As this year comes to a close and another year of hard work beckons, all that’s left is to wish you a Happy New Year…
Been a busy year so far, and I’m now in the middle of sorting and packing boxes to go into storage, for work to be done on the house.
This does mean a large amount of books are going into boxes; do I really have that many historical romance paperbacks?
The answer is yes…
There are a few on my Kindle too, so I have been working my way through my to be read list when I need a relaxing read at the end of the day.
Stephanie Laurens is on my favourite authors list, but I’d put off buying her latest Devil’s Brood trilogy until all three books were available.
These are connecting stories concerning the two sons and daughter of ‘Devil’ Cynster Duke of St Ives and his Duchess, Honoria. Years have passed and their children are now grown up and living in early Victorian times.
While you can read each book as a stand-alone story there is an ongoing plot involving gunpowder and more that link the books together.
Whilst this trilogy called The Devil’s Brood, is also part of the ‘Cynsters Next Generation Series’ as book 4, though book 1 in the ‘Brood set’…
(I’ll avoid spoilers as best I can.)
Each book immediately follows on from the end of the previous story, so the events take place over a short time span.
Personally, book 4 was my least favourite.
Of course the ongoing plot needs to be set up and the associated characters, I don’t think Sebastian (the Marquess) appealed to me as much as the other heroes.
For me Sebastian was overshadowed by the enigmatic Drake Varisey, and the story didn’t really keep my interest until the first major incident, and the developing relationship between Sebastian and Antonia Rawlings, an Earl’s daughter.
The map of the grounds of Pressington Hall (where the story takes place) between chapters 3 & 4 surprised me. Likely because of being used to seeing this type of extra toward the front of a paperback.
BUT, by the last quarter of the book I wanted to keep reading. And yes I was eager to read the next book…
Book 5 moves on to Michael. He has second son syndrome, no pre-determined role to fill, bored and eager to help when Drake Varisey needs assistance.
This is a just one more chapter book. I didn’t want to put it down and ended up reading to the end at 1.30 am.
Cleo Hendon works in her parents shipping office managing everything, but wanting some excitement in her life; and along comes Michael Cynster seeking information. Cleo is intelligent, daring and not afraid to take the lead and guaranteed to upset any Cynster male.
(Cleo’s parents are Kit and Jack from Captain Jack’s Woman.)
There are lots of twists and turns and misdirection as the gunpowder search continues; as the pace builds toward the conclusion of Michael and Cleo’s adventures.
By the end I wanted to start the next book as soon as I could.
Of the 3 books, book 6 The Greatest Challenge of Them All was my favourite.
Drake (the Marquess of Winchelsea, and heir to the Duke of Wolverstone- from the Bastion Club series) is in charge of defending Queen and country from those intent on causing harm.
When he refers to Lady Louisa Cynster by the name given to her by the ton, ‘Lady Wild’, you can sense his dread, and it’s clear that sparks are bound to fly between two such strong-willed and devious characters.
That gunpowder has moved again, and every time they seem close to getting answers another barrier springs up to stop them as they race toward the answer to the ongoing mystery.
The developing relationship between Drake and Louisa is in some ways complex, but in others simple. He’s the one in charge and she refuses to be relegated to a troublesome assistant, but they each have depths that you know would take their lifetime to discover.
There were a few moments that made me laugh, because I could see what was about to happen and knew Drake would not stand a chance against a determined Louisa. (You’ll know when you get to it!)
Yes, this was another just one more chapter book, and was a further late night.
Each book has an author’s note so you can discover more about the background elements of the story and it is interesting.
I’m glad I didn’t give up at the end of book 4. The running gunpowder plot was intriguing enough to make me want to know what would happen next, so I was willing to give book 5 a chance, and it was worth it.
I also enjoy a happy ever after…
Book cover images from Amazon.uk
I have had a few busy months, but I did manage a much-needed long weekend break in Bath last month, with the main intention of visiting the Fashion Museum.
Both these small museums don’t get the visitor numbers that the better known locations do, but are well worth taking a little time out to see them if you’re in Bath.
This was two hours of bliss. Selecting my favourites to show you has been difficult, but I’ve chosen time periods I’m interested in for my novels current and future…
And shoes do feature in my image selection.
As lighting is low and items are behind glass to control the temperature to protect the fabrics from deteriorating, I have needed to add light to my images, and you may notice the occasional reflection. I wanted to limit how much adjustment I needed to make, but the ones reflecting the red chairs will take some work. I really didn’t think it was polite to move them just for one photo, so you won’t be seeing that one!
My absolute favourite dress was this striped silk Robe à l’anglaise from the 1770’s.
Actually I have to admit to favouring the dresses of the 1770’s. They must have looked amazing when they were first worn; the wearer making their way around a ballroom with the candlelight reflecting off mirrors and windows bringing the colour to life.
The early costumes displayed a more practical element, less glamour than those late 18th century gowns. They also show how styles could change over a decade, with open and closed robe dresses revealing, then concealing a warm petticoat.
There was an interesting quilted petticoat from the 1740’s on display with an open robe. The information card suggested it could be Scottish, and perhaps an indicator of sympathy to the Jacobite cause. The stitched thistle design is not immediately obvious until you look closer…
You can just see the dress this petticoat was displayed with to the right in the above group photo…
There were a few shoes within the costume areas, but further on a couple of display cabinets held a variety of shoes and boots.
There were a few delightful items of menswear included, waistcoats, jackets, suits, and an early pair of trousers from the 1820’s.
Accessories were not forgotten. There was a display of Bone, Coral, Ivory and Turtle items, that ranged from fans to hair combs and other pieces. It was highlighting the less pleasant aspect of trade in species from around the world during the 18th and 19th century.
Today these species are protected, but in the 1800’s there was a big trade in these new materials, and the resources were probably looked on as unlimited, though a few hundred years later we’re aware of how much damage this led to…
So that’s just a few items. The exhibition is worth visiting, as whatever decade or century you’re interested in, you’ll find something to admire and be fascinated by.
When you finish the fashion display downstairs in the Assembly Rooms, you can go back upstairs and view the settings those beautiful dresses and suits could have graced in past times…
Carol will be putting a few images from the exhibition on her next blog post too. So do take the time to visit.
Having finally got the house back to normal, and the horrible winter illnesses have faded away, I’ve had time to think about updating the blog, so I decided to revisit some of the exhibitions I got to visit last year, and there’s a few photos from 2015 included…
The one element we share with the men and women of the past is that shoes and boots say something about us; we’re conformists, or complete exhibitionists, or perhaps somewhere in-between types.
Shoes may be practical or decorative, and at various times across the century practicality or decoration has been predominant.
Whenever there’s an exhibition display of costume, shoes are the useful accessory but get overshadowed by a beautiful dress. Being able to concentrate just on the shoes themselves allows you to see not only the skill of the shoe-designer/maker, but the detail in the material used: leather, brocade, silk, or embroidered textiles.
The Shoe exhibition that Fairfax House in York ran last year, had a number of items on loan from other UK museums (Northampton, and Hereford among them). There was even a black boot belonging to Lord Wellington that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place nowadays.
Sadly no photos could be taken at Fairfax House, so I’ve searched through my own images from other museums and exhibitions I’ve been to, where photos are allowed under set conditions.
(That’s when a good digital camera is invaluable; images can be zoomed in on, and if needed light applied once you’ve downloaded them to your computer.)
I’d happily wear the early 18th century Louis heels if a shoe designer made them for shoes in my foot size, but without the pointy toes!
Heels were worn by both men and women; also decorative buckles to fasten shoes. They could be simple or elaborate, big of small, the must have fashion item of the 1700’s.
It wasn’t until I saw the shoes on display at the Fairfax House exhibition that it became obvious how the shape of the toe and design of women’s shoes had changed in a century.
Shoes were neither left or right, so the young women of the 18th and early 19th century probably experienced the pinched toes, and a not perfect fit that many young women nowadays tolerate, but like their earlier counterparts put up with it until they can get home…
So from the pointed toes and lower heels of the 1790’s, women’s shoes became flatter and the pointy toe became rounder and then flat and square. With the materials becoming softer – silks and satin’s, and with the lower cut the need to be tied on, and suitable for dancing in the ballroom.
Outside these softer shoes would be unsuitable for walking in, so boots became popular. There are delightful creamy kid leather ankle boots (circa 1810) in the Alfred Gillett Trust Collection (in The Shoe Museum in Street, Somerset).
You can follow the ever-changing fashion in shoes via online availability, or depending where you live, by museum visits.
If the UK, there’s The Shoe Museum in Street, Somerset.
On future visits to costume exhibitions I’ll definitely pay more attention to any footwear in the display…
Images 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9 from Shaping The Body, Castle Museum, York.
Images 3, 4, 6 from Pickford House Museum, Derby, Derbyshire.
My blog has sadly been neglected over the summer months, so the time has come to correct that situation.
‘Shaping the Body’ at the Castle Museum is an ongoing exhibition, one among many other wonderful exhibits. The route around the Museum starts with a display of a late 18th century Georgian Room that included a large doll’s house in the corner.
Eventually you reach the upper gallery where the costumes are displayed, and while it isn’t extensive there is a good selection of costumes and accessories for each time period.
There’s even a small selection of costumes that you could try on-you need to be slim to fit the dress with the space for panniers, even with Velcro fastenings I could not have gotten the dress up my arms, but I was still able to try on the panniers that went with it.
They were probably much more comfortable than the real thing, as these were a thick foam inside a fabric covering. Nevertheless they still gave the impression of the width that would be created once the dress was in place.
I particularly liked how the exhibition curators had brought context to the exhibits with interesting information.
The pair of brown stays on display (from 1760-80) also noted the UK equivalent size now- size 8. That seems quite thin, but women were smaller and shorter than they are now.
Spread across the displays were shoes from each time period (more about those in my next post).
The Dangers of Fashion were on display too. One cabinet held a beautiful green dress, but the dye was deadly as it contained arsenic. You can find out more about this aspect of fashion from this post.
But it was the large glass Chemist’s bottle that once held Belladonna that drew my attention. The contents were used as drops to enlarge the pupils, but with prolonged use it would cause blurred vision and even blindness.
(As this bottle was low down in the cabinet I crouched down to take the photo, but when I went to get back up, my back bag and gravity tipped me backwards onto the stone slabs. Thank you to the lady who came to offer me help in getting up. Next time I’m in this situation I will kneel instead.)
Leaving the gallery the centuries on show passed by until the sixties arrived, and for anyone over 50 years old, there were lots of recognisable items, toys, posters, music, adverts and information on television shows.
A good place to visit whether young or old, and whatever era you’re interested in…
While I was sorting through some of the paperwork that I had to move from my desk, I found a couple of calendar sheets I’d printed off a few years ago for, what were then, potential story ideas.
It actually has a lot of practical everyday uses too: world clock, time zones, sun and moon settings, and many other options.
The calendars highlighted that one of my stories (set in Dorset) takes place under the Julian Calendar, and the current work in progress uses the Gregorian Calendar (the type we use now).
My Nottinghamshire story takes place over many months in 1802 so a calendar for that year is helpful. A reader won’t appreciate countryside summer flowers in bloom if the heroine is still wrapped up in her winter best…
Before 1752 (when the actual calendar changed for people) we used the Julian Calendar. This meant New Year was actually the 25th March, known as Lady Day (one of the Quarter-Days find out more about these days and dates here).
The legal profession still use these quarter days, and if the system has worked well for centuries then there is little point changing it.
If you saw the news item not long ago about various heads of different religious denominations discussing making Easter (or their equivalents) a fixed date, it’s clearly not a simple process.
If you’re not sure how this movable Easter date is calculated you can read the terms specified in law, in this transcribed British Calendar Act of 1750. The additional notes are helpful. If you’re brave enough, venture into the tables link in the additional notes…
I’d assumed that once the law had passed, the change was completed in the same year. But that was not what occurred.
Gradual changes were implemented over a few years.
We might say now that the year has gone quickly, but in 1751 that actually was true. The year began as tradition on March 25th but ended early on the 31st December, rather than March 24th, 1751/52
So 1752 began on the 1st of January, and then in the September, that month was only 19 days long losing the 3rd to the 13th.
For anyone who has never looked at old records (recorded under the earlier calendar) such as parish registers or other official documents, the last few months before Lady Day would show two years, 1750/51; but with the gradual realignment of the New Year that ceased.
While our February only goes up to 28, and 29 days in a leap year, the 30th February has actually existed in history.
In 1712, Sweden and Finland added two days to February, making up for their not having had a leap year in 1700; it enabled them to get back in order with the Julian calendar.
If Easter is ever to becomes fixed, I wonder if it will take as long to resolve as the calendar change did…
It’s been some time since I last posted, but that was because my computer was in rapid decline.
Sadly the blue screen of death and crashes were becoming regular occurrences.Then earlier this past week it finally died on me.
I’m now familiarizing myself with Windows 10, and adding useful bits and pieces that I loved using on Windows 7.
My office isn’t yet back to normal- everything is still in bags and boxes, so my weekend will be spent returning everything to its correct place.
But it is dust-free, as after moving everything to reach the cables, I was able to get the Hoover in and remove the fine coating and dust-webs making a home in the corners…
It’s also given me the opportunity to find the reference books and papers that I need to refer to during my second draft.
I’m eager to start again, but not sure of Office 365 yet; I have a trial copy on the computer.
I miss Windows 7…
Back to routine soon.