So a couple of days ago, I was looking at my shelf on Booklikes and saw that they were using the wrong cover for Cecilia Grant’s A Gentleman Undone: a Polish-language scholarly book on medieval history with a distinctly scholarly-book cover (sadly I didn’t take a screenshot and it’s fixed now! Does anyone have one?). Then this conversation happened on twitter:
[transcript of screencapped twitter convo:
Jackie Barbosa (@jackiebarbosa): Well, it certainly doesn't look like anything anyone would be embarrassed to read on the subway!
Cecilia Grant (@Cecilia_Grant): Maybe this will be the next trend in erotic romance covers! The scholarly look!
Isobel Carr (@IsobelCarr): So tempted. May need to make a scholarly book cover for my site.
Jackie Barbosa (@jackiebarbosa): I know. I was thinking of trying it on something, just for funsies.
Me: Let's start a meme!
Isobel: I suck at using GIMP, but I'm game to try.]
Inspiration: The English Town 1680-1840 by Rosemary Sweet. Image credit: Covent Garden Market, Westminster Election by Rowlandson and Pugin, via Wikimedia Commons.
Inspiration: miscellaneous, but the formatting is from the Lancaster Pamphlets series, especially The Great Reform Act of 1832 by Eric J. Evans. I tried to do a weird background image with an old map of London but my GIMP skills were not sufficient to get the right look. Image: Redouté’s “Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria pelegrina)” from a Dover clipart book I have.
And a couple of bonus covers of two of my favorite classic historicals:
Inspiration: the Dodo Press edition of Godwin’s memoirs of Wollstonecraft. Image credit: victorianclassicantique.tumblr.com. If anyone knows the source beyond that, let me know!
Inspiration: Britain Before the Reform Act: Politics and Society 1815-1832 by Eric J. Evans. Image credit: Rob and Lisa Meehan’s photo on Wikimedia Commons.
ETA: At Cecilia Grant’s request, I did The Black Moth too:
Inspiration: Slave Women in Caribbean Society 1650-1838 by Barbara Bush. Image credit: This photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson via Wikimedia Commons.
What romance would you like to see with a scholarly cover?
Amanda Forester’s new Regency, A Midsummer Bride, is out next week, so I thought this would be a good time to give away a signed copy of the first in her Marriage Mart series (tied together by a society matchmaker), A Wedding in Springtime.
I should warn you, if you need 100% historical accuracy to enjoy a story, this is probably not the book for you. But I loved it. I’ve been mostly drawn to deeply emotional, heartwrenching historicals recently (although I need those to have a sense of humor, too). It was wonderful and refreshing to read a book that reminded me of the slim, witty Jane-Austen-and-Heyeresque Regencies I ate up in high school–sparkling, sweet comedies of manners.
I’d still be eating those books up if they were still being published, let me tell you. Are there still loads of these out there and I just haven’t been reading them? Recommend me some witty romps, guys! I adore Julia Quinn, obviously, but apart from her I’ve completely fallen away from that part of the genre.
A Wedding in Springtime hearkens back to the faves of my youth in the best possible way, with the same focus on banter and conversational chemistry. There’s even a street urchin the hero reluctantly brings into his home to please the soft-hearted heroine! I love that trope, and I was thrilled when the urchin actually turned out to have a key part to play in the plot.
The heroine is endearing, the hero is an adorkable sweetheart (the highest praise I can give a hero!) who is completely, satisfyingly smitten from the moment he sees the heroine, the secondary characters are drawn sharply and with warm-hearted generosity, and best of all…
…the jokes are funny. I cannot emphasize enough how funny the jokes are. I laughed out loud many, many times reading this book. More than anything else, the humor kept me enthusiastically engaged all the way to the last page.
Just comment on this post to enter, and make sure you enter your correct e-mail address (NOT in the body of the comment, just in the form where it says Name:, Mail:, Website:, make sure the e-mail address you enter for “Mail” is right). It won’t show up to other commenters, but I’ll get it and then I can easily notify you of your win. As always, if you want to be alerted when a new contest goes up, I recommend signing up for my newsletter.
NB: I got this book signed at a conference. Amanda isn’t involved in the giveaway and the book isn’t personalized. So if you want to tell her how much you loved her books, this isn’t the place. That would be her website. (But this IS the place to tell ME how much you loved it!)
Well, almost everything. Here are ten things that happened to me this weekend, most of them fantastic:
1. I attended the Emerald City Writers Conference, run by the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America, and got to hang out with a bunch of amazing friends and writers and meet some new ones!
2. Sweet Disorder went up on Kindle for pre-order! It is also up on Kobo. Do you see it anywhere else? I’d love links. Don’t worry if it isn’t up yet in your preferred format, every site handles pre-orders differently. I know it will be up on BN.com very soon, and available for pre-order on the Samhain website in various formats about a month before release.
3. I won a raffle basket! I feel so lucky, especially since I won (in my humble opinion) the very best basket, donated by Linda Allen and Montlake. I got a new Kindle and a 2-day stay in a cabin in Whidbey Island!!! It doesn’t get better than that.
4. While going to Barnes and Noble to buy a clip-art book for the new banner for my website, I saw that Lemony Snicket is going to be there! So I signed up for that. Wooo!
5. I plotted my first ever erotic novella, set in Lively St. Lemeston and starring a confectioner and his cashier. We’ll see how that goes! I’m a little nervous, as writing short is not usually my thing.
6. As you may know, Sweet Disorder is set around a local election. Lively St. Lemeston has two major local political parties, who have party colors that can be worn by their supporters during times of conflict. The Whigs are orange and purple, and the Tories are pink and white.
One common way to display one’s party colors was the rosette (the most famous example nowadays is the tricolor cockade, symbol of the French Revolution). I commissioned Heather Sheen of Creative Cockades to make me some rosettes for Lively St. Lemeston, and they arrived on Saturday! They are SO BEAUTIFUL. I haven’t figured out yet how or when to give them away, but I HAVE spent quite a bit of time stroking them lovingly.
7. I discovered what can happen when a hotel napkin is the exact same color as your skirt. :(
8. I bought Jeannie Lin’s new book, The Lotus Palace! I am so excited. (I also bought a signed copy of that and a few other books to give away to you, gentle readers! My next contest will start next Monday.)
I got a text alert during a conference dinner that 72 hours notice had been given for grocery workers at Safeway, QFC, Albertson’s, and Fred Meyer to strike in several Washington counties. I am a grocery worker (though not at one of those stores) and this is pretty important to me, so I’d like to ask you to support striking workers and not to cross picket lines to shop. You can follow the strike on facebook, and find a map of some alternative pharmacies and union grocery stores to shop at here (however, there are loads of independent small stores that aren’t included–the main thing is just not to shop at stores where workers are on strike). Okay, thanks for listening! PSA over. Strike called off! Agreement reached! Wooooo! Workers still need to vote on their new contract but apparently the bargaining team has unanimously recommended it, so let’s hope it’s good. \o/
10. I started my marketing plan for Sweet Disorder. I can’t believe the book will be out in just six months! (I know that might seem long to you, but when I look at the list of stuff I have to do between now and then, it doesn’t feel that way to me.) Any requests for swag?
This was originally posted on the Dorchester website during my blog tour for In for a Penny. Obviously, the Dorchester website no longer exists. So:
Penelope, the heroine of In for a Penny, likes to make lists. Here’s an excerpt from an early scene:
“I really will try to make you happy,” he said, not knowing what else he could offer her.
To his surprise, she flushed. “Actually, I–I made a list. Of–of terms. I thought some things were best agreed on right away, while you can still change your mind.”
Fat chance of me changing my mind, he thought with a flash of resentment. He needed that money. But–”you made a list?”
She flushed harder. “It is a habit of mine. So that I am sure not to forget things.”
“All right,” he said, blankly.
She pulled a sheet of paper out of a desk drawer, with a column of neat writing down the side. She looked down at it and frowned. Her blush was beginning to work its way under the neckline of her gown. Nev wondered how far it extended. He pictured it sweeping over the curve of her breasts and darkening her nipples…
He struggled to focus on her voice.
So I made up some lists that Penelope’s written at different points in her life. (They’re images, but I’ve transcribed them too since I figure that’s easier to read.) The first one is from when she was eleven or twelve. Her parents had sent her to a boarding school for young ladies, and she wasn’t very happy there.
Reasons Lucy Hopper is the worst girl in the world
1. Her hair doesn’t curl naturally though she pretends it does.
2. She has not the least understanding of geography.
3. It was not at all fair of her to say I dropped my H today, as we were studying French. All the Hs are dropped in French and I simply got confused.
4. She has a very garish taste in buttons.
5. She cracks her knuckles, which is repulsive.
6. Her voice might be passable if she did not insist on singing in a high soprano which I do not believe is her natural range.
7. I saw her stealing Mary P.’s potatoes yesterday at dinner (to be fair portions were very small).
8. She talks of nothing but boys, which is very dull as there are no boys here to talk about.
9. It was her turn to break the ice in the water pitcher this morning and she did not do it but stayed abed until I had.
This one is from their first Christmas as a married couple (about six months after the book ends). Notes: You can probably guess this from the list, but they both love music and Nev reads Gothic novels. [Josie Cusher is the child of a laborer on the estate. Coke was the foremost agricultural innovator in Norfolk, where Nev's estate is, and his Clippings (a sort of party/educational event held every year when his sheep were sheared) were the forerunner to the modern agricultural fair.]
Possible Christmas gifts for Nev
1. Having the pianoforte cleaned and voiced.
2. a red dress (for me, of course)
3. a box at the Opera (expensive, and we are not in town much, but I know he would love it.)
4. refurbishing the Orangery (not entirely a waste–I have been having oranges sent from London, he adores them so.)
5. some new sheet music (only I should have to write for it instead of choosing it myself.)
6. a subscription to the Minerva Press.
7. I have been teaching Josie Cusher to play the guitar. If she is ready to play “The Ballad of Captain Kidd” by Christmas, I think it would make him very happy.
8. I wrote Mr. Coke about attending his next Clippings in the Spring, and he has invited us to stay at Holkham Hall!
9. hire Mrs. Bailey to quilt him a new warm waistcoat, as we are trying to save on fuel and it has been rather cold, and he cannot simply put on an extra flannel petticoat as I do.
I’m noticing a pattern here! It was a fluke because of the size of my background graphic, but I’m starting to think Penelope likes her lists to be nine items long.
The third list is the two of them brainstorming baby names. The messier handwriting is of course Nev’s. [Nev's name is Nathaniel Ambrey ("Nev" is a nickname based on his courtesy title). His sister wants them to name a daughter Mary because she loves the warrior maiden balled "Mary Ambree." The two of them both like Arthurian legend, in particular Malory's Morte d'Arthur. Embarrassing fact: I discovered while writing these lists that Le Morte d'Arthur was reprinted in 1816, for the first time since 1634. I am extremely lucky in that I think this doesn't actually contradict anything in my book, but I really, really hope I didn't somewhere indicate that they'd read it as kids. Oops!]
Arthur (only everyone will think it’s for Wellington)
Nathaniel [NEV: no!]
Francis [NEV: I like Frank]
Tristram [NEV: bad luck! PENELOPE: I don't believe in luck, and it's a pretty name.]
Mary [NEV: dull! PENELOPE: I did promise Louisa I'd consider it. NEV: And now you have!]
Elinor or Lenore (Lianor is a silly spelling, Nev, you know it is.) [NEV: Is not!]
Gwen [NEV: also bad luck!]
Margaret [NEV: We'll call her Daisy! He's teasing because Penelope has mixed feelings about her rather middle-class nickname Penny.]
So. I’ve been reading a lot about Jews in Regency England. And I checked out a book from the library called The People of the Book: Philosemitism in England, from Cromwell to Churchill. Every other book I’ve read has discussed philosemitism as a creepy, fetishizing phenomenon, frequently focusing on the importance of being kind to Jews so that they’ll convert and bring about Jesus’s return. The author of this book (Gertrude Himmelfarb) disagrees! She agrees that some philosemites go too far, but thinks philosemitism “reflects the principles and policies that have made modern England a model of liberality and civility.” She describes Evangelical Christians as “among [Jews'] most faithful allies.” So okay, I don’t agree with this woman politically. There could still be useful stuff in this book. I skim through it. I see there’s a section on Ivanhoe. I love Ivanhoe a ridiculous amount, so I read the section. I don’t really agree with her analysis of the book (it’s one of the many stories that portray a minority woman as beautiful and incredible–and of course, in love with a majority guy–while minority men are distasteful, unmanly, and unattractive, while Himmelfarb describes Isaac as “a worthy father of Rebecca”), but whatever.
“One foot nearer, and I plunge myself over the precipice!”
She discusses Rebecca’s firm repudiation of Rowena’s suggestion that she convert to Christianity (“I may not change the faith of my athers like a garment unsuited to the climate in which I seek to dwell, &c.”). THEN I READ THIS:
In 1849, Thackeray published a spoof, Rebecca and Rowena, with Rowena a shrew jealous of her husband’s feelings for Rebecca, and Ivanhoe, something of a drunkard, going off to fight for Richard. Eventually, after Rowena’s death, he is free to marry Rebecca. But even that marriage is melancholic. “I think,” the final sentence reads, “these were a solemn pair and died rather early.” “Solemn” or not, Rebecca the Jewess is unquestionably the heroine of the parody. Scott may have thought it inappropriate to have her marry Ivanhoe, but Thackeray did not. Nor did their readers. A Jewess, proud and resolute in her Jewishness, was thought to be a fit spouse for the hero, a Christian and a veteran of the Crusades.
“A Jewess, proud and resolute in her Jewishness, was thought to be a fit spouse for the hero.”
Now I happen to have read Rebecca and Rowena. And I know that the plot turns on one very important point: Rebecca converts. To be specific, Rowena makes Ivanhoe promise on her deathbed that he will never marry a Jewess. Oh noes! But fortunately Rebecca has been a Christian ALL ALONG! Look:
“Father,” she said, in a thrilling low steady voice, “I am not of your religion[...]I — I am of his religion.”
“His! whose, in the name of Moses, girl?” cried Isaac.
Rebecca clasped her hands on her beating chest and looked round with dauntless eyes. “Of his,” she said, “who saved my life and your honor: of my dear, dear champion’s. I never can be his, but I will be no other’s. Give my money to my kinsmen; it is that they long for. Take the dross, Simeon and Solomon, Jonah and Jochanan, and divide it among you, and leave me. I will never be yours, I tell you, never. Do you think, after knowing him and hearing him speak,–after watching him wounded on his pillow, and glorious in battle (her eyes melted and kindled again as she spoke these words), I can mate with such as you? Go. Leave me to myself. I am none of yours. I love him–I love him. Fate divides us long, long miles separate us; and I know we may never meet again. But I love and bless him always. Yes, always. My prayers are his; my faith is his. Yes, my faith is your faith, Wilfred–Wilfred! I have no kindred more,–I am a Christian!”
Does this sound like a Jewess, proud and resolute in her Jewishness, to you? (Thackeray’s story is actually very funny and clever, and also interesting because you can see trends in fanfiction, such as the villification of a canon love interest, spontaneously manifesting themselves, and I love it. My favorite joke is when Ivanhoe decides to hide his true identity and becomes known as “the Knight of the Wig and Spectacles.” But. It’s not the LEAST antisemitic/racist thing I’ve ever read.)
And Himmelfarb chose to simply not mention this. Now, okay, if Himmelfarb wanted to make the argument that Rebecca’s conversion isn’t the point–that the point is that lots and lots of people were willing to ship Rebecca and Ivanhoe together despite Scott’s original portrayal of her–okay. It’s a point that could be made, I guess. But she didn’t make it. And what she did seems to me outright intellectually dishonest. She knew saying that Thackeray required Rebecca to convert would run counter to her argument, so she left it out–and if you read what she wrote, in my opinion, while it doesn’t actually lie, most people reading it would naturally assume that Rebecca does NOT convert.
This book is now useless to me as a source because I can’t trust anything it says. Why would you undermine your own scholarly work this way?
Have you ever had this experience–reading a nonfiction book and coming across something so wrong it casts doubt on everything else?
Look look look, it’s my new cover!
Coming from Samhain in March 2014. I’m so happy!
ETA 10/8/13: This contest is now closed. Aislinn won the book!
It is no surprise that I love stories about sweet, earnest heroes and embittered courtesan heroines. So I have a special place in my heart for Courtney Milan’s incredible Unclaimed, the second book in her Turner brothers series.
Handsome, wealthy and respected, Sir Mark Turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London–and he’s known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check…until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he’s waited for all his life.
But Jessica is a courtesan, not the genteel lady Sir Mark believes. Desperate to win free of a life she despises, she seizes her chance when Mark’s enemies make her an offer she can’t refuse: Seduce Mark and tarnish his good name, and a princely sum will be hers. Yet as she comes to know the man she’s sworn to destroy, Jessica will be forced to choose between the future she needs–and the love she knows is impossible.
In my goodreads review I said (among other gushy things): “Courtney Milan is a genius in many ways, but one of my favorite things about her writing is the sheer depth of longing in her books. I bought Mark and Jessica as meant for each other within seconds of them meeting, their connection was so intense and real. And I felt Jessica’s bitter loneliness in my bones.”
Just comment on this post to enter, and make sure you enter your e-mail address on the comment form (not in the body of the comment itself, just where it says NAME: URL: EMAIL:). It won’t show up to other commenters, but I’ll get it and then I can easily notify you of your win. As always, if you want to be alerted when a new contest goes up, I recommend signing up for my newsletter.
NB: Courtney isn’t involved in the giveaway and the signed book isn’t personalized. So if you want to tell her how much you loved her book, this isn’t the place. That would be her website. (But this IS the place to tell ME how much you loved it!)
EEEEEEEEEEEE! Look what my friend gave me!
Yes! It’s a KitchenAid stand mixer! Mine died a couple of years ago and I have YEARNED, I have read recipes and despaired of making them, but now ALL THAT IS AT AN END. Thank youuuuuuu, kind friend! What should I make first?
I am strongly considering this Plum and Polenta Cake from The Tucci Cookbook, a lovely cookbook featuring, among other things, photos of Stanley Tucci in an apron using the brick oven in his backyard. Also, I need to share this piece of information with you:
STANLEY TUCCI [on proscuitto with figs]: “I find it to be an elegant and profoundly sexual appetizer–but since this is a family cookbook I’ll leave it at that!”
So, you know, if you want to add artistic verisimilitude to your fantasies about a dinner date with Stanley Tucci.
I’m adding a new feature to my blog posts, self-explanatorily entitled “Research book I am currently most excited about.” This week’s entry: The Rise of Provincial Jewry by Cecil Roth, 1950.
From The Angel in the House:
“In Coelebs [in Search of a Wife, a novel by Hannah More], Charles, the hero of the novel, speaks to the Stanleys’ lame gardener, who details all the kind things Lucilla and her family have done for him. The gardener ends his recital with, ‘At Christmas they give me a new suit from top to toe, so that I want for nothing but a more thankful heart, for I never can be grateful enough to God and my benefactors.’[...]According to Peter M. Blau, who applies Mauss’s observations [on gift economies] to a capitalist society in his Exchange and Power in Social Life, the dual obligation to receive and to repay a gift ‘makes it possible for largess to become a source of subordination over others, that is, for the distribution of goods and services to others to be a means of establishing superiority over them.’ Lucilla’s charity, then, is a gift that marks her generosity, but it is also a way of establishing superiority and power over those socially beneath her, as well as changing the meaning of the exchange of goods and services between them. The gardener, as an employee on the Stanley estate, receives pay for work done, and, under the terms of a market economy, he could be seen as a ‘free’ agent exchanging his labor for a wage. By extending charity toward him, the Stanleys displace the market economy with a gift economy that obligates the gardener and makes his labor insufficient as a repayment for goods received. Thus the ‘economy of charity,’ based on the type of gift exchange in wihich there is a ‘unilateral supply of benefits,’ makes the poor or laboring-class recipients of philanthropy ‘obligated to and dependent on those who furnish [those benefits] and thus subject to their power,’ whether the poor are dependents on a rural estate or urban laborers. Of course, if women are the primary agents of charitable giving, this way of defining their activity puts them in a position of considerable power and authority over those they ‘serve’–a position they would not normally hold in customary market exchanges.”
I swear I meant to post today, but guys, I am LITERALLY THREE SCENES AWAY (maybe four, whatever, LESS THAN FIVE IS THE POINT, LESS THAN FIVE) FROM THE END OF A ROUGH DRAFT OF CRIMSON JOY. So I spent all morning working on that, instead. There is nothing like the feeling of being ALMOST DONE, it’s like being on a bike going downhill, only without that oh shit oh shit feeling that I personally get when on a bike going downhill. Effortless and urgent, I think is what I want to convey. I am babbling. I have end-of-draft euphoria. I will have a rough draft of this book by the end of the week if not sooner. Oh world, I cannot hold thee close enough!