Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Victoria’s Grandchildren: Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein

So far, the grandchildren of Queen Victoria that we’ve met have lived fairly dramatic lives as heads of state or embroiled in tumultuous times. But some of them lived much quieter, though in their own way, equally dramatic existences. One of those was Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein.

Despite her Germanic sounding title, Marie Louise (christened Franziska Josepha Louise Augusta Marie Christina Helena) was born and raised in England, the fourth and last surviving child of Princess Helena and her husband, Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, who (as you may recall) had consented to stay in England so that the Queen would not lose the services of Helena as a sort of glorified secretary. And so Marie Louise (born August 12, 1872) and her two older brothers and older sister Helena Victoria (called Thora--that's the two of them at right) grew up at Cumberland Lodge near Windsor, with the typical privileged upbringing of the time and an education focusing on speaking French and German nicely and a smattering of history and literature, with more focus on dancing, sketching, and deportment. There were visits to country houses, to Balmoral and Osborne to stay with Grandmama the Queen and to various relations in royal families around Europe—Marie Louise was especially close to her cousin Alix of Hesse, who would one day become the last Tsarina of Russia.

And then in 1889 when she was eighteen, Marie Louise went to Berlin for yet another cousin’s wedding and met a tall, handsome young cavalry officer, Prince Aribert of Anhalt. To the bedazzled girl’s delight he paid her a great deal of flattering attention, and she fell head over heels in love. Though her cousin Emperor Wilhelm tried to fix her up with another royal suitor, Ferdinand of Roumania (who would go on to marry another English Marie), Marie Louise had made up her mind, and Wilhelm good-naturedly arranged matters so that Aribert proposed the following year. They were married in July 1891.

Anhalt was a not-terribly important duchy in east-central Germany, and was delighted to get a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria (and cousin of Emperor William) as its future duchess. Marie Louise loved her new mother-in-law and was fond of her father-in-law the Duke, though she regarded him as not very bright. Etiquette was very strict in her new home and throughout Germany, which rather chafed the lively young woman, accustomed to a more relaxed family life at home in Cumberland Lodge. She took refuge in travel, sometimes with Aribert and sometimes without, and took extended visits to Italy, Tunis, and Algiers. That she traveled without Aribert became more and more common: almost from their wedding day, Aribert always seemed busy elsewhere, and weeks might pass without their seeing each other. It’s hardly surprising that the couple had no children, which might have reconciled Marie Louise to her loneliness—instead, she continued to travel and busy herself with her network of friends (and no, that did not include any romantic entanglements. Marie Louise remained a faithful wife.) So when on her doctor’s orders she took a long sea voyage to visit the United States and Canada, she went only with her lady-in-waiting…and was surprised to receive a curt telegram in Ottawa from her father-in-law, ordering her home at once. It was rapidly followed by one from Queen Victoria reading, “Tell my granddaughter to come home to me. VR.”

Marie Louise went home to Grandmama—and found out to her shock that in her absence, her father-in-law had declared her marriage to Aribert annulled, because Aribert felt he could no longer live with her. There has been speculation that he was perhaps gay, but no one will ever know…and now, for all intents, poor Marie Louise was once again single. Though legally her marriage had been dissolved, Marie Louise still regarded herself as a married woman in the eyes of the church, and never remarried—nor did Aribert.

And that was that. She moved home again, continued to travel extensively (that's her at right on a trip to the Gold Coast in the 1920s), took up enameling and jewelry making as a hobby, and gave generously of her time to various charitable endeavors, including nursing and hospital work, a home for lepers, a Girls’ Club in a poor section of London, and other poor relief projects. She also headed up the doll house project for her childhood friend, Queen Mary. After her parents’ deaths, she and Thora (who never married) lived together, busy with their friends and family and charitable activities. Marie Louise lived long enough to see the present queen, Elizabeth, crowned in 1953, published a charming memoir called My Memories of Six Reigns, and died in 1956.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Translating the People in My Head

No, I’m not planning to write in another language.  I’m simply delighted that once again the artists at Love Inspired were able to take the characters in my head and translate them into a viable cover for my August book, The Courting Campaign.  This book starts a new series for me, where the staff from four estates in Derbyshire play matchmaker for their masters. 

When I start writing a book, I generally have an idea in my head as to how the main characters look.  But my head can get a little cluttered with the many characters hanging around, so I often go looking for a picture of a real-life person who’s a good approximation.  (Example of the cluttered brain?  A dear lady came up to me in church the other day and said, with a big grin, “Don’t ya know, don’t ya know, don’t ya know.”  I stared at her rather stupidly for a moment, until I remembered I had a character named Stanley Arlington with a distressing habit of using that phrase in my book Perfection.  Guess what she’d been reading.) 

So I was rather pleased with what the grand artists for Love Inspired came up with for the cover for The Courting Campaign.  And I love the back cover copy:
Emma Pyrmont has no designs on handsome Sir Nicholas Rotherford--at least not for herself.  As his daughter’s nanny, she sees how lonely little Alice has been.  With the cook’s help, Emma shows the workaholic scientist just what Alice needs.  But making Nicholas a better father makes Emma wish her painful past didn’t mar her own marriage chances.
Ever since scandal destroyed his career, Nicholas has devoted himself to his new invention.  Now his daughter’s sweet, quick-witted nanny is proving an unexpected distraction.  All evidence suggests that happiness is within reach--if only a man of logic can trust in the deductions of his own heart.
The young lady in my head for The Courting Campaign’s heroine, Emma Pyrmont, is an actress who has starred in two movies loosely based on Victorian society.   And she took The Vow never to be one of those Mean Girls.  My hero Sir Nicholas Rotherford, on the other hand, may be a widower with a young daughter in the book, but he is closer to Mr. Spock than Dr. Spock in real life, and he is also associated with another group of Heroes. 

Anyone want to guess who they were based on?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Young Bluestockings Attend the Cinema: LITTLE WOMEN (1994)

Welcome to the Young Bluestockings discussion of the 1994 film LITTLE WOMEN!

I rewatched this last night, for the first time in a long time, so I have a lot of excited opinions that just want to make their way out.  Particularly because I was absolutely obsessed with Alcott for years (and I still love her.)  At one point I got to the end of Little Women and just started right back in at the beginning...

So...whether you just watched the movie recently, or saw it ten or fifteen years ago just once, please join in the discussion!

Here are some of the cast & crew, to help the discussion along...

Director:  Gillian Armstrong

Marmee:  Susan Sarandon

Meg:  Trini Alvarado

Jo:  Winona Ryder

Beth:  Claire Danes

Child Amy:  Kirsten Dunst

Adult Amy:  Samantha Mathis

Laurie:  Batman   Christian Bale

Mr Brooke:  Eric Stoltz

Mr Bhaer:  Gabriel Byrne

Aunt March:  Mary Wickes

Mr Lawrence:  John Neville

So....what did you think about...the casting?  The script?  The changing the March family to be more like the Alcotts?  The hair and costumes?  Anything else?

All opinions welcome!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Proper Ladies Mount

I truly enjoyed the guest posts from Shannon Donnelly last week, especially because the proposal I’m writing involves a baron who raises horses.  My heroine is easily one of the most typical aristocratic females I’ve ever written.  She’d be the nineteenth century equivalent of Barbie if she hadn’t decided to throw off some of the shackles her parents have put upon her and discover what she’s made of.  But given that her father would have picked a horse for her, I was interested to see what sort of creature he might have chosen.  What exactly was considered a ladies mount in the early nineteenth century?

Thank the Lord for The Young Lady’s Equestrian Manual. It’s a very handy little book, published in 1838 and lovingly recreated in e-book form complete with the original illustrations.  It tells a young lady the history of riding, the proper terms to use for one’s horse (“A horse is never spoken of as being so many hands tall, but so many hands high.”), what to wear when riding, and how to ride.  It also describes the type of horse to look for.

The writer acknowledges that finding the perfect lady’s horse isn’t easy.  It seems a proper lady’s mount should be
  • Superlatively elegant in form
  • Exquisitely fine in coat
  • Unexceptionably beautiful in color
  • Of a height to compliment its rider
  • Graceful and completely safe in every pace
  • “Light as a feather” in the hand
  • Bold in the extreme yet superlatively docile
  • Free of vice and excellent in temper
  • Gentle, but not dull
  • Rarely requiring the use of the whip but submitting temperately to it when needed.
Such a paragon!  But the requirements don’t stop there.  Here’s the description of what to look for in the animal:

“The head should be small, neat, ‘well-set’ on the neck, and gracefully ‘carried.’ The nostrils should be wide; the eyes large, rather protruding, dark, yet brilliant; the ears erect, and delicately tapering towards their tips. The expression of the countenance should be lively, animated, noble, and most highly intelligent; the neck rather arched and muscular; the ridge of the shoulders narrow and elevated; the chest full and fleshy; the back broad; the body, round or barrel-like; the space between the hips and tail, long, and very gradually depressed towards the latter organ, which, it is essential, should be based high on the croup. The fore and hind limbs should be distant, the one pair from the other; the “arms” muscular; the knees broad, the hocks (laterally) wide; the legs flat and sinewy; the pasterns rather long; and the hoofs large, and nearly round.”

Got all that?  In addition, ladies are advised to look for a smooth, brilliantly polished coat and the proper manes and tails. 
“The mane, if too long and thick, will interfere with that delicate management of the reins so desirable to a lady on horseback; and the tail, if of immoderate length, will, by the animal’s whisking it towards his sides, prove inconvenient to the fair rider, at all times; but, especially so, in dirty weather. Neither of these appendages, however, on the other hand, should be ungracefully brief or scanty.”

And as for color, the writer insists that the best color is bright bay with mane, tail, and lower parts of the legs black.  A few specks of white is fine, but too much is undesirable.  A chestnut comes second, with no white on the legs.  Gray is tolerable, particularly a silver gray with black mane and tail.  Brown and black are deemed too dull.  And roan, sorrel, dun, piebald, mouse, and cream are “to be eschewed.”

It seems to me the choosing of a horse is as much a character statement as a fashion statement!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It’s Time to Play Name that Novella

All right, Nineteenteen readers. It’s time to help an Authoress in distress.

This summer, I plan to self-publish a novella for all the readers of Bewitching Season who’ve asked for a story for Charles, a.k.a. Chuckles, Persy and Pen’s younger brother. I am delighted to finally oblige you, and am working on having the story edited and proof-read and a cover designed and all the things that must be done to ensure a quality product. But one thing is holding me back, and that’s where you come in.

I need a title.

I’ll confess here and now that I’m terrible at book titles—simply terrible. And you have been so good at coming up with wonderful ones when Regina and I have asked for your help…so I’m here today to ask you to help find a name for Charles’s story.

Here’s a blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Charles Leland is not looking forward to his summer holidays from Eton—not when he has to spend them studying history to make up for a less-than-stellar grade last term. Not even the thought of spending them with Persy and Lochinvar while his parents are in Ireland visiting Pen can cheer him up.

But as it turns out, cramming history takes a back seat to finding out what has happened to Persy, who disappears from home the day he arrives. All signs indicate that she’s been abducted by gypsies…but a gypsy boy named Nando convinces Charles that her disappearance has a much more otherworldly explanation.

Now Charles must brave the perils and sheer strangeness of the fairy lands to try to rescue his sister from being forcibly married to a powerful fairy lord, with the help of the fairy lord’s own younger and very insistent sister, a copy of History and Policy of the Norman and Angevin Kings that he must read before September, and Queen Victoria. But will he also be able to rescue himself?

There you have it, dear Nineteenteen readers. Can you help me come up with a title for Charles’s story? You’ve done it before…can you do it again?

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Leg Up, Part II: Riding Habits, Mounting, and Dismounting by Guest Blogger Shannon Donnelly

Please welcome back the delightful author and horsewoman, Shannon Donnelly, for more on how young ladies rode in the early nineteenth century. 

On a comfortable horse, riding side saddle soon begins to feel a bit like riding a padded rocking chair. It's far less tiring than riding astride, for the only effort is to sit straight and still. It is also amazingly comfortable to let the right leg rest on the horse's shoulder (the right foot actually rests a bit forward of the horse's left shoulder).

But to look elegant in a side saddle, you need a riding habit with a long skirt that makes it appear as if you “flow” into the horse.

Riding Habits

The riding habit had to be cut so that it draped down over the horse's side, coving ankle and boot. This drape required that a loop also be attached to the hem, so that, when dismounted, a lady could gather up the extra length of skirt.

The skirt has always been designed to facilitate both mounting and riding. It is either a full skirt, usually cut with a drape on the left; or a wrapped skirt is worn over pantaloons (which came into fashion around the early 1800's). Because of the cut, as you mount, the skirt falls into its natural position, covering the legs to the ankle. In the saddle, the skirt is forgotten. On the ground, a loop over the wrist keeps the draping skirt out of mud and dust.

A skirted riding habit is neither difficult to wear, nor are they heavy and cumbersome. The fabric is usually a heavy cotton or twill. A habit provides any woman with a long stride as much freedom as breeches (and more than a fashionable round dress of the era would offer). Having worn both, I should always prefer a habit and can well understand the country ladies who wore little else.

A lady would also need a whip (to cue the horse on the right or “off” side since she would not have a leg on that side), gloves, hat, and possibly a spur (if she had a sluggish mount).

However, the important factor in riding side saddle is the horse: a comfortable stride and good manners are essential.

A Lady's Mount

The perfect side saddle horse is a smooth gaited horse with a light mouth (preferably not too tall). In other words, you want a comfortable ride.

While it is possible to rise to the trot (post) side saddle, some claim that this is the real cause of giving a side saddle horse a sore back as it requires too much weight to be put into the left stirrup.

Getting Up and Down Again

A rider traditionally mounts from the left. The rider stands at the horse's shoulder, facing the horse's hind quarters (or haunch). With the right hand, the rider turns the stirrup iron sideways. The left foot goes into the stirrup. The rider may grasp the cantle or back of the saddle with the right hand. He then pushes himself off the ground with the right foot, transferring his weight to the left foot in the stirrup and pushing himself into the saddle. Swinging the right leg over the horse's back, the rider lands lightly in the seat.

However, a lady's side saddle requires a slight alteration in the standard mounting and dismounting method.

The reins are still held in the left hand. The lady stands facing the horse, or even slightly forward. She also holds the reins and whip in her left hand. Taking the stirrup iron in her right hand to hold it steady, she places her left foot in the iron. With her foot in the iron, she can reach up to hold the saddle. As she hops up, her weight goes to the left foot in the iron and she leverages her weight up. However, instead of swinging her leg over the horse, she pulls her right leg up in front of her and seats herself sideways in the saddle. She then can settle herself with the right leg over the top pommel, the left under the left pommel and in the stirrup.

A groom (or a gentleman) can also give a "leg up" to a lady. However, in the Regency, no man, groom or otherwise, would dare to be so bold as to take a lady by the waist. Instead, he would make a stirrup from his hands. He then holds his hands low enough to allow the lady to easily step into them with her left foot. The groom boosts the lady lightly into the saddle.

(I've seen riders tossed over a horse by too strong a boost, to the smothered laughter of everyone except the rider.)

When a groom is unavailable, a mounting block can help and will keep a side saddle from slipping. This can be a block about two feet in height, or a fallen tree or bank can serve the same purpose of giving the rider a little extra elevation to easily step into the stirrup and swing up.

The dismount is easy. To get off the horse, a lady unhooks her right leg, takes her left foot out of the stirrup and slips off. But, if she has any sense, she only does this if she's certain she can get back on again.


Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency; the Grand Prize in the "Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer" contest, judged by Nora Roberts; RWA's Golden Heart; and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from RT Book Reviews magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: "simply superb"..."wonderfully uplifting"....and "beautifully written."

Her Regency romances, including A Dangerous Compromise, can be found as ebooks on all formats, and include four novellas now out as a collection with Cool Gus Publishing.

Her Regency Novella, Border Bride, can be found as an ebook, or in print in her collection of Regency Novellas.  You can learn more about her on her website and blog.

A special thanks to her from Marissa and Regina for sharing her expertise with Nineteenteen.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Leg Up, Part I: Side Saddle, by Guest Blogger Shannon Donnelly

Riding was such an important part of a young lady's life in the nineteenth century that Marissa and I thought a post or two was in order.  We'd like to welcome the wonderful author and horsewoman Shannon Donnelly today and Friday as she shares her knowledge and experiences with riding in the Regency period.

The horse was a vital part of everyday nineteenth century life, but few of us today have such an intimate acquaintance with that lovely animal.  What does it actually feel like to ride side saddle?
The English saddle has changed little in its appearance over the past two hundred years. The major change came at the end of the nineteenth century when the modern “Forward Seat” was invented and the saddle flap began to be cut forward, or over a horse's shoulder (allowing a shorter stirrup). In the 1800s, riders sat very straight in the saddle, leaning back when jumping fences, as seen in hunting prints of the era. This was true for both men riding astride and women riding aside.
However, the side saddle has changed quite a bit since the early nineteenth century in England.

The Side Saddle

The earliest “side saddles” date back to the Middle Ages, when a woman literally rode facing sideways. A lady back then would ride a palfrey, a very smooth gaited horse, and would be led by a groom. Over the decades this saddle evolved to allow a lady to sit facing forward in a true side saddle.

Prior to 1835, a side saddle had only one or two pommels. One pommel or horn turned up to support the right leg. And some side saddles had a second pommel which turned down over the left leg.

Modern side saddles now have a third “leaping” horn that can twist to help hold the upper leg in place—but this was not around during the early nineteenth century. This third horn can help riders who are jumping over fences, but most ladies, even those who fox hunted, chose to go through gates instead of jumping fences.

Modern views make it seem as if riding side saddle must be awkward and uncomfortable (What! You have both legs on one side of the horse, and none on the other). Actually, side saddles can be very comfortable and secure.

Betty Skelton, author of Side Saddle Riding, found that....“As a teenager in the 1920s, side saddle riding was second nature to me. I found it comfortable and I did not fall off as often as I had done from a cross saddle.” In teaching side saddle, Ms. Skelton has found that a beginner rider can often be comfortably cantering during her first lesson—that’s not likely when riding astride.

The side saddle requires the rider to sit with a straight back and with hips and shoulders absolutely even. Slightly more weight should be carried on the right hip to compensate for the weight of both legs on the left. Any tilting to one side, leaning or twisting eventually results in a horse with a sore back.

Side saddles have a broad, flat, and comfortably padded seat. The right leg goes over a padded leather branch which turns up (the top pommel). The left leg is in a stirrup that is short enough to bring it firmly up against a second pommel which turns down. If the horse plays up at all, you clamp both legs together, gripping these horns to stay on the horse.
So how do you mount, dismount, and otherwise look good in a side saddle? Come back Friday to find out!

Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency; the Grand Prize in the "Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer" contest, judged by Nora Roberts; RWA's Golden Heart; and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from RT Book Reviews magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: "simply superb"..."wonderfully uplifting"....and "beautifully written."
Her Regency romances, including A Dangerous Compromise, can be found as ebooks on all formats, and include four novellas now out as a collection with Cool Gus Publishing.
Her Regency Novella, Border Bride, can be found as an ebook, or in print in her collection of Regency Novellas.  Learn more about her on her blog/website.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Victor/Victoria in 1807?

Marissa has generously shared so many of her fashion prints with us that it’s easy to start drooling over the sumptuous gowns from the nineteenth century.  But apparently there were occasions when a lady made another choice.  This week, I ran across an editorial piece from La Belle AssemblĂ©e, that ladies magazine extraordinaire, dated April 1807.  The gentleman of the article is more than a little put out that some ladies were, GASP, adopting the clothing of gentlemen!

Now, I realize the writer is coming from a nineteenth century ethic, which often held that women should be in one sphere and men another.  And it’s not as if I can approach him to argue more than 200 years later.  But I did find his assertions . . . interesting, and I couldn't help mounting an argument as if I were to meet him at a soiree.
“The object of dress is undoubtedly to please . . . If women appear pleasing in the eyes of the other sex, it is because they are women; nobody, I presume, will dispute this principle.”

Certainly I won’t argue that point, sir.

“The attraction, therefore, consists, in the difference of sex; consequently, that must be the most voluptuous dress which displays this difference in the most striking manner. Establish a similarity of dress between the two sexes, confound their costume, and you destroy, in the eyes of men, the charm which captivates them.”

Indeed.  So I should expect your quizzing glass aimed at one location only when approaching a lady?  And where would you expect a lady to look when approaching a gentleman?  Ah, but you appear to have other objections.  Pray, let's hear them.

“The dress of women should differ in every point from that of men. This difference ought even to extend to the choice of stuffs; for a woman habited in cloth is less feminine than if she were clothed in transparent gauze, in light muslin, or in soft and shining silk.”

Yes, but you try wearing transparent gauze in England in the winter.  One word:  Brrr. 

“What woman is there but would please us more in an elegant robe than in one of those massive riding dresses, which produce such a bad effect, especially on women who are not tall, and have rather too much embonpoint.”

I fear I neglected to bring Dr. Johnson's dictionary with me.  Embonpoint?  Ah, stoutness.  Yes, pity about that.  One would never find a short, stout fellow in a riding coat.  By the by, have your seen His Highness recently?
“It is true that it is not always the desire of pleasing that induces women to adopt a disguise which, under every circumstance, is so ill adapted to them. The love of change, of novelty, and sill more the desire of unlimited liberty, these are the motives that lead them to sacrifice cheerfully the graces of their sex, in order to obtain a small portion of what they term the felicity of ours; for, it should be observed, by the way, that women think the enjoyment of perfect liberty the greatest of earthly blessings.”

Oh, how silly of us, to be sure!  I’m certain any gentleman would be more than glad to give up his liberty.   But do go on, sir.  You have me all a-gog.

“Perhaps women have gained nothing by adopting shoes as flat as those of men, which give them a firm and bold step, not exactly adapted to their sex. God forbid that I should wish to revive those heels of such extravagant and ridiculous height; but were there a greater contrast between women’s shoes and ours, the former would appear the handsomer for it.”

I see.  You'd advise me to attempt a country dance in high heels.  How very entertaining.  I'd be delighted to offer you a pair as well, but I doubt you'd be man enough to wear them.  But I will take the direction of your tailor.  If he can dress a fellow of your exacting expectations, I'm certain he'd do well for me.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jane Austen…Really

 I’ve been having fun reading Jane Austen-related or themed books over the last few months in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. Some have been serious looks at aspects of Jane Austen’s world. Others have been lightweight “fun” books, while others have used Jane and her world as a way to look at our own, with varying degrees of humor (and, I might add, success.) Only one has completely captivated me.

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne (HarperCollins, 2013) is not quite a biography, not quite a history, not quite literary criticism, though it accomplishes all those things. It takes a slightly sideways approach to Jane Austen and her work: it uses physical items, many of them her personal or family belongings, to examine aspects of her life, the culture of late 18th and early 19th century England, and, of course, her works. Through a Kashmir shawl, Byrne examines Austen family history and connection to the wider world, laying to rest 19th century biographers, many of them Jane’s relatives, who tried to paint her as a secluded countrywoman with little knowledge of the outside world. Through a page in the church register in Jane’s father’s church, where a young Jane playfully scribbled in several marriages for herself, Jane’s love life and views on romance and sex are examined.

The book wanders delightfully from subject to subject; an advertisement from a newspaper announcing the auctioning of the Austen’s furniture upon Jane’s father’s retirement mentions, among the goods to be sold, several theatre scenes (painted backdrops), which launches an examination of the Austen family’s love of theatre and the role theatre plays in Jane’s books, particularly Mansfield Park. I have to confess that Mansfield Park was always my least favorite of her works, but in the middle of this chapter I found myself going back and rereading it and gaining a deeper appreciation of and liking for the story (though I still can’t view Edmund as hero material. Just ain’t gonna happen.)

The other thing this book accomplishes, as far as I’m concerned, is to demolish the rather mealy-mouthed picture of Jane painted by her early biographers, many of them her own close relatives. They tried to present a picture of her as a demure, home-loving Victorian spinster, which simply wasn’t the case: Jane Austen loved to travel and jaunt about London when she had the chance, could have an earthy sense of humor at times, and was, overall, much more a product of the more open-minded 18th century than of the more prudish 19th.

So if you want to read one Jane Austen-related book this year, I highly recommend The Real Jane Austen. It’s not a light and fluffy read, but it’s always an interesting one.