#AtoZChallenge 2019 #Audiobooks ‘K’ is for Lisa Kleypas @LisaKleypas ‘The Ravenels and The Wallflowers’ @Scribd #HistoricalRomance

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

I love novels set in Vicrorian England and I enjoy reading romance, in between psychological thrillers and literary fiction, and I’ve found the perfect combination in Lisa Kleypas. She has written various series of historical romance, set in 19th century England, such as The Ravenel Series of four novels and The Wallflowers of five novels. In her latest novel, The Devil’s Daughter, The Ravenels meet The Wallflowers!

Lisa is ranked #10 bestselling kindle (US) author of historical romance, and the reason is she writes engaging and entertaining, well-written historical romance. On this occasion, I’ve listened to her  novels on Scribd, but they’re also available on Audible.

Lisa Kleypas

All her novels are standalones, but if you read them in order, it leads to a better reading experience, because the characters are related, either by family or friendship, so characters in previous books will appear in later titles.

I’d recommend you start with the first Ravenel book, published in 2015, which is also one of my favourites. By the way, aren’t those covers beautiful?

Cold-Hearted Rake audiobook cover art

Hello Stranger, published in 2018 is my favourite, perhaps because it was the first one I read and then I made my way back to the first three books in the series!

The female lead in Hello Stranger, Dr. Garrett Gibson, is a woman ahead of her time. She’s the only female physician in England, and is making herself respected in a man’s world. She’s intelligent, strong-willed, daring and independent. Ethan Ransom, a former detective for Scotland Yard, is a rumored assassin whose true loyalties are a mystery. They are both drawn into dangerous plot against the government.

Hello Stranger audiobook cover art

Her latest novel, Devil’s Daughter, is the delightful story of a widow with two young children and a reformed rake.

Devil's Daughter audiobook cover art

Lisa Kleypas’s historical novels have all the ingredients for an exciting and entertaining journey into Victorian England. The novels are well researched and plotted, with engaging heroes and heroines. Readers will visit Victorian London, from the dark alleyways and slums, gentlemen’s and gaming clubs, to stately town houses and horse rides in Regents Park, as well as travels to country estates. There are villains, rakes and other evil characters who battle against her main characters. You can also look forward to plenty of (unstressful) suspense, in spite of expecting a happy ending, because the journey towards the grand finale is so enjoyable.

Lisa Kleypas, like Jane Austen, is well aware that in 19th century England, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” And just like Jane Austen, that’s what she writes about, except in Kleypas’ case, the novels are more about assertive women fighting for love matches and independence in a world of marriages of convenience and gender inequality.

Most of her novels are read by Mary Jane Wells, who does all the accents and genders very nicely, although, as always, I would have prefered at least two narrators, for male and female voices, but I enjoyed listening to all of them as they are.

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Lisa Kleypas’ novels are especially for readers who want an escape from real 21st century life for a few hours, and enjoy historical romance set in Victorian England, with strong-willed female leads who overcome obstacles on their way to a happy marriage. A delightful indulgence!

Lasa Kleypas’s Audible Author Page

Lisa Kleypas’s Scribd author page

What? You’ve never read an Audiobook? Here are my 34 reasons why you should be reading audiobooks!

I’ll be reviewing an audiobook a day throughout April, so come back on Monday! There will be a round-up tomorrow!

Would you like to read about the other authors and audiobooks I’ve posted about during the challenge, which started on 1st April? Here they are!

Find out more about this blogging challenge here!

#AtoZChallenge ‘J is for Jane Eyre’ #Haiku #NaPoWriMo #PoetryMonth

Photo by Author and Translator @OlgaNM

Olga, who blogs at Olga Author Translator, took this beautiful photo last year at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I don’t know if it is supposed to be Jane Eyre, but it certainly reminds me of her!
In fact, this sculpture is called Wilsis and belongs to a series of portrait heads by Jaume Plensa, depicting young girls from around the world, with their eyes closed in a dreamlike state of contemplation.

Photo by author @Annecdotist

Photo by author @Annecdotist

Anne Godwin, who blogs at Annecdotal, took these photos of North Lees Hall, which many believe was Charlotte Bronte’s inspiration for Thornfield Hall,  during one of her many walks which she finds conducive to the creative state of mind

In fact, On Sunday, 17th June 2018, she’ll be leading a guided walk called  In the footsteps of Jane Eyre, at the Peak District National Park, more information about the walk here.

An enormous thanks to both Olga and Anne, readers, writers, book bloggers, and supportive participants  of many online book blogging and writing communities, for allowing me to include their photos on today’s post, meant as a humble tribute to Jane Eyre, a novel I know both of them also love and admire.

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Jane Eyre
Plain, slight, poor orphan
Fulfilled all her childhood dreams
Beloved Jane Eyre
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Jane Eyre was an underpiviledged and underfed, Victorian orphan. She didn’t stand a chance of living her own life, and yet she fought for her place in the world, in spite of constant adversity. She was honest, tenacious, loyal, intelligent, hard-working and fiercely determined to be ‘an independent woman’.  

I would never have had the inspiration or courage to write The Eyre Hall Trilogy if I hadn’t read Jane Eyre when I was a teenager. I’ve regularly reread it since then.

It took me a long time, but I eventually followed my dreams, too.

Last year’s AtoZ Challenge was All About Jane Eyre, in case you’d like to check it out.

Have you read Jane Eyre? What are your thoughts?

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This year is my fourth AtoZ Challenge. My theme this year is poetry once again. I’ll be writing a haiku a day, but I’m also adding a new hobby to the posts, photography. I will post one of my photos, or a donated photo, every day to accompany my haiku.

This April, I’ll also be sharing my poems and joining another group of poets at National Poetry Writing Month, organised since 2003 by Maureen Thorson. Write 30 poems in 30 days. I’m in! What about you?

 

My latest copy of Jane Eyre, the one I’ve been rereading since 1980! And my Jane Eyre cup, a present from my best friend, Anna, who is neither a blogger nor a writer, but who knows? I’m working on it and both are highly contagious!

#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge ‘The Rat Catcher’ @Charli_Mills

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. May 11, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about trading. Trade away and go where the prompt leads you. Find out more, read other entries or join in here!

I’ve returned to Victorian England once again for my contribution. 

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Trading Rats: The Rat Catcher

The seller stood with his back to the door holding a swinging cage of squealing rats.

‘How much?’ asked the buyer.

‘A guinea.’

The buyer stroked his beard. ‘Two shillings.’

‘What? I went down the gutters for days risking my life to catch them!’

The buyer looked at the bite marks and blood on the seller’s hands. ‘You need to sell and find a doctor or you’re a dead man.’

The seller leaned back into the door which closed with a loud bang. ‘Two guineas, or I drop this cage, it smashes and we’ll both be devoured for dinner.’

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Who decides the price in illegal trading? Buyer? Seller? Is it a question of supply and demand, as in any other negotiation? Or is it the person who has less to lose? What happens when the buyer or the seller gets too greedy?

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Rat Catchers had a lot of work in Victorian England for three reasons.

1- Rat baiting was a popular, albeit illegal sport, which involved a lot of money with rich and poor people betting. In this case, rat catchers caught live rats.

2- Other rat catchers were paid to kill rats in different parts of the country.

3- Finally rich ladies liked to keep rats as pets in squirrel cages. A practice which I have heard is also popular nowadays.

Many of the rat catchers were children. They preferred catching rats to cleaning chimneys, working in coal mines, or hawking wares, because it was easier and paid better.

De-ratting English manors and businesses was often more lucrative as children could earn from two shillings to one pound. By the way, a guinea was 21 shillings.

If anyone is interested in finding out more:

Full Revelations of a Professional Rat-catcher After 25 Years’ Experience

This fascinating book, written in 1889, is a fascinating and informative read.

More information on this web page about Victorian England.

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#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge: Watching the Hanging @Charli_Mills

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge

february-16

February 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a watcher. Respond by February 21, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published February 22). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Here’s my take:

Watching the Hanging

‘We’re going to Horsemonger Lane, Boys,’ said Fagin.

Dodger pulled away. ‘Ain’t nothing there except Southwark prison.’

‘A public hanging!’ said Fagin.

When they arrived, the street was teaming with watchers, howling, screeching and yelling like animals.

Oliver gasped. The place was crawling with thieves and prostitutes fighting and shouting obscenities.

‘Might as well get some work done. Look, there’s a fancy looking toff over there,’ said Fagin, pointing to Charles Dickens.

‘Bet I can half inch his bread and honey,’ bragged Dodger.

‘Watch the hanging carefully, boys,’ warned Fagin. ‘Remember, if you get caught you’ll be brown bread.’

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Some words explained:

Toff (Victorian slang) = rich man

Half inch (cockney slang) = pinch (London/UK slang) = steal

Brown bread (cockney slang) = dead

fagin__oliver_and_dodger_six__by_thebarefootedsasha oliver

The former flash fiction was inspired by a real event, which took place in London in 1849.

Dickens attended the execution of Mr. And Mrs. Manning, convicted of murdering a friend and stealing his money, on November 13, 1849 at the Horsemonger Lane Gaol in Southwark.

It was called the “Hanging of the Century” at the time because it was the first husband and wife execution in 150 years. Dickens and a huge crowd of rowdy, blood-thirsty Londoners (between 30 and 50 thousand) watched the public execution, performed outside the prison.

maria-and-frederick-manning

                         Maria and Frederick Manning.

Dickens wrote a scathing letter to The Times condemning the crowd, which can be read at the end of this post.

There were thousands of public hangings in the UK in the 19th century (more figures here). It was indeed a harrowing practice, meant to deter possible criminals, although it actually had the opposite effect. Pickpockets, prostitutes, and all types of petty criminals gathered around the event to carry out their illicit jobs. The police were enormously relieved when public hangings were abolished in England and Scotland, in 1868, because they drew huge crowds and greatly altered public order.

Public executions, and other types of punishment, have been part of most world cultures over the centuries. Looking back always makes me think what a long way we’ve come in Europe, from being the bloodthirsty barbarian spectators at the Roman coliseum, through public punishments such as whippings, the stocks, the pillory, to abolishing capital punishment altogether from our legal system in the 20th century. 

More about public hangings in the UK here.

Conclusion: violence does not deter violence, it breeds violence.

I’ve learnt over time, that all problems have simple solutions, or none at all:

If there’s a solution, Education is almost always the answer.

It’s a simple solution, but it’s not cheap to organise and offer or easy to train teachers and reach students, nevertheless it’s always worthwhile and rewarding.

Children without an education, like Oliver and Dodger in Victorian England, stood a 50% chance of being hanged or imprisoned, as Dodger will no doubt be in the future, as Bill Sykes and Fagin were, or ‘saved’ by a kinder, more socially conscious society, who will educate them and enable them to lead criminal free lives, like Oliver.  

I’ve also included Dickens’ letter condemning the event, below.

English novelist Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870), circa 1860. (Photo by John & Charles Watkins/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

English novelist Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870), circa 1860. (Photo by John & Charles Watkins/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Some people at the time, and even today, unbelievably accuse him of being bloodthirsty himself, for watching the hanging. Well, that’s like accusing a war correspondent of enjoying a war; a bit of twisted logic, I’d say.

Dickens’ letter to The Times Nov. 13, 1849

I was a witness of the execution at Horsemonger Lane this morning. I went there with the intention of observing the crowd gathered to behold it, and I had excellent opportunities of doing so, at intervals all through the night, and continuously from day-break until after the spectacle was over… I believe that a sight so inconceivably awful as the wickedness and levity of the immense crowd collected at that execution this morning could be imagined by no man, and could be presented in no heathen land under the sun. The horrors of the gibbet and of the crime which brought the wretched murderers to it faded in my mind before the atrocious bearing, looks, and language of the assembled spectators. When I came upon the scene at midnight, the shrillness of the cries and howls that were raised from time to time, denoting that they came from a concourse of boys and girls already assembled in the best places, made my blood run cold. As the night went on, screeching, and laughing, and yelling in strong chorus of parodies on negro melodies, with substitutions of ‘Mrs. Manning’ for ‘Susannah’, and the like, were added to these. When the day dawned, thieves, low prostitutes, ruffians, and vagabonds of every kind, flocked on to the ground, with every variety of offensive and foul behaviour. Fightings, faintings, whistlings, imitations of Punch, brutal jokes, tumultuous demonstrations of indecent delight when swooning women were dragged out of the crowd by the police, with their dresses disordered, gave a new zest to the general entertainment. When the sun rose brightly-as it did-it gilded thousands upon thousands of upturned faces, so inexpressibly odious in their brutal mirth or callousness, that a man had cause to feel ashamed of the shape he wore, and to shrink from himself, as fashioned in the image of the Devil. When the two miserable creatures who attracted all this ghastly sight about them were turned quivering into the air, there was no more emotion, no more pity, no more thought that two immortal souls had gone to judgement, no more restraint in any of the previous obscenities, than if the name of Christ had never been heard in this world, and there were no belief among men but that they perished like the beasts.

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I love that Dickens wrote to make the world a better place, and campaigned for civil rights and a more socially conscious society in his private life, too. How can anyone not admire him?

 

Happy Birthday Charles Dickens! #amreading #amreviewing Oliver Twist

Today’s a very special day for English literature. On this day, 7th February, in 1812 , Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, United Kingdom.

On this special day, I’d like to suggest you read one of his novels, so I’m including my ‘special tribute review’ of Oliver Twist, which you can read for free as a kindle ebook on amazon, thanks to a community of volunteers who converted this novel from its physical edition to the digital format.

oliver-twist

My Review

If you only read one of Charles Dickens’ books, or if you don’t know where to start reading his books, I recommend you read Oliver Twist, the unforgettable story of a poor orphan boy, who spent his early years in a work house, before being recruited by a gang of pickpockets.

It’s not an easy book to read, and is not meant for children or the faint of heart, because it portrays some harsh events, many of which Dickens had experienced himself, or had personally investigated, and that is one of the main attractions of this book; It’s real.

You may read about child labour and the plight of the many orphaned children in Victorian England, but no history book will describe a workhouse, the inside of a prison, the starving dogs and hungry rats, the life of a pickpocket, a thief, a pimp, or a gang leader, a public hanging, or the cruelty of London slums, the way Dickens does.

Read it if you want to know what really happened, what the streets, people and life was like for Victorian Londoners.

I never tire of rereading it myself. Dramatic, yes, exaggerated, I doubt it, realistic, shockingly.

The plot is a page turner, and the characters come to life in every scene. We see their gestures, smell their ragged clothes and listen to their lies and truths.

I love Dickens’ use of the English language. It may be wordy by contemporary standards, but it’s smoothly done. A real pleasure to read for anyone who loves the English language and wants to take a short trip to Victorian London.

A book to read once and reread all your life. 

Although I usually read my paperback, this free kindle version makes it even easier to read. A big thank you to the volunteers who made this edition possible.

As a writer, I often read a random chapter or passage before I sit down to write. Dickens humbles me, but he also gives me great encouragement by showing me how the English language can convey so much using the right combination of words.

‘Capital!’ As Dickens would say.      

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I’ve written a piece of Flash Fiction based on Oliver Twist, and included some information about child labour and orphans in Victorian England in this post.

I’d like to include one of Dickens’ quotes, which is one of my favourite.

quote-no-one-is-useless-in-this-world-who-lightens-the-burdens-of-another-charles-dickens-282503

Dickens wrote his books with the aim of making the world a better place, which he did, through numerous campaigns and by building awareness among the reading public, but his greatest legacy was the belief in the power of words to improve our world.

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As well as influencing me as a writer, Charles Dickens also makes a personal appearance in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, my sequel to Jane Eyre, and is a vital part of Jane’s recovery in Midsummer at Eyre Hall, although he is no longer physically present.

Here is the page with the moment Charles Dickens arrives at Eyre Hall to spend a few days with Jane Eyre, now Mrs. Mason.

They spoke about their private lives, the craft of fiction, and also about current affairs such as child labour and abuse, public hangings, and the dangers of the slums of London. It’s one of my favourite chapters.

Which is your favourite novel by Charles Dickens?

Why not write a review and share on a blog post to celebrate his birthday!

 

Jane Eyre, Europe and #Brexit #SundayBlogShare

Jane Eyre takes place in 19th century rural Yorkshire. It’s a very ‘English novel’, because almost all the characters are English, and the protagonists clearly represent typical traits of Victorian England.

Jane embodies an English appearance; she is pale, short, slim, with green eyes and russet hair. She also represents manners generally associated by an ideal Victorian woman; she’s meek, reserved, quiet, modest, morally upright, thoughtful and intelligent.

Mr. Rochester embodies all the characteristics of a typical, wealthy Victorian landowner and colonial imperialist. He’s arrogant, dominant, relatively idle, egotistical, self-assured, and tyrannical. How else was he supposed to rule the ‘uncivilised’ non-English world?

There is also a stark contrast between British and non-British characters. The most significant  foreigner in Jane Eyre is Mrs. Rochester, née Bertha Mason, a Creole who was born and brought up in Jamaica, and spent the novel locked in a windowless attic. The negative connotations of madness and evil, which stem from the native inhabitants of the barbarian colonies have already been discussed in these three posts on The Madwoman in the Attic

On this occasion, I’d like to bring your attention to the European non-British characters and the presence of (other) European countries in Jane Eyre.

Jane’s approach to other cultures is through the study of literature and language.

She learns to speak French fluently at Lowood, which is why she is able to get the position of governess to Rochester’s French-speaking ward, Adele. French opens doors to Jane, making her stand out among the rest and enables her to further her position in the world.

She describes her French teacher thus;

“a strange, foreign-looking, elderly lady, the French teacher, as I afterwards found…”

Jane describes her knowledge of French in these terms:

“Fortunately I had had the advantage of being taught French by a French lady; and as I had always made a point of conversing with Madame Pierrot as often as I could, and had besides, during the last seven years, learnt a portion of French by heart daily—applying myself to take pains with my accent, and imitating as closely as possible the pronunciation of my teacher, I had acquired a certain degree of readiness and correctness in the language, and was not likely to be much at a loss with Mademoiselle Adela.”

Jane corrects Adele’s French defects; she’s too excitable, loud and superficial. Jane also teaches Adele English, in an attempt to make her into an ideal Victorian lady, as opposed to a French harlot, as Rochester would have us believe her mother was.

While Jane is in Morton with her cousins, Mary, Diana and John Rivers, she studied German and read Schiller, because her cousins were doing so. Jane shows a great respect for the German language and culture.

“I sat reading Schiller….. As I exchanged a translation for an exercise.

We should bear in mind that Queen Victoria’s mother was a German princess. Princess Victoria was raised under close supervision by her German-born mother Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Duchess_of_Kent_and_Victoria_by_Henry_Bone

Queen Victoria with her mother at age three.

Victoria was brought up by her German governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen, from Hanover, who taught her only German until she was three years old. After she became queen, her courtiers were almost entirely German and, of course, she married a German prince, Albert.

The language that was spoken in Buckingham Palace, and at all private occasions. It has even been said that when she was a young girl, Princess Victoria spoke English with a German accent.

Baroness Louise Lehzen. Princess Victoria’s governess.

From a literary and linguistic point of view, Jane respects and admires both French and German, although she has no first hand knowledge of the people or the countries. Her knowledge is purely academic and therefore theoretical.

The practical knowledge and experience of other European countries comes to the reader through the widely travelled Mr. Rochester.

“For ten long years I roved about, living first in one capital, then another; sometimes in St. Petersburg; oftener in Paris; occasionally in Rome, Naples, and Florence”

France is the most prominent European presence in Jane Eyre and the presence of France and the French people in the novel is shaped mainly through Mr. Rochester’s eyes.

His representation of French women is negative. Rochester admits to an affair with the French opera singer Céline Varens (Adele’s mother) in Paris, only to find out in time that Céline is Being unfaithful to him. He says he caught her with another man. (By the way, he also accuses Bertha of infidelity. Perhaps he chose his mistresses/wives unwisely, or maybe he was not the great lover we were led to believe?)

For Rochester, Céline Varens represents of a vain and immoral Continent who responds to his love with promiscuity.

Rochester also reveals to Jane that he has an array of former mistresses throughout Europe:

“I could not live alone; so I tried the companionship of mistresses. The first I chose was Céline Varens … She had two successors; an Italian, Giacinta, and a German, Clara, both considered singularly handsome”

Rochester established a specific link between beauty, sexual immorality and continental Europe, forgetting the fact that he was hardly behaving like an English gentleman himself, or perhaps he was?

After the wedding farce, when it was discovered that Rochester was already married, he offers Jane a villa in France where they can travel to and live without being married. This passage is also an example of his lies. He tells her she shall be Mrs. Rochester when he knows full well it can’t happen. Then he tells her she’ll live with him ‘innocently’.

“You shall be Mrs. Rochester—both virtually and nominally. I shall keep only to you so long as you and I live. You shall go to a place I have in the south of France: a whitewashed villa on the shores of the Mediterranean. There you shall live a happy, and guarded, and most innocent life. Never fear that I wish to lure you into error—to make you my mistress. Why did you shake your head? Jane, you must be reasonable, or in truth I shall again become frantic.”

Jane, is quick and clever enough to see his deceit and naturally declines. She wasn’t prepared to live an immoral life in France and become one of his many conquests. Jane wanted a lot more than Rochester. She wanted it all; respectability, marriage and children, in an English upper-class setting.

Other European nations mentioned in Jane Eyre.

Jane finally becomes a rich woman thanks to her uncle John Eyre’s inheritance, derived from his wine importing business in Madeira, a Portuguese colony in the Atlantic Ocean.

Blanche Ingram’s skin is described as dark as a Spaniard’s. Bearing in mind all the other negative aspects in Blanche’s character and appearance, it’s not a compliment to the Spanish! Exotic, dark beauty in women, such as Bertha Mason and Blanche Ingram is associated with negative qualities and Spanish and Hispanic origins.

In summary, Mr. Rochester’s depiction of  Europeans as has been seen is anything but positive.

On the other hand, Jane Eyre shows great respect for French and German culture and language, limited knowledge of other European languages or cultures, she does not give any evidence of bias against other Europeans, in spite of Mr. Rochester’s negative portrayal.

Jane does mention that she will not be an English Céline Varens, which is not a criticism of all French women, just one. She speaks kindly of Madame Pierrot, her French teacher, Adele, and Sophie, Adele’s French maid. She meets no other Europeans and makes no negative comments.

Jane is aware of her British heritage, culture and language, but she does not berate or undermine any others as Rochester does, and she expresses a marked interest in learning about French and German culture and language. Jane represents an open-minded and respectful approach to Europe, whereas Mr. Rochester treated Europe, literally, as a whore house.

Now I ask you, does this have anything to do with Brexit?

I’d say that half of the British population takes Jane’s respectful attitude to Europe, while the other half considers Europe with caution or even contempt, as Rochester does.

What do you think?

 

 

 

#Book Tour & #Review ‘Her One True Love’ by @RachelBrimble for @BrookCottageBks

Her One True Love Tour Banner

HER ONE TRUE LOVE  BY RACHEL BRIMBLE

Genre: Victorian romance. Release Date: March 15th 2016.

Publisher:  eKensington/Lyrical Press

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Blurb

She Can’t Forget Him…

Jane Charlotte Danes has loved the squire of her idyllic country town for as long as she can remember. He is good, kind, and alluring beyond words… and he chose to marry another. Tired of dwelling on her futile longings, Jane plans a move to Bath, where she dreams of a new beginning. But the man who has so imprisoned her heart is only a few steps behind…

He Can’t Let Her Go…

Until now, Matthew Cleaves has endeavoured to meet the responsibilities of his position with dignity and good spirits–including his dutiful marriage. But when his wife leaves him for another man, Matthew is at last free to pursue his one true love. Only one vital question remains: will the captivating, stubborn, beautiful Jane allow him the challenge, and the pleasure, of winning her back?

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Cover One True Love

My Review

One of the reasons readers love historical novels is because they are transported to another time and place. in the case of historical romance, such as Her One True Love, readers are transported to 19th century Bath and a nearby village, Biddlestone. Bath, Biddlestone, and Victorian England in general, were places where most people lived according to strict rules and conventions. Marriages across social classes was frowned upon, so the Mathew, the Squire, had to marry a suitably rich lady, and the lower classes must marry amongst themselves. Love was ignored. Everyone seemed to agree with this ancient tradition, but Victorian England was a time of tradition and change, so people like Elizabeth, rebelled against this imposition and decided her marriage to Mathew was unsatisfactory, so she left him for another man.

Although Elizabeth is a minor character, I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t further developed, because I thought she had great potential. She came across as the catalyst for Mathew and Jane’s love. Mathew would have continued with the unsatisfactory marriage, following his family wishes if his wife hadn’t left him.

Mathew is perplexed, humiliated and distraught, at first, until he realises he is free, at last, to marry his ‘one true love’, whom he has known since they were children. Unfortunately, tired of waiting, Jane Danes now has other plans. She wants to break with all the social conventions which have tied her down and live her life independently in Bath.

As we follow her struggle to independence, we are sorry to witness the difficulties she had to face, and thankful that we were born two hundred years later, where such issues are no longer questioned.

Nothing comes easily to Jane, and that’s the interest of this novel. We struggle with her until she finally finds a rewarding occupation looking after poor children, as well as marriage to the man she loves. It is no secret this novel has a happy ending, the reader is encouraged to read on due to the interest in the characters, the plot, and the smooth writing style.

Her One True Love is a heart-warming, romantic read, especially for lovers of historical romance, who wish to be transported to Victorian England.

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Me at Ashford2

ABOUT RACHEL BRIMBLE

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. Since 2013, she has had five books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and recently signed a contract for three more.

She also has four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical and hoping to sign a new contract for further historical romances shortly.

When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family.

AUTHOR LINKS

Facebook: Facebook

Facebook Street Team – Rachel’s Readers

Twitter: Twitter

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806411.Rachel_Brimble

Website

Blog

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Her One True Love purchase links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

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Enter a GIVEAWAY for £15/$25 Amazon gift voucher HERE

 

 

 

Today is All Hallows. Find out What Happened at Eyre Hall on That Day #HalloweenBooks

Yesterday was All Hallows Eve, which has come to be known as Halloween. I wrote about how the festivity was celebrated in Victorian England, and what happened on that day at Eyre Hall.

Today’s post is about what happened the following day, November 1st, All Hallows or All Souls’ Day. It is no spoiler that Mr. Rochester is on his death-bed, and is destined to pass away during the course of the novel. However, there is a hint of a big spoiler in the extract. You will be glimpsing an unexpected and dramatic turn in Jane’s life.

Here is Chapter XXIV, which narrates the moment Mr. Rochester’s death is discovered and made known to the residents at Eyre Hall.

Deceased

“Mrs. Rochester! The master is dead! We must stop the clocks and drape all the mirrors in the house, or his spirit will be trapped. He will not be able to leave Eyre Hall, so he will haunt us forever! The windows must be opened and the curtains drawn to let the good spirits in to look after him and keep the malignant out. We must bring ice from the kitchen to put under the bed, or malignant life will crawl out of his mouth and ears.”

Simon had reached the bottom of the staircase, as I stepped out of the library into the hall with Michael. The drawing-room door opened and Adele screamed, “Simon! For goodness sake be quiet, you will wake all the dead in the graveyard!”

John was standing behind Adele looking bewildered, “Mother, what has happened?”

His face white and his expression quite horrified. I rushed to his side, “John, he is at peace at last. There is nothing we can do, except pray.”

“Father!” He shouted, as he pushed past me and rushed up the staircase.

“Wait!” I screamed and turned to Michael, “Michael, go with him! He can’t be alone now!” Michael obeyed at once.

Bishop Templar turned to me and spoke gravely, “Mrs. Rochester, may I suggest we follow John and say some prayers by his bedside?”

“Of course, my Lord, let us go upstairs together.” I took his arm and beckoned to Adele, “Adele, darling, will you come up with us?”

“Not yet, Jane. I can’t bear to think of his lifeless body! I can’t go up now.”

She seemed so distressed that I had no choice but to agree, “Well, wait here. Mr. Greenwood, would you be so kind as to accompany Adele in such a painful moment for her and console her as best you can?”

“Of course, Mrs. Rochester. Come, Adele, let us wait in the drawing-room.”

“Mr. Mason, Annette, will you be so kind as to wait a few minutes while I go upstairs with Bishop Templar?”

“Mrs. Rochester, I would like to go up with you, if you don’t mind.” Annette was looking at me earnestly. I told her Edward was her father. She had just met him, and he was dead, quite a dreadful succession of events for an evening. 

“Of course you can. Are you sure you won’t be too distressed?”

“Quite sure.”

“Then come with us. Mr. Mason, would you kindly wait with Adele and Mr. Greenwood?”

“Of course, madam. Accept my most sincere condolences, and if I can be of any use, please let me know.”

“Thank you, Mr. Mason.”

Before heading up the stairs I turned to Simon, “Please see to the clocks. Go down to the kitchen to tell the rest of the household what has happened, and bring some drapery to cover the mirrors, and of course, the ice.”

“Yes, madam.”

“I will tell Michael to fetch the undertakers at Millcote and Dr. Carter.”

“Yes, madam.”

“I understand you worked for an undertaker in London before working at Eyre Hall, is that so?”

He nodded proudly, “Yes, madam.”

“Could you dress Mr. Rochester when…?” Tears came to my eyes, as I said his name. My feet softened and floated, and my hand slipped from the Bishop’s arm. The floor swayed and I lost my balance. I felt rough, sturdy fingers clasp my waist, as I fell backwards and looked into Mr. Mason’s furrowed brow.

“Mrs. Rochester! Are you unwell?”

“Thank you, Mr. Mason. I am feeling a little dizzy.”

“Please, allow me to accompany you upstairs.” I nodded, and he held out his arm for me to cling to. “Thank you, Mr. Mason.”

When we arrived at the top of the stairs, the gallery seemed darker and narrower than usual and the floor was rolling, as if I were walking on waves. Tears were running freely down my cheeks, and I was still having difficulty breathing.

Mr. Mason took my hand in his and squeezed it hard, “Unfortunately, Mrs. Rochester, this is God’s plan for all of us.” I cringed at his touch, which fortunately brought me back to reality.

Inside Edward’s chamber, our son was kneeling down on the floor by his father’s side, holding his hand and kissing it. Annette was kneeling down on the opposite side of the bed, doing exactly the same. Bishop Templar stood behind John with his hands on his shoulders, attempting to comfort him, while Mr. Mason left my side and stood vigilantly behind Annette.

The Bishop was speaking, but my heart was thumping so loudly I could not hear what he was saying. The room was hot and the air was thick and putrid. I looked at my husband and gasped. Edward’s eyes were frighteningly open, as if he had seen a ghost, and his mouth was wide open, too, as if he had gasped for air before dying. His face was as pale as death itself, and his chest crushed and lifeless. He had gone. 

Once more I felt my legs bend into the floor. The hexagonal forms on the carpet were sliding into squares as my stomach churned. Michael rushed to my side and I managed to say, “I’m going to be sick,” just before he carried me to the toilet table. When I finished, he took the ewer and poured some water on my hands and I washed my face, then he led me to a chair at the foot of the bed.

I heard the distant voice of the Bishop saying some prayers to bid him farewell and facilitate his transit to his new abode in the Kingdom of Heaven, but I was not sure if that would be his destination. He had not confessed his sins. He had not repented for his misdeeds. He had not made his peace with our creator before dying, and he might not be allowed to leave Eyre Hall yet.

I stood up and turned to Michael beckoning him to follow me. We walked out of the chamber and turned into the shorter gallery and the stairs leading to my chamber, where we could not be seen. His eyes shone in the unlit passage. I reached for his hands, and he pulled me closer whispering, “Are you all right, Mrs. Rochester?”

“Yes, I shall be all right.”

“You look unwell.”

“Michael, please go to Millcote and bring the undertaker as soon as possible. There are many preparations that need to be attended.”

“It shall take more than four hours. Will you not need me here?”

“Simon will attend to matters here, in the meantime. He knows what to do.”

His concerned eyes bore into mine, “But you will be alone.”

“Only for a few hours.”

He moved closer, “Before you go, Mrs. Rochester, promise me something.”

“What is it?”

“Promise me you will not take any of Mr. Rochester’s drops.”

He was right. I had thought of succumbing to the easy comfort of the miraculous drug. I put my arms around him, “Hold me, Michael.”

He spoke into my hair, “I cannot leave, if you do not promise. I saw you looking at Mr. Rochester’s medicine cabinet.”

“You are right, the temptation is great.”

“It is very harmful. Think of John, he needs you, so does Helen… and so do I.”

I pressed my face into his chest, praying I would be strong enough to get through the wake and the funeral without breaking down, or relapsing into the comfort of laudanum once again. It was a pleasant and swift evasion, but I shuddered at the thought of its dire consequences, which I had already experienced. Michael was stroking my hair, waiting for my reply, “Promise me.” He insisted.

I broke away and smiled, “I promise. Now go, and please be careful, Michael. It is very late and there is a full moon. Last month a pack of foxes attacked a farmer.”

He told me he would be back as soon as possible, and I returned to the death chamber. They were all looking at Edward and listening to Bishop Templar’s prayers, except Mr. Mason, whose dark ominous eyes were fastened on me, as I entered the room. We listened in solemn silence to the familiar words of Christian consolation, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”

Minutes later Simon arrived with drapery for the long mirror. He told me he had covered all the other mirrors in the house and had stopped the clocks. I told him to bring the ice and wash, shave, and dress Edward in his best clothes. We all left when he returned to prepare the corpse.

Downstairs in the drawing-room, Adele was still distraught and being consoled by Mr. Greenwood. I excused myself and went down to the servants’ quarters to discuss arrangements with Mrs. Leah.

****

Mr. Rochester’s death represents the end of an era. He was more linked to the rigid 18th century modes of thinking than to the more progressive 19th century social, scientific, industrial, and intellectual advances, which would change Great Britain forever. New times are awaiting Jane and all the members of her extended family. These changes will start immediately, and although it is a change she is ready to embrace, it will be traumatic. The full extent will be felt in books two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and book three, Midsummer at Eyre Hall.

I hope you enjoyed the extract 🙂

Jenny, Lady Lilith and Celine Varens: Artistic Representation of Prostitution in Victorian England in Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

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The first manuscript of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem Jenny was buried with his wife, Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal , in Highgate Cemetery, in London, and remained in her grave, reportedly in Siddal’s red hair, until it was exhumed six years later and redrafted several times, before it was finally published in 1869. The poem is a first person narration, or monologue, of a writer, who some critics have identified as Rossetti himself, describing the beautiful woman who is lying across his knees, while he gradually unfolds the reasons for the end of their relationship. It is and frank and sympathetic, albeit condescending and biased, account of Jenny, a prostitute in Victorian England.

Rossetti, the poet and the painter, was obsessed with the portrayal of stunning women. He searched for beautiful muses whom he painted, wrote about, married, and befriended, throughout his life. He was particularly infatuated by the biblical myth of Lilith, Adam’s first insubordinate wife. Shelley’s translation of Goethe’s Faust (lines 351-353) inspired both the portrait, Lady Lilith, and his long poem, Jenny.

FAUST: What is that yonder?
MEPHISTOPHELES: Mark her well. It is Lilith.
FAUST: Who?
MEPHISTOPHELES: Lilith, the first wife of Adam.
Beware of her fair hair, for she excels
All women in the magic of her locks;
And when she winds them round a young man’s neck,
She will not ever set him free again.

Rossetti’s Jenny and Lady Lilith are both portrayed as blue eyed and golden haired beauties. Both wear languid and lazy expressions on their perfect faces, and both were wicked women; Lilith was Adam’s headstrong first wife who left him rather than lie beneath him, before being replaced by meek, albeit naïve, Eve; Jenny is a prostitute whose main objective is emptying men’s pockets, and having fun.

The artistic representation of women in Victorian times, depicted them either as the ‘angel of the house’ or the ‘prostitute’. Prostitution was not illegal in Victorian England, but it was a social problem, as most prostitutes were orphans or underprivileged women, who could not live on the meagre wages earned. Prostitution was also a health problem, due to the venereal diseases which abounded.

According to the controversial Contagious Diseases Acts passed in 1864, 1866 and 1869, all prostitutes within a radius of army and military bases were required to register with the police and to monthly submit to an internal examination to verify whether or not they were diseased. If they were, they would be incarcerated in lock hospitals for up to nine months. Although the act was finally revoked in 1882, it was heavily contested, and many Victorian writers, such as Charles Dickens and Mrs. Gaskell were socially aware and active on this account.

According to critics, Rossetti’s poem was of the “fleshly school of poetry,” and much stigma came to be attached to Rossetti’s name as a result. Rossetti’s account is innovative in the sense that he represents the ‘fallen woman’ as a real and contented person, who is treated with caring and respect by the writer while they are together, although he finally abandons her in favour if the respectability and stability his conventional cousin represents.

Jenny contains representations of both extremes. Jenny herself represents the fallen woman, and the narrator’s cousin Nell, represents the angel. Jenny dreams of the money earned by her profession:

Poor shameful Jenny, full of grace
Thus with your head upon my knee;—
Whose person or whose purse may be
The lodestar of your reverie?
On the other hand, his cousin represents honesty and love:
My cousin Nell is fond of fun,
And fond of dress, and change, and praise,
So mere a woman in her ways:
And if her sweet eyes rich in youth
Are like her lips that tell the truth,
My cousin Nell is fond of love.
And she’s the girl I’m proudest of.

The narrator finally decides he must leave Jenny in order to consolidate his relationship with his cousin:

By a far gleam which I may near,
A dark path I can strive to clear.
Only one kiss. Good-bye, my dear.

Although Jenny is the subject of the poem, Jenny herself is silent throughout. In fact she is asleep, and therefore a passive agent, within the narrative. We are informed of her supposed feelings and opinions by the writer, who is clearly trying to justify his callous use and abuse of the compliant girl. Lady Lilith is equally absent, daydreaming into her mirror, perhaps imagining a future in which women are allowed a voice and a more active participation in society.

A contemporary reinterpretation of both Jenny and Lilith should take into account the following considerations. Both women are silenced by patriarchal conventions, and absent from any kind of explicit power. Lilith is lost in thoughts, staring into her own reflection, while Jenny is asleep, lost in her subconscious world. Yet both women fend for themselves, refusing to be a conventional wife and mother. Lilith’s refusal to lie beneath Adam, has become a symbol of resistance to patriarchal authority, and female independence, while Jenny is a survivor and determined to look after herself, on her own, in a man’s world.

Jane Eyre contains no mention directly to prostitutes or prostitution, although there are some allegedly ‘wicked’ or ‘undesirable’ women mentioned during Rochester’s stay abroad in France and Italy, including a reference to Adele’s mother, Celine Varens. Mlle Varens is also voiceless in Charlotte Bronte’s novel. It is Rochester who describes her behaviour and justifies his womanising by telling Jane how he was ‘innocently’ led and fooled by her:

“I installed her in an hotel; gave her a complete establishment of servants, a carriage, cashmeres, diamonds, dentelles, etc. In short, I began the process of ruining myself in the received style, like any other spoony.”

Following the conventions of the time, after Rochester’s marriage proposal, Jane Eyre makes it clear to Rochester that she is prepared to be his wife, but not his prostitute:

“I only want an easy mind, sir; not crushed by crowded obligations. Do you remember what you said of Celine Varens?— of the diamonds, the cashmeres you gave her? I will not be your English Celine Varens. I shall continue to act as Adele’s governess; by that I shall earn my board and lodging, and thirty pounds a year besides. I’ll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money, and you shall give me nothing but—”
“Well, but what?”
“Your regard; and if I give you mine in return, that debt will be quit.”

Jane is proposing another alternative to the ‘angel’ or ‘fallen woman’ dichotomy. She is proposing the ‘working wife’ who is her husband’s equal regardless of her financial capacity. Jane wants to be Rochester’s wife and his equal, as she claims throughout the novel, not his submissive or inferior. The novel does indeed end on this note of equality. Jane inherits a plentiful sum from her uncle, which will allow her to have financial independence from in her husband, leading to equality in their marriage.

All Hallows at Eyre Hall’, on the other hand, does directly approach the topic of prostitution with reference to various characters in the novel, including Mr. Rochester. One of the narrators, Jenny Rosset, who is based on Rossetti’s Jenny/Lilith, is, in fact, a prostitute, who is directly related to two of the main characters in the novel; Michael and Mr. Mason. Jenny, is a character to look out for. She is far more important than she appears. Both Jenny and her offspring will have an even greater part in books 2 and 3 of the Eyre Hall Trilogy.

On the other hand, Celine Varens, Adele’s mother, who is living in Venice with her latest lover, is referred to in the first volume, and she will reappear in volume II, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, when Adele travels to Italy to meet her mother, whom she believed dead, one last time. Jenny Rosset and Celine Varens represent two different types of Victorian ‘fallen woman’, whose intentions, feelings, needs and desires will be reappraised throughout the trilogy from a contemporary perspective. Jane Eyre herself, as I would have expected, is actively involved in improving the lives of her contemporaries.

More information on the Dante Gabriel Rossetti Archive and Rossetti’s paintings worldwide