Wednesday, 27 September 2017

17th-18th-early 19th Century furniture.

From crude basic early chairs of ye olde England and Scotland, Tudor and Jacobean are notable, often beautifully carved wood-workings, and later came the more elegant styles of the royal courts of Louis XVI, and the Georgian/Napoleonic era, thus knowing a common “Settle” from a “Settee” or “Sofa” takes on new meaning for authors researching these periods in history.




After all, who really looks at a Settle and sees it as a basic template for Settee, and where did the sofa derive from? And yet, all three are merely a glorification of former designs from differing places. 


Jacobean Settle circa 1600s.  There were box settles too and ornate carving, some of the settles with drawers, some with cupboard doors beneath the seat, some with lift up lids.  



A Georgian Box Settle - note storage space, and it's remarkably plain. 


Early 18th Century Settle

During the latter half of the 17th century (English Restoration) Charles II wished to emulate the glories of the French Court, and regardless of expenditure, he had the royal apartments within the royal palaces refurnished and refurbished with plush-padded settees, chairs likewise padded and covered with tapestry cloth.



17th Century "Settee" - a refinement of a settle -  the design lasted throughout Charles II era into the Georgian. 


By the dwindling of the Stuart era, Queen Anne, furniture of Queen Anne’s reign became far less chunky leg-wise and decidedly elegant with a feminine lightness to structure and lighter fabric coverings, and continued thus into and throughout the Georgian era.



Queen Anne Chair - likewise Queen Anne Settee followed the same pattern for open-end armrests.


Queen Anne "Sofa" - here we see the high solid sides!


In the short period of the Regency era, the resurgence for Roman architecture applied to the building of many houses in the early 18th Century became fashionable and readily noted at Chatsworth, Blenheim Palace etc. So too, by the mid-Georgian period stone plinth stools and seats of Roman times became apparent with wooden replicas in the form of plush settees, chaises, and long footstools.


Here we can see the scrolling aspect and the high sided  "sofa".


Chaise Longue


Roller Stool - Roman influence.


Arm Bench - Roman influence. 

So where do sofa’s fit into the equation, one may ask? Then we must look to Eastern Europe and the countries bordering Asia, to Persia as was (now Iran), to Turkey, and Arab nations, where high-backed, high-armed sofas were commonplace.




 Arab -Asian Sofas



By the mid Victorian era, chunky furniture once again became in-Vogue, but I’ll not go there for much of it was ugly and I don’t pen novels in that period of history. At any rate, that’s my excuse to stop at the end of William IV’s reign.

Look out for next historical aside with Wardrobes and Armoires. 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Busting Decorative Myths of the Regency Era.

Busting Myths – in particular the Georgian Regency myth that aristocrats clambered to have their walls pasted and wallpapered with damask print and beautiful bird prints, is far from true. Aristocrats during the Georgian period considered silk-clad walls as not only a mark of decorative panache it also became the mark of their wealth, as had vast wall tapestries of old within fortified manorial houses, castles, and palaces.


Frieze work

By the end of the Stuart era (Queen Anne) when velvet as a favoured upholstery fabric had already been superseded by damask print, we see in the Georgian period where silk print, from damask to stripes, the latter very much in vogue prior to and the early years of the Regency era. In many houses oak panelled walls were renovated, the upper removed and replaced with silk panels with glorious effect, and those with silver and gold thread shimmered in candle light even though silk itself reflected light.


Silk Clad Wall

With new found wealth of the Georgian age, a good many of the grand estates built on slavery in foreign parts, not least in the West Indies, (though the British were not alone in the practise of slavery, which included the French, Dutch et al) and as grand new houses and estates appeared on the English landscape, likewise whole streets in towns and cities were erected (Bath, Cheltenham, London et al, and Bright Helmstone latterly known as Brighton in the era of the Regency).


Silk Cladding. 


With new wealth came new builds and large windows to create light and airy rooms, French windows opening onto terraces, and so too desire for elegance escalated with grand orangeries, and long before the Victorians went wild with glass house construction. Victorians went to town with conservatories from modest to spacious, from lean-to to freestanding, thus almost every garden in Victorian England had a greenhouse of one sort or another, often erected by occupants, except for the very poor who lived in back-to-back houses with tiny yards.

  





Many of the grand new houses adopted Grecian themed interiors with glorious single colour panels with not only plaster frieze work to ceilings but to walls, not unalike Jasper Ware as can be seen with Wedgewood ware crockery, ornamental dishes, bowls, pots ‘n’ all. 



The reason for no wallpaper being the first wallpapers of the Regency era were rather garish and more attuned to walls at theatres, music halls, and those lacking taste, as many said of the Regent himself, as tending tasteless in dress.






Ghastly, were they not? 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

When Characters Take the floor!



My guest today is Therese Countess Roscoff.


To express how pleased I was to learn my story would be featured first here, at Francine's blog, thrilled me, but now that I am here, it is all a little daunting. Where to begin I ask myself, and short of saying my early life embodied a humble existence within the back streets of London is to understate it, and yet as a child love abounded in the place I called home. As we all know circumstances beyond our control oft contribute to a life we accept and live through whilst dreams of a fairy tale existence are merely that, dreams. How then did I become a Russian grandee, you may well ask. In truth my good fortune was entirely due to a regular client of mine, and my trade was of the innocent variety at that time. He was a man of intellect, moral uprightness and of a kindly disposition who saw something in me that had never entered my head as a means of better revenue than I could attain from my corner pitch. Through him I learned much about deportment, voice, and how to present myself to the best of my abilities, along with the added assistance of professional persons who practised artifice with flair and perceived wisdom.

And so my world changed from a bleak pitch and mean pickings to a life in which I could ably provide little gifts for the woman who had given her life to my upbringing. To witness her hard work made less hard by my contributions to household funds filled me with sense of pride, for never could I fault her in the love she had bestowed upon me through harsh and good times as befalls the less well off in society. To say my new position placed me within the upper echelons of society is to some extent true, though truer still to say the grandees frequented my place of work. Oft times there were those who displayed great appreciation and affection for my contribution to that which they deemed as entertaining, exciting and oft dramatic. It was on one occasion of extreme appreciation that I met Valetin, Count Roscoff, who was the most handsome and gallant man who had kissed my hand, needless to say I fell instantly in love with all that he embodied. Subsequently a whirlwind romance ensued and before long I was married and became a courtier at the Empress Catherine’s Winter Palace in St Petersburg. My life with Valetin was short, his death a tragedy and a sober moment in my life with the added realisation I had been swept away on a dream, a dream I should never have accepted so readily. Such is life and the foolish romancing of youthful innocence, but I had in my time in St Petersburg acquired two innocent waifs who reminded me of my past life, and to them I gave my heart as they in turn gave me theirs.

With my little family I moved to Venice and their set up home, though we did indeed travel a great deal in the first few years to all the places Valetin had taken me en route to his homeland, thus Vienna became a favoured place until the day I ventured to Naples. There by introduction I met Emma Lady Hamilton, Lord Hamilton, and Admiral Lord Nelson, and Emma and I became friends, and the King and Queen of Naples likewise sought my company. You see a countess was acceptable in the grand settings I frequented, and with a trusted page at my side, he too learned a great deal about other titled persons by way of fellow pages; as did I from frequenting the salons and private apartments of Italian and visiting grandees. And whilst in attendance at one of Emma’s evening soirees I met Lt Herne, the man who turned my world upside down, inside and out, and of whom I fell madly, deeply in love with, and that is where my story and his truly began. What happened thereafter I must leave unsaid, else there will be no mystery for you to unravel and determine whether I of all people could be a thief, the notorious Venetian Jewel thief. After all, I was far from poor with a good widow’s pension and sound allowance from my deceased husband’s estate, and yet I felt threatened and when tragedy struck within Naples, worse befell me and my world came close to collapse until... Perhaps you will understand the dreadful dilemma that befell me and why I had to do what I did. Thank you for being here and I pray you will enjoy Francine’s interpretation of my life as it unravelled and at how a new romance hauled me from the dark depths of despair.




Saturday, 22 July 2017

Writing Sequels...

Writing a sequel to a best selling novel, which despite a few reviews held #1 - #10  (up and down that scale) for four months, one always wonders if the sequel will draw the same interest. Who can say what makes one book do better than others, but even best sellers can slip and slide into obscurity for a while and in some cases they make a come-back all on their own without any advertising at all. 

And so I took the plunge and gave Marcus Fairweather, the Earl of Sheldon his own book (a novella), and all on account of his being a likeable rogue. Be assured he is no better in this book to begin with, until he encounters Squire Thorne's wife. Marcus being Marcus is not in the least deterred by the fact May is a married woman, not even when she seems oblivious to his charms, or did she feign as much? 

Thus the Duke of Malchester, he whom married "The Reluctant Duchess" plays no part in Marcus' story, but then, Marcus is a bit of a dark horse, and when one becomes embroiled in a dubious murder, the least people who know of whom you are bedding in secret can be a saving grace! 

  


There's more to this story than merely lustful intent, romance, and murder, there's also a strange mystery attached that indeed holds the key to murders committed back in 1685 and an act of family treachery. 

The Book's Blurb:

A scandalous moment of surrender to Marcus Fairweather, Earl of Sheldon and May Thorne is riddled with guilt: all despite the fact her debauched husband’s passions are sated anywhere but in the marital bed. Worse, when Squire Thorne is brutally murdered, her legacy is determined by a clause in her late husband’s will. Thus wedlock to his lawyer, a man of zealous moral and religious bent is utterly abhorrent to her. Nonetheless, the lawyer is of mind to enact the clause in haste, and his ardent advances are somewhat intense and unsettling. But who shot Squire Thorne poses a mystery – the lawyer, the earl, or a strange intruder who steals nothing? In the aftermath of death a long-held family secret is finally revealed, and when a shadowy figure looms in her moonlit bedchamber, she fears the outcome...  



Sunday, 18 June 2017

Pushing Romance and Romantic Boundaries.




As an avaricious reader of books, and quite long in the tooth age wise, of all the wonderful books read to date, there are four that I treasure. Namely that of War & Peace (Tolstoy), The Magus (Fowles) and The Green Mantle (Delderfield). All the former were penned by men, and I learned much from a man’s perspective of love and how men view women. 

But the fourth book is Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek. It is the one book she laid claim to as a romantic novel.

In a personal sense, I am of mind her writing is romantic in itself, albeit most of her books have a dark side. To give a brief summary of Frenchman’s Creek, let us imagine the glorious spectacle that was the court of Charles II (the Merry Monarch).




Amidst the glittering array of Charles' courtiers, hell-rakes and courtesans abound, and unseemly amours cause marital strife, while common whores share the King’s bedchamber. But one young wife has had enough of lies, deceits and court politics. She takes flight with her children and retreats to her husband’s remote Cornish estate. Expecting peace and tranquillity, trouble of a very different kind exists in the waters off the Cornish coast. Subsequently, Dona – Lady St. Columb – has no idea that far more excitement and daring than experienced at court is about to turn her world upside down and inside out. Had a soothsayer told her she would fall in love with a French pirate captain, she would have laughed at such a silly notion. But Captain Jean Benoit Aubrey is not your average pirate. He’s well-educated, well-read, and Dona falls deeply, madly in love with him. She indulges in dangerous and daring escapades with her lover captain. But all good things must come to an end, and the end in this novel is not always as many readers expect. Without doubt, Frenchman’s Creek is a clean novel sex-wise and reader imagination fills in the gaps. Some people love Frenchman’s Creek, while others hate it.

But you see, in the same way the heroine dared to break with convention so does the author. Daphne du Maurier, who gives us a thrill-packed action romance and then steals an HEA right from under the reader. But could she have done otherwise? A sacrificial choice must be made by Dona, Lady St. Columb. She must choose between true love or that of her children and husband. What one has to remember is that in the 17th century women risked everything for love outside of marriage, where men risked nothing. Perhaps the emotions are so strong in this novel because it reflects in part a decisive moment in the author’s life: though that is a story in itself.  

In the same way Daphne broke with convention and her novels daringly ventured to the darker side of life and emotions, she also highlights the dangers of illicit affairs and the subsequent fallout. I too throw romance novel conventions to the wind as an author. Perhaps I outgrew the typical romance novel formula at a young age because they all followed the expected norm of hero meets heroine, they fall in love, conflict arises, and ends with a fairy tale HEA. Of course authors did and still do strive for originality by leading their characters along differing paths, differing situations, and differing places, but the heroine always ends up with the expected hero. But perfect fairy tale romances sell, don't they? Whereas shock plots upset readers. Well yes, but Daphne's novels pushed boundaries, not in sexual matters per se, she was cleverer than that by setting precedence for huge emotional flash points, and I really love it when I encounter novels where the author has thrown the fairy tale plot to the wind, picked up the broken pieces and rearranges them to beget an unusual plot, a daring plot to test the mettle of the characters. That's precisely what Daphne du Maurier does in Frenchman's Creek.

Whether sacrifice entails convention and the safety of what is, or the thrill of the unknown, Lady St Columb is faced with a crucial heartrending choice. She must choose between the love of her life, or her husband and children... Her final choice for many readers is the right one, for others not so. But you see, it's not really a Happy Ever After, it is compromise and sacrifice and the what-if will haunt her, perhaps to her dying days. Similarly in Daphne's novel The King's General, tragedy, selfish need, and a what-if abound!   

It is the what-if factor that fascinates me, and writing romance for me is a roller-coaster ride with no guaranteed HEA. Characters can be fickle, arrogant, and they don't do as expected. They sometimes rebel, or unexpected events occur and cause trauma. Some heroine's stand and fight for what they want whilst others turn away and take flight. Similarly a hero may want and as good as takes what he wants, with permission of sorts, whilst another hero may be confronted with walls at every turn and he has to climb them and jump through fired hoops to gain what he wants. But what of the hero who gained what he wanted and loses it and is left with the dilemma of What did I do Wrong? Could you as an author write a tragic love story which is just as much a romance as the standardised  romantic novel?  I have, and I even penned an erotic novel in which the heroine learns the difference between lust that is only skin deep, and that of true love. But, I am a rebel at heart. 

If I've intrigued you with writing unconventional romance novels, as well as steamy romances and you'd like to see a list of my books, please browse the "my books at Amazon" feature on the bar top of this page.