Friday, February 17, 2017

The One and Only Margaret Munroe


Writers have favorite characters (sh—don’t tell the others!). Every once in a while one truly leaps off the page and refuses to let you go. Take my Lady Emily or Vaughn Everard; they would not rest until their story was told. As their author, you can only hope others will react to them the same way.

Another such heroine is Margaret Munroe in The Marquis’ Kiss. She was one of my earlier heroines, back in the days when I often based my heroines on women I knew. I have told you about Hannah Alexander of Secrets and Sensibilities being based on my late dear friend, Nancy. Margaret is also based on a friend. With her verve, vim, and vigor, I thought she would make a marvelous Regency lass. I asked her permission first, of course, and when Kiss was first published, she accused me of peeking in her windows the characterization was so spot on.

Image result for The Marquis' Kiss Regina ScottBut many people struggled with Margaret, including the Art Department at Kensington, where the book was first published. You see, she is prematurely turning gray, and gray-haired heroines were not in vogue. But my friend had strands of gray hair when I met her at a summer camp when she was seventeen and I was nineteen. I was very glad when the first cover showed a young lady in the moonlight. I like to pretend the silver in her hair is from more than the moon.

Margaret is also open-hearted, giving of herself to everyone she meets, from a royal duke to a reformed prostitute. Some people thought she should have been more attuned to the class system of Regency England. I never questioned that. Margaret knew it was there. She simply refused to abide by it, and she was ready to take the consequences.

Finally, Margaret is honest, to the point of embarrassment. She says what she thinks, with very little filter. Reviewers commented that she couldn’t possibly behave that way. One went so far as to say that no human being ever born behaved like Margaret Munroe.

Shall I introduce you? Here’s a taste.

The marquis was already sitting properly on one of the arm chairs when she arrived. He was probably the only person in the world who could look comfortable and in command on the stiff furniture. He was arrayed in a splendid coat of camel-colored superfine and tan chamois trousers tucked into gleaming Hessians.

He rose as she entered, and she did not think it was her imagination that he looked relieved to see her. She wondered what her stepmother had been saying to him. Mrs. Munroe was glowing possessively. Margaret and the marquis had no more than greeted each other and seated themselves before Mrs. Munroe made the flimsiest of excuses and quit the room with a knowing glance at Margaret.

She was giving the marquis a moment to propose. The idea was so ludicrous that Margaret’s nervousness evaporated in amusement.

“I’m now supposed to captivate you with my stimulating conversation,” she informed him in the silence that followed her stepmother’s precipitous departure. “As we both know this visit is a sham, perhaps we could just dispense with the formalities.”

He frowned. “I’m not sure what you mean by sham, Miss Munroe. Are you under the impression that my intentions are less than honorable?”

Having both heard of and been witness to his proper lifestyle, she could not help but chuckle. “Oh, no, my lord. I’m sure your intentions, if you had any, would be entirely honorable. I simply thought it best that we be honest with each other from the beginning and acknowledge the fact that you are here only because of Lady Janice.”

He rose and walked to the window, but not fast enough to hide the fact that he had paled. “Have the rumors spread so quickly?”

“I have no doubt the gossip is flying,” she replied, refraining from mentioning her cousin’s stream of it. “But I was there at the ball when she jilted you, remember?”

She thought his shoulders sagged in his relief and wondered suddenly whether there was more to the story of Lady Janice’s refusal than she had thought. If he did stay in her life long enough, she might have to have a talk with the lady. Surely Lady Janice would tell her the truth of the matter.

“You are very good at being forthright,” he said to the window.

“Painfully so,” she acknowledged cheerfully. “And I do expect the same of others. So, out with it, my lord. You are only here to prove to Society that you were not trifling with my affections. Let us have a decent conversation and set you free from this onerous duty.” She knew the words sounded like a challenge and steeled herself for his concurrence. He stiffened as if making some resolution then strode back to her side. Sitting beside her on the sofa, he took her hands in his. Margaret looked up in surprise at the intensity of his gaze.

“Miss Munroe, you must believe me. I would not be here if I were not sincere in my admiration of you.”

She would have given anything to hear that speech and believe it. She snatched her hands away from him, leaning back against the opposite arm of the sofa to put distance between them. “Rubbish! Do you think me so feather-brained? You have not spent more than a half hour in my company since the day we met over a year ago. During that time, you sincerely courted two other women. You cannot admire me. You don’t even know me.”

He swallowed, lowering his gaze. “You are right, of course. I did not mean to imply that I had formed an attachment in so short a time. That would be quite unseemly.”

Though she had known the truth, his statement still hurt, for her own attachment had been formed quickly and surely. “Not unseemly, my lord. Just unlikely.”

“Agreed. I know very little about you, as you noted. However, I must insist that what I know is wholly admirable. You are sharp-witted; you seem to have a joy of life I have seen in few others; and your laugh is altogether delightful.”

“Really?” she squeaked, then swallowed the astonishment and pleasure that was preventing coherent thought, much less speech.

“Really,” he said with a smile that lit his eyes with blue flame, like brandy around a plum pudding. It both warmed and thrilled her.

“I will not claim to be courting,” he continued, “but I see no harm in a friendship. Will you allow me the opportunity to get to know you better?”

She could only nod, overcome by the tumult of emotions. A friendship was more than she had thought possible, yet how insipid it seemed. Her cousin Allison had inspired an offer of marriage after only a few encounters, and the best Margaret could do was a friendship? The second-rate Munroes were a dismal second this time. Yet even as she sighed, she felt a tingle of hope. Stranger things than friendship had led to romance.


I am very happy that Margaret’s story is available once more. I hope you find it does her justice. But I’m not sure I’ll ever be a good enough writer for that.

You can find The Marquis’ Kiss at fine online retailers such as
Smashwords    
Kobo 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Accessories: Parasols, Part 7

We’re back for another installment in our fashion series on NineteenTeen focusing not on dresses and gowns (gorgeous as they are) but on the little things that complete a fashionable ensemble—hats, shoes, gloves, purses, and other accessories.

Our accessory of the week is the parasol, vital for the preservation of a lady’s clear, un-sunburnt complexion—don’t forget, sun worship is a twentieth century phenomenon. And that isn’t all they were good for: they could be a tool for flirtation (or a useful item for fending off too determined a suitor!) And aren’t they just plain fun?

I’m dividing our look at parasols into two posts, though they were much more popular an accessory earlier on than they were into the 1820s and 1830s. Look for lots of images rather than commentary, though I’ll try to supply original text if I have it—the point is to be able to examine multiple examples of each item. Images are drawn from my collection of prints from British publications including Ackermann’s Repository and La Belle Assemblée. However, Ackermann’s had the most detailed plates, so the majority of images you’ll see will be from that publication.  These date from 1806-1815.

Happy accessorizing!

Kensington Garden Promenade Dresses, La Belle Assemblee, June 1806.


Promenade Dress, Ackermann's Repository, July 1809.  You'll notice in these earlier prints that most of the parasols match some aspect of the dress or pelisse/wrap. I love the net trim on this one.


Promenade Dress, Ackermann's Repository, August 1809.  Aren't the tassels adorable?


Promenade Dress, Ackermann's Repository, September 1809.


Walking Dress, Ackermann's Repository, October 1809. One thing that has interested me is that in many of these prints, the parasol was held by the top rather than the handle when not actually open.


Walking Dress, Ackermann's Repository, June 1810.  The text describes this as a "Chinese parasol, with deep awning of white silk." 



Promenade Dresses, Ackermann's Repository, July 1810.  I imagine that going out for a walk with a friend might be dangerous if you were both carrying parasols.


Walking Dress, Ackermann's Repository, August 1810. This one appears to have a double flounce. Notice also the shaped handle. It is a "Parasol of green Chinese silk, with deep awning."


Promenade Morning Dress, La Belle Assemblee, August 1810. A plaid parasol!


Promenade Dress, Ackermann's Repository, June 1811. Very natty, green with white trim.


 Walking Dress, Ackermann's Repository, August 1811. That's one way to keep the kids amused...


 Promenade Costume, Ackermann's Repository, September 1811. "...parasol corresponding with the cloak, with deep Chinese awning."


Promenade Dress, Ackermann's Repository, July 1812. Note the little hook at the end of the handle--the first we've seen in these prints.



Promenade Dress, Ackermann's Repository, August 1812. "...parasol of correspondent shot sarsnet, with deep ball-fringed awning."


Walking Dress, Ackermann's Repository, September 1812. "Parasol of blue shot silk, with deep Chinese frings." 



 Morning Walking Dress, Ackermann's Repository, July 1813. Note that while the handle is straight, there's a little hook on the end of this parasol! Useful for retrieving a dropped reticule, I suppose.



Promenade Dress, Ackermann's Repository, September 1813. "A large Eastern parasol, the colour of the mantle, with deep Chinese awning."  This may be my favorite parasol--it's so architectural! 


Promenade Dress, Ackermann's Repository, October 1814.  Here's something we've not yet seen--a carrying loop at the top!


 
Walking Dress, Ackermann's Repository, May 1815. "Parasol of straw-coloured silk."



We'll have a look at parasols from 1815 through the 1830s in our next Accessories post...and now I'll go lurk in the corner and have quiet parasol envy. ☺

Friday, February 10, 2017

The By Jove party continues: Book View Café

I’m still happily celebrating the re-release of my contemporary fantasy, By Jove, into the world...and thought you might be interested in learning a little about its new publisher, Book View Café...because, as BVC’s  motto reads, you can never have too many ebooks.

Book View Café is really a pretty cool concept: it’s a cooperative publisher, meaning that the author-members of BVC fill all the roles of a trade publisher—we edit, proofread, format, create book covers, do marketing, distribution, and publicity, maintain social media accounts, and even run an on-line store— www.bookviewcafe.com—to sell our books (though they’re also available at ebook retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Kobo. Some books are also available in print editions. The only thing BVC does not do is accept submissions: all books published by the cooperative belong to members.

Because Book View Café was founded by a group of fantasy and science fiction writers as a way to republish books to which they’d gotten publication rights reverted, you’ll notice that most of the 300+ books available in BVC’s lists are genre fiction—in addition to science fiction and fantasy you can find romance, mysteries, thrillers, young adult, and a smattering of non-fiction and memoir as well as a number of short story compilations by BVC members...some of those members being science fiction luminary Ursula K. Leguin, Vonda N. McIntyre, Sarah Zettel, Sherwood Smith, Laura Anne Gilman, Patricia Rice, and more—lots more.

So the next time you’re looking for a good book, you really can’t do better than to stop by Book View Café.  But when you do, give yourself an hour or two to get lost in the books...

Thank you for celebrating with me!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Happy Book Birthday to Me! (again)

I am delighted to announce that By Jove re-releases today from Book View Café!

Here's the bee-yoo-tiful new cover!

And here’s the new blurb:

After three soul-destroying years of teaching unenthusiastic middle-schoolers, Theodora Fairchild is thrilled to be a student again, pursuing her doctorate in Latin. She’s sure John Winthrop University will be the intellectual home she’s always longed for, the place where she’ll finally fit in. But her teaching days aren’t quite over: Theo starts giving "humanities" lessons to sweetly nerdy post-doc Grant Proctor--and loses her heart.

But nobody in the Classics Department is quite who they seem . . . not even Grant. Theo's arrival rekindles an ancient rivalry between two powerful enemies, and Theo herself is the prize. After she unwittingly betrays Grant to his oldest foe, she’s determined to rescue him—and herself— before it’s too late.

Because even gods can die—or wish they were dead.

By Jove was first released in 2014. But I was able to get publication rights back from its first publisher, and have shaped it a little more to my taste as well as giving it a bit more of a polish, and I’m delighted with the result. I’m also able to market it more clearly: though it does contain a love story and a happily-ever-after ending, it really isn’t a romance—it’s as much about how my protagonist, Theo Fairchild, grows into and learns to understand herself as it is about her relationship with Grant...and of course, about a strong heroine learning to trust herself and save the day, because that is the type of story closest to my heart.

So if you haven’t had a look at By Jove before, I hope you’ll do so now. It’s available from Book View Café in both MOBI and EPUB formats as well as from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple ibooks, and Kobo.  A new print edition will be coming in April.

And...as part of my celebration,  I’ve put Skin Deep on sale for 99¢ for the month of February at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Apple and Kobo...so if you’re curious about my non-YA, non-historical works, now is a good, easy-on-the-pocketbook time to check them out.

Thank you for celebrating with me!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Bond Street Beaux

Bond Street. Those fond of stories set in the early nineteenth century in England are apt to know the name as synonymous with shopping. It was the Rodeo Drive of Regency London, the place where you went to see and be seen, where the finest purveyors of the finest goods had their establishments. It remains a favorite shopping mecca today. And some of the stores there now have been in those locations or at least along that street since the Regency or before.

Take Chappell & Co. (now Yamaha Music London). Founded in 1810 by Samuel Chappell and two London music professors, it had showrooms for pianos and floors of sheet music, published by the store. Supposedly, even Beethoven remarked favorably about the shop.

Then there’s Russell & Bromley, bootmakers in the Regency, now an upscale shoe store. The website states that the shop does not stock “sale items.” Buyer beware.

My personal favorite, however, is Truefitt and Hill, gentlemen’s hairdressers since 1805 (although the “and Hill” was added in 1935). The “World’s Oldest Barbershop” as recognized by Guinness World RecordsTM, the shop was started by Francis Truefitt. Truefitt seemed to understand the mind of the Regency gentleman. Everything was first class, sophisticated, and well made, and service was impeccable. Besides cutting hair, he made and sold his own products, including gentlemen’s perfume. He was a royal warrant holder (the shop in London still is) and is said to have made wigs for Prinny.

Truefitt’s is mentioned in Dickens and Thackery. King George III, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Byron, and that arbiter of all things fashionable Beau Brummell are said to have availed themselves of his services. So, to my amusement, have American royalty John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, and Cary Grant.

I think I just found one more item to add to my “When I next go to England” bucket list.