Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Over at the Riskies today, talking about deadlines (eep!) and summer movies...

Sunday, May 29, 2011


So, Lady of Seduction is out this week (eeek! How is it June already?), and I am at two blogs giving away copies and talking about the story right now. SOS Aloha and my own Risky Regencies. Come by and say hi....

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Heroine of the Weekend

Our heroine for this last weekend of May is the youngest Bronte sister, Anne, who died on May 28, 1849! Though she is usually overshadowed by her older sisters Charlotte and Emily, her own work is now gaining in appreciation and she's being seen as a literary talent in her own right...

Anne was born, the youngest child of Patrick Bronte (a poor, Irish-born clergyman) and his wife Maria Branwell (daughter of a prosperous Penzance merchant family) on January 17, 1820 in the Yorkshire village of Thornton. Soon after her father took a post at Haworth Parsonage and moved the family to the house that would be their home for the rest of their lives. Her mother died in September 1821, leaving the children to the care of their father and her sister Elizabeth, who moved in to keep house for the family and never left (it was said she didn't get along with the other childern, but Anne was her "pet" of sorts).

The 4 elder daughters, Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Emily, were sent to the Cowan Bridge School for Clergymen's Daughters in 1824, which proved to be a terrible decision. It was an abusive, unhealthy place, and Maria and Elizabeth died there of TB while Charlotte and Emily were brought home. Anne spent her childhood being taught at home. The siblings were all voracious readers and blessed with vivid imaginations, and they filled their time writing tales of the imaginary kingdoms of Angria and Gondal. Gondal was Emily and Anne's special preserve--they were so close that Charlotte's friend Ellen Nussey said they were "like twins."

Anne was sent to Roe Head school where Charlotte was a teacher when she was 15, her first time away from home (she went to replace Emily, who always broke down when she was sent away from Haworth). She stayed there for two years, a very diligent student who was commended for her good conduct. But Charlotte grew concerned about Anne's health and had her sent home. In 1839, her health recovered, she took a job as governess at Blake Hall, which was not a great success. The children were unruly and spoiled, and Anne came home after less than a year (she later used this as inspiration for her book Agnes Grey). Afetr her return home she may or may not have fallen in love with her father's new curate William Weightman (who may or may not have noticed her in return). He died in 1842 ending any hint of romance in her life.

Anne then took a position as governess at Thorp Green to the 4 children of the wealthy Robinson family (3 daughters and a son). She had the same problem with unruly charges, but gradually became close to the children (two of the daughters still wrote to her after she left the house, and even visited her in 1848). One of the perks of the job was going on holiday with the family to Scarborough, which Anne loved. She also managed to procure a job for her brother Branwell there, as tutor to the son, but he embarked on a scandalous affair with Mrs. Robinson and was sent home in disgrace, where he sank into alcoholism and illness. Anne herself left Thorp Green in June 1845.

That summer all the Bronte siblings were together again, and the sisters came up with a plan to publish a collection of their poetry, which they paid for themselves. It was not a success, but "Fraser's Magazine" published two of Anne's poems, and a new plan was hatched to write novels (under the more masculine names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell). Charlotte wrote The Professor, Emily Wuthering Heights, and Anne Agnes Grey. Charlotte's book was rejected, but Emily's and Anne's were accepted. It proved to be Charlotte who was published first though--her second novel, Jane Eyre, came out to great success and Emily and Anne's publisher (who had been dragging their feet) finally released their books as well, which sold well. (Agnes Grey was rather overshadowed by the scandal of Wuthering Heights!)

Anne's second book, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, came out in June 1848 to a scandal of its own, in its honest depiction of alcoholism and sexual depravity, and a heroine who left her husband. It was very shocking (though successeful!) and Anne wrote this in defense of her book:

"When we have to do with vice and vicious characters, I maintain it is better to depict them as they really are than as they would wish to appear. To represent a bad thing in its least offensive light, is doubtless the most agreeable course for a writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest? Is it better to reveal the snares and pitfalls of life to the young and thoughtless traveller, or to cover them with branches and flowers? O Reader! if there were less of this delicate concealment of facts–this whispering 'Peace, peace', when there is no peace, there would be less of sin and misery to the young of both sexes who are left to wring their bitter knowledge from experience."

The Bronte family seemed on the verge of a breakthrough, but 1848 was a year of tragedy. Branwell died on September 24, and Emily followed on December 19. By February 1849 Anne herself was very ill. She traveled with Charlotte to Scarborough, in hopes that the sea air and the nearness of doctors would help her, but she died on May 28, a "calm and quiet" death. She was buried at St. Mary's church there at Scarborough.

Some sources on her life:
Juliet Barker, The Brontes
Edward Chitham, A Life of Anne Bronte
Rebecca Fraser, The Brontes

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Heroine of the Weekend

So the weekend is almost over (I am not sure where it went! Probably frittered away dealing with an AC that decided to die right when the temps reached the 90s here...), but we can't let it pass without a Heroine. And I can't believe I've never featured Lady Jane Grey before! She was married on May 21, 1553, so she is our (tragic) Heroine this weekend.

Jane was born sometime in 1536 or '37 (there is some doubt to the exact date) at her family's home at Bradgate Park in Leicestershire. Her parents were Henry Grey, the 1st Duke of Suffolk, and Lady Frances Brandon, the niece of Henry VIII through her mother Mary Brandon. The couple had three daughters, studious Jane, beautiful Catherine, and deformed Mary, all of whom would run afoul of their Tudor cousins.

Jane was very well-educated according to the classical model of the day (it was speculated that her parents were preparing her to one day marry her cousin Prince Edward0. She knew modern languages, as well as Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and was instructed in the new reformed Protestant religion, which she was quite devoted to. She prefered studying to hunting or dancing, and was from all reports a serious young lady. In 1546 she went to join the household of Catherine Parr, the dowager queen and widow of Henry VIII, where she would be educated in humanist, Protestant thought along with her royal cousins. (Jane was the chief mourner at Catherine's funeral in 1548).

After she left Catherine Parr's care, Jane was married to Guildford Dudley, the son of the Duke of Northumberland (one of the most powerful men in England). It was a lavish triple ceremony--her sister Catherine also married, to the heir of the Earl of Pembroke, and Guildford's sister Catherine married the heri to the Earl of Huntingdon. It was a huge power play for the two fathers Suffolk and Northumberland. The reasons for it all soon became clear.

When Henry VIII died his Act of Succession laid out his plans for the future of the throne. If Edward was to die without an heir, the throne would then pass to Henry's two perviously disowned daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. If they died without issue, it would then go to his sister Mary's descendants (the Greys), bypassing his sister Margaret's Scottish line (inlcuding Margaret's granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots). But Edward, who was very ill by the beginning of 1553, laid out his own "Device"--he excluded his sisters altogether (Mary was a devout Catholic, at odds with her strictly Protestant brother throughout his reign; leaving out Elizabeth is more puzzling). He instead directed the succession through Frances Brandon's line, hopefully to Jane's soon-to-be-produced male children. Edward died on July 6, 1553, and everyone sprang into action.

Four days later the king's will was revealed and Jane was proclaimed Queen to shocked Londoners. Jane went in procession to the security of the Tower to await her coronation. A Genoese in London, Baptista Spinola, watched her walk past and described her as "very short and thin, but prettily-shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well-made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red."

Northumberland's first task to secure his daughter-in-law's reign (even though she had refused to name Guildford king) was to isolate and secure Mary, who naturally expected to be queen. But she had escaped and was rallying her supporters. He rode out of London with his troops on July 14, and while he was gone the Privy Council changed their tune. They saw the wind was blowing toward support of Mary, and the proclaimed her queen to much rejoicing July 19. Jane's palace turned into a prison at the Tower, and Mary entered London in a triumphant procession on August 3. Northumberland was executed August 22.

Even though Jane and her husband were tried, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to death, they were not executed until February 12, 1554. Guildford was beheaded on Tower Hill, but Jane was given the rare privilege of a private execution at Tower Green. She was only 16 or 17 years old, but she faced her death with rare bravery and calm, with only flahs of panic when she was blindfolded and couldn't find the block. She made a short speech:

Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the Queen's highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day.

With only a few last words, ""Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit," she held out her arms and was killed. Over the centuries, her youth and innocence have given rise to many romantic images and legends.

A few sources on her life:

Leandra de Lisle, The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey (2008)
Eric Ives, Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery (2009)
Faith Cook, The Nine Days Queen (2005)
Alison Plowden, Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen (1985)

(And for a more detailed explanation of Edward VI's very complicated Device, you can look here)

Friday, May 20, 2011


Happy Friday everyone! I am still making my way to The End of the 2 projects due June 1, but in the meantime you can read about my June release at Heroes & Heartbreakers....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Heroine of the Weekend

Happy weekend everyone! (It is still the weekend, right??) Our Heroine this week is composer/musician Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, who died on May 14, 1847.

Fanny was born November 14, 1805 in Hamburg, the oldest of 4 children, part of a distinguished Jewish family (her grandfather was philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, and her father Abraham ran a prosperous business). Unlike her equally precocious brother Felix, she was not encouraged to pursue her talent for music and composing (he was given the finest teachers, while Fanny had to learn the best she could herself), but she was passionate about music and as talented as her brother from a very young age. (Her father later wrote to her, "Music will perhaps become his profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament"--pretty much sums up the attitude of the day). But Felix did help her publish some of her works under her own name.

In 1829, after a long courtship, she married artist Wilhelm Hensel, who was luckily very supportive of his wife' s music. (The couple had one child, Sebastian, the year after their marriage). She took part in her family's famous Sunday afternoon concerts (which she took over hosting after her father's death), where many of her pieces were played and discussed. In 1838 she had her one (known) public performance, of her brother's Piano Concerto No. 1. In all she composed some 466 pieces, mostly for the piano, including a song cycle titled Das Jahr (The Year), an amazing output considering her lack of support and encouragement and the expectation that she would always put her home and family first.

Fanny died of a stroke at the young age of 42, in Berlin in 1847. (Her brother died the following year). Her works have become more widely known and played in just the last few years, thanks to new interest in female composers.

A couple sources on her life:
Francoise Tillard, Fanny Mendelssohn (1996)
Sandra Shictman, Dorothy Indenbaum, Gifted Sister: The Story of Fanny Mendelssohn (2007)

Monday, May 09, 2011

Hottie Monday

So I haven't yet seen the movie Thor (this was a crazy busy weekend, and I usually tend to avoid the really loud summer movies), but obviously I am super-tempted.....

I also read that Tom Hiddleston (who I loved in Cranford and Wallander) plays a villain, another reason to maybe see it.

Anyone seen this movie yet? Any opinions?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Heroine of the Weekend

And now back to our Heroines! This weekend we're still on the royal trend, with a look at Queen Mary of Modena, who died on May 7 in 1718.

She was born Maria Beatrice Anna Margherita Isabella d'Este on October 5, 1658, the eldest child of Alfonso IV, Duke of Modena in Italy. Her father died when she was 4 and her mother Duchess Laura became regent for her only brother Francesco. Mary was said to be well-educated, speaking French, Italian, English, and Latin, as well as being tall and very pretty. It was thought for a time she would marry Charles II of Spain, but in the end was wed to James, Duke of York, by proxy on September 30, 1673.

James wasn't the ideal husband for a pretty young woman. He was 25 years older than Mary, a widower with two near-grown, tempermental daughters, Mary and Anne, and a known womanizer. Her marriage was also extremely unpopular in Protestant England. She was called "the Pope's Daughter" in the tabloids of the day, and the Protestant Parliament threatened to annull the marriage until Charles II stepped in on his brother's behalf and suspended Parliament until January 1674. The marriage stood, and eventually Mary found a way to get along with her husband. Their first child, Catherine Laura, was born in January 1675, but sadly proved to be the first in a long line of children to die in infancy.

After the duchess's Catholif secretary was embroiled in the trumped-up "Popish Plot" to kill the king in 1678, the Yorks were exiled to Brussels and later to Edinburgh. Separated from her only living child Princess Isabella (who died in 1681), faced with her husband's affair with Catherine Sedley, she grew depressed. But by May 1682 they were back at Court. She became queen on the death of Charles II in February 1685. Their lavish joint coronation (the first since Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon) cost 119,000 pounds, and Mary's crown can still be seen at the Tower.

She was still in bad health, at times so much so that there was much speculation in Europe as to who her husband might wed next. But she rallied, and after a visit to Bath in 1687 she was pregnant again. This time the baby was a healthy boy, Prince James. A rumor spread that the real royal baby died and a replacement was smuggled in via warming pan, a ridiculous tale that was still much believed (and spread by Princess Anne). The furor over the royal couple's Catholicism and the prospect of a Catholic heir led to the Glorious Revolution, and Princess Mary and her husband William of Orange taking over the English throne while James and Mary fled to France.

Mary was called the "Queen Over the Water" by their Jacobite supporters, and settled into life in Louis XIV's France. She was very popular at Versailles. Madame de Sevigne proclaimed her "distinguished bearing and quick wit." (James meanwhile was excluded from most of the fun, as he was considered quite dull!). James suffered his final defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 (Mary had helped finance the campaign by selling her jewels). Their last child, Princess Louise Mary, was born in 1692. The couple went on living in France with their children, though despite a generous income from Louis they were often broke (Mary had a habit of supporting Jacobite exiles).

James suffered a stroke in March 1701 and died on September 16. Louis XIV then proclaimed young James the King of England (much to King William's ire) and Mary as his regent, a post which ended when her son turned 16. She disliked politics and was stressed and depressed by the turmoil around her. After her son was exiled from France under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht and her daughte died in 1712, she lived quietly in poverty at the convent at Chaillot until her death in 1718. She was buried among the nuns.

Some sources on her life:
--Martin Haile, Queen Mary of Modena: Her Life and Letters (1905)
--Tim Harris, Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy, 1685-1720 (2007)
--Carola Oman, Mary of Modena (1962)
--Maureen Waller, Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Fathers Crown (2002)