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
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…
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.
Like many writers I’m signed up to newsletters from museums and history related organisations, so I thought I’d share with you news of the next main exhibition at the Fashion Museum in Bath.
It’s called A History of Fashion in 100 Objects. It opens 19th March this year and runs until 1st January 2018.
The exhibition showcases fashion history from 1500 to the present day. So there will be something for every visitor whether you’re a fan of Regency fashion or the elegant gowns of the House of Worth, and then on into the 20th century and beyond.
I like the idea of the ten shoe ‘moments’ they’re including, and ten ‘historical looks’ for children (1700s – 2000s).
Sadly I have to plan well in advance and save up for trips that can’t be managed within the day – as they’ll require hotel stays, so I probably won’t get to visit the 100 fashion objects until 2017.
If you’re fortunate to live within a short travelling distance from exhibition venues, do visit. So many museums depend upon local support to keep running, whether they’re well known, or a small museum in your town or nearest city.
Meanwhile I’ll be checking the newsletters for any exhibitions or events of interest I can get to.
If you know of any museum newsletters that you’d recommend signing up to, do please share the details in the comments…
New Year’s Day is spent quietly, though history does still play a part in the day.
The New Year’s Day concert from Vienna is tradition, if I’m at home I will watch it.
It’s delightful to see the Vienna State Ballet performers dancing to wonderful old waltzes and polkas. It looks spectacular on television…
Hearing The Blue Danube played at any time of the year instantly reminds me of January 1st.
As to my new year I have a number of writing projects to get on with so the approaching weeks will be busy.
I wish you all a Happy New Year, and may 2016 bring joy and new opportunities.
Image courtesy of Viacheslav Blizniuk & http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
Life has been rather hectic this month, so I’m not as prepared for Christmas as I would usually be.
Even though I haven’t been able to do any work on my Nottinghamshire story, a few new characters have arrived at the literary door with the start of a Christmas tale. I know this is only a short story so perhaps I will have a few quite moments over the Christmas and New Year to begin putting this winter tale to paper.
Looking for a suitable Christmas image I came across a Manor House in snow – and that set my characters off telling me this was where their story takes place.
Many of our Christmas traditions have developed from the Victorians- Christmas trees for example, but elements from earlier times have survived as well- Mistletoe and greenery – though Mistletoe is a rarer sight now.
As a child I remember going to the florist with my mother to buy Mistletoe sprigs. The number of stems available, and the frequency of berries upon them, reflected how good or bad the weather had been for the crop that year; and the cost went up or down as a consequence.
When we got home the Mistletoe stems would be securely bound together with cotton thread, and a small loop would be made to secure the hanging bundle to the ceiling with a gold colour drawing pin.
Sadly with central heated houses now, rather than open fireplaces, the berries would likely dry out and drop off before Twelfth Night arrives.
That probably explains plastic Mistletoe!
If you’re interested in Regency traditions at this time of year then do step along to Shannon Donnelly’s Fresh Ink website where this is discussed.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas; a Happy Yule; or delight in whichever traditional celebration you enjoy.
May the coming New Year bring good to all.
Manor House image courtesy of Simon Howden & Heart Shaped Christmas Wreath courtesy of Kittisak, and http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
The past month has been busy. Sadly it’s meant I haven’t got very far into the second draft, though I have begun it.
At the moment I’m having to jiggle around with the years that the main episodes of the back story occur- as they influence the plot later.
So I’m going to have to make a few decisions about what potentially gets changed; the age of my couple, or move the date the story from 1802 to 1804- which would create other issues regarding international events at the time the story is set.
The latter will mean I’ll have to provide another reason for my hero’s ability to return, while the former would work in favour of both my heroine’s age, and my hero’s personal circumstances…
My dating issues have resulted from consulting one of my reference books: J.M. Stratton’s Agricultural Records AD 220 -1977.
If you’ve ever studied microfiche or film of 18th and 19th century newspapers you will certainly have seen prices for Wheat, Barley and Oats as a regular feature. Reports of severe weather elsewhere would likely be mentioned too, even if they happened weeks before.
When harvests were good, prices would fall; sadly when the crop was poor due to inclement weather, prices rose and starvation would become all too real for the poorest.
With international trade we are no longer solely dependent upon the harvest our nation’s farmers produce.
Nowadays, courtesy of satellites, we can check the expected weather for a few days ahead, so crops can be harvested at the best time. Centuries ago farmers local knowledge, and perhaps an occasional written record were the main method of prediction- alongside looking at the sky and sensing the atmosphere.
The original book was published in 1883 by a man farming in south-west Wiltshire, Thomas H. Baker. His book had the much longer title, Records of the Seasons, Prices of Agricultural Produce, and Phenomena Observed in the British Isles. In 1912 he did a revised edition (while in retirement).
It was Stratton, who farmed land near Baker, who worked on broadening the information from local to national. His nephew Jack Houghton Brown instigated and helped Ralph Whitlock update the book to 1977.
The 1978 version added the agricultural prices tables, though the further back you go the more approximate the prices of the commodities become. Weather in different parts of the country could effect crops and therefore local prices.
The details of weather mentioned in this book is the important element. I needed to know generally what the weather was doing in my preferred years.
Somewhere I have an old notebook with an interesting item noted down in passing- I was researching something completely unconnected at the time- about nine years ago.
As I was looking through a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings, one of these snips drew my interest. It was about a woman in the early 19th century who had lived in the same house, and kept a diary- for decades. As a young woman she had witnessed a water spout- a mini tornado.
I carried on with my other research, but that snippet stuck in my memory and many years later whilst I was travelling one Christmas, a news report on a local radio station, combined together with that diary entry to provide the inspirations for my current work in progress.
Even though the water spout doesn’t appear in my story, bad weather does play an important part- both in the back story and when part of the main plot takes place. So it’s no good choosing years when the weather was mild and as stable as you could wish for…
Another visit to the local studies section will be needed to check through film of old papers, to see if they can enlighten me further.
The entries for 1966 onward are much more detailed as they include weather articles reproduced with permission from The Times.Including the annual rainfall tables in Appendix A at the back of the book.
It’s likely that Baker’s information came from diaries, records and conversations within his family, community, and perhaps from visitors to his locality in Wiltshire.
After a hard day’s work wouldn’t it be likely that farmers and labourers visited the local inn for ale, the latest news and then passed knowledge on- which may have eventually ended up in Baker’s book?
Unfortunately there are no formal references as to the sources of the original information- though in 1784 a name for a quote is shown, otherwise it’s not until you get to the pieces from The Times. But some of those articles do refer to earlier years within that writer’s lifetime.
Though the book is out of print, copies can still be found second-hand.
As a starting point for further research it’s useful…
Reference: Agricultural Records: A.D. 220 – 1977. J.M. Stratton and Jack Houghton Brown. Edited by Ralph Whitlock. Publisher: John Baker (Publishers) Limited, 35 Bedford Row, London, WC1R 4JH. First published 1969.