Wednesday, September 28, 2011
They say that everything is larger in Texas and Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan was proof of that. She was born in Waco, Texas in 1884, and educated in Catholic schools. Waco was not the dusty cow town that Tex portrayed in her memoirs. Not only did it have electric lights but a little soft drink called Dr. Pepper put the town on the map the year after she was born. From childhood, she was a tomboy, more prone to playing pranks then playing with dolls. An exhibitionist, she delighted in thumbing her nose at the conventions of the day, walking through the red light district, telling her friends where babies came from. Her father Mike was risk taker, concocting shaky business deals. There were years of fortune in the Guinan household and years of poverty. Texas learned from an early age that a man couldn’t be relied on for support.
Texas started acting at the age of sixteen, and after a brief detour into marriage, she made the move to the Big Apple in 1906. It was love at first sight. Although Texas had only a modest talent as a singer and a dancer, she made up for it with sheer chutzpah. She quickly found work in a few Broadway musicals, where she became known for her acerbic wit, but she spent most of her time touring the country in various vaudeville shows. While she didn’t spend time in the trenches in World War I, she did do time in Hollywood, starring “The Gun Woman” and “Fuel of Life” becoming the first female Western star. She eventually made 36 mostly B-movies, although she later inflated that number to 300. Although she never married again, Texas had several beaux over the years. She preferred however to remain independent. “It’s having the same man around the house all the time that ruins matrimony,” she once wisecracked.
Prohibition was the apex of Texas’ career as it was for the various mobsters who saw the 18th amendment as a chance to make some serious dough, bootlegging liquor from Canada and Europe. Despite the law, people weren’t about to stop drinking. By 1922, Tex was looking for a new career, tired as she put it of “kissing horses in horse operas.” One night, she showed up a party at the Beaux Arts Café on West 40th Street, a high class joint where anyone who was anyone was there. The party was desperately dull so someone asked Texas to sing. She willingly obliged. “First thing you know we were all doing things. Everybody had a great time.” Getting people to “do things,” soon became her life’s work.
Soon she was lured away to work at the King Cole Room at the Knickerbocker Hotel on 42nd Street. The King Cole room was seriously swanky; celebrities such as Rudolph Valentino, and John Barrymore were known to frequent the hotel. But Texas didn’t just want to be the hostess with the mostest, she wanted a cut of the action and that is what she got when she hooked up with Larry Fay, an ex-cabbie turned nightclub owner with serious mob connections. Fay hired her at the El Fay Club on West 45th Street, where she presided from a ringside table, cracking wise with performers and customers. Fay gave her a cut of the profits, hired a sexy chorus line, and allowed her free rein. Texas now had a setting that she liked. Her years in the theatre and films stood her in good stead, she knew how to entertain an audience, how to make them laugh. She was the life of the party, the ringmaster, emptying the wallets of her customers without even trying. Her secret was the best booze, the sexiest chorus girls (including a young Ruby Keeler and the future playwright and congresswoman Clare Booth Luce), and her penchant for skewering her customers with her wit, and making them like it. Ironically for someone who spent most of her time cajoling customers to pay as much as $25 for a fifth of Scotch, she never touched a drop of alcohol herself.
Wrapped in ermine, armed with a clapper and a police whistle, Texas held court night after night, insulting her customers and making them love it. “Hello sucker,” became a common phrase as did her introduction as a performer walked on the stage, “Give the lil’ girl a great big hand.” On another night, an inebriated customer allegedly began handing out $50 bills. When Texas asked what he did to be able to throw money around, he replied that he was in dairy produce. Without missing a beat, Texas exhorted the audience to “Give a big hand for the big butter and egg man.” Playwright George S. Kaufman lifted her line to use as the title of his play “The Butter and Egg Man.”
The money poured in, in one 10 month period Texas and Fay netted something like $700,000 which is over $6M in today’s money. While it seems like a great deal money, Fay and Texas were also paying bribes to cops and other law enforcement officials. That didn’t keep them from raiding the place. But even getting arrested seemed to bolster her reputation. She made front page news every time. “I like your cute little jail,” she cooed after a night in the West 30th Street joint, “I don’t’ know when my jewels have seemed so safe.” Inevitably Texas was released. As soon as one club closed, Texas and Fay opened another one. They opened the Texas Guinan Club on West 48th, when police padlocked that one, they simply moved back to the El Fay Club space.
Texas finally went out on her own, opening the 300 Club on West 54th Street. Fay was not happy about losing his meal ticket, of course he threatened her, but Texas had a powerful new friend in her corner, gangster Owney Madden. She hired some goons, and bought a heavily armored car. Fay wisely backed down and offered his best wishes on her future success. And a success it was, the 300 Club was a smash from the beginning. But the cops wouldn’t leave Texas alone. There was a new sheriff in town, the incorruptible U.S. Attorney Emory R. Buckner, and Texas was in the sights of Prohibition enforcement. In 1927, police raided the 300 Club. By now, Texas was used to the drill. She ordered the band to play the “Prisoner’s Song” as she was hauled off to jail. Paraphrasing one of her most famous lines, a detective quipped, “Give the little girl a big handcuff.” At the police station, Texas entertained a horde of entertainment reporters, prisoners, police and federal agents with several renditions of the “Prisoner’s Song,” during the nine hours that she was behind bars.
Long before the stock market crash in 1929 that ended the good times, Texas was going out of style. She produced a mediocre revue The Padlocks of 1927 that bombed. Trying to revive her movie career, she starred in several movies that also flopped. Texas tried her best, as she quipped “An indiscretion a day keeps the Depression away,” but it was a losing battle. In 1931, she took a troupe to France but was sent packing by the French government. It wasn’t that she was too immoral for the country that gave the world the Can-Can, the Apache Dance, and the Follies Bergeres, but in the hard economic times, she was competing with French performers for audience dollars.
Always with an eye open for publicity, she changed the name of the revue to “Too Hot for Paris,” touring the country from city to city, always on the move. Her career had no come full-circle. By 1933, the late nights and the road finally caught up to Texas Guinan. She suffered an attack of ulcerative colitis. After emergency surgery that failed, she died at the age of 49 in November of 1933 in Vancouver, Canada. On her deathbed, she said, “I would rather have a square inch of New York than all the rest of the world.”
Texas once joked that she wanted her funeral to be a nightclub wake, with a motorcycle escort, and boys singing songs on the way to the cemetery. 12,000 people showed up to her funeral, at the same funeral chapel that had held Rudolph Valentino's services. The New York Times Herald wrote “She was a master showman, and accomplished psychologist….she had the ability too, and would have been successful in any one of a dozen more conventional fields. To New York and the rest of the country Texas was a flaming leader of a period which was a lot of fun while it lasted.” Guinan was laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York. A month to the day after her death Prohibition was repealed.
Texas Guinan: Queen of the Nightclubs by Louise Berliner
Monday, September 26, 2011
I was lucky enough to get to see Stacy Schiff (author of Cleopatra: A Life) interviewed by Amanda Foreman (author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire) at the New York Public Library on Friday. Unfortunately they haven't put up the video yet but Alison at Mahalo.com sent me this video which I wanted to share with you.
Friday, September 23, 2011
À PART UNE BANDE DE FEFANS BIPOLAIRES, QUELQUES JOURNALICHES-CULS ET DE PETITES ADOLESCENTES EN CHALEUR, LE CH N'EXCITE PERSONNE !
Tiens, tiens, tiens... Semble-t-il que l'on ne se bouscule plus comme avant pour acheter en ligne des billets pour les matchs ternes des CHaudrons de Mourial au Centre PouBell... Outre les cohortes habituelles de drogués du CH, dont plusieurs sont aussi des fefans bipolaires, il n'y a plus que quelques centaines d'adolescentes en chaleur (et qui couchent avec une petite culotte enlaidie par l'écusson de l'équipe des Molson -photo ci-dessus-) qui sont prêtes à tout pour payer le gros prix afin de voir en direct leurs joueurs favoris se traîner les patins sur la glace du Centre BéBell. Ah... rien à craindre pour le moment, tous les billets vont se vendre, mais ceux qui donneront le droit d'assister à des rencontres somnifères entre les CHieux et des clubs aussi poches et ennuyants qu'eux, trouveront plus difficilement preneurs ou seront "donnés au suivant" lorsqu'il y aura un divertissement plus intéressant dans la métropauvre ces soirs-là... Encore l'an dernier, les fefans se plaignaient qu'ils ne réussissaient pas à obtenir des billets lorsqu'ils étaient mis en vente sur internet. L'attente était longue, les serveurs engorgés, et leurs espoirs déçus... Pas cette saison. C'est sûr que les billets pour les joutes impliquant de bonnes formations partent plus vite. C'est la seule façon pour les amateurs de hockey du Québec de voir à l'oeuvre de vraies vedettes de notre sport national. Attendu qu'il n'y en a aucune qui joue pour le torCHon...
Ce désintéressement relatif peut justement être imputé à l'absence de bons joueurs (surtout les francophones) au sein des MountReawl Goofies ainsi qu'au style de jeu mortifiant imposé par l'entraîneur Jacques "Dumbo" Martin. Il faut ajouter que, historiquement, le Cacanadien se retrouve au milieu de nulle part depuis près de vingt ans. Il est suspendu dans le vide entre une époque glorieuse (remontant aux années 1970) et des promesses d'ivrognes pour l'avenir. Les dirigeants du CH éprouvent toutes les misères du monde à attirer des agents libres de qualité dans le bidonville moronréalaid. Ils doivent se contenter de rejets des autres clubs, de vieux croûtons handicapés en fin de carrière et de marginaux bouche-trous. Pour réussir à se constituer un noyau de patineurs ordinaires, l'ex-embaumeur en chef du CHicolore, Bob Gainey, a même dû accepter de payer des sommes d'argent astronomiques à des gars sur-évalués comme Cammalleri, Gomez, Gill, Gionta et cie. Jamais ces joueurs très moyens (soyons généreux) n'auraient obtenu de tels contrats ailleurs. Dans le cas de Gomez, Gainey a été le seul patron de la NHL à bien vouloir le "repêcher" pour ainsi soulager Glen Sather de la "pain in the ass" qu'il ressentait après avoir réalisé qu'il avait fait la pire gaffe de sa vie en accordant une mine d'or au "Gomer".
Au camp d'entraînement, c'est la routine habituelle. Rien que de l'ordinaire. Une équipe très ordinaire. Des joueurs très ordinaires...que l'on veut faire paraître extraordinaires. Des journaliches-culs se désâment parce qu'il n'ont rien à écrire d'original. Le club ordinaire qu'ils ont sous les yeux n'a guère changé et il ne changera pas. Ils font semblant d'être excités en comparant les recrues du CH à d'excellents joueurs bien établis dans la Ligue. D'abord, comparer (comme ils le font sans ménagement) un jeune joueur à un vétéran actuel du CH, ce n'est pas une référence ! Quand bien même vous diriez que cette recrue vous fait penser à un Gionta, il n'y a rien là ! Et puis, cessez de vous nourrir d'illusions... Oubliez l'intégration de nouvelles recrues dans l'alignement 2011-2012 de la CHarogne. À moins que la moitié de l'équipe soit sur la liste des blessés. Ce qui n'est pas impossible puisque le ¾ de l'équipe est composé de vieilles barbes amochées et de petits joueurs "feluettes". La triste réalité (qui a été vérifiée partout où il a coaché au niveau professionnel) c'est que Martin, n'aime pas les jeunes sans expérience. Et surtout, il n'a pas la marge de manoeuvre nécessaire pour leur permettre de faire leurs classes "en haut". Les chances de participer aux séries sont tellement minces, qu'il ne peut les compromettre en employant des jeunes qui ne peuvent être aussi efficaces que les vieux dans son système défensif robotisé à l'extrême.
Qui plus est, de 1990 à 2010, sur plus d'une vingtaine de premiers choix au repêchage du CH, il n'y en a eu que trois (15 %) qui ont été passables : Koivu, Andrei Kostitsyn et Carey Price. La majorité des autres (Brent Bilodeau ? Brad Brown ? Terry Ryan ? Alexander Buturlin ? Éric Chouinard ? David Wilkie ? Matt Higgins -insérez des rires ici-) n'ont pas fait carrière dans la LNH ou ils ont été "shippés" ailleurs (Chipchura, Jason Ward, Ron Hainsey) parce qu'ils étaient des causes perdues, parce qu'ils ont fait partie d'échanges désastreux (McDonagh) ou qu'ils ont été impliqués dans des affaires louches (C. Higgins). D'autres comme Komisarek ont tout simplement fui Mourial et ses fefans cinglés. Les Tinordi, Leblanc et Beaulieu des derniers repêchages, ces "merveilles" qui suscitent des espoirs fous ces temps-ci à Mourial, feront-ils vraiment mieux que la foule des inconnus, des "flops" et des pioches dont on a perdu la trace et qui pourtant, en leur temps étaient comparés à des Guy Lafleur et des Larry Robinson ? La probabilité que la réponse à cette question soit "oui" est de...15 % ! Bonne chance !
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
•Title: India Black and the Widow of Windsor
•Pub. Date: October 2011
•Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
•Format: Paperback, 304pp
India Black is back-Her Majesty's favorite spy is off to Scotland in this new adventure to ensure the Queen doesn't end up getting killed.
When Queen Victoria attends a séance, the spirit of her departed husband, Prince Albert, insists she spend Christmas at their Scottish home in Balmoral. Prime Minister Disraeli suspects the Scottish nationalists plan to assassinate the Queen-and send the ever resourceful India and the handsome British spy, French, to the Scottish highlands.
French will take the high road, looking for a traitor among the guests-and India will take the low road, disguised as a servant in case an assassin is hiding among the household staff. India is certain that someone at Balmoral is determined to make this Her Majesty's last Christmas...
It’s no secret that I can became an instant fan of Carol K. Carr’s new series India Black after the first book was published back in January. Her latest, INDIA BLACK AND THE WIDOW OF WINDSOR, does not disappoint. In her new adventure, India must leave her beloved London and her business to go undercover as a maid to one of the guests in the royal party. She is assigned to work as a lady's maid to an eccentric and cranky marchioness with a nicotine addiction and a penchant for inhaling any powder that's in the vicinity. What I love about this series is that India is irreverent, sarcastic, feisty and independent. She has her hands full in this novel fending off the grabby hands of that middle-aged lecher the Prince of Wales, all the while trying to smoke out who the brains is behind the plot to kill the Queen.
India is completely out of her depth as a lady’s maid, and it’s a great deal of fun to watch her having to constantly bite her lip to keep from saying what she’s really thinking. India’s relationship with the Marchioness is a hoot and a half, talk about a super couple in the making! The two of them are like Laurel and Hardy, Lucy and Ethel, George Burns and Gracie Allen, name your own comedic duo. Her relationship with French is still on a very slow burner which I actually prefer, I’m not sure that India needs a love interest, although I look forward to finding out more about French as the series continues. The mystery is almost beside the point, I was having such a good time reading about the goings on at Balmoral, and India’s observations, that at times I forgot exactly what is was that she was there for. That’s not a criticism of the mystery per se; it was wonderful to see a story that dealt with Scottish nationalists for a change. When the culprit is finally revealed, this reader was stunned. I had completely gotten it wrong, which is the mark of a good mystery novel! In this novel, the reader is really let it on the limitations and lack of knowledge that India operates under compared to someone like the handsome French, who is more comfortable amongst the aristocracy.
Carr clearly knows the Victorian era very well, the book is filled with wonderful details, about what life was like below stairs, particularly in the royal household with the divisions between her Majesty’s Scottish and Indian servants. I have one quibble with the book, I wonder if the proper address for the Queen would have been ‘Your Majesty’ as opposed to just ‘Your Highness.’
Carr drops hints in the book as to what future mysteries India might be involved in, including one involving her mother. Here’s hoping that there will be more India Black adventures, I’m particularly interested in seeing what she might have gotten up to with the Zulu.
You can find out more information about India Black and author Carol K. Carr at her web-site.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Author: Maeve Haran
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Pan (19 Aug 2011)
'This is my tale and I will leave you to tell whether it be high romance or tragedy.’
Sixteen-year-old Frances Stuart arrives at the Restoration court to find her innocence and beauty are highly-prized commodities, envied by the women and desired by the men. Before long, King Charles II falls passionately in love with her and will stop at nothing to make her his mistress.
But Frances is no conventional court beauty. She is determined to make her own choices in life, and to be with the man she loves. Can she overcome the dangerous pitfalls of the King’s obsession, the Queen’s jealousy, and the traps set for her by the King’s notorious mistresses, and make the life she wants for herself?
Set against the drama of the Great Plague and the Fire of London, The Painted Lady brings to life the vibrant and decadent court of Charles II and in Frances Stuart discovers a passionate young woman prepared to fight for her own destiny.
My thoughts: King meets girl, King loves girl, King doesn't get girl. If you change the last sentence it would the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, but no this is the story of the one woman who got away from Charles II, the one woman who didn't succumb to his charms, who held out, not for marriage but because she was in love with someone else. Maeve Haran's new book The Painted Lady (published in Britain by Pan Books, thanks to Daphne at Tanzanites Castle Full of Books for alerting me to the book), features a tale as old as time but with fascinating twist.
I'm a sucker for any book set at the Court of Charles II. Perhaps it's all those Restoration plays that I read in theatre history in college or performed during my acting career, but I adore the licentiousness of the period. It's like Restoration Dynasty, everything is about money, sex and power but it was also a great period in English literature, particularly the stage which had been dormant during the years Cromwell was in power. All those repressed desires, well not in the case of Charles II who could have used a chastity belt!
The book opens in 1659 when Frances and her family are in exile at the court of Louis XIV, waiting hopefully for the moment when Charles will be restored. It is in France that Frances first makes the acquaintance of the King, but it is not unil 4 years later, that the story really begins. Frances has been sent to take up a post as a Maid of Honor to Queen Catherine who is just about to arrive in England. No sooner does she arrive at court when the King spies her beauty and falls madly in love with her. What follows is 400 pages of will she or won't she? It sounds like it would be tedious but surprisingly it isn't. In Haran's skillful hands, Frances is no goody two shoes holding out for a crown or clutching her virtue with two hands. She's a romantic girl, also a bit childish (she loves to build castles out of playing cards and to play Blind Man's bluff) but Frances is also sensible, independent and spunky, at home wearing breeches or a pretty ball gown. She yearns after years abroad to have her own home. Can't fault a girl for that!
As I read the book, I also felt for Charles, a flawed man definitely but one who in is own way years for the same things that Frances wants. Of course, after years of poverty, humiliation and degradation, it's now wonder that he wants what he wants when he wants it. Frances, however, is an astute judge of character, she knows that the King once he has her, will toss her aside. Unlike Barbara Castlemaine who is only after what she can get, Frances has no desire to push herself or her family forward.
Haran is not only a master at getting deep in to her character's psyche, but she manages to make the 17th century amazingly vivid and real. She doesn't shie away from the harsher elements of life, there are countless descriptions of just how dirty and disgusting the streets of London were, and the lack of hygiene amongst even the nobility! My only quibble with the book is that we don't get to see who Frances' other admirers were. Apparently Pepys thought she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen as she was courted by several men before the King staked his claim on her, but the reader isn't privileged to see any of that which I think is a shame. It would have made the book that much richer and explained a little more what the King saw in her, the qualities that made him choose her to be the face of Britannia. The characters in the book seem to spend most of their time envying her or placing bets to see when the King might get lucky!
I enjoyed this book immensely for the rich recreation of Restoration London, and a heroine that was a breath of fresh air, and a love story that makes you believe that someone people are fated to be together.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Thank you, Elizabeth. As a long-time fan of the blog and now the book of like name, it’s lovely to be here.
VANQUISHED, the first book in your series Men of Roxbury House Victorian trilogy, is being offered by your publisher as a free e-book across all platforms from 9-12 thru 9-26. How thrilling!
It certainly is! Set in England and Scotland in the 1890’s, The Men of Roxbury House trilogy comprises (in order) Vanquished, Enslaved and Untamed. The Vanquished e-book give-away will indeed cross all platforms, so whether you’re an Amazon Kindle user (http://www.amazon.com/Vanquished-Victorian-Romance-ebook/dp/B005G5EMSK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1312915171&sr=1-1) or other, you have two weeks to download Vanquished. For free.
No hokey contest question to answer, no information at all required. Click on the ordering link as you otherwise would and the e-book is yours. Free. Period.
Obviously our hope is that Vanquished will act as a “gateway drug” to downloading the other two series books, Enslaved and Untamed, but certainly there’s no obligation to do so.
Would you tell us a bit about The Men of Roxbury Series, especially Vanquished?
I’d love to. Roxbury House is a (fictional) Quaker orphanage in Kent, England where my three heroes (Hadrian, Gavin & Rourke) meet as orphaned boys, all rescued by then Prime Minister William Gladstone. Gladstone made regular sweeps of the London streets in search of prostitutes to help and reform, so my having him also rescue the occasional street boy doesn’t seem a too fantastical stretch of the historical record.
I’ve always been a huge fan of the “underdog,” perhaps because I’m a bit of an underdog myself, and so having heroes, and in some cases heroines, who come from humble, even struggling circumstances, rather than being born to wealth and station, is all but irresistible to me. In point, I adore writing about self made men—and women. Making those stories not only interesting but historically accurate in Victorian England, no less, is a challenge I welcome in my writing.
The particular idea for Vanquished was sparked by the 1998 film, The Governess starring Minnie Driver and Tom Wilkinson. The film focused on early photography, specifically experiments on how to permanently affix the image rather than having it fade away once exposed to light and air. (Okay, there was a passionate secret affair and hidden identities and other cool plot points as well).
In Vanquished, my hero, Hadrian St. Claire is a photographic portraitist fallen on hard times i.e., he has a tendency to drink too much and gamble poorly. It happens. To pay off his debts before his cods are claimed as repayment, he reluctantly agrees to lure women’s suffrage leader, Caledonia—Callie—Rivers to his studio and there take a risqué photograph of her. Such a photograph will discredit her and beyond her, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, ensuring that the latest Parliamentary suffrage bill will be roundly defeated. But first he must win her trust. Along the way, he grudgingly comes to like and respect and ultimately to love Callie, which is enormously inconvenient and causes all sorts of delicious…complications. ;)
Vanquished released in France this April as LA ROSE DE MAYFAIR. How exciting! The cover is very different from the original. Do you have a preference?
At the risk of sounding like a politician on the campaign trail, I like them both. Equally. I think my American publisher, Medallion Press, did a great job of branding the books as a series by using the lone female model on each of the books. My hands-down favorite of the three trilogy book covers is that for Vanquished, which is loosely based on the Sargeant portrait of Madame X, also considered quite scandalous in its time.
I also think my French publisher, J’ai lu, did a great job with the re-imagined LA ROSE DE MAYFAIR, which also features a lone heroine on the cover. (Note: The text is strictly translated from the original). I’ve since learned that they’ve also bought the French print rights to the other two trilogy books, Enslaved and Untamed. I can’t wait to see what they do with the covers for those as well.
Can you tell us a bit about the sequel novels, Enslaved and Untamed?
Years later, Gavin is a successful London barrister haunted by his past—and obsessed with finding Daisy. To distract him, his other former Roxbury House friends, Hadrian and Rourke, coax him out to an East End supper club where the headlining act is the infamous nightingale of the Montmartre music halls, Delilah du Lac.
Delilah saunters onstage, creating a collective, sexually-charged hush among audience members. Gavin takes one look at her slanted green eyes, sensuous mouth, and long, slender legs and recognition floods him. Delilah and Daisy are the same girl, now woman, a woman he resolves to save from herself at all costs. He storms the stage, tosses his jacket over her, and carries her off.
Later when Daisy confides her dream to act on a proper London stage, Gavin seizes the opportunity to bind her to him. He strikes a bargain. He will see she gets a part in the upcoming run of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. In return, she must live with him for one month.
Daisy agrees. Gavin’s offer is too tempting to pass on, and the lanky boy of her memory has matured into an exceedingly handsome man. Sharing his bed for the month will be no hardship. Only as their sensual games increase in intensity, Gavin is the one in danger of being enslaved.
In the market for a blue-blooded society wife to lend the proper pedigree and patina to his very new money, Rourke isn’t about to take no for an answer. Beyond Kate’s obvious credentials, he has been smitten with her ever since seeing her carte postale society beauty portrait displayed in his photographer friend, Hadrian’s, studio window. When her gambler father allows his marker to fall into Rourke’s calloused and oh-so-capable palm, there’s more than one debt to be repaid. Rourke makes haste to claim Kate as his own. Once wed, he carries her off to his castle in Scotland. There, with the help of a dog-eared copy of Taming of the Shrew and his East Ender con artist friend, now valet, he sets about securing her submission. But when Kate comes across the playbook, she devises a “taming” regimen of her own.
Elizabeth, thank you so much for having me as a guest. What an honor that my fictional “Scandalous Women” can keep company with the fascinating real life femmes you report on in your blog and book.
A devil’s bargain…
“The photograph must be damning, indisputably so. I mean to see Caledonia Rivers not only ruined but vanquished. Vanquished, St. Claire, I’ll settle for nothing less.”
Known as The Maid of Mayfair for her unassailable virtue, unwavering resolve, and quiet dignity, suffragette leader, Caledonia – Callie – Rivers is the perfect counter for detractors’ portrayal of the women as rabble rousers, lunatics, even whores. But a high-ranking enemy within the government will stop at nothing to ensure that the Parliamentary bill to grant the vote to females dies in the Commons – including ruining the reputation of the Movement’s chief spokeswoman.
After a streak of disastrous luck at the gaming tables threatens to land him at the bottom of the Thames, photographer Hadrian St. Claire reluctantly agrees to seduce the beautiful suffragist leader and then use his camera to capture her fall from grace. Posing as the photographer commissioned to make her portrait for the upcoming march on Parliament, Hadrian infiltrates Callie’s inner circle. But lovely, soft-spoken Callie hardly fits his mental image of a dowdy, man-hating spinster. And as the passion between them flares from spark to full-on flame, Hadrian is the one in danger of being…vanquished.
A past nominee for a Dorothy Parker Award of Excellence and a RT BOOK Reviews Award for Best Unusual Historical, Hope Tarr is the award-winning author of fifteen historical and contemporary romance novels including her Men of Roxbury House trilogy: Vanquished, Enslaved and Untamed. She is also a co-founder and current principal of Lady Jane’s Salon (www.LadyJaneSalon.com), New York City’s first—and only—monthly reading series for romance fiction. Visit Hope online at www.HopeTarr.com and find her on Twitter (@HopeTarr) and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/hopetarr.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
In her essay on Jacquetta, Philippa Gregory uses original documents, archaeology, and histories of myth and witchcraft to create the first-ever biography of the young duchess who survived two reigns and two wars to become the first lady at two rival courts. David Baldwin, established authority on the Wars of the Roses, tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the first commoner to marry a king of England for love; and Michael Jones, fellow of the Royal Historical Society, writes of Margaret Beaufort, the almost-unknown matriarch of the House of Tudor.
In the introduction, Gregory writes revealingly about the differences between history and historical fiction. How much of a role does speculation play in writing each? How much fiction and how much fact should there be in a historical novel? How are female historians changing our view of women in history?
The Women of the Cousins’ War is beautifully illustrated with rare portraits and source materials. As well as offering fascinating insights into the inspirations behind Philippa Gregory’s fiction, it will appeal to all with an interest in this period.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
While Parisians stormed the Bastille in 1789 and freed the starving prisoners, a masked Henry Fuseli coolly dealt with an abusive, fancy-dress devil at a London masquerade and released years of pent-up libido in his companion. Mary Wollstonecraft, a virgin of twenty-nine, who preached independence for women and declared “I shall never marry!” had been secretly longing for a grand passion. And here he was. Artist Henry Fuseli was all she hoped for: a man of fire and genius. She recalled scenes of exalted emotion in his art: heaving breasts, tensed and muscled thighs. His celebrated painting, “The Nightmare,” depicting a naked woman, asleep in a translucent shift with a grinning goblin on her chest and a voyeur horse (a mare) looking on, both thrilled and horrified her. “Like Milton,” Mary wrote, “Henry seems quite at home in hell.”
So, one might add: who was the real devil at that masquerade?
What Mary’s eyes saw that night was a short, small-boned man eighteen years her senior, with fierce eyes that seemed to drill through her gown. His unruly hair was unpowdered like her own; his lips curled into a cynical smile as he spoke in his thick Swiss accent. What he missed in height he made up by force of personality. He knew eight languages, had written as many books; his paintings hung all over the world. In conversation, the words poured out of him, sardonic, ironic, often obscene—he loved to tease and shock, and she interpreted that as interest in herself.
Still, Mary Wollstonecraft was a challenge, and naïve enough to make an easy catch. Never mind he had recently taken a sexy but simple young wife, Sophia, the model for “The Nightmare.” But an 18th-century man, he felt, was entitled to a life of his own, and so he set out to arouse Mary’s “sleeping” sensuality. They met often at the home of Mary’s publisher, Joseph Johnson, who was a longtime friend of Fuseli’s; it was rumored that Johnson and Fuseli had been lovers—rumors he didn’t bother to deny—he might well have been bisexual. At any rate, he dropped in frequently at Mary’s rented house, invited her to his studio, and sent her steamy letters.
She became obsessed with him, After penning her controversial Vindication of the Rights of Woman in a six-week burst of passion, she fell into writer’s block—except for letters to Fuseli. She posted several letters a day, denying any sexual interest but expressing her desire to “unite myself with your mind… If I thought my passion criminal, I would conquer it, or die in the attempt. For immodesty, in my eyes, is ugliness.”
What were the real reasons behind Mary’s daring? Was she really in love, or was it the struggle with her growing sexuality? Was she the dupe of Fuseli’s philandering? Or as biographer Lyndall Gordon suggests, was she seeking a surrogate father to make up for uncaring, inebriate father? Was this a “frustrated craving to reconstitute a family?” Or was Fuseli’s anger sparked by Mary’s new celebrity (and notoriety), due to her Vindication, translated now into three languages? Fuseli couldn’t bear to be bested.
Whatever the reason, she was deeply hurt and humiliated. She wrote an apology; told her publisher: “We must each of us wear a fool’s cap; but mine, alas, has lost its bells.” Then off she flew, “a spinster on the wing,” to revolutionary Paris “as a sort of war correspondent. The ideals of liberté, égalité offered new hopes for women’s rights. She would brave the guillotine: “neck or nothing!” she wrote a friend.
What she didn’t know was that she was soon to lose her own head, metaphorically speaking, to a man even more reptile-like, than Henry Fuseli.
Alas, conflicted Mary!
Thank you so much for stopping by Nancy! For more information about Nancy or her books, please check out her webpage at www.nancymeanswright.com
Thursday, September 1, 2011
In the summer of 1832, Fanny Kemble stood on the deck of The Pacific after a month’s long voyage, looking through a telescope at her first glimpse of the Long Island shore. Fanny and her family which included her Aunt Adelaide de Camp had no idea what to expect on their 2 year tour of the barely sixty year old republic. The only thing that Fanny did know was that she wanted to make as much money as possible and then retire from the stage. Fanny’s life would be changed in ways that she couldn’t possibly have imagined when she set foot onboard in Liverpool. America would bring her great joy and great sorrow, unimaginable fame, a scandalous divorce, and a brutal custody battle and expose her to the horrors of slavery.
Frances Anne ‘Fanny’ Kemble (November 27, 1809 - January 15, 1893) was born in London to the most famous acting dynasty in England. Her aunt was the legendary grande dame of tragedy, Sarah Siddons and her father Charles Kemble was a renowned Shakespearean actor, whose career really took off after the retirement of his elder brother John Philip Kemble. Her father had high aspirations for his children that didn’t include the stage. Unfortunately he was a better actor than he was a businessman. The Covent Garden Theatre in which he was a shareholder began to suffer financial difficulties, falling £13,000 in debt. Instead of becoming a governess, which was her original plan, it was decied that Fanny would now go on the stage. She made her theatrical debut two months before her twentieth birthday as Juliet. Although she had no formal theatrical training, her attractive personality made her an instant success, enabling her father to begin to recoup his losses as a manager.
For two years, Fanny worked tirelessly on stage both at the Covent Garden Theatre and touring the provinces. She played all the principle female roles in Shakespeare, including Beatrice, Portia (a personal favorite), Lady Macbeth, Queen Catherine, and Lady Teazle in School for Scandal. She was often forced into parts were associated with her aunt Sarah Siddons, whether they suited Fanny or not. Fanny’s soon began to mingle with Sir Walter Scott, Alfred Tennyson, Thackeray, and various other luminaries of the literary and artistic world of Europe, along with Queen Victoria. You could say that she knew everybody who was anybody in England at that time.
Fanny wasn’t conventionally beautiful by the standards of the day. She was short (under five feet tall), inclined to stockiness in her later years, and she had suffered from a bad case of small pox as a child which had left scars. She also didn’t fit into the mold of the conventional woman of the time, the idealized view of women that had taken hold, that they were to be nurturers, passive, deferring to their husbands and have no opinions of their own. Though a brilliant and intuitive actress, Fanny’s first love was writing. Throughout her life she would publish plays, poetry, letters and memoirs. She also spoke French fluently (her mother was French), read voraciously, was an accomplished musician and a skilled horsewoman.
Fanny hoped the tour of America would be her way out of a life that she found increasingly unbearable. She worried that she would spend the rest of her life treading the boards, supporting her family, while her life passed her by. In America, Fanny and her father were received with great enthusiasm and acclaim. She was lionized and copied like some teen idol. Young women were seen sporting ‘Fanny Kemble’ curls, and her likeness appeared on plates, scarves, saucers and other tchotchkes. The theatres were packed night and night for her performances.
The couple was married in June of 1834. The honeymoon was barely over before the cracks began to show. Seemingly overnight her husband changed from the devoted suitor who indulged her every whim to one who tried to curb her independent nature. Pierce, like many men at the time, believed that women should be seen and not heard, and that the only opinions expressed should be those of their husbands. Her decision to publisher her first book, The Journal of Frances Anne Butler, about her experiences in America appalled him but it was too late to cancel the contract. Although the book was a bestseller, it shocked and scandalized Americans with its candid opinions. The birth of their two daughters Sarah and Frances (Fan) smoothed things over for a while but it was their differences of opinion on the issue of slavery that really divided them. Pierce thought that he could persuade Fanny of the benefits of slavery, and Fanny,k who had been an outspoken advocate for abolition even before they were married, hoped to convince her husband otherwise.
During the winter of 1838-1839, Fanny accompanied Pierce along with their two children to Georgia. Nothing in Fanny’s life prepared her for what she saw on the plantation. If Butler had hoped that Fanny would change her opinion once she saw slavery first hand, boy did he call that one wrong! She was appalled by the conditions and treatment of the slaves and fought to better their treatment. During the four months she spent on the plantation, she and Pierce clashed frequently over the issue. Fanny recorded her experiences in letters to friends and family which were privately circulated amongst abolitionists. While Uncle Tom’s Cabin was fictional, Fanny had an eyewitness view of the horrors and degradations of slavery. As Butler’s wife, she had a bird's eye view, her riveting account provided a gripping insight into life on a plantation.
By the time the Butlers returned to Philadelphia in the spring of 1839, the marital discord continued. Life for Fanny went from bad to worse, when she threatened to leave Pierce if their livelihood continued to depend on slavery; he accused her of being mentally ill. It had long been rumored that Butler kept a slave mistress during his visits to the plantation but now Fanny began to suspect that Pierce was also cheating on her with their daughters’ governess. The marriage dragged on for a few more years until finally Fanny reached the end of her tether. She gave up all hopes for reconciliation and returned to England. Out of financial necessity, she returned to the stage, performing theatrical readings of Shakespeare, which suited her more. To her dismay, Butler decided to sue her for divorce, contending that she had ‘willfully, maliciously, and without due cause, deserted him on September 11th 1845.” The divorce was finally granted 4 years later. Pierce was ordered to pay Fanny $1,500 a year in alimony (she never saw any of the money), and he kept custody of their daughters until they came of age, although Fanny was supposed to be able to see them for 2 months every summer.
While Fanny continued to enjoy theatrical success, Butler fell into financial ruin, squandering away his vast fortune on speculations and gambling, to the tune of $700,000. In 1856, his situation became so dire that he was forced to not only sell his Philadelphia mansion but also half of his slaves. In February 1859, the trustees of the estate traveled to Georgia to assess the value of the 436 African American men, women and children, for their value. It would be the single largest sale of human beings in United States history, aptly called ‘the weeping time.’ The two day sale netted his creditors over $300,000. Pierce Butler was wealthy once more, to celebrate he decided to travel to Europe before returning home to Philadelphia.
During the war, once again her family was divided. While Fanny and her elder daughter Sarah sympathized with the North, Pierce and their younger daughter Fan were vehemently pro-South. Although Fanny had been asked by abolitionists to publish her journal of her time in Georgia, she had been reluctant to do so for fear of antagonizing her ex-husband, who had custody of their two children. It wasn’t until she became alarmed at European sympathies for the Confederacy that she was persuaded to publish her diary of her life on the Georgia Plantation. The book entitled, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839, sparked almost as big of a controversy as her earlier work. It was praised in England and in the North, and denigrated in the South. Even in the 20th century, Fanny’s journal still stirred up controversy. In the 1960’s, historian Margaret Davis Cate tried to discredit the book, claiming that Kemble had exaggerated to heighten the book’s appeal to her readers.
During the war, Butler had been arrested several times for treason. After the war, he traveled south to Georgia with his daughter Fan to try and salvage what was left of his properties. But management was difficult, and Butler eventually contracted malaria. He died in August 1867. His daughter Fan tried to manage the plantations herself for several years until eventually she too finally gave up. Later Fan, wrote a rebuttal to her mother’s journal entitled: Ten Years on a Georgian Plantation since the War (1883) but it wasn’t nearly as successful as her mother’s book.
Fanny moved back to the States after the war to spend more time with her daughters who were now of age. She continued to give dramatic readings both in England and the States, eventually buying a house in Lenox, Massachusetts. Sarah married a wealthy physician Owen Wister, and her son Owen Wister Jr. (known as Dan) later became famous as the author of the novel The Virginian (which has been filmed several times). Fan eventually married the Reverend James Wentworth Leigh, an Englishman who had sympathized with the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Eventually Fanny returned to back to England in 1877. She continued to perform, wrote several memoirs, and enjoyed the friendships of Robert Browning and the young Henry James. She died peacefully at the age of 83 in January of 1893.
Catherine Clinton, Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000).
Rebecca Jenkins, Fanny Kemble: The Reluctant Celebrity (London: Simon and Schuster, 2005)