laborious employments of her humble condition…” 

Hannah More, A Prefatory Letter to Mrs Montague. By a Friend, Bristol, 20 October 1784 

The power structure was very clear: Hannah was Ann’s patron and Ann must know her place. And to keep her control over the poet known as Lactilla, More tied up the profits from her writing in a trust fund to which neither Ann nor John had access, and only doled out so much money as she thought was appropriate. Worse, Hannah would not return Ann’s manuscript poems to her, and told her they had been burned at the printers. 

When Ann protested, Hannah accused her of being insane or drunk. It was a painful situation for both women, with Hannah More disappointed by what she saw as the working woman’s ingratitude, and Ann infuriated by Hannah’s attempt to control her. 

But Ann was in the unusual position of being able to tell her own story. In 1787 she published her version of the quarrel, claiming she had been rushed into signing the Deed of Trust: 

“I had not time to peruse [the deed of trust], nor take a copy; and from the rapidity with which this circumstance was conducted, I feared to ask it…My feelings were all struck at – I felt as a mother deemed unworthy the tuition or care of her family…Even the interest was not allowed me, but on the capricious terms, that she should lay it out as she thought proper…”

Ann Yearsley, To the noble and generous subscribers, who so liberally patronized a book of poems, published under the auspices of Miss H More, of Park-Street, Bristol, the following narrative is most humbly addressed, in Poems on Various Subjects, 1787. 

The two women parted company, Ann found a new patron, Frederick Augustus Hervey, the earl of Bristol, and the trust funds were later made over to her. She used some of the money to set up a circulating library in Hotwells, Bristol. She published more poems, a play and a historical novel. After the death of her husband in 1803, she moved to Melksham, where she died in 1806. 

In spite of all Hannah More had done for Ann Yearsley, she ended up being accused of being a “tyrant”. As for Ann, from being Hannah’s “meritorious woman” she changed into a “Demon”. For Hannah and Ann, it was a sad end to a relationship that, as Yearsley suggested, could never develop into true friendship because of its deep-rooted inequalities. The same tensions underpin dealings between Louise Parmeter and Agnes Taylor in Death Makes No Distinction – but it’s up to Bow Street Runner Dan Foster to decide if they have any connection with Louise’s murder.  


Twitter: @LucienneWrite
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LucienneWriter

Buying Links:
Death Makes No Distinction is available in paperback and ebook.

For more information see my website. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

The Captain and the Best Man

It's release day for The Captain and the Best Man, the latest instalment in our Captivating Captains series!

When Josh meets handsome airline pilot Captain Guy Collingwood on a sun-kissed island, he finds out what flying first class really means!
When Josh leaves the rainy shore of England for the sun-drenched tropical island of St Sebastian, his biggest worry is remembering his best man’s speech. But a chance meeting with handsome airline pilot Captain Guy Collingwood leads to a hot and raunchy holiday romance.
Guy’s everything Josh is looking for in his ideal man. Mature, dashing and confident, he’s also single and more than happy to show Josh the pleasures of St Sebastian. Yet Guy’s unruffled demeanor hides a past regret. Is the wedding of Josh’s best friend about to reopen a painful chapter that has never fully closed?
As a fearsome tropical storm threatens the island paradise and a broken family threatens Josh and Guy’s happiness, the stakes have never been higher. Can St Sebastian work its magic to heal past wounds and will Josh and Guy’s holiday fling take flight?

The book's available on Kindle Unlimited, eBook or paperback and it's the perfect antidote to the cold. You can read an extract at the link below!

Read an extract: https://www.pride-publishing.com/book/the-captain-and-the-best-man
Go to Amazon: mybook.to/captainbestman

Monday, 25 November 2019

Sophia: Mother of Kings - OUT NOW!

I’m thrilled to announce the release of my new biography, Sophia: Mother of Kings. Sophia was famously the mother of George I but she was much, much more than that. As Stuart, Hanoverian and the Winter Princess, it’s been a real privilege to tell her story and I hope you'll enjoy reading it!

Buy it now

Sophia: Mother of Kings

Sophia, Electress of Hanover, was born to greatness. Granddaughter of James I and mother to George I, she was perhaps the finest queen that Britain never had.

As daughter of Frederick V of the Palatinate and Elizabeth Stuart, Sophia emerged from an impoverished, exiled childhood as the Winter Princess, a young woman of sparky intelligence, cutting wit and admirable determination. Once courted by Charles II, Sophia eventually gave her heart to Ernest Augustus, at whose side she became the first Electress of Hanover and the mother of the first Georgian king of Great Britain.

Sophia: Mother of Kings, brings this remarkable woman and her tumultuous era vividly to life. In a world where battles raged across the continent and courtiers fought behind closed doors, Sophia kept the home fires burning. Through personal tragedy and public triumph, Sophia raised a family, survived illness, miscarriage, and accusations of conspiracy, and missed out on the British throne by a matter of weeks.

Sophia of Hanover became the mother of one of the most glittering dynasties the world has ever known. From the House of Stuart to the House of Hanover, this is the story of her remarkable life.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Being Mr Wickham: New Dates Added

Adrian Lukis will star in Being Mr Wickham at the Theatre Royal, Bath, on 20th and 21st January 2020. The performance will be followed by a Q&A with Adrian and me, and tickets are available now! 


The definitive Mr Wickham lifts the sheets on exactly what Jane Austen’s most roguish gent has been up to in the last thirty years. Join George Wickham on the eve of his sixtieth birthday to discover his version of some very famous literary events.
What really happened with Darcy…?
What did he feel about Lizzie…?
What happened at Waterloo? Not to mention Byron…
Mr Wickham is ready to set the record straight.
Adrian Lukis received an Olivier Award nomination for his performance in the TRB production of The PriceCatherine Curzon is a historian, author and lover of all things 18th Century. The performance will be followed by a Q&A with Adrian and Catherine.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Unwed Mothers in the Regency by Colin Odom

It's a pleasure to welcome Colin Odom, who is visiting the salon as part of the blog tour for A Covenant of Marriage. Colin is here to share  fascinating post about the lot of unwed mothers in the Regency.


A Covenant of Marriage and Unwed Mothers in the Regency
C. P. Odom

During the writing of A Covenant of Marriage, I wrote a situation involving an unwed mother who, for various reasons, had no recourse to friends or family. Before I could write my way out of that dilemma, I did do a little research into just what would have happened during that particular time and whether or not the charity I postulated might have existed in reality. As shown below, unfortunately, the answer is a tentative Maybe.
In the time of the Regency, society was essentially based on marriage and the family, and adults had their place in that society based on their position in the family unit. Married women were held in higher esteem than unmarried women, and married men were given the respect due to someone who had proven their capability to support a family. Women were identified for tax purposes as either wives, widow, or spinsters, while men were identified by their occupation or social status.
Spinsterhood was a definite liability for a woman, even for an upper class girl (though almost a fourth of such girls remained unmarried). If a single woman had an independent income sufficient for her to support a household, she was able to carry on an independent life. If not, a spinster would be faced with the choice of somehow finding employment suitable to her genteel status or else would have to live in the house of a relative. If a single woman possessed independent means—a fortune of her own sufficient for her to live on, it was possible she could maintain her own household and carry on an independent life.
However, the above situations offered far better prospects than did a young woman who became pregnant without benefit of marriage. In the best of cases, the unfortunate young lady’s family might be able to force the responsible young man to marry their daughter. But this solution depended on money and secrecy to make it work, since neither the bride or the groom could withstand the shame if their situation became openly known. And, if the man later proved incapable of supporting his dependents, this might be described as a case of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
But many such women were not able to manage such a marriage. Filled with shame at their condition, they and their families often looked for places in which they could be hidden away during their pregnancy. While investigating this situation, I was quite surprised to find that some places advertised themselves in newspapers offering discreet refuge away from the public view. After the mother gave birth, many unwanted children were left on church steps and porches, assuring that the parish would provide care and sustenance for these abandoned orphans. Again, secrecy and money were necessary requirements in making such solutions work.
Less fortunate were those unwed mothers who left their homes, perhaps to keep their family from suffering for her disgrace or because they simply could not bear to openly admit their condition to parents and/or siblings. Many such pregnant women, unable to support themselves, were soon hungry, exhausted, and in poor health and found themselves forced to enter a workhouse, the last retreat for those at the end of their tethers. Some abandoned babies, such as Charles Dickens character in Oliver Twist, also wound up in such a workplace, having been born after his unwed mother died bringing him into the world. The conditions were appalling, and even pregnant women awaiting the birth of their child were expected to work. Many women, like Oliver Twist’s mother, were simply too weak after birth to survive, leaving their unwanted babies as orphans.
But to get back to my novel and the reason for this research, I had come up with the idea of a charity providing a refuge for unwed mothers in a more open environment in London, and I wanted to see if such charities had actually existed. Unfortunately, all I could really uncover was that the first maternity homes were set up to provide shelter for expectant or nursing mothers. However, a very famous institution titled London’s Foundling Hospital was opened in 1741 by an old sea-captain named Thomas Coram who had become a wealthy shipwright and merchant following his time commanding merchant ships. During his travels to and from London on business, Coram had been shocked by the sight of the many unwanted children that tried to find what shelter and sustenance they could. Even if they were found, many of them died from hunger or disease because they were not found in time. He founded his hospital, which is believed to be the world’s first incorporated charity, as a way to take in unwanted children and care for them until they could fend for themselves. The Hospital opened their doors to illegitimate children in 1801.
So, despite the dearth of historical data to validate my invention of a charitable institutions such as “The Bedford Charitable Home for the Unfortunate” in my novel, I still believe such institutions likely existed. The absence of definitive historical documentation could well be the difference in size between my fanciful charity, with only a few dozen beds and perhaps one or two midwives and the large Foundling Hospital. The latter institution was substantial in size, enough so that Charles Dickens and his family worshiped in the Foundling Chapel. Certainly, there was a critical need for such charities, and the less wholesome (and less documented) parts of London could have included such small institutions, many of which might only have lasted for a few years until the founder exhausted his funds and they were forced to close their doors.
In summary, this author asks for a little suspension of disbelief in this matter due to lack of evidence either way. No matter how much internet research one does, a “WayBack Machine”such as in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon shows of my childhood would be needed, and I’m fresh out.


A Covenant of Marriage — legally binding, even for an unwilling bride!
Defined as a formal, solemn, and binding agreement or compact, a covenant is commonly used with regard to relations among nations or as part of a contract. But it can also apply to a marriage as Elizabeth Bennet learns when her father binds her in marriage to a man she dislikes. Against her protests that she cannot be bound against her will, the lady is informed that she lives under her father’s roof and, consequently, is under his control; she is a mere pawn in the proceedings.
With such an inauspicious beginning, how can two people so joined ever make a life together?

Author Bio: 
 By training, I’m a retired engineer, born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. Sandwiched in there was a stint in the  Marines, and I’ve lived in Arizona since 1977, working first for Motorola and then General Dynamics. 
I raised two sons with my first wife, Margaret, before her untimely death from cancer, and my second wife, Jeanine, and I adopted two girls from China. The older of my daughters recently graduated with an engineering degree and is working in Phoenix, and the younger girl is heading toward a nursing degree. 
I’ve always been a voracious reader and collector of books, and my favorite genres are science fiction, historical fiction, histories, and, in recent years, reading (and later writing) Jane Austen romantic fiction. This late-developing interest was indirectly stimulated when I read my late wife's beloved Jane Austen books after her passing.  One thing led to another, and I now have four novels published:  Most Civil Proposal(2013), Consequences(2014), Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets(2015), and Perilous Siege(2019). Two of my books are now audiobooks, Most Civil Proposaland Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets
I retired from engineering in 2011, but I still live in Arizona with my family, a pair of dogs (one of which is stubbornly untrainable), and a pair of rather strange cats.  My hobbies are reading, woodworking, and watching college football and LPGA golf (the girls are much nicer than the guys, as well as being fiendishly good putters). Lately I’ve reverted back to my younger years and have taken up building plastic model aircraft and ships (when I can find the time).

Contact Info:

Buy Links:   
Amazon USeBook, Paperback, Kindle Unlimited
Amazon UKeBook, Paperback, Kindle Unlimited

Blog Tour Schedule:

Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks of A Covenant of Marriage via the link blow!

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

The Bride of Northanger – and Netley Abbey

It's a pleasure to welcome Diane Birchall, with a look behind the inspiration for a literary location!


As an early practitioner of what is now called the Austenesque, I wrote my first piece of pastiche in 1984, winning a contest in Persuasions (the journal of JASNA), with an imitation of Miss Bates’ discursive chat in Emma.  I found this to be such a delightful pastime, I haven’t stopped yet. Hundreds of stories and a few novels later, I’ve found a lifetime study of Austen’s work to be a resoundingly entertaining education. Examining Austen’s methods and her witty and elegant style with the object of improving my own, led to an ever deepening appreciation of her uniquely re-readable novels.
Why, then, did it take such a long time for me to come around to a real consideration of Northanger Abbey? An early work, though one she revised later, it has enormous charm and humor, though perhaps not the same weight of thought and workmanship as her more mature works. Northanger Abbey satirizes the Gothic genre, the “horrid novels” read for thrills by its young heroine Catherine Morland and her more experienced friend Isabella Thorpe. Jane Austen also seized a revealing chance to air her own opinions about novels and novel-writing. However, it was not so much the Gothic literary playfulness that I found most appealing about Northanger Abbey: it was the central relationship, which was a puzzling one to me.  I never quite understood why or how an unusually clever man like the captivating Henry Tilney could fall in love with such a young, naïve, uneducated girl as Catherine. This was something I wanted to explore, psychologically, realistically, and romantically. 
After some consideration of Henry’s father, General Tilney, I realized that Henry had been fairly bullied and brutalized by this dreadful man, and that a girl like Catherine, with her refreshing honesty and lack of guile, was therefore very appealing to him. 
A sequel to Northanger Abbey, my novel The Bride of Northanger contains plenty of Gothic adventuring.  Austen enjoyed the genre herself, and I duly read several of the books Catherine and Isabella pored over, full of incidents of the sort that Henry Tilney memorably said made the hair on his head stand up on end. These episodes were fun to research and to invent; but I never wanted to stray too far away from Henry and Catherine themselves, and how their own love story might have progressed. Their engagement we know lasted a year, during which time they corresponded; and I was sure Henry recommended plenty of good reading to his naïve young fiancée. Thus, by the time of the wedding, she had been exposed to much more thinking and education, and was consequently a better, more interesting wife for Henry. Their marriage became a more equal one than it might have seemed at the conclusion of Northanger Abbey. Certainly there were Gothic horrors for them to contend with, but Catherine, with her natural common sense and improved mind, became a most admirable heroine, in my mind at least:  a true Bride of Northanger.
In trying to find the right cover picture to represent Catherine, I needed to look no further than a portrait by the French artist Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, of a young girl who would have been exactly the same age as Austen’s Catherine. This was Corisande Armandine Leonie Sophie de Gramont (1783 – 1865), a granddaughter of Marie Antoinette’s favorite friend the Duchesse de Polignac. Corisande married an English MP, the Earl of Tankerville, and lived in England. She was visually my Catherine to a T (or a C), but I wanted the cover to be more than a pretty girl’s head. I needed an Abbey, to represent Northanger. 
Netley Abbey by Moonlight by John Constable, 1833
The obvious choice was Netley Abbey, which Jane Austen actually visited herself while living in Southampton. Soon after her father’s death in 1805, Jane, her mother, sister Cassandra, and friend Martha Lloyd moved to Southampton, taking lodgings with sailor brother Francis’s wife Mary. Francis would be at sea, and Mary was pregnant, so the arrangement suited all parties. Jane Austen had been to Southampton earlier, as a young girl, and knew it well;  Netley Abbey, on Southampton Water, was a popular excursion. In 1808 Jane wrote to Cassandra about taking their two young nephews, who had lately lost their mother, on an outing there:
“I intend to take them to Netley today; the tide is just right for our going immediately after noonshine, but I am afraid there will be rain.” 
Portrait of John Constable as a young man, 1799
There can be little doubt that Netley Abbey, with its forbidding aspect and dramatic history, seized Jane’s imagination, as it had that of other authors and painters. The suppression of the monasteries in Henry VIII’s time may seem remote to the period in which Jane Austen wrote, but it was an historical subject that was important to her. She saw evidences of monastic buildings taken over by rich landowners for their own gain, all around her. Her depiction of General Tilney’s greedy, self-serving way of running his grand estate that had once been a religious house, reflects this. 
The Ruins of Netley Abbey, sketch by John Constable, 1826
The decorative painting I chose of Netley Abbey for my own book cover is by the English landscape painter John Constable, titled Netley Abbey by Moonlight. The painter and his wife visited Netley in 1816, on their honeymoon, though the watercolor painting was done years later. The ancient Cistercian structure, founded in 1238, has a most bloody history and has been said to be haunted by ghosts of the monks whose home was ripped from them in the confiscations. What better place to set off ghostly imaginings in almost any visitor – and to spark the imagination of genius to recreate it as Northanger Abbey. 

About the  Author

Diana Birchall worked for many years at Warner Bros studios as a story analyst, reading novels to see if they would make movies. Reading manuscripts went side by side with a restorative and sanity-preserving life in Jane Austen studies and resulted in her writing Austenesque fiction both as homage and attempted investigation of the secrets of Jane Austen's style. She is the author of In Defense of Mrs. EltonMrs. Elton in AmericaMrs. Darcy's Dilemma, and the new The Bride of Northanger. She has written hundreds of Austenesque short stories and plays, as well as a biography of her novelist grandmother, and has lectured on her books and staged play readings at places as diverse as Hollywood, Brooklyn, Montreal, Chawton House Library, Alaska, and Yale. Visit Diana at her Austen Variations author page, follow her on TwitterFacebookand Goodreads.

The Bride of Northanger
A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share - that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real...until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied - events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other...



October 28                My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
October 28                Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)
October 28                vvb32 Reads (Spotlight)                            
October 29                A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide of Life (Guest Blog)
October 29                From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)
October 30                Drunk Austen (Interview)
October 30                Silver Petticoat Review (Excerpt)
October 31                Jane Austen’s World (Review)
November 01            So Little Time… (Interview)
November 01            Laura's Reviews (Review)
November 04            English Historical Fiction Authors (Guest Blog)
November 04            Confessions of a Book Addict (Spotlight)
November 05            More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
November 05            Vesper’s Place (Review)
November 06            Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)
November 06            Diary of an Eccentric (Interview)
November 07            All Things Austen (Spotlight)
November 07            A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
November 07            Let Them Read Books (Excerpt)  
November 08            Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
November 08            vvb32 Reads (Review)
November 11            My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)
November 11            Reading the Past (Spotlight)
November 12            Jane Austen’s World (Interview)
November 12            The Calico Critic (Excerpt)
November 13            The Book Rat (Review) 
November 13            Austenesque Reviews (Review)
November 14            Fangs, Wands, & Fairy Dust (Review)
November 14            The Fiction Addict (Review)
November 15            My Love for Jane Austen (Spotlight)
November 15            Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (Review)