Category Archives: Love story

The Honourable Mrs. Graham

465px-the_hon-_mrs-_thomas_graham

On the English Historical Fiction Authors, I wrote on a famous, doomed beauty, painted by Thomas Gaineborough and others…

“The Honourable Mrs. Graham” is the name by which a portrait of Mary Cathcart Graham by Thomas Gainsborough is known. It is a beautiful portrait of a lovely woman painted in 1775, which was displayed in the Royal Academy in 1777. Gainsborough painted her more than once. She was also painted by the Scottish painter David Allan, who had been patronized by her father. Her face has appeared on biscuit tins and even in an advertisement for a Maidenform bra in the 1950’s. In her short lifetime, Mrs. Graham was known for her intelligence, her beauty and her kind nature. There was also a touching romance and tragedy in her story….

To read more, visit the English Historical Fiction Authors blog Here

Image: Wikimedia Commons<a HERE

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Filed under 18th century England, consumption, Love story, Romance

Not Such a Fine Romance: Clementina Walkinshaw and Prince Charles Edward Stuart

Over on the English Historical Fiction Authors’ site, my post on Clementina Walkinshaw and her affair with Bonnie Prince Charlie…
clementina_walkinshaw
Clementina Maria Sophia Walkinshaw c 1760

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, was the very stuff of romance. A gallant prince, eldest son of James III/VIII (the Young Pretender to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland), known for his charm, and a lost cause… Who could resist such a creature? Surprisingly, there are rather fewer identified mistresses for Prince Charles than one might think. One of this number was Clementina Walkinshaw.

Clementina was born to John Walkinshaw of Barrowfield and his wife Katherine Paterson of Bannockburn, their 10th (and youngest) child, all of whom were daughters…. Read moreHERE.

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Filed under Bonnie Prince Charlie, Love story, Royal mistresses

Jane Austen and Marriage

Das Ehesakrament by Pietro Longhi c. 1755 via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to movies and television, Jane Austen’s novels, especially PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and PERSUASION, are synonymous with happy-ever-after. Many love her works as romantic courtship novels. Ironically, Jane Austen has also been embraced as a feminist author, thanks to her subtle criticisms of male-dominated education and economics, and her personal unmarried state. In recent years, speculation on her personal love life and reasons for her failure to marry has generated a variety of novels and movies as well. The fact remains that marriage is a central point of her novels. There is a conflict common in all of her novels, again especially visible in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: marriage as a romantic state versus marriage as a means of financial support. This conflict was present throughout Austen’s life, and was the dichotomy for gentlewomen of her time. On one hand, Romantic thought required a marriage based only on mutual love, a one-time event. On the other hand, reality saw many women propelled into marriage solely for financial support. The same reality forced many widows into remarriage, regardless of their desires. A shortage of eligible males and women’s vulnerability to changes of status exacerbated the situation.

Jane Austen knew that marriage did not provide a guarantee of financial security. Money was lost, as in brother Henry’s bankruptcy. (Mrs. Smith in PERSUASION epitomized a woman’s vulnerability when a family fortune was decimated.) Inheritance laws distributed assets, resulting in distress, as illustrated by Mrs. Bennet’s obsession with the entailment that would result in Mr. Collins’ inheriting Longbourn when Mr. Bennet dies. There was no assurance that family members would aid an unattached female. Romantic fervor did not always last. A rise of divorce, particularly well-publicized in Austen’s time as it was still an expensive rarity, showcased a woman’s vulnerability in marriage. High society divorces occurred, such as that of Lord and Lady Worsley, in Jane Austen’s lifetime, and she was aware of them. In SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, Colonel Brandon disclosed the sad fate of his first love to Eleanor: an heiress forced into an unloving marriage with his elder brother, mistreated, seduced, ultimately divorced and left with inadequate means of support despite her personal fortune (which remained in her husband’s hands), leading to her complete ruin.

I believe that Jane wanted to be married. However, her definition of marriage seems to have been very specific: a union of shared tastes and interests, mutual affection and mutual respect. Neither financial security nor romantic love (or infatuation) individually was enough. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE contained multiple examples of marriages that were unhappy because the partners were unequally matched in terms of education, interests, respect, infatuation that cooled or other circumstances. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s relationship was the classic portrait of unequal marriage: her pretty face and flirting caught the eye of an educated young gentleman. His disillusionment, loss of respect and withdrawal from his wife had an extremely damaging effect on their children. (The differences between Jane and Lizzie (early products of the marriage), and Mary, Kitty and Lydia (later products of the search for a son and heir) showed the deleterious effect on the family as a whole of Mr. Bennet’s disenchantment with his wife ).

The marriage of Charlotte and Mr. Collins highlighted another unequal match: her need to find a place with a modicum of security so she would not be a charge on her brother or father led her to coolly pursue marriage to a singularly unsatisfactory man. Her superiority of taste and thought versus his foolishness did not lead to disillusionment for Charlotte but resulted in a constant effort to find satisfaction in her own abilities to counter the loneliness and frequent humiliation she experienced in her life with Mr. Collins. Lydia and Wickham was the ultimate mismatched couple, with no hope of any real comfort. Their marriage was the outcome of an elopement propelled by her giddy infatuation with the military and his taste for debauchery, and only occurred because Mr. Darcy had the means to compel Wickham to marry Lydia. They had no real affection for each other, no home or significant money of their own and no welcome from family or friends. Lydia had no significant hope of security (she had no internal or financial resources of her own, and Wickham’s unsteadiness and lack of a stable profession other than the military left them living on the edge of disaster).

Other novels in Ms. Austen’s body of work contain examples of unequal marriages as well: Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram in MANSFIELD PARK, and Charles and Mary Musgrove in PERSUASION are only a couple of examples. In PERSUASION, Lady Russell was in no hurry (or was possibly unwilling) to change her widowed state which allowed her full control of her life and her funds. Certainly, she showed no interest in pursuing Sir Walter Elliot. In her Juvenilia, “Catharine or the Bower” in Volume the Third contains the story of a young lady who, against her personal inclinations, went to India to find a husband and was “Splendidly, yet unhappily married.”* (This story is based on her own family experience, as her aunt Philadelphia, her father’s sister, went to India and was married there.)

Jane Austen withdrew into premature spinsterhood, reluctantly yet almost with relief. Was it due to the loss of an early love, or a strong-willed desire to control her own destiny? Were there other factors? Jane advised her niece not to marry without affection. Her novels show the pitfalls of unequal, unloving or imprudent marriages, and the merits of marriages that combine affection, shared tastes and other benefits. Her heroines achieved the ideal state of being married happily and advantageously. However, her novels seem to contain more illustrations of the less satisfactory relationships than the happy ones. While the characters and circumstances involved in these less-than-happy marriages added greatly to the entertainment factor of the stories, one can’t help but see a warning of the dangers of marriage entered into lightly or for the wrong reasons.

With her family’s support and encouragement, Ms. Austen enjoyed writing and earning her own money. She was proud of her work and very interested in the financial reward of it. She saw women’s need for improved education and the ability to provide for their own support. Her sharp wit and keen observations were, and are still, admired. We should also consider her emotions as a girl and young woman, and how those emotions affected her writing. Did she truly feel a “splendidly engaged indifference”*. to marriage, or was she making the best of her unmarried state? When Mr. Bigg-Wither proposed in December 1802, he offered Ms. Austen a comfortable life in a family she knew and liked; his sisters were close friends. However, she did not particularly like or admire him personally. She accepted, and then withdrew her acceptance the next day. Her acceptance shows she was aware of the advantages that marriage to Mr. Bigg-Wither offered; her withdrawal shows that she valued respect and esteem more.

Jane Austen evolved from a girl dreaming of marriage into a determined spinster unwilling to settle for second best, as shown in family records, her letters and her novels. In PERSUASION, Anne Elliot defined good company as “the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation….”*** In my opinion, the character of Anne Elliot and this quote in particular reveal Jane Austen’s personal views and desires regarding relationships in general and marriage in particular most clearly. Jane was a woman of her time, a realist, who understood her family’s situation. She was also a woman of feeling, in a loving family. Choice as well as circumstances led to her decision to stay a spinster. Her wit and observations gave her writings humor, while her emotional growth allowed her to combine the sparkle of youthful hope, the caution of experience in adulthood and the wisdom of maturity in her stories.

Notes:

*Chapman, R.W., ed. MINOR WORKS The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen Vol. 6. 1988: Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 194.
**Walker, Eric C. MARRIAGE, WRITING AND ROMANTICISM Wordsworth and Austen After War. 2009: Stanford University Press, Palo Alto, CA, p. 226.
*** Chapman, R. W., ed. NORTHANGER ABBEY AND PERSUASION The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen Vol. 5. 1988: Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 150 of PERSUASION.

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Filed under Georgian England, Jane Austen, Love story, Regency society

The Duke of Wellington’s Wife

(This is a reblog of comments I made on Goodreads 9/20/2011 in their entirety.)

Original engraving of Catherine Wellesley, wife of the Duke of Wellington, by J R Swinton, circa 1850 from early sketch circa 1810

I think all of us are familiar with the Duke of Wellington, hero of India, the Peninsular Wars and the victor at the Battle of Waterloo. However, little acknowledgement is paid to his wife.

Her name was the Honorable Catherine Pakenham, known as “Kitty.” She was born in January 1772 in Ireland at Pakenham Hall, and was a distant connection by marriage of Arthur Wesley (before the family name was changed to Wellesley”, who was also in Ireland. Kitty was small, slender, with grey eyes, curly hair and a beautiful complexion. She was very high spirited, and stubborn, with a willingness to argue her point to exhaustion. She was very popular and had many admirers, including young Arthur. By all reports, Kitty was very kind and impulsively generous. She loved gossip, and could never keep a secret, which led to accidental exposure of information. She professed high principles, honesty, and high standards of behavior, and was not tolerant of others’ lapses.

Arthur Wesley’s courtship of Kitty began in 1790. He proposed twice: the first time in 1792, which was turned down by her family and again in 1794 which was also turned down. Kitty’s father lectured young Arthur on his need to improve himself and his prospects. Subsequently, young Arthur went into Parliament and subsequently back into the military. (One could wonder how much his disappointment over Kitty pushed him to make these moves.) He was away 12 years, during which period he had no direct contact with Kitty. She continued with her normal life at home, with at least one serious beau (his courtship came to nothing, because Kitty loved Arthur and was waiting for him).

Friends wrote to Arthur, particularly Olivia Sparrow, and he indicated that his feelings were unchanged and he still wanted to marry Kitty. Kitty was getting older, and becoming very nervous and anxious about the situation, especially wondering if Arthur would still want her when he saw how she’d changed. He returned to Ireland, this time successful and financially established, and, in October 1805, wrote to her brother for permission to marry Kitty. This time, Kitty’s family approved and they were married 4/10/1806. The lengthy settlement negotiations were not concluded until after their marriage, finally signed in August. After their marriage, he plunged straight back into his work, setting a pattern for their marriage in which she took a back seat to his career.

At this point, you have two people of completely different character, separated for 12 years, who have made a lifetime commitment after just a few months’ reacquaintance. Both had changed significantly: he was successful, confident and dominating. She had changed from a pretty, confident belle, to a 30-year old, somewhat spinsterish woman who was no longer sure of herself. Not surprisingly, Kitty felt neglected and complained to family and friends. As these reports circulated, they were used by Arthur’s political enemies, the Whigs, in attacks on him. This lack of discretion and its results in turn aggravated him and made him doubt her loyalty.

In 1806, Kitty was pregnant with their first child, and spent most of her time without Arthur, who was preoccupied with his work. He did write, but was very emphatic about expenses and the need for control. Kitty was not forthcoming about bills and costs, and her lack of honesty and control over household expenditures angered him. Since Kitty had impressed him with her strength of character and principles as a very young girl, whom he had idealised, it was difficult for him to recognize and accept the reality of the woman he married. (It must be said that the Arthur Kitty had loved for so long was a younger, less confident man, without the experience and success of the rather stern and authocratic man who returned to her. She was nervous of and afraid to confront him.)

Their personal communication was also difficult. Arthur was accustomed to the society of military men. Kitty had remained in her normal family and social life. He was no longer accustomed to chat, discussions of social activities or family trivia. She was unable to join in the conversation when his military or political colleagues came to call. In short, they had little to talk about together.

Their first son, Arthur, was born 2/3/1807. At the time of the child’s birth, Arthur was away hunting. Letters from him during this time make no mention of the child. Arthur was appointed to a political post in Ireland, and went ahead, leaving Kitty and their child in London. They finally joined him in May of 1807. She became pregnant again in 1807. Arthur spent a great deal of time socializing and hunting without her. Their second son was born in January of 1808. Somewhere during this period, Kitty apparently loaned her brother Henry a significant sum of money from the housekeeping funds, which resulted in bills not being paid.

In the spring of 1808, Arthur was in London. He was promoted to lieutenant-general, and it was nearly certain he would command an expedition to Portugal. In a letter written to the Duke of Richmond June 4th, he specifically states that the subject should not be mention to Kitty until things were positive. This is significant, as it shows a pattern he established, of not telling Kitty anything until the last possible moment, to avoid gossip, discussion and argument. He went in July 1808, had a victory at Vimeiro, and was recalled to England. He returned to Ireland at the end of October 1808, and spent the rest of the year deeply engrossed in plans and work.

In late January 1809, they were closing the house in Ireland to move back to England permanently, and Arthur insisted all of the bills be paid. At this point, the truth came out and Kitty had to explain and provide detailed accounts. Ultimately, Kitty’s deception and Arthur’s discovery of it put the final seal on his disillusionment. Her concealment of the situation and poor excuses demonstrated a lack of moral courage that was completely foreign to him, and showed him that she was not the person he had thought he had married. He never trusted her again.

In the spring of 1809, Arthur left for Portugal and the Peninsular Wars, and did not return for five years. He forbade her to take the children to Ireland. He did write, but told her very little, and nothing of signficance. She angered him again by requesting information from other people, which he felt implied his inadequate attention and he considered disloyal. Her life was very routine and dull: taking care of her sons, and other children, sewing, making shoes (a hobby she took up), reading extensively, music and so forth. She became very bored and depressed. Her household accounts were a nightmare for her-she was kind-hearted and easily imposed upon. His military discipline caused Arthur to view her inadequacy in this respect as a serious offense whenever money problems arose. Kitty was not shy, and did enjoy social life, but she did not enjoy public functions and avoided them-she was married to a famous hero who never took leave to come home and seldom wrote; how could she answer questions about him, when she had no information unless she read something about him in a newspaper?

It is important to note that, while he was away, Arthur was not faithful to Kitty, supposedly from shortly after their marriage. He was very sociable, enjoyed hunting, parties and so forth, and he liked women. He was the subject of a great deal of gossip. (Just two of his escapdes: involvement with the famous courtesan Harriette Wilson in London, and in Brussels at the time of Waterloo,rumors about him and Lady Frances Webster Wedderborn.) Kitty made it a rule never to believe any gossip or negative reports against him, and maintained this her whole life.

Arthur finally returned to England 6/23/1814 as the Duke of Wellington, and took her to Paris with him as ambassadress, but never reposed trust or confidence in her. It is very ironic as Arthur was known as a kind and loyal man, quick to anger but quick to get over it; however, he was completely unforgiving of his wife. Kitty, for her part, never learned either; she ran into debt, and concealed her debts by borrowing. She occupied herself with raising her children, and other children of family members, and spending time with family and friends. She tried please Arthur and to build some kind of home with him. Her later years were spent at their house in Hampshire, at times in isolation. Kitty died in 1831.

Arthur never got over his disappointment in her. He seemed to feel that his marriage to her was a weakness or personal failure, which he just could not accept. In later years, he blamed his marriage on the undue influence of others.

There is information on line about Kitty Wellesley, Duchess of Wellington. A detailed work about her is A SOLDIER’S WIFE: WELLINGTON’S MARRIAGE, by Joan Wilson (1987: George Weidenfeld & Nicholas Ltd, London), from which I got a lot of information for this post.

Original Goodreads post: https://www.goodreads.com/comment/index/86909608
Image from Wikimedia Commons

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Filed under biography, History, Love story, Regency era, Regency society

Introducing THE RUSE by Felicia Rogers

It’s Christmas time, and books make fantastic gifts. Author Felicia Rogers is offering a holiday special of her novel, The Ruse, just in time for a last-minute gift, or for one’s self if looking for something to read when it’s too wintery outside! Felicia is a new author for me as well-we’re all for a treat! She has provided the post below-take a look…

The Ruse, Andrews Brothers, Book One

The Ruse

The fix is in…but her heart can’t be fooled.

Luke Andrews, Baron of Stockport, is in trouble. He needs a wealthy bride to secure future funds for his financially shaky estate, but the belle of the London season is a spoiled terror with an arrogant father. They’d try the nerves of a saint and Luke can’t quite bring himself to make an offer he knows he’d regret.

Meanwhile, Luke’s half-brother Chadwick never could resist a good game of Faro, or anything else, for that matter. With the baron away, Chadwick will play — gambling the estate’s remaining funds into oblivion. He needs to devise his own scheme to replace the money he’s lost, before his brother returns.

In Stockport village, Brigitta Blackburn doesn’t have two sticks to rub together — literally. With the estate in financial distress and rents high, food and wood are scarce. When she sneaks onto the baron’s land to steal some firewood, she’s caught, hauled before the play-acting “baron,” Chadwick, and offered a solution to her plight… and his.

But Chadwick’s ruse embroils them all. How can Brigitta accept what she thinks to be true, when she really yearns to follow her heart?

–a traditional Regency novel

Buy it Now:
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/lkdksyd
Amazon UK: http://tinyurl.com/lt2lwkn

On sale for 0.99 from Dec. 24th to Dec. 29th!!!

****

See what one reader said about The Ruse:

By Kivey on Amazon: I honestly LOVED this book it was so awesome. Luke is a hunk and his brother well you all will see if you read it :). This book was very suspenseful. I was on the edge of my seat and laughed the heroine is just sooooo spunky. She is truly one heroine I wouldn’t want to mess with.

Excerpt:
Fountains bubbled and birds landed in the baths. Luke took the long trail and walked by the fishing pond and hunting grounds. A rock jutted out from the mountain and Luke paused, blocking the sun from his face.
From his high perch, the ruins of Stockport Castle tumbled across the green below. He remembered being a lad and staring at the ruins while holding tightly to his father’s hand. His father’s vivid descriptions had almost made him feel as if he’d walked through the hallowed halls that lay destroyed.
Reality of how things that stood the test of time could still plunge into nothingness gnawed at his innards and he wished his father was around to offer wisdom.
Downhearted, he shoved his hands in his pockets and turned. Upon approaching the manse, he knitted his brows. A line of people gathered. Behind them, carriages lined the road almost as far away as the village.
He strode toward the crowd and joined them. Raindrops fell and he tugged his top hat lower. The throng groaned and waved umbrellas aloft. Before them the manse doors parted and they entered the east wing of the estate.
Tourists dressed in fine frocks with plumed hats filed into the main room, staring avidly about at his home. An individual Luke had never seen acted as a guide, lifting his hands and pointing at one side of the curved staircase. There a woman of refined grace descended.
The guide announced, “Introducing Baroness Stockport, Brigitta Andrews.”
Luke blinked rapidly as the woman turned, smiled, and waved. The crowd returned her actions. She continued to descend until she reached the landing, where she stopped.
From the opposite set of stairs, his half-brother Chadwick, dressed in regal attire, descended. The red coat emphasized his broad shoulders, which he held back. His face scrunched, he didn’t look at the crowd, but instead focused a look filled with unrequited hatred toward the woman on the landing.
The guide lifted his hand toward Chadwick and said, “Introducing the Baron of Stockport.”
Luke covered his gasp and huddled deeper into his coat. What is the meaning of this?
Before any further thoughts could drift through Luke’s mind, Chadwick stopped in the middle of the stairs and shouted, “And just what do you think you’re wearing?”
The woman bristled. “I’m wearing the yellow today, my lord.”
“The yellow? Blah. I’ve told you I detest yellow. Get thee upstairs and change this instant.” He pointed his finger above and the lady cocked a brow and glared.
“You will not tell me what to do! I’m the baroness and I can do as I please. If I want to wear yellow, then I shall wear yellow!”
Chadwick didn’t waver and Brigitta hitched her skirts and ran upstairs. Chadwick faced the crowd and apologized for his wife’s behavior before casually turning on his heel and leaving himself.
Shocked, Luke blindly followed the crowd. The guide led them through the entire east wing. They studied the wall of family portraits, swooned over the ancient family heirlooms, and ended with a riding tour of the grounds.
With each new sight his ire increased. While he’d been strangled initially by feelings of cold, blind rage, the trip on horseback through the grounds cooled his temper and now he was naught but confused.
The event ended and the visitors left in their carriages. Discreetly, Luke sneaked into the house through a downstairs window and raced on tiptoe to his chambers. He sat at a desk and pondered until his head ached. Finally, he pulled the servant’s rope that led directly to his personal valet’s room. He paced, his mind jumbled with nonsensical thoughts. The door opened and he blurted, “Jarvis, I have a problem.”
The valet entered and closed the door. A blank stare covered his face as he blurted, “My lord, we weren’t expecting you. Welcome home.”
“There is something foul at play here.”
Jarvis squinted, lifted his nose, and sniffed.
“Not an odor, Jarvis.”
He lowered his chin. “Excuse me, your lordship, but I fail to understand your meaning.”
Without pretense, Luke said, “In the east wing, Chadwick is pretending to be me!”
“Are you sure?” asked Jarvis, his voice lending to a squeak.
He rounded on the servant. “Yes, I’m sure! They called his name as the Baron of Stockport and last I checked that was me!”

Buy The Ruse on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/lkdksyd
Buy The Ruse on Amazon UK: http://tinyurl.com/lt2lwkn

ROMANCE AUTHOR
Felicia Rogers

Felicia Rogers

Felicia Rogers is an author of eight novels and two novellas. When she’s not writing, Felicia volunteers with the Girl Scouts of America, teaches at a local homeschooling group, hikes, and spends time with her family.

To find out more information about Felicia Rogers use the links below. She loves hearing from readers.

Website: http://www.feliciarogersauthor.weebly.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FeliciaRogersAuthor
Email: feliciarogersauthor@yahoo.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/FeliciaRogers

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Filed under Love story, Regency society, Romance, Writing

Guest Post: Coffee Houses-the Georgian Equivalent of Facebook? by Grace Elliot

As part of her Verity’s Lie blog hop, I am delighted to announce my very first guest poster! Author Grace Elliot is joining us today, with a fascinating post about coffee houses in the Georgian era. Grace is the successful author of historical romance novels, including her new book Verity’s Lie, and a regular contributor to the English Historical Fiction Authors blog in addition to maintaining her own blog. Be sure to check out the links below after enjoying her post. Take it away, Grace!

Coffee Houses – the Georgian Equivalent of Facebook?
by Grace Elliot

A Mad Dog in a Coffee House, by Thomas Rowlandson

A Mad Dog in a Coffee House, by Thomas Rowlandson

In the 18th century coffee houses were big business – much like today! A bit like the roll social media plays in the modern age, coffee houses were places for like-minded people to meet and debate issues or conduct business. In the previous century King Charles II recognised and was intimidated by the potential within coffee houses to organise rebellion and tried to ban them as:
“places where the disaffected met, and spread scandalous reports concerning the conduct of His Majesty [Charles II] and his Ministers”

Their history is such that it took just over two decades from coffee being available outside the Ottoman Empire, for a rash of them to appear all over Europe. England’s first coffee house opened in Oxford in 1652, and by 1675 there were over 3,000 countrywide! Indeed, coffee houses were the fore-runner of the private gentlemen’s clubs that became so popular in the late 18th century.

The popularity of coffee houses lay not so much in the hot beverages they sold, but as a meeting place. Each house had a distinctive clientele who gathered there to hear the latest news or gossip. By 1739, in London alone there were 331 coffee houses catering for various political groups, lawyers, doctors, stockjobbers, writers, artists or the like. A Frenchman, Antoine Prevost, visiting London commented that coffee houses were “the seat of English liberty”, a place “where you have the right to read all the papers for and against the government.” They also served another social function as a place to have mail delivered, to collect lost property or read newspapers.

One of the most famous coffee houses was Garraway’s, near the Royal Exchange in London. In the 1800’s you could purchase four ham sandwiches and a glass for sherry for two old pence, or feast on a pot of tea, six slices of bread, two crumpets and a muffin for a cost of ten pence plus a two pence tip for the waiter. But, men went there to do business, rather than dine. At Garraway’s people of quality met to buy and sell books, paintings and shipments of tea, coffee or wine. This was done by the famous “inch of candle” sales – a bizarre system of auctioning goods where the successful buyer was the last person to place a bid before a candle stub burnt out.

Coffee houses were great social levelers when men of different classes could meet. It was not unusual for a physician to meet his patient there, or a lawyer his client. Added to that the coffee houses were often gloomy, poorly lit places with smoky atmospheres – they were the perfect places to meet people without arousing suspicion.

In my latest historical romance, Verity’s Lie, the hero wishes to intruct a spy, so what better meeting place than a coffee house!

Excerpt from ‘Verity’s Lie’.

Needham’s Coffee House was a place of business rather than pleasure, and the rooms were decorated accordingly. In the hearth hung a cauldron of coffee from which the servers filled their jugs. Clean sand on the floor, and a candle lit each wooden table; the patrons preferring their transactions to be conducted in the anonymity of gloom.

Ryevale entered this thick atmosphere of tobacco, coffee and coal smoke, the sickly smell catching at the back of his throat. Like so many shadowy monoliths, an assortment of merchants, lawyers, physicians and stock-jobbers sat hunched around tablets, deep in conversation.

Giving his vision time to adjust, Ryevale ducked to avoid a beam and crossed to his favorite corner booth with a view of the door. Sitting, he placed a document on the table and ran a finger down a column of figures, as if there to meet to his broker.
“Coffee, my lord?”
“Thank you, Williams. Most kind.”
“Very good, I’ll see to it myself.”

Williams was Needham’s proprietor; a man both unobtrusive and tight lipped, his character reflected in the coffee house’s reputation for discretion. A well-dressed man wearing a pristine white neckcloth slid into the seat opposite, a copy of the Spectator clamped under his arm. His skin glowed with the freshly scrubbed appearance of a man come directly from the barber, a man who took pride in his appearance. Ryevale looked up and nodded.
“Hanley.”
“Coffee for me as well, Williams.”
“Of course, Mr. Hanley.” Williams melted backwards.
“Good of you to come at short notice. I appreciate it, Hanley.”
“No trouble.”

A serving wench brushed past the table, casting doe-eyes at Ryevale, who smiled back absent-mindedly.

“Anything in the news?” he asked, nodding to the Spectator.
“The usual from abroad: Napoleon’s antics on the run…another ambush…that sort of thing.” Hanley had a cultured voice with an aristocratic twang.
“How is business?”
“Stocks are booming, despite the unsettled situation.”
“Any tips?”
Hanley grinned. “After inside information?”

Williams approached with a coffee jug and two cups. “Here we are, your lordship, Mr. Hanley.”
“Thank you, Williams.” Ryevale pressed a shilling into his hand.
“My lord.” Williams discretely withdrew.

Once alone with no one to overhear, Hanley leaned across the table with a glint in his eye.
“Enough small talk. I take it you need information?”
“I do.”
Hanley smiled as he poured the coffee. “Good. Town has been dull lately; a diversion would be welcome.”
Author biography and links:Grace Elliot

Grace Elliot

Grace Elliot

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is passionate about history, romance and cats! She is housekeeping staff to five cats, two sons, one husband and a bearded dragon (not necessarily listed in order of importance). “Verity’s Lie” is Grace’s fourth novel.

Verity's Lie-400x600 Cover

Verity’s Lie – Synopsis:

Charles Huntley, Lord Ryevale, infamous rogue…and government agent.
In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge.
When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. So if Lord Ryevale can lie, so can she… with disastrous consequences.

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The Beauty of Old Books

The Cover of Marmion by Sir Walter Scott

The Cover of Marmion by Sir Walter Scott

I love old books. The paper is thicker and has a certain feel to it. They have a scent and a weight in the hands, a feeling of substance. The covers may be leather or cloth, and they impart a dignity to the volume. Somehow old books just seem to have a significance that the newer volumes, however beautiful the cover or dust jacket may be, just don’t match.

The picture above is the cover of a copy of Marmion by Sir Walter Scott. It is difficult to say for sure, but I think it must have been originally white, with gilding in the tooled designs surrounding the center illustration of the young woman in the garden. There is no page giving printing or publishing information. It is a small book, of a size to slip easily into a small purse (or even a reticule) or pocket. It was obviously a dainty item, I think intended to be a gift for a special young lady.

It did not surface until after she had passed away, so I could not ask my grandmother how she came by it. There may be a reason why the page with publication data is missing-might there have been an inscription that was too sensitive to keep? Possibly a romantic gift from someone, kept after the romance had ended? It was hidden away so I suspect it was a keepsake from long ago. I can picture her taking it out occasionally, turning it over in her hands, reading a passage here and there. I hope it brought a smile. I treasure this little book because, as battered and worn as it is, it still has a faded loveliness, and because it was obviously important to my grandmother. It’s inspiring to think what might have been…

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