Tag Archive | Jane Austen

An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens, Part II

In our last installment, Susana and Lady traveled by carriage to the Royal Vauxhall Gardens, bespoke a supper-box, chatted with a waiter, and partook of shaved ham “so thin you could see through it,” as well as other delicacies.

Ladies Retiring Room at Vauxhall

Ladies Retiring Room at Vauxhall

After our meal, Lady P excused herself to visit the “ladies’ retiring room.” Curiosity induced me to follow her to a large tent in a secluded area, where a young woman dressed in servant garb brightened at our approach. When Lady P shook her head slightly, the woman shrugged and looked hopefully behind us for another potential “client.” Her ladyship whispered to me that such women were there to collect tips for assisting ladies who had come without maids to help with their private needs.

Peering into the darkly-lit interior, I saw a half-dozen women seated on what appeared to be wooden seats similar to those scene in outhouses when I was a child (or the latrines at Girl Scout camp). The better-dressed ladies had maids attending to them, but I didn’t get a good glimpse because Her ladyship squeezed my shoulder and I could see by her tight jaw and raised eyebrows that it was not the thing to be staring in such a place.

Not being especially inclined to use such things as outhouses and porta-potties except in case of emergency—and I decided I could wait until I got home—I abandoned the tent and strolled about a hundred yards away until I had left the unpleasant smells behind. From my position, I had a good view of the dancing in front of the Orchestra. It was so amazing to see the vibrant colors of the ladies’ gowns—as well as the gentlemen’s waistcoats—and I could not help but marvel at the sight of the diversity of the dancers. A soberly-dressed gentleman in charcoal gray who was partnered with a woman in serviceable blue circled among an older, elegantly-dressed couple and an energetic young couple dressed in servant garb, and they all seemed to be having a good time. Among the bystanders I could see a gentleman looking through his quizzing-glasses at me, and fearing that he might be thinking of asking me to dance—Lady P would kill me, and in any case, I have two left feet and have never waltzed in my life—I backed a little further back into the hedges, and nearly trampled a little girl.

“Oh dear, I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there, sweetheart. Are you all right?”

Print; Mezzotint engraving. Childhood: Lady Emily Caroline Catherine Frances Cowper, later Countess of Shaftesbury (1810-1872) after Sir Thomas Lawrence.Half length portrait of a child, a string of pearls round her neck. Unframed.

Lady Emily Caroline Catherine Frances Cowper, later Countess of Shaftesbury (1810-1872) after Sir Thomas Lawrence.Half length portrait of a child, a string of pearls round her neck. Unframed.

The child—about six or seven I thought—blinked rapidly after she had moved a safe distance away. Wavy dark hair curled around her childish round face, tied at the top with a pink ribbon. Dressed in white, her gown trimmed with pink bows, she didn’t have the appearance of a child who would be abandoned on her own in a place like Vauxhall.

Her eyes widened at the sound of my voice, and before she answered, she gave me a long glance from head to toe. My hands started to sweat, knowing that my gown—beautiful though it was—would not stand up to close scrutiny, created as it was from an unauthentic pattern and materials made with 21st century technology.

“You speak strangely,” she said. “You’re not from Hertfordshire, are you?”

“Uh no, I’m from America.”

She nodded as though her suspicions were confirmed. “That’s a great distance from here.”

“It is,” I agreed. “I came to visit my friend Lady Pendleton.”

She smiled. “I like her. She invited me to come to tea with Emily and Theodosia.”

Emily and Theodosia are two of Lady P’s grandchildren. [They appear in A Home for Helena.]

“I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting them as yet.”

She tilted her head. “They live in Kent. Sometimes they come to London to visit their grandmother. I visit mine as well, but she is quite ill at present.” She crossed her arms in front of her. “She is an important lady, you know.”

“She is?” I was quite eager to know the identity of this child, but I had a feeling I shouldn’t be encouraging her to talk to strange people. And I know Lady P would have a fit. I gave a quick glance behind me in case she was approaching, but the coast was clear.

“Yes. And my mother as well. She is one of the patronesses of Almack’s.” She inclined her head toward me. “Have you attended there?”

Almack's Assembly Rooms

Almack’s Assembly Rooms

I smothered a laugh. Me? At Almack’s. Not likely. But then… who could have imagined I’d ever be at the Vauxhall from two hundred years ago?

“No, I’m afraid not.”

She smiled. “You do not have a voucher? Perhaps I can prevail upon my mother to get you one. You are a proper lady, are you not?”

Now that was a loaded question. I was pretty sure Lady Pendleton would not describe me thus, and I certainly didn’t feel like a Regency lady.

“I am quite certain Lady Pendleton would not invite me to her home otherwise,” I prevaricated. “I am Susana Ellis. I’m a novelist.”

almacks-voucher-stg_misc_box7-trimmed-to-voucher“You are?” she breathed. “Like Mrs. Edgeworth and Mrs. Burney?”

“More like Miss Austen,” I said before I could stop myself. I knew that Jane Austen had published her novels anonymously at first and wasn’t sure when her identity was finally revealed.

She wrinkled her brow. “Miss Austen?”

Fortunately, I was saved from responding by the sudden appearance of my time-traveling Regency friend.

“Dear Susana, I see you have found a friend.” There was a hint of irritation in her voice. “Lady Emily, have you accompanied your parents here this evening? I wonder why you have been left alone without your maid.”

Lady Pendleton’s voice was firm but kind as she viewed the little girl. Lady Emily fidgeted under her gaze. “I came with Mama and Lord Palmerston. Alice was too ill. I’m just here waiting while they finish the dance.”

Her ladyship shook her head. “I shall give your mama a talking-to when next I see her. Leaving her child unaccompanied indeed!”

Lady Emily flushed. “No! Please don’t do that! I am meant to be sitting with the Howard party.” She bobbed us a curtsey and made her adieux. “I must return in all haste.” She fled just as the music stopped.

I turned toward Lady P. “Is that—?”

lady-emily-cowper-by-sir-2

Lady Emily Cowper (1787 – 1769) by Sir Thomas Lawrence. The daughter of the famous Whig hostess, Elizabeth Lamb, Lady Melbourne, Emily was likely the result of her mother’s affair with Lord Egremont. Emily had plenty of extramarital affairs of her own, including a long one with Lord Palmerston, whom she married after the death of her husband.

“Lady Emily Caroline Catherine Frances Cowper,” confirmed my mentor. “The daughter of Lady Emily Cowper and the granddaughter of the Melbournes.”

I let that knowledge sink in. Then I giggled. “She offered to help me get a voucher to Almack’s!”

Her ladyship lifted an eyebrow. “Indeed. And what did you say to her to elicit such an offer?”

“Nothing!” I insisted. “All I said was that I am an American visiting you, and she told me she knew your granddaughters and asked me if I’d been to Almack’s…”

Lady P snorted. “Because she knew you hadn’t, of course.”

That stung a little, but I knew she was right. I’m not a proper Regency lady and never will be. I was there to observe—and that in itself was a rare privilege.

Maria Theresa Bland, née Romanzini (1769-1838) was a popular singer at Drury Lane and other venues. Sister-in-law to the actress Mrs. Jordan, she had two sons who were also musical. Her mezzo-soprano voice was idea for the singing of English ballads.

Maria Theresa Bland, née Romanzini (1769-1838) was a popular singer at Drury Lane and other venues. Sister-in-law to the actress Mrs. Jordan, she had two sons who were also musical. Her mezzo-soprano voice was ideal for the singing of English ballads.

Our conversation was interrupted with cheers and applause as a rotund little lady in a blue gown with a laced-up bodice and an enormous cap topped with colorful flowers that accentuated the roundness of her face, stepped up on the stage in front of the musicians, giving a deep bow at her introduction by the organist, Mr. James Hook. She—her name was Mrs. Bland—proceeded to sing a charming little song called “Pray Excuse Me,” that had everyone smiling and cheering for more. Her exquisite voice and cheerful vivacity more than made up for the incongruity of her appearance. Following that, she sang “Jesse o’ the Dee” and several other other songs until it was announced that the musicians would take a short respite while Mr. Hook entertained the crowd with his lively organ-playing. In spite of that, I noticed the audience starting to thin out, many heading in the same direction.

James Hook by Lemuel Francis Abbott

James Hook by Lemuel Francis Abbott

“Madame Saqui!” I breathed. Lady P nodded, and we set out to follow the crowd to the venue where the popular French tight-rope dancer would perform.

More next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel!

Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

While the years from 1732 to 1786 were the undoubtedly the heyday of Vauxhall, the years following the Jubilee continued to attract large numbers of visitors and was the most popular outdoor entertainment for many years. Charles Burney’s daughter Sarah wrote in 1807:

You should quit your Devonshire Shades were it only to share in the universal rage there is for going to Vauxhall. I never knew anything like it. The whole London World seems to be seized with a fit of the fool.

Vauxhall fashions

Vauxhall Fashions, engraving (David Coke’s collection) from La Belle Assemblée no. 7 (August 1806). Many dressmakers and retailers advertised their wares as representing the latest fashions seen at Vauxhall.

Scenes from Vauxhall were presented on stage, authors such as John Keats, Pierce Egan, and William Thackeray wrote about it, and others tried to copy it, in London and elsewhere. Bath’s Sydney Gardens, opened in 1795 and much visited by Jane Austen, was modeled on Vauxhall in London, as was Tivoli in Copenhagen. Vauxhalls started appearing everywhere.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

One half of the world don’t know how t’other lives, Sung by Mr. Dignum in Vauxhall Gardens, etching, 1805 (British Museum, London, 1861.0518.1087). A very popular tenor at the gardens, Dignum also gave the farewell address at the end of several seasons.

A change in clientele

In the early nineteenth century, however, with England’s middle and working classes rapidly expanding due to the Industrial Revolution and the rapid growth of London’s population, Vauxhall’s clientele began to change as well.

The social balance was changing too; the old aristocracy watched nervously as France spiralled into revolutionary chaos, and several of the great families decided to move back to the country, to avoid the potential dangers of urban unrest… In addition, social circles were becoming more restricted and inward-looking; the London aristocracy was being rapidly overtaken in terms of numbers by the professional middle classes of industrialists, businessmen, doctors and lawyers. To support them, huge numbers of labourers, tradesmen and servants moved to the capital.

Because of this influx, houses began to pop up in and around Vauxhall, which meant that the Kennington Street area was no longer a country hamlet, but a part of the city itself, and the residents didn’t always appreciate all the racket coming from Vauxhall in the early hours of the morning.

Picturesque Elevation of the Iron Bridge created over the Thames at Vauxhall, engraving, 1816 (David Coke's collection). Designed by the engineer James Walker, the new bridge greatly shortened the land journey from London to Vauxhall Gardens.

Picturesque Elevation of the Iron Bridge created over the Thames at Vauxhall, engraving, 1816 (David Coke’s collection). Designed by the engineer James Walker, the new bridge greatly shortened the land journey from London to Vauxhall Gardens.

A significant advantage was the completion of the new Vauxhall Bridge in August 1816, which shortened considerably the route from the West End.

The bridge remained open all night, both for pedestrians and for coaches, catering for those revellers who stayed on into the small hours, to the annoyance of the local residents who were trying to sleep.

A change of attractions

The form of the entertainments at Vauxhall remained traditional to the end of the eighteenth century. Various new attractions were introduced only gradually and these were directly in response to new forms of popular entertainment that had sprung up elsewhere in London.

One of these was Philip Astley’s enormously popular shows, with “daring displays of horsemanship”, as well as jugglers, tight-rope walkers, and great pageants of historical events. See my post of Astley’s Amphitheatre here.

Vauxhall had always promoted patriotic songs and military bands, and later added battle reconstructions and victory celebrations, after Astley’s model. The Battle of Waterloo was considered to be the “most spectacular event ever staged at Vauxhall.”

Boat races on the Thames was another innovation, which including a rowing race for watermen and a sailing match for ‘gentlemen’s pleasure sailing boats’. Which was followed by a grand gala in the gardens, of course. In 1812, the contest was called the Vauxhall Grand Regatta.

Vauxhall Sailing Match, engraving, 1800 (Minet Library, London, Lambeth Archives Department, V. fo. 57). This appears to be the only surviving image of one of the Vauxhall sailing matches.

Vauxhall Sailing Match, engraving, 1800 (Minet Library, London, Lambeth Archives Department, V. fo. 57). This appears to be the only surviving image of one of the Vauxhall sailing matches.

Advances in science and technology brought ballooning to the gardens, the first balloon ascension beginning in 1802, but not becoming a regular feature until the 1820’s. André Jacques Garnerin, the first Vauxhall aeronaut, experimented with making parachute jumps from balloons. One of his flights included releasing a cat from a height of 600 feet, who descended safely into some resident’s garden. George Colman the younger, a playwright, wrote

Poor Puss in a grand parachute
Was sent to sail down through the air
Plump’d into a garden of fruit,
And played up old Gooseberry there:
The gardener transpiring with fear,
Stared just like a hundred struck hogs;
And swore, tho’ the sky was quite clear,
‘Twas beginning to rain cats and dogs.

Fireworks, first introduced in 1783, were limited to special occasions at first, but pyrotechnic displays did not become standard until 1798.

When it was time for the fireworks to start, a bell was rung and everyone went to the firework ground at the far eastern end of the gardens. The hours varied, displays being advertised at 9, 10 and 11 p.m.; on gala nights there was often more than one show.

Changes in proprietors and prices

Jonathan Tyers the younger’s son-in-law, Bryant Barrett, managed the gardens until his death in 1809, when his sons Jonathan Tyers Barrett and George Rogers Barrett inherited. Jonathan Barrett became sole owner in 1818. In 1821, the gardens were leased to relatives and business partners Thomas Bish and Frederick Gye, later joined by Richard Hughes, “and the trio used their option to buy the property in 1825 for £30,000.”

In 1792, the price of admission was raised to 2 shillings for regular nights and 3 shillings for the Grand Galas (masquerades), which involved elaborate fancy dress.

 

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

Lauren Smith: The League of Rogues, Book 2

Character Interview with Lucien and Horatia

from His Wicked Seduction

Rochester Hall in Kent was full of life for the Christmas holidays. I was fortunate that I could take a chance to interview Lord Rochester and his soon to be bride Horatia Sheridan. Their engagement had caused quite a scandal because Horatia’s brother Cedric was Lucien’s friend, and they had fought a duel on Christmas day over Horatia’s honor, and then all three of them were nearly killed by an assassin from Lucien’s past. It was a story I needed to hear more details about and had reached out to Horatia for an interview.

Lauren_Smith_2014 copyShortly after arriving at the beautiful mansion in the countryside via coach, I was escorted to a drawing room to wait for his lordship and Horatia to arrive. A few moments later, a maid with a tea tray bustled in, followed by a handsome man in his early thirties with dark red hair and a wicked, yet playful smile. He tugged the edges of his silver waistcoat down and walked over to where I sat on the settee and bowed gracefully.

“Tis a pleasure, Madame.” He captured my hand and feathered a light kiss across my knuckles.

“Thank you, my lord. It’s a pleasure to meet you too.” I knew I was blushing, and by the amused glint in his eyes, he knew I was blushing too. Even betrothed and most decidedly off limits to a woman like me, Lucien, Lord Rochester, was irresistible.

The door opened again, to admit a woman I recognized, my friend Horatia Sheridan. In a rich blue silk gown, a color more suited to a married lady than a unmarried one, she looked stunning. In Rochester Hall, away from society’s judgmental eyes, Horatia was wearing gowns that looked much better with her fair skin.

“Lauren!” She rushed to greet me and we embraced.

“I’m so happy for you, Horatia. When I heard the news, I knew I had to come down and speak to you and meet your future husband.”

“Thank you.” Horatia snuck a little glance at Lucien who was grinning openly. The rogue. I smiled too.

“Why don’t we sit down and you can ask us your questions.” Horatia suggested.

Me: Lucien, it is no secret that you are a member of the League of Rogues. What is it like to be branded a rogue by London’s society?

Lucien: “Good lord, you don’t hold back, do you? Well, yes, I’m a member of the League. There are six of us: Godric, Cedric, Ashton, Charles, Jonathan and myself. I don’t mind the amusing moniker of the name. It suits me quite well. I’m both an acknowledged rake and a rogue, so why deny it?” he leaned back in his chair and crossed one booted knee over his ankles.

Me: So, Lucien – tell us about this Midnight Garden we’ve heard about? Is it the type of place you would think to encounter a young girl?

At this Lucien actually paled. “Right, well. It’s a place of ill repute,” he hesitated. “You know, a place where a man or woman with sensual appetites can be sated. Certainly not a place for a well bred young woman.” He coughed and shot a direct gaze at Horatia. She shrugged at him, then smoothed her skirts, as though unperturbed by his silent chastisement.

Me: Then it must have about given you a heart attack when you noticed Horatia there! Tell us about it?

“I’ll tell you,” Horatia butted in before Lucien could speak. “I think I was more shocked than he, even though it was my plan to find him. You see, I bribed one of his servants to find out where he went in the evenings, and decided that if he wanted a woman to take to bed, it had better be me, since I was so completely in love with him. Then when I came into his room, we each wore masks per the rules of the Garden, but he recognized me, and I knew it was him.” Horatia finally looked over at her lover, a playful little smile on her lips. “He thought he’d teach me a lesson and half-seduce me, but we both lost ourselves to the passion and it was wonderful.”

Me: Horatia – it must have been quite frightening to go to that place – what made you decide to do that?

“Lucien was afraid to fall in love with me because he is my brother’s best friend. Cedric would have killed him if he even looked at me in a desiring way. But I knew I had to be with Lucien, and that meant taking wild risks in order to save him from his attempt to hide from me.”

Me: It seems like you took a round about way to love – did you ever have any doubts that you would be separated?

Lucien answered this time. “Well, when her brother had his pistol pointed at my chest there were definitely doubts that I might shed this mortal coil and never seen my beloved, darling Horatia ever again.”

Horatia’s eyes sparked with tears. “And that wasn’t even the worst of it. When that assassin trapped us in the burning gardener’s cottage, I was convinced we would not make it out. But we did.” She took Lucien’s hand and they shared a secret look of love.

Me: You’ve known each other since you were quite young.  Any fun childhood memories?

Lucien laughed. “I was a young man when I met Horatia. She was only fourteen and I was in my twenties. She was also so serious as a child, determined to replace her deceased mother in the family and take care of her older brother Cedric and her younger sister Audrey.”

“And you were all charm and teasing, Lucien. It’s what drew me to you. Like a flower to the sun, I craved your light-hearted spirit to ease my serious one,” Horatia added.

Me: Were any of those memories at Rochester Hall? Had you ever spent the Christmas holidays there before with Lucien’s family?

Horatia shook her head. “I only spent one real holiday at Rochester Hall and it wasn’t during Christmas. I was there during the spring and accidentally ruined Lucien’s attempt to propose another woman. I spilled a bucket of water over her head from the top of a gazebo.”

Lucien chuckled. “I was so furious with you, love, but now I can only thank you from saving me from marrying that awful creature.” He turned to face me. “You see, I was going to marry Melanie Burns. She ended up marrying my dreaded enemy, Hugo Waverly. It was him who sent the assassin after us to kill us, but not because of Melanie. That’s another story, I won’t share here.”

Me: As one of the League of Rogues, we had never thought you’d settle down – not for years! What was it that Horatia did or said to get you to abandon your single life so quickly? 

Lucien smirked. “What indeed?” He slid a hand into the pocket of his dark blue trousers and pulled out a piece of fine red silk cut into a strip. “I discovered my little Horatia had a taste for bondage in bed, she like to be tied up, just as much as I loved to tie her up, among other things.” He winked at his future wife. “But the truth is this, she wasn’t afraid to be herself with me, even when I was a fool and tried to push her away. She was brave, bold and beautiful, and I knew a woman like that was a rare find and I couldn’t deny my feelings for her any longer. A woman like that deserves to be loved and cherished, even by a scoundrel like me.”

Me: Are you sad to leave your reputation as a playboy behind – or are you excited for whatever new adventures lie in front of you with your new wife?

He laughed. “Sad to leave behind my lonely bachelor ways? Absolutely not.”

Horatia giggled. “He’s most happily entertained with me. I keep him busy and satisfied.

“No doubt,” Lucien continued. “We’ll have plenty of children to keep us both busy. My mother will get her wish for grandchildren sooner rather than later I expect.”

Me: And now the most important question of the interview – now that Lucien is in wedded bliss, which of her children will Lady Rochester now turn her matchmaking abilities to?

“My mother? Who will her next matchmaking victim be? That’s a frightening guess to make. I feel, if I answer that I’d condemn one of my younger brothers or my sister to a wedding. But, then again, I’d love to torture one of my siblings. Let’s see, next in line by age is Lawrence, he’s like me, too stubborn for even my mother to arrange anything. Then there’s Avery, the family spy, always off on the Continent doing lord knows what to save King and Country. Then there’s Linus, he’s lovestruck with Lucinda Cavendish but far too young to marry, he’s only twenty-one. I would have to my bet on Lysandra, my only sister, just nineteen. However, she’s a real blue stocking, addicting to education and learning, not into husband hunting. I imagine my mother will set her sights on poor Lysa.”

I laughed and thanked Lucien and Horatia for allowing me to ask those rather personal questions. They in turn insisted that I stay with them through the remainder of the holidays. A Russell family Christmas? How could I refuse? Humming merrily, I picked up my belongings and went straight to my rooms, determined to write their story, His Wicked Seduction, one more adventures of the League of Rogues. I can’t wait!

About The League of Rogues, Book 2

Can the League’s most wicked rakehell be tamed? Or has this Rogue fallen too far?

Horatia Sheridan has been hopelessly in love with Lucien, her brother’s best friend, ever since he rescued her from the broken remains of her parents’ wrecked carriage. His reputation as London’s most notorious rakehell doesn’t frighten her, for under his veneer of cool authority she has glimpsed a man whose wicked desires inspire her own.

HisWickedSeduction300 copyLucien, Marquess of Rochester, has deliberately nurtured a reputation for debauchery that makes every matchmaking mother of the ton quake with fear. His one secret: he is torn between soul-ripping lust for Horatia, and the loyalty he owes her brother.

That loyalty is put to the test when an old enemy of the League threatens Horatia’s life. With Christmas drawing near, he sweeps her away to his country estate, where he can’t resist granting her one wish—to share his bed and his heart.

But sinister forces are lurking, awaiting the perfect moment to exact their revenge by destroying not only whatever happiness Lucien might find in Horatia’s arms, but the lives of those they love.

Warning: This book contains an intelligent lady who is determined to seduce her brother’s friend, a brooding rake whose toy of choice in bed is a little bit of bondage with a piece of red silk, a loyal band of merry rogues and a Christmas love so scorching you’ll need fresh snow to extinguish it.

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Excerpt

She is going to be the death of me.

“Lucien! You’re not even listening to me, are you? I’m in desperate need of a new valet and you’ve been woolgathering rather than offering suggestions. I daresay you have enough for a decent coat and a pair of mittens by now.”

Lucien Russell, the Marquess of Rochester, looked to his friend Charles. They were walking down Bond Street, Lucien keeping careful watch over one particular lady without her knowledge and Charles simply enjoying the chance for an outing. The street was surprisingly crowded for so early in the day and during such foul wintry weather.

“Admit it,” Charles prodded.

Lucien fought to focus on his friend. “Sorry?”

The Earl of Lonsdale fixed him with a stern glare which, given that his usual manner tended towards jovial, was a little alarming.

“Where is your head? You’ve been out of sorts all morning.”

Lucien grunted. He had no intention of explaining himself. His thoughts were sinful ones, ones that would lead him straight to a fiery spot in Hell, assuming one wasn’t already reserved for him. All because of one woman: Horatia Sheridan.

She was halfway up Bond Street on the opposite side of the road, a beacon of beauty standing out from the women around her. A footman dressed in the Sheridan livery trailed diligently behind her with a large box in his arms. A new dress, if Lucien had to hazard a guess. She should not be out traipsing about on snow-covered walkways, not with these carriages rumbling past, casting muddy slush all over. It frustrated him to think she was risking a chill for the sake of shopping. It frustrated him more that he was so concerned about it.

“I know you think I’m a half-wit on most days, but—”

“Only most?” Lucien couldn’t resist the verbal jab.

Charles grinned. “As I was saying, it’s a bit obvious our leisurely stroll is merely a ruse. I’ve noticed we’ve stopped several times, matching the pattern of a certain lady of our acquaintance across the street.”

So Charles had been watchful after all. Lucien shouldn’t have been surprised. He hadn’t done his best to conceal his interest in Horatia Sheridan. It was too hard to fight the natural pull of his gaze whenever she was near. She was twenty years old, yet she carried herself with the natural grace of a mature and educated queen. Not many women could achieve such a feat. For as long as he’d known her, she’d been that way.

He’d been a young man in his twenties when he met her, and she’d been all of fourteen. She’d been like a little sister to him. Even then, she’d struck him as more mentally and emotionally mature than most women in their later years. There was something about her eyes, the way her doe-brown pools held a man rooted to the spot with intelligence—and in these last few months, attraction…

“You’d best stop staring,” Charles intoned quietly. “People are starting to notice.”

“She shouldn’t be out in this weather. Her brother would have a fit.” Lucien tugged his leather gloves tighter, hoping to erase the lingering effects of the chill wind that slid between his coat sleeves and gloves.

Charles burst out into a laugh, one loud enough to draw the attention of nearby onlookers. “Cedric loves her and little Audrey, but you and I both know that does not stop either of them from doing just as they please.”

There was far too much truth in that. Lucien and Charles had known Cedric, Viscount Sheridan for many years, bonded during one dark night at university. The memory of when he, Charles, Cedric and two others, Godric and Ashton, had first met always unsettled him. Still, what had happened had forged an unbreakable bond between the five of them. Later, London, or at least the society pages, had dubbed them The League of Rogues.

The League. How amusing it all was…except for one thing. The night they’d formed their alliance each of the five men had been marked by the Devil himself. A man by the name of Hugo Waverly, a fellow student at Cambridge, had sworn vengeance on them.

And sometimes Lucien wondered if they didn’t deserve it.

Lucien shook off the heavy thoughts. He was drawn to the vision of Horatia pausing to admire a shop window displaying an array of poke bonnets nestled on stands. Her beleaguered footman stood by her elbow, juggling the box in his arms. He nodded smartly as Horatia pointed out a particular bonnet. Lucien was tempted to venture forth and speak with her, possibly lure her into an alley in order to have just a moment alone with her. Even if he only spoke with her, he feared the intimacy of that conversation would get him a bullet through his heart if her brother ever found out.

Charles had walked a few feet ahead, then stopped and turned to kick a pile of snow into the street. “If this is how you mean to spend the day then consider me gone. I could be at Jackson’s Salon right now, or better yet, savoring the favors of the fine ladies at the Midnight Garden.”

Lucien knew he’d put Charles out of sorts asking him to come today, but he’d had a peculiar feeling since he’d risen this morning, as though someone was walking over his grave. Ever since Hugo Waverly had returned to London, he had been keeping on eye on Cedric’s sisters, particularly Horatia. Waverly had a way of creating collateral damage and Lucien would do anything to keep these innocent ladies safe. But she mustn’t know he was watching over her. He’d spent the last six years being outwardly cold to her, praying she’d stop gazing at him in that sweet, loving way of hers.

It was cruel of him, yes, but if he did not create some distance, he’d have had her on her back beneath him. She was too good a woman for that, and he was far too wicked to be worthy of her. Rather like a demon falling for an angel. He longed for her in ways he’d never craved for other women, and he could never have her.

The reason was simple. His public reputation did not do justice to the true depth of his debauchery. A man like him could and should never be with a woman like Horatia. She was beauty, intelligence and strength, and he would corrupt her with just one night in his arms.

Within the ton, there was scandal and then there was scandal. For a certain class of woman, being seen with the wrong man in the wrong place could be enough to ruin her reputation and damage her prospects. These fair creatures deserved nothing but the utmost in courtesy and propriety.

For others, the widows still longing for love, those who had no interest in husbands but did from time to time seek companionship, and that rare lovely breed of woman who had both the wealth and position to afford to not give a toss about what society thought, there was Lucien. He seduced them all, taught them to open themselves up to their deepest desires and needs, and seek satisfaction. Not once had a woman complained or been dissatisfied after he had departed from her bed. But there was only one bed he sought now, and it was one he should never be invited into.

He glanced about and noticed a familiar coach among the other carriages on the street. Much of the street’s traffic had been moving steadily and quicker than the people on foot, but not that coach. There was nothing unusual about it; the rider was covered with a scarf like all the others, to keep out the chill, yet each time he and Charles had crossed a street, the coach had shadowed them.

“Charles, do think we’re being followed?”

Charles brushed off some snow from his gloved hands when it dropped onto him from a nearby shop’s eave. “What? What on earth for?”

“I don’t know. That carriage. It has been with us for quite a few streets.”

“Lucien, we’re in a popular part of London. No doubt someone is shopping and ordering their carriage to keep close.”

“Hmm,” was all he said before he turned his attention back to Horatia and her footman. One of her spare gloves fell out of her cloak and onto the ground, going unnoticed by both her and her servant. Lucien debated briefly whether or not he should interfere and alert her to the fact that he and Charles had been following her. When she continued to walk ahead, leaving her glove behind, he made his decision.

Lucien caught up with his friend still ahead of him on the street. “I’ll not keep you. Horatia’s dropped a glove and I wish to return it to her.”

“Plagued by a bit of chivalry, eh? Go on then, I want to stop here a moment.” He pointed to a bookshop.

“Very good. Catch me up when you’re ready.”

Lucien dodged through the traffic on the road and was halfway across the street when pandemonium struck.

Bond Street was turned on its head as screams tore through the air. The coach that had been shadowing him raced down the road in Lucien’s direction. Yet, rather than trying to halt the team, the driver whipped the horses, urging them directly at Lucien.

He was too far across the street to turn back; he had to get to safety and get others out of the way. Horatia! She could be trampled when it passed her. Lucien’s heart shot into his throat as he ran. The driver whipped the horses again, as if sensing Lucien’s determination to escape.

“Horatia!” Lucien bellowed at the top of his lungs. “Out of the way!”

About the Author

Amazon Best Selling author, Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets: a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.

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“Smith’s fast-paced historical keeps readers on their toes as they’re taken hostage by a whirlwind of characters and an unforgettable romance. Readers will get their fair share of emotional outbursts, which includes laughter, lust, anger and sadness…it’s action-packed, sizzling hot and readers of all genres will enjoy the scramble to the finish.”—RT Book Reviews Magazine
 
“Lauren Smith’s debut League of Rogues novel is a fun, clever and wonderfully sympathetic read that will no doubt earn her a number of fans. Her insight into her characters and willingness to take risks with them is impressive…and brought a fresh voice and a heap of compassion, transforming it into something highly readable and quite enjoyable.”—The Romance Reviews
 
“The best thing for me was the quality of Lauren Smith’s writing. I will read her again. She is a fresh voice to watch out for.”—Romantic Historical Reviews
 
“I really enjoyed Wicked Designs, Lauren Smith’s debut Regency historical novel. This witty and entertaining romance features an emotionally scarred hero, a smart heroine and a loveable group of rogues… Emily is a delightful heroine. She is smart, courageous and spirited enough to stand up for herself. I love her determination to outwit her captors and escape. She certainly keeps those five rogues on their toes!”—Rakes and Rascals.com

Lydia M. Sheridan: Wodehouse and Benson, Unsung Masters of Regency Style

Wodehouse and Benson, Unsung Masters of Regency Style

As much as I adore Jane Austen, she is not necessarily my favorite authoress of traditional, or classic, Regency romances.  I think this largely stems from one too many male profs having no idea, firstly, that there were any other female writers worth a second glance (they were wrong, of course), and secondly, heaven forbid they should be forced to consider tales of love and romance which ended in happily-ever-afters as Great and Powerful Litrachaw of the ages.  Jane, therefore, became a great contemporary writer of biting satire and witty social commentary.  No doubt true, but we all know she was really writing about the trials and tribulations of young women finding love.  The satire and commentary were just super-fun extras.  (N.B.  These profs were the same ones who insisted that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was about the social upheaval and financial catastrophe of the early 20th century, insisting that the Wicked Witch of the West’s silver shoes were a parody of the gold and silver monetary standard of the time.  [insert eyeroll here] Every woman on the face of the earth, of course, knows that Baum’s stories were about the strength and beauty of home, family, and friendship.  Oh, and shoes!  There’s a reason MGM changed the silver to ruby.  No wonder I only managed a C in that class.  Yeesh.)

If I had to choose my favorite Regency authors, they would be Georgette Heyer (all hail), Joan Smith (Aunt Sophie’s Diamonds never fails to make me snort), P.G. Wodehouse, and E.F. Benson.  The first two authors are obvious:  Heyer is the godmother of us all.  Her books are hysterically funny (The Talisman Ring), blueprints on what traditional Regency plots should be (Frederica), and, unlike Austen, concocted the amazing, colorful language of the Regency genre.  I might be wrong, but I can’t think of a single instance in which Jane used slang or thieves’ cant in her works. I’m sure Mr. Darcy was bit by the barn mouse on occasion during his time at university, and Captain Wentworth certainly did the blanket hornpipe before meeting Marianne, but as we are not privy to those moments, we are not treated to the richness and variety of the vulgar tongue.

Heyer, on the other hand, gloried in it.  Her heroines, of course, are never caught out in such appalling lapses of “bloody” this or “bugger” that.  Had they done so, they would have been instantly ostracized by society and considered no better than they should be.  Subsequently, they are invariably limited to an occasional “fiddle.”  But no such restrictions are laid upon the men in her books.  From Jimmy Yarde, the petty thief in The Corinthian, to virtually any of the teenage boys in her books who are anxious to be all the crack, the gentlemen are allowed the use of the most colorful slang terms of the time.  Heyer incorporated the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue so skillfully into her books that her style and word choices have become the expectation of readers of classic Regencies.

Pelham Granville Wodehouse, of course, was by no stretch of the imagination a Regency writer.  However, he managed to create a world which never truly existed, but which is so charming, that we have come to think of whenever we think of England.  In his eternally carefree, upper-crust world of aristocrats and devoted servants, Wodehouse fashioned what we have come to regard as the classic English society.  In this world, gentlemen are chaps, valets rally around, and aunts are appalling.  His stories have that light, frothy touch of a classic Regency, in which a world which never existed has come to be considered the truest of British society, one which we admire and want desperately to live in, or at least visit.

E.F. Benson, perhaps the least known of the lot, is the author of the delightful Lucia series.  In these six books, Benson has also created a world which has become more real than reality.  While not the pinnacle of a brilliant, delightfully silly society, Lucia, Georgie, Miss Mapp, et al, are upper-crust enough to consider anything other than a life of leisure an appalling misfortune.  Dahlia, poor enough to barely afford a maid, is the only one who needs money badly enough that she takes a job.  She opens a tea shop, as genteel an occupation as one might find, and one which affords her the leisure to spend large amounts of time drinking tea and playing cards.  The fascinating part of Benson’s creation is that we find out what people actually do all day when they don’t have jobs, don’t have to do housework, and who live in, if not Society, certainly on its fringes.  They shop, gossip, play bridge, gossip, golf, gossip, play piano, gossip, and engage in metaphorically bloody battles of social one-upmanship.  And all of this is done, once again, with the deftest of light touches.

As a reader, I go back time and again to these authors and revel in their fizzy, frothy worlds.  As a writer, I try to absorb and reproduce their light, bubbly cadence and phrasing which bring to life the worlds they created, and which bring us so much vicarious pleasure.  When your stock of Regencies runs low, do give them a try.

Available Books

Ventre a Terre

coverWhen the schemes of Miss Rosamund Hilliard are discovered, she must outwit her two suitors in order to safeguard her reputation — and stay out of Newgate Prison.

Ventre a Terre is a humorous, traditional Regency short story of approximately 16,000 words, or forty-one pages.

The Counterfeit Cavalier, Volumes 1-4

cover_counterfeitUtter mayhem breaks out when the Grey Cavalier once more robs and plunders near the village of Oaksley. The villagers could not be more delighted, since tourists and their money are now pouring in, including the mysterious Mr. Dalrymple. Unfortunately, this good news for the village is bad news for the Lady Katherine Thoreau, especially when the unthinkable happens. She and Mr. Dalrymple must work together to save an innocent from the gallows, and ensure their own future in the midst of highwaymen, counterfeiters, dragoons, and performing pigs.

Q & A with Lydia M. Sheridan

Q:  Why did you want to write?

A:  When I was a kid, I really wanted to be Judy Garland and go to Oz.  (My mother swore up, down, and sideways that the movie was all true and I believed her until, well, along about last year).  I still intend to be a big band singer or a concert pianist, but until those miracles happen, I write.

Q:  Why is Lord Philip such a goober?

A:  Poor Philip! [laughter]  He’s not a goober!  He’s just an extremely young man who is smart, but very bored, and subsequently gambles, boozes, and tries very hard to wench, except that he has no luck whatsoever with women.  He first appears in Ventre a Terre (a story I’m embarrassed to say begins with vomit and ends with horse manure) and continues his gooberness in The Companion.

Q:  Will he ever find love?

A:  Yes, I promise!  On January 18th, to be precise.  Philip grows up and falls in love for the last time (I hope, but you never know with that man) in School for Scandal.

Q:  Do you have a website?

A:  Er – probably I should do that, except Hostgator and I have developed a deep and meaningful loathing of one another.

Q:  How can folks get a hold of you if they have a comment or question?

A:  I’m on Facebook, or they can contact me at lydiam.sheridan@yahoo.com.

Q:  What’s next on the agenda for Lydia?  Assuming the concert pianist thing doesn’t work out.

A:  Hey!  [more laughter]  Next up is a six-book series about six sisters and a castle, unless I change that to five sisters, because that’s just way too many s-es.  I refuse to give up on the castle, however. That stays!

Q:  Anything else you’d like us to know?

A:  The Counterfeit Cavalier, a book which I literally wrote twenty-five years ago and had to piece together from three different computers and bits of dog-eared papers all over the place, is on sale at Amazon through January 6th.

Q:  Thanks for being with us today, Lydia.

A:  My pleasure.  Thank you for having me!

About the Author

author photoLydia M. Sheridan has yet to fulfill her childhood dreams of becoming a gold medal-winning figure skater, wicked-famous opera singer, or archaeologist, but she has written a couple of books, and that’s pretty cool, too. Her hobbies include losing at Scrabble, scarfing Milk Duds, and wearing extremely bright lipstick.

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Susana Welcomes the Lucky in Love Blog Hop!

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We have TWO grand prizes. You as a reader can go to EACH blog and comment with your email address and be entered to win. Yep, you can enter over 200 times!

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Lucky Like Lizzie or Lucky Like Jane?

Like just about anything else, finding love is just as much as matter of choice as luck. Let’s take Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. She was fortunate to be born into a genteel family, but since she had no brothers, and her father’s estate was entailed to the nearest male heir, her prospects of making a good marriage were minuscule. There were other problems too, such as her mother’s lack of breeding and connections to the merchant class, but Lizzie, out of all her sisters, was determined to marry someone she could love and respect or else become a maiden aunt to all of her sisters’ children.

lizzieConsidering her prospects, most would have agreed with her mother that she was fortunate indeed to have won the admiration of Mr. Collins. After all, he would one day own Longbourn and if she were his wife, her mother and sisters would still have a home after her father’s death. It was no more than the truth when Mr. Collins told her that she might never get another proposal of marriage.

But as much as she loved her family, Lizzie was intelligent enough to know that it would be a mistake to marry a man she despised just to secure a home for her family. Had things not worked out with Mr. Darcy, no doubt there were relatives who would have provided for them to prevent them from being cast into the street. But they would have been reduced to living in straitened circumstances, making it even less likely that they would find suitable matches, and they would be beholden to their relatives for the rest of their lives.

So Mr. Darcy’s appearance was a lucky stroke for Lizzie. And yet…if she’d been the sort of woman who was on the lookout for a meal ticket, he wouldn’t have looked twice at her. Because it was her character that attracted him as much as her appearance.

jane_bennetNow Jane Bennet is another story. I get the feeling that Jane would have married Mr. Collins if she’d been given the chance (and it’s not just Lost in Austen that makes me think so). Because of her astonishing good looks, she’d been brought up to believe that she owed it to her family to marry well, no matter what. For her, yes, it was an amazing stroke of luck that she managed to win the affection of the man she loved, and that he was wealthy as well.

I don’t know about you, but I have to respect Lizzie for her strength of character more than Jane for her willingness to sacrifice herself for her family. It might have something to do with the fact that the heroine of my current project, Cherishing Charlotte, faces a similar dilemma. But I can’t help thinking that in general, luck is a fickle friend. What if you marry a Mr. Collins for security and then meet the love of your life? What you considered good luck has now turned into a dreadful mistake. And in the Regency era, marriage was pretty much forever. And in spite of what is implied in so many historical romances (and in Lost in Austen), it wasn’t at all simple to get an annulment or a divorce. For most people it was impossible.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the romantic side of me likes leprechauns and pots of gold and love at first sight, but the practical side reminds me that what many consider “luck” is at least partly the result of a sense of self-worth and determination to be true to oneself, no matter what the consequences.

If you were a Bennet daughter, would you be more like Lizzie or Jane in your attitude toward marriage? Why do you think so?

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