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Blog

Tales of and updates connected to the Ladies of A Heyer Love. Character information, author updates, glimpes of life in Regency London, and general happiness.

Happy Birthday, Mary Wollstonecraft!

Alicia Quigley

Today is Mary Wollstonecraft's 255th birthday! Women’s rights writer. She's read by heroine of my new book The Secret Bluestocking (coming soon on Kindle).

wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft was born in 1759. She was an early women's rights activist, with a brief writing career. Her most well-known work is A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she argued that women were equal to men, but the fact was hidden by their lack of formal education.

She had many unconventional relationships over her life, which garnered more attention than her written works. She eventually married William Godwin, a philosopher and one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement. Wollstonecraft died ten days after the birth of her second daughter; she was thirty-eight.

Godwin published a memoir of Wollstonecraft's unconventional life. Sadly, it ruined her reputation for nearly a hundred years. However, when the feminist movement emerged early in the 1900s her thoughts on equality and femininity were once again regarded as important. Mary Wollstonecraft is considered one of the founding feminist philosophers.

An interesting aside, her daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, was an accomplished writer. She penned Frankenstein under the name Mary Shelley. Source: http://bit.ly/1iEgSW3

Discover Almack's

Alicia Quigley

You hear about the haute ton visiting Almack’s all the time in Regency novels. I thought it would be fun to tell you a little bit more about these assembly rooms in London. They were the first to admit men and women, which is another reason they became so popular. A mixed-sex social venue for the upper class was a big deal!

With such a venue in place, people could mingle at Almack’s as opposed to going to one of the grand aristocratic houses in the London. Almack’s opened in St. James on King Street in February of 1765. It was first opened to compete with the Carlisle House because masquerade balls had gained a significant amount of notoriety.

Many people referred to Almack’s as a gambling club that permitted women. The male members elected the female members and the female members did the same for the male members. Today, it would be called a casino. It was open all night; Mr. and Mrs. Almack would serve a small supper, and tea was also poured.

Almack’s was ultimately the place to see and be seen. Throughout the Regency romance novels that you read, this is where the ladies go to find a suitor – and to ensure that they are asserting their claim to be in a high social rank. Anyone who was anyone spent some time here, dancing, gambling and socializing.

The building itself was a Palladian style with tall arch-topped windows. There were gigantic mirrors on the walls, a crystal chandelier, and various rooms for dancing, supper, and gaming.

The dancing was limited to country dances and, after the Regency declaration, the quadrille and waltz were introduced. The dancing was limited to avoid suggestions of impropriety.

The ton balls, which were usually held on Wednesday evenings, had supper at 11 pm and the doors were then closed for admittance. Dancing and gambling would take place the rest of the evening. Almack’s chose to serve supper as a way to separate itself from the other balls taking place around London.

One thing that I've always found interesting was that Almack’s was a dry establishment, so the gentlemen had to deal with that restriction in order to be there. Though they knew they needed to be there, not only to meet eligible ladies, but as escorts for female family members. Only tea and lemonade were served, and a strict dress code was enforced, with white cravats and knee breeches being the norm. A variety of patronesses were seen at Almack’s throughout the years and it continued to be an important social destination for the upper class of society.

Kerfuffles and Confusion

Alicia Quigley

My dear lovely readers,

It's recently come to my atention that the blurbs for my books are a tad confusing and some readers have purchased "A Most Unusual Situation" AND "London's Latest Rage" or "A Duchess Enraged" expecting them to be completely different stories. I apologize for any confusion.

The intent behind multiple versions of the SAME story is not to confuse or cheat my readers. Heavens, no! I love my readers and want to provide enjoyable stories for all. That is the reason for the multiple versions. 

Some readers prefer not to hear about the more "amorous" adventures of characters in stories. For them, I offer the Traditional Version: Sweet romance and no sex.

Others like some sex, typically "vanilla" in variety, and for them I offer the Modern Version. 

Still others enjoy characters who engage in physical adventures that are wilder than most. The After Dark Version is written to satisfy their desires.

Today, I've modified the blurbs to add a first-line caveat that hopefully clears up the confusion.

Again, I sincerely apologize for any confusion this caused. 

On a brighter note, I expect my next release to be available late the month/early April. The characters are different, the story is new, but there will still be three versions to match the sensibilities of my readers.

Have a wonderful day, my lovelies!

-Alicia

You are all my favorites!

Alicia Quigley

Hello my lovelies!

A Most Unusual Situation, hit #56 in the Kindle Store for Lit & Fiction/Historical Fiction/Regency! I am over the moon and so grateful to all my supporters!

I
t's all because of you, my dears! You love the story and I love writing it for you!

I wish everyone awesome success and a beautiful day!

~Alicia

Short & Sweet: A Few Tidbits for Afternoon Tea

Alicia Quigley

My dears, thank you for taking the time to read my little missive. And, more importantly, my books. You are all wonderful and you make this journey what it is for me: Fun, exciting, and a dream come true!

As I continue to expand my presence in the "aether" (aka the internet), I'll do my best to keep you up-to-date on my progress. To that point:

+I'm now on Goodreads.com! Please stop on by and pay me a visit.

+Along those lines, don't forget to tweet me at @QuigleyAlicia. I love hearing from you!

+If you're up for some fun (cleanliness depending on which you choose), I've just added some quizzes to the three main categories on the homepage. If you're more Traditional, see how much you know about "The World of Louisa Manning." For those Modernists among you, "Are you Fit to be Duchess/Duke of Gravesmere?" And for my After Dark loves, "How Allegra are You?" They're good fun!

Well my dears, I'm off! The writer's life, you know. A visit here, a comment there, and my next set of books to edit. Stay tuned!

A Ship on Your Head

Alicia Quigley

Although I write mostly about the Regency period and its fashions and manners, I do find the 18th century’s styles terrifically glamorous.  I love the men's ornate clothing, and the immense coiffures the ladies sported are nothing short of astonishing. When my daughter was little, I enjoyed the children’s book The Lady With The Ship on Her Head every bit as much as she did.

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The variations on the 18th century hairstyles are nearly endless; one included a (not so) miniature vegetable stand.  Others appear to require not so minor feats of engineering to support the cantilevered structure.    So, when I refer to a remarkable coiffure that is part of an outfit that Allegra, Duchess of Gravesmere is wearing to a social event, nothing I have imagined is as outrageous as some of the historical evidence.

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The time period when these styles were all the rage was quite brief, running only from about 1770 to 1780.  During most of the 18th century, women’s hairstyles, though often powdered, were much simpler in comparison.   But, that decade was long enough to provide an iconic image of glamor, absurdity, and even a little surrealism that we can still all enjoy today.  Not to mention all that time my daughter and I spent enjoying the book about the ship on the lady’s head.    

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This book isn’t exaggerating about ladies with ships on their heads; here are two 18th century images of ladies with a ship adorning their coiffures.   These updo’s on steroids were actually developed in honor of a naval battle of the time; the second picture is Marie Antoinette in a coiffure known as the Fregate de Junon. 

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I try hard not to think too much about what was actually involved in constructing these head born edifices- the various types of puffs,  fake hair extensions, supporting structure, adhesives, pomades, powders, and on and on, many of which you wouldn’t care to read a modern Materials Safety Data Sheet on.  And of course, there’s the sad reality that women sometimes wore these hairstyles for, ahem, weeks on end.   They became populated with well, other living things, lice most frequently; although there are tales of mice living in these hairdos it’s hard to imagine a timid mouse actually occupying one for long.  


 

Cicisbei - The Society "Walkers" of Regency London

Alicia Quigley

There are several scenes in my recent novel “A Most Unusual Situation” that involve men clustering around the heroine, Allegra, and flirting with her, although she is a married woman. One or two of them even can be found in her boudoir as she dresses for a party, and acting as her escort, in the absence of her husband, the Duke of Gravesmere. 18th century marriages were rarely made for reasons of affection, particularly in the upper classes where considerations of property, wealth and influence transmission trumped personal feelings. As a result, it was quite common for society matrons to have such gallants, and there is an entertaining Italian word that was much in vogue at the time to describe one, a “cicisbeo,” pronounced “chee-cheess-BEH-oh.”  


3Cs.jpg

 

There are a number of 18th century paintings featuring cicisbei – yes that is the plural. Here are few that can be found in an online search. Interestingly, all of these gentlemen are wearing red coats; I know little about the symbology 18thc. art, but it seems likely that this is saying something about the nature of the relationships, although the women in two of these works are being chaperoned by other ladies.  There was also an unwritten rule that women were not to engage in a physical relationship with another gentleman until they had delivered the obligatory heir (and possibly a spare) to their husband.  

When reading about cicisbei, it’s difficult not to think of today’s society “walkers,” well dressed, well groomed gentlemen who accompany well heeled socialites to the endless round of charity lunches, balls, galas, etc. when their husbands are busy, or just disinclined to socialize. This entertaining article from the Palm Beach paper, quotes one well known walker, "It made me look like an opportunist, and I'm anything but," sniffs Kooluris, sipping iced tea at Testa's in Palm Beach."What I do is a lot of work, really. My job is to make everybody feel important and not steal the show."  In Palm Beach, where the only things bigger than bank accounts are egos, this isn't easy.”

The blog, Word of the Gay, also defines walkers, noting that today many walkers are gay men. This was also often the case in the 18th century, and one Parisian noblewoman wrote to a male friend that “Nothing equals the friendly companionship afforded to a woman by men of those persuasions. To the rest of you, so full of yourselves, one can't say a word that you don't take as provocation. Whereas with those gentlemen one knows quite well that they want no more of us than we of them—one feels in no danger and deliciously free." W Magazine published an article recently emphasizing this aspect of “walker culture.”

Allegra, of course, has not yet provided Gravesmere with an heir, and the man who emerges as her most significant cicisbeo is clearly not a man who is “no danger.” In the early 19th century the poet Lord Byron was a famously dangerous cicisbeo of, according to Wikipedia, “Contessa Teresa Gamba Guiccioli. After his death, her second husband, Marquis de Boissy, was known to brag about the fact.”

And since this blog is “A Heyer Love,” it seems appropriate to mention Heyer’s novel, "The Convenient Marriage" in which Horatia, Lady Rule, has another rather dangerous cicisbeo in Lord Lethbridge. I highly recommend this very entertaining tale.

A Most Unusual Situation

Alicia Quigley

As has been the case for nearly all of human history, 18th century marriage was mostly a financial transaction.  Even in the lower classes, people were concerned about bringing together two people who could make a living and bear children.   Brides were often pregnant, because fertility was such an important requirement.  The poorest of the poor often didn’t marry; they had no property, money or prospects, and marriage for love was very rare.   The upper classes certainly married for money, and also for influence.  Powerful families gave a lot of thought to the compatibility of their properties and their politics, and much less to that of the offspring involved. 

A Most Unusual Situation is loosely based on a true story of 18th century marriage, that of Charles Lennox, the Earl of March, son of the Duke of Richmond,  to Lady Sarah Cadogan, daughter of the Earl of Cadogan.  Cadogan famously lost thousands of pounds to the Duke of Richmond in a game of cards, and literally married his 13 year old daughter to the Duke’s 16 year old son a day later at the The Hague (in the Netherlands) to pay off the debt. She was terrified, and he was infuriated; he displayed it by leaving on the Grand Tour of Europe the next day, not to return for four years.  When the Earl of March and his wife were reunited in London, however, he discovered that a great deal had changed about his wife.

This story fictionalizes their reunion, and the nature of their love story.  However, their real life marriage is generally believed to have been very successful by 18th century terms, if for no other reason than that it produced seven children who grew to adulthood, including the all important heir.  Modern readers will be happy to know that the marriage itself was happy and that the Duke and Duchess were also very fond of each other.   The story of three of their daughters is the subject of an excellent biography written by Stella Tillyard, The Aristocrats.

Portrait of  The Duke and the Duchess of Richmond , by Jonathan Richardson   
  
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Portrait of The Duke and the Duchess of Richmond, by Jonathan Richardson

Portrait of The Duke and the Duchess of Richmond, by Jonathan Richardson. This portrait was made at the request of the Duke's grandmother Louise de Kérouaille, who wanted a portrait of her grandson and his wife (wikepedia.org).