Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Video: Blenheim Palace on a Frosty Morning

Friday, February 27, 2015

Isabella reporting,

I love how new technology can be combined with centuries-old history to create dazzling results. Cameras mounted on high-flying drones are offering view of historical landmarks that were previously unimaginable (like our recent Friday video of the Palais Garnier in Paris.)

Today's short clip captures one of Britain's most famous county houses, Blenheim Palace, on a frosty January morning. Located in Oxfordshire, Blenheim is the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough, and was built in the early 18th c. in gratitude by the country for the military accomplishments of the first duke, John Churchill. Those of you who have read my historical novel, Duchess, written as Susan Holloway Scott, will recall the trials of the poor architects attempting to please the demanding first duchess Sarah Churchill, as well as the political infighting that the house's costly twenty-year-long construction caused.

But that, like the Battle of Blenheim that gave its name to the house, is all long in the past.  What we have today is a magnificent palace of a house, and from the lawns and gardens glistening with frost to the impressive silhouettes of the roof, this is truly an impressive bird's eye view.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Convict Ship Statistics 1826

Thursday, February 26, 2015
The Discovery as a prison ship
Loretta reports:

Some months ago, I offered crime statistics for 1830s London.

One surprising statistic was the low number of executions.  If you look at the original sentences, you see that hundreds of people were sentenced to death, for small crimes like stealing a loaf of bread or a handkerchief.  However, very few of those convicted were hanged.  A number would be pardoned, but in the majority of cases, the sentences were reduced, sometimes to a prison term, and sometimes to transportation to Australia. 

But first the convicts would spend time on a prison hulk. If you’ve read Dickens’s Great Expectations, you’ve encountered the hulks and their denizens.  Here’s a set of statistics from the February 1826 Annual Register.

Image: The Discovery as a Prison Ship at Deptford.  Launched as a 10 gun sloop at Rotherhithe in 1789, it served as a convict hulk 1808-12 and 1820-34.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Georgian India: Finding Inspiration in the Paintings of Johann Zoffany

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Isabella reporting,

This week marks the release of my latest historical romance, A Sinful Deception, and as promised, I'm going to be writing several posts featuring the background for the book.

Paintings are a major influence on my writing. The German painter Johann Zoffany (1733-1810) is best known today for his portraits of the British royal family, but he also traveled to India and created a number of fascinating paintings that document Georgian life in that farthest corner of the Empire. This was not the later India of Kipling, and interaction between the English and Indians was much less rigid.

The two girls with a cat, above left, are a detail of a larger family group, and I thought of it often while writing about my heroine and her half-sister, both born in India. The girl on the left is shown not only in fashionable clothing that follows London styles, but her pose, with one leg crossed, is a favorite in elegant English portraiture. In sharp contrast is the girl on the right, most likely a servant, whose posture is more straightforward, and her clothes likely much more comfortable, too.

The unfinished group portrait, lower left, shows English Major William Palmer of the Bengal Artillery with his jewel-covered wife, Bibi Faiz Bakhsh Begum, their children, and other members of their family. His pride and devotion are clear, standing protectively over the little group, and another inspiration for my heroine's father and his extended household.

Above left: Detail, Colonel Blair and his Family with an Indian Ayah, by Johann Zoffany, 1786, The Tate.
Bottom left: Detail, The Palmer Family, by Johann Zoffany, 1785, The British Library.

Monday, February 23, 2015

"A Sinful Deception" On Sale Today

Monday, February 23, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Finally, finally - I'm SO happy to announce that today is publication day for my newest historical romance, A SINFUL DECEPTION, which means that it's on sale everywhere, and in every format - print, ebooks, and audiobooks.

This is the second book in my Breconridge Brothers trilogy (the first book is A WICKED PURSUIT, which is also still available), but you won't feel lost if you begin here.

This is a story that's been rattling around in my head for a long time.  I've always wanted to write a book that includes not just Georgian England, but also the farthest corners of the British Empire. My heroine, Serena Carew, was born in India, the daughter of a nobleman stationed there. While Serena has spent most of her life as an English lady, her Indian heritage is impossible for her to forget – and it's also one of the things that Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy, the second son of the Duke of Breconridge, comes to love about her most.

Nerdy History Girl that I am, I'll be sharing some of the background history that inspired A SINFUL DECEPTION in my next few blog posts.

Click here to read the first chapter.

Buy A SINFUL DECEPTION, in both paperback and ebook formats, from Amazon here, from Barnes & Noble here, from Books-A-Million here, and Powell's Books here. If you're a big-box-store shopper, the paperback version is available at Target here.

You can also order both paperback and ebook editions directly from my publisher, Random House, here.

The audio version is available from here.

For those of you in the UK, A SINFUL DECEPTION is published by Headline Books/Eternal Romance, who is offering it for sale in ebook and paperback here. It is also available from your local bookstores as well as AmazonUK here.

A Regency-era Heartbreaker

Loretta reports:

This entire section from The English Spy is worth reading (please click on the link/scroll down to Cytherean Beauties), but I selected this bit, because of its description of a fellow who might well be a Regency hero or villain, depending on the use he makes of his charms and the sort of heroine he runs up against.  And though the description dates to the 1820s, I believe some of us have met the present-day version.  The Regency had quite a few names for the women described later in the piece, but what would you call this charmer?
If ever there was a fellow formed by nature to captivate and conquer the heart of lovely woman, it is that arch-looking, light-hearted Apollo, Horace Eglantine, with his soul-enlivening conversational talents, his scraps of poetry, and puns, and fashionable anecdote; his chivalrous form and noble carriage, joined to a mirth-inspiring countenance and soft languishing blue eye, which sets half the delicate bosoms that surround him palpitating between hope and fear; then a glance at his well-shaped leg, or the fascination of an elegant compliment, smilingly overleaping a pearly fence of more than usual whiteness and regularity, fixes the fair one's doom, ; while the young rogue, triumphing in his success, turns on his heel and plays off another battery on the next pretty susceptible piece of enchanting simplicity that accident may throw into his way. The English Spy, 1825

Image:  Sir Thomas Lawrence, Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, later 1st Earl Granville (between 1804-09), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

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