NEW RELEASE! Prue Batten’s Latest Novel PASSAGE

On Friday, June 28, my friend Prue Batten released a new book. This book, PASSAGE, is a departure for her: this one is contemporary fiction. A gifted writer, she is already well-known for her historical fiction series, THE TRIPTYCH CHRONICLES (3 volumes), and THE GISBOURNE SAGA (3 volumes), as well as her wonderful fantasy series THE CHRONICLES OF EIRIE (4 volumes), and a delightful children’s book WOMBAT. PASSAGE is already receiving acclaim. Today, she is visiting my blog to talk about what inspired this new direction.

Passage-Promo-Poster-780x1101 6-28-2019

The Inspiration for Passage by Prue Batten

I never intended to write a contemporary fiction.
Ever.
But it is a genre I’ve always enjoyed reading – authors of the calibre of Rosamunde Pilcher and Alexandra Raife in my earlier days and then Cathy Kelly, Joanne Harris, Maggie Christensen, Joanna Trollope, Jan Ruth, Maeve Binchy and others more recently.
The attraction of the genre is the way it deals with the human condition – no writer shies away from the tough or the tender.

So what was the motivation for me? Well, the oddest little thing really…

My last historical fiction, Michael, had been released and I was taking some time out, re-reading Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. In awe of her atmospheric and descriptive writing, I contrived a paragraph about a woman sitting in the sun, trying to give it the Pilcher style. Subsequently I copied and pasted it to my Facebook wall – just for fun.
But then, Juliet Marillier, globally loved writer of myth-based fantasy and also a fan of Rosamunde Pilcher, challenged me to write a contemporary fiction. More particularly, one with a woman in her later years as the protagonist.
I didn’t even think twice (Probably a bad idea. I’ve always been too impulsive.) and thought why not?
So Passage, in the first instance without a title, was born.
My protagonist became a woman on the cusp of her seventies who faces the worst moment of her life when her adored husband of fifty years has a traumatic farm accident. As the blurb indicates, Annie loses Alex and Passage becomes her journey from grievous loss to a gentler existence.
I was determined that it should not be a depressing novel and wanted there to be wry humour and comfort in the reading of this story and so Annie has a crazy little Jack Russell as her companion, along with a dry-witted and kind French woman who is completely Yang to Annie’s Yin.
In addition, Annie converses with her husband. Is she mad? Is he a spirit? Heavens’ knows.
But it comforts Annie and has the approval of her psychologist.

Writing the novel has enabled me to understand grief much more. I now realise that it has its own agenda, its own timeframe and that it can be bridged and that there can be life on the other side.
My dearest wish is that folk will travel with Annie with affection and enjoyment, knowing that grief has many forms and many faces but that all are ultimately bearable…
Thank you, Lauren for inviting me today.
If you would like to read Passage, here is the link. mybook.to/Passage

And if you want to find out more about Prue:
http://www.pruebatten.com

http://www.facebook.com/Prue.Batten.writer

http://www.pinterest.dk/pruebatten

http://www.instagram.com/pruebatten/

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The Duke of Wellington’s Female Circle: Frances, Lady Shelley

Frances Lady Shelley 001 Lady Shelley, from a miniature by G. Sanders, in the possession of Spencer Shelley Esq.

Over on the English Historical Fiction Author’s blog, we meet Frances, Lady Shelley, a dear friend and correspondent of the Duke of Wellington.

Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, was known to enjoy women, particularly pretty, intelligent women. He was credited with many mistresses (whether or not true) and he had many women friends whose company he enjoyed. One of these women was Frances, Lady Shelley. Lady Shelley was a notable diarist.

Frances was born in June 16, 1787 at Preston, Lancashire. Her father was Thomas Winckley, and her mother was Jacintha Dalrymple Hesketh. Originally known as Janet or Jennet, Jacintha was the previously-widowed sister of the famous courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliot, whose family had a connection to the Earl of Peterborough. Jacintha and Thomas were descended of Jacobite families and they married in 1785. Thomas was about 17 years older than Jacintha. Jacintha had children (5 daughters and a son) by her first husband. Apparently Thomas did not care for the Hesketh connection; only one of Lady Shelley’ half-siblings lived in the household with her and her parents, and they rarely met the Hesketh siblings. The household was not a particularly happy one; Thomas spent a lot of time with his cronies, drank heavily and liked to play pranks. Accounts indicate that Thomas was quite well off. Shortly after moving his family to Larkhill, Thomas died in 1794, leaving his widow, their daughter Frances and 2 illegitimate sons. Jacintha inherited the house and furniture; the residue of Thomas’ estate was left to Frances, who was 6 years old….

To read more, visit the English Historical Fiction Author’s blog HERE.

Illustration is a scan of the image in my personal copy of THE DIARY OF FRANCES LADY SHELLEY 1787-1817 Edited by her grandson Richard Edgcumbe. 1912: John Murray, London.

Sources are listed in the post on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog.

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Filed under 18th century England, 19th century England, Diaries and correspondence, English Historical Fiction Authors blog, Georgian England, Uncategorized, Wellington

Charles and Nancy Wollstonecraft

Who were Charles and Nancy Wollstonecraft? Charles was the youngest brother of Georgian era British author Mary Wollstonecraft’s (VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN and more) , and a major in the American Army during the War of 1812. Nancy (also known as Anne Kingsbury Wollstonecraft) was a little known American botanist and writer. I’ve posted an article about them on the English Historical Fiction Author’s blog HERE. You can see a page of Nancy’s recently discovered SPECIMENS OF THE PLANTS AND FRUITS OF THE ISLAND OF CUBA below. (The whole 3-volume work has been digitized and is well worth examining.)
800px-0130_wollstonecraft1 Botanical illustration and description by Nancy Anne Kingsbury Wollstonecraft of the Cuban Blue Passion Flower, Vol. I, Pl. 25, ca. 1826

Image is from Wikimedia Commons (Public domain) HERE

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Filed under American History, English Historical Fiction Authors blog, History, Women Scientists, Women Writers

The Experienced English Housekeeper

THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER 001

My enthusiasm for old cookbooks continuing unchecked, I was delighted when I ran across a reprint of Elizabeth Raffeld’s THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER, published in 1769. This book was researched by a gentleman named Roy Shipperton, who died before it was published. It was edited and brought to life by Ann Bagnell. Having written about Georgian era recipes before, I am no stranger to dishes that would be considered unusual by modern standards, such as ox palates (see an earlier blog here). I was intrigued to see that she included 3 recipes for ox palates. However, I was very interested to learn that she seemed particularly interested in cakes and flummery. In fact, she is known for producing the first written recipe for “Bride Cake”.

Her “Bride Cake” is a single layer and requires four pounds of flour, the same of butter, two pounds of sugar, mace and nutmeg, blended with thirty-two eggs. Being a fruitcake, significant quantities of currents, almonds, citron, candied orange and lemon are included, with a pint of brandy. Her directions are very clear on how to blend the butter, eggs and flour, and the process of pouring the batter over the fruits in layers into the pan. Once in the oven, the baking time is three hours. The icing is a two-layer icing, very similar to modern icing, for which the recipes are also included. I envision a very large cake indeed!

Flummery is a molded pudding made with cream, sugar, a gelatin and a starch. Elizabeth Raffald used ground almonds for the starch and calves’foot stock for the gelatin. Her instructions for preparation of the flummery, preparing the molds and for unmolding are very clear. She also included directions for coloring the pudding pink, yellow or green.

Elizabeth Raffald was a fascinating woman, about whom I have written a post that will appear on English Historical Fiction Authors’ Blog on Thursday, April 25 here. I hope you will watch for it!

Source:
Raffald, Elizabeth. THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER with an introduction by Roy Shipperbottom, edited by Ann Bagnall. 1997: Southover Press, Lewes.
Image is a scan of my personal copy.

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Filed under 18th century England, Cookbooks, English Historical Fiction Authors blog, Georgian England, recipes, Women in business

A New Treasure

ROBERT MAY

I enjoy cooking shows, and was a fan of the Two Fat Ladies. In series 2, Clarissa Dickson Wright made a salmon dish based on a recipe from Robert May’s cookbook. Her version of the recipe is included in THE TWO FAT LADIES RIDE AGAIN, written by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. During the episode, Clarissa gave a little information about Mr. May which intrigued me. Since I also enjoy old cookbooks, when I ran across a facsimile of Mr. May’s work, I ordered it and it arrived today. I’ve learned that he was born in 1588. His father was cook for Lord and Lady Dormer, and taught Robert how to cook. Robert was sent to Paris by Lady Dormer, where he studied cookery for five years before returning to become cook in the Dormer’s kitchen under his father. After several years passed and Lady Dormer died, Robert went on to cook for other nobility. He died in 1664.

Mr. May’s cookbook, THE ACCOMPLISHT CHEF OR THE ART AND MYSTERY OF COOKERY was first published in 1660 in London. He was chef for noble households (primarily Catholic) during the reign of Charles I, the English Civil War and Parliamentary era, and into the reign of Charles II. In today’s terms, Mr. May was something of a celebrity chef. Robert’s cookbook is very large, and includes his own recipes (as well as some borrowed from others, to whom he apologized). I obtained a copy of the 5th edition published in 1685, which is pictured above. The cookbook was dedicated for the use of master cooks and young hopeful cooks. It addressed carving and serving, and contained bills of fare for each season and special days, The recipes were arranged in alphabetical order and the book contains a useful table of contents.

In perusing Robert May’s cookbook, I was able to find a recipe that I believe may be the one which inspired Clarissa Dickson Wright’s adaptation. (It must be said that hers, being geared for the modern cook, seems simpler to prepare as quantities are clear and it is designed for 4 people.) It involves cooking a thick cut of salmon from the middle of the fish in red wine with slices of orange, orange juice and spices and served with toast points. I have not yet attempted this dish, due (in part) to the logistics of acquiring the right cut of fish in my area. However, it sounds very different from other salmon recipes I’ve seen and I want to try it. It could be a delicious dish for a special occasion dinner. Robert May’s cookbook itself is another treasure, with its insight into another era.

May, Robert. THE ACOMMPLISHT COOK OR THE ART AND MYSTERY OF COOKERY. A facsimile of the 1685 with foreword, introduction and glossary supplied by Alan Davidson, Marcus Benn and Tom Jaine. 2012: Prospect Books, London. Reprinted 2018. (See recipe on page 232.)

Paterson, Jennifer and Dickson Wright, Clarissa. THE TWO FAT LADIES RIDE AGAIN. Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York. Originally published in 1997 by Ebury Press in Great Britain. (See recipe on p. 39.)

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Filed under 17th century England, Cookbooks, Cooking, Old books, recipes, Stuart era

Dresser to the Queen: Miss Marianne Skerrett

Today on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, we’re talking about Miss Marianne Skerrett, principal dresser and wardrobe woman to Queen Victoria.

In the television series VICTORIA, Mr. Francatelli had a relationship and married Nancy Skerrett, known as Mrs. Skerrett, who was the Queen’s dresser. She was a young woman with a sketchy past who tragically died young. In real life, Miss Marianne Skerrett rose to be the Queen’s principle dresser, and was with Queen Victoria for twenty-five years. You can see multiple images of Miss Skerrett on the Royal Collections Trust Website. One can be found HERE

To read more about here, visit the English Historical Fiction Authors blog HERE

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Filed under 19th century England, English Historical Fiction Authors blog, English history, Victoria's household, Victorian era

Cook at Buckingham Palace: Charles Elme’ Francatelli

Over on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, I wrote about one of my favorite characters on the series VICTORIA (season 3 now showing on PBS).

I have been enjoying the series Victoria on PBS. (It was so exciting that series 3 premiered in the U.S. BEFORE showing in the UK!) One character I particularly like is Mr. Francatelli, the chef in the palace. While it is true that Queen Victoria’s household did include a cook named Francatelli, there is a big difference between the way he is depicted in the television series and the known facts about him.

Charles Elme’ Francatelli is believed to have been born in London in 1805, to Nicholas and Sarah Francatelli. He actually grew up in France. He studied cooking at the Parisian College of Cooking, from which he received a diploma. He had the good fortune to study under the renowned chef Marie Antoine Careme (1784-1833), who served as chef de cuisine for the British Prince Regent (the future George IV) and was invited to Russia (although he left before cooking for the czar). When Francatelli returned to England, he cooked for various aristocratic households, until in late 1838 or early 1839, he went to work at Crockford’s. To read more, go HERE.

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Filed under 19th century England, Cooking, English Historical Fiction Authors blog, History, recipes